Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Volunteers Needed For The CNY Science & Engineering Fair, 20 March 2016

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Fresh from the TACNY listserv – Far and away one of the most enjoyable science activities I engage in each year (this being my fifth year). Do consider putting your STEM skills to some good use and register to be a judge for this year’s CNYSEF!

2016feb19_mostVolunteers and judges are needed for the Central New York Science and Engineering Fair (CNYSEF, sponsored by the Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) on Sunday, March 20, 2016 at the SRC Arena (map below). Starting this year, students from eleven counties will compete in two divisions, the junior fair for 4th-8th graders and the senior fair for 9th-12th graders. Judges don’t need to be experts in science to listen as the students demonstrate how much they have learned and accomplished. A continental breakfast, lunch and training will be provided for the judges and volunteers.

Those interested in serving as judges or volunteers can apply online here. If you have registered with the MOST online in the past, you do not have to register again. Send an e-mail to with your name, contact information, judging choice (junior judge, senior judge, special awards judge) or volunteer choice and affiliation. For more information, contact the CNYSEF Director at, or call (315) 425-9068 x2163.

The encouragement and interest shown by volunteers and judges is an essential part of the student’s science fair experience. Help inspire our future generation of engineers and scientists.

For More Information About The CNYSEF, See Below (From

2016feb19_mapCNYSEFcountiesLOGOThe 2016 Central New York Science & Engineering Fair will be held Sunday, March 20, at SRC Arena on the Onondaga Community College campus. The CNYSEF accepts science fair projects from students in grades four through 12 at public and private schools and homeschooled students in Broome, Cayuga, Chenango, Cortland, Jefferson, Madison, Onondaga, Oswego, St. Lawrence, Tioga, and Tompkins counties.

If you are coming from one of the outlying counties, you might want to arrive Saturday and spend the night in a Syracuse-area hotel. Registration begins at 8 a.m. Sunday and all participants must be in place when judging starts at 9 a.m. The closest hotels to the college are located in or near downtown Syracuse, including the Jefferson Clinton Hotel, Courtyard Marriott, Crown Plaza Syracuse, and Genesee Grande Hotel.

The last event’s projects showed the brilliance and ingenuity of some of Central New York’s future scientist and engineers, and we hope the 2016 event will provide more exciting projects. Students interested in participating in the CNYSEF are not required to have had previous science fair experience with CNYSEF or any other science fairs.

All the information you need to register your science fair project can be found on this site, including links to ideas for projects. Use the links at the top of this page to find information on the science fair, submitting your project, judging, or volunteering.

If you have any questions, please email CNYSEF Director Peter Plumley or call 315.425.9068 x 2163.

NASA Space Place – The Closest New Stars To Earth

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in February, 2016.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceWhen you think about the new stars forming in the Milky Way, you probably think of the giant star-forming regions like the Orion Nebula, containing thousands of new stars with light so bright it’s visible to the naked eye. At over 400 parsecs (1,300 light years) distant, it’s one of the most spectacular sights in the night sky, and the vast majority of the light from galaxies originates from nebulae like this one. But its great luminosity and relative proximity makes it easy to overlook the fact that there are a slew of much closer star-forming regions than the Orion Nebula; they’re just much, much fainter.

If you get a collapsing molecular cloud many hundreds of thousands (or more) times the mass of our sun, you’ll get a nebula like Orion. But if your cloud is only a few thousand times the sun’s mass, it’s going to be much fainter. In most instances, the clumps of matter within will grow slowly, the neutral matter will block more light than it reflects or emits, and only a tiny fraction of the stars that form—the most massive, brightest ones—will be visible at all. Between just 400 and 500 light years away are the closest such regions to Earth: the molecular clouds in the constellations of Chamaeleon and Corona Australis. Along with the Lupus molecular clouds (about 600 light years distant), these dark, light-blocking patches are virtually unknown to most sky watchers in the northern hemisphere, as they’re all southern hemisphere objects.

In visible light, these clouds appear predominantly as dark patches, obscuring and reddening the light of background stars. In the infrared, though, the gas glows brilliantly as it forms new stars inside. Combined near-infrared and visible light observations, such as those taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, can reveal the structure of the clouds as well as the young stars inside. In the Chameleon cloud, for example, there are between 200 and 300 new stars, including over 100 X-ray sources (between the Chamaeleon I and II clouds), approximately 50 T-Tauri stars and just a couple of massive, B-class stars. There’s a third dark, molecular cloud (Chamaeleon III) that has not yet formed any stars at all.

