Celebrate the start of spring at one of the OMSI Star Parties, where star lovers of all ages can view the night sky through telescopes and talk to astronomy experts. (Photo credit: OMSI)

On March 20, with the North and South poles at equal distance from the sun, day and night will be the same length. In astronomy speak, that means it’s the vernal equinox, or the first day of spring.

Jim Todd, OMSI director of Space Science Education, says vernal means “green” and equinox means “equal night.” But, simply put, it’s good news for sun seekers. “We will then be halfway toward summer with the winter days soon behind us,” he says.

Todd coordinates OMSI Star Parties, where star lovers of all ages can view the night sky through telescopes and talk to astronomy experts. Star Parties will be held on Saturday, March 22, at Rooster Rock State Park (exit 25 off of I-84) and at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park (about 30 miles northwest of downtown Portland).

The events are a fun way for kids to learn about the spring night sky, constellations, planets, deep sky objects and more. Viewing highlights will include Jupiter and Saturn, a waxing gibbous moon, the Orion Nebula, Beehive Cluster and the possibility of seeing Comet PANSTARRS. Call the OMSI Star Parties Hotline, (503) 797-4610 option 2, or check OMSI.edu for updates.

Save the date: Head to Central Oregon for the Prineville Reservoir Star Party in May, a free, family-friendly gathering with hikes, presentations and a guided tour of the night sky at one of Oregon’s best night sky locations. (OregonStateParks.org)

About the Author: Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin is the editor of Travel Oregon’s Seasonal Features, enewsletters and annual visitor guide. When she’s not cooking up trip ideas, Oregon Dreamer profiles and outdoor adventures to write about, she’s out exploring Oregon.

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