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 July 2, 2021 GTAS Star Party via Zoom

10 pm: Virtual Star Party via Zoom.

Instructions and a link to join will be posted in this space by noon on July 2nd.

This article is distributed by NASA Night Sky Network

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

Astrophotography With Your Smartphone

David Prosper

Have you ever wanted to take night time photos like you’ve seen online, with the Milky Way stretched across the sky, a blood-red Moon during a total eclipse, or a colorful nebula? Many astrophotos take hours of time, expensive equipment, and travel, which can intimidate beginners to astrophotography. However, anyone with a camera can take astrophotos; even if you have a just smartphone, you can do astrophotography. Seriously!

Don’t expect Hubble-level images starting out! However, you can take surprisingly impressive shots by practicing several basic techniques: steadiness, locked focus, long exposure, and processing. First, steady your smartphone to keep your subjects sharp. This is especially important in low light conditions. A small tripod is ideal, but an improvised stand, like a rock or block of wood, works in a pinch. Most camera apps offer timer options to delay taking a photo by a few seconds, which reduces the vibration of your fingers when taking a shot. Next, lock your focus. Smartphones use autofocus, which is not ideal for low-light photos, especially if the camera readjusts focus mid-session. Tap the phone’s screen to focus on a distant bright star or streetlight, then check for options to fine-tune and lock it. Adjusting your camera’s exposure time is also essential. The longer your camera is open, the more light it gathers - essential for low-light astrophotography. Start by setting your exposure time to a few seconds. With those options set, take a test photo of your target! If your phone’s camera app doesn’t offer these options, you can download apps that do. While some phones offer an “astrophotography” setting, this is still rare as of 2021. Finally, process your photos using an app on your phone or computer to bring out additional detail! Post-processing is the secret of all astrophotography.

You now have your own first astrophotos! Wondering what you can do next? Practice: take lots of photos using different settings, especially before deciding on any equipment upgrades. Luckily, there are many amazing resources for budding astrophotographers. NASA has a free eBook with extensive tips for smartphone astrophotography at bit.ly/smartastrophoto, and you can also join the Smartphone Astrophotography project at bit.ly/smartphoneastroproject. Members of astronomy clubs often offer tips or even lessons on astrophotography; you can find a club near you by searching the “Clubs and Events” map on the Night Sky Network’s website at nightsky.jpl.nasa.gov. May you have clear skies!

A small tripod for a smartphone. They are relatively inexpensive – the author found this at a local dollar store!

The Moon is large and bright, making it a great target for beginners. The author took both of these photos using an iPhone 6s. The crescent moon at sunset (top) was taken with a phone propped on the roof rack of a car; the closeup shot of lunar craters (bottom) was taken through the eyepiece of a friend’s Celestron C8 telescope.


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: 06/07/21 02:11:39 AM