Astronomy Club


Open to all ages and experience levels!

If you enjoy astronomy, then the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club is for you! We invite you to attend one of our meetings and experience it first hand.

Just some of the benefits . . .

  • Stay up-to-date with the latest astronomy happenings.
  • Monthly Newsletter.
  • Interaction with other astronomy enthusiasts.
  • Observing at the Bays Mountain Observatory.

Monthly Meetings

Meetings are typically held on the first Friday of most months at the Bays Mountain Nature Center. The meetings are usually in the Discovery Theater classroom starting at 7 p.m. All meetings are open to the public. Throughout the year, we have presentations on various astronomy-related topics and enjoy observing the night sky. Please check here for all the details.

StarFest – Our Annual Astronomical Convention/Star Gathering Event

Every Fall, our club hosts this regional gathering of amateur astronomers from around the Southeastern United States. It’s an enjoyable weekend of talks, observing, food, and fun. Check out our StarFest page for all the details. Click the tab above.

Take our Astronomy Test

Join our BMAC Yahoo! Group

Many of the current and past members of the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club communicate with one another via a Yahoo! group called BMASTRO. If you are interested in becoming a part of this email list, the instructions are listed below.

How to join the Yahoo! BMASTRO User Group

Visit This is the webpage for the group.
In order to post messages and receive message digests, you must have or create a Yahoo! user id.
Once you create and sign-in with you Yahoo! ID, you can then request to become a member of the group. You should be added within a week.
From the group page, select Edit Membership near the top. This is where you can edit how you would like to be notified of messages and how often.
That’s all there is to it.
Clear Skies!

Meetings & Events

The Bays Mountain Astronomy Club holds monthly meetings at Bays Mountain Park. Meetings are normally held inside the Discovery Theater on the first Friday of most months at 7 p.m.


All are welcome to attend the club meetings. Each meeting is unique. They will include an interesting keynote speaker that presents a topic that is of astronomical interest. We start each meeting with small presentations that are about astro news and also a featured currently-visible constellation. All of these programs should be of great interest to the general public and are lots of fun. We hope to see you at a future meeting!


Upcoming Meeting Schedule


June 10, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Notice! Second Friday of June!
Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – BMACer William Troxel will present: “Astronomy & the Ancient Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.”

William will give a brief overview of the role that astronomy played in the day to day lives of the Ancient Indigenous Peoples of the Americas. What did they know and understand? What and how did this knowledge and understanding effect the day to day lives of these peoples. How would their understanding and knowledge compare with our culture and society? We are just now starting to understand the depth of the true level that these people had with astronomy compared to today.


July 16, 2016 at 6 p.m.

Location – Natural Tunnel State Park, VA
Topic – Annual Club Picnic – Bring a dish to share, a chair to sit, and a telescope to gaze.


August 5, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


September 2, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


October 7, 2016 at 6 p.m.

Location – BMP Observatories (notice the earlier start time) [The presentation will be in the Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center following the observatory cleaning]
Topic – Observatory Cleaning & TBA


November 4, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


December 2, 2016 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


January ?, 2017 at 6 p.m. – if severe snow, then the dinner will be January ?, 2017

Location – TBA
Topic – Annual club dinner.


February 3, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


March 3, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


April 7, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA


May 5, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – TBA



BMAC Youtube!

The BMAC has a Youtube channel. Click here to see what’s on!

Presentation Guidelines:

If you are going to present a program for the club, thank you! But, please follow some basic guidelines to insure a successful presentation:

– We are using a Macbook that has Keynote and Power Point. We also have the ability to show a series of still images as a presentation.

– We currently do not have wireless, nor wired internet service in our public areas like the Discovery Theater classroom nor the Planetarium.

– We do not have any non-standard programs to run specialized presentations.

– For basic night sky representation in the Discovery Theater, we do have Stellarium. It is accurate, but has limitations. It can show constellations, their drawings, deep-sky objects, stars down to about 8th mag., eclipses, transits, etc. It does not go to 20th mag. nor have a database of 100,000+ objects.

For maximum success, bring your own laptop that has a VGA or DVI external monitor connection. Or, you can bring a thumb drive (not formatted in NTFS) that has a Keynote (Apple only) or Power Point (Mac & PC) presentation, AND an export of your presentation in a series of still images.

