Observing Announcement: International Observe The Moon Night On The Syracuse Creekwalk – Saturday, Sept. 6 – 7 to 10 p.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Fellow CNYO’er and sidewalk astronomer extraordinaire Larry Slosberg has made the official announcement through our NASA Night Sky Network Page – we’ll be hosting the Central New York version of the International Observe The Moon Night (InOMN) along the Syracuse Creekwalk at our favorite downtown location – just south of Walt The Loch West Monster.

For those unfamiliar with InOMN, a brief word from the official website:

International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is an annual event that is dedicated to encouraging people to ‘look up’ and take notice of our nearest neighbor, the Moon. From looking at the Moon with a naked eye to using the most sensitive telescope, every year on the same day, people from around the world hold events and activities that celebrate our Moon. On this site, you can find information about an InOMN event near you or register your own event. We encourage everyone to join us in the celebration!

2014august28_logo_finalThe 12.5 day old waxing gibbous Moon is a nice compromise of brightness and detail for giving the Moon a good looking at. Not only will we have a terminator to give us shadows and perceived depth, but some of the great craters – Tycho, Copernicus, Kepler (just barely) and Plato – will be out in the open for inspection. For those wondering about the timing (besides the whole weekend thing), Full Moon is actually one of the most boring times to observe the Moon. With the Sun’s light beating straight down on the Moon’s surface, we have no shadows to bring out crater depth or mountain height. Most observers agree that the most interesting views are right along the terminator where light and dark meet, so having a nice piece of that to observe makes for a much more visually appealing session.

Our Creekwalk location between W. Fayette St. and Walton St.

We will be spending an inordinate amount of time staring at the near-full Moon through every scope or pair of binoculars anyone has interest in bringing. Those arriving early enough may even be able to take in a view of Saturn and Mars before they set below the Western city skyline. Those with GOTO’s (or heroic non-GOTO observers) may even be able to find Neptune, now at near-opposition, just to the Southeast.

And, for those who really want to feel the passage of the year this night, the brightest of all the Messier objects and great gems of the Winter, the Pleiades (M45), will be appearing just after 11 p.m. to our far east (meaning they’ll be above the buildings and possibly observable around midnight). This will be an even more impressive sight at our next North Sportman’s Club event!

We’ve meetup.com and Facebook events set up for the 6th, so feel free to make your presence known early. Otherwise, we hope to see you out and about on the evening of Saturday, September 6th!

Upcoming Event: Bob Piekiel At Clark Reservation State Park – Friday, August 29 – 8 to 10 p.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Bob Piekiel’s tour of the county and state parks system this year continues this Friday, August 29 (with Saturday, August 30 as the weather-alternate) with a stop at Clark Reservation in Jamesville. We are approaching the last of our Summer observing sessions, with the Summer Triangle high overhead just around the time we expect to pack up (10 p.m.). This event is FREE (not even a parking fee) and open to the public.

Those there at the 8 p.m. start may catch the thin crescent Moon (depending on the tree cover at the Clark Res. ball field) followed by early views of Mars and Saturn. The rest of the night will be a Summer free-for-all as we take in the highlights of the Milky Way (and maybe some dim views of Uranus and Neptune). For those not keeping track, this is a pretty busy year for comets as well, and I plan on taking in a view of Comet Jacques (Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques for anyone keeping full track) as well (which was just inside Cassiopeia’s boundary last week and will be well inside Cepheus territory on Friday).

CNYO Observing Log: Green Lakes State Park, 25 July & 15 August 2014

* Session 1 – 25 July 2014

Exactly 364 days after our last outing past the now-defunct Fayetteville Friendly’s, Bob Piekiel and I hosted another well-attended session in the large open (frisbee) field of Green Lakes State Park on July 25th. This Friday evening saw reasonably warm and dewy conditions and no small amount of bug spray. The generally young crowd (2/3’s in the mid-teen or younger) was treated to Bob and mine’s usual post-dusk schtick, early sights of Saturn and Vega, and then a small host of other celestial objects as the night grew darker (after many of the youngest were dragged away by schedule-conscious adults).


Bob Piekiel inspecting the dusk skies during setup.

