Community members can explore planets, nebulas, star clusters and distant galaxies this summer during stargazing nights at the University of Montana’s Blue Mountain Observatory.

The observatory sits atop Blue Mountain at an elevation of 6,300 feet. Astronomers from UM and the Western Montana Astronomical Association will guide visitors in viewing the night sky through telescopes, point out constellations, show attendees how to find interesting celestial objects with the naked eye or a pair of binoculars, and discuss recent astronomical discoveries.

The events are family friendly, and people of all ages are welcome. Free public events take place July 5, Aug. 2, Aug. 23 and Sept. 27. Attendance is limited to 150 people per night.

Blue Mountain Observatory also will offer some limited attendance nights for those who would like a more personal experience. Limited attendance nights occur June 29, July 27, Aug. 24, Aug. 31 and Sept. 21. Tickets for these nights cost $20 per person, and attendance is limited to 25 people or fewer.

All attendees are required to reserve a ticket for each person in their group via by following this link. More information is available on the observatory website with detailed directions and a useful map.

Observing begins about an hour after sunset. Participants should wear warm clothes for cool evenings and bring a flashlight for the walk from the parking area to the observatory. Smoking and alcohol are strictly prohibited at all events.

For the 2019 season, the Department of Physics and Astronomy will team up with spectrUM Discovery Area, UM’s hands-on science center, to help facilitate these viewing events.

“We are delighted to partner with the UM students who help to make these events such an amazing success,” said spectrUM’s Nick Wethington. “SpectrUM also is excited to add our expertise in sharing science with the general public as we help to coordinate an exciting summer full of evenings under the stars.”

Viewing nights will be canceled if the sky is cloudy or smoky or if thunderstorms are predicted. Before heading to the observatory, look for weather or cancellation updates on the Blue Mountain Observatory Facebook page or call 406-243-2073. A final update will go out the evening of the observation to registered attendees who have provided their email address.

For more information consult the Blue Mountain website or leave a voice message at 406-243-2073.