A folder with a series of images (whether from a presentation or just a collection of images) will guarantee us being able to show them very nicely on our screen.


Presentation Format Suggestions:

– Please keep your presentation to about 30-40 min. including Q & A.

– If you bring a series of images, size them to fit in a 1024w x 768h pixel dimension. Tiny images blown up will look terrible. Giant images take a long time to display.

– If you can, please enhance, edit or crop your images so they are interesting, have a good balance, have good, saturated color, and has a good contrast.

– Plan on about 1-3 min. per slide (image). So, a 30 min. presentation should have about 10-20 slides. Everyone always talks longer than expected.

– If you have text on a slide, it should be very large so it is easy to read from the back of the room and not to exceed 10 words at any one time. The best “slide” includes a header of 1-3 words and a large, colorful, interesting image. This allows you to present your information in your own words. If you have a slide with lots of text, the audience is reading your text and not listening to you. If you need your own notes, have them on notecards.

– If you need to show a video file, a QuickTime .mov file is best. Again, the video size should not exceed the 1024×768 dimensions. We can play audio, but please let us know a few days ahead so we can insure success.

– Physical examples are great, but should be limited to objects that benefit from handling or being displayed. If you hand out a document prior, or during your presentation, the audience will be reading and looking over your document and not paying attention to you.

– To quickly summarize: limit your slides to 10-20; have them include only large pictures; if you need text, keep it to a few words and in large, bold font; keep the topic lively and interesting; and most important, have fun!


Below are two examples of slides; good and bad:

The good slide is clean, uncluttered, and to the point. The font (style of text) is interesting, but unobtrusive to the message. The secondary line supports the main, bold line. The image is crisp, has good contrast, but has detail in shaded areas – good dynamic range. It introduces you to speak about the club and how great it is.

The poor slide is cluttered, it rambles, no real definition of a title or supporting headers, and has many misspelled words. It has a graph that doesn’t add anything, a dull, tiny image, and a font (style of text) that is boring.

Which would you want to show to an audience?


An example of a good presentation slide. Notice the quality of the image and the layout. Very little text.


An example of a poor presentation slide. Notice the messy layout. Lots of tiny text. Dull.


“Constellation Quest” Format Suggestions:

If you are volunteering to present a “Constellation Quest,” thank you! There are a few key points to consider when giving this short presentation:

– Have fun! And keep your entire presentation to about 8 minutes, 10 minutes max.

– We will have Stellarium on our MacBook to display the constellation, stars, and brighter deep-sky objects in the Discovery Theater classroom.

– If we happen to be in the Planetarium Theater, then we will have the night sky, but may not have the deep sky objects to show. We cannot zoom into our optical sky in the Planetarium Theater.

– Choose a constellation that is up in the sky during that month’s astronomy club meeting soon after sunset.

– Consider that someone in the audience is a new visitor and knows absolutely nothing about what you are speaking. Keep it simple, stupid!  (KISS)

– Consider half of your presentation to be about the lore of the constellation and the other half to be about inclusive, interesting, celestial objects.

– We do not have wired, nor wireless, internet access available. Don’t even ask for it.

– When covering the lore, consider the Greek story, but also look at how other cultures saw the same stars.

– When covering the celestial objects, consider the brightest stars, the meaning of their names, and any cool features. For deep sky objects, consider Messier objects and the brightest of NGC objects. What is interesting about them? How easy is it to see them? Do you need a pair of binoculars, a telescope, or your own eyes?

– The prime purpose of the “Constellation Quest” is to help others learn a little about the night sky and to get them excited to look on their own using whatever equipment they may have.


“Amateur Astronomer Corner” Format Suggestions:

If you are volunteering to present an “Amateur Astronomer Corner,” thank you! There are a few key points to consider when giving this short presentation:

– Have fun! And keep your entire presentation to about 8 minutes, 10 minutes max.

– We will have a MacBook with projector, so you can display images and video if you need to.

– We do not have wired, nor wireless, internet access available. Don’t even ask for it.

– It is best if you bring any equipment that you are talking about. Showing the item is much better than just talking about it.

