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 --

Note: Change of meeting times for the late spring and summer months: Meetings will start at 9 pm, star parties will start around 10 pm, due to the late sunset, twilight times. As usual there will be no meeting in August due to our annual picnic for members only.

Monday August 22, 2022

9 pm EDT (UT – 4 hours): Star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. Location: The Dune Climb.

Telescopes will be set up in the parking area closest to the dune. The park rangers will be with us from 9 to 11 pm. Society members may stay later depending on weather and the public’s participation.

There will be no Zoom coverage.

Featuring Jupiter, Saturn and the Summer Milky Way!

Celestial events that evening

8:39 pm – Sunset

9:10 pm – Saturn should become visible by this time low in the east-southeast (It will have risen at 8:17 pm)

9:49 pm – Nautical twilight ends, the brighter deep sky objects* become visible in telescopes. The Milky Way should soon be visible, running from the northeast to the south, passing east of the zenith.

10:00 pm – Jupiter rises nearly due east. Jupiter’s appearance will improve as it rises higher in the next hour or so caused by the Earth’s atmosphere.

10:29 – Astronomical twilight ends, it is officially dark!.

Friday, September 2, 2022

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

Don Flegel will present a program on nearby celestial neighbors.

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

Instructions and a link will be provided in this space prior to the meeting and star party.

Saturday, September 10, 2022

8 pm EDT (UT – 4 hours): Star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. Location: The Dune Climb.

Telescopes will be set up in the parking area closest to the dune. The park rangers will be with us from 8 to 10 pm. Society members may stay later depending on weather and the public’s participation.

Harvest Moon Night!

Jupiter and Saturn will also be available to view

Saturday, September 24, 2022

8 pm EDT (UT – 4 hours): Star party at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake Shore. Location: The Dune Climb.

Telescopes will be set up in the parking area closest to the dune. The park rangers will be with us from 8 to 10 pm. Society members may stay later depending on weather and the public’s participation.

Featuring Jupiter, Saturn and the Summer Milky Way!

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

Artemis 1: A Trip Around the Moon – and Back!

David Prosper

We are returning to the Moon - and beyond! Later this summer, NASA’s Artemis 1 mission will launch the first uncrewed flight test of both the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft on a multi-week mission. Orion will journey thousands of miles beyond the Moon, briefly entering a retrograde lunar orbit before heading back to a splashdown on Earth.

The massive rocket will launch from Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The location’s technical capabilities, along with its storied history, mark it as a perfect spot to launch our return to the Moon. The complex’s first mission was Apollo 10 in 1968, which appropriately also served as a test for a heavy-lift launch vehicle (the Saturn V rocket) and lunar spacecraft: the Apollo Command and Service Modules joined with the Lunar Module. The Apollo 10 mission profile included testing the Lunar Module while in orbit around the Moon before returning to the Earth. In its “Block-1” configuration, Artemis 1’s SLS rocket will take off with 8.8 million pounds of maximum thrust, even greater than the 7.6 millions pounds of thrust generated by the legendary Saturn V, making it the most powerful rocket in the world!

Artemis 1 will serve not only as a test of the SLS and the Orion hardware, but also as a test of the integration of ground systems and support personnel that will ensure the success of this and future Artemis missions. While uncrewed, Artemis-1 will still have passengers of a sort: two human torso models designed to test radiation levels during the mission, and “Commander Moonikin Campos,” a mannequin named by the public. The specialized mannequin will also monitor radiation levels, along with vibration and acceleration data from inside its mission uniform: the Orion Crew Survival Suit, the spacesuit that future Artemis astronauts will wear. The “Moonikin” is named after Arturo Campos, a NASA electrical engineer who played an essential role in bringing Apollo 13’s crew back to Earth after a near-fatal disaster in space.

The mission also contains other valuable cargo for its journey around the Moon and back, including CubeSats, several space science badges from the Girl Scouts, and microchips etched with 30,000 names of workers who made the Artemis-1 mission possible. A total of 10 CubeSats will be deployed from the Orion Stage Adapter, the ring that connects the Orion spacecraft to the SLS, at several segments along the mission’s path to the Moon. The power of SLS allows engineers to attach many secondary “ride-along” mission hardware like these CubeSats, whose various missions will study plasma propulsion, radiation effects on microorganisms, solar sails, Earth’s radiation environment, space weather, and of course, missions to study the Moon and even the Orion spacecraft and its Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS)!

