Astronomy

Observatory Details

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Observatory Details


Public Observing Programs

Our observing programs are free for everyone!

Quick View:

  • Solar viewing (SunWatch) is free and held each clear Saturday & Sunday on the dam from 3-3:30 p.m., March-October.
  • Night viewing (StarWatch) is held each Saturday in the months of March, April, October, & November, starting at dusk at the observatories. If poor weather, an alternate live presentation will occur in the planetarium theater.

Please check the calendar for the next daytime or nighttime viewing session.

Note: For the evening observing sessions, be sure to dress warmly. Dress for temperatures that are 20° colder than you expect.

The Bays Mountain Observatories are located along Bays Mountain Park Road just up from the dam. Look for the small circular building with a domed top. Please park in the parking lot and walk along the gravel drive to reach the observatory grounds.


Observatory Details

Bays Mountain Park is home to two observatory structures housing a number of telescopes that include lensed refractors of 6″ & 8″, mirrored reflectors of 10″, 12.5″ & 17.5″, and more!

The Bays Mountain Astronomy Club and planetarium staff use all of these telescopes at various times through the year to show the public astronomical sights in nighttime skies.

Bays Mountain Park Clear Sky Chart

Click Here to go to the Clear Sky Chart’s website to learn how to correctly read the data. Clicking on the chart in their website brings up detailed information.

Quick View: you want dark blue for the first four rows.

Dark blue means no cloud cover, very transparent (no haze), excellent seeing (steady skies with no turbulence), and fully dark. For the next two rows, dark blue means no wind and very low humidity. The last row is temperature. Dark blue is super cold (-40°F – -31°F), white is at freezing (23°F – 32°F), and bright orange is moderate (68°F – 77°F).


Astronomy Day

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Join the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club in celebration of The International Day of Astronomy!

Learn about the science and hobby of astronomy. Perfect fun for the entire family!

Highlights: The Bays Mountain Astronomy Club will be providing a number of fascinating displays and hands-on activities. Learn about astronomy, telescopes, careers and education in astronomy, the sun and more! The club will also be hosting daytime viewing of the Sun and nighttime viewing of Venus, the Moon and much more!

All non-planetarium astronomy-related activities are free on Astronomy Day!
Planetarium tickets are $5 per person for ages 6 and above.

Schedule of Events

Afternoon:
1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Displays & Information (free!): Walkway in front of Nature Center (inside Nature Center, if raining.)

3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Solar Viewing (free!): Dam.
Thrill at viewing different layers of the Sun up close and in great detail. Safely see sunspots and prominences. Weather dependent.

Evening:
8:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Nighttime Viewing (free!): Observatory.
Spectacular views of celestial delights await you with the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club’s telescopes. Gaze upon Venus, feel like you’re flying low over the Moon and be awe-struck by the distance to galaxies. These views and more will be seen at our Observatory. A live presentation about what is up in the night sky will take place in the Planetarium Theater, if the weather does not cooperate.

Observatory Details

Bays Mountain Park is home to two observatory structures housing a number of telescopic instruments. The smaller “roll-off” observatory was first opened around 1980. The “domed” observatory was completed in 1989. Both were constructed by club members and park staff.

The current roster of instruments includes…

  • Custom 8″ refractor owned by Milligan College.
  • A 12″ Meade LX200-GPS Schmidt-Cassegrain on a computer controlled mount.
  • A large aperture, customized 17.5″ reflector on an alt-azimuth Dobsonian-style mount. Designed and refurbished by Bays Mountain Astronomy Club members.
  • A 6″ Meade APO refractor mounted on a portable alt-azimuth tripod mount.
  • A superb Newtonian 10″ reflector with optics by Jerry Lappin, a founding Astronomy Club member.
  • And many other scopes!

The Bays Mountain Astronomy Club and planetarium staff use all of these telescopes at various times to show the public astronomical sights in both the daytime and nighttime skies.

Bays Mountain Park Clear Sky Chart

Click Here to go to the Clear Sky Chart’s website to learn all the details on how to correctly read all of the information. Clicking on the chart in their website brings up all sorts of detailed information.

Essentially, you want dark blue for the first four rows. Dark blue means no cloud cover, very transparent (no haze), excellent seeing (steady skies with no turbulence), and fully dark. For the next two rows, dark blue means no wind and very low humidity. The last row is temperature. Dark blue is super cold (-40°F – -31°F), white is at freezing (23°F – 32°F), and bright orange is (68°F – 77°F).

Public Observing Programs

Our observing programs are free for everyone! Please check the schedule for the next day or night viewing session. If attending one of our evening observing sessions, be sure to dress warmly, it can become very cold after the Sun goes down. To be comfortable, dress for temperatures that are 20° colder than expected nighttime temperatures. The Bays Mountain Observatories are located along Bays Mountain Park Road just up from the dam. Look for the small circular building with a domed top. Please park in the parking lot and walk along the gravel road to reach the observatory grounds.

