On six Friday nights during the summer, the observatory allows the public to look through two of its biggest telescopes, the 36-inch Great Lick Refractor and the Nickel 40-inch Reflecting scopes.
Because of the popularity of the program, only 200 people a night are chosen by a computerized lottery to take a gander through the telescopes.
Experts will speak each night to explain the sights seen in the telescopes. To submit your name, go to the Lick Observatory website. For more details, call (408) 274-5061.
Kitt Peak Observatory. At the summit of Kitt Peak, 56 miles southwest of Tucson, Ariz., the Kitt Peak Observatory claims to hold the largest collection of research telescopes in the world.
Visitors can look through only three of those telescopes, a 20-inch and two 16-inch reflecting telescopes.
The program operates nightly, except from July 15 through Sept. 1. A staffer will be on hand to guide the group, which is limited to 46 people per night. Fees: $39 for adults, $34 for students, seniors and those in the military.
For reservations, call (520) 318-8726 or go to the website.
McDonald Observatory. At a visitor's center near the base of Mt. Locke, outside of Ft. Davis, Texas, the McDonald Observatory hosts star parties on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday nights.
Star parties are informal gatherings where science and astronomy geeks really let their hair down. The views of the sky are exceptional because of the unusually dark skies in this part of the country.
During the special party events, visitors can look through two telescopes, a 22-inch reflector and a 16-inch refractor. Fees: $10 per person. For more information, call (877) 984-7827 or go to the website.
Mount Graham International Observatory. In the shadow of the Mount Graham International Observatory in Safford, Ariz., Eastern Arizona College operates a visitor's center called the Discovery Park.
From this building, visitors can look through a 20-inch reflecting telescope and examine several exhibits that explain the origins of our universe -- free of charge.
The Discovery Park operates 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, but the public can only look through the telescope on Saturday evenings, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
For more details, call (928) 428-6260 or go to the website.
Jack C. Davis Observatory. This observatory on the campus of Western Nevada College in Carson City, Nev., is one of the most technically advanced facilities open to the public.
The three telescopes available for public use are fitted with cameras and computers and are connected to a large overhead TV screen so large groups can view the stars and planets at the same time.
The observatory is open to the public every Saturday after dark. Free of charge.
For more details, call (775) 445-3240 or go to the website.
Goldendale Observatory. This observatory, on a hilltop north of Goldendale, Wash., is owned by the state of Washington but run by volunteers.
The public is invited to look through several telescopes including a 24.5-inch Cassegrain telescope inside a 2,100-foot dome facility.
Spring and summer public sessions run from April 1 until Oct. 1, Wednesday through Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to midnight.
For more information, call (509) 773-3141 or go to the website.