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 Public Stargaze:
October 6, 7:30 PM at the observatory
(program at 8:00 PM)
'Stars and Progress' by
ORION meets on RSCC-Oak Ridge Campus, Golf Bldg. auditorium, Wed., Sept. 19, 7 pm
Speaker: Mark Uhran, former Head,
NASA International Space Space Station Operation
NASA HQ International Stace Station Division
"Human Space Exploration: The Merits of Avoiding Gravity Wells"
Mars is still bright but beginning to fade. Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are also visible in the evening sky. If you have binoculars or a telescope, look for the fainter planets Uranus and Neptune.
Mercury continues to be visible in the morning sky before dawn at the very start of the month, but you will need an unobstructed eastern horizon and clear skies to see it in the twilight. If you do have a nice clear view, you might be able to see Mercury close to Regulus, the brightest star in the constellation of Leo, on the morning of September 6th. Mercury, shining at magnitude -1, will be around five times brighter than the first-magnitude star. You might need binoculars to spot both. Mercury disappears from view soon after, and will be at superior conjunction on the far side of the Sun on September 20th. Incidentally, never scan the sky near the Sun with binoculars after it has risen as you risk bringing the Sun itself into view and damaging your eyesight!
Venus is still in the evening sky, but
closing back towards the Sun following greatest elongation east on
August 17th. It is also very low over the western horizon for people
living at mid-northern latitudes, so will be rather less prominent
than it was earlier in the year, even though it shines at a brilliant
magnitude of -4.8. If you do have a clear western horizom, or if you
live in the southern hemisphere or near the Equator, Venus will be
much more obvious, leading many people to ask what is that bright
star in the evening sky?. If you have a small telescope, you
can see Venus looking like a miniature crescent Moon. See our guide
to observing Venus this apparition.
Mars is still a brilliant orange-red
star visible in the south-east as darkness falls. It is
appearing to move backwards in the sky at the moment into Sagittarius,
known as retrograde motion, because the Earth is overtaking it on
the inside as we both orbit the Sun. This also means that Mars is
receding from us again following closest approach in late July, and
so Mars is gradually fading. Its magnitude drops from -2.1 a the start
of September to -1.3 by the end of the month. A dust storm that hampered
views of Mars when it was closest has abated and so some more prominent
features may be seen again through a telescope.
Jupiter becomes visible as soon as the
sky gets dark, shining at magnitude -1.8. It can be found in the south
western sky, in Libra. You will need to catch the planet as early
in the night as possible from mid-northern latitudes before it sinks
too low in the sky and sets. A small telescope will be enough to view
the belts and bands in the planets cloud tops, while even binoculars
will reveal the four largest satellites, the Galilean moons.
sSaturn is in Sagittarius and can be
found due south at the start of the month as darkness falls. It resembles
a bright star, shining at magnitude 0.5, but even a small telescope
will reveal its disk and splendid ring system which is open wide at
Uranus will be at Opposition next month,
and is well-placed for observers in September in the constellation
of Pisces, rising late in the evening. In theory, Uranus may be glimpsed
with the naked eye in perfectly clear, dark skies, since its magnitude
will be 5.8, but in practice most of us will need binoculars to bring
it into view. A telescope will reveal its tiny greenish disk. Heres
where you can find Uranus in the night sky.
The outermost planet in the Solar System, Neptune, reaches Opposition on September 7th, when it is on the opposite side of the sky to the Sun. It lies in the constellation Aquarius, and rises in the early part of the night. It can be glimpsed with binoculars, but you will need to know exactly where to look as it shines at a faint +7.9. A small telescope will show it more clearly but do not expect to see more than a minute disk.
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.