Tag Archives: Green Lakes State Park

A Very Full August For Observing In CNY – Events List And Links To Facebook/Meetup Calendars

NOTE: As Always, check back here on the afternoons of each observing session for final announcements and/or weather-calls!

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

This post is one part bulk announcement and one part organizational test. August is full of scheduled observing sessions in the area just before everyone’s summer shifts back into school mode and we start back into doing more lectures. In order to let social media do some of the promotion work for us, we’re cramming all of the sessions into our Facebook Group Calendar and Meetup.com Events Listing.

This month is dominated (by the outdoorsy type, anyway) by the annual Perseid Meteor Shower peaking on August 12/13. Those big on “super-things” will be made aware by news agencies of the August 29th Full Sturgeon SuperMoon – which to me sounds like a jam band (the Sturgeon Moon is actually derived from many of the NY tribes who fished the Great Lakes – noting that this time of year (marked by the full Moon around towards the end of Summer) was prime for sturgeon fishing).

Venus and Jupiter set earlier and earlier each day, but we do gain Mercury in the same location. Expect a few pics trying to capture all three to appear on your Facebook feed. The night belongs to Saturn this summer and fall, with observers able to look in the direction of Pluto (and those with really big mirrors (I mean in the +25″ range) may even be able to see it. In fact, it’s right between the easily-findable stars Xi1 (5th mag) and Xi2 (3.5 mag) Sagittarii), see Ceres soon after, and, if they wait until after 11 or so, even scout out Neptune.

The Events List is summarized below, with links to our Facebook (FB) and Meetup (MU) calendars, as well as to the locations themselves and any additionally relevant information. AS ALWAYS – nearly all of these events are weather-pending, with an alternate scheduled for either the next day or, for Clark Reservation, the next week.

Feel free to RSVP by either/both of the links (including those listed for each event by the hosts) – and note some potential overlap on the 13th!

1. (FB/MU) August 8(Sat), 9 p.m. – ??? * Friends Of Rogers in Sherburne, NY

One of the few CNYO sessions ever beyond Onondaga and Oswego County, some of us will be taking our scopes on a short excursion down to Sherburne, hopefully to (1) take in a little more of the Southern Sky than we have previously, (2) catch some early shooters from the Perseid Meteor Shower and (3) introduce some Sherburne residents to some prime late-Summer observing. This event is a bit of a drive (about an hour) and, if interested, some of us may be able to arrange car pooling (depending on the sizes of the scopes being brought down).

2. (FB/MU) August 11 (Tue), 6 – 8 p.m. * Marcellus Free Library

Marcellus Free Library is hosting a How-To Fair this evening. Like the same session we ran a solar session at for Liverpool Public Library, this event will host several local organizations showing how to do any of a number of activities. To this session, Bob Piekiel will be hosting a Solar Viewing Session (weather-permitting). I’ve still several pairs of solar glasses available from our International SUNDay attempt that I’ll be giving away to attendees.

3. (FB/MU) August 12(Wed)/13(Thu), 9 – 11 (or later) p.m. * Baltimore Woods Nature Center

NOTE: BW charges a fee to all events to help support the maintenance of and other programs at its Nature Center ($6 for BW members, $9 for nonmembers). They also request that you RSVP with them so that they can keep a head-count of how well-attended their activities are (but Bob will also keep track of registered and last-minute attendees). Registration info is available at:

events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ear3qbwsa598223a&llr=zznsoncab

Bob Piekiel will be opening the gate this evening in hopes of a busy and early Perseid Meteor Shower session. We’ve had some excellent past sessions from the parking lot and front clearing of BW and hope for similar this year. Bring a blanket, reclining outdoor chair, and plenty of bug spray.

