May 24, 2015
Surrounded by a half-million acres of the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina, Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI) lies in a natural bowl between mountain ridges, shielding it from light pollution and radio interference. On site are two 85 ft (26 m), steerable radio telescope antennas used for interferometry, a smaller radio telescope (Smiley), a thermosphere observatory, a StarLab Planetarium and a museum.
A note about "Smiley": it's a 15 ft (4.6 m) dish radio telescope that's remotely controlled via internet connections. The smiley face was supposedly painted to taunt the former Soviet Union since it was known their satellites were watching activities at PARI. After the fall of the Soviet Union, and due to advancing technology, the need for PARI as an information-gathering outpost ceased. The site was later turned over to the U.S. Forest Service. High school teachers can now use Smiley, remotely, in their classrooms.
Aside from touring the facility, activities for visitors include evening star parties, science festivals, walks on nature trails, and events geared for primary and high school students.