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.

BMAC Youtube!

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

BMAC Astronomy Knowledge Compendium Test!

The BMAC invites you to learn more about the basics of astronomy. The following link is a take-home, open-book test. There is no time limit on taking the test. Once you complete it, you will have a better understanding of astronomy and can enjoy more of our monthly meetings. BMAC members who complete it can turn it in to the planetarium director for grading. If you receive a 90% or better, you will receive your choice of a BMAC collectible. If you receive less than 90%, you are given the opportunity to correct your answers.

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!

BMAC Opportunities & Rules



How you would like to learn how to run one of our telescopes in one of our observatories? If so, that’s great! You need to be a BMAC member in good standing (see rules below) and qualified to do so. In order to run any of our equipment, you’ll need to learn on your own the basics of pointing and using a telescope. A great opportunity for that is during our public StarWatch night viewing programs. A fellow club member can show you the basics with a scope they are using. Over time, you’ll learn these basics. You’ll also learn how to help the public understand what they are seeing in the telescope. Then, you can contact the planetarium staff to set up a one-on-one training session during the daytime to learn the specifics of our observatories. Contact here.



In order to enjoy the full benefits of being a member of the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club, like earning the opportunity to run a scope in one of our observatories or even help at a public event, one needs to understand that being a member is akin to volunteerism to Bays Mountain Park. As such, a member needs to be in good standing, of good character, and doesn’t abuse this privilege.

The Park is enforcing some long held basic, good behavior guidelines regarding volunteers. If a volunteer (i.e. club member) does not play well with others, then they will not be a part of this volunteer effort. Again, it is a privilege, not a right, to be a member of the club and volunteer.

Not to put a negative tone to this page, but it is important to establish guidelines that we can all work by. Here is a short list of unacceptable behaviors:

  • Being rude and/or abusive to another member/public/staff person. This includes verbal, unspoken, online and physical methods. Abuse also includes micromanaging, passive/aggressive behavior, high type-A behavior, and more.
  • Theft.
  • Damage to equipment/property through gross negligence or on purpose.
  • Shirking responsibilities to something volunteered on a repeated basis.
  • Being at a club meeting, StarWatch, SunWatch, StarFest, Astronomy Day or any other public event while intoxicated, even by the smallest amount, by alcohol or drugs.

This is not an absolute list, but it should get the point across.

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 and will include an interesting keynote speaker that presents a topic that is of astronomical interest. 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


April 6, 2018 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – The New Horizons spacecraft and the Kuiper Belt Object 2014MU69 – Steve Conard, Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. Steve is an optical systems engineer and has had a 35-year career building spaceflight optical instruments for astrophysics and planetary science missions. As a hobby, he measures the size and shape of asteroids for the International Occultation Timing Association. His presentation will be on the New Horizons spacecraft and the Kuiper Belt Object 2014MU69. The New Horizons spacecraft will perform a flyby of a small Kuiper Belt Object, 2014MU69, on January 1, 2019. Until the summer of 2017, very little was known about this object—its size was estimated to be between 10 and 40 km in diameter. Knowing the size of the object would make the pre-planned observations during the New Horizons flyby much more effective and lower risk. In this talk we describe two expeditions to Argentina, where a diverse team used off-the-shelf amateur astronomy equipment to both measure the size and shape of this body. The results obtained reveal an unusually-shaped body that has further raised scientific expectations for next year’s encounter on January 1, 2019.


May 4, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


June 1, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


July ?, 2018 at 6 p.m.

Location – ?
Topic – Annual club picnic. BMACers and their families are most welcome to enjoy the evening along with a potluck dinner. Please bring a dish to share. You’ll need to bring your own chair and telescope to share the night sky.


August 3, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


September 7, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


October 5, 2018 at 6 p.m.

Location – BMP Observatories (notice the earlier start time)
Topic – Observatory Cleaning & TBA. Please remember to bring cleaning supplies like rags, shop-vac, broom, elbow grease, et al. to help. And, remember, it starts at 6 p.m.