4. (FB/MU) August 13(Thu)/20(Thu), 8:30 – 10:30 p.m. * Beaver Lake Nature Center

CNYO returns for its twice-yearly observing session at Beaver Lake Nature Center, which is free with your general Beaver Lake admission fee. Beaver Lake requests prior registration so they can keep tabs on attendees (and event interest). Registration info is available at:

events.onondagacountyparks.com/view/160/stargazing-with-the-cny-observers

5. (FB/MU) August 14(Fri)/15(Sat), 8 – 10:30 p.m. * Green Lakes State Park

Bob Piekiel and I return to Green Lakes State Park for a second S’mores & Stars session (S’mores start at 7:00, observing after 8:30). Additional info is available on the Green Lakes Calendar at:

nysparks.com/events/event.aspx?e=76-13818.0

6. (FB/MU) August 15(Sat)/16(Sun), 1 – 3 p.m. * Baltimore Woods Nature Center

NOTE: BW charges a fee to all events to help support the maintenance of and other programs at its Nature Center ($6 for BW members, $9 for nonmembers). They also request that you RSVP with them so that they can keep a head-count of how well-attended their activities are (but Bob will also keep track of registered and last-minute attendees). Additional info is available at:

baltimorewoods.org/programs/website-calendar/

7. (FB/MU) August 21(Fri)/22(Sat), 8 – 10 p.m. * Clark Reservation State Park

Bob Piekiel returns to the Syracuse outskirts for a nighttime session in Jamesville. This is an excellent starter session for new observers, as the city lights simplify the sky considerably by washing out many of the faintest stars (excellent for those wanting to learn the constellations).

CNYO Observing Log: Clark Reservation And Baltimore Woods, 18 July 2015

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Bob Piekiel and I have continued to make the most of the Summer for hosting observing sessions. While the Sun is good anytime, the Summer Nighttime Sky certainly makes for a worthy complement to our Winter sessions. Instead of crisp, clear (and cold!) conditions and close-ups of some of the most impressive objects in the Nighttime Sky (everything in Orion alone is worth dressing up for), we trade boots for sandals (or less), slap on the bug spray, and scour into the heart of the Milky Way for a host of fine objects to our zenith and points south. As Summer weather is also easier to brave for most, we enjoy larger turnouts and introducing others to the greater outdoors.

Clark Reservation, 18 July 2015, 1 to 3 p.m.

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The Sun from Saturday, 18 July 2015 (from NASA/SOHO)

While the Sun is always busy, those phenomena which causes us to spend beaucoup bucks on equipment were in short supply on the surface that afternoon, with tiny-ish sunspot 2386 the only significant feature to scout around. The presence of Bob’s Coronado H-alpha, He, and CaK scopes did noticeably open up the feature window for some of the more subtle objects.

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Bob and attendees at along his observing array.

The whole session ran a hot two hours. About 15 people made rounds to the scopes, with a few people making second rounds (some to see again, others returning after some of the clouds had moved on for their first viewing). As a true testament to Syracuse weather conditions, we went from blue sky to heavy cloud cover to a quick sprinkle and back to blue sky in a 10 minute window at 2:30.

Baltimore Woods, 18 July 2015, 9 to 11:30 p.m.

Unfavorable conditions Friday night made for a Saturday observing double-feature. We had some hold-over from a Baltimore Woods concert (featuring Joanne Perry and the Unstoppables) that ended at 8:00 p.m. (while it was still far too bright to do any observing. Even the Moon was a tough catch) and a patient wait for, um, one person’s mirror to warm up after a heavily A/C’ed drive from downtown Syracuse.

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Venus and the Moon caught just at the tree line. The elongated view of Venus is not an exposure artifact (1/200th second at that), but is because Venus was, at that time, a medium-thin crescent. Click for a larger view.

The evening turned out excellent for Public Viewing. Venus and the Moon (see above) were an early, close catch due to the high summer tree line (Jupiter was too far below the tree line by the time it was dark enough to be interesting in a scope, although Bob did get one quick view of it earlier after aligning his Celestron Nexstar), after which Saturn, Antares, and Arcturus were the next catches.