After setup, the race was on for one of us to find Saturn to make sure everyone had seen at least one planet before leaving. After a lucky run of star finding (Vega and Arcturus) to align his Celestron NexStar 11, Bob had a long planetary line behind him, leaving me to start the evening with my New Moon Telescopes 12.5″ Dob on Vega (giving my post-Saturn line a glimpse of increasing numbers of stars around Vega as it darkened). By the end of the Vega line, Saturn was obvious to all and Mars was just between widely-spaced branches, allowing us to fill in the planet views before 1/2 the attendees (and all the youngest observers) left just after 9:00 p.m.

The rest of the evening was the usual free-for-all. While the sky still wasn’t nearly dark enough for dedicated observing at 10:00 p.m., we were fortunate to have a remaining group with both great interest in astronomical phenomena and vivid imaginations to fill in the perceptual gaps left by distant Fayetteville lights and our own early event timing. The discussions around the scope were as well received as the objects themselves.

As you might expect, having a session almost exactly 1 year apart means that the “pick hits” of last year were very similar to the “pick hits” of this year. The only real difference was the swapping of one swiftly-moving planet (Venus) with another (Mars). Saturn, in that one year block, has slid only slightly from Virgo last year to Libra this year. As for my usual policy of presenting at least one from the list of standard types of objects at each session, my observing and lecture list was as follows:

* (Hopefully) One PlanetSaturn
* One StarVega in Lyra was the obvious choice, giving all an early view of how bright stars shimmer strongly upon magnification (and allowing us to show how the shape of the spiders holding up our secondary mirrors affects our views). At Bob’s request, we also threw in Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus as an example of very strongly-colored stars in the night sky (after showing Albireo to demonstrate the same).
* One BinaryAlbireo in Cygnus. I also included epsilon Lyrae in Lyra as it was close to Vega. Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major are also excellent for testing visual acuity among attendees (and the magnified view gives still more to say about double stars in our neighborhood).
* One Open ClusterThe Double Cluster (Caldwell 14) in Perseus
* One Globular ClusterM13 in Hercules
* One NebulaM57, The Ring Nebula in a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyra”>Lyra. The use of an inflating balloon to demonstrate how you can see through the middle of a well-inflated balloon but can’t see well through the edges is as clear an explanation of what the Ring Nebula is from our vantage point as any other I can think of.
* One GalaxyM31, The Andromeda Galaxy in Andromeda. Despite the closeness to the horizon, M32 and M110 were also visible to observers at low magnification.
* Anything Else? – we were treated to several dozen obvious satellites and at least one bright meteor tail before packing up.

* Session 2 – 15 August 2014

The week of August 11 – 17 will be remembered as an almost useless one for CNY amateur astronomy. The Perseids were not only washed out by the timing of the Full Moon, but also by the constant overcast conditions (mixed with a few interesting lightning storms). Planned sessions at Baltimore Woods, Beaver Lake Nature Center (rescheduled for August 21st!), and North Sportsman’s Club were all scrubbed.

Given the lousy conditions all week for nighttime observing, I was a bit hesitant to drive out to Bob Piekiel’s August 15th session at Green Lakes State Park (even with one scope, it’s a lot of gear to drag around for a session where it won’t be used). That said, the Clear Sky Clock indicated a potential opening in the 9-ish to 11-ish range and the s’mores weren’t going to eat themselves. The crowd of around 25 (all crowded around a fire pit that smelled of charred marshmallow) were ready to observe and full of questions and fun discussion, so the early views of Saturn, Vega, and Arcturus were enough to keep us all occupied.

Around 9:20 p.m., a small miracle occurred as a massive clearing of the sky swept South/SouthEast, taking with it all of the present clouds in a slow, straight band that eventually gave us views of the entire sky before closing back again around 10:30 p.m. The clear, steady 70 minutes were more than enough to allow us to re-scan last month’s observing list (all little changed since last month!).


Old and new light – the end of the fire pit and inspecting flashlights.

With everyone departing soon after, we were left to take in a bit of the remaining fire in the pit (and our observing attire left to take in that burning wood smell) before giving the grounds one last scan with a bright flashlight before departing. A lousy evening turned into a fantastic (and slightly shortened) night for a Public Viewing Session. Kudos as always to Attilla Danko for his ever prescient Clear Sky Clock!