Tag Archives: Creekwalk

Observing Announcement: International Observe The Moon Night On The Syracuse Creekwalk – Saturday, Sept. 6 – 7 to 10 p.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Fellow CNYO’er and sidewalk astronomer extraordinaire Larry Slosberg has made the official announcement through our NASA Night Sky Network Page – we’ll be hosting the Central New York version of the International Observe The Moon Night (InOMN) along the Syracuse Creekwalk at our favorite downtown location – just south of Walt The Loch West Monster.

For those unfamiliar with InOMN, a brief word from the official website:

International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) is an annual event that is dedicated to encouraging people to ‘look up’ and take notice of our nearest neighbor, the Moon. From looking at the Moon with a naked eye to using the most sensitive telescope, every year on the same day, people from around the world hold events and activities that celebrate our Moon. On this site, you can find information about an InOMN event near you or register your own event. We encourage everyone to join us in the celebration!

2014august28_logo_finalThe 12.5 day old waxing gibbous Moon is a nice compromise of brightness and detail for giving the Moon a good looking at. Not only will we have a terminator to give us shadows and perceived depth, but some of the great craters – Tycho, Copernicus, Kepler (just barely) and Plato – will be out in the open for inspection. For those wondering about the timing (besides the whole weekend thing), Full Moon is actually one of the most boring times to observe the Moon. With the Sun’s light beating straight down on the Moon’s surface, we have no shadows to bring out crater depth or mountain height. Most observers agree that the most interesting views are right along the terminator where light and dark meet, so having a nice piece of that to observe makes for a much more visually appealing session.

Our Creekwalk location between W. Fayette St. and Walton St.

We will be spending an inordinate amount of time staring at the near-full Moon through every scope or pair of binoculars anyone has interest in bringing. Those arriving early enough may even be able to take in a view of Saturn and Mars before they set below the Western city skyline. Those with GOTO’s (or heroic non-GOTO observers) may even be able to find Neptune, now at near-opposition, just to the Southeast.

And, for those who really want to feel the passage of the year this night, the brightest of all the Messier objects and great gems of the Winter, the Pleiades (M45), will be appearing just after 11 p.m. to our far east (meaning they’ll be above the buildings and possibly observable around midnight). This will be an even more impressive sight at our next North Sportman’s Club event!

We’ve meetup.com and Facebook events set up for the 6th, so feel free to make your presence known early. Otherwise, we hope to see you out and about on the evening of Saturday, September 6th!

CNYO Observing Log: TACNY Jr. Cafe And Solar Session @ The MOST, 17 May 2014

The May 17th TACNY Jr. Cafe Scientifique featured New Moon Telescope’s and CNYO’s own Ryan Goodson. His lecture, “Monster Telescopes And How They Are Built,” took attending students and adults on a 70-minute tour of the history of large-aperture telescopes. The lecture focused specifically on the Dobsonian philosophy that Ryan and NMT have developed upon to produce a novel design in scope assembly that many in the amateur astronomy community have taken notice of (when not commenting on the quality of the woodwork!).

The history and recent developments of the kind of telescope made famous by Isaac Newton – the Newtonian Reflector. We will begin the discussion from the perspective of the great Newton in the 1600s with his humble 1 1/2″ reflector, then journey through time to the present day, when amateur astronomers can often be seen in fields with telescopes large enough to rival or often surpass the size and quality of many professional observatories. We will focus on how the telescope is built, from the choice of wood to the installation of advanced electronics, finishing the discussion with what they are ultimately able to show us.

From Newton’s own telescope (perhaps he called it a “Me”ian scope), to the use of the PLOP program for optimizing mirror cells, to the new trend of GOTO-ing Dobsonian designs for tracking and imaging applications, Ryan gave the audience a broad sampling of topics important to scoped builders and users, all in a manner that didn’t bury non-scope owners in the jargon of the field.


Ryan loading the rocker box of a 16″ Dob.

As is always the case at Jr. Cafe lectures, the kids were full of interest and great questions (as I’ve said before, nothing makes me feel more hopeful about the future of U.S. science than having a student ask a question I have to think hard about before answering).

