Tag Archives: Celestron

CNYO Observing Log: Green Lakes State Park, 25 July & 15 August 2014

* Session 1 – 25 July 2014

Exactly 364 days after our last outing past the now-defunct Fayetteville Friendly’s, Bob Piekiel and I hosted another well-attended session in the large open (frisbee) field of Green Lakes State Park on July 25th. This Friday evening saw reasonably warm and dewy conditions and no small amount of bug spray. The generally young crowd (2/3’s in the mid-teen or younger) was treated to Bob and mine’s usual post-dusk schtick, early sights of Saturn and Vega, and then a small host of other celestial objects as the night grew darker (after many of the youngest were dragged away by schedule-conscious adults).

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Bob Piekiel inspecting the dusk skies during setup.

After setup, the race was on for one of us to find Saturn to make sure everyone had seen at least one planet before leaving. After a lucky run of star finding (Vega and Arcturus) to align his Celestron NexStar 11, Bob had a long planetary line behind him, leaving me to start the evening with my New Moon Telescopes 12.5″ Dob on Vega (giving my post-Saturn line a glimpse of increasing numbers of stars around Vega as it darkened). By the end of the Vega line, Saturn was obvious to all and Mars was just between widely-spaced branches, allowing us to fill in the planet views before 1/2 the attendees (and all the youngest observers) left just after 9:00 p.m.

The rest of the evening was the usual free-for-all. While the sky still wasn’t nearly dark enough for dedicated observing at 10:00 p.m., we were fortunate to have a remaining group with both great interest in astronomical phenomena and vivid imaginations to fill in the perceptual gaps left by distant Fayetteville lights and our own early event timing. The discussions around the scope were as well received as the objects themselves.

As you might expect, having a session almost exactly 1 year apart means that the “pick hits” of last year were very similar to the “pick hits” of this year. The only real difference was the swapping of one swiftly-moving planet (Venus) with another (Mars). Saturn, in that one year block, has slid only slightly from Virgo last year to Libra this year. As for my usual policy of presenting at least one from the list of standard types of objects at each session, my observing and lecture list was as follows:

* (Hopefully) One PlanetSaturn
* One StarVega in Lyra was the obvious choice, giving all an early view of how bright stars shimmer strongly upon magnification (and allowing us to show how the shape of the spiders holding up our secondary mirrors affects our views). At Bob’s request, we also threw in Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus as an example of very strongly-colored stars in the night sky (after showing Albireo to demonstrate the same).
* One BinaryAlbireo in Cygnus. I also included epsilon Lyrae in Lyra as it was close to Vega. Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major are also excellent for testing visual acuity among attendees (and the magnified view gives still more to say about double stars in our neighborhood).
* One Open ClusterThe Double Cluster (Caldwell 14) in Perseus
* One Globular ClusterM13 in Hercules
* One NebulaM57, The Ring Nebula in a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyra”>Lyra. The use of an inflating balloon to demonstrate how you can see through the middle of a well-inflated balloon but can’t see well through the edges is as clear an explanation of what the Ring Nebula is from our vantage point as any other I can think of.
* One GalaxyM31, The Andromeda Galaxy in Andromeda. Despite the closeness to the horizon, M32 and M110 were also visible to observers at low magnification.
* Anything Else? – we were treated to several dozen obvious satellites and at least one bright meteor tail before packing up.

* Session 2 – 15 August 2014

The week of August 11 – 17 will be remembered as an almost useless one for CNY amateur astronomy. The Perseids were not only washed out by the timing of the Full Moon, but also by the constant overcast conditions (mixed with a few interesting lightning storms). Planned sessions at Baltimore Woods, Beaver Lake Nature Center (rescheduled for August 21st!), and North Sportsman’s Club were all scrubbed.

Given the lousy conditions all week for nighttime observing, I was a bit hesitant to drive out to Bob Piekiel’s August 15th session at Green Lakes State Park (even with one scope, it’s a lot of gear to drag around for a session where it won’t be used). That said, the Clear Sky Clock indicated a potential opening in the 9-ish to 11-ish range and the s’mores weren’t going to eat themselves. The crowd of around 25 (all crowded around a fire pit that smelled of charred marshmallow) were ready to observe and full of questions and fun discussion, so the early views of Saturn, Vega, and Arcturus were enough to keep us all occupied.

Around 9:20 p.m., a small miracle occurred as a massive clearing of the sky swept South/SouthEast, taking with it all of the present clouds in a slow, straight band that eventually gave us views of the entire sky before closing back again around 10:30 p.m. The clear, steady 70 minutes were more than enough to allow us to re-scan last month’s observing list (all little changed since last month!).

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Old and new light – the end of the fire pit and inspecting flashlights.

With everyone departing soon after, we were left to take in a bit of the remaining fire in the pit (and our observing attire left to take in that burning wood smell) before giving the grounds one last scan with a bright flashlight before departing. A lousy evening turned into a fantastic (and slightly shortened) night for a Public Viewing Session. Kudos as always to Attilla Danko for his ever prescient Clear Sky Clock!

