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July 30, 2018

Visiting PMO in August (2018)

Sunsets at PMO rapidly become earlier in August – from about 8:30 p.m. at the outset to about 7:45 p.m. at the end. This means you won’t have to wait as long to see the Milky Way and some great “deep sky” objects, but do plan on arriving at or shortly after sunset if you want to observe the planets Jupiter (now getting lower in the southwestern sky) and Saturn. Mars and Neptune are the only planets we’ll observe after dark – between about 11 p.m. and the end of most tours (around midnight). By the end of August, these times will be one hour earlier (about 10 p.m. instead of 11 p.m.). The annual Perseid Meteor shower peaks on the night of Saturday-Sunday August 11-12 – see the separate blog post below.

Moon information:

Aug 3-4 – Last quarter moon doesn’t rise until after midnight, so won’t interfere with viewing.

Aug 10-11 – New moon weekend! Excellent viewing of “deep sky” objects and the meteor shower, weather permitting. Arrive early if you want to camp.

Aug 17-18 – First quarter moon sets around midnight (a little later on Saturday night), so will have some interference with “deep sky” viewing, but an excellent opportunity to see the moon itself.

Aug 24-25 – Bright almost full moon interferes with viewing all night (avoid this weekend if possible).

July 20, 2018

Perseid Meteor Shower (August 2018)

The Perseid Meteor Shower, caused by debris shed by Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle entering the Earth’s atmosphere, is one of the astronomical highlights of the year for many observers. This year’s shower is expected to peak sometime on Sunday, August 12, when there is no moonlight interference, however the peak may happen during daylight for North American observers.  The meteors radiate from the constellation of Perseus in the northeast, but can appear in any part of the sky, including along the band of the Milky Way. The shower will still be visible on Sunday night and Monday morning (August 12-13), but keep in mind that PMO is not open to the public that night, so you may need to view the meteors from the campground area if you do choose that night.

July 2, 2018

Visiting PMO in July (2018)

Reminder – No extra tours for the July 4 holiday (Friday/Saturday only).

PMO remains open for Friday and Saturday night tours, and with the start of July, we’re entering the “prime” of the tour season. Sunsets remain late (8:30 to 8:45 p.m. or so), so you should plan on staying until at least 11:00 p.m. (weather permitting) to have a good observing experience including “deep sky” objects such as star clusters, nebulae and galaxies. Tours will not end until midnight this time of year, if the sky remains clear (with the possible exception of full moon weekend). Please arrive early (by about sunset), and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot.

The planet Jupiter continues to be visible in July, but will move into the southwest, setting shortly after midnight at the end of July. Saturn is visible in the southern sky, near the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius. Saturn has a very favorable ring angle this year – truly impressive on a good night! Mars will have its closest approach to Earth, only 36 million miles, at the end of July, and will be impressively bright. We’ll be observing it all month (wait until about midnight in early July), but keep in mind it’s a small planet, so don’t expect to see a lot of detail.

Moon viewing information:

July 6-7 – moon waning and doesn’t rise until late (after 1 a.m.), so this holiday weekend should be good for general observing; July 13-14 – new moon weekend (moon not visible, excellent for deep sky observing); July 20-21 – moon now past 1st quarter, near Jupiter, and doesn’t set until after midnight, so there will be some moonlight interference with deep sky objects. However, it will be a good opportunity to view the moon itself in twilight during tours (arrive early); July 27-28 – full moon weekend, and unfortunately the deep lunar eclipse on July 27 will not be visible from the U.S. You should definitely avoid this weekend if you want to see the Milky Way and do deep sky observing!

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

May 31, 2018

Visiting PMO in June (2018)

The portable toilets have arrived at PMO (and the road has been graded) as of June 15!

PMO is now open for Friday and Saturday night tours, and June can be a good opportunity to visit. Keep in mind, however, that sunsets are late (8:45 p.m. or so), and you should plan on staying until at least 11:00 p.m. (weather permitting) to have a good experience including a couple of dark sky objects such as star clusters. Tours will normally not end until midnight this time of year, if the sky remains clear.

