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

Friday, January 6, 2023

8 pm EST (UT - 5 hours): Regular Meeting - In-person at Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph H. Rogers Observatory, AND via Zoom. Masks are recommended if attending in person.

Program: Annual Telescope Clinic!

Get a telescope for Christmas? Want to know how to use it? Bring it in, and our experts will show you all about it. The same goes for neglected telescopes, that have been gathering dust. If you can’t bring it in, take a picture of it or give us the make and model number.

9 pm EST (UT - 5 hours): In-person/Virtual Star Party if it’s clear.

Friday, February 3, 2023

8 pm EST (UT - 5 hours): Regular Meeting - In-person at Northwestern Michigan College’s Joseph H. Rogers Observatory, AND via Zoom. Masks are recommended if attending in person.

Program topic to be announced.

9 pm EST (UT - 5 hours): In-person/Virtual Star Party if it’s clear.

Zoom instructions and a link will be provided here prior to the meetings.

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

Binoculars: A Great First Telescope

David Prosper

Do you want to peer deeper into the night sky? Are you feeling the urge to buy a telescope? There are so many options for budding astronomers that choosing one can be overwhelming. A first telescope should be easy to use and provide good quality views while being affordable. As it turns out, those requirements make the first telescope of choice for many stargazers something unexpected: a good pair of binoculars!

Binoculars are an excellent first instrument because they are generally easy to use and more versatile than most telescopes. Binoculars can be used for activities like stargazing and birdwatching, and work great in the field at a star party, along the hiking trail, and anywhere else where you can see the sky. Binoculars also travel well, since they easily fit into carry-on luggage – a difficult feat for most telescopes! A good pair of binoculars, ranging in specifications from 7x35 to 10x50, will give you great views of the Moon, large open star clusters like the Pleiades (M45), and, from dark skies, larger bright galaxies like the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and large nebulae like the Orion Nebula (M42). While you likely won’t be able to see Saturn’s rings, as you practice your observing skills you may be able to spot Jupiter's moons, along with some globular clusters and fainter nebulae from dark sites, too.

What do the numbers on those binocular specs actually mean? The first number is the magnification, while the second number is the size in millimeters (mm) of the lenses. So, a 7x35 pair of binoculars means that they will magnify 7 times using lenses 35 mm in diameter. It can be tempting to get the biggest binoculars you can find, but try not to get anything much more powerful than a 10x50 pair at first. Larger binoculars with more power often have narrower fields of vision and are heavier; while technically more powerful, they are also more difficult to hold steadily in your hands and "jiggle" quite a bit unless you buy much more expensive binoculars with image stabilization, or mount them to a tripod.

Would it surprise you that amazing views of some astronomical objects can be found not just from giant telescopes, but also from seemingly humble binoculars? Binoculars are able to show a much larger field of view of the sky compared to most telescopes. For example, most telescopes are unable to keep the entirety of the Pleiades or Andromeda Galaxy entirely inside the view of most eyepieces. Binoculars are also a great investment for more advanced observing, as later on they are useful for hunting down objects to then observe in more detail with a telescope.

If you are able to do so, real-world advice and experience is still the best for something you will be spending a lot of time with! Going to an in-person star party hosted by a local club is a great way to get familiar with telescopes and binoculars of all kinds – just ask permission before taking a closer look! You can find clubs and star parties near you on the Night Sky Network's Clubs & Events page at bit.ly/nsnclubsandevents, and inspire your binocular stargazing sessions with NASA’s latest discoveries at nasa.gov.

The two most popular types of binocular designs are shown here: roof-prism binoculars (left) and porro-prism binoculars (right). Roof prisms tend to be more compact, lighter, and a bit more portable, while porro-prisms tend to be heavier but often offer wider views and greater magnification. What should you choose? Many birders and frequent fliers often choose roof-prism models for their portability. Many observers who prefer to observe fainter deep-sky objects or who use a tripod with their observing choose larger porro-prism designs. There is no right answer, so if you can, try out both designs and see which works better for you.

A pair of good binoculars can show craters on the Moon around 6 miles (10 km) across and larger. How large is that? It would take you about two hours to hike across a similar-sized crater on Earth. The “Can You See the Flag On the Moon?” handout showcases the levels of detail that different instruments can typically observe on the Moon, available at bit.ly/flagmoon. Moon image courtesy Jay Tanner


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: 12/03/22 10:41:43 PM