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UPCOMING EVENTS:

NC STATEWIDE STAR PARTY
Saturday evening, April 9th, 2016, from 8:30 until 11:00 PM.
This is a FREE, public astronomy event.
This event will be held at the Blue Ridge International Dark Sky Park, located at the Energy Xchange just off hwy 80N in Yancey County (future home of the Bare Dark Sky Observatory - construction to begin soon!).

We'll have:
* A laser guided tour of the constellations, bright satellites, and other "naked eye" targets, as seen from one of the darkest night sky locations in the eastern US.
* A variety of excellent telescopes to show you close up views of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae, and maybe even some Earth orbiting satellites.
* Fun, educational astronomy activities and demonstrations.

This will be part of the NC Science Festival's Statewide Star Party. Many other astronomy clubs, science museums, and planetariums in NC will be participating in this star party on April 8th and 9th. If you can't attend our event we hope you will attend one of the other events that weekend, you can find them listed here: http://www.ncsciencefestival.org/calendar/

This event will be held rain, clouds or starshine. In case of bad weather we'll have indoor astronomy activities.


BRAG MEMBER MEETING/GET TOGETHER
This is a private meeting for members of BRAG and anyone who would like to be a member.
Saturday evening, April 9th, 2016, from 7:00 PM until 8:30 PM, i.e. just before the Statewide Star Party. We'll discuss club business, the progress of the Bare Dark Sky Observatory, and whatever else comes up. As the date approaches we'll plan refreshments, etc...


MERCURY TRANSIT
Monday, May 9th, 2016, from 10 AM until 2:30 PM.
This is a FREE, public astronomy event.
This event will be held at the Blue Ridge International Dark Sky Park, located at the Energy Xchange just off hwy 80N in Yancey County (future home of the Bare Dark Sky Observatory - construction to begin soon!).

Mercury transits the Sun! In other words, Mercury will pass directly between the Sun and Earth, and will appear as a very small black dot in silhouette against the brightness of the Sun.

NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN! AND NEVER AIM A TELESCOPE OR BINOCULARS AT THE SUN!

We'll have special telescopes set up to allow visitors to safely watch this event. We'll also have short presentations through the day with lots of info about Mercury, the Sun, and the circumstances that create the transit.


INDEPENDENCE DAY STARS ON THE SQUARE - DOWNTOWN BURNSVILLE
Date to be determined. Will coincide with the Independence Day (July 4th) fireworks display.
This is a FREE, public astronomy event.
Event will begin immediately following the fireworks and will end at 12:00 midnight.
This event will be held on the Town Square in downtown Burnsville.

As in all of our previous Stars on the Square events, traffic will be detoured from the Town Square, and the lights on and around the square will be turned off to give us a safe, relatively dark sky experience. We'll have a variety of excellent telescopes set up to give our visitors close views of planets, stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc... With good weather you can expect to see the surface of Mars, the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn, and much more.

We'll also be celebrating International Asteroid Day, and we'll also give you telescopic views of the bright asteroid Juno.

About Us
Welcome to the Blue Ridge Astronomy Group! We are the astronomers of Yancey County, the Toe River Valley, and the surrounding areas of western North Carolina. All are welcome, from beginner to expert. By joining you will be able to participate in all of our astronomical conversations, and you will receive e-mail updates about all of our upcoming events!
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News
Bob Hampton / Oct 22, 2014
Oct. 23 Partial Solar Eclipse viewing at the Blue Ridge International Dark Sky Park

STATUS: GOOD! (As of 9:00 PM Wed. Oct 22)

Public eclipse viewing with solar filtered telescopes begins just before 6:00 PM. Sunset is at 6:43, at which time the Sun will be at mid eclipse with about 25% of the Sun obscured by the Moon. After the eclipse we'll stay with the telescopes until 10 PM to allow the public to see stars, galaxies, nebulae, and more from our dark sky location. For more info call Bob Hampton at 828-675-4449.
Ryan Stanley (admin) / Nov 06, 2013
We will soon be submitting our application to have our observatory site declared an International Dark Sky Park. Part of our application will be photographic evidence of the dark skies at our site. This photographic evidence was provided by Todd Bush, a professional photographer from banner Elk NC. http://www.bushphoto.com/bp/
Here's a link to a web gallery of some of the excellent photos he took at our site:
http://toddbushphotography.com/tbp/mcc/MaylandEnergyXchangeSiteNight11-02-13Web/
And here's his report, which will be included in our application:Link To the application
Ryan Stanley (admin) / Oct 13, 2013
THE BLUE RIDGE STAR PARK AND OBSERVATORY


