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 January 7, 2022

8 pm EST (UT -5 hours): Virtual monthly meeting via Zoom

Program: Telescope clinic

Instructions and a link will be provided in this space on that day by 6 pm.

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

Friday February 4, 2022

8 pm EST (UT -5 hours): Possible? in person meeting (Masks required)

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

The James Webb Space Telescope: Ready for Launch!

By David Prosper

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope is ready for lift-off! As of this writing (November 15), the much-anticipated next-generation space telescope is being carefully prepared for launch on December 18, 2021, and will begin its mission to investigate some of the deepest mysteries of our universe.

The development of the Webb began earlier than you might expect – the concept that would develop into Webb was proposed even before the launch of the Hubble in the late 1980s! Since then, its design underwent many refinements, and the telescope experienced a series of delays during construction and testing. While frustrating, the team needs to ensure that this extremely complex and advanced scientific instrument is successfully launched and deployed. The Webb team can’t take any chances; unlike the Hubble, orbiting at an astronaut-serviceable 340 miles (347 km) above Earth, the Webb will orbit about one million miles away (or 1.6 million km), at Lagrange Point 2. Lagrange Points are special positions where the gravitational influence between two different bodies, like the Sun and Earth, “balance out,” allowing objects like space telescopes to be placed into stable long-term orbits, requiring only minor adjustments - saving Webb a good deal of fuel.

Since this position is also several times further than the Moon, Webb’s sunshield will safely cover the Moon, Earth, and Sun and block any potential interference from their own infrared radiation. Even the seemingly small amount of heat from the surfaces of the Earth and Moon would interfere with Webb’s extraordinarily sensitive infrared observations of our universe if left unblocked. More detailed information about Webb’s orbit can be found at bit.ly/webborbitinfo, and a video showing its movement at bit.ly/webborbitvideo.

Once in its final position, its sunshield and mirror fully deployed and instruments checked out, Webb will begin observing! Webb’s 21-foot segmented mirror will be trained on targets as fine and varied as planets, moons, and distant objects in our outer Solar System, active centers of galaxies, and some of the most distant stars and galaxies in our universe: objects that may be some of the first luminous objects formed after the Big Bang! Webb will join with other observatories to study black holes - including the one lurking in the center of our galaxy, and will study solar systems around other stars, including planetary atmospheres, to investigate their potential for hosting life.

Wondering how Webb’s infrared observations can reveal what visible light cannot? The “Universe in a Different Light” Night Sky Network activity can help - find it at bit.ly/different-light-nsn. Find the latest news from NASA and Webb team as it begins its mission by following #UnfoldTheUniverse on social media, and on the web at nasa.gov/webb.

Webb will observe a wide band of the infrared spectrum, including parts observed by the Hubble - which also observes in a bit of ultraviolet light as well as visible - and the recently retired Spitzer Space Telescope. Webb will even observe parts of the infrared spectrum not seen by either of these missions! Credits: NASA and J. Olmstead (STScI)

Webb will follow up on many of Hubble’s observations and continue its mission to study the most distant galaxies and stars it can - and as you can see in this comparison, its mirror and orbit are both huge in comparison, in order to continue these studies in an even deeper fashion! Credits: NASA, J. Olmsted (STScI)


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: 12/04/21 12:21:39 AM