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. 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


August 4, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Location – Bays Mountain Park – Discovery Theater Classroom in the lower level of the Nature Center
Topic – Telescope workshop. Led by BMACers, three telescope types will be set up and visitors will go round-robin and learn about how they work and what makes them different from the others.

September 1, 2017 at 7 p.m.

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


October 6, 2017 at 6 p.m.

Location – BMP Observatories (notice the earlier start time)
Topic – Observatory Cleaning & Celestial Observing will follow if the weather cooperates. If the weather is poor, we’ll participate in a constellation shootout in the planetarium. Please remember to bring cleaning supplies like rags et al. to help. And, remember, it starts at 6 p.m.


November 3, 2017 at 7 p.m.

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


December 1, 2017 at 7 p.m.

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


January ?, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. – if severe snow, then the dinner will be January ?, 2018

Location – TBA
Topic – Annual club dinner and speaker.


February 2, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


March 2, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


April 6, 2018 at 7 p.m.

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


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.




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 2017   Feb 2017   Mar 2017   Apr 2017   May 2017   Jun 2017   Jul 2017   Aug 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 2017   Feb 2017   Mar 2017   Apr 2017   May 2017   Jun 2017   Jul 2017  Aug 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. 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 2016 Registration is CLOSED

If you are interested in receiving an e-mail when StarFest 2017 registration is open, please contact me, Adam Thanz.

Below is for reference only:


StarFest 2016 will be held October 21-23, 2016


Here are the PDF documents:

For the complete, 12 page document, click here: StarFest 2016 Registration Form

For only the single registration sheet, click here: StarFest 2016 Registration Sheet Only


An aerial view of Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN.

An aerial view of Bays Mountain, Kingsport, TN. 

The 33rd 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 21-23, 2016. It is run as a non-profit event, so registration is as low as possible.

The theme of this year’s event is “The Marshall Space Flight Center.” Essentially, what does Marshall do and how do they support the astronomy science and space community?

Our fantastic keynote speakers have been hand-picked to represent the many facets of this extraordinary US facility. Please read the keynote speaker notes for an insight into what StarFest 2016 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 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. Allen Davis from the Park’s exhibits staff has created a special, iconic 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, Sept. 30, 2016. 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 2016 Chair – Adam Thanz


The iconic art design for the Bays Mountain StarFest 2016 T-shirt. Art by Allen Davis.


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:

Les Johnson; Technical Advisor; NASA Advanced Concepts Office

Les Johnson is a Technical Advisor for the NASA Advanced Concepts Office and is a keynote speaker for StarFest 2016.

Title: “Solar Sails for Exploring the Solar System and Beyond”

Abstract: Solar sail propulsion uses sunlight to propel vehicles through space by reflecting solar photons from a large, mirror-like sail made of a lightweight, highly reflective material. The continuous light pressure provides propellantless thrust to perform a wide range of advanced maneuvers, such as to hover indefinitely at points in space, or conduct orbital plane changes more efficiently than conventional chemical propulsion. Eventually, a solar sail propulsion system could propel a space vehicle to tremendous speeds—theoretically much faster than any present-day propulsion system, perhaps even taking us to the stars.

Bio: Les Johnson is the Technical Advisor for NASA’s Advanced Concepts Office at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center and serves as the Principal Investigator for the NASA Near-Earth Asteroid Scout mission and Co-Investigator for the European InflateSail solar sail demonstration mission. He was the Manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Program, and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project. He thrice received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal and has 3 patents. He is an author of popular science books including “Solar Sails: A Novel Approach to Interplanetary Travel” (Springer) and “Harvesting Space for a Greener Earth,” (Springer); and science fiction novels, including “On to the Asteroid” (Baen) and “[Mars] Rescue Mode” (Baen).  Les was the featured ‘Interstellar Explorer’ in the January 2013 issue of National Geographic Magazine and has appeared on numerous documentaries shown on The Science Channel, The Discovery Channel and Nat Geo. He was also recently interviewed on PRI’s Science Friday.




Saturday Morning:

Angela Jackman, Group Lead for the NASA SLS Formulation/Evolvability Group is a keynote speaker for StarFest 2016.

Angela Jackman; Group Lead; NASA SLS Formulation/Evolvability Group

Title: – “Boots on Mars, Eyes on the Stars: NASA’s Space Launch System”

Abstract: Designed to send astronauts to deep space and ultimately Mars, NASA’s Space Launch System rocket offers the power for not only human exploration but for game-changing scientific missions, from speeding space probes through the outer Solar System to lofting giant space observatories that will unveil secrets of our Universe. Space Launch System is making rapid progress toward its first launch in two years with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft, and its second launch will power a crew of astronauts farther into space than we’ve ever been. Ms. Jackman will explain how Space Launch System will open new opportunities for exploration and science.

Bio: Angie Jackman is the group lead in the Space Launch System (SLS) program for spacecraft and payload integration and Evolvability at the Marshall Space Flight Center. The group defines, analyzes, manages and executes all activities associated with accommodating payloads onto the SLS vehicle. She has 30 years of experience with NASA, including work at headquarters, JSC and JPL. Her experience has been quite varied ranging across Shuttle, new development of launch vehicles and payloads.











Saturday Morning Planetarium Show:

Poster for “The Transit of Mercury featuring ‘Solar Quest.'” The main program was produced by Bays Mountain and features a short produced by Buhl Planetarium from Pittsburgh, PA.

Bays Mountain Productions

Title: “The Transit of Mercury featuring ‘Solar Quest’”

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

“The Transit of Mercury featuring ‘Solar Quest’” is a live, interactive program. You will explore the small, rocky world of Mercury from its rare glimpses in the twilight skies to recent explorations by the Messenger spacecraft.

