Though it takes only binoculars or a very basic telescope to enjoy stargazing, astronomy student docents from Virginia Tech can take your stargazing experience up a few (hundred) notches by hosting free open houses at the Prices Fork Observatory on Friday nights.
Now that Eastern Standard Time is in effect, Friday evening open houses will start at 7:30 p.m., when docents conducting will use the observatory telescope to show night sky objects such as the moon (if visible), any visible planets, stars, nebulae, galaxies, and/or bright comets.
Visitors should plan to be at the observatory a bit early, though, because if no visitors arrive within thirty minutes of the opening time, the observatory closes for the evening.
To confirm that the open house is "on" as scheduled, call (540) 231-5719 after 6:00 p.m. and a recorded message will tell you if the observatory will be open that evening.
Directions to the Prices Fork Observatory as listed on the Virginia Tech Astronomy Observatory web page:
To get to the Prices Fork Observatory from within Blacksburg:
- Ttravel west on Prices Fork Road, past the 460 bypass, toward Radford.
- Once you pass the Hethwood area, Hethwood Shopping Center, Fire Station, and Kipps Elementary School (in that order), the next right turn is Old Mill Road (just before Cox's Driving Range).
- Travel about 1/2 mile on Old Mill Road. There is a gate on the right, beyond which you can see the Observatory on the top of a hill. The Observatory looks like a short silo.
- Please close the gate after driving through --- the area surrounding the Observatory is a Tech pasture.
To prepare for an evening at the Observatory, purchase or check-out a copy of H.A. Rey's illustrated children's book The Stars or its companion book, Find the Constellations; both are excellent and easy to understand primers on stargazing.
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