Getting the flavor of...
Central Oregon’s desert observatory
America’s largest astronomical viewing facility wants to share the cosmos with everyone, said Erin Williams in The Washington Post. Unlike most research observatories, the Oregon Observatory “encourages aspiring astronomers to get an eyeful through its scopes.” A typical night draws 12 to 15 visitors, but earlier this year, I drove a half hour from Bend to Sunriver to attend a stargazing party that drew a bigger crowd. Planet viewing is often a highlight, but in spring and fall you can also see many globular clusters—up to a million stars balled together by gravity. At a telescope trained on Messier 3, one of the biggest clusters, “I gaped at an object of impossible beauty seemingly bedecked in diamonds.” Other telescopes pointed at the wispy Cat’s Eye Nebula, the flat brim of the Sombrero Galaxy, and the waxing crescent moon, whose craters were “so textured, their nubby indentations appeared within arm’s reach.”