Astronomy Day

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Join the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club in celebration of The International Day of Astronomy!

Learn about the science and hobby of astronomy.

Perfect fun for the entire family!

Highlights:  Bays Mountain Astronomy Club members will be providing a number of fascinating displays and hands-on activities. Learn about astronomy, telescopes, careers and education in astronomy, the sun and more! The club will also be hosting daytime viewing of the sun and nighttime viewing of the Moon, Jupiter, and much more!

All non-planetarium astronomy-related activities are free on Astronomy Day!
Planetarium tickets are $5 per person for ages 6 and above.

Schedule of Events

Afternoon:
1 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Displays & Information (free!): Walkway in front of Nature Center (inside Nature Center, if raining.)

3 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Solar Viewing (free!):  Dam.
Thrill at viewing different layers of the Sun up close and in great detail. Safely see sunspots and prominences. Weather dependent.

Evening:
8:30 p.m. – 10 p.m. Nighttime Viewing (free!):  Observatory.
Spectacular views of celestial delights await you with the Bays Mountain Astronomy Club’s telescopes. Savor a wonderful view of the colorful bands of Jupiter and it’s four largest moons, feel like you’re flying low over the moon, and be awe-struck by the distance to galaxies. These views and more will be seen at our Observatory. A live presentation about what is up in the night sky will take place in the Planetarium Theater, if the weather does not cooperate.

Archive For Reference Only

Note:  These listings are for ARCHIVAL REFERENCE ONLY. Even though these events have passed, there is still a lot of good information regarding viewing and photographic techniques.

August 21, 2017 – Total Solar Eclipse

Safety:

Solar eclipses are lots of fun, but you have to be extremely safe in viewing. Looking at the Sun at any time is dangerous and can cause permanent eye damage. There are proper solar filters available, but some home-brewed methods are not safe and should not be used. The very safest way to view is to project the image of the Sun from a pinhole. You can even use a kitchen colander! Sorry, we are sold out of solar glasses.

About solar eclipses:

Solar eclipses occur when the Moon travels between the Sun and the Earth so accurately, observers on certain parts of the Earth can see a “bite” taken out of the Sun!

total solar eclipse is when the Moon perfectly aligns with the Sun and the entire Sun is blocked. This is very rare, but allows us to see the Sun’s corona for a very short time. A partial solar eclipse is when the Moon doesn’t perfectly align with the Sun and at best, we see only part of the Sun blocked by the Moon. An total annular eclipse is when the Moon and Sun align, but the Moon is a little farther away than normal in its orbit from the Earth.  The result is a ring of sunlight surrounding the Moon.

How to View:

As stated earlier, you can project the image of the Sun easily for safe viewing. Essentially, you need a piece of foil that is reinforced with clear tape on both sides and make a small, very clean pin hole in the taped area. Get or make a long (~4 ft.) cardboard box and cut a hole in one end that is about an inch wide. Take that foil with the pin hole and tape it inside the box where the inch wide hole is in the cardboard. Place a piece of white paper inside the other end of the long box to project the image onto. Then, cut a viewing portal on the side of the long box near the white paper to see the projected image. Point the end with the foil toward the Sun and look at the image on the white paper.

Click here to open the Super Sun Viewer PDF document.

When & Where to Look:

The eclipse is passing across the contiguous United States with mid-eclipse occurring around 2:30 in the afternoon for the Eastern Time Zone.
For all the details, please visit http://eclipse2017.nasa.gov

Another excellent resource is this interactive Google Map.

Good luck, hope for clear weather, be safe, and enjoy!

Special Note:

The planetarium theater and the observatory will be closed on August 21, 2017. All the planetarium staff will be off-premise working with the Appalachian Eclipse Excursion. Sorry, the excursion is sold out.

September 27, 2015 – Total Lunar Eclipse

When & Where to Look:

The entire September 27, 2015 total lunar eclipse will be seen anywhere in the Eastern US and Canada, which is good news for the Tri-cities area. Also, it will begin about two hours after sunset, a perfect time to catch this fascinating celestial event. Here are the times:

  • 1st contact: 9:07 p.m. EDT – when the Earth’s shadow just touches the edge of the moon
  • Beginning of Totality: 10:11 p.m. EDT – when the moon is completely eclipsed
  • mid eclipse: 10:48 p.m. EDT – when the moon is deepest in the Earth’s shadow
  • End of Totality: 11:23 p.m. EDT – when the moon begins to leave the Earth’s shadow
  • 4th contact: 12:27 a.m. EDT – when the Earth’s shadow just leaves the edge of the moon

During the eclipse, the Moon will be rising in the East about 30 to 40 degrees above the horizon. Good luck, hope for clear weather, and enjoy!

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853 Bays Mountain Park Road, Kingsport, TN 37660
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Phone: 423.229.9447 | Fax: 423.224.2589
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