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).
TAO Program for June 17:
Welcome: "Stars and Progress"
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"
TAO Program for June 3:
Radio Astronomy 3. "Data Relay from Remote Sensing Instrumentation"
Find the Observatory
May Celestial Sights
Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower - Grab a blanket or a comfy lounge chair to sit back, relax and watch the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, which peaks after midnight on May 5th into the early morning hours of May 6th. The waxing gibbous Moon might outshine some of fainter meteors, but there will still be opportunities see Eta Aquarid meteors streak across the night sky at the approximate peak rate of 40 per hour. Look for meteors appearing to radiate from the constellation Aquarius.
Jupiter High in the Sky - Gigantic Jupiter will be well-placed for telescopic study throughout the month of May. Look for the bright planet well above the eastern horizon at nightfall as it lingers in the constellation Virgo. Check in on Jupiter often to see its four brightest moons (Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto) change positions night to night as they dance around the gas giant planet. On May 7th, Jupiter will appear close to the waxing Moon, making a pretty pairing in the sky you can enjoy with wide-field [binoculars] or a low-power, wide-angle telescope [eyepiece].
Four Big Planetary Nebulas - Use a 6" or larger telescope and an [Oxygen-III or UltraBlock filter] to catch nice views of four relatively large planetary nebulas in May skies. See the "Ghost of Jupiter," NGC 3242 in Hydra; M97, "the Owl Nebula" in the Big Dipper; NGC 4361 in Corvus, and the famous "Ring Nebula", M57 in Lyra just a few degrees from bright star Vega.
Mercury Before Dawn - Before sunrise on May 18, tiny planet Mercury will be at its greatest western elongation. This means Mercury will reach its highest point in the pre-dawn sky. Once the Sun comes up, Mercury will become hard to spot, so look above the eastern horizon just before sunrise to catch the small and elusive planet.
Saturn's Nighttime Debut - It's worth staying up late in early May for the first nighttime views of Saturn and its glorious rings. In early May, Saturn will rise above the southeastern horizon around midnight, but by May 20th the distant gas giant planet will rise around 10pm PT. Use a [telescope] and a high-power eyepiece to see Saturn and its intricate structure of rings. Set a reminder to get outside late at night on May 13th and 14th to see Saturn appear very close to the waning gibbous Moon. A great sight to behold in big binoculars, a wide-field telescope, or even with unaided eyes!
Five Glittering Globulars - Five picture-perfect examples of globular star clusters will be visible in May skies. Check out M3 in the constellation Boötes. M13, the "Great Cluster in Hercules" will be visible near the zenith. M5 can be found in Serpens, and M92 in the northern section of Hercules. Be sure to track down M4 (NGC 6121) in Scorpius on May 27th, as it will be in a great position for telescopic study throughout the night, reaching zenith around midnight. Big [telescopes] will provide the best views, but even a pair of humble 50mm or larger [binoculars] will show you these dense balls of stars from a dark sky site.
Four Face-On Spirals - Use a large [telescope] to see the classic pinwheel shapes of galaxies M51 and M101 in the Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major, and M99 and M100 in the Virgo galaxy cluster. There are also dozens of additional galaxies to explore in the Virgo cluster with a large aperture telescope.
May's Challenge Object - May skies present some of the best opportunities to grab a view of Omega Centauri - the brightest globular star cluster in the sky! While it's big and bright, even visible as a "fuzzy" star in binoculars, the challenge Omega Centauri presents is its low position in southern skies, which can make it unobservable from higher northern latitudes.
-- 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:
The Eclipse of Aug. 21, 2017
TAO will be closed because of having only a single-lane access road.
The Harriman Campus of Roane State Community College will be open with limited facilities, and visitors must bring eclipse glassses, food, water, sunscreen, hat, etc., as described here (click).
ORION Program for June 28
Oak Ridge Campus
Roane State Community College
Don't miss the May ORION meeting on Wednesday JUNE 28 (not our usual "third Wednesday"), when Dr. John Rather will discuss the scientific and emotional aspects of eclipses. Dr. Rather is a well-known radio astronomer and has done groundbreaking work in radio observation of eclipses. He has also enjoyed them immensly.
This program will be presented in the City Room of the Oak Ridge Campus of Roane State Community College. Enter the City Room from the lobby near the flag pole.
Title: "Chasing Total Eclipses: An Addictive Obsession"
The August 21st total solar eclipse provides a uniquely wonderful opportunity for many Americans. Many people have viewed partial eclipses with scarcely a ho-hum glance, but they missed the crucial point: There is a literally mind-blowing difference between a 99.9 % partial and a 105% Total Eclipse. For a few precious minutes viewers are transported to a different world that can be remarkably beautiful and inspiringly memorable if the weather cooperates. This is why eclipse chasing has become a worldwide obsession for many people who are willing to go to strange places to discover new cultural, geographical and psychological excitement. It is unique indeed for this rare opportunity to offer itself free to vast numbers of people across the United States. In this talk Astronomer John Rather will describe his adventures, beginning with scientific motivations that evolved into the thrill of the hunt combined with many inspirational human interactions. He will show short movies of his experiences at five total eclipses around the world, hoping that this motivates parents and children to get to the centerline of totality for an unprecidented tail-gating experience.
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.