CNYO Observing Log: Pedro Gomes Runs Another Watertown Sidewalk Astronomy Session, 2 April 2014

Fresh on the heals of his previous one-man space show, Pedro Gomes has hosted another Watertown sidewalk astronomy session at the YMCA. His write-up on the event is posted below with a few select snapshots. Many thanks, Pedro!

I brought my telescopes out for another sidewalk astronomy night at the Watertown YMCA on a clear and relatively pleasant Wednesday evening. This is now the second time I have done so at this location and it seems to have caught on with more “customers” this go-around than last. I even had a couple of repeat customers from last month who took it upon themselves to call some friends of their own over to get a look through the telescopes. I would say it is catching on.

The equipment was once again my 150mm Celestron Omni XLT reflector along with my William Optics 80mm ED. However, this time I brought along a few reference materials to help illustrate some points. I brought a laminated mirror-image moon map with all of its features identified and labeled as well as April’s Sky and Telescope issue to talk about some celestial highlights for the month. I felt having the images along helped if they had questions. The moon map was especially helpful as the moon was one of the two targets for the night.

Speaking of which, the targets were very limited that night, as I was sandwiched between two very “noisy” and tall streetlights. I tried to get the Orion Nebula (M42) and the Pleiades (M45) into the mix as well but the streetlights drowned out many of the stars that I use to find the Pleiades, and they also created way too much light pollution for any untrained observer to clearly make out the nebulosity in M42. So, I just stuck with two bright and prominent targets, the Moon and Jupiter.

The “customers” seem to all appreciate the views and I received plenty of “wows” and “shut the front doors” (no, seriously). I noticed that the hardest part was getting the first two or three people over but once they agreed to take a peek, other people would slow down and wait for an invite over. I have to admit if you are not familiar with astronomy gear it can be quite an intimidating sight. One person even thought I was the local news station.

I was kept pretty busy from dusk until about 10PM when I finally called it a night. I did find it a bit challenging to operate two scopes while also trying to provide some sort of quick-bite facts and information about what they would be observing through the scopes. The good part was that the night flew by but the down side was that I found myself with little time to offer any real insight into any particular topic. However, I felt that it was still a bit too cold for people to want to stick around and chat, so this wasn’t a real issue at that moment.

All in all, it was a successful night that even received another solicitation for an astronomy session by the head of 4-H Camp Wabasso. He seemed extremely interested in putting something together for the kids in the camp that would allow them to get a little bit of instruction and then put that instruction into practice with a nighttime observing session.

There was no better way to end the night. It was not only engaging and educational but the fact that someone else could sense the enthusiasm I had for the stars and for passing along that knowledge and passion really validated the effort for me. And in the end isn’t reaching young and enthusiastic minds the reason we stand out there and point people to the stars?

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CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 21 February 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

This observing log will be as short as the observing window was.

The evening forecast for Friday, February 21st was iffy all afternoon, with a potential clearing predicted from winds coming from the Northwest, but still predictions of up-to-moderate cloud cover until later in the evening. In our great optimism, Bob Piekiel (with his Celestron NexStar 11) and I (with my 12.5″ New Moon Telescope Dobsonian “Ruby”) had our scopes setup and at-the-ready for attending viewers.

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A fuzzy image for a fuzzy evening.

Over the course of about 90 minutes, 8 attendees in two small blocks (9 if we include Larry Slosberg’s attending Canis “Luna”) bore witness to a very unpredictable sky. “Sucker holes” (those clearings within the clouds that appear to offer you a minute or two of viewing, only to close up as soon as your scope is pointed) were the order of the evening, providing only limited views of Sirius, Rigel, and Betelgeuse (three of the brightest stars that just made for targets in the wispy edges of cloud bands), the great Orion Nebula (clear when visible, but lessened by the low-transparency conditions), the Pleiades (giving only views of the brightest stars in the cluster), and Jupiter (which did impress for the five minutes it was visible).

Such evenings are never a loss for public viewing sessions, as the downtime gives everyone a chance to ask questions, wax astronomical, and keep track of any other interesting happenings going on that come up in conversation. Pack-up occurred around 9:30, finishing just as a first few snowflakes began to fall in the Baltimore Woods parking lot.

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods (And More!) – 2014 Observing Schedule

I’m pleased to have obtained the official schedule for Bob Piekiel’s growing observing and lecture programs for the 2014 season and have added them to the CNYO Calendar. For those who have not had the pleasure of hearing one of his lectures, attending one of his observing sessions, or reading one of his many books on scope optics (or loading the CD containing the massive Celestron: The Early Years), Bob Piekiel is not only an excellent guide but likely the most knowledgeable equipment and operation guru in Central New York.

