Star Party Schedule

    Star Party before nightfallSMAS primarily frequents three locations for star parties. SMAS chose the locations based on sky darkness and convenience of access. These locations include Unicoi Crest (UC) on the Cherohala Skyway, an overlooks on the Foothills Parkway we call Foothills Parkway East and Look Rock South, and Tamke-Allan Observatory (TAO) near Kingston, Tennessee.

SMAS also has hosted an annual star party in Cades Cove over the last several years in cooperation with the National Park Service. The Cades Cove Star Party is typically scheduled in the fall season. The 2010 and 2011 events drew over 800 visitors!

Our Cherohala Skyway and Foothills Parkway locations are at a higher altitude than the surrounding valley. Therefore be prepared for road grades (up and down) and lower temperatures. If attempting your first visit it may be advisable to try to arrive before dark. Ensure your vehicle is in good working order and be careful not to overuse your brakes. If you are bothered by mosquitoes, dress appropriately and/or bring bug spray.Sasquatch at UC!

Unicoi Crest is at 4500+ feet altitude and can be several degrees colder than the valley. This can be truly welcome during the hot and hazy days of summer. However, always bring a jacket and long pants no matter the time of year.

Members can choose to arrive at their time of choice. By convention, our star parties begin at dusk and continue for as long as members care to observe. SMAS does not usually cancel star parties except by notification through our private Yahoo group. If the weather is poor, we simply do not attend. If the weather is questionable, members should coordinate with each other as to their preferences for attending.

Why do SMAS members go so far out of town to observe? Because city lights make it nearly impossible to observe most of the objects in the night sky. From most city locations, only the Moon, planets, and a few bright stars can be seen because of light pollution. The sky appears awash in the glow of city lights even through a telescope. Our star party locations allow us to view the fainter objects in the night sky, including the beautiful glow of the stars of our own galaxy called the "Milky Way". However, even our relatively remote locations see the encroachment of wasteful or unnecessary lighting each observing season.

         Star Party Etiquette

  • Bring a red flashlight and avoid using any white light after dark. SMAS members can assist you with finding red filter material at our regular monthly meetings.
  • Get to know the lighting controls for your vehicle and ensure as little white light as possible shines from your vehicle. If you cannot control the lights, choose to park as far away from the telescopes as practical.
  • Carefully enter the observing location. Speeding into a parking area full of telescopes and observers is a recipe for an accident.
  • If you bring bug spray, please choose to apply the spray before arriving or at a distance from telescopes. Sprays can coat the expensive optics and are difficult to remove.
  • Our members welcome visitors and enjoy showing off the night sky, however please be considerate and ask. Do not use an unattended scope that does not belong to you without permission.
  • Please do not smoke near other member's telescopes.

2019 Schedule

The dates listed below are star parties sponsored by SMAS. Other organizations also sponsor parties throughout the year such as Pickett State Park and Tamke-Allan Observatory which typically opens the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month to the publc.

Date Moon Phase* Location Highlight or Event
Jan 5, 2019 New Moon TAO
Feb 2, 2019 New Moon TAO
Apr 6, 2019 New Moon Unicoi Crest Spring galaxies
Apr 13, 2019 First Qtr Foothills Parkway East
May 4, 2019 New Moon Unicoi Crest Cancelled due to bad weather
May 10, 2019 First Qtr Blount County Public Library Public viewing starting at 5 PM
Jun 1, 2019 New Moon Unicoi Crest Fireflies?
Jun 7, 2019 Waxing Crescent Foothills Parkway East Cancelled due to bad weather
June, 29 2019 Waning Crescent Unicoi Crest
July 3, 2019 Waxing Crescent Charles Hall Museum, Tellico Plains, TN Event begins at 6 PM with presentations in museum and public telescope viewing to follow after fireworks display
Aug 3, 2019 Waxing Crescent

Foothills Parkway East or TAO (moved from Unicoi Crest due to threatening weather)

Summer Milky Way
Aug 10, 2019 Waxing Gibbous Foothills Parkway East Early Perseids
Aug 31, 2019 New Moon Unicoi Crest
Sep 7, 2019 First Qtr Cades Cove, Orientation Shelter at Loop Road Entrance @ 7 PM Annual Cades Cove Star Party in partnership w/ NPS
Sep 28, 2019 New Moon Foothills Parkway East
Oct 26, 2019 Waning Crescent Unicoi Crest
Nov 2, 2019 First Qtr TAO

The above dates or locations are subject to change. Please check often for changes. 
Last minute coordination will be handled through the club's private Yahoo group.

When more than one location is listed, individual SMAS members 
may opt to attend either locale as convenient.

* Dates near a new Moon are preferred for observing as a bright
Moon interferes with observing deep sky objects.

Click to visit the International Dark-Sky Assocation website