Tag Archives: Iss

2013 Perseid Weekend Part 2: Baltimore Woods Perseid Session And International Starry Night Event – August 12th, Marcellus, NY

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A view to the Southwest from the Baltimore Woods parking lot.

The peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower this year turned into a pair of observing sessions for several CNYO members. Both sessions, I am happy to report, included the observation of several Perseids by attendees and good-to-excellent clear, dark skies.

Following the first of several updates on Perseid weather conditions by Dave Eichorn (LINK 1 and LINK 2) at syracuse.com and the event itself by Andrew Donovan at NewsChannel 9, Larry Slosberg and I met up with Bob Piekiel at Baltimore Woods for their official Perseid Session that CNYO was delighted to have listed as an International Starry Night event (see that background for this event HERE). The partially-to-mostly overcast skies all afternoon opened up around 8:30 p.m. (as Eichorn had predicted) to give us over two hours of excellent clear skies.

The total (and limited) equipment list for this session reflected the Perseid-centric nature of the session. Bob brought an his 11″ SCT, Larry brought his NMT 12″ Dob, and I brought my Zhumell 25×100’s and, again, a Canon Rebel T3i in the hopes of capturing a Perseid or two. Most importantly, all three of us had reclining chairs in tow for the end of the session (after our respective scope duties were completed for the evening).

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A view to the south from the Baltimore Woods parking lot.

A total crowd in the 35 to 40 range observed a total of 25 meteors over the two-hour session (9 p.m. to 11 p.m.) before clouds began to roll in. Those not reclined for the Perseid count were treated to some excellent scope views (Saturn and Venus being the early evening stand-outs), two ISS flybys at 9:00 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. (both on the dimmer side but both captured and followed by several attendees), one very bright Iridium Flare, and lots of airplane traffic from the Southwest. I was fortunate to have several intrepid young observers around me for the observing session, so I spent quite a bit of time describing constellations and Messier objects and adjusting the big binos (and step stool) as the discussion progressed. Binocular views for the evening included Saturn (for comparison with the big scopes), the Moon, Albireo (with quite the neck strain to capture to color differences in these two stars), Alcor and Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper (to show another binary star system and the additional detail one gains from magnification), and a pre-nova Brocchi’ Cluster (the “Coathanger”) in Delphinus (to show how low magnification can reveal interesting objects that higher magnification simply won’t show in the eyepiece).

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Attendee reaction to headlights.

One of the “unavoidables” of observing sessions is the late arrival of attendees and their headlights, made all the brighter by the sensitization of observers already dark-adapted. One of the only problems with Baltimore Woods as an observing location is the proximity of the scopes to the front gate and parking lot. Two of the attendees were captured reacting to a later arrival (I dare not call them “late arrivals,” as everyone was there late) in the .gif above. Their captured (and long-held, as these were several second exposures each) poses speak volumes.

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Bob, Larry, and I in inaction action.

The crowd left around 11:00, leaving Bob, Larry, and I to enjoy a half-hour of scope-free meteor hunting as the clouds rolled in (maybe 3 total for the 1/2 hour). With a large patch of thick clouds moving in around 11:30 p.m., Bob began to pack up his gear. I had left the camera to capture images throughout and was able to capture one clear patch opening up just as Bob drove off (posted as a youtube video of the event and embedded below).

A Small Mob For A Big Event – Quick Summary Of The New Nova Party For PNVJ20233073+2046041

CNYO’s first official “Scope Mob” and New Nova Party was composed of Larry Slosberg, Dan Williams, and myself. After only 50 minutes of observing (and enjoying a moonlit sky still clear enough to see plenty of detail), I am pleased to report that we:

(1) found the nova easily enough in binoculars and scopes

(2) saw three bright Perseids between us (it’s still going!)

(3) caught the ISS and many, many satellites

(4) as an added bonus – we caught DAICHI (ALOS) that flared four times as it went from South to North (very nice addition!). To see what gave it that flaring power, I refer you to the image below (and its very hefty solar array):

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DAICHI (ALOS) – See space.com for details.

(5) found the Moon yet again (very pleasant as always, with some nice brightening of high-elevation objects beyond the terminator)

(6) found a great little spot for hosting future impromptu darker sky observing sessions

For those wanting to check out the nova themselves in the next few days, I am pleased to report that it is presently Naked Eye (so is markedly brighter than it was even last night – 5.0 and brightening by all reports). For those interested in the search, I provide unlabeled and labeled images below. The key is to find the brighter Delphinus (look below Cygnus for the medium-bright diamond shape), then find Sagitta above and to the right (looks like a dim arrow). Naked Eye, you will see a star above Delphinus’ head, then another one between this bright star and the arrow tip of Sagitta. That “other” star is the nova, likely set to be even brighter tomorrow (with a closer Moon but still clear predicted skies). If you’re using 7x to 25x binoculars, you will see a small cluster of stars to the lower-left of the nova – which I’ve connected in the form of a Rockette for what may or may not be an obvious reason.

