What’s Up? See The Largest Public Telescope In NC

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What’s Up? See The Largest Public Telescope In NC

“Sam Scope” Now Accepting Reservations

You’ll find the wonders of the night sky are much closer, now that the Bare Dark Sky Observatory is open in Yancey County. The observatory, located at Mayland Community College’s Earth to Sky Park in Burnsville, celebrated its grand opening earlier this month and houses the largest telescope in North Carolina for public access.

Photo courtesy Jeremy Bare

Photo courtesy Jeremy Bare

The custom-built StarStructure Newtonian telescope has a mirror that measures 34 inches in diameter, or 0.86 meter. The powerful telescope allows users to see the jet stream, Saturn’s rings and distant stars and constellations. In addition to the main telescope, the observatory is home to a smaller planetary telescope for viewing planets and the Earth’s moon.

“Part of our mission is to provide students and community members with new opportunities,” says Margaret Earley-Thiele, director of Mayland Community College Foundation. “The observatory allows students to gain access to cutting-edge technology, and it creates a destination that will draw people from all over the state and region.”

The observatory is named for Warren and Larissa Bare, two of the project’s main donors. The telescope is nicknamed the “Sam Scope” in memory of Samuel Phillips, a WNC native; the Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation donated funds for the telescope. Private donations and grants covered the $600,000 cost of the observatory project.

The observatory sits at 2,736 feet in elevation and offers a 360-degree view. In 2014, Mayland Earth to Sky Park received a designation from the International Dark-Sky Association for its stewardship of the natural night sky.

“The Bare Dark Sky Observatory offers a wonderful experience for our students and will be a great economic stimulator for the Mayland community as visitors travel here from around the globe,” says Dr. John Boyd, president of Mayland Community College.

The observatory is now open to the public, but you do need to make a reservation online or by calling 828-766-1233. Admission fees vary depending upon group size.

Ken Ulmer

Former TV weatherguy who never got it right, til the day I predicted mostly cloudy skies with a 100% chance of unemployment. I've survived stints as a morning radio host, stay-at-home dad, and lab assistant. All left me with with varying degrees of side-effects, which somehow combined to make me a good fit to be the editor/video producer of

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