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.

Upcoming Meetings and Outreach Events

Note that outdoor events are held weather permitting

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Canceled due to weather!

8 pm: Star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. Location: The Dune Climb.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

2 - 4 pm: Safe observation of the Sun at the Dennos Museum

1410 College Dr, Traverse City, MI

This is the beginning of what looks like the start of an active solar sunspot cycle. Special solar hydrogen alpha telescopes will be available to view the solar chromosphere and prominences that the Sun may exhibit that day.

8 pm EDT (UT - 4 hours): International Observe the Moon Night

In-person at Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph H. Rogers Observatory, AND via Zoom.

Come back here prior to the meeting for instructions for and a link to the meeting via Zoom

Also, one of our members said that he will bring a telescope to the north side of the 200 block of Front Street, west of the State Theater to observe the Moon that evening.

Friday, October 7, 2022

8 pm EDT (UT - 4 hours): In-person at Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph H. Rogers Observatory, AND via Zoom. Masks are recommended if attending in person.

With the Sun becoming more active, Mary Gribbin will talk about the Sun

Come back here prior to the meeting for instructions for and a link to the meeting via Zoom

9 pm EDT (UT - 4 hours): In-person/Virtual Star Party if it’s 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

The Summer Triangle’s Hidden Treasures

David Prosper

September skies bring the lovely Summer Triangle asterism into prime position after nightfall for observers in the Northern Hemisphere. Its position high in the sky may make it difficult for some to observe its member stars comfortably, since looking straight up while standing can be hard on one’s neck! While that isn’t much of a problem for those that just want to quickly spot its brightest stars and member constellations, this difficulty can prevent folks from seeing some of the lesser known and dimmer star patterns scattered around its informal borders. The solution? Lie down on the ground with a comfortable blanket or mat, or grab a lawn or gravity chair and sit luxuriously while facing up. You’ll quickly spot the major constellations about the Summer Triangle’s three corner stars: Lyra with bright star Vega, Cygnus with brilliant star Deneb, and Aquila with its blazing star, Altair. As you get comfortable and your eyes adjust, you’ll soon find yourself able to spot a few constellations hidden in plain sight in the region around the Summer Triangle: Vulpecula the Fox, Sagitta the Arrow, and Delphinus the Dolphin! You could call these the Summer Triangle’s “hidden treasures” – and they are hidden in plain sight for those that know where to look!

Vulpecula the Fox is located near the middle of the Summer Triangle, and is relatively small, like its namesake. Despite its size, it features the largest planetary nebula in our skies: M27, aka the Dumbbell Nebula! It’s visible in binoculars as a fuzzy “star” and when seen through telescopes, its distinctive shape can be observed more readily - especially with larger telescopes. Planetary nebulae, named such because their round fuzzy appearances were initially thought to resemble the disc of a planet by early telescopic observers, form when stars similar to our Sun begin to die. The star will expand into a massive red giant, and its gasses drift off into space, forming a nebula. Eventually the star collapses into a white dwarf – as seen with M27 - and eventually the colorful shell of gasses will dissipate throughout the galaxy, leaving behind a solitary, tiny, dense, white dwarf star. You are getting a peek into our Sun’s far-distant future when you observe this object!

Sagitta the Arrow is even smaller than Vulpecula – it’s the third smallest constellation in the sky! Located between the stars of Vulpecula and Aquila the Eagle, Sagitta’s stars resemble its namesake arrow. It too contains an interesting deep-sky object: M71, an unusually small and young globular cluster whose lack of a strong central core has long confused and intrigued astronomers. It’s visible in binoculars, and a larger telescope will enable you to separate its stars a bit more easily than most globulars; you’ll certainly see why it was thought to be an open cluster!

Delicate Delphinus the Dolphin appears to dive in and out of the Milky Way near Aquilla and Sagitta! Many stargazers identify Delphinus as a herald of the fainter water constellations, rising in the east after sunset as fall approaches. The starry dolphin appears to leap out of the great celestial ocean, announcing the arrival of more wonderful sights later in the evening.

Want to hunt for more treasures? You’ll need a treasure map, and the Night Sky Network’s “Trip Around the Triangle” handout is the perfect guide for your quest! Download one before your observing session at bit.ly/TriangleTrip. And of course, while you wait for the Sun to set - or skies to clear - you can always find out more about the objects and science hidden inside these treasures by checking out NASA’s latest at nasa.gov.

Search around the Summer Triangle to spot some of its hidden treasures! To improve readability, the lines for the constellations of Aquila, Lyra, and Cygnus have been removed, but you can find a map which includes them in our previous article, Spot the Stars of the Summer Triangle, from August 2019. These aren’t the only wonderful celestial sights found around its borders; since the Milky Way passes through this region, it’s littered with many incredible deep-sky objects for those using binoculars or a telescope to scan the heavens. Image created with assistance from Stellarium: stellarium.org

M71 as seen by Hubble. Your own views very likely won’t be as sharp or close as this. However, this photo does show the cluster’s lack of a bright, concentrated core, which led astronomers until fairly recently to classify this unusual cluster as an “open cluster” rather than as a “globular cluster.” Studies in the 1970s proved it to be a globular cluster after all – though an unusually young and small one! Credit ESA/Hubble and NASA. Source: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/messier-71


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 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: 09/24/22 03:22:48 PM