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Twin City Amateur Astronomers
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Public Observing Sessions

From March through October, the TCAA holds monthly observing sessions that are open to the public. These "star parties" are held at our observatory at the Sugar Grove Nature Center, a dark sky site southwest of Bloomington.

In 2017, we will hold the following observing sessions Additional prominent sky objects such as planets, nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies will be viewed when visible.

DateFeatured TopicTime
March 25March Public Observing - Orion and Company07:00PM - 09:00PM
With the cloudy conditions, we will hold the talk and tour of the observatories, but will be unable to observe directly. Orion and Company Orion is a prominent constellation located on the celestial equator and visible throughout the world. It is one of the most conspicuous and recognizable constellations in the night sky. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.
April 29April Public Observing - Wonders of Jupiter08:30PM - 10:30PM
Due to the forecast of heavy rains and potentially violent weather, we are cancelling this event. Wonders of Jupiter Jupiter is the fifth planet from the Sun and the largest in the Solar System. It is a giant gas giant planet with a mass one-thousandth that of the Sun, but two and a half times that of all the other planets in the Solar System combined. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.
May 27May Public Observing - Summer Binocular Objects09:00PM - 11:00PM
Summer Binocular Objects You don’t need a large telescope to see object in the Milky Way, or deep space as a matter of fact. Learn what to look for and where you will find it using simple binoculars under a dark night sky. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing. Overcast skies prevented any viewing. Darren gave a nice survey of binocular targets. More members than guests.
June 24June Public Observing - Wonders of Saturn09:00PM - 11:00PM
Wonders of Saturn Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System after Jupiter. It too is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth. It is surrounded by an amazing ring system. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.
July 29July Public Observing - Total Solar Eclipse09:00PM - 11:00PM
The Total Solar Eclipse of August 21st A solar eclipse occurs when the Moon crosses over the face of the sun and the moon’s shadow strikes the Earth's surface. This summer’s total solar eclipse will cause one of the most majestic natural wonders that most people will see during their lifetimes, and Illinois is the place to be to see it. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.
August 26August Public Observing - Moon and Sun08:00PM - 12:00AM
Moon and Sun Our moon, the brightest object in the sky after the Sun, is the sole natural satellite of the Earth. Learn about the moon's relationship to, and impact on, the Earth, including a review of the recent total solar eclipse. Some of the interesting features on our nearest celestial neighbor will be presented also. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.
September 23September Public Observing - Emission Nebulae07:30PM - 09:30PM
Emission Nebulae of the Milky Way An emission nebula is a nebula formed of ionized gases that emit light of various colors. The most common source of this ionization is high-energy photons emitted from a nearby hot star. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.
October 14October Public Observing - The Andromeda Galaxy07:00PM - 09:00PM
The Andromeda Galaxy The Andromeda Galaxy is a spiral galaxy approximately 2.5 million light years from Earth. It is the nearest major galaxy to the Milky Way. In addition to our presentation, we will have a laser-guided sky tour and telescope observing.

A Typical Public Observing Session includes:
  • Lecture about the featured object.
    This 20-30 min. presentation, held in the SGNC picnic shelter, includes images of and details about the featured sky object as well as information on other interesting celestial objects that might be viewed that evening.
  • Sky tour using a laser pointer.
    We step out under the stars to point out the major constellations and planets, and to designate the location of the featured celestial object for the evening.
  • Telescope observing session.
    We use members' telescope at ground level to observe the featured object and other wonders of the heavens.

You can download our 2017 Public Observing Session brochure.

If you would like to arrange a special event for your group, please follow this link to Request a Special Event.