Saturday, September 29, 2012

Stars, sun spots and astronomy at Big South Fork

Have you ever looked up at the stars or sun and wondered what space might be like? Your teacher may have warned you against looking, but the free astronomy program at Big South Fork National River and Wildlife Area gives you the chance to see the stars and sun safely.

Milky Way
I have childhood memories of standing in my front yard with a telescope pointed at the moon. As a child, it is the only object that I recognized in the night sky. 

Fortunately, annual star gazing events at Big South Fork introduces children and adults to the science of astronomy through the excitement of star gazing. This helps kids of all ages to point their telescope on more than just the moon.

Two separate astronomy events are being offered
in 2012 and both of these take place on Saturday, October 6. (Dates for other years are covered via the website link at the bottom of this article.) Each event promises to provide a good star gazing experience. Plus, on most nights, the Milky Way is visible which makes the event extra special.

The star gazing events will be held at the Bandy Creek Visitor Center at the Big South Fork National River and Wildlife Refuge in Oneida, Tennessee. Visitors don't even have to bring a telescope to view the night sky unless you want to.

The University of Tennessee Space Science Outreach Director, Paul Lewis is spearheading the astronomy  events at the Big South Fork National River and Wildlife Area. Even more good news is that one the telescopes is specifically outfitted so visitors can safely view sun spots. This is a rare treat.

An evening presentation on the night sky begins at 8:30 pm. Lewis will talk about what to look for in the night sky. The Milky Way galaxy, constellations will be discussed as will general star gazing. The telescopes will be available for viewing after the presentation.

The star gazing and astronomy events are free and open to everyone. Visitors to event at the Big South Fork Recreation Area are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. There is no need to bring telescopes but binoculars are also encouraged.

In addition to astronomy programs, the park offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation. Hiking, camping and horseback riding are all popular. Camping options are available and may be reserved in advance. Sites are available for tents or RVs. Find out about horseback riding, camping costs and and reservations on the Big South Fork website.