Greetings From the Robert Ferguson Observatory

NorCal Public Media

May 26, 2024The observatory was started about 28 years ago by a group of community members. There’s the name of Robert Ferguson because he was an amateur astronomer who really wanted to inspire, especially youth, to study the stars.

Talking Stars in the Valley of the Moon: Robert Ferguson Observatory’s Stephanie Derammelaere

The Sonoma Spiel

May 20, 2024 – Not many places have a professional-level, volunteer-run observatory open to the public. But not many places have the Robert Ferguson Observatory. Luckily, Sonoma Valley does. Executive Director Stephanie Derammelaere explains the mission of the observatory, how it came to be, why Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a good place to see planets and stars and galaxies, and how visitors can come up and see the heavens during various events.She also details how visitors can take a walk that outlines the scale model size of the solar system.Like all of our podcast guests she also answers YOUR Sonoma questions during “We Get Questions.”  It’s Sonoma Valley’s top podcast and you find it wherever you find fine podcasts, including Apple: 

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Striking Sparks Winner 2024 Carina Xu with Family

Rohnert Park fifth grader takes home new telescope as winner of the Striking Sparks competition

Sonoma County Gazette

May 3, 2024 – Carina Xu, a fifth grader at Rohnert Park’s Richard Crane Elementary School won first place in the 2024 Striking Sparks competition and was awarded a new, easy-to-use, 5.3-inch reflecting Dobsonian mount telescope.

Striking Sparks Winner 2024 Carina Xu

Striking sparks award winner

The Community Voice

April 19, 2024 – Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) chose a Rohnert Park student as the recipient in this year’s Striking Sparks competition, a program that awards telescopes to Sonoma County students to promote science education and interest in astronomy. The 2024 winner is Carina Xu, a 5th grader at Richard Crane Elementary School.

Radio Interview with Stephanie Derammelaere Talking About the Eclipse

KZST Morning Show

April 8, 2024 – Since that path of totality is very small, the chance that it will occur at some specific location is very low. For example, Santa Rosa may have to wait many centuries for a path of totality to fall specifically through here…A lot of our docents are gone for the next couple weeks for this.
Picture of the cover of Space magazine from Mercury News.

Three treks on terra firma take you closer to the stars

SPACE Premium Edition, Mercury News

January 21, 2024 – The Robert Ferguson Observatory (RFO) in Sonoma County is truly a citizen’s observatory. Named for Bob Ferguson, an amateur Petaluma astronomer who built telescopes for children, it holds the largest publicly accessible telescope in Northern California. The observatory’s grounds in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park are home to a unique citizen-designed hike as well: the Planet Walk. It’s a 4.5-mile journey that simulates the distances between our sun and the planets, with each step you take representing 1 million miles.

RFO at night with the Milk Way visible

Hidden Sonoma County Gems to Discover in Fall

Via, AAA Magazine

September + October 2023 – “With several powerful telescopes, the observatory is the largest in Northern California completely dedicated to public viewing.”

Crescent moon

Sonoma County residents get glimpse of Ring of Fire eclipse

Photo Credit: Kent Porter, The Press Democrat

The Press Democrat

October 14, 2023 – “It was really cool, pretty emotional”, said Eric McHenry, who joined about 150 people at an eclipse viewing party at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Kenwood’s Sugarloaf State Park.

Solar eclipse

Kenwood observatory hosting solar eclipse party Saturday

Photo Credit: David Kent, AP Photo/The Forth Worth Star-Telegram

The Press Democrat

October 11, 2023 – While the “ring of fire” effect. when the moon crosses in front of the sun but does not fully cover it, that occurs during annular eclipses won’t be fully visible in Sonoma County, locals will see a partial eclipse, said Jack Welch, a docent at the Robert Ferguson Observatory in Kenwood’s Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

Seeing Stars! Dark-sky camping for the best stargazing

Airstream Life

Fall 2023 Issue– “When we have public stargazing programs at the observatory, most people don’t care about the nebulae, galaxies and double stars that are really far away, but they’re excited to see Jupiter, the Big Dipper, Mars, Saturn’s rings, and everyday constellations like Cassiopeia and Pisces.” – Eric McHenry, International President of Airstream Club International and Board President of the Robert Ferguson Observatory


A Cosmic Experience Awaits

57° Magazine

July 17, 2023 – While the exquisite fruits of Sonoma County’s soil draw visitors from around the world, there is also endless wonder to be found in the county’s skies.

