Monthly Archives: September 2017

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IOTA Announcement – Occultation By Neptune’s Moon Triton – 5 October 2017

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The following recently came across the ASRAS email list from ASRAS and IOTA member Brad Timerson. If you’ve the gear for it, this is an excellent chance to contribute to some far-out science.

There will be an occultation of a 12.5-mag. star by Neptune’s large satellite Triton the early evening of October 5th (just before 8pm EDT) that will be visible from east of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s the brightest star to be occulted by Triton since the Voyager flyby showed that the satellite has a substantial atmosphere with interesting dark plumes. The occultation will allow us to learn more about the atmosphere, and its variation with altitude and latitude. Sofia plans to fly over the Atlantic, to try to catch the central flash, where Triton’s whole atmosphere will focus/amplify the star’s light, probing deeper parts of the atmosphere. This might also be observed from Florida, but observations anywhere from the East Coast area are sought, to sample a wide range of latitudes of Triton’s atmosphere. Details of the occultation are available at MIT’s Web site for the event at

The central time for the Rochester area is within several seconds of 7:55:40 pm EDT on October 5th. For an observer near the center of the path, the event could last as long as 3 minutes. Because the Rochester area is north of that path, any occultation or atmospheric dimming would likely last some fraction of that time. You should plan to record the event for about 10 minutes before and after the time shown here.

A main challenge of the event will be to record Triton and the target star with a good signal, preferably with clear separation between 8th-mag. Neptune less than a quarter arc minute away. You will need good scale to separate the objects well enough. More observing tips are given on the MIT web site. The target star is about a magnitude brighter than Triton.

Telescopes as small as 8″ Newtonians will show the target star. (see included image from a European observer) For occultation work, we don’t need to “see” the occulting body (Triton in this case), just the object being occulted. Low light and/or integrating video cameras are best for this observation. However, standard astronomical cameras operated in a mode so as to produce images as quickly as possible will also work. Testing ahead of time to determine the correct exposure to just barely detect Triton should be done. This is to insure that the light from nearby Neptune doesn’t overwhelm that of the nearby moon and star at the time of the event.

Target star, Neptune, and Triton.

I plan on using my 10″ Meade LX200GPS at either f/6.3 (focal reducer) or at the normal f/10 prime focus. I will be using a Watec 120N+ low light video camera and integrating for 64 or 128 frames (2 seconds and 4 seconds). I’m still experimenting and might even need longer integration times.

Triton occults 4UC 410-143659, 5 October 2017 – visible regions from Earth.

Everyone with suitable equipment is encouraged to try this event. And I would appreciate it if this message is forwarded to any nearby universities that might have the ability to observe this event. If individual images are taken (instead of video) the exact time for each exposure is required (don’t depend on the computer’s internal clock. Use a GPS-based time). For analysis, it may be possible to measure the light level on individual images or the images can be combined into a video and measuring software used on the video.

Please contact me (EMAIL) for additional information or to submit observations.

NASA Space Place – Cassini Says Goodbye

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 September, 2017.

By Teagan Wall

2013february2_spaceplaceOn September 15th, the Cassini spacecraft will have its final mission. It will dive into the planet Saturn, gathering information and sending it back to Earth for as long as possible. As it dives, it will burn up in the atmosphere, much like a meteor. Cassini’s original mission was supposed to last four years, but it has now been orbiting Saturn for more than 13 years!

The spacecraft has seen and discovered so many things in that time. In 2010, Cassini saw a massive storm in Saturn’s northern hemisphere. During this storm, scientists learned that Saturn’s atmosphere has water vapor, which rose to the surface. Cassini also looked at the giant storm at Saturn’s north pole. This storm is shaped like a hexagon. NASA used pictures and other data from Cassini to learn how the storm got its six-sided shape.

