Observatory Volunteer Roles


The builder will assist in the design, construction, and maintenance of temporary and permanent exhibits at the observatory such as the human sundial and the solar system distance model. The builder will propose and work with observatory staff to enact plans for creating exhibits to curate observatory visitors’ experiences beyond specific events. Additionally, the builder may solicit external donations of money, supplies, and labor for the installation of these exhibits.


The docent will greet visitors as they approach the event site with the welcomer. The docent will find out what the visitors expect from the event and what background knowledge the visitors bring. The docent will introduce the visitor to the structure of the event and knowledge content related to the event. Additionally, the docent will introduce the visitors to other event staff. The docent will be available to guide visitors in discovering new information related to the event and document visitor experiences at the event in photos, videos, or written descriptions.


The maintainer assists with the physical maintenance of observatory spaces. This may include landscaping around the observatory or cleaning inside the dome or the observatory control room. The maintainer communicates with observatory staff to determine safe cleaning methods for inside the dome so as not to damage sensitive equipment. The maintainer may also be involved with the inventory and management of donations.


The operator will run one of the telescopes or a computer used for the event. The operator has sufficient astronomical and technical knowledge to point the telescope at objects of interest during an event and resolve issues with using the telescope, such as alignment. The operator will guide visitors to and from the eyepiece, instructing them on how to close one eye and position the head relative to the eyepiece to find the visitor’s focal spot. The operator will be able to describe the view of each target object to guide the visitor in identifying key visual features apparent in the view. The operator may also provide relevant knowledge content related to each target object, emphasizing the method for how this content is known.


The promoter assists the observatory with advertising observatory activities. The promoter may use social media accounts to share text, images, or videos about observatory events. The promoter may create web pages or blog entries to describe upcoming events or report on past events. The promoter may transmit event information to local event forums such as newspapers and visitor bureaus. In addition, the promoter may actively solicit educator and scouting groups to organize special field trips to the observatory.


The storyteller shares knowledge of mythological sky stories as well as astronomical facts using the sky as the presentation background. The storyteller uses setting, characters, plot, conflict, theme, and arc to construct a narrative that holds visitors’ attention while providing knowledge and entertainment. The storyteller safely uses the laser pointer to bring visitors’ attention to points in the sky that connect with narratives shared. At the end of a story, the storyteller may invite visitors to investigate another aspect of the event.


The welcomer will greet visitors to an event in the parking lot (and guide them to a parking spot if needed). The welcomer will guide guests to the observatory (or event site) from the parking lot and find out the visitor’s background knowledge and experience with the observatory. In addition, the welcomer will share relevant information about the event and about the site with the visitor, and then introduce the visitor to the event coordinator and docents (if applicable). Finally, the welcomer will record visitor statistics (number of visitors, how visitors found the event).