Public Access

Evening at DSO Events

Our next Evening at DSO event will be Saturday, July 27th!

We will be using the 32" telescope to look at a number of targets, including stars, open and globular star clusters,  nebulae, and galaxies. It will be a dark,  moonless night, so you may want to bring a flashlight. We will have red cellophane and rubber bands to attach it to your flashlight or cell phone, to preserve your night vision.

With later sunsets we now will have just one session to sign up for, 9:00 - 11:00 pm. Ticket holders should arrive between 8:30 and 9:00 (DSO is about 40 minutes from Boone). The session will begin with a short PowerPoint about the activities and the objects that will be observed.

If the event is clouded/rained-out at the last minute, we will have indoor activities including a PowerPoint slide show, discussion, and a facility tour. It will be canceled in the event of hopeless weather or dangerous travel weather known in advance.  If you get tickets, pay attention to your email, the DSO web site, or our Facebook page for any last minute decisions if dangerous weather is in the area. 

See the Public Access area of the DSO website for directions and map to DSO.

See our secure ticketing site for more event details.

General Public Access Information

We have monthly Evening at DSO events, with tickets sold online. These are scheduled monthly and we do not usually know the schedule beyond that, due to complications involved in scheduling. 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. There is no general public access other than the monthly events. 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.

Events are ticketed and you must get tickets online to attend.

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 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. 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.

Jo and Don Cline Visitor Center

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. 


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.


During the event, there will be an opportunity to make cash or check donations to support the continued work of DSO. We also have 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.

You can also donate online to the Friends of the Dark Sky Observatory, made available through the Appalachian State University Foundation.

Finding Your Way to DSO

The easiest way to find DSO is to Google "Dark Sky Observatory" (make sure you pick the one in Purlear, NC, east of Boone), 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. You can also download our printable map and directions [PDF]. Temporary signs are put up starting at the intersection of Phillips Gap Rd and the Parkway to help you find your way.

You should try to arrive in the 30-minute time window before your scheduled session (it is a ~40 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 partly cloudy weather, but may cancel if the weather is too bad for safe travel or if observing is certainly hopeless. In the event of a cancelation, ticketholders will have their ticket purchase refunded.

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.

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.