But Wait! There’s More!

To take full advantage of the number of attendees and attending scopes, CNYO also hosted a solar session at the very beginning of the Creekwalk (next to the MOST) immediately after Ryan’s lecture. Over a two-hour period, approximately 45 lecture attendees and passers-by stopped to take in the sights of out nearest star. On a day that featured a few thick pockets of high-altitude clouds and otherwise perfect blue skies, the Coronado PST in attendance allowed us to follow a few significant prominences that changed shape considerably over the course of only 15 minutes (which was made more impressive to some of the new observers when we mentioned that these prominences were more easily measured in Earth diameters than in miles or kilometers).


The Sun on May 17th, 2014. From NASA/SOHO

CNYO would like to specifically thank the NASA Night Sky Network for providing a (timely) Solar Kit that has already seen quite a bit of use these past few months at the capable hands of Larry Slosberg. I also want to thank Stephen Ramsden of the Charlie Bates Solar Astronomy Project for handing me several pairs of solar shades (at NEAF 2014) that also saw considerable use to those not lined up behind the scopes.

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TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “The Snowball Earth”

NOTE: This Jr. Cafe lecture coincides with the Climate Day festivities at the MOST. CNYO members will be in attendance in the afternoon running a solar observing session on the Creekwalk (and I (Damian) will be giving a lecture on the Sun-Earth Connection inside). If you show up for the Jr. Cafe lecture, your entrance to the MOST is free for the afternoon courtesy of TACNY (and thanks for mentioning this extra perk Howie Hollander)!

Saturday – April 19, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

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Earth’s climate has changed tremendously over its history. Did you know that the Earth nearly froze solid 2.3 billion years ago and again 700 million years ago? We will discuss how this may have happened, how the Earth warmed after the snowball events and how life survived.

People interested in learning more about climatology are invited to attend the free Junior Cafe presentation on Saturday, April 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing jrcafe@tacny.org by April 16, 2014.


Christopher K. Junium, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Earth Sciences in the Department of Earth Sciences at Syracuse University. Chris studies how life and climate interact of through Earth’s history by analyzing the chemistry of ancient sediments. He is particularly interested in how the concentrations of oxygen have changed in the atmosphere and ocean over time, and how life responds to transitions in Earth’s climate state. His research spans the last 2.5 billion years of Earth’s history, and his research has taken him as far away as the Arctic Circle and as close as Green Lakes State Park. Recently, he spent two months as a scientist aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution to recover sediment cores from the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to better understand the causes of extremely warm climate 50 million years ago.

Chris received his B.S. in Geology from Dickinson College in 2000 and his Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University in Geosciences in 2010. From there he moved to Northwestern University under an Agouron Institute Geobiology Fellowship. He started at Syracuse University in January of 2012.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit www.tacny.org.

CNYO Observing Log: International Sidewalk Astronomy Night, 7 March 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members Larry Slosberg and Michelle Marzynski, John Giroux, and I used the available clear skies of Friday, March 7th (and forecasts of far worse conditions on the official night of March 8th) to host the CNY branch of the International Sidewalk Astronomy Night (ISAN 7). ISAN 7 was made more significant to the amateur astronomy community with the passing of John Dobson on January 15th of this year (instead of reproducing more content about John Dobson in this post, I will instead refer you to the official announcement of our ISAN session. Needless to say, he left quite a legacy).


Our session was held at our favorite downtown location – along the length of the Creekwalk between the MOST/Soundgarden and the Syracuse University Architecture School/Warehouse, on the same block as Walt the Loch West Monster. The location is definitely bright, but this limitation to observing can be overcome with the judicious selection of Messier Objects and planets (no galaxies!). The last two astronomy events held at this same location – the 2012 Transit of Venus and 2013’s NASA/MOST Climate Day, featured an easier target (the Sun), but also gave us plenty of on-the-ground time to find the Creekwalk a great spot to have both reasonable parking and a regular stream of passers-by to coax into looking into strange telescopes.


