Tag Archives: Coronado Pst

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.

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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).

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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!

CNYO Observing Log: Perseid Week @ Marcellus Library, Baltimore Woods, Beaver Lake, and Green Lakes, 11 – 14 August 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

2015aug25_two-moons-hoaxThis was, far and away, the busiest and best-attended Perseid Meteor Shower week in my history as a CNY-residing amateur astronomer, ranking third overall in public interest behind a Darling Hill Observatory session for the closest approach of Mars in 2003 (the origin of that completely useless meme about Mars and the Moon appearing the same size this (and nearly every one since 2003) August) and the Transit of Venus event held along the Armory Square Creekwalk back in 2012. I would argue that a large part of this local interest (as pertaining to CNYO events, anyway) was due to the efforts of Glenn Coin at syracuse.com in keeping science (and, specifically, space science) in the local paper/websites. His articles following the days approaching, as well as the instigation of we locals to take another shot or two at seeing anything on alternatively partly-cloudy nights, can be found at the links below:

* 6 Aug – Catch the Perseid meteor shower at Baltimore Woods viewing party (by Emily Nichols)

* 10 Aug – Perseid meteor shower: What’s the best night to see it in CNY?

* 12 Aug – ‘Amazing’ Perseid meteor shower: When, where and how to see it in Central NY

* 12 Aug – Perseid meteor shower update: CNY skies should be mostly clear for peak

* 13 Aug – Miss the Perseid meteor shower last night? Try tonight

* 13 Aug – Perseid meteor shower: Watch video of amazing display above the Finger Lakes (by Lauren Long)

Our continued thanks to Glenn Coin and syracuse.com for covering the big yearly astronomy events!

Solar Observing Session At Marcellus Free Library, August 11th

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sunspots_1024_20150811Our Perseid week actually started in the daytime, with a Solar Observing Session run by Bob Piekiel as part of a How-To Festival at Marcellus Free Library on Tuesday, August 11. Like the Sun itself, the Sun’s importance in irradiating comets as they pass into the inner Solar System and melt enough to leave the trails of cosmic debris that become our yearly meteor showers cannot go unnoticed. This session featured Bob’s Coronado 90 mm H-alpha scope, a small Baader’ed refracting scope, and Christopher Schuck’s Coronado PST. Over the course of about 90 minutes (from the session start to the Sun slipping behind the high tree line), we had about 25 people cycle past the scopes to observe numerous medium-sized prominences and a reasonably clear Sunspot 2396 (click the image at right for a larger view from NASA/SOHO).

Besides the continuous dialog about all things solar, more than a few attempts to capture images through the scopes were had. While smartphones are not the ideal gear for accomplishing this (due to both the difficulty in proper placement and the relative sensitivity of the sensors to monochromatic light (in our cases, the dark red H-alpha band)), Chris did manage a pic that included multiple prominences, one power line, and the ever-constraining tree line (below).

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Smartphone Coronado PST pic by Christopher Schuck. Click for a larger view.

A Three-For: Baltimore Woods (Aug. 12th), Beaver Lake (Aug. 13th), and Green Lakes (Aug. 14th)

Bob and I handled scope and lecture duties for the three peak Perseid nights, hitting well-separated locations and a few overlapping attendees. As all three sessions were nearly identical in their content and observing targets, I’ll briefly summarize the unique aspects of each event before giving the combined (and nearly identical) observing lists.

Baltimore Woods (August 12th)

With the best time for the Perseids predicted to be between the late evening of the 12th and 13th, Baltimore Woods Nature Center was predictable busy. Attendees began to arrive around 8 p.m., with total attendance maxing out at about 65 people (and the parking lot itself maxing out before that). With an introductory lecture and white light warning provided, the entire 8:30 to near-11:00 p.m. session only included three shooting stars. Two were moderately bright (and fleeting). A third, the best of all three days, hit atmosphere above a large set of clouds, yet was bright enough to light the clouds like a green-twinged lightning bolt.

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Bob Piekiel and the calm before the storm.

The evening itself turned out mostly cloudy, providing just enough open pockets of dark sky for views of Saturn, a few Messiers, some Constellation touring, one ISS pass, and the three observed meteors that graced the skies that night. Cloud cover became all-consuming just after 10:30 p.m. and we packed up and were gone by 11:00 p.m.

