Perched beside the headwaters of the ancient French Broad River, outside the tiny town of Rosman, near Brevard, there is a magic window. Peering through it, you can look back through time all the way to the beginning of things, back when the universe was new and humans weren’t here at all. Further, even, to a time when here wasn’t here, when our solar system hadn’t coalesced and when the sun and the earth were only some sort of remote possibility.
That might sound trippy, but it’s the scientific truth. The Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute’s 200-acre, 30-building campus is home to seven optical and four radio telescopes (including two 26 meter-diameter dishes), advanced earth-science instruments and a planetarium. Formerly a NASA tracking station and a National Security Agency spy base, today PARI is a privately owned research center with a fulltime staff and educational programs than run from kindergarten through the post-graduate level.
The general public is invited to visit PARI for its annual Space Day open house this Saturday, May 5. David Clavier, the facility’s vice president of administration and development, says that “ultimately, we plan to be able to host the visiting public at any time, but currently we are not staffed or equipped to do that.” Translation: Space Day is your once-a-year chance to step up to the magic window and have a look-see.
During the free, day-long event, the planetarium will feature “Stars of My People,” described as “a journey through the night sky featuring the stories and myths associated with prominent visible objects by Native Americans, African, Chinese, Mayan and Australian Bushmen cultures.” There will be activities and events for visitors of all ages, and food and beverages will be available for purchase in the PARI cafeteria.
For more information and directions to the facility, visit www.pari.edu or call 862-5554.