Southern Star

The Southern Star astronomy convention originated in 1986 and is hosted annually by the
Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club, Charlotte, North Carolina. The event is held
between late April and mid-May (depending on lunar phase and facility availability) at
Wildacres near Little Switzerland, North Carolina. This is located just off the picturesque
Blue Ridge Parkway – which winds its way through the lower end of the Appalachian
Mountains. Wildacres is a private retreat with modern facilities including motel-like
private rooms with bath, a glass-enclosed dining room combining great family-style
meals with beautiful views overlooking the mountain ridges, and a small auditorium. All
of these facilities are tucked away under the trees at the top of a mountain ridge, but with
enough open areas for viewing the night skies.

Southern Star starts in the late afternoon on a Thursday and concludes mid-morning on the
following Sunday (3 nights). During the convention there are lectures by professionals
on such topics as astronomical research, observatories, amateur observing techniques,
space exploration, etc. There are also activities usually including “swap tables” (to
unload your surplus equipment and find new “treasures”), astro-imaging display and
contest, night-time star-parties (weather permitting), day-time solar viewing (one or two
folks usually have a hydrogen-alpha filter equipped telescope!), an ice-cream social
Saturday night, and – of course – door prizes! There is even time to sit back in a rocking
chair on the hewn stone patio and admire the mountains or take a nature hike through the

The facility accommodates approximately 115 attendees staying at Wildacres. The
Southern Star registration fee includes all lectures, room accommodations, and all meals
(dinner Thursday, three meals Friday, Saturday, and breakfast on Sunday). All attendees must
register prior to the event – there is no registration “at the door.” Additional information
is on the registration form.

Southern Star is a wonderful astronomical convention event and a great time for
everyone. Come join us in the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains!

2024 Speakers
2024 Registration
Past Speakers

Steven O’Meara Sky & Telescope Magazine
Fred Hess Hayden Planetarium
Dennis di Cicco Sky & Telescope Magazine
Don Parker Astrophotographer
Tom Dobbins Author/Telescope Maker
David Levy Sky & Telescope Magazine
John Gregory Telescope Maker
John Briggs Yerkes Observatory
Harold McAlaster Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA)
Leif Robinson Sky & Telescope Magazine
Jim Mullaney Sky & Telescope Magazine
J. Kelly Beatty Sky & Telescope Magazine
Richard Talcott Astronomy Magazine
Nagine Cox Jet Propulsion Laboratory – NASA
Don Osterbrock Lick Observatory
Sue French Sky & Telescope Magazine
Bart Fried Antique Telescope Society
Richard Fienberg Sky & Telescope Magazine
Trudy Bell Author
Howard Brewington Sloan Digital Survey/Comet Hunter
Phil Harrington Astronomy Magazine
2008 (22nd)  
Dr. Jerry T. Bonnell Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)
Dr. Gerrit L. Verschuur Author
R. Lee Hawkins Appalachian State University
2009 (23rd)  
Carolyn Shoemaker Planetary Astronomer/Comet Hunter
Dr. Richard Gray Appalachian State University
Dr. Chris Mullis Astronomer
2010 (24th)  
Jonathan Spargo National Radio Astronomy Observatory VLA
Mark “Indy” Kochte NASA Messenger Mission
Dr. Stephen Danford University of North Carolina, Greensboro
2011 (25th)  
Dr. Alan Boss Carnegie Institution for Science
Dr. David Devorkin Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
Rob Landis Johnson Space Center, Houston
Scott Maxwell Mars Rover Driver Team Lead
2012 (26th)  
Dr. Dan Caton Appalachian State University
Dr. Eric Douglass Author/Lunar Astronomer
Dr. Andrew O’Dell Retired/Northern Arizona University
Dr. David Moffett Furman University
2013 (27th)  
Dr. Don Olive Gardner-Webb University
Dean Ketelsen Steward Observatory Mirror Lab
Dr. Richard Gray Appalachian State University
Dr. Mike Reynolds Florida State College
2014 (28th)  
Mike Menzel NASA – James Webb Space Telescope
Sue French Sky & Telescope
Alan French Albany Area Amateur Astronomers
Camille Carlisle Sky & Telescope
2015 (29th)  
Paul Lewis University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Jim Mullany Astronomy Lecture and Author
Dennis di Chicco Sky & Telescope
Barbara Becker University of California, Irvine
2016 (30th)  
Dr. Richard Greenberg University of Arizona
Jordan Evans Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Dr. David Devorkin Air and Space Museum
Dr. Chris Richardson Elon University
2017 (31st)  
Dr. John Mather NASA-Goddard, Nobel Prize
Dr. Jay Pasachoff Williams College
Dr. Brad Barlow High Point University
Al Nagler Tele Vue Optics
2018 (32nd)  
Judy Beck University of North Carolina, Asheville
Dr. Stella Kafka American Association of Variable Star Observers
Alan Sliski Antique Telescope Society
Ken Steiner Charlotte Amateur Astronomers Club/Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute
2019 (33rd)  
Dr. Sheila Kannappan University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Dr. Paul Byrne North Carolina State University
Dr. David Durda Southwest Research Institute
Kenneth Launie Antique Telescope Society
2023 (34th)  
Mike Menzel NASA – Goddard
Dr. Brad Barlow High Point University
Richard Wright LunarG inc. and StarStone Software
Dr. David Moffett Furman University
Wildacres Retreat

Learn more about the Wildacres Retreat and Conferrence Center here:

Wildacres Retreat: North Carolina Conference Center

Main Building
Lobby Seating
Guest Room
View from Guest Room
Dining Room
Places to Rock and Relax
Conference Photos

Scroll to Top