Observatories and Planetariums Near Me

Have you ever wanted to learn more about the night sky?


Child Looking Through Telescope

Did you know that most states have an observatory or planetarium open to the public? For example, there are two observatories within an hour’s drive of Name a Star offices in Bend, Oregon.

Pine Mountain Observatory has multiple telescopes and free camping. In the summer volunteers often bring out their own telescopes to assist visitors in stargazing.

View the night sky from over a dozen telescopes at Trip Advisor’s top rated observatory, Sunriver Observatory. Participate in a laser-guided constellation tour outdoors or come during the day to visit the Nature Center.

Most observatories have professional or amateur astronomers who can help you identify objects like, stars, planets, and nebulae. Some observatories also have a planetarium, where you can see a theater based program. Planetariums are great for day time viewing and during inclement weather. The McDonald Observatory in Texas has one of the best planetariums and an excellent website.

Plan a trip this summer, so you can discover answers to fascinating questions like:
What causes the phases of the moon?
Are meteors really shooting stars?
What is the Milky Way?

To make your stargazing even more fun name a star at Name a Star, then get a close look through a telescope.

Find a Publicly Accessible Telescope near you.

Hours may have changed, so check local listings for current hours and activities. Also check the weather, so you are not disappointed by a clouds obscuring the stars. The moon also affects your night sky viewing experience. A new moon provides the darkest sky, while a quarter moon gives great views of the moon’s topography. A full moon obliterates most of the stars, but puts the earth facing side of the moon on full display.



How to Enjoy the Night Sky

Families are spending lots of time together during the COVID-19 shutdown. Why not take your kids outside for a fun and educational look at the stars? Here are a few tips if you are new to stargazing.


Dark skies are best for viewing the night sky, so turn out the lights or go to a park away from city lights and people (remember to keep safe distances).  It takes about 10 minutes for your eyes to reach the first stage of dark adjustment and a couple of hours to reach optimal performance, so be patient as more stars become visible. Use a flashlight or headlamp with a red beam, if you need to see to find your way. Take snacks and warm drinks to keep the kids entertained.


To prepare for your outing to the back yard pull out your Name a Star star chart or print out a star chart from one of these websites.





For a fun indoor project make a star wheel following these directions.



You can also use a smartphone app for help identifying stars, planets, and even satellites in the night sky. They can be easy to use and a little addictive, so make sure to set them down and actually look at the sky. Many of the apps below come in a free version and a paid version with more features and no ads.


Star Gazing Apps for iPhone and Android:

Night Sky (iPhone only)

Easy to use app with colorful displays and lots of information about the stars, sun, and moon.


Find Starlink Satellites

In addition to natural sky objects there are also satellites and the space station. This app helps you find them, especially the Starlink satellites. Some nights you can see a whole train of them.


Satellite Tracker

Another good app for finding satellites. This one has some great graphics.


Star Walk 2

See the stars and the satellites, plus and overlay of the constellations.

Can I name a memorial star for a pet?

Pet Memorial Stars From Name a Star

Pet dog howling at the stars

Star Naming Gifts for Those Who have Lost a Pet

Pets are our best friends and loyal companions. We love them like a member of the family and grieve when we lose our fur baby. Animals are so important to us that 42 of the official 88 star constellations are animals. There are dog constellations like Canis Major and Canis Minor, plus a special one for hunting dogs, Canes Venatici. Cats are represented by Leo and Lynx. Horse lovers have Pegasus, the winged horse and Equuleus, the little horse.

Mesopotamian, Greek, and Roman mythologies include many interesting stories about the animal constellations. As far back as 4000 BCE, Mesopotamians identified Leo as the lion constellation. Many star gazers recognize the Big Dipper, which is part of a larger constellation called Ursa Major, or the Great Bear. Greeks and Romans regarded Canis Major as Orion’s hunting dog. Pegasus, the winged horse, was the magical companion of Zeus.

You can name a star after a pet to help a grieving friend or loved one remember their companion. No matter the type of fur baby you have, they are represented in our constellations and we can remember them every time we look up at the stars.

How To Name A Star


Star Naming and Viewing Still Fascinates


People Looking At Stars Named After Them In The Milky Way

Star naming has existed since ancient times. Stars that were visible to the naked eye were named in different languages by people from far-reaching parts of the world. All cultures created magical stories about the stars, which often included grouping the stars into constellations.   


With the aid of the telescope, professional and amateur astronomers have discovered many more stars. These new stars are surveyed and their coordinates are located very precisely. Then they are given official identification numbers that are published in several star catalogs.


The International Astronomical Union (IAU) names newly discovered celestial bodies such as comets and asteroids. The brightest stars have names, but most stars are merely listed in the star catalogs by number. This number makes it easier to locate the star in the sky. Astronomers would never be able to find “Aunt Martha’s Star.”


The oldest known star catalog was produced by ancient Babylonians on clay tablets about 1500 BC. The Shang dynasty in China wrote star names on oracle bones about the same time. More modern catalogs include the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO) catalog, Guide Star Catalog (GSC), and the Name a Star Record Book. You can’t buy a star, but you can name a star as a novelty gift for a friend or loved one.


Star naming companies like Name a Star offer a way for non-astronomers to show their love and respect to others by assigning the names of loved ones to stars – stars that are otherwise listed as numbers in astronomy catalogs. Name a Star – The Original Star Naming Service – Since 1978® is the world’s first star naming company.




World’s Oldest Star Naming Service, Name a Star, Unveils New Website

BEND, Ore., Nov. 15, 2016 — Name a Star, a unique gift-giving service where people can buy a star and name a star after a someone special , today announced the release of its new website, designed to make the star naming process even easier. Founded in 1978, Name a Star is the oldest star naming service in the world.

name-a-star-pacakage Name a Star allows thoughtful gift-givers to buy a star with confidence from the original star naming service. You can assign the recipient’s name to a star that would otherwise just have a number in a catalog. While the name is not listed in scientific astronomical catalogs, it is kept in Name a Star’s record book, which is registered with the United States Copyright Office.

Name a Star is a gift that is fit for any occasion, including birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, graduations, or any other special day. The naming of a star includes a certificate of registration and comes in a variety of gift packages. The service is also available in eight languages.

Name a Star has been featured in various publications and on television shows, most notably on the Oprah Winfrey Show, where Oprah surprised a guest with two Name a Star Memorial Stars, which were named after someone who had passed away.

“Name a Star is giving a gift that will never be forgotten,” said Tonya Vaughan, President of Name a Star. “It’s a gift that will be remembered with every glance at the stars. With this newly enhanced website, it will be even easier for people to give a gift that will last forever.”

For more information about Name a Star, visit www.nameastar.com.

About Name a Star

Name a Star — The Original Star Naming Service — Since 1978Ⓡ invites customers to name stars after friends and loved ones. The service has been popular for gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays, allowing the recipient to be reminded of the gesture with every look into the night sky. Customers can also honor someone special who has passed away with a memorial star.