September 25, 2018
Great Smoky Mountains National Park will host a stargazing event at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center beginning at 7:00 pm on Friday, October 5, 2018. Located on Purchase Knob, the learning center provides one of the clearest views of the sky in the park and in Haywood County, NC.
The Astronomy Club of Asheville will lead an exploration of the night sky at this high elevation site with a 260-degree unobstructed view of the sky. If skies are clear, visitors can expect to see the Milky Way Galaxy high overhead that night, along with the planets Saturn and Mars, the Andromeda Galaxy, and many striking star clusters.
“National Park areas often offer a wonderful opportunity to stargaze,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Parks across the country monitor and manage for natural night sky conditions in much the same way as we do to protect our air and water. Visitors are often amazed at the number of stars that can be seen simply by entering into the natural darkness of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”
The event starts with an indoor presentation, which will be held rain or shine, to discuss what can be seen in the nighttime October skies. After that, participants will head outside, weather permitting, to stargaze. The learning center is located at 5,000 feet in elevation so visitors should dress in warm layers. The program is free but limited to 80 people, so reservations are required and can be made by registering through Eventbrite, at www.eventbrite.com/e/star-gazing-at-purchase-knob-grsm-np-tickets-49856316585, or by calling 828.497.1946.
Purchase Knob is located off US 276 near Maggie Valley, North Carolina. The use of GPS or an internet map service to find Purchase Knob is not recommended, but park staff can provide reliable directions when visitors make reservations.