Join UM astronomers and Western Montana Astronomical Association (WMAA) members at the Blue Mountain Observatory this summer for our Star Gazing Nights. In addition to our 16 inch telescope, our volunteer astronomers and student staff will have a variety of scopes set up outside the dome and will be happy to discuss any questions you may have about astronomical instrumentation. They are available to talk about what you are seeing through the telescopes, discuss current discoveries, point out constellations, share star stories from different cultures, and demonstrate how to find interesting celestial objects with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars. (It's fun to bring binoculars if you have them.)
To cover the costs of operating the observatory for these events, we may charge a nominal fee for entry. We are actively seeking underwriting to once again make our Open House events free to the public.
(Time observations begins.)
Friday, July 9th 10:30 pm
Friday, July 30th 10:00 pm
Friday, September 3 9:15 pm - FREE, thanks to the generous support of the O.P. and W.E. Edwards Foundation!
The Eventbrite site also allows donations that will help us keep BMO in good repair and open to the public. No donation is too small! We appreciate any support you feel inspired to give.
If you are unable to afford the cost of a ticket, please call us at (406) 243-2073 to secure one of our scholarship tickets for free.
If your observation evening must be cancelled due to clouds or smoke we automatically refund all ticket fees for that night.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable night for everyone, please be aware of the following:
- For most people, the drive to the top of Blue Mountain takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour from downtown Missoula. The dirt road tends to develop a washboard surface, but is passable to all cars all the way to the fire lookout. There are a few spots which are a bit narrow for passing and have steep drop-offs, so please drive carefully and respect the fact that you will be sharing this back country road with many other Blue Mountain guests. See our Directions Page for accurate driving directions before you head out.
- Early in the night, there will be a student intern stationed in the parking area near the fire lookout. Please park so that you DO NOT block the road. If you are unsure where to park, how to get to the observatory, or have any other questions, the intern will be happy to help you out. Parking on the summit ridge is limited and we encourage guests to carpool whenever possible.
- To ensure these events remain safe and family-friendly, NO ALCOHOL is allowed.
- Our observatory is located at an elevation of 6,300 feet. Even when summer days are hot in Missoula, it can get quite cold on the mountain. It always pays to bring more clothes (coat, hat, gloves, scarf) than you think you will need! You can always leave them in your car if it turns out you don't need them.
- The observatory is about 400 yards down a rough dirt road from where you will park. You should have comfortable walking shoes and a good flashlight or headlamp for your walk to and from the observatory.
- If we have to cancel: Viewing nights will be canceled if the sky is cloudy, thunderstorms threaten, or if there is significant smoke or there are nearby fires. If you leave us a current e-mail address when you reserve your tickets through Eventbrite, you will receive an update on observing conditions during the early evening hours on the date of the open house. We will also post an announcement on our Facebook page. For those who may not have convenient web access, we will post a voicemail message confirming or cancelling observing at (406) 243-2073. Messages may not be posted until 7 pm the night of observing if conditions are highly uncertain. Make sure that you confirm we will be on the mountain before you go!
- Western Montana Astronomical Association
- Missoula Clear Sky Chart (high time resolution forecast to see if it is likely we will be observing)
- Astronomy Picture of the Day (outstanding source for exploration of all things astronomical- fully linked and searchable)
- The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area UM’s hands-on science center