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 Roane State Community College, Golf Building, Oak Ridge Campus, on third Wednesday evenings at 1900 h (7:00 PM).
Astronomers from the Oak Ridge Isochronous Observation Network (ORION) and Knoxville Observers participate in TAO Stargaze 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).
TAO Program for July 7
7:30 PM at the observatory
(lecture at 8:00 PM)
ORION meets on RSCC-Oak Ridge Campus, Golf Bldg. auditorium, Wed., July 18, 7 pm
Mars reaches opposition on July 27th. Venus is still a brilliant object in the evening sky as soon as it gets dark. Jupiter and Saturn are also bright. Southern hemisphere observers get the best views of the planets right now! A total lunar eclipse occurs on July 27.
Mercury lies in the evening sky during July. You might be able to see it in the first week or so of the month, shining at zero magnitude, low over the horizon in the fading twilight, but only if you have a clear sky, with a horizon unobstructed by hills, buildings, trees etc. It will already have faded by the time it reaches greatest elongation east of the Sun on the 12th, and becomes too close to the Sun in too bright a sky to be observed during the rest of July.
Venus is still prominent in the evening sky, though not as high as at some apparitions for those in the northern hemisphere. It gets a lot higher from southern latitudes. Nevertheless, if you have a clear horizon, you cannot miss it, shining at around magnitude -4. The crescent Moon will be near Venus on the 15th and 16th of July.
Mars will be at opposition on July 27th and also, incidentally, at its closest to us since 2003 three days later. This means it now shines at an unmissable magnitude of -2.2 to -2.8, in the constellation of Capricornus, as the month progresses. The planet will be close enough for observers to make out a distinct disk in small telescopes. Unfortunately a dust storm that has blown up and become global on Mars will hide the surface features such as Syrtis Major that might otherwise have been distinct. This is still the best opportunity for a long time to view the Red Planet, so dont miss it, especially if you are in the southern hemisphere, from where it will be high in the sky. The Full Moon will be close by on July 27th and part of the world will see a total lunar eclipse!
Jupiter is now a prominent planet in the evening sky, visible due south as soon as the sky darkens (due north if youre in the southern hemisphere), and shining at a bright magnitude -2.2 in the constellation of Libra. A small telescope or even binoculars will easily reveal Jupiters four main, Galilean moons, Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Watch their little dance as they orbit the planet, changing positions from hour to hour. The Moon will pass by Jupiter on the 20th. Here is how to observe Jupiters moons. A moderate telescope will also reveal Jupiters bands and belts.
Saturn is visible throughout the night, having reached opposition on June 27th. It lies in the constellation of Sagittarius, and so it much better seen from southern latitudes. You will have no trouble finding it though if you have a clear sky, as it will be shining at zero magnitude like the brightest stars. A small telescope will be enough to show its beautiful rings, which are open wide and reflecting the sunlight. You might be able to see the biggest gap in the rings, the Cassini Division, if you have good seeing, that is steady atmospheric conditions. Look also for Saturns largest satellite, Titan. The Moon will be close to Saturn on the 24th.
Uranus rises around midnight in the constellation of Aries. It lies near the limit of naked-eye visibility in theory, but binoculars will help you to find it without too much trouble.
Neptune rises late in the evening, shining
at 8th magnitude in the constellation of Aquarius like a blueish star.
You will need a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope to see
it. Read more about Neptune.
Total lunar eclipse
A total lunar eclipse will occur on the night of July 27th, 2018, when the Moon will pass completely through the shadow of the Earth. The phenomenon will be visible from Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and much of South America. But none of the eclipse will be seen from the USA or Canada because the Moon will be below the horizon.
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
Find the Observatory
TAO Radio Astronomy
Feb. 3, 2018: Optical and Radio Astronomy -- What is Light?
Aug. 19: Radio Astronomy 9: "Radio Astronomy: Signal bounmces from the Moon, and the Aug. 21 Eclipse"
Aug. 5: Radio Astronomy 8: "The Aug. 21 Eclipse and Radio Astronomy"
July 15: Radio Astronomy 7. "Astronomy when the Clouds Appear"
June 17: Radio Astronomy 4. "More on Radio Astronomy and EM Spectra"
Radio Astronomy 5. "How did our VLF Radios become SDR Radios?"
Radio Astronomy 6. "Radio Transmitter for GPS and Data Relay"
Radio Astronomy 3. "Data Relay from Remote Sensing Instrumentation"
Maryville Scouts visited us on March 5, 2016
Scoutmaster Chris brought Troop 700 from Maryville and they filled the classroom. What a group -- with questions and a lot of interest in learning how to find Jupiter (and moons) with our 8" refractor. They were already a part of the TAO action since it was one of their Eagle Scouts who built our camping area in our woods. They brought us coffee and 3 types of strudle (!) and we shared our telescopes (Thanks Jan, DR, and George), Jim Long's Spagetti, 2 kinds of bread, cookies, chips, etc. It was a beautiful evening, after those clouds cleared.