The above photo was taken in our classroom during a Public Stargaze with a guest lecturer, Les Johnson, of NASA/MSFC.

Enjoy TAO in another Language

(we have a big planet):

TAO Public Stargaze

Major rains are expected today and we often find trees falling onto the road during the first storms following a dry period. In the interest of safety, TAO will not be open Saturday, October 3, 2015.

Gates open at 7:30 PM.

Where are we? See our map.

Tamke-Allan Observatory invites people interested in astronomy to meet at 1930h on the first and 3rd Saturdays for celestial observing between 7:30 and 11 PM. Or sometimes later, depending on the sky.

Telescope making/mirror grinding is an activity of study for astronomy labs, plus a hands-on activity for everyone (students, amateur astronomers and visitors).

Roy Morrow used James Nolan's camera to capture a beautiful image of the Dumbell Nebula (a planetary nebula from an exploded star). I took a photo of it with my cell phone and it looked like this:

The scope camera had a better image, but I took this one home. One can see the remaining white dwarf star at the center of the Dumbell.

May 6 was a busy evening, as we entertained the students and parents at Linden School in Oak Ridge, at their new amphitheater. Saturn and Luna were excellent targets. What a nice group of people! We had 6 telescopes and several hundred observers.

In truth, there were 2 Saturns, but the first one had wheels and rolled away. The second had beautiful rings and a prominent moon, and delighted the crowd.

Recent (Nov. 2013) astrophotography by Shawn Harrison was displayed in real time on the TAO Mobile Solar Observatory rear-screen projector:

Along with decoding the "Enigma" poem by Galileo, we found this in the sky (telescope work at TAO on April 2 showing M1 through the 12" Meade by UJ and DR):

That's the photo of the Crab Nebula 6000 LY distant, at the start of history according to the young earth guys. That light has been traveling for 6000 years. How about the more distant objects? The light has been traveling a lot longer. The actual image is better since you're seeing a CCD image rendered on a monitor, covered by a filter, captured by a handheld iphone camera, resized, transmitted rendered in your monitor, etc.

We discussed whether Galileo could have seen the Crab Nebula in beautiful skies Italian without light pollution, about the year 1535. He saw and wrote extensively about Saturn. The answer is perhaps yes.

We looked at some astrophotos, including those by local people (e.g., as in the photo above, taken just before the hard drive filled up). Skies provided great visibility, but seeing near the horizon was bad because of the turbulence.

Bring telescopes, red flashlights, astronomy gadgets and cookies. The evening will offer opportunities for viewing and Luna (with craters), and Jupiter with 3-4 nearby moons.

Expect Stargazes on the first and third Saturday evenings of each month. Amateur astronomers bring telescopes and binoculars and offer views of astronomical objects, while visitors are invited to bring their telescopes, questions and cookies to share with the astronomers.


Here's a gazing ball image from 5/19. Note the heavy light pollution along the horizon and illumination of the classroom by the light trespass (click for full size image). This is a 11 PM photo and the light pollution prevents viewing around the horizon.

Tamke-Allan Observatory of Rockwood is a treasure of Roane County. It hosts free Public Stargazes on the first and third Saturday evenings of each month. These stargazes have opened the night skies, free of charge to everyone, for the past 10 years. Amateur astronomers bring telescopes and binoculars and offer views of astronomical objects, while visitors are invited to bring their questions and cameras and meet the astronomers. Kids are especially welcome.

Too much light causes glare – a hazard on our highways. Directing light downward where it is needed conserves energy and gives us a safer, more secure community. It also keeps our observatory open for education and research. When was the last time that you could see our beautiful milky way? We are losing our Roane County Heritage in the glare of unshielded lights.

Star Party Etiquette

* Bring a red flashlight and avoid using any white light after dark.
* Get to know the lighting controls for your vehicle and ensure as little white light as possible shines from your vehicle. If you cannot control the lights, choose to park as far away from the telescopes as practical.
* Carefully enter the observing location. Speeding into a parking area full of telescopes and observers is a recipe for an accident.

