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Blue Mountain Observatory to Host Free Public Viewing Nights

Photo courtesy of yasin turkoglu/Flickr

One of the advantages to living in a state with so few residents is the lack of light pollution. Even in Missoula, stars are readily visible on clear, cloudless nights.

Where I grew up, I could see even more stars, and they shone even brighter against the backdrop of the pitch-black night sky. I was always able to find the major constellations — The Big Dipper, Sagittarius, Orion — but my expertise stopped there.

If you’ve always been interested in astronomy, but never had a guide to give you a tour of the night sky, then I have an event for you — several events, actually.

Beginning on Friday, Aug. 10, the Blue Mountain Observatory will host a series of free public observing nights. The family-friendly events are designed for space enthusiasts of all ages.

Astronomers will be on hand to point out planets and constellations, explain the roles that celestial objects have played in different world cultures, and show attendees how to find various features in the night sky with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars.

Observing will begin about an hour after sunset. Organizers recommend bringing warm clothes and a flashlight for the short walk from the observatory to the parking lot.

The observatory, which is operated by The University of Montana, is located on the top of Blue Mountain, at an elevation of 6,300 feet.

Viewing nights will be cancelled if there is inclement weather or if the sky is cloudy. Call 243-5179 to confirm that observing nights will go on as scheduled before heading up to the observatory.

The viewing night schedule is as follows: 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10; 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17; 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7; and 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 14.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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