If you want to explore more of the science and stories behind both our Moon and our history of lunar exploration, the Night Sky Network’s Apollo 11 at 50 Toolkit covers a ton of regolith: bit.ly/nsnmoon! NASA also works with people and organizations around the world coordinating International Observe the Moon Night, with 2022’s edition scheduled for Saturday, October 1: moon.nasa.gov/observe. Of course, you can follow the latest news and updates on Artemis 1 and our return to the Moon at nasa.gov/artemis-1

Follow along as Artemis 1 journeys to the Moon and back! A larger version of this infographic is available from NASA at: nasa.gov/image-feature/artemis-i-map

Full Moon over Artemis-1 on July 14, 2022, as the integrated Space Launch System and Orion spacecraft await testing. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston Source: https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/a-full-moon-over-artemis/

Find Hercules and His Mighty Globular Clusters

David Prosper

Hercules is one of the standout heroes of Greek mythology, but his namesake constellation can be surprisingly hard to find - despite being one of the largest star patterns in our night skies! Once you find the stars of Hercules, look deeper; barely hidden in the space around his massive limbs and “Keystone” asterism are two beautiful globular star clusters: M13 and M92!

Since the constellation itself is relatively dim but bordered by brighter constellations, you can find the stars of Hercules by looking between the bright stars Vega and Arcturus. They are fairly easy to identify, and we have tips on how to do so in previous articles. Vega is the brightest star in the constellation Lyra and one of the three stars that make up the Summer Triangle (June 2020: Summer Triangle Corner: Vega). Arcturus is the brightest star in the constellation Boötes, and can be found by “arcing to Arcturus” from the handle of the Big Dipper (May 2021: Virgo’s Galactic Harvest). You may be able to Hercules’s “Keystone” asterism first; this distinct pattern of four stars is traditionally shown as the torso of the great hero, though some illustrators prefer marking the Keystone as the head of Hercules. What pattern do you see in the stars of Hercules?

Globular star clusters appear “fluffy,” round, and dense with stars, similar to a dandelion gone to seed, in contrast to the more scattered and decentralized patterns of open clusters. Open clusters are generally made up of young stars that are gradually spreading apart and found inside our Milky Way galaxy, while globular clusters are ancient clusters of stars that are compact, billions of years old, bound to each other and orbit around our galaxy. Due to their considerable distance, globular clusters are usually only visible in telescopes, but one notable exception is M13, also known as the Great Cluster or Hercules Cluster. During very clear dark nights, skilled observers may be able to spot M13 without optical aid along the border of the Keystone, in between the stars Zeta and Eta Herculis - and a bit closer to Eta. Readily visible as a fuzzy “star” in binoculars, in telescopes M13 explodes with stars and can fill up an eyepiece view with its sparkling stars, measuring a little over half the diameter of a full Moon in appearance! When viewed through small telescopes, globular clusters can appear orblike and without discernible member stars, similar in appearance to the fuzzy comae of distant comets. That’s why comet hunters Edmund Halley and Charles Messier discovered and then catalogued M13, in 1714 and 1764 respectively, marking this faint fuzzy as a “not-comet” so as to avoid future confusion.

While enjoying your view of M13, don’t forget to also look for M92! This is another bright and bold globular cluster, and if M13 wasn’t so spectacular, M92 would be known as the top celestial sight in Hercules. M92 also lies on the edge of naked-eye visibility, but again, binoculars and especially a telescope are needed to really make it “pop.” Even though M92 and M13 appear fairly close together in the sky, in actuality they are rather far apart: M13’s distance is estimated at about 25,000 light years from Earth, and M92’s at approximately 27,000 light years distant. Since M13 and M92 appear so close together in our skies and relatively easy to spot, switching between these two clusters in your scope makes for excellent star-hopping practice. Can you observe any differences between these two ancient clusters of stars?

Globular clusters are closely studied by astronomers for hints about the formation of stars and galaxies. The clusters of Hercules have even been studied by NASA’s space telescopes to reveal the secrets of their dense cores of hundreds of thousands of stars. Find their latest observations of globular clusters - and the universe - at nasa.gov.

Composite image of the dense starry core of M92 imaged in multiple wavelengths. While your own views of these globular clusters won’t be nearly as crisp and detailed, you might be able to count some of its member stars. How far into their dense cores can you count individual stars? Credits: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgment: Gilles Chapdelaine. Source: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2017/messier-92

Look up after sunset during summer months to find Hercules! Scan between Vega and Arcturus, near the distinct pattern of Corona Borealis. Once you find its stars, use binoculars or a telescope to hunt down the globular clusters M13 and M92. If you enjoy your views of these globular clusters, you’re in luck - look for another great globular, M3, in the nearby constellation of Boötes. Image created with assistance from Stellarium: stellarium.org


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: 08/06/22 01:52:58 PM