Mayland Community College LogoMayland Community College Logo


Observatory exterior landscaping

Purchase Observatory Tickets

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our new Inclement Weather Policy below

COVID-19 Policy Information: Masks are optional and social distancing is still encouraged. If you are feeling ill or have tested positive for COVID-19, please stay home and let us know so your tickets may be refunded, minus a small Eventbrite fee. 

*Gift certificates are available and make the perfect gift! For information or questions please email

The Bare Dark Sky Observatory, named for Warren and Larissa Bare, is located at the Mayland Earth to Sky Park in Yancey County. The observatory provides a opportunity to experience the wonders of the universe while providing astronomy students with hands-on learning. The observatory sits at an elevation of 2,736 feet and offers a 360-degree view.

Observatory Roof Closed

Visitor Information

Join us for an evening of stargazing as you've never seen before! Depending on the time of year and the moon phase, visitors will be able to view the moon, planets, and stars through our 34" diameter mirror on our custom-built Newtonian telescope, as well as our smaller 14" mirror Meade planetary telescope. With the assistance of our two observatory Managers, visitors will spend two hours viewing and learning about the night sky.

Parking is now available at the Observatory, including a handicap parking space close to the building. Please arrive promptly at your designated time to the parking lot located at the Observatory. Dress comfortably for nighttime weather, as it is sometimes chilly in the mountain air. Closed-toed shoes and flashlights are highly recommended.

No pets are allowed inside the Bare Dark Observatory. If you have a registered service dog that you plan on bringing to a stargazing event, please contact a staff member at the Observatory prior to coming to the event to make special arrangements.


Sam ScopeBare Dark Sky Observatory Sam Scope

Named the “Sam Scope” in memory of Samuel Phillips, the telescope is an f/3.6 StarStructure Newtonian telescope, with a 34 inch (0.86 meters) mirror. It is the largest telescope in the Southeast US dedicated to public use.

The Samuel L. Phillips Family Foundation, a local nonprofit organization, provided funding for the fabrication of the telescope. To see our telescope mirror, go to and scroll about halfway down the page to see our “34" f/3.6 visual Newtonian.”

Inclement Weather Policy- NEW!

With the opening of the Glenn and Carol Arthur Planetarium, we can now offer an alternative two-hour astronomy experience option on evenings the Observatory is unavailable due to weather conditions. If the weather forecast is not favorable for outdoor stargazing, we will send out an email the day before to inform you that the astronomy event has been moved into the planetarium. Please plan to arrive at the Arthur Planetarium ten to fifteen minutes prior to event time. If you decide you do not want to attend the indoor astronomy experience, let us know prior to the start of the event by emailing or by calling the Earth to Sky Park Visitor's Center, during operating hours at 828-470-7584, and we will have Eventbrite issue you a refund, minus their minimal processing fee. For Visitor Center Hours and more information on the Arthur Planetarium, go to

Terms and Conditions:

  • Please social distance as much as possible
  • From the general parking area, be prepared to walk up an inclined pathway with some steps as you make your way through the moon gardens to the Observatory building. From the handicap parking space, access to the Observatory is via a sidewalk and ramp.
  • In order to look through the large Sam telescope, you will need to be able to climb a maximum of 9 steps on rolling safety stairs.
  • You will be outside the entire viewing time, so please dress appropriately. We suggest layers.
  • In the event of snow or icy conditions, the event will be cancelled and full refunds will be issued.
  • Please note that you will be at the Observatory and Earth to Sky Park at your own risk and will hold Mayland Community College and the Mayland Community College Foundation harmless in the event of an incident.  Mayland Community College is not responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged articles.
  • Please use caution as the terrain is uneven.
  • For more information review the FAQ page.

For questions regarding the Bare Dark Sky Observatory please email:

Observatory Roof Open

Ticket Information

Community Visitors:

Adult Tickets: $20.00

Child Ticket: $5.00 (12 and under).

Viewings are scheduled depending on the moon cycle and sunset times for two-hour blocks. This is ideal for families, individuals, and out-of-town visitors wishing to look through the telescope. To purchase tickets or view the schedule, please click on the purchase ticket link at the top of the page.

Group or Private Rental Rate: $400

Group or private rentals are scheduled by e-mailing or by calling 828-470-7584. These rentals are for groups with a maximum of 26 people. 

For the latest observatory information please call 828-470-7584.

*The Observatory will not be open during inclement weather or on cloudy nights. In case of inclement weather, an alternate 2 hour astronomy experience will be offered in the Arthur Planetarium. Ticket holders for those nights will be notified the day before the event about the change.

Observatory Roof Open

Visiting When the Observatory is Closed

Stargazers are welcome at the Earth to Sky Park when the Observatory is closed. However, caution is necessary. Please remember that lighting is kept to a minimum so that we preserve our dark skies. Bring a flashlight and be prepared to walk on uneven terrain. If the gate is closed, please park just outside the gate, without blocking the gate – it must be allowed to open. Walk around the gate on foot. You are welcome to bring your own telescope and set up on the flat ground in any area of the park.
The Observatory has 8 telescope viewing stations located around the building. Visitors are welcome to set up their own telescopes at the various stations, even when the Observatory is open. However, Observatory staff will not be available to provide instruction on personal telescopes and only those who have purchased tickets to the Observatory will be allowed to take part in the events in the Observatory.
At this time, when the Earth to Sky Park gate is closed, access to the Observatory and telescope viewing stations is restricted. There are many places close to the gate where star gazers can set up chairs and telescopes with a good view of the sky.


  • The GPS coordinates are 35°55′52″N 082°11′03″W
  • The physical address is: 66 Energy Exchange Dr, Burnsville, NC 28714
  • Detailed directions are available on the Mayland Earth to Sky Park page.

Suggested Places to Stay

No Camping is Allowed in the Earth to Sky Park

Blue Ridge Boutique Hotel, Spruce Pine - 15 minutes away -
Terrell House Bed and Breakfast, Burnsville – 17 minutes away
Nu Wray Inn, Burnsville – 17 minutes away
Carolina Country Inn, Burnsville – 17 minutes away
High Pastures, Burnsville - 15 minutes away
Richmond Inn Bed and Breakfast, Spruce Pine – 20 minutes away
Switzerland Inn, Little Switzerland – 28 minutes away
Toe River Campground, Burnsville – 16 minutes away

See current conditions.

To find out about upcoming events, please call 828-470-7584.

IDA Dark Sky Association image: Milky Way galaxy as viewed from night sky

International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) Certification

The Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina have stood as silent witnesses to the uninterrupted, nightly rain of starlight for nearly a half-billion years, but artificial light now threatens this nightly show. In honor of notable local efforts to preserve the natural nighttime landscape of western North Carolina, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) designated the Mayland Earth to Sky Park and Observatory as the first IDA-certified Star Park in the southeastern United States. The Blue Ridge Astronomy Group (BRAG), a local amateur astronomy society, was instrumental in supporting MCC’s application to the Dark Sky Places Program.

The MCC Bare Dark Sky Observatory is the first program participant:

  • located in the southeastern United States
  • operated under the auspices of an institution of higher learning
  • includes outdoor lighting that consists entirely of fully-shielded, low-color-temperature light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures at the time the IDA award is conferred.
  • one of two IDA sites in the world to have both an observatory and a planetarium