CNYO Observing Log: Liverpool Public Library, 6 March 2014

From the Liverpool Public Library Calendar of Events:

Step outdoors with the CNY Observers (www.cnyo.org) and learn about the late Winter/Spring constellations, their origins, and how to navigate the Night Sky using the six constellations that are visible year-round.

Centuries before automated GoTo telescopes or phone apps were invented, constellations served as the amateur astronomer’s map of the heavens. Many telescope observers and binocular sky hunters still prefer the “age olde” method of learning the positions of nebulae, clusters, and galaxies based on the bright stars these objects reside near – all of which become much more easy to find once you associate these bright stars with their mythological characters.

This program is part of the Liverpool Public Library’s Unplugged Month.

CNYO members returned to the lecture circuit in 2014 with a stop at the Liverpool Public Library. Cindy Duryea and the rest of the LPL staff have been the most supportive of CNY astronomy events among the many local public libraries, having now hosted a half-dozen lectures in the last three years (for which the CNY amateur astronomy community is most grateful!). Regular patrons may even know that the LPL has established a binocular loaner program to help new amateur astronomers learn the craft on-the-cheap, complete with 20×80 binoculars, heavy-duty canvas case, red flashlight, and a few instructional books on the topic. CNYO members in attendance for this event included Ryan and Heather Goodson (and one New Moon Telescope Dob used to demo the scope workings indoors), Larry Slosberg (with another NMT Dob), Bob Piekiel (with a Meade C11), and myself (with an armillary sphere and copies of our brochures).

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The author working through A Guide For New Observers.

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions, the local libraries are excellent places to host your open-to-the-public lectures, as the library provides the seating, presentation equipment (complete with LCD projector and large drop-down screen at LPL), and either free heat or cooling (made all the more important by Syracuse’s temperature swing throughout the year).

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Ryan Goodson describing the workings of an NMT Dob.

In keeping with the Unplugged Month theme, the indoor part of the lecture used no more technology than a flashlight to act as the Sun (no one brought candles). The lecture itself consisted mostly of walking through the first two of our brochures, Guide For New Observers and How The Night Sky Moves. The Guide For New Observers served several purposes:

1. Discussing Dark Adaption and the importance of not answering your smart phone.

2. Using your fully-extended arm and hand as a distance measure for the constellations.

3. Using Light Pollution to your advantage by starting to find bright constellations in the city.

4. Tricks to finding some of the most common (and easily found) constellations.

How The Night Sky Moves
goes into a bit more detail about why the constellations appear as they do, including the yearly changes in the Night Sky that come with our oriented rotation axis towards Polaris and the yearly changes that come with our 23 hour, 56 minute, and 4 second daily rotation.

I will warn those who have not tried to give an astro lecture without proper preparation that it is not as easy at you might think! Amateur astronomy is a very visual hobby. Take away your standard Hubble images of celestial panoramas and various historical content in a Powerpoint slide, and you find yourself working extra-hard to turn hand waving into physics. That said, it is an excellent exercise to test how well you know and can explain physical phenomena, so worth trying (at least once) as you plan your future lectures.

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The outdoor group and scopes.

With the indoor lecture complete, attendees willing to brave the cold (and a few who just happened to be walking by) were treated to attending telescopes in the park across the street (not ideal for dedicated observing, but you can absolutely get some great sights from well-lit city centers provided you pick your observing targets accordingly. No galaxies!) and a sneak-preview of the Regulus occultation by asteroid Erigone (which, ultimately, wasn’t observable from CNY).

CNYO members are always happy to bring our scopes and know-how to libraries, school events, and any other groups that might be interested. For more information, please contact us through our Contact Page.

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