Tag Archives: Dobsonian

CNYO Observers Log: MOST Climate Day And North Sportsman’s Club Practice Session, 19 April 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The Saturday after NEAF was a busy one for CNYO members, including a lecture and observing session for the MOST Climate Day during the afternoon and a nighttime “dry run” for the North Sportman’s Club Public Viewing Sessions we’re on the verge of hosting for the rest of the year.

The morning started with a hectic rearrangement of speakers for the TACNY Jr. Cafe session, with Prof. Peter Plumley (MOST, Syracuse University) and Prof. Timothy Volk (SUNY-ESF) admirably filling in for a missing speaker (and the crowd requests for future topics were heavy in astronomy!). And speaking of Jr. Cafe astronomy, we note the May 17th lecture features CNYO’s own Ryan Goodson speaking on Newtonian Telescopes (with a solar session to follow if the skies hold)!

The indoor part of CNYO’s contribution to the MOST Climate Day featured myself and a lecture about the Sun/Earth relationship. While that lecture was given to only 2.5 people (one person left half-way), a 50 minute talk extended to 90 minutes thanks to some excellent discussions and deeper probing of some of the slide content.

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Larry and observers on the Creekwalk. Click for a larger view.

Outside, Larry Slosberg hit the public observing jackpot with his 12″ Baader-ized New Moon Telescope Dob and NASA Night Sky Network Solar Kit. Between the MOST crowd, Record Store Day at Sound Garden, and a Creekwalk made busy by the clear skies and comfortable temperatures, Larry counted over a few dozen new observers before I even made it outside. To Larry’s solar collection I added a Coronado PST for some excellent H-alpha views of sunspots and several prominences that changed significantly over the course of an hour (which was made all the more impressive to passers-by when you mention that these changes could be measured in units of “Earths” instead of miles).

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An intrepid observer at the Coronado PST. Click for a larger view.

Larry and I packed up around 4:00 p.m. after giving nearly 40 people a unique view of our nearest star, providing a three-hour window before heading off to North Sportsman’s Club (NSC) for an evening session.

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Some of the NSC crew setting up. Click for a larger view.

We also used April 19th as a reintroduction to the skies above the NSC, with this session opened up to a short-list of people with scopes interested in helping reduce the lengths of observing lines at future public sessions (and we welcome others interested in bringing their scopes to these sessions to please contact us using our online form or by emailing us at info@cnyo.org).

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The Big Dipper (Ursa Major) and surroundings. Click for a larger view.

The total in attendance was between 10 and 12 over the two hours I was present (and the event continued for some time after), with about half as many scopes present (which is a great number for even large public viewing sessions). Despite it becoming a very cold evening, the combined observing list was extensive from among all parties, with New Moon Telescope’s 27″ Dob making many views extra memorable.

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The view to the Southwest (featuring a bright Jupiter near center). Click for a larger view.

We are planning our first public session for 2014 in late May, perhaps to coincide with the predicted meteor super-storm on the early morning of May 24th. Keep track of cnyo.org or our Facebook group page for details!

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “Monster Telescopes and How They Are Built” – Featuring CNYO’s Own Ryan Goodson!

Saturday – May 17, 9:30-11:00am

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


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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.

People interested in learning more about telescopes are invited to attend the free Junior Cafe presentation on Saturday, May 17, 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 May 14, 2014.

Presenters

2013june25_ryangoodson_bioRyan E. Goodson became fascinated with astronomy after seeing a meteor-turned-fireball streak across a wheat field in Wichita, Kansas in April of 2005. This led to an early involvement in amateur astronomy that quickly turned into an obsession. Since that time he has spent countless hours studying telescope design, structural engineering, and optics in order to perfect what has become the large and small truss-style telescopes he manufactures today as the owner of New Moon Telescopes in West Monroe, NY.

