The Learning Center at PARI

The Learning Center at PARI

Discover a hidden space center deep in Pisgah National Forest. If you are fascinated with science and the stars, The Learning Center at PARI (formerly called Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute) is a must-see in the Asheville area. This complex was initially developed by NASA in 1962 as the east coast facility to track satellites and monitor manned space flights. Today, it's a non-profit educational and world-class research center known for their massive radio telescopes. Located near Brevard, the 30-building campus dotted with all sizes of telescopes is well-protected from man-made light pollution and radio interference. It attracts both curious tourists and acclaimed scientists from around the globe.

PARI: Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute

This premiere science center welcomes all ages to visit and become immersed in the world of science and technology. The campus houses radio and optical telescopes, earth science instruments, the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive, onsite lodging and restaurant. Exhibit galleries display NASA Space Shuttle artifacts and collections of rare meteorites and minerals. The Learning Center at PARI provides STEM educational programs at all levels, from K-12 through post-graduate research.

While they are not open for tours on a regular basis, they welcome requests for individual and group visits, or the hosting of special events. Call 828.862.5554 to schedule your visit. For the latest on public hours or events, go to the PARI website.

Public Events

  • April 17, 2020: Pisgah Nights
  • August 7-8, 2020: Perseids Meteor Shower Experience with overnight packages for cabin, camping and dorm
  • October 2, 2020: Pisgah Nights
  • December 12-13, 2020: Geminids Meteor Shower Experience with overnight packages for cabin and dorm

Scouting Events

  • February 29-March 1, 2020: PARI Scouts BSA Weekend
  • March 13-15, 2020: PARI Scouts GIRLS Weekend
  • April 24-26, 2020: PARI Scouts BSA Weekend

Summer Camps 2020

SECRETS OF A SPY STATION: (Cryptography and secret messages) Campers will be immersed in the setting of former Department of Defense Spy Station where secret messages were intercepted so they could be decoded and used to aid National Security. We will explore the history of how codes and cyphers came to be and evolved over the years from written messages to complex digital encryption methods. Campers will learn how to recreate these techniques themselves, and crack the messages sent by their fellow cryptographers, all while reinforcing skills in math, language, and pattern recognition. From messages based on playing with words, numbers, to information hidden in plain sight within images and everyday objects you’d never suspect, campers will leave with an understanding of the principals that drive the world of secrets and spies.

CAMP ABOVE & BEYOND (Our most advanced camp) is an in-depth, hands-on space science and research experience. A basic understanding of algebra is most helpful. It is multi-faceted world of space science and research designed in partnership with Duke Talent Identification Program (TIP) Field Studies. This camp explores the universe through astronomy, physics, and astrobiology. This camp models the process that college graduates, undergraduates, and researchers use to make new discoveries and publish works.

CAMP OPERATION NEBULA (A good precursor to - Camp Above & Beyond) is a simulated space mission that teaches leadership, teamwork, and STEM principles while exposing everyone to fun and creative experiences. The camp is an exciting, immersive journey amidst our campus’ history, and its critical role in the space race. Each instance of Operation Nebula will be different. One is a mission to Mars the other will be a mission to a mystery exoplanet.

ASTRO EXPLORERS (Computational Thinking, 3D design and printing, data and animation, communications, planetary geography) Take a deep look into how computers store and work with data that represents complex ideas. Campers will learn techniques to find patterns in data and display it in vibrant and creative ways like animations, with the help of a little bit of coding. Explore, map and 3D print the exact, legendary locations that Neil Armstrong took his “one giant leap for mankind,” and the mammoth Martian volcano Olympus Mons! This Lunar & Planetary Institute recognized camp not only teaches 3D design and printing, but also gives campers the exciting opportunity to explore planetary geology, and tactile communication like Braille by utilizing data from NASA satellites to model the surfaces of the Moon and Mars!

ROVERS JOURNEY (Robotics, sensors, AI) We have long sought to make life easier by building devices to do work for us. Some are simple and do just one task, others are complex and make human like decisions based on information sensed from the world around them. Come join us as we examine basic automatons and complex rovers that explore other planets and extreme environments on Earth. After gaining an understanding of the hardware, software, and concepts that govern robotics, campers will build their own robot to take a unique journey and collect information from their environment and determine their path. Creativity and skill will reveal which designs succeed at their tasks and rise to the top, and which spin aimlessly in circles.

For additional information, scholarship opportunities and to register, visit the Learning Center’s website or call (828) 862-5554.


Drive or hike throughout the 200-acre site and stop at the observation deck for spectacular Blue Ridge Mountain views.

PARI Gem Meteorite Museum

See their impressive collection of meteorites, gems and minerals. Since North Carolina is the only state where large gem-grade emeralds are found, their collection includes a 15.3-carat faceted emerald. The meteorite section includes a piece of the very first meteorite documented to have fallen to earth in 1492. Even see meteorites from Mars! At the PARI gift shop, buy a piece of a meteorite to take home. PARI is one of the few sites in the country selected by NASA to receive artifacts from the Space Shuttle Program. See them in their space exploration gallery, including several items that have flown in space.

PARI Stargazing

During 2017, they received a lot of international attention for being a prime location for the Total Solar Eclipse. Their location in the direct path, combined with their variety of telescopes and research equipment, attracted astronomers from around the world! Read more.

Photo above by Spencer Black, Black Visual

PARI is about 35 miles (60 minutes) from Asheville Airport area. It's along the Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway (NC Highway 215). 

  • Take I-26 East to the Exit 40 for the Airport and NC 280 West. Turn right. 
  • Drive to Brevard (16 miles) and NC 280 becomes US 64 West. Drive through town.
  • About 9 miles past Brevard on US 64, turn right onto NC 215 North.
  • Drive 6 miles and turn left on Macedonia Church Road.
  • Go 1.7 miles to the entrance.

Address: 1 PARI Drive, Rosman, NC 28772 (Some GPS units use Lake Toxaway as the town). 

Smiley at PARI

PARI History
In its third mission, this campus has a fascinating history.

  • 1963-1985: NASA picked this location from a worldwide search to build their network of satellite tracking and data collection stations. The "Rosman Satellite Tracking and Data Acquisition Facility" was the nation’s primary east coast satellite-tracking facility. The 26m East Radio Telescope, one of two on the campus, was commissioned in 1963 as the first parabolic dish in NASA’s Spacecraft Tracking and Data (Acquisition) Network (STADAN). In 1964 this instrument received the first pictures of Earth from space (Nimbus-1 satellite) and in 1967 received the first TV transmission from space (ATS-1 satellite).
  • 1981-1995: The Department of Defense (DOD) took over and used the site for satellite data collection with 350 employees. The “smiley” face on PARI’s 4.6m radio telescope was painted as a joke during the height of the Cold War. The Soviet Union was intensely interested in the DOD base and often sent satellites to photograph the campus. Each Soviet photo contained a “smiley face” as a friendly wave. Today “Smiley” is a student favorite and is used remotely via the Internet by middle and high school students and teachers to study radio astronomy.
  • 1998-today: After several years of inactivity at the site, the government decided to dismantle the facility. Recognizing its tremendous value and potential, Don and Jo Cline rescued the campus, formed a non-profit and gifted the 200-acre campus to it.

More Info: Go to the PARI website.

Nearby: Many waterfalls including Courthouse Falls, French Broad Falls and Dill Falls. The Blue Ridge Parkway is just 12 miles north.

Also See: The Astronomy Club of Asheville has two observatories for star gazing. Read about their monthly events.

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