November 2, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


December 7, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


January ?, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. – if severe snow, then the dinner will be January ?, 2019

Location – TBA
Topic – Annual club dinner.


February 1, 2019 at 7 p.m.

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


March 1, 2019 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


There are two formats for the newsletter:

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 2018   Feb 2018  Mar 2018   Apr 2018

Jan 2017   Feb 2017   Mar 2017   Apr 2017   May 2017   Jun 2017   Jul 2017   Aug 2017   Sep 2017   Oct 2017   Nov 2017   Dec 2017

Jan 2016   Feb 2016   Mar 2016   Apr 2016   May 2016   Jun 2016   Aug 2016   Sep 2016   Oct 2016   Nov 2016   Dec 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 2018   Feb 2018   Mar 2018   Apr 2018

Jan 2017   Feb 2017   Mar 2017   Apr 2017   May 2017   Jun 2017   Jul 2017  Aug 2017   Sep 2017   Oct 2017   Nov 2017   Dec 2017

Jan 2016   Feb 2016   Mar 2016   Apr 2016   May 2016   Jun 2016   Jul 2016   Aug 2016   Sep 2016   Oct 2016   Nov 2016   Dec 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.

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


StarFest 2017 registration is closed.

An aerial view of Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN.

An aerial view of Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN. 

The 34th 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 27-29, 2017. It is run as a non-profit event, so registration is as low as possible.

The theme of this year’s event is “Stellar Places.” It covers space places that are about or include our Sun or other stars.

Our fantastic keynote speakers have been hand-picked to represent the many types of stellar places that are out there. Please read the keynote speaker notes for an insight into what StarFest 2017 will provide.

This year includes four distinctive keynote speakers; five great meals; door prizes; the ever popular swap shop; 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 rides, 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. Gabriel Gould, from the Park’s exhibits staff, has created a special 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, October 6, 2017. 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.

Adam Thanz – StarFest 2017 Chair – Adam Thanz


The commemorative T-shirt designed by BMP’s Gabriel Gould with an ancient Grecian Apollo for StarFest 2017.



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:

Mitzi Adams; Solar Scientist; NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

Mitzi Adams is a solar scientist working at MSFC and is a keynote speaker at StarFest 2017.

Title: “The Sun: A Star to Study in Our Backyard”

Abstract: Our star the Sun is a big ball of gas, borrowing a phrase from the Sun Song by the Chromatics, an astronomically correct acapella singing group. All stars are big balls of gas, but they differ in mass and temperature, and although they are all mostly hydrogen, there are some differences in other elemental abundances. This talk will explore some of the differences between our Sun and other stars, will examine specific characteristics of the Sun like sunspots, prominences, bright points and jets, flares and coronal mass ejections. We will end our discussion with a preview of the Parker Solar Probe.

Bio: Mitzi Adams is a solar scientist for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), where she studies the magnetic field of the Sun and how it affects the upper layer of the solar atmosphere, the corona. Ms. Adams, a daughter of Atlanta, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics with a mathematics minor from Georgia State University. In 1988, the University of Alabama in Huntsville and NASA made her an “offer she couldn’t refuse” and she moved to Alabama, where she earned a Master of Science degree in physics and began work at NASA/MSFC. With a professional interest in sunspot magnetic fields and coronal bright points, friends have labelled her a “solar dermatologist.” Frequently involved in educational outreach activities such as viewing solar eclipses and transits of Mercury and Venus, Ms. Adams sometimes seeks innovative material in unusual places. While few women travel alone, she has often been seen alone and in groups in the wilds of Peru, northern Chile, Guatemala, and southern Italy.







Saturday Morning:

John Debes is the Team Lead for the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph at the Space Telescope Science Institute and is a keynote speaker at StarFest 2017.

