Public Viewing Nights are held on the first Friday of each month at The Wilderness Center come rain or starshine. We now always start with a planetarium show. It will be about the current night sky. This will help visitors orientate themselves prior to going out and seeing the stars. The show will start at 8:00pm year round. If it is clear we will have the observatory open and view through the Centers' scopes and we will set up additional telescopes on the sundial plaza.
Our public viewing nights are informal. There is no set program. Guests come and go at anytime through the night. We usually have several telescopes operated by different folks. Our astronomers enjoy talking about the sky and about their telescopes. They will typically move their instruments around to different objects throughout the evening. Even if you have seen the moon or Jupiter before in another scope, try it again. Odds are that it will look different with a different telescope and eyepiece.
What to expect at a public viewing night
If it is dark out when you arrive, turn your headlights out as you turn into the parking lot. Parking lights are usually OK. Maintaining night vision is important when seeing faint objects through a telescope. If you have a dome light please turn it off before opening the door. If you can't turn off dome lights or have daytime running lights please park close to the entrance. Flashlights should be red. Red light will not ruin your night vision.
The telescopes are set up in the observatory and on the sundial plaza. When you walk up to an astronomer, feel free to ask what the telescope is pointed at and ask to look through the telescope. The astronomer will tell you about the object and point out where the eyepiece is for their particular scope. Feel free to ask any other astronomy related questions and go from one telescope to another.
Typical objects that can be seen through a telescope are the moon, planets, nebulae, open clusters, globular clusters, galaxies and multiple star systems. Try to see one of each before you leave.
Don't touch or move the scope. This will move the object out of the field of view and may damage a telescope that is motor driven.
The telescope shouldn't need to be refocused. Look at the object for a while and let your eye soak up more detail. Stars (if any) should be point like. The telescope should be focused for 20-20 vision. Eyeglass wearers should be OK if you wear your eyeglasses. If you must refocus, ask first. Focus knobs/buttons are different for each telescope.
Dress appropriately for the weather. It gets colder at night and you won't be moving much to generate heat. Bring something extra just in case. That extra sweater or blanket is usually needed.
Bring bug spray during mosquito season.
Public Viewing Night Programs are free to the members of the Wilderness Center. Donations are requested from non-members.