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, and beginning in 2016 at the Arcadia Dunes.

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

We also participate in the annual International Observe the Moon Night.

This year it was part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore virtual Star Party held September 25th.

Upcoming Meetings and Outreach Events

Note that outdoor events are held weather permitting

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) GTAS meetings and star parties at the NMC Observatory will be held virtually via Zoom until further notice.

Friday February 4, 2022

8 pm EST (UT -5 hours):

Starpardy Quiz (NMC astronomy students vs. GTAS members)

9 pm EST (UT -5 hours): Virtual Star Party if its clear

Check here often for other events that may pop up during the month.

These articles are distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach

Hunting the Hunter: Observing Orion

By David Prosper

If you are outside on a clear January night, it’s hard not to notice one distinctive star pattern above all: Orion! While we’ve covered Orion in earlier articles, we’ve never discussed observing the constellation as a whole. Perhaps you’ve received a new telescope, camera, or binoculars, and are eager to test it out. Orion, being large, prominent, and full of interesting, bright objects, is a perfect constellation to test out your new equipment and practice your observing skills - for beginners and seasoned stargazers alike.

In Greek mythology, Orion is a strong hunter, with numerous legends about his adventures. Being such a striking group of stars, cultures from all around the world have many myths about this star pattern. There are so many that we can’t list them all here, but you can find a wonderful interactive chart detailing many cultures’ legends on the Figures in the Sky website at figuresinthesky.visualcinnamon.com .

What sights can you see in Orion? Look above the variable orange-red supergiant ”shoulder star” Betelgeuse to find the stars making up Orion’s “club,” then move across from Betelgeuse towards the bright star Bellatrix (Orion’s other “shoulder”) and the stars of his bow and arrow - both essential tools for the Hunter. Many interesting sights lie near Orion’s “belt” and “sword.” Orion’s belt is made up of three bright giant stars forming an evenly spaced line: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. Move from the belt stars towards the stars Rigel and Saiph (Orion’s “feet” or “knees”) to arrive at Orion’s distinctive Sword, parts of which may appear fuzzy to your unaided eyes. Binoculars reveal that fuzz to be the famed Orion Nebula (M42), perched right next to the star Hatysa! Diving in deeper with a telescope will show star clusters and more cloud detail around the Nebula, and additional magnification brings out further detail inside the nebula itself, including the “baby stars” of the Trapezium and the next-door neighbor nebula M43. Want to dive deeper? Dark skies and a telescope will help to bring out the reflection nebula M78, the Flame Nebula (NGC 2024), along with many star clusters and traces of dark nebula throughout the constellation. Very careful observers under dark clear skies may be able to spot the dark nebula known as the Horsehead, tracing an equine outline below both the Belt and the Flame Nebula. Warning: the Horsehead can be a difficult challenge for many stargazers, but very rewarding.

This is just a taste of the riches found within Orion’s star fields and dust clouds; you can study Orion for a lifetime and never feel done with your observations. To be fair, that applies for the sky as a whole, but Orion has a special place for many. New telescopes often focus on one of Orion’s treasures for their first test images. You can discover more of NASA’s research into Orion’s stars - as well as the rest of the cosmos - online at nasa.gov.

Northern Hemisphere observers can find Orion during January evenings in the east/southeast skies. Can you spot the Orion nebula with your naked eye, in Orion’s sword? How does it look via binoculars or a telescope? What other details can you discern? Please note that some deep sky objects aren’t listed here for clarity’s sake. For example, M43, a nebula located directly above M42 and separated by a dark dust lane, is not shown. Orion’s Belt and Sword are crowded, since they star-forming regions! You can read more in our November 2019 article Orion: Window Into a Stellar Nursery, at bit.ly/orionlight . Image created with assistance from Stellarium.

The inset image is the “first light” photo from the Zwicky Transient Facility, a large survey telescope designed to detect changes in the entire night sky by detecting “transient objects” like comets, supernovae, gamma ray bursts, and asteroids. For many astronomers, amateur and pro alike, Orion is often the “first light” constellation of choice for new equipment! Image Credit: Caltech.


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 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.

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 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.

Thank You!

Updated: 01/07/22 10:19:24 PM