Check out the link above for our 2019 Outreach Schedule. Always a work in progress, check often.
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.
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.
Upcoming Meetings and Outreach Events
Note that outdoor events are weather permitting
February 21st, Thursday
Greenspire School’s STEM Night: 6 – 8 p.m. in the Grand Traverse Commons, 1026 Red Drive, Traverse City, MI 49684
March 1st, Friday
General Meeting: 8 p.m. - NMC Rogers Observatory.
Program: To be announced
Party: 9 p.m. - NMC Rogers Observatory.
This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network
The Night Sky Network program supports astronomy clubs across the USA dedicated to astronomy outreach
NASA Night Sky Notes:
Hexagon at Night, Quartet in the Morning
The stars that make up the Winter Hexagon asterism are some of the brightest in the night sky and February evenings are a great time to enjoy their sparkly splendor. The Winter Hexagon is so large in size that the six stars that make up its points are also the brightest members of six different constellations, making the Hexagon a great starting point for learning the winter sky. Find the Hexagon by looking southeast after sunset and finding the bright red star that forms the “left shoulder” of the constellation Orion: Betelgeuse. You can think of Betelgeuse as the center of a large irregular clock, with the Winter Hexagon stars as the clock’s hour numbers. Move diagonally across Orion to spot its “right foot,” the bright star Rigel. Now move clockwise from Rigel to the brightest star in the night sky: Sirius in Canis Major. Continue ticking along clockwise to Procyon in Canis Minor and then towards Pollux, the brighter of the Gemini twins. Keep moving around the circuit to find Capella in Auriga, and finish at orange Aldebaran, the “eye” of the V-shaped face of Taurus the Bull.
Two naked-eye planets are visible in the evening sky this month. As red Mars moves across Pisces, NASA’s InSight Mission is readying its suite of geological instruments designed to study the Martian interior. InSight and the rest of humanity’s robotic Martian emissaries will soon be joined by the Mars 2020 rover. The SUV-sized robot is slated to launch next year on a mission to study the possibility of past life on the red planet. A conjunction between Mars and Uranus on February 13 will be a treat for telescopic observers. Mars will pass a little over a degree away from Uranus and larger magnifications will allow comparisons between the small red disc of dusty Mars with the smaller and much more distant blue-green disc of ice giant Uranus.
Speedy Mercury has a good showing this month and makes its highest appearance in the evening on February 27; spot it above the western horizon at sunset. An unobstructed western view and binoculars will greatly help in catching Mercury against the glow of evening twilight.
The morning planets put on quite a show in February. Look for the bright planets Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn above the eastern horizon all month, at times forming a neat lineup. A crescent Moon makes a stunning addition on the mornings of February 1-2, and again on the 28th. Watch over the course of the month as Venus travels from its position above Jupiter to below dimmer Saturn. Venus and Saturn will be in close conjunction on the 18th; see if you can fit both planets into the same telescopic field of view. A telescope reveals the brilliant thin crescent phase of Venus waxing into a wide gibbous phase as the planet passes around the other side of our Sun. The Night Sky Network has a simple activity that helps explain the nature of both Venus and Mercury’s phases at bit.ly/venusphases
You can catch up on all of NASA’s current and future missions at nasa.gov.
The stars of the Winter Hexagon. Image created with help from Stellarium
NASA Space Place poster
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 rich with science, technology, engineering, and math 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.
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 daily Ephemeris programs on Interlochen Public Radio. Wednesday’s program looks at where the bright planets are along with finder charts.
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 be a huge 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 a solar telescope to view the Sun's prominences, and are looking to obtain a second solar telescope. 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.