Star Party Schedule
SMAS primarily frequents
three locations for star parties. SMAS chose the locations based on sky
darkness and convenience of access. These locations include Unicoi Crest
on the Cherohala Skyway, an
overlook on the Foothills Parkway we call Look
Rock South, and Tamke-Allan Observatory
(TAO) near Kingston, Tennessee.
SMAS also has hosted an annual star party in Cades Cove over the last several years in cooperation with the National Park Service. The Cades Cove Star Party is typically scheduled in the fall season. The 2010 and 2011 events drew over 800 visitors!
Our Cherohala Skyway and Foothills Parkway locations are at a higher altitude than the surrounding valley. Therefore be prepared for road grades (up and down) and lower temperatures. If attempting your first visit it may be advisable to try to arrive before dark. Ensure your vehicle is in good working order and be careful not to overuse your brakes. If you are bothered by mosquitoes, dress appropriately and/or bring bug spray.
Unicoi Crest is at 4500+ feet altitude and can be several degrees colder than the valley. This can be truly welcome during the hot and hazy days of summer. However, always bring a jacket and long pants no matter the time of year.
Members can choose to arrive at their time of choice. By convention, our star parties begin at dusk and continue for as long as members care to observe. SMAS does not usually cancel star parties except by notification through our private Yahoo group. If the weather is poor, we simply do not attend. If the weather is questionable, members should coordinate with each other as to their preferences for attending.
do SMAS members go so far out of town to observe? Because
city lights make it nearly impossible to observe most of the objects in
the night sky. From most city locations, only the Moon, planets, and a few
bright stars can be seen because of
pollution. The sky appears awash in the glow of city lights even
through a telescope. Our star party locations allow us to view the fainter
objects in the night sky, including the beautiful glow of the stars of our
own galaxy called the
"Milky Way". However, even our relatively remote locations see the
encroachment of wasteful
or unnecessary lighting each observing season.
Star Party Etiquette
The dates listed below are star parties sponsored by SMAS. Other organizations also sponsor parties throughout the year such as Pickett State Park and Tamke-Allan Observatory which typically opens the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month to the publc.
The dates listed with maroon background are Friday night parties with Saturday night shown as a backup in case of bad weather. Dates with gold background are focused as public outreach events. Please note that the public is invited to all star parties. Please review our suggested etiquette above.
The above dates or locations are subject to change.
Please check often for changes.
When more than one location is listed, individual SMAS
* Dates near a new Moon are preferred for observing
as a bright