Category Archives: Cny Science

Three Local Science Fair Judging Opportunities In March: Science-y Adults Please Take Note!

Greetings fellow astrophiles (and other readers)!

March is increasingly looking like a very busy month for CNY science. On top of CNYO’s Liverpool Public Library Session on the 6th, upcoming Sidewalk Astronomy event on 8th, and the Regulus Occultation on the 20th, March also sees three big Science Fairs being hosted on the SU and OCC campuses (with some CNYO participants set to act as judges again this year).

If you’re a science-inclined adult, please consider participating as a judge for one or more of these events. While some of the categories at each event may require/prefer people in the sciences with Bachelors or advanced degrees for judging, many do not. Your interest in what the kids… er… researchers are doing is plenty for being able to support the efforts of these three science fairs.

Ryan Goodson and I participated in the Ying Tri Region Science & Engineering Fair last year and had an excellent time touring the projects and talking shop with many of the presenters. Of specific note for you astronomy buffs was the presentation shown below by Tyler Mucci, featuring a dual optic design for a telescope that lets two people observe the same object simultaneously. Better still, he brought the fully-functional prototype with him (and the results of his optics testing. We should have flown Bob Piekiel in from Marcellus for advanced topics).


You never know what to expect at a science fair (such as Tyler Mucci’s presentation above from the 2013 YingTRSEF event last March), but you’ll definitely be impressed.

The three upcoming science fairs are listed below with links to their home and registration pages.

Thursday, March 13

SUNY ESF Environmental Challenge at ESF and the Carrier Dome
The Info PDF for this event can be downloaded here: 2014feb26_envirochallenge_JudgeFlyer

Sunday, March 23

Ying TRSEF at OCC’s Gordon Student Center
The Info PDF for this event can be downloaded here: 2014feb26_yingtrsef_JudgeRecruitment

Sunday, March 30

The event info can be found at

For those looking for the quick summary, below is the judge invitation letter for the Ying TRSEF Fair…


Dear Colleagues:

Onondaga Community College is once again hosting the Dr. Nelson Ying Tri Region Science and Engineering Fair the weekend of March 22 – 23. This two-day science fest celebrates student interest in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and promotes and nurtures hands-on experience in Science and Technology.

We’re inviting you to judge at the Ying TRSEF, interviewing students in either the Senior (Gr. 9-12) or Junior (Gr. 5-8) levels.

Junior level judges only need a sincere interest in encouraging middle school students. In fact, we encourage college students in STEM fields to judge the younger students.

For the Senior level, we are looking for judges with at least a bachelor degree in a STEM field or Education, who will interview students competing in their own area of expertise.

This year, we are aiming for surpass last year’s record attendance! That means we need even more judges. JUDGES are the MOST IMPORTANT part of the Science Fair, because it is that personal contact with sincerely interested adults that encourages students. Student feedback consistently rates judging at the core of their fair experience.

The commitment? Only a few hours on March 23rd, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., at the latest (and we feed you really well).

Please fill out an online application at The Ying TRSEF website also has details about the Fair, judging, and pictures from earlier Ying TRSEF fairs.

Please forward this message to anyone you think might be interested in judging. For this you can think “distribute widely.” And, of course, feel free to contact me with questions.

Phone: (315) 445-1527
Date: Sunday, March 23
Time: 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. latest
Place: Gordon Student Center at OCC

Marcy Waldauer
Chair, Judge Recruitment
Ying TRSEF Committee

… and below is introductory material for the SUNY-ESF Environmental Challenge…

What: 2014 Environmental Challenge Science Fair
When: March 13 from 9 am to 1 pm (breakfast 8:30 am)
Where: SUNY-ESF Campus and the SU Carrier Dome

What is the Environmental Challenge?

The Environmental Challenge is a science fair and career exploration opportunity designed especially for all Syracuse City School District 7th and 8th grade students. 500 student participants are expected!

What does a Judge do?

Judging is EASY and FUN, and we are looking for at least 100 judges. No experience is necessary. Join us in the new ESF Gateway Center at 8:30 am for breakfast and a chance to mingle with other judges. A brief orientation will follow promptly at 9 am in Gateway. Each judge will be assigned to assess the projects of a group of students. As a judge you don’t only get breakfast and lunch, but the opportunity to influence the lives of the young student participants! The encouragement and interest shown by volunteer judges is an essential part of the Environmental Challenge experience.

How do I sign up? Questions?

Contact Maura Stefl at
Phone: (315) 470-6811

… and, finally, an announcement email to the TACNY listserve about the CNYSEF from Earl Turner of Lockheed Martin MST:

Dear Colleagues,

Volunteers are needed to judge projects at the Central New York Science and Engineering Fair to be held on Sunday, March 30, 2014 at the SRC Arena. Students from Cayuga, Cortland, Madison, Onondaga and Oswego 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 or call (315) 425-9069 x2141 indicating what fair assignment you would like (junior judge, senior judge, special awards judge, volunteer). For more information, contact me or the CNYSEF Director at

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.

