Tag Archives: Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

Our radio astronomy weekend at PARI

Something you may not know about me: I’m a bit of a radio astronomy nut.

We’re pretty lucky here in western North Carolina to live within a reasonable drive of the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI).

PARI started out life as a NASA tracking station during the Apollo era, then eventually became a Department of Defense facility. In the 1990s, the DOD left the site and a non-profit was formed to turn the observatory into an educational and research institute. They’ve a number of radio  telescopes and even a few optical telescopes. They’re also home to the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive and a number of other projects.

My family–including my then very young daughters–volunteered at PARI for quite a few years. We were actively involved in their Sci Girls program, I’ve given presentations about SDRs and HF at a couple of their monthly events, we volunteered during their massive solar eclipse gathering, and even hosted a weekend SWL DXpedition in 2015.

The campus is simply amazing.

Due to funding, staff and programs were downsized starting around 2019 and we lost touch during the Covid era when the campus was locked down.

This past weekend, PARI held an open house, though, and it was incredibly fun heading back to the campus and reconnecting with a few of our friends there.

My daughter and I snapped some random photos. I discovered them this morning and thought I’d share them in case there are other radio astronomy nuts out there in the QRPer community (click to enlarge these):

When my daughters were only eight years old, they were allowed to steer the 26 meter dish in the photo directly above. I wasn’t a bit jealous at all! No, not me! ?

As QRP as I am, I absolutely love gazing at these massive radio telescopes. Perhaps it’s because I know they’re working some serious weak signal DX and peering into our past to unveil some mind-blowing science!

Click here to read more about PARI.

October 10: Let’s talk shortwave…and astronomy


I’ve been invited to speak at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (PARI), a non-profit educational radio astronomy observatory (and former NASA tracking station as well as one-time NSA installation), in the mountains of western North Carolina.

I’ll be speaking about shortwave radio, of course–both its technical and cultural aspects–on October 10, 2014, at 7:00 pm EDT.  Afterwards, there will be a tour of the PARI campus, and an opportunity to stargaze with both amateur and professional astronomers.

Many thanks to my buddy, Ken Reitz, who shared this article about my presentation in the area’s local county newspaper; here’s my statement about the presentation:

“Shortwave radio is an international communications medium that has been in existence for nearly one hundred years,” said Witherspoon, “yet this vintage technology supports an ever-evolving multicultural landscape that, remarkably, remains relevant today. The Internet and mobile technologies have made the dissemination of information more readily accessible to many, yet shortwave radio remains viable and dynamic, and in many ways still outstrips the Internet.

“I plan to share some of shortwave radio’s diverse voices and investigate some of the technology used to receive them. So, if you are a shortwave enthusiast, or simply interested in learning more about shortwave, this program is for you and will be suitable for all ages.”

Read the full article here–and if you can make the journey, join us for shortwave and astrological fun. There is a small charge for the evening; all proceeds go towards PARI’s mission of providing public education in astronomy.

PARI is a stunning radio astronomy campus which will no doubt be accentuated by the mountains’ fall leaf colors on October 10. For PARI’s location, click here.