GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Park rangers are inviting the public to escape the city lights and observe the natural night sky for an evening of viewing starts.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a stargazing program beginning at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, in Cades Cove. The Smoky Mountain Astronomical Society will provide equipment and instruction.
Depending on visibility, visitors will experience close-up observations of the planet Jupiter and its moons, a quarter moon high in the sky, and several constellations, according to a park news release.
“With night sky conditions protected in the park, the natural dark sky can be an awe-inspiring experience,” the release said.
All participants should park at the orientation shelter at the entrance to the Cades Cove Loop Road. A park ranger will walk with the group a half-mile to a nearby field to the viewing location. The Cades Cove Loop Road is closed at sunset to motor vehicles and participants are not allowed to drive to the viewing site or to park along the Loop Road.
Participants are expected to walk back to the parking area in the dark. Those planning to attend should wear comfortable walking shoes, dress warmly, and bring a flashlight.
Participants are also encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket for sitting, along with binoculars which can be used for stargazing.
To preserve the integrity of the telescope lenses, smoking is not allowed near the site. Carpooling is strongly encouraged as parking is limited.
The program is subject to postponement due to rain or cloud cover. If the weather is questionable, participants should call the day of the event to confirm that the program will take place at 865-448-4122 or visit www.facebook.com/SmokyMountainAstronomicalSociety.