Outer Space Up Close in Central Oregon

The 15th annual Prineville Star Party puts the universe's majesty on display.

By Sarah Richards May 21, 2014

When Mars One, a non-profit Dutch company, announced its plans to create a human settlement on Mars, the prospect of living out our space-bound dreams suddenly became more realistic. But if you’re not interested in leaving Earth just yet, you could at least view beguiling planets, along with gas and dust formed nebulae, galaxies and colorful star clusters through a massive telescope, called “Big Doug”, at the 15th Annual Prineville Star Party on May 31st.

“It will be a great year for seeing planets such as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. People can expect to see ice caps on Mars, the Great Red Spot on Jupiter, and even the division of rings of Saturn,” says Paul Patton resource specialist for eastern Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. “The event is great for capturing the imagination of families. All you really need is two eyes to enjoy astronomy.” 

Located far from any sources of light pollution , the night sky in central Oregon unlike anything you'd be able to see in Portland. The free event, organized by The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, features a collaborative space art project, lessons on prehistoric stars, and even home-made rocket launches. 

Prineville Reservoir State Park is located at 19020 SE Parkland Drive, Prineville, OR 97754. Visitors can take a day road trip (bring water and snacks) or stay at the park campground. Campsites can be reserved at

Schedule of events (May 31):

1:00pm Event begins (ongoing solar viewing, displays, and activities)

2:00pm “Cosmological Communication” with Jerry Niehuser of the Oregon Observatory

3:00pm “Audience Interactive Space Art”, with artist John Foster

4:0 pm “Prehistoric Stars, Prehistoric Earth”, John Fiedor, John Day Fossil Beds

5:00 pm “Design, Build, and Launch Your Own Rocket”

6:00pm Break

7:00pm “Fighting Light Pollution in the Pacific Northwest” David Ingram with the International Dark-Sky Association

8:00 pm“More Earths Than You Can Count; The Search for Exoplanets is Paying Off” with Dr. Jan Dabrowski of Marylhurst University

9:00pm Prizes!

9:30pm “Guided Tour of the Night Sky”, Jerry Niehuser & Don Nisewanger of the Oregon Observatory

10:00pm Stargazing begins!

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