The powerful nature of our Sun is presented through a short segment entitled “Solar Quest,” which was produced by the Buhl Planetarium at the Carnegie Science Center. A live activity demonstrating the relative sizes and distances of Mercury, Earth and Sun highlights why transit events are somewhat rare occurrences.

“The Transit of Mercury featuring ‘Solar Quest’” was written and produced by Bays Mountain Planetarian, Jason Dorfman. The live content is rich with great full-dome animations, use of the Carl Zeiss ZKP-4 star projector, and a fun activity!





Saturday Afternoon:

Panel Discussion

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






Saturday Evening:

Jim Spann is the Chief Scientist for the NASA Science & Technology Office and a keynote speaker for StarFest 2016.

Jim Spann; Chief Scientist; NASA Science & Technology Office

Title: “Science at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center”

Abstract: The Science Research Office is the primary science organization at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. We develop scientific instruments that lead to space-flight missions and train the next generation of scientists and engineers. We use space, airborne, and ground-based observations to meet our basic scientific goals and better understand our home planet and its space environment to help society cope with our changing local and global environment. We do this in alliance with academia, other federal agencies, and international partners.

The Science Research Office conducts research and development efforts in the following selected research focus areas of space and Earth science:

• Earth Science Research and Analysis

• Earth Science Applications

• Astrophysics

• Planetary Science

• Heliophysics and Space Weather

For this talk at StarFest 2016, I will present examples and highlights of each of these areas.

At the MSFC Science Research Office we don’t investigate everything, but what we choose to pursue, we do extremely well to the benefit of NASA, the Nation, and humanity.

Bio: As Chief Scientist, Spann provides scientific leadership to all MSFC programs, projects, and activities. He presents MSFC science to the external community, including NASA Headquarters (HQ) and field centers, academia, other government agencies, and private industry for the purpose of growing successful partnerships. During his 30-year NASA career, he has developed and flown several auroral UV remote sensing instruments, served two years as a discipline scientist in NASA HQ’s Science Mission Directorate, and more recently managed Marshall Space Flight Center’s science research organization, which includes the disciplines of Astrophysics, Planetary Science, Heliophysics and Earth Science. Spann grew up in Recife, Brazil where his parents served as career missionaries. A laboratory physicist by training, Dr. Spann earned his BS in mathematics and physics from Ouachita Baptist University (cum laude 1979) and his PhD in physics from the University of Arkansas (1985). He is the author or co-author of more than 70 peer-reviewed journal articles primarily in space physics. He is actively engaged in defining the broad spectrum of science that exploration at NASA enables.



Sunday Morning:

Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis

Paul Lewis – Director, Space Science Outreach, UT Knoxville

Title: “Missions of Marshall: From The Beginning”

Abstract: The George C. Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has a long history of making space a place where we go and work. How we go into space requires the enormous power of rockets. The engines that powered those rockets emerged from weapons of war. There is quite a history in that alone. First tasked to build the most powerful rocket in the world, perhaps MSFC’s greatest achievement was the Saturn V. From our first landing on the Moon to running a permanent station in space to building the future rocket power to take us back to the Moon and beyond, MSFC has been so much more than a place that builds rocket engines and propulsion systems. Many chapters of our space history have been written by Marshall Space Flight Center and will continue to be written for the foreseeable future.

Bio: Paul Lewis is the outreach astronomer in residence at UT Knoxville and a 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:

Beef Brisket; Vegetarian: Mushroom Ravioli; Jonathan’s Smokehouse Beans; Tossed Spring Mix Salad; Corn Muffins; 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, 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; Sweet & Unsweet Iced Tea


Saturday Dinner:

Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast with White Wine Reduction Sauce; Vegetarian: Stuffed Portobello Mushroom; Tossed Baby Green Garden Salad with Dijon Herb Vinaigrette; Garlic Roasted New Potatoes; Squash & Zucchini Baked with Three Cheeses; French Baguette Bread; Choice of Chocolate Torte with Raspberry Sauce or Key Lime Pie; Coffee, 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. on Friday, 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.

The T-shirt for Bays Mountain’s StarFest 2016. Art by Allen Davis.


Included with each registration is the unique T-shirt designed and made for this StarFest. The shirt is a deep royal blue with a cool, iconic design on the front. There is a 33rd Anniversary StarFest logo on the left sleeve. The shirt is 100% cotton, so consider a little shrinkage after washing when choosing the size. The shirt is available from S – 5X. Additional shirts can be pre-ordered and are $16 each. They are 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 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. 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. Also, 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 $99+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 use the link to get the special rate. This rate is guaranteed up to Sept. 30, 2016. Here’s the link:

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

There are other hotels and motels in the region for additional sleeping options.

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. 21-23, 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.

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.

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 – 33rd Anniversary

Kingsport, TN – October 21-23, 2016

Friday, Oct. 21, 2016

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

6 p.m. Farmstead Dinner

7:15 p.m. Farmstead Les Johnson – “Solar Sails for Exploring…”

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

Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016

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 Angela Jackman-“…NASA’s Space Launch System”

10:15 a.m. Planetarium Show – “The Transit of Mercury…”

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!)

5:35 p.m. Farmstead Jim Spann – “Science at Marshal…”

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

7 p.m. Observatory Public StarWatch

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016

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

10 a.m. Farmstead Paul Lewis – “Missions of Marshall:…”

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 Sept. 30, 2016. 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 2017

October 27-29, 2017 – Our 34th!




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