Oregon’s Magnificent Dark Skies, some of the largest expanses of magnificent dark skies in the US. There are few experiences as humbling as staring into the cosmos. But while most of the stars above our cities and towns are obscured by the light we emit, it’s easy enough in Oregon to drive off into darkness to discover their greater beauty.
The amazing Geminid meteor shower peaks the night of Dec. 13 to 14, which is firmly in what is typically Oregon’s rainy season. However, with the region currently in an El Niño weather pattern, odds for clear skies may be better than usual.
Geminids: The Geminids occur every year from about December 4 – 30. Our last major shower of the year also has the potential of being the best. The Geminids, like the Perseids, are known to be reliable, and observers have seen a steady increase in shower activity in recent years. Current estimates place the zenith hourly rate at around 150, thereby beating the Perseids to the top spot, and with the constellation Gemini being visible throughout the night and passing high overhead, this is one shower that has the potential to truly deliver the goods.
The Moon will be a very slender crescent on the 14th and will be below the horizon by mid-evening, when Gemini will be rising in the east-northeast. These meteors are usually quite bright and are often colorful, making this shower a true celestial fireworks show!
Amateur astronomers have long gathered to celebrate Oregon’s magnificent dark skies. Founded in 1987, the annual Oregon Star Party (OSP), attracts up to 1,000 stargazers to the Ochoco National Forest 45 miles east of Prineville. OSP is considered to have the darkest skies of any major star party in the contiguous United States.
Oregon DARK SKY TOURISM DESTINATIONS
Planetariums: Kendall Planetarium at OMSI (Portland), Chemeketa Community College Planetarium (Hayesville), Eugene Science Center Planetarium, Mt. Hood Community College Planetarium Sky Theater (Gresham)
Willamette Valley Bed and Breakfast
Public Observatories: Pine Mt. Observatory (La Pine), Oregon Observatory (Sunriver), Haggart Observatory (Clackamas), Worthy Hopservatory (Bend), Carlton Observatory (Carlton).
Carlton Bed and Breakfasts
Space-Themed Attractions/Museums: Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (McMinnville), OMSI (Portland), and Eugene Solar System Trail where you can bike, run, walk, or skate along a 4.5-mile section (9 miles round trip) of paved path along the Willamette River discovering a scaled model of the sun and planets. Then you can visit Earth’s closest star, Proxima Centauri, and its exoplanet, Proxima b, located at the Eugene Science Center.
Willamette Valley Bed and Breakfast
Cloud Cap Inn is located at 6,000 feet elevation on the rouged northeast side of Mount Hood, and is listed on Dark Sky Finder. The air is exceptionally clear because of the altitude. There’s a light dome from Portland to the west, but the rest of the sky is very dark, with great views of Hood to the south.
Old Parkdale Inn Bed and Breakfast
The John Day Fossil Beds happen to lie under some of the darkest skies in the state, which you can experience from Wilson Ranches Retreat outside of Fossil, Oregon. You could even pull out a lounge chair and gaze right from their lawns and fields.
Dark-sky adventures are about more than stars. If you time it right, you can also witness meteor showers, lunar and solar eclipses, and planetary conjunctions (also called alignments), which occur when two or more planets appear to be very close together in the sky.
Prospect Hotel is the closest Historic Hotel Bed and Breakfast Inn, Dinner House and Motel to Crater Lake National Park
Perseids: In 2023, the peak mornings for the Perseid meteor shower, July 17 – August 24, will feature meteors under moonlight. The Perseids are the most popular meteor shower as they peak on warm August nights as seen from the northern hemisphere. The Perseids are active from July 14 to September 1In 2021 and will next peak on Aug 13th. The slender Moon won’t be bright enough to cause any interference.
Orionids: The Orionids, October 2 – November 7th, peaking on the Oct 20-21. On this night, the moon will be 21% full. The Orionids sometimes produce bright fireballs, which may be able to overcome the moonlit glare
Ursids: The annual Ursid meteor shower runs from about December 13 to 24 every year. It always peaks around the December solstice, which, in 2023, comes on December 22. The Ursids’ peak is predicted** the morning of December 23. In 2023, a 1st quarter moon occurs at 18:39 UTC on December 19..
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Although mask guidelines are lifted:
● Some businesses may choose to still require masks.
● Some people may choose to still wear a mask.
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