While the majority of new stars form in large molecular clouds, the closest new stars form in much smaller, more abundant ones. As we reach out to the most distant quasars and galaxies in the universe, remember that there are still star-forming mysteries to be solved right here in our own backyard.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Caption: This striking new image, captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, reveals a star in the process of forming within the Chamaeleon cloud. This young star is throwing off narrow streams of gas from its poles — creating this ethereal object known as HH 909A. These speedy outflows collide with the slower surrounding gas, lighting up the region. When new stars form, they gather material hungrily from the space around them. A young star will continue to feed its huge appetite until it becomes massive enough to trigger nuclear fusion reactions in its core, which light the star up brightly. Before this happens, new stars undergo a phase during which they violently throw bursts of material out into space. This material is ejected as narrow jets that streak away into space at breakneck speeds of hundreds of kilometres per second, colliding with nearby gas and dust and lighting up the region. The resulting narrow, patchy regions of faintly glowing nebulosity are known as Herbig-Haro objects. They are very short-lived structures, and can be seen to visibly change and evolve over a matter of years (heic1113) — just the blink of an eye on astronomical timescales. These structures are very common within star-forming regions like the Orion Nebula, or the Chameleon I molecular cloud — home to the subject of this image. The Chameleon cloud is located in the southern constellation of Chameleon, just over 500 light-years from Earth. Astronomers have found numerous Herbig-Haro objects embedded in this stellar nursery, most of them emanating from stars with masses similar to that of the Sun. A few are thought to be tied to less massive objects such as brown dwarfs, which are “failed” stars that did not hit the critical mass to spark reactions in their centres. A version of this image was entered into the Hubble’s Hidden Treasures image processing competition by contestant Judy Schmidt. NASA and ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Acknowledgements: Kevin Luhman (Pennsylvania State University), and Judy Schmidt, of the Chamaeleon cloud and a newly-forming star within it—HH 909A—emitting narrow streams of gas from its poles.

About NASA Space Place

With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

European Southern Observatory – Catch A Star 2016 Writing Contest Now Open

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The following first came across my inbox courtesy of George Normandin of Kopernik Astronomical Society – the 2016 installment of the Catch A Star Contest for student writing. Details are provided below. With school in session (perhaps to get the keen eye of one’s English teacher) and the weather currently no good for observing (although you have some lead time!), now’s a great time to get a young observer writing early and writing often.

2016feb6_cas_logo_mediumThe goal of the European Astronomy Contest Catch a Star is to stimulate the creativity and independent work of students from European secondary schools, to strengthen and expand their astronomical knowledge and skills, and to help the spread of information technologies in the educational process.

Catch a Star is a contest that has been held as a result of the collaboration between the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) and European Southern Observatory (ESO).

The idea of the Catch a Star program is to encourage students to work together, to learn about astronomy and discover things for themselves by researching information on an astronomical object.

* * *

School students around the world are invited to take part in the 2016 Catch a Star astronomy writing contest.

To participate, students should submit a written report on an astronomical topic of their choice — for example, an astronomical object, phenomenon, observation, scientific problem or theory. Reports must be written in English and be no more than 5000 words in length. They may be undertaken by groups of up to three students, plus a group leader who is not a student.

Each submission must be emailed as a PDF file to The deadline for all entries is 30 November 2016.

The five winners will each receive a mounted image of a fascinating astronomical object, courtesy of ESO. In addition, each winner will also have the chance to carry out remote observations at the National Astronomical Observatory “Rozhen”, Bulgaria, or to hold a video conference with a professional astronomer.

Catch a Star is organised jointly by the European Association for Astronomy Education (EAAE) and ESO. Its aim is to encourage creativity and independent work amongst students, and to strengthen and expand their astronomical knowledge and skills.

Find out more about the competition on the Catch a Star website.


* Catch a Star 2016 –
* How to participate –
* Catch a Star 2015 winners –


Oana Sandu
Community Coordinator & Strategy Officer
ESO education and Public Outreach Department
Tel: +49 89 320 069 65

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “The Big Lake Effect Storms: How The Great Lakes Feed Back Into Themselves To Keep The Heavy Snow Going”

Saturday – February 20, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

View Larger Map

Talk Overview

The Great Lakes strongly influence the atmosphere in ways which might surprise you, especially in the winter when they are producing really heavy snow. We’ll look at some of the heavier Lake Effect storms and see how the Great Lakes actually modify the atmosphere to allow them to be more efficient snow making “machines.”