– Consider that someone in the audience is a new visitor and knows absolutely nothing about what you are speaking. Keep it simple, stupid!  (KISS)

– Explain the very basic purpose of your topic and why it is important. Explain the most basic points of a “how to” since someone (or more than one person) may not have any concept of how to do what you are trying to get across. You are being a mentor!

– The prime purpose of the “Amateur Astronomer Corner” is to help others learn a little about the basics of amateur astronomy and to get them excited about it.


Join the Club!

So you want to learn about astronomy? Participating in the Bays Mountain Astonomy Club is a great way to enjoy astronomy and to meet others with similar interests. We recommend that you come to a meeting or two and see what we do, meet some of our members, and check out a sample newsletter. If you decide that you would like to be part of our organization, joining the club is easy. All you need to do is come to the next meeting, pay your dues, and you’re in. It’s really that easy!

Member Benefits:

  • Monthly Newsletter.
  • Annual Membership in the Astronomical League, an organization providing support to over 20,000 amateur astronomers.
  • Attend special club events.
  • Discounts on astronomy magazines and special events such as StarFest, our annual stargazing event.

Yearly Membership Dues

Regular Members: $16 / year

Addt’l Family Members: $6 / year

Bays Mountain Park Association Members receive a 50% discount.


The monthly newsletter of the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club is designed to keep members informed about what’s going on in the club, useful equipment and methods related to astronomy. Feel free to check out our current newsletter or look back through the archives.

BMAC Newsletters


A new format has been established for the newsletter. There are two versions posted:

1. iBooks format. This is for iPads, Macs, and iPhones (iOS 8.4 or later) that have the iBooks App. The benefit is that it is dynamic, animated and interactive. Some editions include extras like movies, audio, and even 3-D models that you can twirl about. You can even highlight text and add notes, both of which can then be accessed through “My Notes” for later study with your very own study cards.

2. PDF format. This is a PDF version of the iBook file. It is dynamic in layout, but is in a universal form for any reader that can open a PDF document.


The following documents are in Apple iBooks format and require an Apple iPad, Apple computer, or Apple iPhone (iOS 8.4 or later) that has the iBooks App in order to view.

Jan 2016   Feb 2016   Mar 2016   Apr 2016   May 2016   Jun 2016

Feb 2015   Mar 2015   Apr 2015   May 2015   June 2015   July 2015   Aug 2015   Sep 2015   Oct 2015   Nov 2015   Dec 2015


The following documents are in Adobe PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar PDF reader in order to view.

Jan 2016   Feb 2016   Mar 2016   Apr 2016   May 2016   Jun 2016

Jan 2015   Feb 2015   Mar 2015   Apr 2015   May 2015   Jun 2015   Jul 2015   Aug 2015   Sep 2015   Oct 2015   Nov 2015   Dec 2015

Jan 2014   Feb 2014   Mar 2014   Apr 2014   May 2014   Jun 2014   Jul 2014   Aug 2014   Sep 2014   Oct 2014   Nov 2014   Dec 2014

Jan 2013   Feb 2013   Mar 2013   Apr 2013   May 2013   Jun 2013   Jul 2013   Aug 2013   Sep 2013   Oct 2013   Nov 2013   Dec 2013

Jan 2012   Feb 2012   Mar 2012   Apr 2012   May 2012   Jun 2012   Jul 2012   Aug 2012   Sep 2012   Oct 2012   Nov 2012   Dec 2012

Jan 2011   Feb 2011   Mar 2011   Apr 2011   May 2011   Jun 2011   Jul 2011   Aug 2011   Sep 2011   Oct 2011   Nov 2011   Dec 2011

Dec 2010


StarFest is the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club’s annual astronomical convention/star gathering held each October. Situated in the heart of the Appalachians, it is three days and two nights of astronomical heaven. During the day, our delegates enjoy many keynote speakers, planetarium programs, activities, solar viewing, and the splendor of autumnal colors. The night brings more speakers, activities, the use of a fleet of large telescopes, and crisp, cool air. Attendance can only be attained by pre-registration with payment. Sorry, to be fair to our registered delegates, NO walk-ins nor “visits.” Your one, low cost includes everything:  access to all speakers, all activities, five scrumptious meals, free access to the Park’s public programming, the opportunity to sleep/camp on Park grounds at no additional cost, AND a unique, commemorative T-shirt with custom artwork. Registration forms are usually released in August and space is limited.