TAO Academic Associates are Colleges, Universities and other educational institutions that have both faculty and students that share research and scientific goals. The emphasis is not just scientific -- this is a humanistic endeavor that encourages both cultural exchange and critical thinking.

Our Associate Groups:


ORION is a local science and engineering oriented group that supports astronomy public events, field trips and lectures on current related topics. Group activities are centered in Oak Ridge and at TAO. Orion members support the Tamke Allan Observatory family nights on the first and second Saturday of each month. Monthly meetings are held at the Oak Ridge Historic Grove Theater on third Wednesday evenings at 1900 h (7:00 PM).

Astronomers from the Oak Ridge Isochronous Observation Network (ORION) and the Smokey Mountain Astronomical Society (SMAS) groups participate in most TAO events. TAO serves as the center for astronomy classes, optical astronomy and radio astronomy observing as well as and public stargazes on the first and third Saturdays of each month.

To subscribe to ORION news items, send an email to


Joey models the Starman shirt from TAOAS (TAO Astronomical Society).


TAO Pleiades Cluster Status


Radio Astronomy is one focus of our TAO activities. Here is an image of a poster showing how we are using the Itty Bitty Telescope (IBT) as part of the SARA-NRAO Radio Navigator's Group (click for full size, and we are happy to share the poster).

Dark skies on a night in December revealed Aurora from TAO (note our weather station). Photo by Astronomy class student Robert Quinn.

The following sunset photo was taken on Astronomy Day, May 7, 2006.

Sometimes our POD actually glows. The source of the light is something that visitors are encouraged to discover.


Eye patches for Dark Adaptation
I used to wear an eye patch to dark adapt but later, decided to simply close an eye when needed. I was wrong.

Itt turns out that pirates were on the right track in wearing eye patches. I had thought that they should just have closed their eyes to dark-adapt to go below-decks but no -- blood transmits wavelengths (heavy curve) that bleach ocular rhodopsin (light curve)

Shiver me timbers and belay any discard-patch advisories. Wearing an eye patch for dark adaptation is a good idea.




What's up?

September and October nights hold lots of wonderful treats for amateur astronomers to see with binoculars and telescopes. See some of our top September stargazing suggestions below:

The Northern Milky Way - Early in the month, around 9 PM, the "Summer Triangle" of three bright stars (Vega, Deneb and Altair) is nearly overhead. In the northernmost portion of the Summer Triangle, you'll see the brightest portion of the northern Milky Way. Point a telescope there and you'll discover that the fuzzy outlines of the Milky Way will resolve into fields of glittering stars.

Planetary Nebulas in the Summer Triangle - Get a star chart and see how many of these you can find in September: the famous Ring Nebula (M57) in the constellation Lyra; the Dumbbell Nebula (M27) in Vulpecula; and the "Blinking Planetary," NGC 6826 in Cygnus. Not far outside the western boundary of the Summer Triangle is a small, but intensely colorful planetary nebula, NGC 6572. .

Neighbor Galaxy - In early September, lurking low in the northeast sky is another galaxy, separate from our Milky Way - the Great Andromeda Galaxy (M31). From a very dark, moonless sky, M31 is visible with the unaided eye as a slightly fuzzy spot. A pair of 7x50, 9x63 or larger binoculars will give you a much better view and telescopes will reveal some of the subtle dust lanes in the neighboring galaxy.

More Extra-Galactic Treats - If you haven't tracked down "The Whirlpool Galaxy," M51, just off the handle of the easily recognizable Big Dipper asterism, do it now while you still can! It will be too low for most to get a good view after September and you'll need to wait until late winter or next spring to catch a good view of this truly picturesque galaxy.

A Brilliant Open Star Cluster - Off the western end of the constellation Cassiopeia is the beautiful Open Star Cluster M52. You can find it with 50mm or larger binoculars from a dark sky site, but the view is definitely better in a telescope.