Cassini also looked at some of Saturn’s moons, such as Titan and Enceladus. Titan is Saturn’s largest moon. Cassini carried a lander to Titan. The lander, called Huygens, parachuted from Cassini down to the surface of the moon. It turns out, Titan is quite an exciting place! It has seas, rivers, lakes and rain. This means that in some ways, Titan’s landscape looks a bit like Earth. However, its seas and rivers aren’t made of water—they’re made of a chemical called methane.

Cassini also helped us learn that Saturn’s moon Enceladus is covered in ice. Underneath the ice is a giant liquid ocean that covers the whole moon. Tall geysers from this ocean spray out of cracks in the ice and into space, like a giant sneeze. Cassini flew through one of these geysers. We learned that the ocean is made of very salty water, along with some of the chemicals that living things need.

If there is life on Enceladus, NASA scientists don’t want life from Earth getting mixed in. Tiny living things may have hitched a ride on Cassini when it left Earth. If these germs are still alive, and they land on Enceladus, they could grow and spread. We want to protect Enceladus, so that if we find life, we can be sure it didn’t come from Earth. This idea is called planetary protection.

Scientists worry that when Cassini runs out of fuel, it could crash into Titan or Enceladus. So years ago, they came up with a plan to prevent that from happening. Cassini will complete its exploration by diving into Saturn—on purpose. The spacecraft will burn up and become part of the planet it explored. During its final plunge, Cassini will tell us more about Saturn’s atmosphere, and protect the moons at the same time. What an exciting way to say goodbye!

To learn more about Saturn, check out NASA Space Place:

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 image of the hexagonal storm on Saturn’s north pole was taken by Cassini in 2013. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

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!

Free Astronomy Magazine – September-October 2017 Issue Available For Reading And Download

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The most recent issue of Free Astronomy Magazine (September-October, 2017) is available for your reading and downloading pleasure at (click the link to go directly to the issue).

Free Astronomy Magazine was featured as the first of a series of articles on great free online content for amateur astronomers (see A Universe Of Free Resources Part 1) and we’ll be keeping track of future publications under the Online Resources category on the CNYO website.

You can find previous Free Astronomy Magazine issues by checking out our Free Astronomy Magazine Category (or look under the Education link in our menu).

For those wanting a quick look at what the issue has to offer, the Table of Contents is reproduced below.

September-October 2017

The web browser-readable version of the issue can be found here:

September-October 2017 –

For those who want to jump right to the PDF download (27 MB), Click here: September-October 2017

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “Secrets, Strength & Sleep: Three Short Talks with Three Student Scientists”

Saturday – September 16, 9:30-11:00am

Please RSVP to

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

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Talk 1: “Behind the Cause: How Computational Simulations Can Help Fight Disease,” by Elise White, Senior at Binghamton High School

Overview: Envision a revolutionary ability bestowed upon you allowing unlimited insight into the complex depths of your body and the biological world. You become witness to the thousands of processes and theories described in textbooks, freely watching and even manipulating thousands of atoms and molecules interact on a timescale a billion times smaller than a second. Focus – Alzheimer’s – a disease that attacks your brain and erases its memories. Using this incredible ability, you can attempt to illuminate the cause of such a horrible disease. Join Elise as she shares the journey of doing precisely that, and learn how computational simulations are revolutionizing modern research!

Short biography: Propelled by a family tragedy, Elise began researching the Tau protein and the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. As a result, Elise became a 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist, where she received a Special Award. She also was selected to compete in the New York State Science Congress, and was there awarded highest honors in the physical sciences.

Talk 2: “Making Cool Things Out of Light,” by Hari Nanthakumar, Senior at Christian Brothers Academy

Overview: As part of the Hosein Research Group of Syracuse University, Hari creates materials that are ultra-light and ultra-strong. They can be applied in spaceships and airplanes resulting in fuel-efficiency, making travel much cheaper and requiring significantly less gas, and allowing spaceships to feasibly reach Mars and other planets. Learn how we make these fascinating materials, all by pointing LED lamps at a liquid and causing an interesting reaction.

