Category Archives: Public Observing

Observing Update: North Sportsman’s Club Session Is ON For Tonight, Saturday Oct. 10th

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

A red-lit view of the NSC building (and several tens of billions of stars towards the galactic center).

It’s looking good enough tonight for the session (very partial cloud cover, which is good enough given past scheduled events), so we’ll be at NSC from 8 to 11. We’ll lose Saturn soon after 8:00 p.m. to our Southwest, leaving Neptune and Uranus as the planetary viewing for the night (and we can, at least, look in the direction of Pluto). The night will be peppered with great objects, from our own backyard to sights beyond our Local Group.

The NSC in google maps. Click to generate directions.

For additional details, check out our original post: Two (Maybe Three) Saturday Sessions Announced For The North Sportsman’s Club – Sept 12th, Oct 3rd, And (Maybe) Oct 10th

Prepping For International Observe The Moon Night (Sept. 19) And A Total Lunar Eclipse (Sept. 27)

UPDATE: 19 Sept 2015, 5:00 p.m. – Sadly, the weather is not cooperating with us this evening, so our IOMN session downtown in CANCELED. We’ll hope for better conditions during the lunar eclipse next week.

UPDATE: and Facebook Events have been added for both the IOMN (meetup | facebook) and eclipse IOMN (meetup | facebook) sessions.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

We focus on the Moon this month with one natural event and one “nature-derived” (sounds better than “artificial”) event.

International Observe The Moon Night – Saturday, Sept. 19th, 7 – 9 p.m.


It’s the Moon, so doesn’t much matter where you set up to observe. A snapshot from last year’s CNYO IOMN session in Armory Square (near The MOST and Sound Garden).

International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is an annual event that is dedicated to encouraging people to ‘look up’ and take notice of our nearest neighbor, the Moon. From looking at the Moon with a naked eye to using the most sensitive telescope, every year on the same day, people from around the world hold events and activities that celebrate our Moon. On this site, you can find information about an InOMN event near you or register your own event. We encourage everyone to join us in the celebration!

Because the viewing was easier (and the crowd a little easier to find) from close to The MOST last year, we’re going to set up the scopes at (or close to) the very beginning of the south end of the Onondaga Creekwalk (map below, right below The Sound Garden). This spot provides ample parking and a fairly clear view of the Southwest/South/Southeast (certainly enough for lunar viewing) while not being quite as bright as other spots in the vicinity.

2014august28_logo_finalThe 6 day old waxing crescent Moon is a nice compromise of brightness and detail for giving the Moon a good looking at (given the preference to have IOMN on a Saturday night, anyway). Not only will we have a terminator to give us shadows and perceived depth, but we’ll have pleasant views of the many large “seas” on the Moon’s surface – including Mare Tranquillitatis (with the Apollo 11 landing site just on its coast), Fecunditatis, Serenitatis, and Crisium – out in the open for inspection. For those wondering about the timing (besides the whole weekend thing), Full Moon is actually one of the most boring times to observe the Moon. With the Sun’s light beating straight down on the Moon’s surface, we have no shadows to bring out crater depth or mountain height. Most observers agree that the most interesting views are right along the terminator where light and dark meet, so having a nice piece of that to observe makes for a much more visually appealing session.

Total Lunar Eclipse – Sunday, Sept. 27th, 8:11 p.m. to 1:22 a.m. (28th)

NOTE: Bob Piekiel will be hosting a total lunar eclipse session at Baltimore Woods on the 27th. If you want to see the Moon in fine detail through telescopes, this will be an excellent place to be.

Those who’ve been keeping constant track may recognize the eclipse discussion below as a re-post from April, 2014 (Total Lunar Eclipse, Mars Just Past Opposition And A Very Early Observing Event At Baltimore Woods on April 15th), itself followed up by another lunar eclipse post from October, 2014 (CNYO Observing Log: Lunar Eclipse And Syracuse Academy Of Science, 8 October 2014).

And now onto the upcoming total eclipse – and my continued belief that lunar eclipses don’t get the respect they deserve. Yes, solar eclipses are much more exciting and it has been well-documented that people have previously responded very strongly (and not always pleasantly) to solar eclipses. The sudden darkening of the sky and noticeable temperature drop can cause all shades of responses (no pun intended) in people. That said, all we really get (besides a view of the solar corona) is an example of what happens when you put a black disc in front of the Sun. Lunar eclipses, on the other hand, tell us a bit about how the Earth itself interacts with the Sun by how this interaction alters our view of the Moon.

