The King of Planets, Jupiter, will be the highlight of the May 20 annual Star Party at Prineville Reservoir State Park. Jupiter will share the night sky with colorful star clusters, nebulae (interstellar clouds of dust and gasses), and distant galaxies.
“Central Oregon skies are typically clear and generally free of light pollution, the optimum mix for unforgettable views of night sky objects,” said Paul Patton, resource specialist with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD). “Prineville Reservoir, in particular, is an incredible location for stargazing. The annual star party is a great early-summer activity for everyone to enjoy.”
Saturday will kick off at 1 p.m. with a scaled down, guided stroll through the solar system. Young rocketeers can design, build and then safely launch their rockets at 3 p.m. followed by a special presentation about Jupiter at 5 p.m. Events leading up to the main stargazing session include a 7 p.m. presentation on astronomy with binoculars and an 8 p.m. astronomy phone apps review. At 10 p.m. “partygoers” can gather at a permanent observatory housing “Big Doug,” a 16-inch telescope, to peer through it and other telescopes provided by professional and amateur astronomers.
A new activity this year is a Virtual Reality Experience Station–goggles provided. Other activities include a solar viewing/solar eclipse information station; a telescope technology display; various children’s activities focused on astronomical science; and a Space Art exhibit featuring renowned space artist and photographer John Foster.
Prineville Reservoir State Park offers nearly 70 campsites–both RV and tent sites–and five deluxe cabins in the main campground. All are reservable online at www.oregonstateparks.org or by phone at 1-800-452-5687. Another 26 electrical hookup sites in the park’s Jasper Point campground are available first-come, first-served.
The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver and OPRD are co-organizers of the 18th annual Star Party. Prineville Reservoir State Park is located 16 miles southeast of Prineville on Southeast Juniper Canyon Road. More information and directions are available from www.oregonstateparks.org