In the interest of trying to catch at least one Perseid by photo, I trekked out to Cazenovia Lake around 4:00 a.m. in 30 minutes of trying, I managed only a single shooter (in the image below, it looks like a white arrow (at bottom) pointing to some dim objects).

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A sharp streak of a Perseid in an otherwise poorly-balanced image. Click for a larger view.

Beaver Lake Nature Center (August 13th)

CNYO’s official seasonal Beaver Lake Nature Center session was greatly simplified by having the Baltimore Woods session the night before (meaning Bob and I could attend both sessions with no overlap). With the session moved from the Beaver Lake rotunda to the overflow parking, we found ourselves in a darker, lower tree-lined, and easy to arrange location (meaning we may request that all future sessions be held in the same spot!). Beaver Lake skies were not much clearer than Baltimore Woods, but the waits between observables was shorter and our ability to cycle through objects and attendees was improved. With additional announcements on syracuse.com, the final Beaver Lake count was five meteors and about 75 people from our 8:30 introductions to 11:00 p.m. pack-up.

Green Lakes State Park (August 14th)

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Upcoming festivities announced during our session.

Our Green Lakes State Park session in July peaked near 120 people (some for the stars, some for the s’mores), which is quite a crowd for 3 scopes! Despite the predictions of clearer skies than previous days and generally excellent evening weather, the August session capped itself at about 70 people (with a bunch of them being young amateur astronomers who packed it in early, leaving a smaller group of about 15 to stay until our 11:00 p.m. Ending to pick off several Messiers after Saturn slid behind Green Lakes’ high southern tree line. Going solely by “ooh-and-aah” statistics, Green Lakes attendees may have seen a total of 5 Perseids (none rivaling the one from Baltimore Woods, but easily seen in the mostly clear skies above).

Observing List (More Of The Summer Same, And For Good Reason)

As has been discussed many times on this website, the importance of introducing new observers to easily observed and described objects cannot be understated. The hunt for dim NGCs and equally dim Messiers is always worthwhile with sufficient time and clear skies, but the brand new observer (arguably) benefits more from prominent views of objects such as the Moon, M13 in Hercules, Alcor and Mizar, M57 (the Ring Nebula) in Lyra, The Andromeda Galaxy (M31), and the bright visible planets each evening. These objects are easily seen by anyone approaching the eyepiece and can be used to give new observers a kind of “upper limit” on their expectations of what a scope is capable of magnifying from ground level. Amateur astronomy, like chess, can become a lifelong training in subtlety. That said, the mechanics are easy to learn by slowly introducing the many kinds of players.

With two scopes and +60 attendees at each session, we were definitely limited in our observing variety simply by the lengths of the lines behind each scope. That said, we were able to give all of the patient attendees some great views of the night’s best for each Perseid session. The short list of objects is below (listed according to the order in which they’re observable as the skies get darker and darker):

* Saturn (our bright planet for the Summer and Fall)
* Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major, Albireo in Cygnus, Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus
* M13 (globular cluster) in Hercules, M57 (The Ring Nebula) in Lyra
* M27 (The Dumbbell Nebula) in Velpecula
* M31 (The Andromeda Galaxy) and M32 (one of its two satellite galaxies) in Andromeda
* M51 (The Whirlpool Galaxy) in Canes Venatici

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M13, M57, and M27. Photos by Bob Piekiel. Click for a larger view.

In closing, we had an excellent week-long turnout for the sessions and are grateful to everyone who came out to make this a busy Perseid show. We hope all of the new faces on our meetup and Facebook pages keep track of upcoming events – and we hope to see your dark, featureless outlines at another 2015 session!

CNYO Observing Log: A Quick Overview Of The Last Month

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members (several of them, anyway) have grown tired of sorting and cleaning their eyepieces this extra-frosty winter (not me – I think it’s fun!) and are getting ready for a long Spring and Summer of (hopefully) using them at observing sessions. With several scout, school, and public sessions scheduled or in the works, CNYO already has several successful events under their collective belts. A quick sampling of updates from these events is listed below.


