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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!

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.)

June 28, 2017

Visiting PMO in July (2017)

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 sink lower into the west, setting by about 11 p.m. at the end of July. Saturn also remains visible in the southern sky, near the zodiac constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius. Saturn has a favorable ring angle, and is very impressive on a good night.

Moon viewing information: June 30-July 1 – first quarter, good opportunity to see during tours; July 7-8 – moon almost full, resulting in bright sky; July 14-15 – moon waning and doesn’t rise until about midnight; July 21-22 – new moon (not visible, excellent for deep sky observing); July 28-29 – crescent moon, good opportunity to see in twilight during tours (arrive early).

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.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

June 22, 2017

Excellent sky conditions expected this weekend (June 23-24)

After poor sky and weather conditions earlier this month, things have improved greatly, and we’re expecting an excellent weekend of viewing on Friday, June 23 and Saturday, June 24. The sky should be dark (no moonlight) and transparent, and nighttime temperatures at PMO should only dip into the low 50s. (However, there will be a light wind, so be prepared!) Since large crowds can be expected, please arrive by about 9 p.m., and check in at the welcome center next to the parking lot. Visitors who can stay until midnight may have the opportunity to observe some galaxies in the Hercules Cluster of Galaxies, located about 500 million light years away!

June 9, 2017

PMO Closed Saturday June 10 due to poor weather

We regret that Pine Mountain Observatory will be closed on Saturday, June 10, due to forecast very poor weather conditions, including likelihood of rain and snow showers, and wind gusts. Viewing will also be very limited on Friday June 9, with only one small portable telescope to be available if it isn’t raining. Next weekend (June 16-17) should be better – perhaps we’ll see you then.

May 29, 2017

Visiting PMO in June (2017)

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. Water bottles may be available to purchase at the greeting center, however, we strongly advise bringing your own food and water.

Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planet Jupiter, well-placed in the south about halfway up in the sky. Saturn will be high enough to see later, about the time skies are completely dark. Saturn will be low in the SE sky, near the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius.

Moon viewing information: June 2-3 – moon bright (although not yet full) and sets late; June 9-10 – full bright moon; June 16-17 – moon approaching last quarter, doesn’t rise during tours; June 23-24 – new moon, excellent “deep sky” viewing after 11 p.m., weather permitting.

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.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at PMO!

May 12, 2017

PMO Opens May 26-27 of Memorial Day weekend for public tours

It’s that time of year – public night sky tours at PMO begin Friday and Saturday, May 26-27, 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 8:40 p.m. Twilight viewing beginning about 9:00 p.m. will focus on the planet Jupiter, well-placed in the south about halfway up in the sky, not far from the bright star Spica. Saturn will not be visible until about 11:00 p.m., and even then will be very low in the SE sky, near the zodiac constellation of Sagittarius. (Viewing of Saturn will improve as the summer progresses.) The Moon will not be visible [correction – there was a thin crescent visible on Saturday May 27, but next weekend will be better]. Please wait one more week (until the first weekend in June) if you want a view of the Moon. However, the lack of moonlight the first public weekend will allow excellent viewing of certain star clusters, nebulae, galaxies and even a comet or two if sky conditions permit.

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!

October 31, 2016

Thanks for a great season!

I had intended to post this sooner, but better late than never! Thanks to all the visitors (well over 1,000) who helped to make the 2016 summer tour season another great season at PMO. We look forward to seeing many of you again in 2017, beginning Memorial Day weekend (Friday-Saturday, May 26-27, 2017). For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of the famous Ring Nebula (M57), taken in September through PMO’s 24-inch telescope.

Also, if you’re planning for the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse over Oregon, keep in mind that PMO is not in the path of totality, so there may not be any public activity at PMO on that day. Alternatives include the Oregon Star Party site east of Prineville, and the Oregon Solar Fest (http://www.oregonsolarfest.com/) near Madras.

Photo of Ring Nebula (M57) taken Sept. 2016 at PMO.

Photo of Ring Nebula (M57) taken Sept. 2016 at PMO.

August 29, 2016

Visiting PMO in September (2016)

Note: No additional tours for Labor Day weekend; Friday and Saturday (Sept. 2-3) only.

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 at the end of September, 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 2-3 – new moon, no interference; Sept 9-10 – good opportunity to see the moon, doesn’t set until after midnight (will interfere somewhat with “deep sky” viewing); Sept 16-17 – moon full and bright! (avoid for “deep sky” viewing); Sept 23-24 – moon doesn’t rise until after midnight, won’t interfere with normal public viewing; Sept 30-Oct 1 – new moon, no interference.

Planets: Besides Saturn, Venus will be visible low in the western sky shortly after sunset, Mars will remain visible (but not very interesting as its distance from Earth continues to increase), and Uranus and Neptune will be visible later on (by about 10 p.m.).

After September (and also Saturday October 1, weather permitting), 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 2, 2016

Visiting PMO in August (2016)

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, Mars and Saturn – with Jupiter too low for the 24-inch telescope by about mid-month, but Venus will join Jupiter very low in the western sky the final weekend of August). Neptune (and possibly Uranus) are the only planets we’ll observe after dark – near the end of most tours, a little before midnight.

The annual Perseid Meteor shower peaks August 11th,Thursday evening into the early morning hours of Friday August 12, best from about midnight to 4 a.m. Although the telescopes won’t be open Thursday night, you’re welcome to visit, camp if desired, look up at the sky and enjoy the meteor show. The moon sets that night about 1 a.m. We will be open the evening of Friday August 12th.

Moon information: Aug 5-6 – thin crescent moon (just below Jupiter on 8/5); Aug 12-13 – bright moon interferes with viewing, but will be visible during tours; Aug 19-20 – moon still bright (shortly after full moon) and rises by 9:30 p.m., limiting dark sky viewing; Aug 26-27 – waning moon doesn’t rise until after 1:30 a.m., won’t interfere with normal public viewing.

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