Public Access

We are having our next virtual Evening at DSO, via Zoom, on Saturday, September 26, 2020!   This will allow us to show you objects in the sky via the telescope's cameras, including the waxing gibbous Moon, Jupiter, Saturn (the last chance for Jupiter and Saturn this season!), Mars, star clusters, double stars, nebulae, and galaxies, in a safe environment--your home!. There will be one session that will start with us gathering by Zoom after 7:00, and starting to view by about 7:30.  It will last a couple of hours. There will be four price options available, if you wish to donate more than the minimum (thanks!). In any case, you only need to get one ticket for your family or group--a bargain! Ticket holders will be emailed the Zoom session invitation link the afternoon of the event, with the password. As usual, all donations and ticket charges go into supporting our outreach activities, and none goes to the astronomers--this is part of our public service!

If the event is clouded/rained out we may have an alternate date, or we may just have an "Ask an Astronomer" evening with a PowerPoint tour of DSO and Q&A--we will decide on that if needed.  Please install the free Zoom app on your device (available for Windows, Apple, and your smart phone or iPad), to make your experience the best it can be. If you do not do that in advance, Zoom will offer that when you click on the emailed event link--it just takes about a minute to install. You may wish to set up a free Zoom account but that is not necessary to attend our event.

For tickets, click here to go to the Webconnex ticketing site. Note that it will look different than in the past because we are using a newer version of their TicketSpice software.


Finding your way to DSO (when we are finally back to face-to-face!)

The easiest way to find DSO is to Google "Dark Sky Observatory" and the resulting map will show our road and allow you to Get Directions from where you live.  You may want to print the Reverse Route Directions to get you back home afterward. Google Maps, Waze, and iPhone Map apps all know where "Dark Sky Observatory" is, and will lead you there. A map and directions are also available linked near the bottom of this page ("ATTACHMENT"), and temporary signs are put up starting at the intersection of Phillips Gap Rd and the Parkway.  You should try to arrvie in the 15-minute time window before your scheduled session (it is a ~30 minute trip from Boone).  The evening begins with a brief PowerPoint explaining the celestial targets for the night. If it is cloudy we have an alternative, indoor activity including a longer PowerPoint, a tour of the facility, and discssion with astronomers. We do not cancel for cloudy or even rainy weather, but may cancel if the weather is too bad for safe travel.  In the event of a cancelation, ticketholders may be offered an opportunity to use their ticket at a later event.

Once at DSO follow the road past the Lowe's House on the left and the first cluster of several domes, through the woods about 1,000 ft to the 32-inch telescope dome and attached Jo and Don Cline Visitor Center.  Park in the cleared area as best as possible--the concrete pad is for handicapped parking, only. We will scan tickets that you should print at home, but will have a Will Call list for those who cannot print their tickets.

While at the Observatory and Visitor Center

Please note that there is minimal paving so you should wear comfortable shoes with low heels.  Of course, observatories have little outside lighting to preserve the dark sky, so you may want to bring a flashlight.  Observatory domes are not heated since doing so would ruin the astronomical seeing quality, so you should dress appropriately.  The attached Cline Visitor Center is heated and you can wait there before and after viewing different celestial objects.  There are restrooms in the Center, and a water fountain, and a limited amount of seating.  There is NO SMOKING on Observatory grounds or in the buildings, due to fire danger and potential harm to optics.

The event is ticked and you must get tickets online to attend.  There will also be an opportunity to make cash or check donations. There is also a "Give Now" link you can click online on any of our web pages to donate.  We have s a few souvenirs available for purchase, including DSO logoed mugs, hats, mouse pads, bumper stickers, and artistic posters.  We accept cash or credit/debit cards.

Observing at the Telescope

The telescope will be pointed at a few different objects during the session you are signed up for, and rotated back through those as time allows during the evening.  This will allow each attendee to see a few objects during the session, but of course there will be time spent waiting for others to view so you should be prepared to wait.  FOR THE SAFETY OF ALL, PARENTS SHOULD BE PREPARED TO MANAGE CHILDREN BETWEEN VIEWING OBJECTS. We may have an assistant showing constellations and other naked-eye visible celestial objects outside the dome, and astronomers to discuss the cosmos with you.

The Jo and Don Cline Visitor Center has a gallery where displays will introduce you to the kinds of astronomical research we do at DSO, and the instrumentation used in our work (we do not yet have these exhibits!). Guests will be able to look into the control room where the astronomers and their students control the telescope and display images acquired through its optics and CCD camera.

Out of town visitors

Those coming from out of town and staying here in the High Country may want to take advantage of two unique hotel/resorts very close to DSO.

One of these is the Park Vista Inn & Restaurant (336-877-5200), located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, only 10 minutes from DSO. Recently renovated and modernized, it offers comfortable quarters after a nighttime observing event.

The other facility is the Sky Retreat (336-973-0444), a resort with cabins for rent and daytime activities, including a spa, paragliding, mountain biking on the nearby Mountain to Sea Trail, and ballroom dance lessons. This is located less than 5 minutes from DSO.

The Jo and Don Cline Visitor Center was originally designed by Jekins-Peer (Charlotte), with additional design work done by United Engineering (Charlotte) and Harley-Ellis (Asheville).

View Jo and Don Cline Visitor Center photos.

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Directions and map to DSO (pdf)247.58 KB