Ryan founded New Moon Telescopes in July of 2012 and has since sold and shipped telescopes throughout the U.S. and abroad. His fledgling company was the cover feature in the June/July 2012 issue of Astronomy Technology Today magazine. Ryan’s new collapsible truss design for Dobsonian-style telescopes was also highlighted in the August 2013 edition of Sky & Telescope. Ryan is currently the treasurer of the Syracuse Astronomical Society and the secretary of CNY Observers & Observing, serving in both organizations as a star party coordinator and public lecturer on astronomy equipment and observing. He can usually be found observing through one of his creations on that rare night of clear skies here in Upstate NY.

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 Joins Sidewalk Astronomers Around The World In Honor Of John Dobson – Saturday, March 8th (7 to 9 p.m.) Near Armory Square In Downtown Syracuse

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

CNYO is organizing a Syracuse session for the seventh International Sidewalk Astronomy Night (ISAN 7) being held in honor of John Dobson. We’ll have weather and event updates as we approach March 8th (the 7th and the 9th are official weather-alternate dates) and will be setting up next to Walt the Loch West Monster, the same place several hundred Syracusans observed the Transit of Venus in 2012 and a few of us participated in solar observing for the NASA Climate Day in 2013 (map below). Please spread the word and consider stopping by to celebrate John Dobson’s contribution to amateur astronomy. Several Dobsonians built by West Monroe’s own New Moon Telescopes will be on hand to show you their workings and, of course, show you the sights!


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Walt, just above the center green oval between Walton and W. Fayette.

A little background…

The 20th century was, by far, the most important century for amateur astronomy, as it was the first in which telescopes were mass produced for the consumer market (ours wasn’t much of a busy field for all of the rest of human history). The great science aside, it was the major jump in technology for our field that really grew our numbers.

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John Dobson, 1915-2014. Image from latimes.com.

While the list of names responsible for this transition is considerable, a few names are easily recognized as prime movers. John Dobson, who passed away this past January 15th, made one of the great contributions to amateur astronomy by taking the technology back to its foundations, synthesizing a number of great ideas in the amateur building community, throwing in some of his own ingenious ideas, and laying the groundwork for the scope we know today as the Dobsonian.

2014feb18_johndobson_sidewalkastronomersThe “Dob” made it possible for anyone to do large aperture, deep space observing by allowing builders to use very large mirrors in very (well, relatively) portable, reasonably light-weight designs. It is also a much simpler scope for a person to build compared to the many other varieties that used to dominate star parties. As the quality of the scope is limited by the quality of the builder and parts, this also means an expert builder can put together a world-class scope in their own garage that will absolutely compete with the best high-end company-built scopes (a fact that many of us Dob owners are thankful for!).

Better still, John was the world’s leading exponent for sidewalk astronomy, having effectively started the trend as the co-founder of the San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers. In his honor, CNYO members are joining other astronomy organizations and sidewalk astronomers around the world in the seventh International Sidewalk Astronomy Night (ISAN 7) on March 8th. In our case, we’re fortunate to have a prime piece of the Onondaga Creekwalk just at the edge of Armory Square and will be setting up, as always, next to Walt.

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You know, Walt (twitter). Image from syracusepublicart.wordpress.com

While not the best place in the world to observe, there is plenty to see in the Night Sky even from well-lit Syracuse. Attendees will be treated to views of a first quarter Moon (and if you’ve never looked at the Moon with any kind of magnification, you are in for a real treat), Jupiter (worth the trip out itself!), the Pleiades, the Orion Nebula, possibly the Andromeda Galaxy (at least a small sampling), and a medley of assorted star clusters (which means we’ll find out what we can see when we’re set up). On top of all that, it’ll be a great chance (weather permitting), to hang out with local amateur astronomers and space enthusiasts in an easy-to-get-to location.

For more information about John Dobson, check out his wikipedia page. For more information about ISAN 7, check out one of several sidewalk astronomy sites, including sidewalkastronomers.us and sfsidewalkastronomers.org. And, of course, join our Facebook Group, add our twitter feed, or keep track of cnyo.org for more information as March 8th approaches.

CNYO Observers Log: Pulaski Middle School Science Club, 20 November 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members Larry Slosberg, Ryan Goodson, and myself hosted our first science club observing session of the year at Pulaski Middle School (my third year doing so, Larry’s second year, and Ryan’s first).

