Pine Mountain Observatory, located 34 miles southeast of Bend, is perched atop a mountain at an elevation of 6,300 feet. The observatory’s location is well placed to make the most of the dark skies that the Eastern Oregon high desert provides.
The observatory is operated by the University of Oregon Department of Physics under a special use permit from the Deschutes National Forest. The observatory’s primary function is research and other astronomical observations, including basic and advanced scientific research. However education at all levels is also an important function and objective of the observatory.
The observatory is open to the public on Friday and Saturday nights from MEMORIAL DAY weekend through the last weekend in September. Private group and organization tours may be available during the week by advance appointment, however, these tours are now mostly limited to school and other educational groups. [Contact: Alton Luken, Operations Manager, Pine Mountain Observatory, ph. 541-382-8331, email firstname.lastname@example.org.] The mid-week tours are conducted by the same observatory staff and volunteer amateur astronomers who conduct the regular weekend tours. The observatory also conducts a research science camp during the summer, bringing astronomers and students from all around the Western U.S. to teach and participate in programs.
As noted on the “Volunteer” page, observatory tour guides provide assistance looking through a variety of different telescopes, from small portable scopes often used by amateurs, up to research-grade telescopes installed at PMO, including especially the 24-inch Cassegrain reflector which was installed at PMO 50 years ago, in 1967! Volunteer tour guides also educate visitors about the various sky objects observed, discuss current topics and technologies used in modern astronomy and cosmology, and answer visitor questions.
In addition to astronomy visitors, the public is able to utilize the adjacent Forest Service campground and lands for a number of recreational activities (for more information see Visiting). Some of these activities include: bird and wildlife watching, mountain biking, hang-gliding, hiking and horseback riding. Schools, scouts and other outdoor programs utilize the area for earth science classes in conjunction with the astronomy programs. On average, the observatory summer programs provide educational tours of the night skies for 2,000-plus visitors annually.