Night Observation on High Plains


The Spruce Knob area boasts the darkest skies east of the Mississippi River. More stars, planets, and other celestial bodies can be seen from the Mountain Center than practically any other high-elevation point on the East Coast! In addition to visiting Spruce Knob Mountain Center for an unparalleled look at a clear night sky, astronmy enthusiasts can take advantage of our classrooms, meeting spaces, and dormitories if they plan on observing on multiple nights.

Back Ridge Observatory
TMI's on-site observatory is used throughout the operating season by visiting school groups, students, teachers, and staff. The observatory is equipped with a roll-out Dobsonian telescope, star charts and laser pointers, but the star of the show is the center's nine-foot-long, computerized telescope and the rotating roof that provides an expansive view of the surrounding skies. With this telescope, users can view distant celestial bodies and galaxies in the night sky. The building of the Back Ridge Observatory was made possible by Dr. Joe Morris. Joe continues to be a friend of TMI and visits SKMC often to maintain the observatory and to use it for astrophotography.

Northern Virginia Astronomy Club, the Almost Heaven Star Party, and New Moon Observation Weekends
The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) has been taking advantage of TMI's facilities for many years. NOVAC hosts the Almost Heaven Star Party (AHSP) at the Spruce Knob Mountain Center each year. The event attracts nearly 200 amateur astronomers from all over the region and showcases the area's dark skies. During the event, TMI instructors lead participants in a variety of daytime activities, including canoeing and guided hikes, in addition to the astronomy-related activities during the nighttime. NOVAC also reserves campsites and dorm rooms for their members during every new moon weekend, from April through October. To learn more about AHSP, visit.

If you or your club is interested in observation weekends at SKMC, please call (304) 567-2632.