John Debes; Team Lead – Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph; Space Telescope Science Institute

Title: – “Planetary Tales from the Stellar Crypt: Exoplanets Surviving the Death of their Host Star”

Abstract: What happens to a planetary system when its host star exhausts its hydrogen fuel and dies? For most Sun-like stars, their deaths end in a whimper and not a bang, leaving behind a corpse star called a white dwarf. During these stellar end-times, many planets in orbit around their hosts survive and can have observable influence on their newly formed white dwarf. I will review how this unique field of astronomy arose and what exciting results astronomers have found in the last few years.

Bio: John Debes received his PhD in Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2005 from the Pennsylvania State University. He currently works at the Space Telescope Science Institute, where he leads a team that supports observations and calibration activities for the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS). STIS is an instrument first installed on the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997. He studies images of protoplanetary disks and exoplanets, as well as the evolution of planetary systems long after the death of their host star. He participates as a science team member of the citizen science project:













Saturday Morning Planetarium Show:

The poster for “Totality,” a planetarium production from Bays Mountain.

Bays Mountain Productions

Title: “Totality’”

Description: We are proud to present our most recent in-house planetarium production to all of you.

“Totality” is a fascinating look at all the wonders of eclipses, especially total solar eclipses. An eclipse is described simply as when one celestial object blocks another from our view. This program, produced by Bays Mountain Planetarium, examines what eclipses are, how and when they occur, and what wonderful sights they create. We also look back to a fascinating period in scientific discovery when general relativity was proven with the photographic recording of a total solar eclipse.

The show is followed with an update on the latest eclipse and a brief tour of the current night sky.

Our production includes a variety of wonderful styles – from spectacular space environments to humorous pop-up books. A very special part of the show relates, in a very human way, what happens when you are caught in the shadow of the Moon and the Sun is plunged into a total solar eclipse. You will love this program.











Saturday Afternoon:

Panel Discussion

This presentation will be a guided discussion with our keynote speakers. It will be quite interesting to see how each responds to the questions posed.



Saturday Evening:

Glenn Schneider is an Astronomer and EXCEDE Project Principal Investigator for the Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy and is a keynote speaker for StarFest 2017.

Glenn Schneider; Astronomer and EXCEDE Project Principal Investigator; Steward Observatory and the Department of Astronomy

Title: “In Quest of Astronomical Shadows: On Earth, in our Solar System, and Beyond”

Abstract: Observational astronomy informs our concepts and our understanding of the make-up, physical properties, and processes of the Universe of which we are a part. It’s all about photons (well…, except for hadrons, leptons, quarks, and dark energy…). From the earliest of times our perceptions have been shaped by our vision. The human eye/brain system is a remarkable machine, but has limitations and many cosmic “secrets” are obscured not only by the feebleness of faint signals but the glare of close-proximity brightly-luminous celestial orbs. THAT is all about: sensitivity, contrast, and dynamic range – i.e., seeing “faint things” near much brighter ones. As such, naturally occurring astronomical shadow phenomenon are nature’s gifts of obscuration. Herein, I leapfrog in discussion from the most viscerally dramatic of all such events, total solar eclipses, in an integrated theme of exploration with “shadow events:” Lunar occultations of stars, occultations of planets and their rings, solar system inner- and extrasolar- planet transits, even debris ring transits of distant galaxies. And, finally, when nature does NOT provide: coronagraphy. I.e., artificial “eclipses” of stars through technologies enabling imaging investigations of exoplanetary systems in “stellar places” through starlight suppression.