Despite a band of slow-moving clouds to the South early on that threatened quite a bit of celestial real estate, the skies cleared nicely for a full 2.5 hours of observing. With a healthy variety of kids and adults in attendance, there was as much discussion as their was observing. A few of the kids in attendance knew just enough to know what they wanted to see, making for a fun game of “stump the scope owner.” My observing list through my New Moon Telescope 12.5 Dob was as follows:

* Saturn – Several times for several waves of attendees, and the Summer and Fall’s highlight planet.

* Albireo in Cygnus – Part 1 of a “test your retinal cones” survey, with everyone able to get at least a little orange and a little blue out of this binary.

* Zubeneschamali in Libra – Part 2 of a “test your retinal cones” survey. Bob, er, found a way to get 100% agreement on the apparent green-ness of this star (a much better percentage than at our Green Lakes session), courtesy of a particular screw-on filter.

* Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus – Part 3 of a “test your retinal cones” survey. The Garnet Star has become a favorite for 2015 viewers, as the dark amber/red color jumps out to everyone (no subtlety, or filters, to be found).

* Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major – A binaried binary, with one binary itself binary of binaries. Not only do you get to stare at six gravitationally-bound stars, but you get to explain the differences between optical, true, and spectroscopic binaries with a single shining example.

* M57, The Ring Nebula in Lyra – Old amateur astronomers pride themselves in being able to discern all kinds of detail from dim, fuzzy objects. I tend to talk down the impressiveness of some objects to make sure new viewers spend a little extra time pulling detail out (we’re not Hubble, after all). Everyone present for the Ring saw the donut easily at low magnification and were happy to spend extra time giving another, even fainter look at high power (which made for a great part of the whole session in my book).

* M13, The Globular Cluster in Hercules – Second only to Saturn in “woah” moments, M13 never disappoints visually. After you add a little bit about its size and history, several people insisted on taking another, more informed look at it.

* M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy in Canes Venatici (but just-just off the handle of the Big Dipper in Ursa Major) – Just off the last handle star of the Big Dipper. I had one request to see something outside of the Milky Way. With the Andromeda Galaxy in the direction of Marcellus and Syracuse (and the night already getting long for many of the kids in attendance), I tested some eyesights (and imagination) on this faint pair of galactic cores in collision.

* To that list we added one decent shooting star, just enough of the 300 billion other stars in the Milky Way to make out its cloudy band through Cygnus and down to Sagittarius, and one timed Iridium Flare (see below).

2015august2_iridium_IMG_0048

An 11:09 p.m. Iridium Flare caught below the bright star Arcturus (for the record, caught at its brighest first, so the satellite is going from the left to the right in the image). Click for a larger view.

August has rapidly become a busy month for observing, with several sessions planned around the Perseid Meteor Shower. Keep track of the website for whether/weather announcements. We hope you can join us!

CNYO Observing Log: “Stars And S’mores” At Green Lakes State Park, 10 July 2015

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

I’ve had few chances to provide write-ups of observing sessions in 2015 due to CNY skies not agreeing with we amateur astronomers. Fortunately, Bob Piekiel’s yearly 2015 Green LakesStars and S’mores” Summer Session (on the books for 6 months now) landed on an excellent summer night, providing a large crowd some excellent views of some (sadly, not all) of the Solar System’s best sights.

2015july13_greenlakes

Part of the crowd at Green Lakes. Click for a larger view.

There were roughly 120 people in attendance at the start of the session (by the car/people count of the Green Lakes staff. They estimate 3.5 people per car on average, which sounds like quite a mess in the back seat), making this the largest public CNY session I’ve attended since the Transit of Venus in 2012. To Bob’s SCT and my NMT 12.5” Dob was added guest attendee and the IOTA’s own Ted Blank with his (I’m pretty sure, anyway) Orion 120mm ST Refractor. We had one last work-in-progress scope in attendance with the arrival of fellow CNYO’ers Kirk Frisch (his work-in-progress) and Chris Schuck. As usual, the setup of the scopes cut into our collective s’mores time.