Do arrive early (by about sunset) and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot, or proceed up to the telescopes if the greeting center is closed.

Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planets Venus, visible low in the west, and Jupiter, well-placed in the southeast sky. Saturn will not be visible at a convenient hour in early June, but will be visible near the end of tours by late June. Mars will be visible beginning in July.

Moon viewing information:

June 1-2 – moon still bright (after full phase) and rises after 11 p.m., cutting short a brief period of dark sky viewing at the end of twilight; June 8-9 – waning crescent moon rises very late and won’t interfere with dark sky (also known as “deep sky”) viewing; June 15-16 – thin waxing crescent moon visible near Venus after sunset and won’t interfere with dark sky viewing; June 22-23 – moon approaching full and doesn’t set until very late, so avoid this weekend for dark sky viewing, although it would be a good opportunity to see the moon itself; June 29-30 – moon still nearly full and up by about 11 p.m., so also avoid this weekend and wait for the upcoming July 6-7 holiday weekend.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

May 15, 2018

Visiting PMO in May (2018) – PMO Opens May 25-26 of Memorial Day weekend for public tours

No viewing through telescopes is planned Friday due to poor weather. We hope to see you on Saturday!

PMO telescope dome in May 2018 with Milky Way rising.

It’s that time of year – public night sky tours at PMO begin Friday and Saturday, May 25-26, of Memorial Day weekend!

Please note that there are no tours on Sunday and/or Monday, even when there is a Monday holiday.

Always check the weather forecast and the PMO weather page before visiting; you should expect and prepare for nighttime temperatures in the 40s, even if it’s nice in town. Tours begin at about 9:00 p.m. and may last until midnight, although it’s not unusual for viewing to end earlier depending on conditions, so please arrive early, and check in at the greeting center next to the parking lot.

Sunset is about 8:30 p.m. Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planets Venus (in the west) and Jupiter (in the southeast), as well as the Moon, which will be bright as it approaches full phase on May 29. Saturn will not be visible during normal tour hours for about another month. If you want to experience the best dark-sky viewing of certain star clusters, nebulae and galaxies (sky conditions permitting), please wait two more weeks until the Moon is out of the way.

The PMO campground is a primitive Forest Service campground, and does not accept reservations. Although there’s plenty of space for smaller vehicles and tents, please do arrive early if you plan to camp.

We’re looking forward to another great season, and to seeing you at PMO!

Photo credit: Eric Smith, Univ. of Oregon IT department.

April 14, 2018

PMO Volunteers Annual Meeting (2018)

The annual orientation meeting for PMO volunteers has been scheduled for Saturday April 28 at 3 p.m. at PMO. Potential new volunteers are welcome, but should call or email the PMO site manager first for additional information and to register. [Contact: Alton Luken, Operations Manager, Pine Mountain Observatory, ph. 541-382-8331, email aluken@uoregon.edu] New volunteers receive sky familiarization and telescope training, starting with PMO’s 8 and 10-inch portable scopes. Training sessions will be scheduled in May and June as needed. Although you can also offer to volunteer later in the season, the earlier the better!

The first public tour weekend at PMO is Memorial Day Weekend, Friday-Saturday May 25-26, 2018, weather permitting. (Sorry, no Sunday/Monday tours.)

September 27, 2017

Thanks for a great season!

Thanks to all the visitors (well over 1,000) who helped to make the 2017 summer tour season another great season at PMO. We had quite a few really nice clear nights, and we look forward to seeing many of you again in 2018, beginning Memorial Day weekend (Friday-Saturday, May 25-26, 2018). We also hope that many of you had a great view of the total solar eclipse, even though not from PMO. It was an event to remember!