Both solar and lunar eclipses tell us something about the Sun/Earth/Moon relationship. Specifically, we learn that the Sun/Earth orbital plane (the oval made as the Earth goes around the Sun each year) and the Earth/Moon orbital plane (our local oval) are not the same – the Earth/Moon plane is tilted slightly off the Sun/Earth plane by 5.2 degrees (small, but just enough). That is, the Moon spends some time above and some times below the Sun/Earth orbital plane, while sitting right in the plane only two times each orbit (where the two planes intersect). How do we know this? Simple. If the Earth/Moon plane were exactly in the Sun/Earth plane, there would be a total solar eclipse and total lunar eclipse every month because there would be a time each month (New Moon) when the Sun, Moon, and Earth made a straight line (Sun-Moon-Earth = solar eclipse) and a time each month (Full Moon) when the Sun, Earth, and Moon made a straight line (Sun-Earth-Moon = lunar eclipse). As the two planes are slightly off, the New Moon is simply “off the radar” of most people because it can’t be seen during the daytime. The Full Moon, on the other hand, is brilliantly bright most of the time because it only infrequently enters the Earth’s shadow.

The image below shows this very nicely (and it’s always better to find and cite a good image than to have to roll your own). Give it a look for 30 seconds to make sure each of the four cases make sense to you.


The Sun/Earth and Earth/Moon orbital planes. Note the top and bottom orientations that are perfect for eclipses (and the left and right that are not). Image taken from (from Chaisson & McMillan Publishing). Click for a larger view.

Total solar and lunar eclipses, then, occur on special, but periodic and predictable, occasions when the Moon finds itself exactly in the Sun/Earth plane. When it’s just ever-so-slightly off this plane AND still between the Sun and Earth (or still falls into the Earth’s shadow in the Sun-Earth-Moon arrangement), we get partial eclipses. Just that simple.


What to expect on April 15th (the government’s cashing in on its short wavelength tax!). Image from this article at

Perhaps the most striking difference between a solar and lunar eclipse is that a solar eclipse obstructs the disc of the Sun, leaving only a view of its wispy exterior (corona), while a lunar eclipse alters the color of the Moon while still allowing us to see it in its entirety. Those watching the lunar eclipse will see the Moon go from its usual bright grey to orange, then a dark red before reversing the color order. The reason for this dark red coloring is the same reason why our sky is blue – the scattering of light in our atmosphere. Recalling our handy scattering relationship – that scattering (I) is proportional to 1 / wavelength4, we see that shorter wavelengths scatter more than longer wavelengths (because the wavelengths are in the bottom of the proportion, so larger numbers decrease the value of “I”). The image below was taken from one of the great non-wikipedia physics sites (well worth several afternoons to explore),


The scattering relationship. See…/blusky.html for much, much more.

We see that shorter wavelength light gets “bounced around” more, while longer wavelength light passes for longer distances unimpeded by interactions with molecules and larger particles (like soot after big volcanic eruptions) in our atmosphere. Light going straight from the Sun hits our atmosphere and gets increasingly scattered as the wavelength gets shorter – blue scatters more than red, so we see the blue strongly when we look up during the day. With the blue light strongly scattered, those people on the edges of where the Sun’s light falls – those just starting or ending their days – see more red light because that wavelength wasn’t as strongly scattered – effectively those at sunrise and sunset get the filtered-out leftovers of the light that those at high noon see as blue. The “lit” side of the world experiences a range of different colors depending on where they are during the day, but all are being illuminated by waves of light from the Sun that left at the same exact time (plus or minus a nanosecond or two).

Because it’s a busy week and the author is feeling lazy, he refers you to the top image of the three-panel image below, showing how the scattering of sunlight in our atmosphere occurs sooner after entry (on average) for blue, a bit later (on average) for green, then a bit later (on average) for yellow, then out to red, some of which is and isn’t scattered (on average).


The scattering of light by Earth’s atmosphere (shorter wavelengths scatter sooner). The other two images are placed into context by your reading about extrasolar planetary atmosphere studies. See…-in-blue-light/ for that info.

And so, we know that blue is scattered strongly and red is not. This red light then races to the edges of our illuminated globe and the red light not scattered directly down to Earth or scattered in the opposite direction (out into space right above you) races past Earth at various altered (scattered) angles. During the most complete part of the lunar eclipse, the red color you see is, in fact, the red light that is passing through the edges of our atmosphere at those places experiencing sunrise and sunset (the sunlight performing a “grazing blow” of our atmosphere). As you might guess, if Earth were to lose its atmosphere (but don’t give any of your industrious friends any ideas), our lunar eclipses would appear quite different. Instead of a dark red Moon, we’d simply see a black disc where no stars shone (like placing a quarter at arms length and obscuring anything behind it).

