The observatory is a facility run by the Department of Astronomy/Astrophysics and is located in the western edge of Dunn's Woods in the Indiana University campus in Bloomington. It is named after astronomer Daniel Kirkwood. The facility houses a 12 inch refracting telescope as well as various other instruments.
The building was designed by local architect John Nichols.
The previous observatory, called the Knightridge Observatory, was on SR 446 across the street from the Eastview Church of Nazarene It was built by W.A. Cogshall, head of the astronomy department, over the years 1920-1936. It was abandoned in 1948 when Goethe Link donated an observatory in Morgan County to the university. It stood abandoned until 2020, when it was demolished.
- On clear Wednesday evenings throughout the year, the observatory is open to the public for guided viewings through the main telescope.
- August 26, 2003 - The observatory opened to the public for viewing Mars on its closest pass to earth in 60,000 years. Hundreds of people lined up waiting for the chance to see it, most of them waited only to see other stellar objects because Mars had not risen into view until later that night.
- November 5, 2007 - Comet Holmes, which had been too faint to be observed from the observatory, had suddenly become significantly brighter, an event which astronomers had not seen before. The observatory once again opened to the public with more than 100 in attendance.