Category Archives: Public Observing

Beaver Lake Nature Center Hosts “Stargazing with CNYO” – 8 August 2013 (15 August Weather-Alternate)

CNYO is delighted to schedule another lecture at Beaver Lake Nature Center this coming August for an observing session of the Summer Constellations and all of the Messier Objects visible in the Southern Summer Sky. As with our most recent Beaver Lake session, there will be NO indoor lecture session. We’ll be running the entire discussion from the central yard in front of the main building, starting the lecture near the setting of the Sun and driving the discussion of Constellations and planets as they appear to our dark-adapting eyes.


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We will again be using the CNYO Brochures How The Night Sky Moves and Guide For New Observers to drive discussion (and will have plenty on hand).

Stargazing with CNY Observers & Observing

Thursday, August 8th (Rain Date: Thursday, August 15th), 8:00 p.m.

Age Range: There are no age requirements, but please be aware (and make children aware) that fragile and expensive observing equipment will be present.

Description: CNY Observers (CNYO) hosts an introductory lecture to the Night Sky, focusing on planets and other objects observable during August and September. Part of the lecture will discuss some simple ways to learn the Constellations, while the rest of the lecture will provide details about meteor showers, observing satellites and the ISS, and the ever-expanding description of our own Solar System. If time and weather permits, some early evening views of Venus and Saturn will be had from the Beaver Lake parking lot. Free for members; $2 for nonmembers.

Admission

$3 per car • $15 per bus
Free for Friends of Beaver Lake

Contact

8477 East Mud Lake Road
Baldwinsville, NY 13027
T: (315) 638-2519
BLNC@ongov.net

We hope you can join us!

Syracuse Observing Double-Header (Weather-Pending) This Friday And Saturday – Baltimore Woods And CNYO’s Second Official Session At The Syracuse Inner Harbor

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The skies are promising (if slightly windy) for the next few evenings, providing two observing opportunities that bring the two largest planets in our Solar System into view in one night.

Friday, April 5 – 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. – Baltimore Woods

The first opportunity is Bob Piekiel’s monthly Baltimore Woods observing session tonight (Friday, April 5th) from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Details on this event (directions, cost, etc.) can be found in this CNYO Announcement Page (which will then take you to the Baltimore Woods page for the official-official announcements). I have it on good authority (as I’ll be doing some of the lifting) that Bob will have his 16″ Meade on hand. This should provide views of Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy, the Orion Nebula, and many other soon-to-set-too-early objects that are remarkable enough to last until our Winter constellations reappear in the late-Fall. Saturn, which should clear the Eastern Horizon around 10:30 p.m., will arrive a little too late for this session, but we might get one more good look at Comet panSTARRS (especially in the 16″ Meade).

Saturday, April 6 – 7:30 to ??? – Syracuse Inner Harbor

CNYO hosts its second official session of the year (weather-permitting) back at the first location, the Syracuse Inner Harbor (map below). While we established that it is far from the darkest of dark-sky locations, our first event on March 8th provided more than enough celestial eye candy and excellent discussions. If you’re new to observing, the objects easily visible from the Inner Harbor will not tax your vision or your fuzzy-object imagination, making the Inner Harbor a great place to get your feet wet (no pun intended) in amateur astronomy.

If the weather stays reasonable, this session may be the first of the year to bring Saturn into the view of our eyepieces at around 10:30 p.m. (but will be decidedly better around 11).


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We hope you can join Bob Piekiel on Friday, then join CNYO on Saturday! Keep track of the website or facebook page for updates Friday and Saturday afternoon.

CNYO First Official Outing – Messier Sprint, Jupiter, And (Maybe) Comet Pan-STARRS – Friday March 8 – Syracuse Inner Harbor

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO is pleased to announce a first chance for 2013 to get outdoors and do some late-winter observing. Members and their scopes plan to convene at the Syracuse Inner Harbor on the evening of Friday, March 8, combining what we expect to be a Messier Sprint with observing of Jupiter (perhaps Saturn if we stay late enough) and, hopefully, an early evening view of Comet Pan-STARRS in our Western Sky.

Jupiter is high in the Night Sky and has been an excellent sight at Bob Piekiel’s Baltimore Woods observing sessions (with his next session slated for next Friday). Saturn will just clear the Eastern Sky around 11:00 p.m., which may or may not be too late for our first session (temperature-depending). The real treat for this weekend is Comet Pan-STARRS, which will be just at the edge of the Western Sky around sunset. At a predicted brightness of +1.5 magnitude, it will be Naked Eye (and one of three bright comets in our skies this year) for several days (provided Syracuse skies stay clear enough to observe it).