Bob had already aligned his SCT and started close to 8:00 p.m. on the viewing of Venus after a quick welcome and safety lecture. I had someone with great eyesight point out Venus near my scope, after which the line behind my Dob hit +50 people. Sadly, with a +50 person line at each of the scopes and all pointed at Venus to give the attendees that view, you take quite a bit of time to show the planet to everyone (and for the motor-less scopes, additional time re-nudging Venus back into the eyepiece. Stupid Earth rotation…). For us, that meant that Jupiter, the next to appear after sunset, was already obscured in the high tree line to the West of the Green Lakes field. Bob had a short-but-heroic catch between branches, but Ted and I were left to wait for Saturn.

Another search by the same woman at my scope (someone had a big piece of carrot cake earlier, I guess) pointed out Saturn midway above another high tree patch. We all then spent a good 30 minutes on Saturn, comparing views and encouraging people to spend a little time trying to pull additional detail out – namely, Titan and the Cassini Division. Finally well after sunset, the stars began to then appear behind Saturn, so person #40 had a more engaging view than person #1.

Venus and Saturn viewing for the whole group took about an hour, after which the youngest members of the crowd headed home and a few others showed in time for some non-planetary viewing that went until about 11:00 p.m. My observing list for the night (a recurring theme for all of the Summer public viewing sessions) was as follows:

* Saturn and Venus

* Albireo in Cygnus – a Summer favorite to show people that stars are actually quite colored when you find the right ones (and binaries make it all the more interesting)

* Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major – first as a Naked Eye test for attendees, then on to the discussion of the complexities of a 6-star (!) system

* M57, the Ring Nebula in Lyra – a real standout at near-zenith, as well as a preview of what our own Sun will look like in 5-ish billion years

* Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus – the first of the closers for the evening, showing that some stars are very intensely colored

* Zubeneschamali (?! Let’s go with beta Librae) in Libra – the second of the closers in my scope (at Bob’s request). Some people see this as a faintly green star, which makes it quite noteworthy (Bob and I have decided it’s actually blue-ish instead. According to wikipedia, “There seems to be no generally accepted explanation for why some observers see it as green.” Perhaps someone could do the study to see if these people also see the dress as black and blue).

The Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and M32 – a final view just above the horizon (so all had to stoop low to see into the eyepiece) to take the final 5 attendees outside of the Milky Way. At the risk of starting an argument, I would argue that M31 is best viewed through 25×100 binoculars, giving you the best combination of field of view (this galaxy is six Full Moons across and any significant magnification causes you to miss lots of the trailing starlight around the core) and spiral detail. In fact, M31 is a prime reminder to all that a good pair of binos is a must-have for the dedicated observer.

Those interested in some additional summertime viewing are welcome to join us at Bob Piekiel’s Baltimore Woods session this coming Friday, July 17th (18th as the weather-alternate) and solar session at Clark Reservation on Saturday. Check cnyo.org on Friday afternoon for an official announcement. We hope you can join us!

Bob Piekiel’s Yearly Nighttime Summer Session At Green Lakes State Park – Friday, 10 July 2015, 8:00 p.m. – ???

UPDATE: Friday, 4:00 p.m. – Green Lakes is ON for tonight. We hope to see you!

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

All predictions so far hint at Friday Night being clear and nearly wind-less, making this Green Lakes session the first really good scheduled observing event this year.

2014august12_greenlakes_july25_small

Bob aligning at the 2014 Green Lakes session.

And the timing couldn’t be better! We’ve still Venus and Jupiter (now comfortably post-June 30th-conjunction) lower in our Western Skies after sunset, Saturn appearing soon thereafter, we can look in the direction of Pluto as we await the New Horizons closest-approach on July 14th, and the best of the Summer Messiers are out in full force within the band of the Milky Way.

