Traverse City is blessed with interesting little gems, from wonderful restaurants to pocket parks, and favorite spots on the Boardman River or TART Trail. Some are well known, others may be lesser known, like a favorite mushroom patch. One of these gems is Northwestern Michigan College’s Rogers Observatory, located at 1753 Brimley Rd., at the top of the big hill.
The Observatory has been in operation since 1981. It contains a classroom and an observation dome, the upper level of which houses a NASA-quality 16-inch Cassegrain reflecting telescope. NMC’s astronomy classes and labs are taught there. Astrophysicist Dr. Jerry Dobek’s classes are always full and students come away with a unique experience.
The public can experience the wonders of the night sky at the observatory. On the first Friday of every month and select Saturdays from spring through fall, the observatoy is open to the public. NMC requests a small donation from visitors. The Grand Traverse Astronomical Society, in partnership with the NMC Student Astronomy Club, hosts these events. At 8 pm there is an interesting and informative program, never too technical. The dome is opened and the public is welcome to look through the observatory’s telescopes and the Astronomical Society’s telescopes set up outside. If the skies are uncooperative, there’s an observatory tour and another program, along with a flat-screen planetarium-type tour of the season’s night skies.
This year some additional dates have been added. In 2014 there will be two lunar eclipses and a solar eclipse. The first lunar eclipse is April 15 starting at 1:30 a,m.; the other will be Oct. 8, starting at 5 a.m. The solar eclipse occurs Oct. 23 starting at 5 p.m. If it’s clear, the Observatory will be open to the public at those times. The Astronomical Society will also host eclipse parties at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and downtown Traverse City. Visit the Astronomical Society’s web site at www.gtastro.org for their outreach schedule. In addition to hosting at the observatory, they participate in about 25 other off-campus events throughout the year.
At the next open house at 8 p,m. Feb. 7, Rogers Observatory will hold a “hands-on” telescope workshop. Did you get a telescope for Christmas or do you have one tucked away in a closet? This would be an opportunity to see what it will do. People are encouraged to bring their telescope and they’ll be assisted on how to set up, point, and operate their telescope with the least amount of frustration. The Astronomical Society will demonstrate different types of telescopes, how to set them up, guide, and control them, and give people an idea of what they can expect to see with various sizes and types of telescopes. Members will also offer advice on buying a telescope. If it’s clear we’ll take them outside and explore the winter skies.
About the author: Richard Kuschell of Traverse City is president of the Grand Traverse Astronomical Society; by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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