Jupiter, with the moons Ganymede, close to the planet, Europa, far left, and Io, far right.
Spoutwood Farm Observatory
The Spoutwood Farm Observatory was founded in 1994 by Fred Ruof. An ardent astronomer since 1948, Fred's continued support has made it possible for Spoutwood Farm to exhibit several telescopes in an intimate, yet professional setting. The famous Frodo Straw Bale Building is the centerpiece of an elegant campus that continues to host the Evenings of Wonder Fred so passionately held for many years. Since September, 2010 Fred has resided in Texas, though the observatory he created remains a lasting monument to a lifetime of devoted skywatching.
Our resident astronomer is Chris Carpenter, who earned his Bachelor of Science in Astrophysics from the Pennsylvania State University in 1997. His current interests include the future of space colonization, exoplanets and planetary geology, radio astronomy, and CCD astrophotography.
Andrew Busko - Adjunct Astronomer, Telescope Technician, Program Development
Adam Hughes - Electrical Engineer and Solar Power, Adjunct Astronomer
Charles King, III - Adjunct Astronomer, Telescope Technician, Grounds
The straw bale Frodo Building and our solar-powered Dome, first snowfall of 2012
The Observatory hosts four Open Houses throughout the calendar year. To mark the passage of the four seasons, they take place on the Friday nearest to each equinox or solstice. Our observing parties commence an hour before dark with a small, themed celebration for the incoming season and a tour of the entire observatory facility. Please see our 'Schedule' tab for more information regarding dates and times.
What you will see and experience at the observatory:
- The history of ancient astronomy
- Naked eye tours of the constellations
- Telescopic views of:
- The moon
- The planets
- Globular Clusters of stars
- Nebulae and Galaxies
- Messier Objects
- Other 'guest' astronomical objects like comets and meteor showers
- CCD digital astrophotography
- Wide-land model of the solar system
- How to use your backyard telescope
All Open House events are free (donations graciously accepted). Private viewings are available by appointment, please call 717-235-6610 or email inquires to
Inclement Weather Policy
An Open House shall only be held if it is clear or partly cloudy out. Cancellations may be rescheduled as time and weather permit; each Open House is scheduled for a Friday evening with a Saturday rain date. For your convenience, any weather-related information regarding a scheduled Open House shall be posted on our 'News' tab and on the Spoutwood Farm Center Facebook page by noon on the day of the event.
Spoutwood Space Gallery
New in 2012, the Spoutwood Farm Observatory is pleased to offer a gallery of space images taken at the farm. Check out the 'Gallery' tag on this website or our Facebook page, 'Spoutwood Farm Center'.
The Moon Mars Jupiter Saturn
The Frodo Straw Bale Building
The Frodo Straw Bale building has entertained thousands of visitors since its formal opening in 1999. Briefly, straw bale construction consists of stacking bales of straw which are then wired together and covered with a protective material such as stucco or, in our case, a cement-fortified mix of masonry sand and local clay soil. This method of construction was widespread on the American prairie in the late 1800's, especially the Nebraska Sandhills. The first documented use of hay bales in construction in Nebraska was a schoolhouse built in 1896 or 1897. Unfenced and unprotected by stucco or plaster, it was reported in 1902 as having been eaten by cows. Despite this inauspicious start, today several of the original Sandhills buildings still stand.
Constructed of low-cost, renewable materials with a high insulation value, this free-standing, working exhibit in green building is a perfect compliment to the charm and mission of Spoutwood Farm. The warm, friendly interior contains hand-made furniture, a wood stove with an efficient catalytic converter, and is illuminated only by oil lamps and candles. Our library is well-stocked with carefully chosen selections from such topics as astronomy, agriculture, mythology and fairie stories, Greek philosphy, classical literature, American history, and natural sciences.
The Observatory has three primary research-grade telescopes. They are:
1. A 20" Dobsonian Reflector, outfitted with the SkyCommanderXP4 encoder software module
2. An 8" Achromatic Refractor, custom-built by noted lens specialist Barry Greiner of Mt. Hope, PA, mounted on an Astrophysics German Equatorial Mount
3. An 11" Celestron CPC Reflector, with GPS tracking
Additionally, the 8" Refractor is housed in a state-of-the-art computerized Dome operated entirely on solar power.
Again, all Open House events are free (donations graciously accepted).
Private viewings are available by appointment, please call 717-235-6610 or email inquires to