Two (Maybe Three) Saturday Sessions Announced For The North Sportsman’s Club – Sept 12th, Oct 3rd, And (Maybe) Oct 10th

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

A red-lit view of the NSC building (and several tens of billions of stars towards the galactic center).

We are happy to announce a few new sessions at the North Sportsman’s Club to take us into the Fall and, for many, the near-end of their comfortable observing weather (although enough of us are crazy… about the Winter Constellations, so we’ll also brave any clear skies between December and March).

For those who didn’t make it to one of the sessions last year, the NSC is located in West Monroe, NY – take 81 to Exit 32, turn onto 49 East, then make a LEFT (at the next lights) onto Route 37 and go about a 1/2 mile North until you see the NSC sign on your RIGHT – maybe 15 minutes from downtown Syracuse. Map’ed out below.

The NSC in google maps. Click to generate directions.

The field provides an excellent Eastern horizon, complete with a distant radio tower red light for your Telrad aligning pleasure. For those who like to watch Earth’s rotation in real time – or see the very first arrivals of Messier Objects – tripod’ed binoculars pointed anywhere on the Eastern tree line and a comfortable seat will last you all evening. The East and North-East are wide open well to the North-West (so we’ll have many chances to view the Andromeda Galaxy at various point in the evening) and the tree line to the South and South-West block some of the distant light from Syracuse and related, making it a great spot for taking a lot of the sky in in very short order (weather-pending, of course).

The two (maybe three) sessions are as follows:

Saturday, September 12th – 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. – [ event & facebook event] coming up soon! The New Moon hits early in the morning on the 13th and the cold front arriving on Thursday should make the nighttime sky quite comfortable. Hopefully the clouds cooperate.

Saturday, October 3rd – 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. – [ event & facebook event] the 3rd Quarter Moon arrives close to 11:00 p.m. and our low, clear Eastern Horizon will make for some excellent final views for those with packed scopes but accessible binoculars.

* Saturday, October 10th – 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. – We’re currently holding the 10th as a weather-alternate for the 3rd. That said, if we get lots of interest, we’re going to run a session that evening as well.

We’ve added these events to our and Facebook pages, and will make final announcements by 5:00 p.m. The evening of each session. Keep track of for any additional info (or drop us a line through our Contact Page). We hope to see your dark, featureless outlines at (at least) one of these sessions!

CNYO’s Perseid Meteor Shower Events – Baltimore Woods, Beaver Lake, And Green Lakes

UPDATE, 5:00 P.M. FRI, AUG 14 – The forecast predicts rain and cloud cover followed by improving conditions, so tonight’s Green Lakes Session is A GO to finish up our Perseid Week Observing Sessions. See below for details.

UPDATE, 2:30 P.M. THU, AUG 13 – The forecast is predicted to be reasonable for tonight, so our Beaver Lake Session is A GO.

THAT SAID – Beaver Lake has now closed registration because they’ve hit a high attendance number. Please consider our Green Lakes session this Friday/Saturday (check back for weather updates – see below for more info).

UPDATE, 4:45 P.M. WED, AUG 12 – Partly cloudy = partly clear, so we’ll be having the Baltimore Woods session tonight for the Perseid Meteor Shower. See below for details and registration information.

Greetings, fellow astrophiles – and those from Glenn Coin’s recent articles [1, 2, 3]!

We’ll be updating the list below with weather and official confirm/cancel announcements for our Perseid sessions. Please check back at 5:00 p.m. each day for final calls, then hope for clear skies the next few days!

To register for the Baltimore Woods and Beaver Lake sessions, please use the provided links. For questions or comments to us, please send your email to or use the Contact Form on our website.

Baltimore Woods Nature Center

* Wednesday, 12 August, 9 – 11 p.m.IS ON FOR TONIGHT!
* NOTE: Please register (LINK HERE) so they have an official head count.

Beaver Lake Nature Center

* Thursday, 13 August, 8:30 – 11:00 p.m.IS ON FOR TONIGHT!
* NOTE: Please register (LINK HERE) so they have an official head count.

Green Lakes State Park

* Friday, 14 August, 8 – 10:30 p.m. – Weather Pending (check back at 5 p.m.)
* Saturday, 15 August, 8 – 10:30 p.m. – Weather Alternate (check back at 5 p.m.)

A Very Full August For Observing In CNY – Events List And Links To Facebook/Meetup Calendars

NOTE: As Always, check back here on the afternoons of each observing session for final announcements and/or weather-calls!

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

This post is one part bulk announcement and one part organizational test. August is full of scheduled observing sessions in the area just before everyone’s summer shifts back into school mode and we start back into doing more lectures. In order to let social media do some of the promotion work for us, we’re cramming all of the sessions into our Facebook Group Calendar and Events Listing.

