The Smoky Mountains on almost any given night are going to give visitors to the area a beautiful sky gazing opportunity. The picturesque nature of the area allows for such sights to be taken in and enjoyed. On a few special nights of the year the sky becomes excessively clear and is perfect for star gazing activities. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Smoky Mountains Astronomical Society (SMAS) hosts events called Star Parties, which are open to any and all who are interested in taking part in absorbing the beautiful mountain night sky.
The SMAS hosts start parties at 4 different locations; Look Rock, Tamke-Allan Observatory (better known as TAO), Unicoi Crest and Cades Cove. Directions and maps can be viewed on the SMAS website. The dates of the parties are based on Moon phases, and the Cades Cove event will be during the New moon phase on September 24. There is a 2011 schedule available on the SMAS website as well if you’re willing to drive to the other events.
The program is hosted at Cades Cove, an area that is far enough away from the major cities of the region to prevent any lights from interfering with the view of the sky. Several telescopes will be set up around the Cove so that anyone will be able to participate in this event. As this is an open-event, both experienced and amateur astronomers are invited to participate. With clear skies and calm weather, visitors will be able to see many constellations and celestial bodies even without the aide of a telescope. To add to the excitement, members of the Astronomical Society will be on hand to instruct and inform participants on what exactly is going on in the skies above.
Visitors to this event are encouraged to dress warmly and to come prepared with their own seating – blankets, lawn chairs, etc. Binoculars are handy to have as well in case you end up waiting for a telescope. This is an event for the whole family, so when planning a trip to the Smokies this fall be sure not to overlook this stellar affair! Be sure to read over Star Party Etiquette on their website as well.