Who knew that Baton Rouge has a collection of amateur astronomers and volunteers who are cultivating a passion for astronomy and space science right here in our community? And when you see the “red lights” illuminated between historic Highland Road, and the Highland Road Park Observatory, whose main building is a wondrous octagonal structure, you can be sure that a scheduled night time viewing of the “majesty of the night,” is taking place. Such is the practice at the Highland Road Observatory on Friday evenings following a lecture from one of the many returning speakers, or on occasion, a surprise guest lecturer, and at the Evening Sky Plus viewings one Saturday per month, sans the lecture.
Sky viewings are perfect for an after dinner family activity. On Fridays, as long as weather permits, the 20 OGS telescope is unlocked for visitors to view the heavens until 10 p.m. During the monthly popular evening sky viewings on Saturdays, trained operators are there to help visitors view a pre-planned list of objects, but will also entertain special requests. Saturdays are the best opportunity for children, as they are also drawn to the popular marshmallow roast that accompanies viewing activities. Solar viewings are held during daylight hours on scheduled Saturdays, which includes Nano Days, International Astronomy Day, and A.R.R.L. Field Day.
Once your family is hooked, you may want to check out the schedule for 2019 planet viewing, for an up close and personal education on a favorite planet.
Beyond organized sky and solar viewings, the Highland Road Park Observatory, which is jointly operated by the Louisiana State University astronomy department, the Baton Rouge Astronomical Society, and the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge, hosts programs that seem purposefully geared toward raising new astronomers in the community, and continuing the pattern toward significant discoveries and developments at the site and in the state. The Science Academy has a multi-leveled space cadet program, where children between the ages of eight and twelve can study the wonderful world of astronomy. The Stargazers Camp, for children ages six to thirteen, immerses kids in learning about planets, moons, stars, asteroids and craters, and may just produce a future engineer, astronomer or astronaut.
If you have an amateur interest in astronomy, and especially if you are looking for a unique outing for your family, visit the Highland Road Park Observatory and take advantage of an educational experience that is out of this world.
Hours of operation for the observatory are Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until about 10 p.m., except for the previously mentioned pre-scheduled events. Visit the website at http://www.bro.lsu.edu/ for a full listing of 2019 scheduled events. To schedule field trips, contact BREC Education Curator Amy Brouillette.