David Eichorn, Meteorologist, MS environmental Science and PhD student at ESF; Member, American Meteorological Society; AMS Seal of Approval for Radio and Television.

2016feb8_13960483_mmmainDave is a meteorologist with over 30 years experience, currently with WSYR TV Syracuse specializing in lake effect snowstorms and atmospheric patterns which produce them. Dave earned his BS in Environmental Science from Empire State College, his MS in Environmental Science from SUNY ESF, and is presently PhD student at SUNY ESF. His PhD research is in modeling severe lake effect snow storms and their atmospheric signatures during their peak intensity. Dave has held adjunct teaching positions at SUNY Oswego and Onondaga Community College teaching Introductory Meteorology, Forecasting and Broadcast Meteorology. He presently teaches meteorology at SUNY College Of Environmental Science and Forestry. The courses he teaches at SUNY ESF are focused on climate change, global weather patterns and potential regional impacts as a result of climate change – science with a meteorological perspective. As a TV Meteorologist, Dave received awards for severe weather coverage of the superstorm of March 1993, Hurricane Gloria, and for educating the public in the science of Meteorology. Since January 2006, Dave has given scores of talks and presentations on climate change science to thousands of Central New Yorkers. He also worked with SUNY-ESF speaking with Syracuse City School District students at the “SUNY-ESF/SCSD Environmental Challenge” science fair and in 2008, moderated SUNY-ESF’s seminar series “CNY’s Response to Global Energy and Climate Change Challenges” working with community leaders across all of Central New York on local efforts toward the mitigation of our carbon footprint.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions between scientists and students about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit

CNYO Observing Log: Attempted Observing, Successful Lecture, And Maker Hall Session For January, 2016

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A brief summary of events already had in January. For the most part, this is the time of year when most activities slow to a crawl (unless you’ve got a good few pairs of thermals to wear, in which case you’re observing is limited by conditions and the build-up of water vapor as you breath too close to an eyepiece).

Solar @ Green Lakes, Nighttime @ Baltimore Woods, January 9th

With the Friday night session a complete wash at Baltimore Woods, Bob Piekiel and I ran a double on Saturday, January 9th. The first event was a solar observing run at Green Lakes State Park (amid current construction around the main building). Sadly, this was the best-attended failed session yet, with considerable cloud cover only providing the most fleeting glimpse of the Sun before taking it away again. Attendance peaked near 25, though, which is great news otherwise. Bob will be running (and I wing-man’ing) a few more solar sessions, for which we hope the skies agree at least once.


Observers observing, but not as planned @ Green Lakes. Click for a larger view.

I am pleased to mention that, near the end of the session, a few mountain bikers came by the scopes to ask what we were looking at. When I said it was a failed solar observing session, one of the bikers (in an SOS shirt) mentioned that he had learned some observing with “A guy named Stu.” Taking a few minutes to remember local amateur astronomer extraordinare Stu Forster was a treat that made my otherwise overcast day.

Later that night, during what was maybe-sort-of predicted to be an opening in the sky from 7 to 8, Bob and I waited patiently at Baltimore Woods for his monthly New Moon weekend session. We went with hope, then left with 90 minutes remaining in the session as the cloud cover only got worse-and-worse. Our loss was other’s gain, of course – as we’ve had a few previous January sessions that were painfully cold but clear. 2016 has started warm but painfully cloudy.

Ceres & Pluto @ DPL 4 CNY Skeptics, January 21st

The lecture given at DeWitt Community Library for our fellow science-minded friends in CNY Skeptics was a repeat (mostly) of the Ceres & Pluto lecture given at Liverpool Public Library late last year. With a few new pics and the benefit of one full pass of the lecture, this session went fairly well (minus at least one softball-stump-the-speaker question). Plans are already in the works for a few more lectures, including one at DPL for the non-affiliated library audience.

TACNY Maker Hall @ The Dr. King Community Celebration, January 30th


A view from the CNYO table (and a Meteor Game). Click for a larger view.

This past Saturday, CNYO hosted a strategically-placed table to talk astro-shop for a third MLK Community Day Celebration in a row (with continued thanks to STEM Superstar Mary Eileen Wood for the invitation to the event at Nottingham High School). With brochures, Prof. John McMahon’s graciously donated table-top scope (and a 38mm eyepiece to be able to get *anything* into focus in the background), Mars and Ceres pebbles, and a gyroscope in tow, we had about 50 kids and adults stop by over the course of the 2 hour 30 min event. Directly behind us, Dr. David Wormuth made a guest appearance and put his surgical skills to the test (well, not really) in a live demo for the attending audience.