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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
by Bob Hampton on May 09, 2014 at 10:19 PM
Our Observatory site at Energy Xchange has now been declared by the International Dark Sky Association as a Silver Tier International Dark Sky Park! You can read the details here: http://www.mayland.edu/star-park.html
by Ryan Stanley (admin) on Nov 06, 2013 at 04:54 PM
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
by Ryan Stanley (admin) on Oct 13, 2013 at 03:51 AM
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
by Ryan Stanley (admin) on Oct 13, 2013 at 02:16 AM
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