Don't Miss the Double Cluster - If you liked sparkling M52, you'll love the popular favorite "Double Cluster in Perseus." Lying between constellations Cassiopeia and Perseus is a bright, fuzzy spot in the Milky Way, and a binocular or telescope will reveal two, bright open star clusters close to one another. In early September the "Double Cluster" appears low in northeastern skies around 9 PM, but it becomes a real showpiece later in the evening as it climbs higher in the sky.

Supermoon Eclipse - Stargazers are in for a rare treat after sunset on September 27th, when a Total Lunar Eclipse will occur on the same night as a "supermoon" Full Moon. A "supermoon" occurs when the Moon makes its closest yearly approach to Earth. This year, the Moon's closest approach happens to coincide with a Total Lunar Eclipse that will be visible from most of North and South America, the Pacific, and Eastern Europe. What's more, this particular eclipse is also called a Blood Moon since it is the fourth and final eclipse in a "lunar tetrad"; a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row that began back in April of 2014. You won't want to miss this spectacular sight as the Full Moon becomes a reddish-orange color as it passes through Earth's shadow. The entire eclipse will last over 3 hours, from approximately 9:07pm EDT to 12:27am EDT, but the Moon will appear darkest during totality, which occurs from about 10:11pm EDT to 11:23pm EDT. This will be a great photo opportunity for all our fellow "luna"tics!

The Globular Star Clusters of September - Off the western side of the constellation Pegasus, three globular star clusters almost line up in a row from north to south. These sparkling clusters are, starting with the most northern globular, M15 in Pegasus; M2 in Aquarius and M30 in Capricorn. From a dark sky site you can easily find all of them in binoculars and telescopes.

Spectacular Saturn: Still well-positioned in September night skies, ringed Saturn is a wonderful summer planetary target for telescopes. Use an eyepiece that will yield at least 40x in your telescope to see Saturn's beautiful rings, then use a Barlow lens or higher-power eyepiece to go in for closer views. Saturn and its brightest moon, Titan, can be observed in any size telescope. Larger telescopes and clear, dark skies will help you see a thin gap between Saturn's largest rings, which is called the Cassini Division.

The Summer Milky Way shines as a band of light that stretches from the southern horizon to overhead. As the night progresses, the Milky Way will arch across the entire sky. From a dark sky location, scan the Milky Way with 50mm or larger binoculars or use a wide-angle telescope to explore some of the hundreds of open star clusters, emission nebulas and planetary nebulas that lurk among the star clouds.

Dying Stars and Glowing Gas: Look to the constellation Lyra with a telescope to catch one of the best Planetary Nebulas in the sky - M57, the famous "Ring Nebula"!

Find the Observatory!

(Click for Directions)


Here's a photo of our STEM teacher's group, learning "From Earth to the Stars with STEM" on Dec. 8:





All those little red markers above show clumps of recent Internet connections to TAO. You can use the mouse wheel to enlarge the map.

Save Roane Starry Skies is in its seventh year! Founded Nov. 4, 2007

Click to join Save Roane Starry Skies EMAIL group

or if you have a comment or questions

Enter it here, or email your query directly to


Solar Photos

Here are photos from Heather Fries showing the sunset, and some of our visitors.

This (below) is an earlier photo of (multiple science fair award winner) Katie Sloop, together with the visiting Dinkins family, learning radio astronomy at TAO.


We had a welcome to guests followed by a classroom presentation at 1930 h on our Siemans competition projectt in using computer models to steer particle beams. This work has several applications in astronomy and materials research. Our presenters were Oak Ridge High School students Yajit Jain, Carlos del-Castillo-Negrete, and Scotty Chung. These students are the 2010-11 Siemens Foundation Regional Finalists in the prestigious Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology. They are among 94 finalists selected from 2,033 student researchers from 36 states and are competing for Siemens awards that range from $1000 to $100,000. We had a hot grill and live music from the astro-country folk band outside.


