Category Archives: Upstate Ny Stargazing

Upstate NY Stargazing In April: The Lyrid Meteor Shower – Posted To syracuse.com And nyup.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The April, 2018 UNY Stargazing article is up for your reading and sharing pleasure at syracuse.com and newyorkupstate.com:

Links: newyorkupstate.com & syracuse.com

There are still random listserv mentions of hosted Messier Marathons among some of the local clubs. Be sure to check your local astronomy club to see if any events are being scheduled. I wasn’t sure if the article was going to come out before or after the Tiangong-1 final descent, so kept the opening discussion of potential problems with things “up there” general. On top of some excellent planetary viewing this month, The Lyrids make their yearly return, then we continue to zodiac discussion with Gemini – perfectly placed in the western skies this evening for some strain-free scope and bino observing.

The good, the bad, and the potentially ugly things that fall from space. Micrometeorites (IFLScience.com), a SkyLab fragment (from wikipedia), and the Chelyabinsk meteor trail (Alex Alishevskikh).

When asked to list the contents of our Solar System, some stop at the Sun, planets, and moons. Others will remember comets – a list of objects that grows much longer every year. For those looking for up-to-date info, see minorplanetcenter.net – we have comfortably cleared the 4000 comet mark. Some may add the asteroid belt – a region between Mars and Jupiter which looks less like the chaotic debris field from “The Empire Strikes Back” and more like oases of larger rocks separated by vast, empty deserts of tiny particles. Don’t forget the currently 18,000-long list of NEOs, or Near-Earth Objects.

These are among the more than 18,000 reasons why the late-great Stephen Hawking and others have championed the need for colonization beyond the Earth’s surface.

Changing positions in the sky is one thing – changing elevations is very different. Occasional bright flares make the news when captured on video. Events like Tunguska and Chelyabinsk remind us that there thing in space we might miss that could level cities. We are fortunate that most of the roughly 160 tons of debris from space that hits the Earth *each day* is in the form of micrometeorites that you could start collecting with a strong magnet and a flat rooftop.

The highly-anticipated demise of the Tiangong-1 over the weekend was a reminder that we may not be able to always rely on the “dilution-solution” of handling our garbage. Our planet is large, spherical, mostly covered in water, and largely unpopulated – but the number of satellites going to space will only increase as launches get cheaper. It remains to be seen if nations will opt to address the dangers of space junk before or after something serious – and unavoidable – happens here on the ground.

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Upstate NY Stargazing In March: Two Full Moons, Venus And Mercury After Sunset – Posted To syracuse.com And nyup.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The March, 2018 UNY Stargazing article is up for your reading and sharing pleasure at syracuse.com and newyorkupstate.com:

Links: newyorkupstate.com & syracuse.com

Note that March is the best month for planning your Messier Marathon. Be sure to check your local astronomy club to see if any events are being scheduled.

The best-of-winter constellations over Baltimore Woods in Marcellus, NY. The bright star at lower-center is Sirius in Canis Major. To its right and up, the belt of Orion, the five-star “V” of Taurus, and the Pleiades star cluster near the image edge. Photo by the author.

There were a few evenings this past February that were unexpectedly comfortable for the time of year, hopefully giving observers some unexpectedly long opportunities to take in some of the busiest regions of our nighttime sky. To have the grouping of the Winter Hexagon – Orion, Taurus, Auriga, Gemini, Canis Minor, and Canis Major – out and about at such reasonable hours means that anyone can see not only the brightest grouping of bright stars in our yearly sky, but also some of the closest groups of stars. The Hyades star cluster, made up of the “V” of the head of Taurus the Bull – but not including the bright eye star Aldebaran – is our closest star cluster at 150 light years. Just to the northwest of the Hyades lies the second-closest bright cluster of stars to our Solar System – the Pleiades.

If you can find the Pleiades and the patch of stars under Orion’s Belt, you can even scratch two of the 110 Messier Objects off of your list. The history and some key details of the Messier Objects were discussed in the March, 2017 article. In brief – these are the bright galaxies, star clusters, and nebulae that can all be found with little more than a quality pair of binoculars, dark skies, a good star chart, and a big cup of coffee. The time around mid-March and early-April is the only time of the year when, if you start VERY soon after sunset, you can find all 110 of these objects before sunrise the next morning. Astronomy clubs the world over often plan marathons as a group – these are great opportunities to learn from seasoned amateurs as well as to see how the same object may look in many different binoculars and telescopes.

The 110 Messier Objects through highest-quality optics. Images compiled by Michael A. Phillips.

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Also, in the event, February flew too quickly for the post. The February, 2018 article is linked to below:

Links: newyorkupstate.com & syracuse.com

“Upstate NY Stargazing In November” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the Upstate NY Stargazing series, “Upstate NY Stargazing in November: The Leonid meteor shower takes the stage,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

Direct Links: newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com

Some brief highlights…

The Leonids can be impressive and impressively bright, with up-to 20 meteors per hour expected this year. This shower will be improved by the lack of a Moon in the nighttime sky during the peak. To optimize your experience, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointed towards Leo and your head elevated – meteors will then appear to fly right over and around you.

Using Orion et al. to find the backwards question mark of Leo the Lion.

* With Orion out and about at a reasonable hour, the Orion-star-finder has been brought back from the UNY Stargazing archives (again):

Caption: Orion can guide you around its neighborhood. Red = belt stars to Sirius and Canis Major; Orange = Rigel and belt center to Castor and Pollux in Gemini; Yellow = Bellatrix and Betelgeuse to Canis Major; Green = Belt stars to Aldebaran and Taurus; Blue = Saiph and Orion’s head to Capella in Auriga. Click for a larger view.

* While UNY is predicted to be clouded out this November 13th morning, others will hopefully get to see an impressive conjunction between Venus and Jupiter before sunrise.

A very close pairing of Venus and Jupiter, with Mars and the Moon to boot.

* And, finally, we complete our survey of the circumpolar constellations by explaining just what they are and why they’re excellent first targets for new observers:


A walk through Nov. 1 in 6-hour increments. Focus on the six constellations in the blue circles. Day or night, all throughout the year, these constellations are always above the horizon for NY observers.