CNYO Observers Log: Green Lakes State Park Solar Session (7 March 2015) and Monthly Baltimore Woods Session (13 March 2015)

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A quick observing log combining two recent events hosted by Central New York’s own Bob Piekiel. As everyone who’s been local all winter knows, conditions were less than ideal for lots of observing. For those sessions that cloud cover (and snow) didn’t ruin, the Arctic Chill that hit CNY in the middle of February really did a number on even the most determined observers.

Solar Session – Green Lakes State Park – 7 March 2015

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Having put off and re-put off a solar observing session at Green Lakes State Park bus to lousy conditions, the powers that be wanted to go forward with a session on Saturday afternoon, March 7th. With H-alpha and Baader’ed scopes in tow, Bob (and I helping run the Baader’ed scope) hosted a session in the parking lot behind the main building at Green Lakes. Over the course of about 90 minutes, perhaps 10 good minutes of observing were had. Clear skies to the East couldn’t be coaxed to shift West and the upcoming mild snow storm that afternoon even provided some advanced warning. Still, about 10 people either showed specifically for the solar or made their way off the skiing path to take in a few sights of our nearest star.

2015march19_sunspots_1024_20150307The Sun itself wasn’t particularly busy that afternoon, with a major sunspot region having just fallen off the Sun’s edge, leaving a small speck of dark spots just within scopesight (see the March 7th image at right from NASA SOHO. Click for a larger view). As with all sessions, the observing was complemented by good introductory astronomy discussions and direction to the CNYO site for upcoming events (including upcoming solar sessions).

For those keeping additional track, the Sun did provide quite a show over the past few days in the form of fantastic aurora after an X-class solar flare fired up ionization in our atmosphere. For those looking for a gallery of what everyone by Central New Yorkers (it seems) saw over this past St. Patrick’s Day, I encourage you to let google do the work for the following image search: solar storm st. patricks 2015.

Baltimore Woods Monthly Session – 13 March 2015

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A panorama from the Baltimore Woods Session start. Click for a larger view.

A decidedly more fruitful session was had in the thawing parking lot of Baltimore Woods on Friday, March 13th. This evening was also first light for 2015 of my 12.5” NMT Dob (Bob’s SCT having already seen action with a few observing sessions this year). The sky (mostly) did not disappoint! Jupiter and Venus were easy and excellent targets, Mars was at the horizon at session start but still observable (Uranus having slipped too low to see), and a dozen eager observers attended to take in the sights. The only real letdown for the evening was the persistent cloud cover that obstructed all of Orion throughout, giving only a few passing views of the Orion Nebula. To Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and the Orion Nebula (sort of), a very double-centric crowd were treated to views of the double cluster in Perseus, Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major, and Castor (a sextuplet star system that resolves to a bright binary pair) and Pollux in Gemini. Cloud cover was just persistent and wide-ranging enough to make galaxy views all but impossible, making the whole session a real hopscotch survey of the brightest available at the time. After a solid 80 minutes of observing, we finally packed up with plans for the next sessions made.

For those wanting to check out one of Bob Piekiel’s many events this year, please see his calendar on the CNYO website. We hope to see you!

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