Tag Archives: Asras

CNYO Observing Log: Transit Of Mercury, 10 May 2016

Poster’s Note: A post from mid-May of this year never made it to the website. Posting now for the 2016 observing record.

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The real-time global observatory that is the internet has made available to everyone, all the time, every particular astronomical event that occurs anywhere. That said, it’s always more fun to be able to turn the computer off and point a telescope to the sky to see something with your own eyes.

2016may12_Mercury_transitOur side of the planet was treated to one of the great joys of terrestrial observing – a transit of an interior (to us, anyway) planet across the face of our closest star, the Sun. The downtown Syacuse crowd for the Venus Transit in 2012 peaked at close to 350 people (far larger than the 2006 transit crowd of 10!) and was one of the best documented astronomical events in CNY thanks to local news reporters. The Transit of Mercury this past Monday, May 10th was comfortably smaller, perhaps proportional to the significantly smaller black spot that Mercury makes as it passes across the Sun. A wealth of access to internet and space science resources, however, has left some excellent lasting records of the event for us to enjoy (such as the picture at right, courtesy of Bob Piekiel. Click for a larger view).

2016may12_20308482_bob_largeWith the usual thanks to Glenn Coin at syracuse.com for promoting astronomy events here in CNY (and for taking the pic at right of Bob in action, click for a larger view), local folks were made aware of the Syracuse and neighboring sessions (see syracuse.com link). Schenectady, Hamburg, Rochester, Binghamton (thanks to our friends at Kopernik Observatory), and Marcellus (thanks to Bob Piekiel) were all on the docket. Those stuck at the office were made aware of viewing opportunities online thanks to an Associated Press post at syracuse.com as well (see syracuse.com link).

Glenn Coin took the trek out to Marcellus for Bob Piekiel’s session. His write-up can be found at:

syracuse.com/../2016/05/transit_of_mercury_viewing_in_cny_makes_me_feel_teeny.html

Bob Piekiel reported the following:

Chris [Schuck, fellow CNYO-er] and I kept them busy at the transit program this morning. Lots of folks mulling around with questions, cell phone cameras, and non-stop desires to see the view every few minutes. Skies were near perfect, with only a few clouds. Also, got some nice views of Venus, only 8° from the sun. Venus is so far away it is only 11 arc-seconds in size, compared to Mercury’s 10 arc-seconds. They both look about the same size in the scope, but one is white, the other was black!

Freshly displaced to Rochester, I enjoyed the start of the transit from Farash Observatory, home of the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Sciences.

2016may12_panofarash

A panorama of Farash Observatory (and deformed Coronado). Click for a larger view.

2016may12_davedaveI arrived at Farash Observatory with my Coronado PST in tow (in a small plastic box, that is) around 7:00 a.m. in time to set up, chit-chat with two Dave’s (manning the live stream in the image at right), Doug, and Bob, and catch the very start of the transit (by dumb luck at that. I started observing a minute before just to get things lined up and zoomed in). All were thrilled to see Mercury begin to transit at the same point that a bright prominence had grown (I overheard someone say “looks like Mercury’s got a tail”). ASRAS provided live streaming of the event on youtube through a CaK on the Farash grounds, then the dozen-or-so folks there early cycled through everyone else’s scopes for varying H-alpha and white light views of the transit. The transit through a solar-safe 16” Cave is quite impressive(!), with Sunspot 2542 visible below Mercury (below in the eyepiece and the flipped-around view the Newtonian scopes provide). Once home, I did what the majority of us were doing – checking NASA streams and the local club feeds for more sights until the transit’s end at about 2:42 p.m.

My own poor attempt at astrophotography (with an iPhone 6s and through the ASRAS 16″ Cave) is shown below, including a slightly smudged Mercury at upper right and Sunspot 2542 at lower right. For proper orientation, see the official NASA SOHO image of the Sun at its image repository (link here).

