Check out the link above for our 2019 Outreach Schedule. Always a work in progress, check often.
The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society is a nonprofit organization dedicated to to education and enjoyment of the night sky. Established in 1982, the GTAS has about 30 members from the Traverse City and the Grand Traverse area of northern Michigan. Meetings are held on the first Friday of every month beginning at 8 p.m. at Northwestern Michigan College's Joseph H. Rogers Observatory, though the August meeting is preempted by the annual picnic at another location.
Guests are always welcome to our meetings.
Over 750 attended the society sponsored Comet Hyakutake Watches March 23, and 24th, 1996. The farthest traveler came from Detroit to enjoy the dark skies and the spectacular comet through many telescopes. Comet Hale-Bopp attracted approximately 1,400 during the three scheduled viewing nights that were clear.
the road, so to speak, with outreach beyond the NMC Observatory
since 2007. Since 2011 we've held monthly star parties at
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore from April to October with
additional eclipse and meteor shower watches. We bring our
telescopes and exhibits to several festivals around the area
along with Friday Night Live in Traverse City. Since
2010 the society has been hosting monthly star parties at the
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and beginning in 2016 at
the Arcadia Dunes.
Upcoming Meetings and Outreach Events
Note that outdoor events are held weather permitting
August 9th, 16th, 23rd Fridays
Friday Night Live: 5:30 p.m. to whenever. 200 Block of Front St., Traverse City. Note: the official end is 9 p.m., however we will keep observing the planets and Moon later if it is clear.
August 10th, Saturday
Star Party: 4 – 6 p.m. and 9 – 11 p.m. - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Thoreson Farm, Part of the Port Oneida Fair. Solar Viewing in the afternoon, Evening: Moon, Jupiter, Saturn plus some brighter deep sky objects and brighter Perseid meteors.
August 31st, Saturday
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Dune Climb: 4-6 p.m. solar viewing & 9-11 p.m. Jupiter, Saturn, summer Milky Way!
September 6th, Friday
General Meeting: 8 p.m. - NMC Rogers Observatory.
Program: To be announced
9 p.m. - NMC Rogers Observatory.
September 16th, Monday
Area District Library, Woodmere Ave.:
September 21st, Saturday
Leland Heritage Festival, Fishtown, Leland, MI: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Viewing the Sun & exhibits
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Dune Climb: 9-11 p.m. Jupiter, Saturn, summer Milky Way!
September 27th, Friday
Betsie Valley District Library, Thompsonville: 7-10:30 p.m. Twilight talk: Bob Moler: Apollo and the Moon Race. & Viewing after: Jupiter, Saturn, and bright summer Milky Way wonders!
September 28th, Saturday
Acme Fall Festival, Flintfields Horse Park, Bates Rd, Acme, MI: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Viewing the Sun & exhibits
September 30th, Monday
Traverse Area District Library, Woodmere Ave.: 7 p.m. - Twilight talk – Bob Moler: Constellations and Stories of the Autumn Skies. Viewing after: Jupiter & Saturn
This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network
The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach
NASA Night Sky Notes for July 2019:
Chill Out: Spot an Ice Giant in August
By David Prosper
Is the summer heat getting to you? Cool off overnight while spotting one of the solar system’s ice giants: Neptune! It’s the perfect way to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Voyager 2’s flyby.
Neptune is too dim to see with your unaided eye so you’ll need a telescope to find it. Neptune is at opposition in September, but its brightness and apparent size won’t change dramatically as it’s so distant; the planet is usually just under 8th magnitude and 4.5 billion kilometers away. You can see Neptune with binoculars but a telescope is recommended if you want to discern its disc; the distant world reveals a very small but discernible disc at high magnification. Neptune currently appears in Aquarius, a constellation lacking in bright stars, which adds difficulty to pinpointing its exact location. Fortunately, the Moon travels past Neptune the night of August 16th, passing less than six degrees apart (or about 12 Moon widths) at their closest. If the Moon’s glare overwhelms Neptune’s dim light, you can still use the its location that evening to mark the general area to search on a darker night. Another Neptune-spotting tip: Draw an imaginary line from bright southern star Fomalhaut up to the Great Square of Pegasus, then mark a point roughly in the middle and search there, in the eastern edge of Aquarius. If you spot a blue-ish star, swap your telescope’s eyepiece to zoom in as much as possible. Is the suspect blue “star” now a tiny disc, while the surrounding stars remain points of white light? You’ve found Neptune!