The Messier Sprint – A longer explanation of what amateur astronomers know as a “Messier Marathon” is provided below. As a full Messier Marathon (observing all 110 objects) is an all-night endeavor and we’ll be running our first session from a less-than Dark Sky location, our sprint will focus on several bright clusters, binary stars, and other reasonably bright objects just to get our scopes outside and focusing.

Our location for the event will be a high mound just off the parking lot to the west of the amphitheater, just south of Destiny USA and a location easily accessible from many different routes. A google map centered on the exact location is below:


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With that, keep track of the website and facebook page around 4:00 p.m. Friday afternoon for the official word on the start of our event. We hope you can join us!

Messier Marathon – A Brief Overview

Who

The marathon owes its existence to Charles Messier who, by all accounts (and to the best of my google efforts), never engaged in what he would have simply referred to as “The Me Marathon.” Messier was a famed French comet hunter (the search for comets in the 17th and 18th centuries was THE original “Space Race,” as such discoveries were sure to bring fame and prestige) who, with his assistant Pierre Méchain, catalogued what we know today as the Messier Objects specifically because he wanted to avoid these confusing objects in his cometary searches. Yes, the man who dedicated his life to finding comets is now best known for the catalogue of non-comets he generated. C’est la vie.

What

The Messier Objects are simply a collection of clusters, nebulae, and galaxies that are visible through binoculars and low-power telescopes (and some are naked-eye objects). In effect, they are a collection of the “closest of the bright objects” that one might confuse with a comet, with the “closest/brightest” set including clusters and nebulae within the Milky Way and many galaxies far beyond our spiral arms. As massive, distant, and bright objects, they are stationary in the sky, making them easy for Messier to catalogue in his comet hunting efforts and, for us, making them useful guide posts both for their identification from Constellation markers and for the identification of far fainter objects based on proximity. There are 110 counted Messier Objects but, according to Pierre Méchain himself, only 109 actual objects, as M101 and M102 (the Pinwheel Galaxy) are the result of double-counting (on the bright side, when you’ve found it once, you’ve found it twice!). While the majority of the list goes back to Messier’s time, the last object added, M110, was included in 1960.

Covering the second important “what,” the Messier Marathon is simply a fun way to see how well you know the “photons in your neighborhood… the ones you don’t know you see each night.”

Where

Up! Well, more specifically, up in the Northern Hemisphere. As a French astronomer, Messier’s catalogue contains only objects observable from his Observatory. Accordingly, all 110 objects are visible from Northern Latitudes. That means that (1) a multitude of objects in the Southern Hemisphere that WOULD have made the Messier list are not included because he simply could not point his scope into the ground to look at them and (2) those in the Southern Hemisphere do not engage in Messier Marathons as much as they engage in Messier Sprints, as they have fewer objects to identify (and, the further South they are, the shorter their list is).

When

Members of the Messier list grace our skies all year, with nearly every Constellation visible in the Northern Hemisphere hosting at least one object. Only two things in the Night Sky can obscure Messier objects. The first of these is “whatever else you want to see” that keeps you from looking for the Messiers. The second is the Moon, which can, in fact, obscure the Messier objects considerably (those that are naked-eye Messiers then require binoculars to see, those that are binocular Messiers then require either patience or higher power).

There is one reasonably broad “sweet spot” in the calendar year during which it is POSSIBLE to see every Messier object, with the rotation of the Earth responsible for bringing the entire list to your tripod. This is, of course, only possible because clouds, the irregularity of the horizon (such as our trees to the South and Syracuse to our North), and your ability to remain awake all factor considerably in your success. This time of year is mid-March through early April.

Why

For the reason for the catalogue, see the “What.” For the reason for the Marathon, well, why not? Despite some criticism of the Marathon you can find online, the Marathon provides a way for amateur astronomers to test their memorization of positions in the Night Sky and, important to those of us in CNY, pull out our optics and dust off our notebooks after two or three winter months of missed practice. Again, the Messiers are not simply a set of goals for an observing session, they are invaluable tools as guide posts for the identification of other objects. If the Constellations are “feet” in an astronomical ruler, their associated stars and the nearby Messier Objects serve as the “inches.”

How

An experienced Messier hunter can find the complete set of objects in a pair of 10×50 binoculars. As the goal to some Marathoners is “quantity, not quality,” a low-power pair of binoculars are best for both speed and movement (although your neck will begin to object to objects at your zenith). If I may sneak in a “tortoise and hare” comparison, there’s nothing wrong with finding 20 objects and enjoying the view. You have ALL YEAR to complete your Marathon. They’re not going anywhere!