2016may12_cavetransit

163186109.kpdILVVp.mercury_transit_4A few others with a bit more patience (and a bit more money) really made the transit memorable with some fantastic movies. One .gif passed around on Facebook is shown at right from Tom Polakis using a Lunt 100 (click for a larger view) that shows the tail end of the transit. This is the kind of stuff amateurs can do from their backyard with a good scope and a decent camera (wait for the 4.2 MB .gif to load. It is definitely worth it)!

On the other hand, those with a much larger budget can put telescopes into space and produce the following video – courtesy of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Collective thanks to all for their tax dollars in bringing images like this to the masses.


Now we’re talkin’.

For those interested in taking in a more unobstructed view of the Sun, the next scheduled solar observing sessions in the Syracuse area are also being provided courtesy of Bob Piekiel and his considerable solar scope collection. The first is August 13/14 (Sat/Sun) at Clark Reservation, then August 27/28 (Sat/Sun) at Baltimore Woods.

We hope you don’t wait until another transit to take in some proper solar viewing!

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

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the series, “Stargazing in Upstate NY in September: Look for more subtle objects on autumn nights,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com. Among other topics, this article continues our exploration of the Summer Triangle, using Vega (for the easy find) and Lyra to guide new observers to a few binocular highlights in the late-Summer sky.

Direct Link: newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/…for_more_subtle_objects_on_autumn_nig.html

This article also marks the first official mention (to the best of my knowledge) of our upcoming MOST/TACNY/CNYO hosting of International Observe The Moon Night on Saturday, October 8th. Additional details to follow, but expect the observing to happen somewhere around The MOST itself.

image_1__2016sept_smdomecomposite

Extra-special thanks to Nick Lamendola from the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science (image above, taken from the grounds of Farash Center – click for a larger view) for the use of his Perseid composite as the article opener.

Astronomy For Adults – Lifelong Learning Courses at the Strasenburgh Planetarium

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

This just in from the ASRAS (Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Sciences) email list (PDF: Adult_astronomy_spring_2016_flyer_BW – click the image below for a larger view):

2016feb24_asras_strasenburg

For all of the details (including registration links), see www.rmsc.org/strasenburghplanetarium/shows/item/205-adultastronomy.

From the Rochester Museum & Science Center website:

2016feb24_39ab3bf46ced9d4856c25205fb92582a_LAdult lifelong learners seeking an intellectually stimulating and provocative program blending science, the arts and history are invited to this new series of weekday afternoon programs at the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium. Not geared for children, each session lasts about an hour, divided between a rich audio-visual presentation and a tour of current stars, planets and constellations using the Planetarium’s giant star projector. Attend several sessions and you’ll be on your way to becoming an expert on the sky!

Your regular presenters are Steve Fentress, Director of the RMSC Strasenburgh Planetarium, and Paul Krupinski, Planetarium show presenter and proprietor of the Buffalo-based Mobile Dome Planetarium.

Recent Auroral Activity, Prediction Websites, And Chances Of The Next Few Days – Head’s Up!

Greetings fellow astrophiles (and those checking in from the syracuse.com page about auroral activity this week)!

For those not in the magnetic field line loop, Sunspot 2371 (which several of us saw in full glory at the Hazard Branch Library this past Saturday) let off a significant coronal mass ejection (CME for short) in our direction that made it to Earth two days ago. This has produced some gorgeous aurora for those not coated in cloud cover or light pollution (as was the case for Syracuse at its peak on Monday). CNYO’s David Wormuth has kept the board aware of potential observing the past two nights, while at least one member of ASRAS posted a picture from his own locale that shows just enough aurora with an 8 second exposure. When Glenn Coin from syracuse.com asked about potential activity yesterday, I “kept it local” by passing the image along (included in Glenn’s article “Northern lights could be visible this week in Upstate New York”).

