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):
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 Knoxville Observers participate in these 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
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).
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).
Program for May 6:
Find the Observatory
April Celestial Sights
Mercury After Sunset - On April 1st,
Mercury will reach its greatest eastern elongation of just under 20
degrees from the Sun, which means the planet will reach its highest
point above Earth's horizon. Catch a glimpse of tiny Mercury in binoculars
just above the western horizon right after sunset, or use a [telescope]
for a closer look. Since Mercury is very small in the sky, locating
it can be a challenge. Try looking for a bright "star" in
the western sky that doesn't appear to twinkle as much as surrounding
stars. Chances are you've found Mercury!
Jupiter at Opposition - Gigantic Jupiter
reaches opposition on April 7th, making it the best night of the year
to explore the gas giant planet. While Jupiter can be detected in
almost any size telescope, the most rewarding views of the gas giant
planet and its four brightest moons can be found in larger refractor
and reflector telescopes with moderate to high power eyepieces. Opposition
occurs when a planet reaches its closest approach to Earth in its
elliptical orbit. Since Jupiter will be directly opposite the Sun
from Earth on April 7th, it will be visible all night long - rising
at sunset and setting at sunrise. Take advantage of Jupiter's brightest
night of the year and take a closer look at its striking cloud band
"stripes" and four Galilean moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and
Callisto. Use an [Orion Jupiter Observation Filter] to reveal cloud
belt details and improve contrast in your views of the biggest planet
in our solar system.
Jupiter and the Moon - Just a few days
after reaching opposition, gas giant planet Jupiter pairs up with
the Moon to make a pretty pairing in the night sky. Get outside at
sunset on April 10th to see gas giant planet Jupiter appear as close
as 2.4° South of the nearly Full Moon. Both Jupiter and the Moon
will rise together over the eastern horizon just a few moments after
Spring Brings Galaxy Season! - April
skies provide stargazers with ample opportunities to observe far-off
galaxies. With the Virgo Galaxy Cluster and bright galaxies in the
Big Dipper and Coma Berenices well-positioned in the sky, April evenings
are truly a gift for galaxy hounds. Check out a few of our favorite
galaxies: M101, M51, and M106 near the Big Dipper asterism; M86, M87,
M84 and M104 in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster; and don't miss NGC 4565,
M64, M99, and M100 in the constellation Coma Berenices. While a humble
80mm telescope will show most of the galaxies we mention, a big reflector
like our [SkyQuest XT10 Classic Dobsonian] will provide jaw-dropping
views of these distant galaxies!
International Dark Sky Week - From Saturday
April 22nd through Friday April 28th, celebrate International Dark
Sky Week by keeping your outdoor lights turned off after sunset to
reduce light pollution. Endorsed by the International Dark-Sky Association
and the American Astronomical Society, International Dark Sky Week
presents an opportunity to appreciate the beautiful night sky without
the adverse effects of light pollution from outdoor lighting. Turn
out those lights and enjoy views of the starry sky from your own backyard!
Lyrids Meteor Shower - Kick off International Dark Sky Week by getting outside after midnight on the night of April 22nd to enjoy the peak of the LyridsMeteor Shower. Look for meteors to radiate outwards from the constellation Lyra after midnight on the 22nd into the early hours of April 23rd. The Lyrids is a medium shower which can produce about 20 meteors per hour during its peak. The waning crescent Moon will be out when shower activity peaks, but it shouldn't make it too difficult to spot meteors. The Lyrids shower often produces meteors with impressive dust trails that can last several seconds. You don't need a telescope to enjoy the show - just sit back in a comfy chair and watch bright dust trails flare across the sky.
-- Thx to ORION for this summary!
Here's a photo of our STEM teacher's group, learning "From Earth to the Stars with STEM" on Dec. 8:
Save Roane Starry Skies is in its tenth year! Founded Nov. 4, 2007
or if you have a comment or questions
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.
Here are photos from Heather Fries showing the sunset, and some of our visitors.
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:
Perspectives on good astronomy occasionally appear on the Bad Astronomy Blog, at http://www.badastronomy.com/intro.html