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 August 6, 2021 GTAS Star Party via Zoom

10 pm featuring the summer Milky Way. Later on Saturn will make its first evening appearance of the year.

Instructions on how to join the event and a link will be provided in this space by noon EDT, Friday August 6th.

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



This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

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



Observe the Milky Way and Great Rift

David Prosper

Summer skies bring glorious views of our own Milky Way galaxy to observers blessed with dark skies. For many city dwellers, their first sight of the Milky Way comes during trips to rural areas - so if you are traveling away from city lights, do yourself a favor and look up!

To observe the Milky Way, you need clear, dark skies, and enough time to adapt your eyes to the dark. Photos of the Milky Way are breathtaking, but they usually show far more detail and color than the human eye can see – that’s the beauty and quietly deceptive nature of long exposure photography. For Northern Hemisphere observers, the most prominent portion of the Milky Way rises in the southeast as marked by the constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius. Take note that, even in dark skies, the Milky Way isn’t easily visible until it rises a bit above the horizon and the thick, turbulent air which obscures the view. The Milky Way is huge, but is also rather faint, and our eyes need time to truly adjust to the dark and see it in any detail. Try not to check your phone while you wait, as its light will reset your night vision. It’s best to attempt to view the Milky Way when the Moon is at a new or crescent phase; you don’t want the Moon’s brilliant light washing out any potential views, especially since a full Moon is up all night.

Keeping your eyes dark adapted is especially important if you want to not only see the haze of the Milky Way, but also the dark lane cutting into that haze, stretching from the Summer Triangle to Sagittarius. This dark detail is known as the Great Rift, and is seen more readily in very dark skies, especially dark, dry skies found in high desert regions. What exactly is the Great Rift? You are looking at massive clouds of galactic dust lying between Earth and the interior of the Milky Way. Other “dark nebulae” of cosmic clouds pepper the Milky Way, including the famed Coalsack, found in the Southern Hemisphere constellation of Crux. Many cultures celebrate these dark clouds in their traditional stories along with the constellations and Milky Way.  

Where exactly is our solar system within the Milky Way? Is there a way to get a sense of scale? The “Our Place in Our Galaxy” activity can help you do just that, with only birdseed, a coin, and your imagination: bit.ly/galaxyplace. You can also discover the amazing science NASA is doing to understand our galaxy – and our place in it - at nasa.gov.

The Great Rift is shown in more detail in this photo of a portion of the Milky Way along with the bright stars of the Summer Triangle. You can see why it is also called the “Dark Rift.” Credit: NASA / A.Fujii

If the Milky Way was shrunk down to the size of North America, our entire Solar System would be about the size of a quarter. At that scale, the North Star, Polaris - which is about 433 light years distant from us - would be 11 miles away! Find more ways to visualize these immense sizes with the Our Place in Our Galaxy activity: bit.ly/galaxyplace

Links

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: 07/06/21 01:31:37 PM