Limited Availability Public Observing
Summer Limited Availability Nights
Back by popular demand, we will offer our "limited availability" viewing evenings at Blue Mountain Observatory. Attendance will be limited to 25 persons. With smaller crowds, more viewing time, and one-on-one discussions with our student and UM staff astronomers, these events are perfect for serious stargazers. Each ticket costs $25.00 plus ticket fees.
Blue Mountain nights are run as a labor of love by many volunteers, the funds collected through ticket purchases go to support our student staff, pay for fuel, and to provide necessary equipment maintenance. If you would like to make an additional donation, Eventbrite allows you to add this as well. No donations are too small and all are appreciated. If your observation date must be canceled due to clouds or smoke, we automatically refund all ticket purchases.
Limited Availability nights are on Saturday evenings and on nights with no moon to take advantage of the dark sky. Summer observation starts at 9:30 or 10 pm, please check your tickets for start time.
To ensure a safe and enjoyable night for everyone, please be aware of the following:
- For most people, the drive to the top of Blue Mountain takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour from downtown Missoula. The dirt road tends to develop a washboard surface but is passable to all cars all the way to the fire lookout. There are a few spots that are a bit narrow for passing and have steep drop-offs, so please drive carefully and respect the fact that you will be sharing this back-country road with many other Blue Mountain guests. See our Directions Page for accurate driving directions before you head out.
- Early in the night, there will be a student intern stationed in the parking area near the fire lookout. Please park so that you DO NOT block the road. If you are unsure where to park, how to get to the observatory or have any other questions, the intern will be happy to help you out. Parking on the summit ridge is limited and we encourage guests to carpool whenever possible.
- To ensure these events remain safe and family-friendly, NO ALCOHOL is allowed.
- Our observatory is located at an elevation of 6,300 feet. Even when summer days are hot in Missoula, it can get quite cold on the mountain. It always pays to bring more clothes (coat, hat, gloves, scarf) than you think you will need! You can always leave them in your car if it turns out you don’t need them.
- The observatory is about 400 yards down a rough dirt road from where you will park. You should have comfortable walking shoes and a good flashlight or headlamp for your walk to and from the observatory.
- If we have to cancel: viewing nights will be canceled if the sky is cloudy, thunderstorms threaten, or if there is significant smoke or nearby fires. If you leave us a current e-mail address when you reserve your tickets through Eventbrite, you will receive an update on observing conditions during the early evening hours on the date of the open house. We will also post an announcement on our Facebook page. For those who may not have convenient web access, we will post a voicemail message confirming or canceling observing at (406) 243-2073. Messages may not be posted until 7 pm the night of observing if conditions are highly uncertain. Make sure that you confirm we will be on the mountain before you go!
- Eventbrite site for Blue Mountain Observatory limited availability night reservations
- Western Montana Astronomical Association
- Astronomy Clubs in Montana
- Missoula Clear Sky Chart (high time resolution forecast to see if it is likely we will be observing)
- Astronomy Picture of the Day (outstanding source for exploration of all things astronomical- fully linked and searchable)
- The University of Montana spectrUM Discovery Area UM’s hands-on science center