This photo shows a computer controlled 30 inch diameter f3.6 Dobsonian reflecting telescope. This is the same type of telescope which is now being custom built as the primary instrument for our public observatory, except at 34 inch diameter ours will be somewhat larger diameter and about one foot longer than the one in the photo. The telescope is being built by StarStructure telescopes, with mirrors by Lockwood Optics!


These are the "blueprints" for the roll-off roof observatory building (designed by local architect Armin Wessel) that will be the permanent home of the 34" telescope. Notice that it includes a classroom/warmroom and restrooms under a fixed roof, and the entire facility will be wheelchair accessible!


Blue Ridge Astronomy Group, Mayland Community College (mayland.edu), and Yancey County NC are creating a fantastic world class public astronomical observatory and star park on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina!

The centerpiece of this facility will be a custom made 34 inch (0.86 meter) f3.6 computer controlled Dobsonian observatory telescope. This will be the largest observatory telescope in North Carolina; the largest dark sky public telescope in the southeastern US; and one of the largest public telescopes in the world! And it will be wheelchair accessible!

This will be a dedicated public observatory with the primary mission of providing the public with the best possible access to the wonders of the universe. Unlike most observatory telescopes in this size class, this telescope will be specifically designed and optimized not for research but for visual observing, to provide the best possible view at the eyepiece. It will also be equipped with an extremely sensitive live video system which will allow large groups to observe at once. And it will be very capable of doing real astronomical research as well. With this telescope and the high altitude dark skies of Yancey County we expect to offer the best views available in the eastern US.

We're planning an entire astronomy and science complex, including at least one smaller observatory with a different type of telescope, a solar observatory, a radio telescope, a star party area where visiting astronomers can set up their own telescopes, outdoor astronomical instruments, an amphitheater, and more. Maybe even a planetarium! This facility will be available for:

* Public observing sessions on most Friday and Saturday nights;

* Public observing for other special astronomical events;

* Educational use by local and regional schools and colleges and their science and astronomy programs; scouts; church groups; etc...

* Private observing sessions for local and regional astronomy clubs and individual amateurs;

* Research projects by students and/or amateurs;

* Any other valid astronomical purposes.

The star park/observatory will be located on the unnamed mountaintop adjacent to the Energy Xchange just off Hwy 80N in Yancey County NC (between the towns of Burnsville and Spruce Pine). This is an excellent dark sky location, 2,900 ft elevation, with a 360 degree view of the distant mountain horizon!

Energy Xchange is a renewable energy center, artist business incubator, and horticultural production facility operated by Mayland Community College (MCC). It will be improved and expanded, and renamed Estatoe Regional Center for Science and Crafts (ERCSC). A blacksmith shop and other crafts studios will be added to the glass art and ceramics studios and horticulture currently operating there (using methane energy from the old landfill).

The Blue Ridge Star Park and Observatory will be part of the ERCSC, and will be operated by volunteers from the Blue Ridge Astronomy Group.

Phase 1 is the 34" telescope and the observatory building for it. The great folks at MCC and the Mayland Foundation have already arranged funding to cover the cost of the primary telescope and its optics.

The 34" primary parabolic mirror, f3.6, and 6.75" flat mirror have been ordered from Lockwood Optics and Mike Lockwood has received the 34" glass blank.

The all aluminum custom telescope has been ordered from Starstructure Telescopes.

The observatory building will be designed by Burnsville architect Armin Wessel and constructed by local students at Mountain Heritage High School, which has a fantastic construction program that produces modular housing.

We anticipate a Grand Opening in the Fall of 2013. Check back here for more info and updates on our progress!

This will be your observatory! We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions!

Bob Hampton
Blue Ridge Astronomy Group
Clear skyies chart