This month is dominated (by the outdoorsy type, anyway) by the annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaking on August 12/13. Those big on “super-things” will be made aware by news agencies of the August 29th Full Sturgeon SuperMoon – which to me sounds like a jam band (the Sturgeon Moon is actually derived from many of the NY tribes who fished the Great Lakes – noting that this time of year (marked by the full Moon around towards the end of Summer) was prime for sturgeon fishing).

Venus and Jupiter set earlier and earlier each day, but we do gain Mercury in the same location. Expect a few pics trying to capture all three to appear on your Facebook feed. The night belongs to Saturn this summer and fall, with observers able to look in the direction of Pluto (and those with really big mirrors (I mean in the +25″ range) may even be able to see it. In fact, it’s right between the easily-findable stars Xi1 (5th mag) and Xi2 (3.5 mag) Sagittarii), see Ceres soon after, and, if they wait until after 11 or so, even scout out Neptune.

The Events List is summarized below, with links to our Facebook (FB) and Meetup (MU) calendars, as well as to the locations themselves and any additionally relevant information. AS ALWAYS – nearly all of these events are weather-pending, with an alternate scheduled for either the next day or, for Clark Reservation, the next week.

Feel free to RSVP by either/both of the links (including those listed for each event by the hosts) – and note some potential overlap on the 13th!

1. (FB/MU) August 8(Sat), 9 p.m. – ??? * Friends Of Rogers in Sherburne, NY

One of the few CNYO sessions ever beyond Onondaga and Oswego County, some of us will be taking our scopes on a short excursion down to Sherburne, hopefully to (1) take in a little more of the Southern Sky than we have previously, (2) catch some early shooters from the Perseid Meteor Shower and (3) introduce some Sherburne residents to some prime late-Summer observing. This event is a bit of a drive (about an hour) and, if interested, some of us may be able to arrange car pooling (depending on the sizes of the scopes being brought down).

2. (FB/MU) August 11 (Tue), 6 – 8 p.m. * Marcellus Free Library

Marcellus Free Library is hosting a How-To Fair this evening. Like the same session we ran a solar session at for Liverpool Public Library, this event will host several local organizations showing how to do any of a number of activities. To this session, Bob Piekiel will be hosting a Solar Viewing Session (weather-permitting). I’ve still several pairs of solar glasses available from our International SUNDay attempt that I’ll be giving away to attendees.

3. (FB/MU) August 12(Wed)/13(Thu), 9 – 11 (or later) p.m. * Baltimore Woods Nature Center

NOTE: BW charges a fee to all events to help support the maintenance of and other programs at its Nature Center ($6 for BW members, $9 for nonmembers). They also request that you RSVP with them so that they can keep a head-count of how well-attended their activities are (but Bob will also keep track of registered and last-minute attendees). Registration info is available at:

Bob Piekiel will be opening the gate this evening in hopes of a busy and early Perseid Meteor Shower session. We’ve had some excellent past sessions from the parking lot and front clearing of BW and hope for similar this year. Bring a blanket, reclining outdoor chair, and plenty of bug spray.

4. (FB/MU) August 13(Thu)/20(Thu), 8:30 – 10:30 p.m. * Beaver Lake Nature Center

CNYO returns for its twice-yearly observing session at Beaver Lake Nature Center, which is free with your general Beaver Lake admission fee. Beaver Lake requests prior registration so they can keep tabs on attendees (and event interest). Registration info is available at:

5. (FB/MU) August 14(Fri)/15(Sat), 8 – 10:30 p.m. * Green Lakes State Park

Bob Piekiel and I return to Green Lakes State Park for a second S’mores & Stars session (S’mores start at 7:00, observing after 8:30). Additional info is available on the Green Lakes Calendar at:

6. (FB/MU) August 15(Sat)/16(Sun), 1 – 3 p.m. * Baltimore Woods Nature Center

NOTE: BW charges a fee to all events to help support the maintenance of and other programs at its Nature Center ($6 for BW members, $9 for nonmembers). They also request that you RSVP with them so that they can keep a head-count of how well-attended their activities are (but Bob will also keep track of registered and last-minute attendees). Additional info is available at:

7. (FB/MU) August 21(Fri)/22(Sat), 8 – 10 p.m. * Clark Reservation State Park

Bob Piekiel returns to the Syracuse outskirts for a nighttime session in Jamesville. This is an excellent starter session for new observers, as the city lights simplify the sky considerably by washing out many of the faintest stars (excellent for those wanting to learn the constellations).