Initiated in 1984, the Bays Mountain StarFest is still one of the finest astronomy events in the nation.



StarFest 2015 Registration is now closed. Please click here to be added to our e-mail list.


The following information is for reference only for paid delegates:


Here are the PDF documents:

For the complete, 12 page document, click here: StarFest 2015 Registration Form

For only the single registration sheet, click here: StarFest 2015 Registration Sheet Only


An aerial view of Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN.

An aerial view of Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN. 

The 32nd StarFest at Bays Mountain Park is soon upon us. Expect beautiful fall colors, cooler weather, and lots of astronomy fun for this astronomical convention/star party. The event is hosted by the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club (BMAC) and the staff of Bays Mountain Park. It is being held on October 23-25, 2015. It is run as a non-profit event, so registration is as low as possible.

The theme of this year’s event is “What Does Human Space Exploration Mean?” At first thought, one conjures fantastic voyages with humans in space; gaining a first-hand experience of lands unknown. It can also mean humans using space probes, whether in Earth orbit or on a journey of their own, to let us humans explore with great safety. This theme can also represent what most of us do, explore the outer reaches. We use our telescopes though, from research class to home-made, to be our means of transportation.

Our fantastic keynote speakers have been hand-picked to represent these many facets of human space exploration. Please read the keynote speaker notes for an insight into what StarFest 2015 will provide.

This year includes four distinctive keynote speakers; five great meals; door prizes; the ever popular swap shop (no extra fee, but let us know to reserve a table); solar viewing; night-time observing (both private on Fri. and with the public on Sat., so bring your favorite scope); and the exceptional planetarium will be open.

In addition to all the StarFest activities, there are public programs and activities available at the park, such as the wildlife exhibits, planetarium shows, barge ride, and plenty of trails to explore.

A unique facet of StarFest is a commemorative T-shirt with one-of-a-kind artwork that is included with each registration. Deborah Mann from the Park’s exhibits staff has created a special, nostalgic design to represent this year’s theme. I know you’ll be pleased with the art.

This three-day long gathering is filled with great activities, but also makes sure there’s quality free time for you to explore the Park and enjoy the camaraderie of your fellow StarFesters. Attendance will be limited and registration must be received prior to the deadline, Oct. 2, 2015. To be fair to our registered delegates, there are no walk-ins nor “visits.” Please complete the registration sheet for each person and mail, fax, or e-mail it in so we can see you in October. If you use a credit card, you can write it on the sheet or call me or Jason Dorfman and we can process it for you.

StarFest 2015 Chair, Adam Thanz


StarFest 2015 T-Shirt Design; art by Deborah Mann

StarFest 2015 T-Shirt Design; art by Deborah Mann


Keynote Speakers/Activities:

We’ve gone the extra mile to arrange for presenters that will surely be a hit. Here they are in chronological order:

Friday Night:

Carrie Nugent – Scientist, NEOWISE Team

Carrie Nugent, StarFest 2015 Keynote Speaker

Carrie Nugent, StarFest 2015 Keynote Speaker

Title: “Near-Earth Asteroids: Exploring Our Extraterrestrial Neighbors”

Abstract: Near-Earth asteroids, our extraterrestrial neighbors, often capture the public’s imagination. I will talk about what asteroids are made of, cover both recent and long-ago impacts, and describe how unknown asteroids are discovered by the NEOWISE mission.

NEOWISE is an infrared asteroid-hunting telescope in a sun-synchronous orbit around the Earth. Every eleven seconds, it takes an image; every six months, it covers the entire sky. Using a supercomputer and old-fashioned by-eye checks, the NEOWISE team searches those images to discover new asteroids. Over the course of its mission, NEOWISE has observed over 158,000 asteroids and comets, and has discovered more than 34,000 asteroids.

Near-Earth asteroids are attractive targets for human or robotic missions. NEOWISE has discovered and characterized asteroids that meet the qualifications for being human-accessible, as defined by the Near-Earth Object Human Space Flight Accessible Targets Study. Additionally, NEOWISE discovered the only known object to share Earth’s orbit around the sun, 2010 TK7.

