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Observatory Frequently Asked Questions


Why do I need to purchase a ticket to attend a Bare Dark Sky Observatory event?

Viewing the dark sky with a high quality telescope is a very popular activity.  Our capacity is 26 guests, which allows each guest an opportunity to view several different celestial objects.

Why Did My Event Get Moved to the Planetarium??

There are not always clear skies overhead for stargazing. In the event of clouds or inclement weather, a viewing night at the Bare Observatory might get moved into the Arthur Planetarium. A decision will be made 36 hours prior to the event time. Guests will still have an amazing astronomy experience inside the Planetarium with a “live sky show” that guides you on a tour of the night sky that you would be seeing if you were outside under clear skies. These live sky shows are not offered at any other time inside the Planetarium except in the event of inclement weather at the Observatory. If you do not wish to move inside the dome, you may request a refund for the event by calling the Visitor Center at 828-470-7584. The reservation software does keep a small portion of the purchase price if you cancel your tickets.

Can I receive a refund if I cannot make the event date?

A full refund will be issued by Eventbrite if we cancel an event.  However, the reservation service may keep a small portion of your purchase price if you cancel the reservation.  You may inquire about their policy on their website;

How does the waitlist work?

Once the maximum number of tickets have been purchases, potential guests may be placed on a waitlist. The Observatory managers are alerted to the waitlist entries and may open up ticket purchases. You will be contacted if a spot becomes available.

What do I do if the Entry Gate is closed?

 The Earth to Sky Park shares an entrance with the Yancey/Mitchell Transfer Station, which requests that the gate be closed when neither the transfer station or the Earth to Sky park is staffed. However, guests are welcome to come and stargaze on their own even when the Park is not staffed, per IDA regulations. When the gate is locked, guests may park outside and walk around the gate. Please be advised there are no attendants or staff on site if the gate is closed and you enter the Park at your own risk. No overnight camping is allowed anywhere at the Earth to Sky Park.

Are there restroom facilities?

There are public restrooms located in the Visitor Center when it is open and a portable toilet located near the parking lot at the Bare Dark Sky Observatory.

 Why isn’t the Bare Dark Sky Observatory open during week nights?

The Observatory is often the site for private viewing events during the weeknights. These events are a great way to share a birthday or anniversary with your family and friends. A private event is an ideal opportunity to enrich homeschooling curriculum or encourage a love of science for children and adults. Please call us for event pricing and reservations.

What is the best time to visit the Bare Dark Sky Observatory?

We are open year-round.  Although during the winter the night temperatures may be very cold, the night sky is rich with incredible celestial objects not otherwise visible during the summer months.  Our most popular nights are in late June through mid-October when the weather is warmer.   Saturn, Jupiter and the Milky Way are best viewed during these months, as well.  The events during the summer sell out quickly, so we encourage guests to make reservations well in advance of their visit.

Why is the Bare Dark Sky Observatory closed on some weekends?

When the moon appears more than 50% full, we do not hold Community Viewing Nights, as the reflected light from the moon makes viewing other night sky objects difficult.

What astronomy tools would enrich my understanding of the night sky?

There are several night sky apps that help you find celestial objects from your location. Sky view, Star Chart, Star Walk 1 & 2, are a few readily available apps.

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