Tag Archives: Larry Slosberg

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


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).


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).


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.


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).

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 13 July 2013

One month from the peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower, Bob Piekiel’s monthly Baltimore Woods session this past July 13th was a study in summertime CNY observing – that is, a study in patience, persistence, and bug spray.


Caption: Scopes and observers at the ready.

The evening started with an expectation of partly-cloudy skies according to all forecasts. The setup of of Bob’s 16″ Meade SCT, 25×125 Vixen binoculars, Larry Slosberg’s 12″ New Moon Telescope Dobsonian, and my 12.5″ NMT Dob went slowly as we watched the clouds move fast and move in. What might have been an early observing crowd at BW turned out to be an evening Frog Walk program that had the attendees hopping into the distance from the parking lot.


Caption: Elaine, Bob, and a 16″ Meade SCT.

Scope setup and cloud cover were complete by 8:45 p.m., leaving a group of eight of us to strain to see Vega, Deneb, Altair, and Arcturus (the four brightest stars in our sky this session). Their appearance at all produced the call of their individual names for well over an hour. We were lucky enough to catch a few early glimpses of Saturn and the Moon, but even they were no match for cloud formations approaching from the West. While no one complained loudly about the mosquitoes in the air, no one appreciated their presence either. One of the benefits of a non-DEET (or, at least, more natural) bug spray is that, with a spray and rubbing-in around your head and neck (that you are more hesitant to do with the DEET variety), you can stare into an eyepiece unencumbered by the ever-louder buzzes in your ear.


Caption: The author waiting impatiently for clear skies (photo by Larry Slosberg).

With the hopes of later clearer skies (and because the scopes were set up anyway), the group engaged in the time-old tradition of assorted conversations under an overcast nighttime sky while waiting for clearings between clouds.

With 20 minutes to go in the “official” BW session, dark patches finally began to appear at our zenith. Within 10 minutes, these small patches had grown into large spans of dark sky, from which observing began in earnest at 10:50 p.m.


Caption: A view of the southern sky (featuring Sagittarius and Scorpius).

The official session lasted another hour or so and included a few Iridium Flares and one pair of unwanted car headlights directly in our path (if you see a scope in the middle of nowhere, PLEASE dim your lights).


Caption: A very close double – car headlights raining on our session.

My observing list included Albireo (the head of Cygnus the Swan and one of the great double stars in the Night Sky), Alcor and Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper (in the tail of Ursa Major), the great globular cluster M13 in Hercules, the “Double-Double” binary star pair in Lyra (Epsilon1a and Epsilon2a Lyrea, making up the handle of the lyre with Vega), The Ring Nebula (M57) in Lyra, the Veil Nebula (a supernova remnant quite obvious in an O III filter) in Cygnus, and M5 (which I think is a slightly crisper globular cluster than M13) in Serpens. In the search for M5, the skies were dark enough that NGC 5921 in Serpens (the half of Serpens known as Serpens Caput, to be specific) became ever-so-slightly prominent. This galaxy, dim and featureless but still bright enough to notice in a scan of the skies around M5, is shown in Hubble images to be a fantastic barred spiral galaxy.


Caption: NGC 5921 (from NASA/Hubble).

CNYO Observing Log: ShoppingTown Mall, 19 June 2013


Greetings fellow astrophiles!

From the CNYO Facebook Group page on 17 June 2013:

Damian and I [Larry S.] have been talking about doing another impromptu observing session. We had some really good turn out for a Solar/Lunar observing session in the Shoppingtown upper parking lot. Wednesday’s forecast is looking promising. Anyone interested in doing another Solar/Lunar session at Shoppingtown at 6pm on Wednesday? I’m choosing Shoppingtown again, because I have a CNY Skeptics in the Pub meeting at Scotch and Sirloin at 7pm. Any one interested in joining us for a drink after is also welcome.

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The approximate location (at center) of the session.

CNYO hosted a half-dozen observers (and a half-dozen or so other stopper-by’s) at its second facebook-organized combined Solar/Lunar Observing Session in the parking lot of ShoppingTown Mall on Wednesday, 19 June 2013, just prior to the bimonthly CNY Skeptics In The Pub meeting at the Scotch & Sirloin.