Bio: Dr. Nugent received her Ph.D. in Geophysics and Space Physics from UCLA. She’s currently a scientist at Caltech’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center. As a member of the NEOWISE team, she spends her days doing science and hunting for asteroids. Asteroid 8801 Nugent is named in her honor.




Saturday Morning:

Official NASA executive portrait of Dr. John B. Charles, Associate Manager for International Science. Photo Date: January 6, 2015. Location: Building 8, Room 183 - Photo Studio. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

Official NASA executive portrait of Dr. John B. Charles, Associate Manager for International Science. Photo Date: January 6, 2015. Location: Building 8, Room 183 – Photo Studio. Photographer: Robert Markowitz

John B. Charles – NASA Johnson Space Center

Title: – “So You Want to Go to Mars? – Biomedical Aspects of Early Interplanetary Expeditions and How NASA is Preparing Today”

Abstract: Long-range planning for exploration-class missions emphasizes the need for anticipating the medical and human factors aspects of such expeditions. Details of mission architecture are still under study, but a typical Mars design reference mission comprises a six-month transit from Earth to Mars, eighteen months in residence on Mars, and a six-month transit back to Earth. Physiological stresses will come from environmental factors such as prolonged exposure to radiation, weightlessness en route to Mars and then back to Earth, and low gravity and a toxic atmosphere while on Mars. Psychological stressors will include remoteness from Earth, confinement, and potential interpersonal conflicts, all complicated by circadian alterations. Medical risks including trauma must be considered. The role of such risk-modifying influences as artificial gravity and improved propulsion technologies to shorten round-trip time will also be reviewed. NASA’s on-going efforts to reduce the risks to humans on exploration-class missions, including the year-long ISS expedition and its Twins Study, will be presented.

Bio: John B. Charles, Ph.D., earned his B.S. in biophysics at The Ohio State University and his doctorate in physiology and biophysics at the University of Kentucky. He has been at the Johnson Space Center since 1983, first as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a civil servant. He investigated the cardiovascular effects of space flight on Space Shuttle astronauts and on crew members of the Russian space station Mir. He was Mission Scientist for the NASA research on American astronauts on Mir, on John Glenn’s Shuttle flight and on STS-107, Columbia’s last mission in January 2003. He co-chaired the 18th “Humans in Space Symposium” of the International Academy of Astronautics in Houston in 2011. Dr. Charles is now the Associate Manager for International Science of NASA’s Human Research Program and leads NASA’s space life sciences planning for the joint US/Russian one-year mission on ISS. He is a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Association and a Full Member of the International Academy of Astronautics, has published over 60 scientific articles, and has received several professional awards.




Saturday Morning Planetarium Show:

Poster for Exploring New Horizons - A Bays Mountain Production.

Poster for Exploring New Horizons – A Bays Mountain Production.

Bays Mountain Productions

Title: “Exploring New Horizons”

Description: We are proud to show our latest in-house planetarium production to all of you.

“Exploring New Horizons” looks at Pluto, the New Horizons mission, planetary discovery, and most importantly, the scientific method. We travel through time to witness the forward progression of discovery in our Solar System and find out how important the scientific method really is. We see how Pluto was discovered and how we understand it today as the most popular of dwarf planets. We also ride along the New Horizons spacecraft and experience Pluto first hand. A live activity highlights Pluto’s discovery and the show ends with a live update of the New Horizons mission.




Saturday Afternoon:

Panel Discussion

This presentation will be a guided discussion on “human exploration” with our keynote speakers. It will be very interesting to see how each sees this topic and what their viewpoints will be.





Saturday Evening:


Rob Landis

Rob Landis, NASA Headquarters – Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Science Division

Title: “Mars: The Ultimate Destination?”

Abstract: When President Kennedy announced his intention to land men on the Moon more than a half-century ago, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) changed… overnight. NASA became a one-issue agency, and, like many single-issue groups, once it accomplished its mission it wasn’t sure what to do next. Once the United States met its self-imposed deadline, the momentum that enabled this accomplishment quickly evaporated. No human being has left low-Earth orbit (LEO) since Apollo 17 in 1972. Earlier that same year, the U.S. decided to press ahead with the Space Shuttle, and in 1984 it decided to build a space station (now known as the International Space Station or ISS). The United States had restarted its human spaceflight program — by limiting itself to the cul-de-sac of low-Earth orbit.