The cold weather kept the crowd to about 25 (early-October sessions having maxed out at around 50 previously) students, teachers, and parent chaperones (no doubt to keep our astronomy humor clean) for an evening that gave us about 1 full hour of good observing and 30 minutes of increasing cloud cover and decreasing body temperatures.

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Larry getting ready. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

In a shift from the usual procedure, we held the entire event outdoors. Powerpoint slides were replaced with red flashlights and two of our CNYO brochures (How The Night Sky Moves and Guide For New Observers) to direct a walk-through of the Night Sky while it was clearly visible (with extra thanks to the Pulaski Middle School staff for turning out the football and tennis court flood lights). The first half-hour was also used as a Q+A session. One long-lived, slow-moving meteor coaxed a 10 minute discussion of meteor showers and motion in the Solar System. A few quick beams from our green laser pointers were used as a springboard to discuss both vision (our sensitivity to green and our insensitivity to red, the differences between rods and cones, dark adaptation) and the law (because they are most definitely NOT toys). Ryan also gave a walk-through of an 8″ NMT Dobsonian to explain to everyone present how the photon traffic is directed to the eyepiece and where to place your eye at all three scopes to see the sights.

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Kids watching Larry with an NMT Dob in the foreground. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

The following hour was an observing free-for-all, with each of us picking and describing objects in the Night Sky. With the line and discussion as long as it was, I only managed to observe Albireo, the Ring Nebula (M57), the Pleiades, Vega, and Jupiter (it quite close to the end of the event).

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The author dressed for radio. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

Despite the cold, everyone was attentive and full of good questions (perhaps the best part of running these events is discovering that the science gears are spinning quickly in the heads of science club members). We finally packed up around 9:30 p.m. after I ran a 15-minute warm-up session indoors to talk a little more astro-shop (spending most of the time on intelligent life in the universe and the reason why we’ve so few impact craters on Earth).

Larry summed up our session best on Facebook:

I would like to take a moment, and thank the kids and adults at Pulaski Middle School for inviting us up last night for another great astronomy night. All the kids were engaged, enthusiastic, and contributed to lots of great discussions. We had a wonderful night of observations, nice clear skies and I can’t wait to do it again. I am truly amazed by the breadth of knowledge of the kids and their eagerness to learn more. Keep it up, kids!!!

CNYO Observers Log: New Moon Telescopes’ 27″ Dobsonian Observing Event At The North Sportsman’s Club, 3 November 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

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The front gate of the North Sportsman’s Club in West Monroe, NY.

The first CNY public outing of New Moon Telescope’s (NMT’s) massive 27″ Dobsonian took place this past Sunday, November 3rd at the North Sportsman’s Club in West Monroe, NY. After two overcast evenings (despite Friday the 1st looking quite reasonable all afternoon) and a cloudy Sunday morning that ruined local views of the hybrid solar eclipse (see our post of the event HERE), the weather settled Sunday afternoon for what became a very cold-but-clear evening of observing at what turned out to be a quite dark location (despite its close proximity to Syracuse and its well-lit surroundings).

1. 27″ Dobsonian?!

All research indicates that NMT’s flagship 27″ Dobsonian is the largest portable telescope in New York, and it is fair to say that it is in the far end of the Gaussian size distribution of all amateur scopes in the U.S. Those who have been to any CNYO event have been treated to at least one of Ryan Goodson’s fine Dobsonian creations, as Ryan, Larry, Dan, and myself all own (at least) one. The 27″ Dob features a few notable additions to NMT’s add-on packages, including full GOTO functionality by way of Servocat and Argo Navis.

