To instill a sense of enthusiasm and wonderment, primarily in K-12 students, for science and math related subjects through our world-class astronomical observatory located at Berthoud High School.
Who We Are
We’re your neighbors, your co-workers, people from all walks of life in this community. What we have in common is an active interest in enhancing everyone’s understanding of the cosmos.
From retirees to busy moms, we take time out to volunteer at LTO because we think it’s important.
The Little Thompson observatory was built and operates entirely because of donations of money and talent. Local businesses have contributed skilled labor to help build and expand the observatory. Our financial donors make it possible to pay the everyday bills and sometimes not-so-everyday expenses of running the observatory.
The LTO exists because of the hard work of volunteers and the generosity of our donors.
We began in 1996 as a grassroots effort with the support of Telescopes In Education (TIE). Founders Tom Melsheimer, Tom Patterson and Chet Rideout formed the Little Thompson Science Foundation to make the 18-inch Tinsley telescope available to the community.
Numerous local businesses donated significant time and materials toward the construction of the observatory. Contractor and Berthoud High School teacher Tom Patterson and nearly 150 volunteers including Habitat for Humanity constructed the observatory with over 10,000 volunteer hours and $50,000 in local donations. Tom Melsheimer developed the telescope control system.
In addition to the donation of the site, the Thompson School District provides liability insurance and electric and water utilities. The observatory opened in the summer of 1999. Berthoud High School instructor Scott Kindt teaches a magnet astronomy course for high school students, taught in the evening and open to students from all high schools in Thompson Valley School District.
Our Greek/Roman Constellation Wall was created by Chet Rideout’s astronomy class in 2000. The Lakota Constellation Wall was developed by current Berthoud High School teacher Scott Kindt, his students, and artist Donna Clement, based upon the book “Lakota Star Knowledge” by Ronald Goodman. It was dedicated in 2011 by Lakota Chief Sam Moves Camp and a Lakota drumming circle.
During 2006 we doubled the capacity of our “warm room” to welcome even more visitors. The Berthoud Town Council was petitioned by the LTO and passed a revised town lighting ordinance in 2008 to protect our dark skies. The LTO is honored to have received a historic 24-inch telescope from TIE that was part of the Apollo program, and retired from Mount Wilson Observatory in California. On a shoe-string budget, we custom-built a second dome to house the 24-inch telescope with the generous support of our amazing volunteers and local businesses and foundations. In the fall of 2014 a radio telescope was installed using donated and locally manufactured equipment to afford students and the public an opportunity to explore aspects of the universe invisible to the naked eye.
We aspire to carry on the spirit of a tradition in Berthoud that dates back to the 1930’s with John Bunyan’s love of astronomy and his Bunyan Observatory, which is open for stargazing on the first Friday of each month at the Little Thompson Valley Pioneer Museum.
Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, we host an average of 400 visitors per month. Approximately 70% of our visitors are students K-12. Visiting groups include families, pre-school, public school and home-schooled students, Scout troops, church groups, professional society meetings, community college classes, and company gatherings.
The construction, funding, programs, staffing, and day-to-day operation are performed entirely by volunteers under the auspices of the Little Thompson Science Foundation. Our formally trained, all volunteer staff is comprised of local residents, teachers, and amateur astronomers. To learn more about helping out, please see the Volunteer section of our web page. Training is provided, and no prior astronomy experience is needed.
Public Star Nights
Held on the third Friday of the month (except July); doors open at 7:00 pm, and the program starts at 7:30 pm. No reservations are needed. Speakers and topics are announced in local newspapers, and on our website.
Board of Directors
Meinte Veldhuis – President
Ken Franklin – Vice President
Mark Rennert – Treasurer
Joe Bowden – Secretary of the Board
John Ensworth – Director, Education Specialist
Edna Hetchler – Director, Public Relations
Glenn Hetchler – Director
John Hiatt – Director, Volunteer Mentor
Scott Kindt – Director, TSD Liaison
Bob Lindsay – Director
Dr Andrea Schweitzer – Director
Karol Stroschein – Director, Activity Coordinator
Jay Wilson – Director, Radio Astronomy
Tom Melsheimer: Co-Founder, Director Emeritus
Tom Patterson: Co-Founder, Director Emeritus
Dr Chet Rideout: Co-Founder, Director Emeritus