IOTA Official Press Release: Best And Brightest Asteroid Occultation Ever To Be Visible Across New York State

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Below is the official press release by the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) on the upcoming occultation of Regulus by asteroid Erigone on March 20th. CNYO will have more to announce about our efforts to monitor this occultation in the next week or two. Meantime, this is your one-month warning!

Public invited to help measure size and shape of distant asteroid

Media contact: Ted Blank,
Alternate contact: Steve Preston,

Just after 2:05 a.m. EDT on March 20, 2014, anyone with clear skies along a 70-mile-wide belt running diagonally from Long Island and New York City up through New York State into Canada may be able to see the bright star Regulus simply disappear from the sky for up to 14 seconds as an invisible asteroid glides silently in front of it.

A chance alignment of orbits is predicted to cause Regulus to “wink out” as the mammoth asteroid Erigone passes directly between Earth and the star, temporarily blocking its light from reaching us (the asteroid itself remains in its normal orbit which never comes anywhere near Earth). Regulus (the star which will wink out) is in the constellation Leo the Lion and, as one of the brightest stars in the sky, is easy to find.

An event where an object in space blocks the light from a distant star is called an “occultation,” from the Latin word meaning “to conceal or hide.” The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA), a group of volunteers, collects observations on about 200 asteroid occultations per year. However, this is the first time that such a dramatic and obvious occultation will be visible in such a heavily populated area without the need for any kind of optical aid like a telescope or binoculars.

What makes this asteroid event more notable is that the public is invited to assist scientists in recording the event to measure the size and shape of the asteroid. Just by using a video camcorder, a digital SLR camera with video capability, or just a smartphone or a stopwatch, anyone can contribute to the scientific study of the asteroid in question. “In addition to the opportunity to share in a moment of celestial drama, we hope to enlist thousands of ‘citizen-scientists’ to time this event, allowing us to document it more thoroughly than any other asteroid occultation in history” said Steve Preston, President of IOTA. “The more observers scattered across the path of the shadow who time the disappearance and reappearance of the star, the more accurately we can measure the asteroid’s size and shape.”

IOTA has created a “Frequently Asked Questions” page at Here, detailed information may be found on the recommended techniques that the public may use to record and time the event, as well as how to submit their observations for analysis after the event.

Although the asteroid will remain a safe 100 million miles from Earth, as it passes in front of the star its 70-mile-wide shadow will sweep from southeast to northwest across Nassau and Suffolk counties, all five boroughs of New York City and the Hudson River Valley, with the center of the predicted shadow path following a line roughly connecting New York City, White Plains, Newburgh, Oneonta, Rome and Pulaski before crossing into Canada. See Illustration 1 for the current prediction of where the shadow will pass.


Ill. 1. Estimated path of the shadow of the asteroid Erigone during the occultation of Regulus on March 20, 2014. The green line represents the predicted center line of the ~50 mile wide asteroid shadow. The blue lines represent the width of the asteroid, where edges of the shadow would fall if the actual center of the shadow followed the green line. The red lines represent the uncertainty in the path, meaning that the actual shadow will most likely pass somewhere between the red lines. There is a smaller chance that one edge could be slightly outside one or the other of the red lines.

At the time of the occultation, Regulus will be about 40 degrees high in the southwest, or about half-way up from the horizon to a point straight overhead. Illustration 2 below is a “sky-map” showing the star’s location in the sky along with some convenient reference points to help get oriented.


Ill. 2. Finder chart for March 20, 2014, looking southwest. The red dot at the top represents the point directly overhead. Regulus will be approximately half-way up in the sky, at the bottom of the reversed “question mark” that makes up the “mane” of Leo the Lion. Saturn, the Moon, Mars and Jupiter are shown on this map in the positions they will occupy on this date, as are the twin stars of Gemini (Castor and Pollux) just above Jupiter.

To choose an observing location, members of the public can refer to Illustration 1 and select any place between the outer lines. Since the path the shadow will follow may change slightly, observers should check the online zoomable map at in the days before the event for any last-minute adjustments to the path prediction. Additionally, people situated as far as 10 path-widths on either side of the center line are encouraged to make an observation in case Erigone has a moon which might momentarily block the star’s light. Video recordings will be needed to confirm the fleeting disappearance that a tiny moon of Erigone might cause.

After the event, the public may report their timing observations at, including reports of a “miss,” or no occultation. “Both actual timings and ‘miss’ observations are extremely valuable,” said Preston. “Timings of the disappearance measure the asteroid’s diameter in the dimension along its orbital path, but ‘miss’ observations improve our understanding of how wide it is across its path. Furthermore, both types of reports improve our understanding of the asteroid’s orbit.”

Typically only a few observers see these types of events, allowing the diameter of the asteroid to be measured at just a few places. However, with a large number of observers, the opportunity exists to categorize the asteroid’s entire silhouette, as seen for asteroid (234) Barbara in Illustration 3 below.