Short biography: Hari has performed research at SUNY Oswego and Syracuse University. He was a 2017 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair Finalist, and there received an Honorable Mention from NASA. Hari published a paper as lead author in Elsevier’s Results in Physics, was a 2x Silver Medalist at the GENIUS Olympiad, and was featured in reports by NewsChannel 9 WSYR and SU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Talk 3: “Sleep or Sleeplessness?” by Neil Khurana, Senior at Fayetteville-Manlius High School

Overview: Sleep plays an important role in our health and well being, but many of us seem to not get enough of it. Sometimes the disturbance of the biological clock may give rise to sleep disorders. Learn about a diagnostic tool, which may drastically change the future of treating the global sleep epidemic!

Short biography: Neil worked as an intern at Quadrant Biosciences, and volunteered as a research assistant at the Department of Neurosurgery and Neurosciences at Upstate Medical University. Neil was a 2017 Intel International Science Fair Finalist, and there received a third-place award.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions 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

Sweet Science Series – Science in Art: It’s More than Pretty Pictures

Thursday, 14 September 2017, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

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

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Artists Anita Welych, Kim Waale, and David Rufo will present Science in Art: It’s More than Pretty Pictures, a talk about artists who create works that makes a statement about science, math, and the natural world, as part of the Technology Alliance of Central New York’s 2017-2018 Sweet Science Series.

People interested in learning more about science in art are invited to attend the free Sweet Science Series presentation on Thursday, Sept. 14, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the Space Gallery meeting room at the Museum of Science & Technology in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Admission is free and open to the public. Light snacks will be served. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing by Sept. 12, 2017.


Anita Welych is a mixed-media artist who studied painting at Cornell University, Syracuse University and the Universidad Nacional in Bogotá, Colombia. Her paintings, artist’s books, collages and installations have been exhibited nationally and internationally. She currently teaches in the Studio Art BFA program at Cazenovia College. She has received two Fulbright Grants to Colombia to study, teach, and lecture at various universities across the country. Welych’s current work is an ongoing project exploring the life history of North American bird species that have become extinct or critically endangered. Each work references specific species to convey the pain and futility of our inadequate human response to environmental crises. As the planet faces the increasing threats of global environmental degradation, this work serves as either an elegy or a call to action.

Kim Waale, professor of art, has taught art at Cazenovia College since 1988. She is an accomplished artist with many national and international exhibitions over the past two decades, and has been an artist-in- residence creating sculptural installations in Wales, Spain, Macedonia, Ecuador and within the United States. Waale has also written and been featured in books and articles. Waale makes site-based installations that simulate nature – whimsical fictions, slippages between reality and artifice. Her installations are made of dumb materials and yet they’re plastic sublimes – romantic natural hybrids. The unnatural materials used to construct these artificial landscapes are readily evident: ordinary plastic wrap, rubber, and Styrofoam. By making these materials self evident, the illusion of landscape disintegrates even as it is being created.

David Rufo holds a Ph.D. in Teaching and Curriculum with a specialization in Art Education at Syracuse University. He has worked as a general elementary classroom teacher and as an instructor at Syracuse University. His current academic research examines the way children’s self-initiated creativity is informed by student agency in various educational contexts and has published articles in peer-reviewed journals, including Art Education, Teaching Artist Journal, and the STEAM Journal. Rufo’s paintings explore visual oscillations and pattern structures. Currently, his work is informed by the hyper-kinetic shifts of the Op Art movement and viscous psychedelic imagery that permeated the visual landscape of his childhood in the 1960s and 70s. An additional element emerges in Rufo’s most recent work through the use of items such as commercial stencils and large flat washers to create a variety of masking effects. This added layer generates a perceptual dissonance brought on by a narrow depth of field and shapes that seemingly float atop parabolic spiral patterns.

TACNY John Edson Sweet Lecture Series

TACNY John Edson Sweet Lectures, a program founded in 1913, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere. A minimum of six Sweet Lectures are held each year.

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