Due to several recent developments – including a Presidential directive in 2010, the return of an asteroid sample via Hayabusa that same year, the high-visibility Chelyabinsk asteroid impact event in 2013, and the pending launch of OSIRIS-REx in 2016 to the asteroid Bennu — interest in robotic and human exploration of near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) has never been greater. Before contemplating piloted missions to these small ‘nearby’ worlds, however, it is essential to complete a survey of the NEA population in order to find suitable targets to explore.

The challenges of sending humans to Mars are daunting and formidable. And NASA has yet to emerge from a nearly half-century-long identity crisis. Is Mars the ‘ultimate destination’ for human exploration? If so, what does that mean? Should there be an ultimate destination? Would declaring Mars as the ultimate destination re-make NASA, once again, into a one-issue agency? Perhaps the ultimate destination is… The Solar System.

Bio: Rob Landis is currently assigned to NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC and is the NEO program officer in the Planetary Science Division. He has an eclectic set of science and mission operations leadership and hands-on experience ranging from space-based observatories (the Hubble Space Telescope and the Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer); deep space missions (Cassini-Huygens and the Mars Exploration Rovers [MER]); planetary surface operations (MER – Spirit and Opportunity); and, in piloted spaceflight (International Space Station and Shuttle). Both as an ISS flight controller and operations lead, he has lived abroad for extensive periods to support ISS mission operations in Russia and Germany. Rob has a passion for advancing humanity’s presence across the Solar System. He earned his B.S. in astrophysics from Michigan State University and an M.S. in space studies from the University of North Dakota. After nearly 7 years in the planetarium field, he began his NASA odyssey at Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) implementing moving target [planetary] observations on the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), perhaps the most notable being the Comet P/Shoemaker-Levy 9 impacts on Jupiter in 1994.


Sunday Morning:

Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis – Director, Space Science Outreach, UT Knoxville

Title: “Bacon, Eggs & Bottle Rockets”

Abstract: Ah yes! Nothing says wake up like breakfast with 100 of your friends new and old and a short history of rockets and astronomy. I think most people think of astronomy in terms of what we see through the eyepiece of a telescope. True enough that we spend some of our time sharing ourselves and our equipment with those who have a passing interest in our passion. Some are content to spend time immersed in a good book on astronomy history. We have climbed to the highest points on this planet to see better and farther. Getting beyond the ocean of air that dulls our vision has brought us closer to the farthest reaches of the Universe. The merger of rockets and astronomy has a long and storied history that we will spend a little time on Sunday morning. Our knowledge of astronomy owes much to those who lifted our vision from Earth into space. From Tsiolkovsky to SpaceX and in between, we will wander around space history a bit.

Bio: Paul Lewis is the outreach astronomer in residence at UT Knoxville and NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.  He’s been the astronomy go-to guy for UT Knoxville for over 20 years.



What’s StarFest without great food? We think you’ll be excited about our menu. Please pay attention if you want the vegetarian option for any specific meal in case you don’t want the main dish.

Friday Dinner:

Pulled Pork Barbecue; Vegetarian: Spinach Ravioli w/ Marinara Sauce; Jonathan’s Smokehouse Beans; Tossed Spring Mix Salad; Banana Pudding; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea

Saturday Breakfast:

Large Homemade Muffins; Fresh Fruit; Coffee, Milk, OJ

Saturday's lunch during StarFest.

Saturday’s lunch during StarFest.

Saturday Lunch:

Delicious deli sandwiches on freshly baked authentic New York sesame, whole wheat and plain bagels with Boars Head brand roast beef and black forest ham or homemade chicken salad.  All with tomatoes and lettuce. Vegetarian:  vegetable cream cheese spread on a bagel, topped with thinly sliced cucumbers lettuce and tomato; Cucumber and Corn Salads; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea

Saturday Dinner:

Sliced Smoked Turkey; Vegetarian: Grilled Portobello Mushroom; Corn Muffins; Baked Potato w/ Fixins; Steamed Mixed Vegetables; Strawberry Shortcake; Vanilla Ice Cream; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea

Sunday Breakfast:

Pratt’s Tennessee Breakfast: Eggs; Vegetarian:  Egg, Cheese & Spinach Casserole; Fresh Fruit; Bacon; Hash Browns; Grits; Biscuit; Gravy (no meat); Coffee, Milk, OJ


Important Information:


The fun starts in the Farmstead each day. That’s the large log structure at the top of the parking lots. But, we will be in other areas of the Park during the event, so pay attention to the tentative schedule. Check-in will start at 5 p.m., and no earlier. For those setting up for the swap shop, there will be tables on the main level of the Farmstead. There is no additional fee for the swap shop, but let us know so we can reserve a table for you. You will be able to leave your content out for the full event as the building will be locked when we are not inside. But, access will NOT be available UNTIL 5 p.m. on Friday.

