Category Archives: Observing

Star Party Announcement: Mountains of Stars Amateur Astronomers Weekend, 24-26 October 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The following announcement came through our website recently. For those not considering a drive South to attend the Kopernik AstroFest that same weekend, consider a drive East for a long weekend under high, dark (hopefully) skies!

First Annual – Mountains of Stars Amateur Astronomers Weekend – In The White Mountains

The Appalachian Mountain Club and the Carthage Institute of Astronomy announce the first annual Mountains of Stars Amateur Astronomers Weekend, to be held October 24th to 26th 2014 at the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Highland Center in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Surrounded by the White Mountain National Forest, the Highland Center is a wonderful place to enjoy dark skies. Less than a day’s drive from one-quarter of the US population, the location offers outstanding hiking and outdoor activities, and the area is wonderful for families. Bring your telescopes and observing gear – and several facility telescopes will also be available. The Mountains of Stars Weekend will include opportunities for presentations and short talks, and two nights of dark sky observing around New Moon.

Please contact AMC Reservations at 603-466-2727 or amclodging@outdoors.org for more information or to make a reservation.

The Carthage Institute of Astronomy is a branch of Carthage College, a liberal arts college founded in 1847 and located in Kenosha, WI. The Institute conducts research in astronomy and astrophysics, operates the Griffin Observatory, offers courses in physics and astronomy, and delivers outreach and education programs. The institute’s director is astrophysicist Dr. Douglas Arion, who will be the host of the Mountains of Stars Weekend. He also heads the Galileoscope program, which has delivered more than 200,000 high quality, low cost telescopes for education and outreach to over 106 countries.

Founded in 1876, the Appalachian Mountain Club is America’s oldest conservation and recreation organization. With more than 100,000 members, advocates, and supporters in the Northeast and beyond, the nonprofit AMC promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the mountains, forests, waters, and trails of the Appalachian region. The AMC supports natural resource conservation while encouraging responsible recreation, based on the philosophy that successful, long-term conservation depends upon first-hand enjoyment of the natural environment.

The Mountains of Stars event is part of an NSF-funded joint Carthage/AMC astronomy outreach and education program, bringing astronomy and nature education to the public.

CNY Photographer Stephen Shaner Hosting A Class On Astrophotography At LightWork – Sunday, March 2 At Syracuse University

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The following message was forwarded along by Ryan Goodson about a class on astrophotography being held at LightWork by CNY photographer Stephen Shaner. Having purchased a DSLR last year specifically for doing some simple astrophotography, this introductory course sounds to be right up my alley – and I encourage anyone who might not know just how straightforward and fun it can be to set some long exposure shots in your backyard to give this class a look! More information and the registration link can be found on the LightWork website: www.lightwork.org/workshops/

Get directions to the LightWork office below:


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Dear local astronomy enthusiasts:

My name is Stephen Shaner and I want to let you know about an astrophotography workshop I will be conducting on Sunday, March 2 at Syracuse University. This three-hour workshop is aimed at anyone who wants to get started or improve their existing astrophotography skills. We will be discussing the tools and techniques to create a variety of night sky images including: moon and constellation portraits, star trails, planetary imaging, time-lapse video and stunning shots of the Milky Way. We will survey astrophotography software and see how digital photos are processed to bring out the detail and colors of the night sky. There also will be an introduction to long exposure, prime focus astrophotography with a hands-on demonstration of the equipment required to capture amazing deep sky objects, such as nebulae and galaxies.

Current members of local astronomy clubs who want to register for the workshop will receive a discounted Light Work member rate of $25 off the normal non-member rate.

You can find registration info online at www.lightwork.org/workshops or by calling 315-443-2450. If you have any specific questions, feel free to contact me directly at stephen[at]stephenshaner[dot]com.