Ill. 3. Outline of asteroid (234) Barbara obtained by multiple observers timing an occultation in 2009. The observers were spread out across an area over 40 miles wide. The horizontal white gaps in the solid lines represent the period of time when the asteroid blocked the light from the star for that observer. The gaps between the lines themselves represent the distance between observers on the ground. Each observer saw the star pass behind a slightly different portion of the asteroid, allowing the asteroid’s diameter to be measured at multiple locations. Note the large crater at the south end of the asteroid. This level of resolution is far greater than anything possible with ground-based telescopes, but more observers would have allowed even finer details to be measured.

Members of the public with additional questions should refer to the FAQ page at, email or see the article in the March, 2014 issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine.

About IOTA

The International Occultation Timing Association, with its worldwide sister organizations in Europe, the United Kingdom, Australia/New Zealand, Japan, S. Asia/India, Mexico, Latin America and South Africa, provides free occultation predictions and planning and analysis software, sponsors online Internet discussion groups and publishes the Journal of Occultation Astronomy. The main IOTA webpage is The Yahoo discussion group can be found at and is open to all with an interest in this topic.

A PDF copy of an article from the March, 2014 issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine on the occultation is linked HERE. Permission to include this article has been granted by Sky and Telescope.

Neil deGrasse Tyson co-Keynotes The “NEXT: The Event for Technology, Manufacturing & Innovation” Conference On Tuesday, November 19th

Astrophysics is truly one of the rarities in the physical sciences, as it has managed to branch between hard academia and the general public like no other in our modern technological age (Nova and PBS Specials, The Discovery Channel, and Big Bang Theory alike). The proof is in the cosmic pudding – unlike most any other branch of science, I can tell you that “one of the world’s most famous astrophysicists is coming to give a lecture in Syracuse” and you’re likely asking yourself “Neil DeGrass Tyson? Brian Cox? Stephen Hawking?” Try putting a name list together in any other field!

It is with that analysis in mind that I’m forwarding here an announcement from the TACNY email listserve about the “NEXT: The Event for Technology, Manufacturing & Innovation” conference happening this coming Tuesday, November 19th at the Holiday Inn Syracuse-Liverpool. The event, sponsored by the Central New York Technology Development Organization (TDO) and the CASE Center on the Syracuse University campus, features two keynote speakers. The first, “Making it in America – Shifting Economics Create New Opportunities,” is by Harry Moser of The Reshoring Initiative. The second, perhaps more relevant to readers of the blog, is none other than Hayden Planetarium directory and all-around exponent of science Neil deGrasse Tyson.

The Event for Technology, Manufacturing & Innovation

Come. Be Inspired. Leave Smarter.

next-central-new-york-logoIn its second year, NEXT is a technology, manufacturing and innovation conference where fast-track companies meet and learn from top-notch business leaders and industry experts. The dynamic full-day program boasts two world class keynotes in Neil deGrasse Tyson and Harry Moser; and delivers educational workshops in concurrent tracks (Innovation & Commercialization, Manufacturing Excellence, Technology Trends and Entrepreneurship)

“Making it in America – Shifting Economics Create New Opportunities” – The morning keynote, Harry Moser, President/Founder of the Reshoring Initiative, will discuss the broad resurgence of American manufacturing. Delivering insights into the trend, what types of products are leading the charge, and what the new American manufacturing industry might look like.

“Reaching for the Stars” – The luncheon keynote speaker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, is an internationally renowned astrophysicist, science policy advisor, media personality and Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium. He will explore the state of science literacy in America today and the critical importance of continued government and industry investment in fundamental scientific research for the long-term economic health of the country.

You can register for the event at While the registration fee is not insignificant, this is an all-day conference highlighting a multitude of technology and manufacturing industries and projects happening in CNY (I refer you to the event program HERE). That said, I already know of one or two people who registered just for NdGT’s keynote (abstract below):

So many of the technologies and products we take for granted, from freeze drying to scratch-resistant lenses to solar cells, are a direct result of research done during the “space race” in the ’50s thru ’70s. No one knows where the next breakthrough discovery will come from! Join astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson as he explores the state of science literacy in America today and the critical importance of continued government and industry investment in fundamental scientific research for the long-term economic health of the country. What is the short- and long-term future of the aerospace industry, and how will that future impact the broader economy, and our day to day lives? Only by reaching for the stars, continuing to explore every aspect of the world and the universe, can we build a solid foundation for the next generation’s industry and economy.

NeilTysonOriginsA-FullSizeSpeaker Bio: Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, is an internationally renowned astrophysicist, science policy advisor, and media personality. A thought-leader in science and technology, Dr. Tyson has served on Presidential commissions on the future of the US Aerospace Industry and continues to serve on NASA’s Advisory Council. He has received eighteen honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal, the highest award given by NASA to a non-government citizen. He has written countless professional papers as well as ten books, including New York Times bestseller Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries, The Pluto Files: The Rise and Fall of America’s Favorite Planet, and The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist. Among his many television and media appearances, he hosted PBS-NOVA’s mini-series Origins, the NSF-funded pilot radio program StarTalk, and is currently working on a 21st century reboot of Carl Sagan’s landmark television series COSMOS, to air in 2014. Tyson was voted Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People Magazine in 2000.