The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver is a large-scale public astronomical observatory run by the Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory. It s a not-for-profit organization and relies on donations, volunteers, and fundraising to maintain the programs offered at its Sunriver location. The observatory first opened its doors in 1990 and is the largest astronomical viewing facility in the US. A NASA-affiliated organization, the observatory works in tandem with the adjacent Sunriver Nature Center. An SNCO membership scheme is available, offering further discounts on the other 300 Association of Science and Technology Centers located in the US.

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Permanent exhibits and attractions

The Oregon Observatory houses the largest public use collection of telescopes in the country. The 11 telescopes have been donated by astronomy enthusiasts and collectors or are on loan to the observatory. With a collection spanning such manufacturers as Astro Tech, Explore Scientific, Celestron, and Lunt, amongst others, the telescopes are not only available to use with guidance from the volunteer experts during day and night viewings, but can also be used for private parties, educational programs, and courses. Before visitors head out to view the day or night sky, a 30-minute presentation is given as an introduction to the observatory, their resources, and their findings. The presentations are hosted either in the open-air amphitheater or the Pozzi education building. After this, visitors can head over to the telescopes with the volunteer experts to try them out. The telescopes are split between the ground level, roof top, and dome. The majority of telescopes are mounted in the rooftop area, where day and night viewings for the public take place. The large telescopes are found in the dome and are used to view detailed monthly changes in the night sky as the Earth orbits the sun.

The Daytime Solar Viewing Program sees visitors study the sun through filtered telescopes. Those operating the white light filtered telescopes may see sun spots, while those with the hydrogen-alpha filtered telescopes may see gas loops known as prominences. The day viewing dates are during summer and on select days of fall and spring. Falling within winter and fall, the Night Time Viewing Program provides visitors with a lesson from staff members and the opportunity to operate the Dobsonian telescopes located behind the observatory. Visitors are also guided through the star constellations, including their mythology, by staff as they use a green laser to highlight areas of interest in the sky.

The roof top area of the observatory also has a detailed interpretive exhibit describing features of deep space, the sun, and the stars. Complete with informative posters and photographs, visitors can peruse the topics with the goal of viewing some of these natural astronomical occurrences themselves through the telescopes.

The Oregon Nature Center, which is the second arm of the not-for-profit organization, boasts a selection of permanent exhibits, such as a local animal exhibit, live animal creature cave, reptile area, nature trail, botanical gardens, and a sizable collection of meteorites, the largest selection in the Northwest.

The observatory is also home to the Oregon Science Store, which sells a diverse selection of nature, rocketry, and astronomy-related products and gifts. Amateur astronomers who wish to purchase telescopes, telescope parts, and accessories can visit the store to try out the line of operable telescopes. Nearby on Spring River road is the Second Tern Thrift Store, whose proceeds go towards the observatory and other sources. Selling jewelry, tools, furniture, and many other goods, the store provides electronics and scrap metal recycling facilities.

Education and programs

On specific dates of the year, the observatory holds seasonal kids’ and family classes, such as the Family Rocketry Wednesdays for beginners, Rover Thursdays, and Advanced Rocketry Fridays. Benchmark classes for children cover a variety of grade school curriculum topics and can be attended both on and off site. Frequent classes are Rocket Science 101, Earth’s Place in the Solar System, and Solar Observation. Staff from the observatory offer an outreach program with a range of services and are able to attend local colleges, schools, or fairs. For those already familiar with the night sky, further programs offered are the After Hours Deep Field Exploration Program for late night to early morning viewings.

57245 River Rd, Sunriver, OR 97707, Phone: 541-598-4406

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