Bio: Dr. Glenn Schneider is an Astronomer at University of Arizona’s Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory where, since 1994, he served as the Project Instrument Scientist for the Hubble SpaceTelescope’s Near Infra-red Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer. He is the Principal Investigator for the EXoplanetary Circumstellar Environments and Disk Explorer (EXCEDE), a proposed MIDEX class Explorer mission recently completing a NASA sponsored, technology development and maturation program. His research interests are primarily centered on studying the formation, evolution, architectures, properties, and diversity of extrasolar planetary systems. His studies have led to the direct detection of sub-stellar and planetary mass companions of young and near-by stars and of materials in circumstellar environments from which such systems may arise and interact. In concert with his scientific investigations of circumstellar dust, debris disks, and co-orbital bodies they may harbor, he has played a leading role in the development of very high contrast space-based coronagraphic and near-infrared imaging systems and techniques with space-based assets leading to spatially resolved scattered-light images of the birthplaces of planetary systems. Dr. Schneider is a member of the International Astronomical Union’s Working Group on Solar Eclipses with expertise in the high-precision numerical calculation of eclipse circumstances and the application of those computations in planning and carrying out observations of total solar eclipses. For more than four decades, Dr. Schneider has lead expeditionary groups and conducted such observations on land, sea and air of thirty-three total solar eclipses occurring since 7 March 1970 from remote locations across the globe conducting direct, polarimetric, and spectrophotometric imaging programs. In concert, he has executed seven, and planned many more, high-altitude eclipse intercepts with jet aircraft. He has also been deeply engaged in studies of other Solar System “shadow events,” including the recent transits of Mercury and Venus as nearby analogs of extra-solar planetary transits. Additional information on his background and research interests may be found at :



Sunday Morning:

Sean S. Lindsay is the Astronomy Coordinator at UT Knoxville and is a keynote speaker at StarFest 2017.

Sean S. Lindsay; Astronomy Coordinator; UT Knoxville

Title: “Baking the Solar System: Our Modern Thoughts on How Our Solar System Formed”

Abstract: Our stellar place, the Solar System, formed some 4.6 billion years ago. While we have a general understanding of how our Solar System formed from a cloud of gas and dust (nebula) into a disk of material from which our Sun and planets formed, we still have many unanswered questions as to the nuanced details that lead to our Solar System in its current state. In this presentation, I introduce our general theories for Solar System formation and discuss what pieces of evidence from comets and asteroids challenge and further these ideas. I frame the challenges astronomers face in understanding the complex story of our Solar System’s formation in a baking analogy. Trying to understand how the Solar System formed is analogous to trying to construct the recipe for a cookie of unknown type given only cookie crumbs. In this simply analogy, the Solar System is the cookie, and the evidence astronomers are given is just a few crumbs of that cookie. From these crumbs, we need to determine the ingredient list, the relative amounts of ingredients, and the baking instructions (how long and at what temperature). I focus on elements of my own research in determining the composition of comets and asteroids, which, through our method, affords us a peek at the ingredient list.

Bio: Lindsay is an expert at computationally modeling the optical properties (absorption and scattering efficiencies) of cosmic crystalline silicates. His Ph. D. dissertation pioneered modeling the absorption efficiencies for forsterite grains for polyhedral shapes and many grain sizes. These models are now used by a variety of researchers to model the thermal flux of dust in comet comae and asteroid surface environments. His expertise includes: 1) spectroscopic performing mineralogical analyses of small body surfaces using visible, near- and mid-infrared spectroscopic data; and 2) modeling the thermal gradient and mid-infrared emissivity of porous regolith surfaces on airless bodies. His primary research is on determining the mineralogy and relative abundances of dust species for the small bodies of the Solar System (SS) to understand the origins and evolution of the SS small bodies. Lindsay has developed various tools to reduce and analyze visible, near infrared, and thermal infrared spectroscopic data for a variety of instruments on ground and space-based observatories. He has also developed analysis tools to determine the silicate mineralogy of pyroxene and olivine-rich meteorites and asteroid surfaces spectral data.




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:

Baked Chicken w/ Champagne Mustard Sauce; Vegetarian: Vegetarian Lasagna; Baked Potato Station; Honey Glazed Carrots; Rolls; Chocolate Brownies; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea


Saturday Breakfast:

Pratt’s Honey Glazed Ham; Vegetarian: Egg, Cheese & Potato Casserole; Mini Biscuits; Homemade Mini Cinnamon Rolls; Fresh Seasonal 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, turkey, or black forest ham. All with cheese, tomatoes and lettuce. Vegetarian: vegetable cream cheese spread on a bagel, topped with thinly sliced cucumbers lettuce and tomato; Potato Salad; Pasta Salad; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea


Saturday Dinner:

St. Louis Cut Ribs (1/2 Slab); Vegetarian: Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushroom; Tossed Spring Mix Salad with Asst. Dressings; Jonathan’s Smokehouse Beans; Corn Muffins; Banana Pudding; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea


Sunday Breakfast:

Pratt’s Tennessee Breakfast: Eggs; Vegetarian: Egg, Cheese & Spinach Casserole; Fresh Fruit; Bacon; Ham; 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 three-day event, so pay attention to the tentative schedule. Check-in will start at 5 p.m. on Friday, and no earlier. You are welcome to visit the Park earlier on Friday and take advantage of the Park’s programming, trails, and gorgeous fall colors. 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 Farmstead 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 small 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.

The commemorative T-shirt designed by BMP’s Gabriel Gould with an ancient Grecian Apollo for StarFest 2017.


Included with each registration is the unique T-shirt designed and made for this StarFest. The shirt is a deep navy with a cool, Grecian design of Apollo on the front. The back has an unique StarFest logo. The shirt is 100% cotton, so consider a little shrinkage after washing when choosing the size. The shirt is available from S – 6X. Additional shirts can be pre-ordered and are $16 each. They are only available through pre-payment with registration.


Observing is easy at Bays Mountain. Solar viewing will be at the dam and night viewing will be at our observatory area. We have a number of scopes, but they will not be available all night. If you want to observe into the wee hours, 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 or using a hammock is fine and a great area is back behind the Farmstead up towards the Maintenance Building. This space 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. Also make sure tree damage does not occur. 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. Be aware that parking is very limited, so please do not use up many spots with a camper/popup. StarFest is the only event of the entire year 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 $101+tax/night at the Marriott MeadowView Resort. This is the closest and also the most luxurious amenity in the Tri-Cities region. It is 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 October 6, 2017. Here’s the link:

Book Standard room at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center for $101 USD per night

Please see the special section below for more details on 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, the schedule allows for many opportunities to enjoy the other park programming. Note, with your StarFest badge, you and your family can receive free, on Oct. 27-29, entrance to the Park and passes to planetarium shows, nature programs and barge rides. Yes, you need your stinkin’ badge! Public planetarium shows are offered at 4 p.m. on Fridays and 1, 2, and 4 p.m. on weekends.

We have a brand-new lake vessel! 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 weekends. Nature programs are offered at 3 p.m. on weekends and the topic varies with each offering.

Note: the zip line is not included with registration. That is $10.

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


Registration is $125 per person.

Full-time students w/ID or those ≤21 years is $110 ea.

If you want an additional shirt(s) to the one that is included with full registration, they are $16 each.

The Bays Mountain Astronomy Club and Bays Mountain Park staff look forward to seeing you for StarFest 2016! Please contact me if you have any questions.



Tentative Schedule:

Map to Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium. Image by Adam Thanz

Map to Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium. Image by Adam Thanz

Bays Mountain StarFest – 34th Anniversary

Kingsport, TN – October 27-29, 2017

Friday, Oct. 27, 2017

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

6 p.m. Farmstead Dinner

7:15 p.m. Farmstead Mitzi Adams – “The Sun: A Star to Study…”

8:30 p.m. Observatories Observing on your own.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017

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

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

9 a.m. Planetarium John Debes – “Planetary Tales from the…”

10:15 a.m. Planetarium Show – “Totality”

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. Dam SunWatch

4:55 p.m. Behind FS Group Photo

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

5:30 p.m. Farmstead Glenn Schneider – “…Astronomical Shadows”

6:40 p.m. Observatory StarWatch Set-Up

7 p.m. Observatory Public StarWatch

Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017

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

10 a.m. Farmstead Sean Lindsay – “Baking the Solar System…”

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 October 6, 2017. 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 $101 USD per night
Book Standard room at MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center for $101 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 2018

October 12-14, 2018 – Our 35th!



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