1. North Syracuse Community Room For International Dark Sky Week – Tuesday, April 14

It happens to all of us at some point – we become so wrapped up in the minutia of a hobby or profession that we completely forget that the vast majority of the rest of the planet has little idea what we’re rambling on about. Light pollution – the encroachment of civilization on amateur astronomy due largely to a lack of forethought in the way people and businesses attempt to turn “the night” into “the late afternoon” – has been shown to have negative impacts on health (melatonin!), safety (street light glare!), security (blind spots big enough to eat hay!), energy conservation (714 lbs of coal are required to light one 100 W bulb for a year!), and the environment (plant cycles can be affected by stray light and the nesting and migration habits of several species have been shown to be affected by a lack of proper day/night cycles).

Within minutes of my starting the lecture on light pollution, I discovered that this was a completely brand new topic to half of the audience. The tone of the lecture changed rapidly from complaining to educating (you do learn to think on your feet a bit when giving public lectures), and I am optimistic that the audience left with a new understanding of the problem and many of the solutions now available (from simple solutions at Home Depot and Lowe’s all the way to legislation recently passed in Albany).


2. Bob Piekiel At Baltimore Woods – Friday, April 17

Bob’s monthly sessions at Baltimore Woods are, bar none, the most reliably-scheduled public observing events in CNY. Despite a bit of light pollution to the East-ish from Marcellus and Syracuse and a tree line that eats the very edge of the horizon for early-setting objects (and we’ve still managed to catch some photons from special objects at tree level in the past few years), the rest of the sky is wide open for constellations, planets, and the Messier Catalog.

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A colder Baltimore Woods session (February, 2015).

Bob reports that this session hosted about 20 enthusiastic observers – a sure sign that CNY was starting to thaw in April (as only the bravest/craziest made it out to the earlier sessions this year).


3. NEAF 2015 – Saturday & Sunday, April 18 & 19

Ryan Goodson and I missed the April 17th BW session, instead heading Southeast with vehicles full of both New Moon Telescopes Dobsonian parts and a very large fraction of the Stuventory. The NMT NEAF 2015 booth was (quite fortuitously) wider than expected, providing ample room for (1) Ryan to showcase a newly completed Dob, collapsible truss assemblies, and a new design prototypes and (2) me to run the biggest little used equipment sale I’ve seen in my 5 years of attending NEAF. I am pleased to report that the vast majority of the Stuventory is now in the hands of dedicated amateur astronomers from all around the Northeast and as far away as the Dubai Astronomy Group!

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Before…
During…
After…


4. Maker Hall At Parent University – Saturday, April 25

Larry Slosberg, Ryan Goodson, and I lucked out with clear skies and a large crowd of kids and adults alike at the Dr. King Elementary School. What could have been a demonstration table indoors turned into a full-on solar session outdoors in the playground, complete with some of the best and busiest views of the Sun I’ve ever seen through my Coronado PST.

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A snapshot of the observing crowd.

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A prominent prominence at 2:30 p.m.

As has been the case with all of the kids’ sessions to date, half the kids keep you on your toes and the other half approach observing with their pint-sized science caps on (these ones are easy to pick out as they spend a good long time at the eyepiece).


5. CNYO At Beaver Lake Nature Center – Thursday, April 30

Our weather-alternate session at Beaver Lake started a bit on the soupy cloud cover side, but ended up clearing nicely just after sunset to give Bob Piekiel, Chris Schuck, Larry Slosberg, and myself reasonable skies for the Moon, Jupiter, Venus, and a few bright Messiers. With a short lecture on the observing highlights for the year (see below) already loaded on the laptop, several of us waited out the Sun indoors while others allowed their eyes to adjust gradually as the skies darkened and the early bugs slowly cooled out around the main rotunda.

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Attending observers at Beaver Lake.

We’re tentatively scheduled to host a Summer observing session late August and will post as the schedule finalizes.


6. Syracuse Rotary Lecture – Friday, May 1

2015may10_rotarymbs_rgbAn invitation to speak for 30 minutes (which turned into nearly an hour with questions) to the Syracuse Rotary Club provided the perfect excuse to prep a lecture on all of the major astronomical events happening in 2015 (planets, eclipses, International SUNDay, NASA missions, and comets). How often do you end up hearing about something interesting the day after? The +30 attending Rotarians were very welcoming and engaging during the lecture, with several questions taking us far, far away from the Powerpoint presentation into all areas of astronomy. If you ever get the opportunity to lecture to a Rotary Club, take it!