Public Access

For the about once-in-15 years Mars favorable opposition this month, we are having at least two public nights (more if these fill up and there is sufficient interest). On each night we have four, 1-hour sessions that span the entire time of the night when Mars is high enough, from 11 pm to 4:30 am!

For tickets to the sessions on Friday, July 27th, go to our Webconnex ticketing site here.

For tickets to the sessions on Saturday, July 28th, go to our Webconnex ticketing site here.

NOTE THAT TICKETS ARE ONLY GOOD ON THE SPECIFIC NIGHT YOU BUY THEM FOR!

We hold monthly Evening at DSO events at the 32-inch telescope and the attached Jo & Don Cline Visitor Center.

The dates are chose based on a number of factors that change every month, including the Moon's phase, availability of planets, special astronomical events, and the schedules of the staff and student helpers.  You can also get announcements of events by searching for Dark Sky Observatory on Facebook and Liking us.  We sometimes email those who have registered at our Webconnex page, a separate action which is not necessary for getting tickets.

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 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