Jan. 17 TAOrem launch

This was a success. Past and future students and amateur astronomers were invited. Launch of this remote sensing balloon was successful at 4 PM on 1/17/2015 from Tamke-Allan Observatory in East TN, USA, 35.8325 Lat, -84.618 Lon. Transmissions were 110baud ASCII, 8b, 2s, np on 433.97462 MHz upper sideband, with ID WA4ADG-1 as announced on and tracked on
and on Twitter @TAOrem.

Our 2 launches of 2014 used instrumented weather balloons (monitoring position, temp, ionizing radiation, solar insolation, etc.), and attained about 100,000 foot altitude before bursting as expected.. The Jan 17 launch was more experimental, using a 1/3 filled non-expanding bladder -- we had constant-volume altitude stabilization at 30,000 feet. Flight duration was long as expected -- about 5 hours.

Sunspots Today

Solar activity


Sunspots areassociated with

Coronal Mass Ejections

That Change the Planet

Geomag. Field


and its Aurora




Image of Saturn by Michael McCulloch

Friendly local astronomy groups:

TAOSON (TAO Solar Observation Network) Signal (issues)

TAO Astronomy Society


Join ORION discussion group

Smoky Mountain Ast. Soc.


Dark Skies

  1. Carpe Noctem -- Seize the Night and Stop Light Pollution

  2. Security Lights for East Tennessee

  3. When is National Dark-Sky Week

  4. Parkland News

Check the premier International Dark Skies site
and the new Dark Sky Institute site

Carpe Noctem! Let's keep our little TAO dark with stars in the sky. In the map, all red areas have lost their night sky while blue areas have dark skies. Please support our dark skies. We are darker than Knoxville, but WE DO HAVE A PROBLEM from light pollution.


Past TAO Events

READ April 18 Knox News-Sentinal article - Losing the Sky

Kingston Troup 101 on trail 2005

Music on the Mountain

John Dobson's Visit

Click for Astronomy Lab Photos

Click for other TAO Photos

Antenna searches
Retriever's nose in the wind
Ether's far secrets.

-- Haiku by Corporal Shaftoe,from Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

Radio Astronomy

Astrophotography at TAO


M15, M27 and M33 by Roy Morrow (above) and

Triffid Nebula by Tom Hering (below)



Perspectives on good astronomy occasionally appear on the Bad Astronomy Blog, at

The STEREO solar mission is discussed at the following sites:

TAO astronomy students visited UT and built a scintillation detector containing several plastic scintillators and 4 photomultipliers. The complete cosmic ray detection system is now in place and TAO is part of the TEnnessee Cosmic ray Observatory Project (TECOP).

In doing radio astronomy, TAO supports the Society of Amateur Radio Astronomers (SARA). SARA materials and ideas turned up at the TAOSON exhibits at the 2010 Rockwood Fall Festival in Rockwood, TN:


Blount County Zoning for

Light Conservation

Conguatulations to Blount County for protecting its skies, minimizing light trespess, and setting a standard for responsible lighting. They have passed the Blount County commercial/industrial zoning regarding outdoor lighting section Section 7.14 part D can be found here

The intention of this regulation is to preserve the Rural Character of Blount County, and requires that a site plan be filed for new developments. The full text (from the Oct. 25 meeting) is here

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Our 15m radio astronomy sytem responds to changes in D-layer density. If the greyline(grey area on the map) is above TAO then we get terrestrial transmitter interference in our Skypipe Jupiter/Solar monitor receiver. Signals which travel inside the grayline region often experience significant improvements in propagation because of the loss of ionization in the D-region as the Sun sets. However, because the higher F-regions of the ionosphere remain strongly ionized for longer periods of time, signals with higher frequencies are able to travel to greater distances with less attenuation when they are within the grayline. The current solar position is shown in the yellow area. Click on the image for more informaton.

TAO proudly supports the NASA Night Sky Network through our associated astronomy clubs in Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and Soddy Daisy

The Web Roane State Community College

Contacts: For optical /radio astronomy information, please contact Dr. David Fields at Roane State Community College at 865 498 9319.