Public Access

We are having our next in-person Evening at DSO event on Saturday, December 4, 2021. With our student assistants in the middle of Final Exams week, we will only have one session to attend. It will meet from 7:30pm till 9:30.  We plan to observe targets that will include Jupiter, Neptune, Uranus, star clusters, nebulae (including the Orion Nebula, at the end of the session), and galaxies. This will be a dark, moonless night, so you may wish to bring a flashlight.  We will provide red cellophane and rubber bands to attach it to your flashlight to make your light red, to protect everyone's night vision.  To maximize safety there will be no introductory PowerPoint but just observing activities inside and outside the dome, with a few people at various stations (the main telescope, an outside telescope, binoculars used outside, an outside laser pointer show of constellations and sky objects, etc.). Student guides will monitor the stations. DSO-logoed souvenirs will be available for purchase.

Ticket sales will be limited to keep the number of attendees down. We cannot and will not check vaccination but of course urge you come only if you have been vaccinated. Masks will be required inside the dome and Visitor Center, so bring a mask.

Parents or other adults accompanying children are expected to maintain control of the children for the safety and comfort of all participants.

If the event is clouded/rained out we will probably cancel the event and return the ticket price.  We do not want to have an alternative indoor event with the Delta variant still a problem. If you get a ticket, pay attention to email, the DSO web site (dso.appstate.edu), or our Facebook page for any last minute decisions.

See the Public Access area of dso.appstate.edu for directions and map to DSO. All phone map apps (Google, Waze, Apple Maps) will lead you there if you search for Dark Sky Observatory (in Purlear, NC).

For tickets, click here.

 Public Access in General We have monthly Evening at DSO events, with tickets sold online. We ticket them such that there is time for everyone to get to see several celestial objects. An extra outside telescope and binoculars are available as well.  Laser pointers are used to point out objects in the night sky. These events have been held regularly since 2011. We are not able to offer viewing for individuals or small groups, families, etc.--those should attend one of our regular, monthly events.  There is a limited availability of the facility for special, larger events, at cost. Finding your way to DSO

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 check you in using our ticket list and give you a sticker to wear while there.

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