Where can you feel infinitely small yet universally connected? The best place is under a vast night sky of stars. Thanks to Bend’s minimal light pollution, Central Oregon offers some of the best stargazing on the planet and your summer won’t feel complete without some.
When and where to go:Find moonlight-free nights by checking on the moon’s phases and setting times in a guide like the 2012 Farmer’s Almanac www.almanac.com/moon.
For telescope viewing and guided observations, head to one of our local observatories: Pine Mountain Observatory pmo-sun.uoregon.edu/ or the Oregon Observatory in Sunriver www.sunrivernaturecenter.org.
For casual stargazing, stellar sites can be found in the Badlands west of Bend, around the High Lakes at any number of pulloffs from the Cascade Lakes Highway, or along the lava fields of the Newberry Crater.
What to bring:
Bundle up with hats, warm jackets, sleeping bags—and gloves to hold the binoculars.
Red light keeps eyes acclimated to the dark, so cover flashlights with red tissue paper. Even better: pick up small red LED lights at local bike shops. And if you have a high quality laser pointer, you can use it to circle stars and point to constellations.
Download constellation maps from www.astronomyinyourhands.com, or go high-tech with smartphone apps like Star Walk, Pocket Universe, or Google Sky Map. Some of these apps let you take a picture of the sky and tell you what you are looking at!
What to look for:
Find the Milky Way, the outer rim of our galaxy, stretching north to south across the sky. Ponder the likelihood that one of those stars shines on a life-supporting planet.
Go beyond the Big and Little Dippers to identify constellations that every kid should know: Hercules, Pegasus and Draco.
Distinguish planets from stars by their non-twinkling light, and zoom in with binoculars to capture their color. Mercury is visible in the early evenings of July; Saturn and Mars pop over the western horizon later.
Make wishes galore during the Perseid meteor showers—the best-ever reasons to stay up ‘til 3 a.m. Look toward the Northeast quadrant of the sky in mid-August. Best days are August 12 and 13.