Thursday, August 13, 2015

The Perseid Meteor Shower from Top of Ole Smoky

On top of ole Smoky, all covered with...STARS! I had planned for over a week to try to find a time to catch the Perseid meteor showers. As soon as I found out it would occur during a dark phase of the moon so there would be little light interference from the man in the moon, I knew this was my year to make it happen. I had been wanting to catch it for years, but it had just never been a priority. This year, I made it one!
Photo Credit: Kevin Adams of
My daughter, Kacey, and I, along with a friend of hers, made the hour and a half trip up to Newfound Gap, on the evening of August 12, 2015. I knew I had to work the next day, so we left home about 9:30 which put us at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at a little after 11:00 p.m. As many times as I have been up that road and to the parking area at Newfound Gap, I guess I had never been there when there was no moon. Even before my eyes had time to adjust to the darkness, we were seeing not only meteors, but an unfathomable number of stars! Even without the Perseids, this view would have been worth the drive and the loss of sleep. I don't know how many nights I have spent camping out or backpacking in these mountains over the last 50 years, but I guess I had never been out in the open that late at night, especially on a dark night. I have never seen anything like that in all the time I've spent in these mountains! The Milky Way stretched out from the North Carolina side of the Smokies, crossed the Newfound Gap parking lot, arched over the Appalachian Trail, and reached on into the hills of East Tennessee. Gazing up into this speckled canvas of grandeur, we watched as streaks of light zipped past us or over our heads as bits of comet debris entered the Earth's atmosphere at over 130,000 miles per hour and became flaming orbs of natural fireworks. We didn't even attempt to count the number of "shooting stars" we saw, but it must have been 40 or more and often we would hear others exclaim about one that we had missed. You simply couldn't look everywhere all at once! 

There's still time to catch this sight for yourself. Find a place, any place, away from the lights of cities and towns. Seek it out! Experience it! I promise, you'll never forget it!


  1. I just found your blog recently. Thanks for the detailed report about the night sky in GSMNP. I live seven hours away so any trips to the area have to be at least a few days, meaning I don't get to visit much. I hiked up LeConte last fall and hope to possibly get down there in a couple of months to hike some other popular trails. Even though I've been out all over the Rocky Mountain west (and a bit further), I've never really took the time to see the Milky Way. We did drive up to Newfound Gap for a bit just after dark on our last trip, but we really should have stayed a bit longer. I think the next trip I'll take a mid-afternoon nap so I can stay awake longer into the evening. Thanks again for your report, nice to know that light pollution has completely blocked out the stars in the park.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the blog post and I hope you get to come back to the Park very soon. It is indeed a special place! Yes, an afternoon nap would help you stay up later...that's exactly what I did! The Milky Way is something you simply MUST see if you've never seen it, and Newfound Gap on a moonless, clear night is a great place to do just that. Good luck!