Astronomy at the park

Published 2:02 pm Thursday, November 16, 2017

A literal out of this world experience is being offered by Wilderness Road State Park this weekend, as all aspiring astronomers in the area — along with anyone simply appreciative of a beautiful night sky — is welcome to attend a highly advanced star viewing party.

The New Moon Star Party, hosted by University of Tennessee Astronomy Outreach Director Paul Lewis, will provide both kids and adults alike with the opportunity to view the blue land beyond our reach from an entirely new perspective, through state of the art equipment used by modern day astronomers.

Lewis’ journey into astronomy began as a mere part-time job conducting viewing sessions, but quickly grew into a lifelong passion. Now, the Memphis native dedicates much of his time to sharing his love for the sky with as many people as possible, especially kids, through both school presentations and public observations. In fact, he finds himself speaking to nearly 7,000 kids per year at around 50 different locations.

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“If I had to say I was proudest of anything, it’s my ability to communicate with kids,” said Lewis. “The only evidence I really have for it is that I still have their attention at the end of the program.”

The viewing is scheduled to take place under Saturday night’s full moon, providing the perfect lighting for stargazers to see the atmosphere in a completely different way. It’s free of charge and guests are asked to meet at the visitor’s center at 7:30 p.m.; it’s expected to last until 8:30 p.m.

“Paul not only brings his expertise, but also some very cool viewing equipment. It’s a great chance for kids who are interested in stars and planets to see them close up and ask questions,” said park naturalist Jesse Henderson.