About Us

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.

We've hit 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.

The GTAS belongs to the International Dark-Sky Association and participates in Project Astro.

Two of our members are also NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassadors.

June and July meetings will be held at 9 pm due to the later sunset times

Saturday, May 25* – Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Dune Climb

911 pm**: Star Party Canceled

Friday, June 7 – Monthly meeting and star party at NMC Rogers Observatory. Also available via Zoom.

9 pm – General Meeting – Joe Gibson, Principal Flight Software Engineer, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

10 pm – Star party if clear.

Currently Sun and star party dates at Sleeping Bear are being firmed up for June through September. Check back here later.

Friday, July 5 – Monthly meeting and star party at NMC Rogers Observatory. Also available via Zoom.

9 pm – General Meeting – Member Dan Dall’Olmo will present his latest astrophotographs of the wonders of the night sky.

10 pm – Star party if clear.

August – No meeting. Annual picnic for members and guests at date to be determined.

Zoom Instructions:

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Meeting ID: 838 891 3229
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Check here often for other events that may pop up during the month.

T his article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach. Visit nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov to find local clubs, events, and more!

May’s Night Sky Notes: Stargazing for Beginners

By Kat Troche

Millions were able to experience the solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, inspiring folks to become amateur astronomers – hooray! Now that you’ve been ‘bitten by the bug’, and you’ve decided to join your local astronomy club, here are some stargazing tips!

The Bortle Scale

Before you can stargaze, you’ll want to find a site with dark skies. It’s helpful learn what your Bortle scale is. But what is the Bortle scale? The Bortle scale is a numeric scale from 1-9, with 1 being darkest and 9 being extremely light polluted; that rates your night sky’s darkness. For example, New York City would be a Bortle 9, whereas Cherry Springs State Park in Pennsylvania is a Bortle 2.

The Bortle scale helps amateur astronomers and stargazers to know how much light pollution is in the sky where they observe. Credit: International Dark Sky Association

Determining the Bortle scale of your night sky will help narrow down what you can expect to see after sunset. Of course, other factors such as weather (clouds namely) will impact seeing conditions, so plan ahead. Find Bortle ratings near you here: www.lightpollutionmap.info

No Equipment? No Problem!

There’s plenty to see with your eyes alone. Get familiar with the night sky by studying star maps in books, or with a planisphere. These are great to begin identifying the overall shapes of constellations, and what is visible during various months.

A full view of the northern hemisphere night sky in mid-May. Credit: Stellarium Web.

Interactive sky maps, such as Stellarium Web, work well with mobile and desktop browsers, and are also great for learning the constellations in your hemisphere. There are also several astronomy apps on the market today that work with the GPS of your smartphone to give an accurate map of the night sky.

Keep track of Moon phases. Both the interactive sky maps and apps will also let you know when planets and our Moon are out! This is especially important because if you are trying to look for bright deep sky objects, like the Andromeda Galaxy or the Perseus Double Cluster, you want to avoid the Moon as much as possible. Moonlight in a dark sky area will be as bright as a streetlight, so plan accordingly! And if the Moon is out, check out this Skywatcher’s Guide to the Moon: bit.ly/MoonHandout

Put On That Red Light

If you’re looking at your phone, you won’t be able to see as much. Our eyes take approximately 30 minutes to get dark sky adapted, and a bright light can ruin our night vision temporarily. The easiest way to stay dark sky adapted is to avoid any bright lights from car headlights or your smartphone. To avoid this, simply use red lights, such as a red flashlight or headlamp. The reason: white light constricts the pupils of your eyes, making it hard to see in the dark, whereas red light allows your pupils to stay dilated for longer. Most smartphones come with adaptability shortcuts that allow you to make your screen red, but if you don’t have that feature, use red cellophane on your screen and flashlight.

Up next: why binoculars can sometimes be the best starter telescope, with Night Sky Network’s upcoming mid-month article through NASA's website!


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 colorful! It’s dynamic!
    It’s fun!

  • It’s rich with
    Technology, Engineering, and
    Math (STEM) content!

  • It’s informal.

  • 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.

Also check out these two sites for kids: NASA's Climate Kids and NOAA's SciJinks

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 Ephemeris programs on Interlochen Public Radio. Wednesday’s program looks at where the bright planets are along with finder charts.

Northwestern Michigan College's Joseph H. Rogers Observatory

If you'd like to donate

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 a great 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 two solar telescopes to view the Sun's prominences and chromosphere.

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.

Thank You!

Updated: 05/24/24 12:27:03 PM