Please park in the main lots and NOT in the staff lot by the lower back door of the Nature Center. The Park does not have showers and camp fires are not allowed in the Park.

StarFest T-shirt no background med

StarFest 2015 T-shirt


Included with each registration is the unique T-shirt designed and made for this StarFest. The shirt is a stonewashed blue with a stunning retro-distressed design on the front. There is a 32nd Anniversary StarFest logo on the left sleeve. The shirt is 100% cotton, so consider shrinkage after washing when choosing size. The shirt is available from S – 3X. Additional shirts can be pre-ordered and are $16 each. They are available through pre-payment with registration.


Observing is easy at Bays Mountain. Both day and night viewing is at our observatory area. We have a number of scopes, but they will not be available all night. If you want to observe more, please bring your own equipment. Some rules: do not park at the observatory area and definitely not on the access road. You can leave your scope out all day unattended, but it is not recommended. The grounds are open to the public during the day and for the Saturday night StarWatch.

Sleeping Arrangements:

If you want to sleep within the Park grounds (at no additional charge), you can bring your sleeping gear and find a space in the Nature Center, but it must be put away before the building opens to the public at 8:30 a.m. Pitching a tent is fine and a great area is back behind the Farmstead up towards the Maintenance Building. This will be out of the way of the general public and more secluded. Please, do not pitch a tent anywhere near the parking lots nor observatory. You can also sleep in your car or bring a small camper/popup. Please don’t park your camper near the Farmstead, but the side lots near the Amphitheater is a great place. StarFest is the only event in which we allow non-primitive camping.

For those wanting a little more comfiness in the evening, we have arranged for a special rate of $99+tax/night at the Marriott MeadowView Resort.  This is the closest and the most luxurious amenity in the region. A four+ star facility. Call the MeadowView (423-578-6600) and ask for the StarFest rate or see the website to use the link to get the special rate. This rate is guaranteed up to Oct. 2, 2015. There are other hotels and motels in the region for additional sleeping options.

Please see the special section below for a StarFest rate with the Marriott MeadowView Resort.


If you have a dog, we are puppy-friendly, but they must be on a leash at all times, cleaned up after, and not allowed near any of the animal habitats.

The tranquility of Fall at Bays Mountain Park. Photo by Adam Thanz.

The tranquility of Fall at Bays Mountain Park. Photo by Adam Thanz.

Public Park Activities:

As always, there are many other opportunities for other park programming. Note, with your StarFest badge, you and your family can receive free, on Oct. 23-25, entrance to the Park and passes to planetarium shows, nature programs and barge rides. Yes, you need your stinkin’ badge! On Sat. and Sun. at 2 p.m., “Appalachian Skies – Fall” is offered in the planetarium theater. It is a live presentation about our current night sky.

Barge rides are a 45 min. tour of the lake and its natural habitats. They are at 3 p.m. on Fri. and 1, 2, & 5 p.m. on Sat. & Sun. Nature programs are offered at 3 p.m. on the weekend and the topic varies with each offering.

Note: the zip line is not included with registration.

Please note that if your family attends, they must be fully registered if they also want to partake of any of the meals or attend any of the StarFest talks.

The Bays Mountain Astronomy Club and Bays Mountain Park staff look forward to seeing you for StarFest 2015! Please contact me if you have any questions.


Tentative Schedule:

Bays Mountain StarFest – 32nd Anniversary

Kingsport, TN – October 23-25, 2015

Friday, Oct. 23, 2015

5 p.m. Farmstead Check-in and Swap Setup (no earlier!)

6 p.m. Farmstead Dinner

7:15 p.m. Farmstead Carrie Nugent – “Near-Earth Asteroids”

8:15 p.m. Observatories Observing on your own.

Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015

7:30 a.m. Farmstead Check-in Con’t & Continental B’fast (no earlier!)

8:45 a.m. Planetarium Welcome  [Note:  No Food nor Drink!]

9 a.m. Planetarium John Charles – “So You Want to Go to Mars?”

10:15 a.m. Planetarium Show – “Exploring New Horizons”

Noon Farmstead Lunch (no earlier!)

12:45 p.m. Farmstead Panel Discussion

2 – 4 p.m. Farmstead Swap Shop-Please do not start until 2!

3-3:30 p.m. Observatory SunWatch

4:55 p.m. Amphitheater Group Photo 

5:05 p.m. Farmstead Dinner (no earlier!)

5:35 p.m. Farmstead Rob Landis – “Mars: The Ultimate Destination?”

6:30 p.m. Observatory StarWatch Set-Up

7 p.m. Observatory Public StarWatch

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015

9 a.m. Farmstead Breakfast (no earlier!)

10 a.m. Farmstead Paul Lewis – “Bacon, Eggs & Bottle Rockets”

11 a.m. Farmstead Door Prizes


Even though we allow delegates the opportunity to sleep within Park premises at no additional cost, and that there are many hotels in the area, a special rate has been arranged with the closest hotel to Bays Mountain. Being a four+ star venue, the Marriott MeadowView Resort makes StarFest a stellar experience. Note:  if you want to stay at MeadowView and obtain the special rate, you must make your reservations on or before Oct. 2, 2015. Reservations made after this date are not guaranteed to be at the special StarFest price. Click on the link below to make hotel reservations.


Standard room $99 USD per night
Book Standard room at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center for $99 USD per night

If you have questions or need help with the links, please do not hesitate to ask. We appreciate your business and look forward to a successful event.

Marriott MeadowView Resort Room

Marriott MeadowView Resort Room

Marriott MeadowView Resort Lobby

Marriott MeadowView Resort Lobby

Marriott MeadowView Resort Pool

Marriott MeadowView Resort Pool

Marriott MeadowView Resort

Marriott MeadowView Resort



For future scheduling:


StarFest 2016

October 21-23, 2016 – Our 33rd!




If you would like to be on the mailing list for future StarFests, please contact Adam Thanz.




Some images from StarFests past:





All of the unique shirt designs from StarFests past:


BMAC Member Astrophotos

Here is a small sampling of astrophotos that our club members have taken.

Comet Holmes 2007; notice the round shape due to the tail pointing directly away from us – submitted by Terry Alford

M16; Eagle Nebula; a gaseous region of new star birth; Brandon Stroupe & Dan Merrick

M31; Andromeda Galaxy; notice the dust lanes in this spiral galaxy; this galaxy is the closest large galaxy to our own Milky Way and has 100’s of billions of stars; Brandon Stroupe & Dan Merrick

NGC2237; an emission nebula; Brandon Stroupe & Dan Merrick

Venus Transit; a rare occurrence of seeing the planet Venus pass in front of the Sun; June 5, 2012; ETSU Athletic Fields, Johnson City, TN; Adam Thanz

Comet ISON made its perihelic pass on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013. Unfortunately, it did not survive the gravitational disruption by the sun. This image was taken prior to perihelion. Notice the bright, central core that surrounds the 500 foot wide nucleus. The coma is seen as a circular glow around the core. The tail is seen very well. The green hue is from the ionized gasses from the comet. An added bonus, a stray meteor is seen in image. Photo by Brandon Stroupe.

The Horsehead Nebula. The red gasses emit light in hydrogen alpha. The dark areas that make the horsehead shape are dark nebulae; areas of dust and gas that are not emitting light, but in front of other emissions. Photo by BMAC member Brandon Stroupe.



The moon & Venus as seen from E. TN on October 8, 2013 seen in the evening sky. Photo by Adam Thanz.

The moon & Venus as seen from E. TN on October 8, 2013 seen in the evening sky. Photo by Adam Thanz.

The moon and Venus as seen from E. TN on March 27, 2014 in the morning sky. Photo by Adam Thanz

The moon and Venus as seen from E. TN on March 27, 2014 in the morning sky. Photo by Adam Thanz