Time to Star Party! Visit the Mingo Creek Observatory

Mingo_buildingNow that the sun is setting on this rainy summer and fall is approaching quickly, it’s time to find new activities to replace those trips to the pool. One is fairly close in Washington County at a place most of us may have enjoyed a picnic or two this summer, Mingo Creek County Park.

The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh, Inc. (AAAP) owns and operates the Mingo Creek Observatory and hosts Star Parties throughout the year. With over 300 members, the AAAP has promoted popular astronomy in western Pennsylvania for over eighty-five years. It is one of the larger astronomy clubs in the nation.

The Mingo Creek Observatory was built in the spring through summer of 2004 and officially dedicated in August of 2005. The mission of the Mingo Creek Park Observatory is to educate and make freely available to a diverse public of all ages programs on astronomy and the preservation of dark skies. The facility is a focal point for scheduled public viewing evenings (Star Parties), as well as the recreational and scientific observations of the membership.

During Star Parties visitors are able to view celestial objects through the observatory’s two large permanent telescopes, or any of a wide variety of portable telescopes set up on the spacious grounds by members. If you prefer, many visitors bring their own telescopes, binoculars or just use their eyes.

Before starting out be sure and check the sky conditions. If the sky is overcast, or the forecast indicates rain, consider waiting for the next scheduled party (most are Friday/Saturday dual night events). If there are just a few scattered clouds with clear sky between, come on up. You can call the Mingo Creek Park Observatory at 724-348-6150 to confirm sky conditions.

Big_telescopeAll Star Parties are free, as is parking. Just be courteous when pulling up if night has fallen and kill your headlights as it takes, on average, thirty minutes for full night vision to kick in. This is optimal for star gazing.

No alcoholic beverages nor smoking is permitted. Also, although it may seem tempting, leave the blankets behind. With all the cars pulling in without headlights, it would be easy to overlook someone laying on the ground. Folding lounge chairs are encouraged, particularly on nights viewing meteor showers.

The location of the Mingo Creek Park Observatory is 1 Shelter 10 Road, Finleyville, PA  15332.

FMI and a full schedule of events, visit: www.3ap.org

Story by Fred Terling for Pennsylvania Bridges