The current auroral activity from SWPC/NOAA

We may be due for another glow-worthy event in the next day or two as a smaller storm passes by. We’re keeping track of predictions for early-early Thursday morning to see if activity will be worth waking up extra early for (or not sleeping at all). If you want to see/capture aurora:

Naked Eye:

* Look North!
* The higher (the elevation) the better
* Avoid having a big city to your North
* For the best view, wait until the Moon sets. That’s going to put you out to 2 or 3 a.m. right now, but not having its glow will improve auroral sights.

Camera – same as Naked Eye observing, but include the following:

* High ISO (+1600)
* Longer exposures (try the 5 second to 15 second range on most small cameras, then experiment with longer sessions with a good DSLR)
* Steady tripod – it is supposed to be clear enough in the next few nights, but wind will complicate your picture taking

Want to keep track for yourself?

www.gi.alaska.edu/AuroraForecast/NorthAmerica – The direct North America prediction page from the Geophysical Institute

www.swpc.noaa.gov/communities/space-weather-enthusiasts – The Space Weather Enthusiast dashboard from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center (you didn’t even know we had one of those!)

solarham.net – Solar activity isn’t just for space scientists. The Sun is of great importance to HAM Radio operators. You can tell how serious they are by the very thorough presentation of data.

www.aurorasaurus.org – this is an awesome idea. It’s a perfect mix of twitter and google maps. If you see aurora, you make a quick post on the website to let others know it may be active in your area. If enough people report, I say trust the posts and make a drive. Why wait for predictions when you can keep track of real-time data?

We’ll be keeping track of events over the next few days. For those who want to see what caused the whole mess, I encourage you to come to Liverpool Public Library tonight for their How-To Festival, where we’ll have solar scopes (and solar glasses) available to get a good view of the very prominent sunspots currently on the surface. And if we go late enough, maybe even a sneak peak of Jupiter and Venus as their conjunction brings them especially close to one another on June 30th (which we plan to have a session for as well. Stay tuned!).

Photo Highlights From NEAF And NEAFSolar 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Another NEAF has come and gone. This past April 12th and 13th, Ryan & Heather Goodson brought New Moon Telescopes back to a triumphant return (and slightly wider booth) to “America’s Premiere Astronomy Expo” and, I suspect, by far the largest such event on the East Coast (if not anywhere). The NMT booth also served as a meetup spot for this year’s #NEAFPosse and a place to catch up with fellow CNY observers Stephen Shaner and Pedro Gomes. The NEAF Solar session, hosted by solar observing’s godfather (and regular article contributor) Barlow Bob was almost entirely unobstructed by clouds (although that wouldn’t have bothered ASRAS’s Marty Pepe’s Radio Astronomy setup any). After the Saturday festivities, Patrick Manley and the rest of the #NEAFPosse enjoyed several hours of space-inspired frivolity at the Challenger Center (complete with flight simulators, a fully-operational mission control, and cake!).

With two days full of vendors and catching up with members of Kopernik Astronomical Society, Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society, the IOTA (happy they don’t blame us for the cloud cover during the Regulus occultation), Astronomy Technology Today (with thanks for the additional copies of the NMT feature article in last May-June’s 2013 issue!), and various others you only see once a year (in the daytime, anyway), I was only able to catch one talk. That said, it was enough, both as an amateur astronomer and as someone engaged in public outreach. Stephen W. Ramsden, the man behind the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project, has put together an incredible (and very well-traveled) one-observer show that travels the world bringing solar astronomy to the masses. STEM outreach would be much farther along if every field of science and technology had a Stephen Ramsden out there. Do check out www.charliebates.org and consider donating to the cause.

With that, we await NEAF 2015!

Selected Images

Row 1:
Barlow Bob at the center of NEAFSolar
One long line to the Sun
Marty Pepe’s Radio
Astronomy rig
Row 2:
NMT’s “Gojira” near closing
Ryan and the NMT booth
Manley @ center and part of the #NEAFPosse
Row 3:
Yuri’s Night celebration
Challenger Center flight simulators
Mission Control before
the mission
Row 4:
Sunday morning before the doors open
Stephen Ramsden featuring bad journalism
Arunah Hill’s doorstop

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