The observatory, which is due to be built by August 2014, will house a telescope that the public can use to view galaxies billions of light years away.
The reflector telescope will also provide a digital feed that can be watched remotely by community groups and public schools across the country.
A viewing plaza next to the dome will feature sundials and room for visitors to set up their own telescopes.
"There's a sense that science is something that's not accessible to the public, but astronomy is different," says SFU physics professor Howard Trottier. "It gives people that direct experience."
Trottier, who has run SFU's "Starry Nights" public astronomy workshops since 2007, says he hopes the observatory will encourage young people to develop and pursue a passion for astronomy and science.
Trottier's passion for science was inspired by his brother Lorne, who is funding the observatory through the Trottier Family Foundation.
For more on how the observatory will benefit the community, join CBC Radio's Stephen Quinn on Friday, Jan. 11 at Caffe Artigiano on Hastings Street in Burnaby. As part of CBC's "In Your Neighbourhood" series, Stephen and his team will be there broadcasting On The Coast from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. PT. He will be speaking with Howard Trottier and other special guests, who will be discussing Burnaby-focused news and issues. Burnaby's Luca Fogale will be the show's musical guest.