This event is free and open to the public (if you arrive around 8:00 p.m., usually they do not even charge a parking fee). We’ll be there by 8:00 p.m. to get our location finalized and to start the layers of bug spray. The attendance at this event is usually considerable for the first hour (lots of kids), then a significant exodus occurs as dusk ends and night begins (and the observing and discussion gets a bit more involved). Typically, everyone packs up around 11:00 p.m., but that may depend on the skies and the seeing. Finally announcement on the CNYO page by 5:00 p.m. Friday evening.

We hope you can join us!

CNYO Observers Log: Green Lakes State Park Solar Session (7 March 2015) and Monthly Baltimore Woods Session (13 March 2015)

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A quick observing log combining two recent events hosted by Central New York’s own Bob Piekiel. As everyone who’s been local all winter knows, conditions were less than ideal for lots of observing. For those sessions that cloud cover (and snow) didn’t ruin, the Arctic Chill that hit CNY in the middle of February really did a number on even the most determined observers.

Solar Session – Green Lakes State Park – 7 March 2015

2015march19_solarsession

Having put off and re-put off a solar observing session at Green Lakes State Park bus to lousy conditions, the powers that be wanted to go forward with a session on Saturday afternoon, March 7th. With H-alpha and Baader’ed scopes in tow, Bob (and I helping run the Baader’ed scope) hosted a session in the parking lot behind the main building at Green Lakes. Over the course of about 90 minutes, perhaps 10 good minutes of observing were had. Clear skies to the East couldn’t be coaxed to shift West and the upcoming mild snow storm that afternoon even provided some advanced warning. Still, about 10 people either showed specifically for the solar or made their way off the skiing path to take in a few sights of our nearest star.

2015march19_sunspots_1024_20150307The Sun itself wasn’t particularly busy that afternoon, with a major sunspot region having just fallen off the Sun’s edge, leaving a small speck of dark spots just within scopesight (see the March 7th image at right from NASA SOHO. Click for a larger view). As with all sessions, the observing was complemented by good introductory astronomy discussions and direction to the CNYO site for upcoming events (including upcoming solar sessions).

For those keeping additional track, the Sun did provide quite a show over the past few days in the form of fantastic aurora after an X-class solar flare fired up ionization in our atmosphere. For those looking for a gallery of what everyone by Central New Yorkers (it seems) saw over this past St. Patrick’s Day, I encourage you to let google do the work for the following image search: solar storm st. patricks 2015.

Baltimore Woods Monthly Session – 13 March 2015

2015march19_baltimorewoods

A panorama from the Baltimore Woods Session start. Click for a larger view.

A decidedly more fruitful session was had in the thawing parking lot of Baltimore Woods on Friday, March 13th. This evening was also first light for 2015 of my 12.5” NMT Dob (Bob’s SCT having already seen action with a few observing sessions this year). The sky (mostly) did not disappoint! Jupiter and Venus were easy and excellent targets, Mars was at the horizon at session start but still observable (Uranus having slipped too low to see), and a dozen eager observers attended to take in the sights. The only real letdown for the evening was the persistent cloud cover that obstructed all of Orion throughout, giving only a few passing views of the Orion Nebula. To Jupiter, Venus, Mars, and the Orion Nebula (sort of), a very double-centric crowd were treated to views of the double cluster in Perseus, Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major, and Castor (a sextuplet star system that resolves to a bright binary pair) and Pollux in Gemini. Cloud cover was just persistent and wide-ranging enough to make galaxy views all but impossible, making the whole session a real hopscotch survey of the brightest available at the time. After a solid 80 minutes of observing, we finally packed up with plans for the next sessions made.

For those wanting to check out one of Bob Piekiel’s many events this year, please see his calendar on the CNYO website. We hope to see you!