August 28, 2017

Visiting PMO in September (2017)

Note: No additional tours for Labor Day weekend; Friday and Saturday (Sept. 1-2) only. Also PMO will be closed the last weekend in September (Sept. 29-30).

Sunsets at PMO continue to rapidly become earlier in September – from about 7:40 p.m. at the outset to before 7:00 p.m. at the end. Please arrive early (by sunset), especially if you want to see Saturn, which is sinking lower in the southwestern sky, and will only be observable in PMO’s 24-inch telescope during evening twilight. Also, keep in mind that temperatures may dip into the 30s or 40s at night in September, even if it’s relatively warm in town during the day. Check the PMO weather page before heading out. Public viewing may conclude by 11 p.m. (or sooner if the weather is poor), although if we experience a good night near new moon, we may re-open around 3 a.m. for viewing of the Orion Nebula. (Don’t count on this – ask if you’re camping at PMO.)

Moon information: Sept 1-2 – brightening moon will interfere with “deep sky” viewing, but still a good opportunity to see the moon itself; Sept 8-9 – bright moon (just after full) rises early (9 to 9:30 p.m.) and will interfere with “deep sky” viewing; Sept 15-16 – moon doesn’t rise until well after midnight, won’t interfere with public viewing; Sept 22-23 – just after new moon, no interference; Sept 29-30 – PMO CLOSED.

Planets: Besides Saturn, Uranus and Neptune will be visible later (by about 10 p.m.). Asteroids: Asteroid Florence will make a close fly-by of Earth (4.4 million miles away) on September 1. We should be able to watch it in the 24-inch telescope that evening, weather permitting, and possibly on September 2 as well.

After September 23, we’re done with tours for the season, so don’t delay, or you’ll have to wait until next May. Thank you for your interest in PMO!

August 16, 2017

Final Reminder – PMO Not Open for Eclipse!

As a final reminder, PMO is not in the path of totality, and will not be open, for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse or for normal evening viewing this weekend. See the post “Visiting PMO in August (2017)” for more details. Anyone viewing the eclipse from PMO grounds will be on their own, and will need proper protective eyewear, or other safe viewing techniques. See the NASA website, https://eclipse2017.nasa.gov/, for more information.

July 29, 2017

Visiting PMO in August (2017)

Important reminder: PMO is NOT in the path of totality for the August 21 total solar eclipse, and will NOT be open that day or the weekend of August 18-20. For a possible eclipse viewing site, see https://www.oregonsolarfest.com/. The eclipse at PMO will be 98.9% partial in terms of “obscuration,” or fraction of the Sun’s area covered. That is still about 1,000 times too bright to observe the Sun’s faint outer atmosphere, or corona.

Sunsets at PMO rapidly become earlier in August – from about 8:30 p.m. at the outset to about 7:45 p.m. at the end. This means you won’t have to wait as long to see the Milky Way and some great “deep sky” objects, but do plan on arriving at or shortly after sunset if you want to observe the planets Jupiter (now getting quite low in the western sky) and Saturn. Neptune is the only planet we’ll observe after dark – near the end of most tours, a little before midnight.

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks on Saturday August 12, and should be good both that morning from about midnight to 4 a.m., and that evening before midnight. You’re welcome to visit, camp if desired, look up at the sky and enjoy the meteor show. However, the moon will be bright.

Moon information:
Aug 4-5 – bright almost full moon interferes with viewing all night (avoid this weekend if possible); Aug 11-12 – moon still bright and rises 11 to 11:30 p.m., interfering with meteor watching, but allowing an hour or so of dark sky viewing before moonrise; Aug 18-19 – Sorry, PMO is closed due to the total solar eclipse on Monday. The campground is expected to remain open, but you will need your own viewing equipment; Aug 25-26 – crescent moon sets by about 11 p.m., won’t interfere with public viewing. To see the moon itself (which will be low in the sky), please arrive early, by 8:30 p.m. (Jupiter will also be very low below the moon on the 25th.)

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