MJ Ward, laughs as she performs with The Social Construct during a concert and silent auction to benefit the Robert Ferguson Observatory called "The Sky's the Limit" held at the Phoenix Theater, Saturday, May 6, 2023, in Petaluma. (Darryl Bush / For The Press Democrat)

Teen musicians rock Petaluma’s Phoenix Theater to benefit Robert Ferguson Observatory

Photo Credit: Darryl Bush, The Press Democrat

The Press Democrat

May 10, 2023 – Teen musicians rocked out in Petaluma May 6 in support of an organization helping young people reach for the stars.

Craters and other markings are visible as the supermoon rises as seen from Olympia, Wash., on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022. This full moon is also known as the sturgeon supermoon, and is the last of four supermoons — which occur when the moon is full when it is at its closest location to the earth — in 2022. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Meteor shower, “Flower Moon” in the skies this week above Northern California

Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren, AP Photo

The Press Democrat

May 4, 2023 – “The significance of having several events in the sky at once is simply that it is more exciting to go out and look up at the sky,” Rachel Freed, amateur astronomer, educator and docent at Robert Ferguson Observatory in Kenwood, wrote in an email.

Telescope inside of a cabin

From Planning to Stargazing: Everything You Need to Know About DIY Backyard Observatories


April 14, 2023 – For many telescope enthusiasts, space photographers, and amateur astronomers, stargazing is more than just a hobby: it’s a passion.

The night sky featuring a meteor shower with a view of the Milky Way in the background

The Lyrids Are Our First Chance to See Some Shooting Stars This Year

Photo Credit: Jeff Sullivan via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Bay Nature

April 13, 2023 – Born of comets, meteors are the little specks of dust that could.

2023 Striking Sparks winners

Five Striking Sparks winners to be awarded telescopes

The Community Voice

March 24, 2023 – This is the 38th year of the competition, a program facilitated by the Robert Ferguson Observatory that awards telescopes to Sonoma County students to promote science education and interest in astronomy.

RFO at night with the Milk Way visible

At This Sonoma Park, You Can Walk to Pluto

Bay Nature

March 22, 2023 – The cosmos awaits you at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.


3 Sonoma students honored by astronomy program

Sonoma Index Tribune

April 6, 2022 – Three Sonoma Valley students were awarded telescopes Thursday by Striking Sparks, a program that promotes science education and interest in astronomy.

2022 Striking Sparks winners

2022 Striking Sparks Winners

The Community Voice

April 15, 2022 – Five Students Awarded Telescopes at the Striking Sparks Ceremony.

RFO at night with the Milk Way visible

Astronomy for all in Kenwood

Sonoma County Gazette

January 21, 2022 – Robert Ferguson Observatory Announces Access Program for Low-Income Families.

Docent explaining the use of a telescope

Robert Ferguson Observatory joins Museums for All

Sonoma Index-Tribune

Photo Credit: Robbi Pengelly / Index-Tribune

January 20, 2022 – The Robert Ferguson Observatory has joined Museums for All, a signature access program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Association of Children’s Museums, to encourage people of all backgrounds to visit museums regularly and build lifelong museum-going habits.

Volunteers explain the night sky using laser pointers

Explore the night sky at Robert Ferguson Observatory in Kenwood

The Press Democrat

Photo Credit: Kent Porter / The Press Democrat

October 1, 2021 – On a recent weekday night inside a dark, open-roofed dome at Robert Ferguson Observatory, longtime volunteer David Kensiski turned a 40-inch-diameter telescope toward the first planetary nebula he discovered when he was 15 years old.

RFO at night with the Milk Way visible

RFO opens up the eyes of the world

Sonoma Index-Tribune

July 8, 2021 – Even the heavens are glad the pandemic is in remission — with well over half of Sonoma County fully vaccinated, it’s time to reopen the doors of the big scopes to the public at Robert Ferguson Observatory on Saturday, July 10.

View of RFO during a smoky day after fires

Firefighters build defenses to protect Robert Ferguson Observatory from Glass fire

The Press Democrat

Photo Credit: Christopher Chung / The Press Democrat

September 30, 2020 – Tree branches were still smoldering on the ground about 20 yards behind Robert Ferguson Observatory on Wednesday afternoon, their moon-like ash providing blips of contrast to the blackened hillsides where firefighters had spent two days doing controlled burns.

Eye looking at the cosmos

Stars in Our Eyes

Northbay Biz

December 26, 2019 – “The Robert Ferguson Observatory is one of Sonoma County’s best kept secrets.” 

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