“And so,” you might ask, “how long was your observing list for the evening? And what’s the point of observing from such a bright location?” I’ve run into such questions a few times in my own travels, and I assume that some other outreach-centric amateur astronomers have been asked the same questions. The answer for ISAN 7 over a +2 hour session was the Moon, Jupiter, the Pleiades (M45), and the Orion Nebula (M42). That’s it. Didn’t try for anything else, didn’t want to.

And, importantly, those four were plenty.

At the heart of sidewalk astronomy is getting people who’ve never looked through a scope before to take in a detailed batch of photons a few seconds (the Moon), several minutes (Jupiter), or even several light years (M42, M45) older than the ones they’re usually exposed to. As some people are hesitant to even get their eye near the eyepiece, the very best way to run a sidewalk astronomy session (or any public viewing session) is to put the easiest, most obvious, and brightest nighttime objects into the field of view to draw the observer in. Any fuzzy object, 16th magnitude asteroid, or even Uranus and Neptune are the last things a trained observer should try to expose a new observer to (IMHO) given that the passers-by at a sidewalk astronomy event will only stick around (as we discovered) for about 4 minutes (a few definitely stuck around longer, while a few others we surgical about their inspection of the Moon and Jupiter before continuing on. I think they half-expected us to “pass the hat”).


The Moon to a new observer is a jaw-dropper. Assume wow-factor imminent as soon as you see the Moon’s light projected out the eyepiece onto the face of someone slowly making their way to the focuser. Jupiter (and Saturn, for that matter) is also a treat at the right magnification (enough to see surface detail, but not so much that the image becomes dull and unsteady. A Barlow’ed 6 mm is NOT the way to go without a very large aperture and rock-solid mount). The Orion Nebula was our “advanced topics for the persistent observer” object, as it was bright enough to still show some nebulosity and additional detail.

Over the course of about two hours, we put the total count at about 60 (which wasn’t bad, given the temperature and the fact that we were on the far side of the restaurant-heavy part of Armory Square). Larry, John, and I made our way into a few pics (intermixed in this post – we were mostly too busy to stop and take snapshots. Thanks to Brad Loperfido for taking them).

And then there was Pedro Gomes, who single-handedly brought ISAN 7 (and CNYO) to Watertown on March 8th. Some of his image gallery from Facebook is reproduced below and we thank him for sharing his excellent scope run with us!

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Look for future Creekwalk sessions in the near future, including a few solar sessions and the next NASA Climate Day at the MOST.

MOST Climate Day Sneak Preview – Lorne Covington’s Immersive Solar Explorer – Tuesday, April 2nd

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

I had the good fortune on March 7th of meeting Lorne Covington, the mind behind noirflux.com, at a Hacks/Hackers Syracuse Meetup. Those of you who’ve been to the MOST recently, including those who attended the March 16th TACNY-sponsored Jr. Cafe Scientifique lecture on Satellites and Space Junk, may have had the good fortune of meeting one of Lorne’s installations – the Dancing Light Theater interactive exhibit (see the video below).

I am pleased to report that, just in time for the MOST’s April 2nd Climate Day festivities, another of Lorne’s interactive pieces is going to be in full effect. His Immersive Solar Explorer will be set up in the MOST (yet another thing some of the CNYO attendees will miss as we turn our attention (and our scopes) to the Sun on the Creekwalk all afternoon). A sneak preview of this exhibit (and description) is shown in the vimeo video below.

Immersive Solar Explorer from NoirFlux on Vimeo.

Waving your hand near the large moving sun reveals intricate moving structures on and above the solar surface. The base image is of the sun at 80,000 degrees, and when you hold your hand near the sun, the 1,000,000 degree image is revealed, both images moving in sync. (The screen is interactive from both sides, hence the reversed legends.)

The imagery is from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (sdo.gsfc.nasa.gov), which updates with a new still image every 15 minutes in a variety of wavelengths. The installation displays a moving animation of the data from the previous five days, up to the last 15 minute image.

This early version is using the 1K (1024×1024) SDO data, the updated version uses the 2K and 4K datasets for greater visual clarity, and offers selection of wavelengths to view.

Music: Sunsets (excerpt) by Sang Froid