As reported by Ryan during his expedition to Okie-Tex earlier this year and made very apparent to anyone looking through the scope, the views approach unreal. Aperture is everything in telescope astronomy, with bigger mirrors making bright objects more detailed and the otherwise invisible visible. Ryan reports having been able to see three of the four corners of the Einstein Cross in Pegasus through the 27″ (that’s sitting at almost 17th magnitude!), a feat that is difficult enough to capture through astro-imaging (and those familiar with the difference between observing and imaging will understand the significance of Ryan’s capture). You can see Ryan’s walk-through of the scope in the youtube video below:

We are pleased to report that this is definitely not a one-view deal! When NMT or CNYO schedule an event that will feature the 27″ Dob, we will be sure to make note of it (the timing and the temperature were less than ideal for many of the people who responded to our announcement on the TACNY listserve, so we hope to bring that many more people out to future sessions).

And if you want to keep up-to-date on all things NMT, I urge you to like their Facebook Page and subscribe to their twitter feed.

2. North Sportsman’s Club in West Monroe, NY

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The CNYO sign at the NSC front gate (81 to 49 to 37. An easy find!).

We were fortunate to make the acquaintance of North Sportsman’s Club’s (NSC’s) John Knittel at both CNYO’s Beaver Lake Observing Session on May 2nd and NMT’s Perseid Meteor Shower Session this past August. NMT jumped at the chance to have the First CNY Light for the 27″ Dob at the NSC and CNYO members were delighted to help promote and support the event. The NSC is an ideal location for public observing, combining a large, clear range with all the amenities of home (in this case, restrooms for both genders, a heated meeting room, and coffee and cocoa on tap thanks to a few NSC members who braved the outdoors indoors and kept the conversations going). All that aside, the view from the Northeast to the Southeast is as clear as it gets right down to the low tree-lined horizon (a pleasant change of pace considering the zenith-centric views from several other locations we’ve observed from), giving observers a chance to catch first light of rising objects and many hours to track those same objects as they rise towards the zenith and fall to the still reasonable western sky.

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The NSC range and the view to the East (with the 27″ and 12.5″ Dobs). Click for a larger view.

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The same view to the East, featuring two planes, the Milky Way, and one radio tower. Click for a larger view.

3. Attendees

Despite the “school night” timing and the very-to-bitterly cold weather, approximately 30 people made it out to take in the views through the 27″ Dob, my 12.5″ NMT Dob Ruby, and Steve Capp’s 16″ NMT Dob. To the usual suspects – Larry Slosberg, Ryan and Heather Goodson, Dan Williams, and myself – local amateur astronomers Joe Chovan and David Wormuth also braved the cold to enjoy the sights. The long-distance awards go to our good friends in the Kopernik Astronomical Society – Fibber and Sally Magee, as well as Art Tilts, who arrived early and hung out late.

4. “Dressed for Stargazing Success”

The timing of the proper observing attire article in December 2013’s Sky & Telescope did not go unnoticed on our Facebook Group Discussion of the event. You don’t really appreciate how cold the outdoors can be – and how quickly the heat can leave you – until you’re standing still for long periods of time peering through an eyepiece. The physics is simple – when the temperature outdoors drops below the temperature of your skin, YOU become the heat source for the outdoors.

I suspect Ryan and I both learned (the frozen-solid way) from last February’s Baltimore Woods Session.

The solution to freezing is simple – just do what the article says and and be “Dressed for Stargazing Success.” In anticipation of the first real cold night of observing since last March, I made the pilgrimage to DeJulio’s on Burnet Avenue, walking out with dual-layer long johns, wind-proof (and pocketed) pants, a stretch face/head cover, a brim-less hat (funny thing about the brims – they keep your eye from the eyepiece), and a few extra pairs of wool socks. Was it cold out? Yes. Did I care? Not a bit.

5. Closing Up

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Ryan, Larry, Art, and Joe packing up the 27″, with Steve Capp still observing through his 16″ in the back. Click for a larger view.

Ryan and I were set up by 4:00 p.m. and observed with attitude until about 9:00 p.m. when the rest of the crowd had made the short trip back to Interstate 81 (having a location this good only 20 minutes from downtown was a real treat for those of us used to debating the unloading of the car that night).

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The North Sportsman’s Club at night, complete with the other half of the Milky Way. Click for a larger view.

CNYO gratefully acknowledges John Knittel and the members of the North Sportsman’s Club who not only made the event possible, but kept the festivities going inside to boot. We hope to do it again!