Neptune and Uranus are ice giant planets. These worlds are larger than terrestrial worlds like Earth but smaller than gas giants like Jupiter. Neptune’s atmosphere contains hydrogen and helium like a gas giant, but also methane, which gives it a striking blue color. The “ice” in “ice giant” refers to the mix of ammonia, methane, and water that makes up most of Neptune’s mass, located in the planet’s large, dense, hot mantle. This mantle surrounds an Earth-size rocky core. Neptune possesses a faint ring system and 13 confirmed moons. NASA’s Voyager 2 mission made a very close flyby on August 25, 1989. It revealed a dynamic, stormy world streaked by the fastest winds in the solar system, their ferocity fueled by the planet’s surprisingly strong internal heating. Triton, Neptune’s largest moon, was discovered to be geologically active, with cryovolcanoes erupting nitrogen gas and dust dotting its surface, and a mottled “cantaloupe” terrain made up of hard water ice. Triton is similar to Pluto in size and composition, and orbits Neptune in the opposite direction of the planet’s rotation, unlike every other large moon in the solar system. These clues lead scientists to conclude that this unusual moon is likely a captured Kuiper Belt object.
Discover more about Voyager 2, along with all of NASA’s past, present, and future missions, at nasa.gov
Clockwise from top left: Neptune and the Great Dark Spot traced by white clouds; Neptune’s rings; Triton and its famed icy cantaloupe surface; close of up Triton’s surface, with dark streaks indicating possible cyrovolcano activity. Find more images and science from Voyager 2’s flyby at bit.ly/NeptuneVoyager2 Image Credit: NASA/JPL
Finder chart for Neptune. This is a simulated view through 10x50 binoculars (10x magnification). Please note that the sizes of stars in this chart indicate their brightness, not their actual size. Moon image courtesy NASA Scientific Visualization Studio; chart created with assistance from Stellarium.
Addition by the GTAS
August 16th is the night after the full moon. The 7.8 magnitude Neptune may not be visible. Below is a wide chart of the region. See the inset on below that for Neptune’s position throughout the month.
An inset of the chart above this one showing the position of Neptune at 5 day intervals starting August 1st. The above two charts were created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).
NASA Space Place poster
For Kids: NASA’s Space Place website
The Space Place is a NASA website for elementary school-aged kids, their teachers, and their parents.
It’s rich with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) content!
It’s informal. It’s meaty. It’s easy to read and understand. It’s also in Spanish. And it’s free!
It has over 150 separate modules for kids, including hands-on projects, interactive games, animated cartoons, and amazing facts about space and Earth science and technology.
See this month's NASA Night Sky Network article at the bottom of the center panel on this page.
Bob Moler's Ephemeris contains audio mp3s of current Ephemeris programs; calendars of sunrise, sunset,moonrise and moonset for the Grand Traverse area of Michigan, and other locations in northern Michigan; plus a monthly star chart.
Also Bob's Ephemeris Blog with daily transcripts of and illustrations for his daily Ephemeris programs on Interlochen Public Radio. Wednesday’s program looks at where the bright planets are along with finder charts.
From Article II, B of the Articles of Incorporation of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society:
The Society shall operate a scientific and educational organization with the goal of increasing interest in, the knowledge and enjoyment of astronomy; cooperate with similar organizations; and cooperate with Northwestern Michigan College to increase the benefit of the college observatory to the community.
As you can see by the statement above the society is inexorably linked to the Joseph H. Rogers observatory. However in the past number of years members have been also taking telescopes out into the community, on sidewalks and street corners, and in the street on Friday Night Live, and to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We find that many folks in the area have never been out to the observatory. This way we are going to to the public. And having a huge telescope is really be a huge attraction, not to mention the superb views of the heavens it will provide.
We have purchased a 25 inch Dobsonian telescope with trailer to use and to take around for our outreach program. We have also purchased a solar telescope to view the Sun's prominences, and are looking to obtain a second solar telescope. We feature a solar viewing time at the Sleeping Bear Dunes before the star parties in June, July and August.
We have recently purchased small telescopes to give to libraries for them to lend out. The first two recipients are Traverse Area District Library and Betsie Valley District Library. Enerdyne of Suttons Bay donated the second telescope..
You may contribute to the fund to help us upgrade and add accessories to the society's telescopes by mailing a check to the GTAS, C/O the society treasurer Gary Carlisle, 1473 Birmley Rd, Traverse City, MI 49686. We are a 501(c)(3) non profit organization. Donations are tax deductible.