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.
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;
* Private observing sessions for local and regional astronomy clubs and individual amateurs;
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.
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!
Blue Ridge Astronomy Group