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High-elevation observatory opens to public

June 3, 2011
The Inter-Mountain

An astronomical observatory on Spruce Knob, the highest point in the state, will be open to the public for three nights this summer for star viewing in some of the darkest skies in the Eastern U.S.

The event, Stars & S'mores, will begin with a brief introduction to the observatory and telescope by The Mountain Institute's (TMI's) instructors. Come nightfall, participants will take in the breathtaking stars. There will also be a campfire blazing and s'mores will be available.

The observatory is located at TMI's Spruce Knob Mountain Center in Pendleton County. The area's lack of light pollution makes it ideal for observing. According to the website, the sky conditions on Spruce Knob are "the best that you will find anywhere east of the Mississippi. Extremely remote location and moderately high altitude combine to give skies that are absolutely incredible when the weather is good."

The telescope within the observatory is a Newtonian reflecting telescope with a 16-inch mirror.

Stars & S'mores will be hosted June 11, July 9 and Aug. 6, beginning at 8 p.m. each day. The observatory will close at approximately 11 p.m. If the skies are cloudy, participants will take advantage of the moisture by searching for salamanders, newts and frogs. The West Virginia Highlands have one of the most diverse amphibian populations in the world, a spokesperson said.

The event is free and open to the public. Camping is available for a small fee. Call in advance for reservations. For more information or directions, call Liz Gutierrez at 304-567-2632, email or visit

The Mountain Institute is a nonprofit education and conservation organization founded in West Virginia in 1972.



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