Notes On Baltimore Woods Sessions:

The Baltimore Woods events calendar is updated monthly. As such, I’ve no direct links to the sessions below. Therefore, as the event date nears, see the official Calendar Page for more information and any updates on the event.

Also…

* Registration for these events are required. Low registration may cause programs to be canceled.
* $5 for members, $15/family; $8 for nonmembers, $25/family.
* To Register By Email: info@baltimorewoods.org
* To Register By Phone: (315) 673-1350

Green Lakes:

* February 8 (Fri.)/9 (Sat. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

Solar viewing session at the main office parking lot. See the Green Lakes website for directions.

Baltimore Woods:

* February 21 (Fri.)/22 (Sat. weather alternate), 7-9 p.m.

The giant planet Jupiter will be in prime viewing position all night long, as well as the brilliant winter skies surrounding the constellation Orion. Uranus and Neptune will also be visible early.

* February 22 (Sat.)/23 (Sun. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

A solar viewing program, featuring our nearest (and favorite) star! Come and enjoy safe views of the Sun through a variety scopes and several wavelengths.

* March 21 (Fri.)/22 (Sat. weather alternate), 7-9 p.m.

Jupiter will be visible high in the sky for excellent viewing in the evening, then come and bid farewell to the Winter Skies.

Montezuma Wildlife Refuge:

* March 28 (Fri.)/29 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Come and enjoy the late Winter / early Spring skies, featuring views of Jupiter.

Baltimore Woods:

* April 15, VERY Early Tuesday A.M. – Midnight to 2:30 am

Again, assume this starts at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 14th and goes through about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. This is the first Lunar Eclipse CNY has had in several years, and it will be visible in its entirety for all in NY State. Watch the Moon get covered by the Earth’s shadow and turn a deep shade of orange or red. Saturn and Mars will be in good viewing positions as well for scope viewing.

Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society:

* May 14 (Wednesday)

Bob Piekiel gives the lecture “Collimating Cassegrains and Two-Mirror Scopes” for our friends in the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS).

Baltimore Woods:

* May 23 (Fri.)/24 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Bob Piekiel for a possible Meteor Storm! In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 24, the Earth will pass through the debris field left behind by a small comet known as P/209 LINEAR. Astronomers are predicting that this interaction may result in a brief but intense burst of meteor activity that could range from dozens to hundreds of meteors per hour. Nothing is certain, but many mathematical models are predicting that this could be the most intense meteor shower in more than a decade. Saturn will also be at its biggest for its best viewing of the whole year, plus good views of Jupiter and Mars are to be had. Come and say “hello” to the Spring Skies!

* June 6 (Fri.)/7 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Bob Piekiel for an in-between Baltimore Woods sessions during this weekend’s Mars and Moon Conjunction.

Baltimore Woods:

* July 18 (Fri.)/19 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Look into the heart of our Milky Way galaxy to see the finest examples of rich star clusters and gaseous nebulae. Also fantastic views of Mars and Saturn.

Green Lakes:

* July 25 (Fri.)/26 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Summer Milky Way, at the Frisbee Golf field.

Baltimore Woods:

* August 12 (Tues.)/13 (Wed. weather alternate), 8:30-11:00 p.m.

The annual Perseid meteor shower, one of the year’s finest, plus Summer Skies and the Milky Way. Look into the heart of our Milky Way galaxy to see the finest examples of rich star clusters and gaseous nebulae. Also fantastic views of Mars and Saturn.

Green Lakes:

* August 15 (Fri.)/16 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00 – 10:30 p.m.

Summer skies and left-over Perseids.

Baltimore Woods:

* August 16 (Sat.)/17 (Sun. weather alternate), 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Solar observing program

Seneca Meadows:

* August 22 (Fri.)/23 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Summer skies

Clark Reservation State Park:

* August 29 (Fri.)/30 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Baltimore Woods:

* October 8 – EARLY MORNING 4:30 – 6:30 am.

Lunar Eclipse, NO BACKUP DATE.

* Monday, November 17 (backup Tuesday 18th) 8 – 10 p.m.

Leonid meteor shower and hello to fall skies. Also the planets Uranus and Neptune.

* Saturday, December 13 (backup Sunday the 14th) 7 – 9 p.m.

The Geminid meteor shower and hello to winter skies.

Robert Piekiel’s Book Collection Now Listed At cnyo.org

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

I am pleased to announce that Bob Piekiel’s collection of self-published SCT books, including his new “Telescope Finders, Building And Designing” and his epic “Celestron: The Early Years” are now listed on the cnyo.org website at www.cnyo.org/books-by-robert-piekiel/. Bob has a long history in the CNY amateur astronomy community, both as a lecturer for local astronomy clubs and as the host and organizer for public viewing sessions at Baltimore Woods Nature Center and Green Lakes State Park. We are even more pleased to have him and his scopes at hosted CNYO events.

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Bob can be reached directly with questions or purchase inquiries about his many books at piekielrl _at_ netzero.com.