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Unmarked image (Canon T3i, 13 sec. exposure, ISO 1600). Click for a larger view.

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Marked image (Canon T3i, 13 sec. exposure, ISO 1600). Click for a larger view.

But it’s a relatively easy find once you have Delphinus and Sagitta figured out. There are only two other bright starts in the vicinity!

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 14 June 2013

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Perhaps the last bug-free (of the buzzing kind, that is) observing session until later in the fall, Bob Piekiel hosted his monthly Baltimore Woods observing session on Friday, 14 June 2013 at the same time that the Syracuse Astronomical Society hosted a public viewing session at Darling Hill. An excellent Friday for taking in the CNY skies beyond the Syracuse skyline!

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Bob Piekiel performing collimation surgery.

Scope-wielding CNYO members in attendance included Bob Piekiel with 8″ and 11″ SCTs, Larry Slosberg with his trusty New Moon Telescopes 12″ Dobsonian, and myself with my 25×100 Zhumell binoculars (despite a last-minute re-collimation surgery, Bob couldn’t get his monster pair of Vixen 25×125 binos up to his satisfaction. I await the next session to take in that view!).

Beyond the several deeper sky objects we observed that evening, attendees were treated to (1) two ISS flybys (and the rather spectacular run of ISS flybys this month will be the part of an upcoming article), (2) four bright meteors (total count from among the observing group) that all appeared to radiate from the vicinity of Libra and Virgo (so the meteors all appeared to move from the SouthWest to the NorthEast), and (3) more than 20 satellites that crossed fields of view or were prominent enough during the ISS watch to jump out to most everyone. The sky was dominated by the 6 day old waxing crescent *always super* Moon, excellent at all magnifications and the best binocular object in our Night Sky.

As has been a recurring theme in some of these observing logs, the variety of available optics gives one the ability to experience the pros and cons of different equipment first-hand both in terms of setup and magnification.

The Zhumell big binos are easy to setup and provide excellent views of the Moon and some of the very open star clusters. We used the binos as a “sneak preview” of our observing of Saturn as we waited for enough bright stars to appear for Bob to get his GOTO scopes aligned. Even in the binos, Saturn is obviously “Saturn,” with the ring system, planet, and gap between the rings and planet visible. You will fight for the Cassini Division in less transparent skies, but a steady mount and patience will grant you a peak of this dark band between the two major rings.

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Larry S. and Michelle M. in a Dob setup action shot.

Larry’s NMT Dob is a 5-minute setup from car to observing, with only a modicum of labored transport from the parking lot to the ground. In moonlit skies, nebula, galaxies, and faint fuzzy objects require a good memory or a great trust in one’s Telrad. On the minus side, you spend extra time trying to find faint objects – this only being a real problem during Public Viewing sessions when you really don’t want to spend all your time finding “something” to see. On the plus side, you really learn the sky this way, you don’t have to worry about battery life and any of the problems that come from modern observing technology, and you can generally get a larger mirror for the same amount of carrying-intensive weight in a Dob over a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT), which means a generally better view.

Bob’s two SCT GOTO scopes are, after setup, perhaps the best way to facilitate a Public Viewing session, as you simply call for the object you want to see in the GOTO controller and, with some grinding of gears, you spare yourself from the hunt. In the case of his image intensifier, your GOTO scope might land on a galaxy too faint to even acknowledge seeing through a good eyepiece. Your GOTO purchase is validated when the intensifier then brings out subtle detail in an otherwise invisible object, a search that might easily aggravate a novice Dob user.

All of that said, we remind ourselves of the words of Stu Forster – “The best scope is the one you use.”

For my part, I spent time Naked Eye observing and adding to discussions going on around scopes. The confirmed sightings list contained Saturn, M3, M13, and M57 (the Ring Nebula, both with and without enhancement).

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15 seconds of fun with a red flashlight and green laser pointer.

Increasing dew around 10:30 p.m. left us to pack up gear and simply enjoy the naked eye Night Sky (and play with the long exposure setting on my Canon Digital Elph). The next even is scheduled for July 12/13 at Baltimore Woods, followed by Bob Piekiel’s “Star Search” event at Green Lakes on July 26th. We hope you can join us!