And for those wondering just what can be done from CNY with a decent sky and the right equipment, I include a post from our Facebook Group below featuring one of Stephen’s images: The great Orion Nebula (M42):

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Hi all. Here’s a small jpg of M42 quickly taken during the last new moon period under the (always perfect) CNY skies.

I’ve received several questions regarding the workshop Ryan was kind enough to post about last week and thought I’d answer them here. In addition to a technical overview and the best ways to get started, we’ll be setting up a complete outfit for guided, long-exposure work with all the various gear required as well as cameras for capturing brighter solar system objects. We’ll demo stacking and processing images (stretching images) plus various tricks, plug-ins and tools for better image control. Also, one big manufacturer is sending a neat piece of astrophoto gear to demo.

Overall, the focus will be on getting great results without spending a fortune!

Hybrid Solar Eclipse This Sunday Morning, Nov. 3rd – Sunrise (6:42 a.m.) To 8:00 a.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The weather forecast is, as is often the case, not on our side for this particular event, but those with solar observing equipment may be able to take in a “hybrid” solar eclipse this Sunday morning, November 3rd, from sunrise (6:42 a.m.) to 8:00 a.m.

And don’t forget that we switch our clocks back to Standard Time on Sunday. You’ve an extra hour to get your equipment ready!

The timing and placement of the Moon between ourselves and the Sun will be producing a proper total eclipse only briefly (Sky & Telescope says “seconds” for a perfectly-placed observer) and not near us, but the Sun will rise as a crescent as the New Moon takes a significant chunk out of it. I made a series of still images with Starry Night Pro below to show both how much of the Sun’s disc will be blocked by the black disc of the New Moon and how quickly the entire event will occur (6:42 a.m. being sunrise for Syracuse, NY – the entire event will be done by about 8:00 a.m.).

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The hybrid solar eclipse from Syracuse (images using Starry Night Pro). Click for a larger version.

And what is a “hybrid” solar eclipse anyway? We’re all familiar with the “total eclipse,” where the Moon and Sun have the same (or nearly the same) apparent diameter in the sky – this blocking of the Sun’s surface is what allows us to see the wispy corona that is otherwise washed out by the Sun’s surface brightness. An “annular eclipse” is the lesser cousin of the total eclipse, where the Moon in its orbit is farther away from Earth than it would be in a total eclipse, meaning it appears slightly smaller in the sky – as it no longer has the apparent diameter of the Sun, the Moon does not cover it completely, producing a sharp solar ring. A “partial eclipse” is where the Moon makes a “grazing blow” of the Sun, producing solar crescents (which may be very sharp crescents or may just slide along one side of the Sun, producing rounded PacMan views).

The “hybrid eclipse” is called so because certain places on the Earth’s surface see an annular eclipse, while others see, perhaps only very briefly, a total eclipse. Timing and location are everything, making hybrid eclipses quite rare (the number I’ve seen quoted at a few sites is 5% of all eclipses are hybrid).

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A map of the November 3rd Solar Eclipse. Image from Sky & Telescope.

The Sun will still be plenty bright enough to damage your eyes after sunrise – this will most definitely NOT be one of those eclipses that lets you enjoy a view of the Sun without filters or special optics. Pinhole projectors or a pair of Baader glasses will work just fine. A good how-to page for building your own pinhole solar projector can be found at solar-center.stanford.edu/observe/.

And if the weather does not cooperate Sunday morning, you can always watch the eclipse real-time thanks to the Slooh Community Observatory feed (events.slooh.com).

Several good links on the subject are below. You can be an expert to your very groggy friends on Sunday in less than 15 minutes.

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_eclipse_of_November_3,_2013

* earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/get-ready-hybrid-solar-eclipse-on-november-3

* skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/…Morning-Nov-3rd-229133421.html

* skyandtelescope.com/observing/highlights/227679011.html

* wunderground.com/news/hybrid-eclipse-coming-november-20131029

* washingtonpost.com/national/…ac90802c-3d8f-11e3-b6a9-da62c264f40e_story.html