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 June 16
7:30 PM at the observatory
(lecture at 8:00 PM)
ORION meets on RSCC-Oak Ridge Campus, Golf Bldg. auditorium, Wed., June 20,7 pm
16 June. Spectacular Venus is just 2º north of the slender crescent Moon (about two finger widths held at arms length). The Moon is also about 1.5º south of M44, the Beehive star cluster. They all make for fine viewing through a pair of binoculars in the western sky after the Sun goes down. I challenge you to find a prettier sight anywhere.
19 June. The asteroid Vesta reaches opposition. After the dwarf planet Ceres, Vesta is the second-most massive body in the solar system asteroid belt. Its mean diameter is a respectable 525 km. But, unlike Ceres, it does not have sufficient gravity to pull itself into a spherical shape, which is why it didnt make the grade as a dwarf planet. Vesta lies in northern Sagittarius, not far from Saturn, and reaches a peak brightness of magnitude 5.3. Thats bright enough to see without optical aid in dark sky. The chart below, courtesy of Sky and Telescope magazine, shows you where to find it from day to day.
20 June. Grab your binoculars and have a look at Venus just 0.4º north of the Beehive cluster in the western sky after sunset.
20 June. First Quarter Moon, 10:51 UT
21 June. At 10:07 UT, the Sun reaches northern solstice, the northernmost point on the ecliptic, where it appears to stand still for a day before slowly moving southward again. This marks the first day of summer in the northern hemisphere and the first day of winter south of the equator. At solstice, the Sun lies near the star Propus at the foot of Gemini, not far from the star cluster M35.
23 June. Jupiter lies just 4º south of the waxing gibbous Moon. Just a month past opposition, the big planet remains a resplendent sight in June. It slowly dims and grows smaller this month, but at magnitude -2.4, its still brighter by far than any star. The planets disk spans about 45and continues to reveal plenty of detail in a telescope. Learn more about what to see on and around Jupiter in the Cosmic Pursuits Jupiter observing guide.
27 June. The planet Saturn reaches opposition,
rising in the eastern sky as the Sun sets in the west. This marks
the closest approach of Earth to the ringed planet in 2018. The planet
reaches magnitude 0.0 and its disk spans about 18. The rings
are more than twice as wide as the disk. This year, the rings are
tilted splendidly towards our line of sight by some 24º. Its
a great time to see this planet, which many new and experienced skywatchers
rank as the most beautiful thing you can see through a telescope.
Because the planet is in the southern reaches of the ecliptic, this
years apparition favors southern stargazers. But northerners
can see plenty on nights of good seeing.
28 June. Mars stops its eastward motion and becomes stationary relative to the background stars. For the next many weeks, and through its opposition on July 27, the planet will appear to move westward from day to day. This is called retrograde motion. At the end of June, Mars lies well to the east of Saturn in the constellation Capricorn. The planet gets down to business this month, brightening from magnitude -1.2 to -2.2 and growing to 20 across. On nights of steady seeing, it will reveal plenty of detail in a good telescope at moderate to high magnification. The planet rises around midnight as June begins and 10:30 p.m. as the month ends.
28 June. Full Moon, 04:53 UT
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.