In attendance were Larry Slosberg with both his NMT 12” Dobsonian (and my custom Baader solar filter) and his Meade SCT 8”, myself with Baader-equipped Zhumell 25×100’s, and John Giroux with his Coronado Solarmax 60 II (which obviated the need for me to bring my Coronado PST, providing a low-magnification Baader view for onlookers instead through the binos). This event also featured the first official use of our CNYO Solar Observing brochure, which we will continue to update and have available at all of our Solar observing sessions (download the PDF for yourself at its CNYO post).


The 11 day old waxing gibbous Moon hung quite pale blue but feature-rich through Larry’s 8” SCT. Outside of discussion with attendees, all attention was placed on the Sun, which was busy with several sunspots and prominences, include Sunspot 1772, which featured a surface prominence easily visible in John’s Solarmax. A gif of the 5 days prior and 5 following days is shown below from NASA SOHO images (the image for the 19th is in yellow).


From NASA/SOHO images. Click for a full-sized version.

The Solar/Lunar Sessions are a perfect combination of interesting (and important!) objects and family-friendly observing times, making them one event we plan on committing to a more regular schedule this summer (with new potential locations under discussion). We will keep you posted on this website. Stay tuned!

CNYO Observing Log: Beaver Lake Nature Center, 2 May 2013


Greetings fellow astrophiles,

May 2nd served as the rain date (due to rapidly-overcasting conditions on April 25th) for our first Beaver Lake Nature Center lecture of the year – The Guiding & Wandering Stars – Key Northern Constellations & Planet Observations. On hand to run scopes and engage in lecture duties were the author with a 12.5″ New Moon Telescope Dobsonian, Larry Slosberg with one Meade SCT and Bob Piekiel with another.

The Constellations have been with us for thousands of years, but there are only a few good, clear nights each month to memorize their positions as they slowly move across the sky! This outdoor lecture by the CNY Observers (www.cnyo.org) will briefly describe the history and importance of the Constellations as mythological, agricultural, and navigational guides, then will describe a simple system to begin to learn their relative positions. At the same time, Jupiter and Saturn are on opposite sides of the Southern sky, making excellent targets for binocular and telescope observing. Free and open to the public.

While the week including May 2nd will be known to some as a particularly bad week for maple tree allergies, the nighttime sky stayed quite clear and the bugs eventually froze around us to produce an excellent session. The attending crowd of about 35 served as test subjects for both our two new brochures (How The Night Sky Moves and Guide For New Observers) and our first official completely outdoors (Powerpoint-free) lecture (which, despite astronomy being such a visual hobby, worked will with just the brochure contents). In anticipation of some nighttime brochure reading, I put together some red light flashlights on the cheap locally. For anyone attempting similar, I found a four-pack of Dorcy AAA 6 LED Flashlights at Dicks Sporting Goods for $10. Some very minor surgery is needed to remove the top caps, but conversion to red light flashlights is straightforward with the help of a four-layer stack of red acetate purchased many moons ago from Commercial Art Supply in Syracuse.

406px-EB1711_Armillary_SphereDespite a little confusion about the start time (7:30 or 8:00), everyone had pulled in by 7:45 p.m., so we began the session with a good 30 minutes of physics. The goal of these Beaver Lake lectures is to not only observe objects, but to explain why the sky moves as it does so those trying to learn new constellations will understand what to expect both over the course of a night and over the course of a year. This began at the ground floor – understanding how the Earth moves around the Sun. With the help of an armillary sphere (which holds the Earth at its 23 degree tilt – see the image at left from wikipedia), the Earth’s movement around the Sun was demonstrated, specifically showing that the rotation axis stays pointed the same way as we revolve – thus resulting in Polaris appearing not to move over the course of the year despite the Earth shifting position by 300 million kilometers (2 astronomical units) every 6 months. Knowing that Polaris is always in the same place in the sky (whether it’s daytime or not) leads smoothly into a discussion of the circumpolar constellations and the benefit of learning these six constellations first (for this discussion and some how-to’s, I refer you to the CNYO brochure: Guide For New Observers).

Running a sunset-to-late-night session with a non-cycling crowd has (at least) two distinct advantages. First, the importance of dark adaption and the need to avoid smart phones (or avoid their use around others) can be stressed early in the evening. While enforcing protocols to maintain dark adaption at any kind of public lecture is usually a losing battle, anyone answering a phone did it in a very non-obvious manner, which was most welcome. Second, the mechanics of my Dobsonian telescope and Larry and Bob’s two motorized SCTs could be presented while still visible to attendees. More importantly, the proper observing technique for all could be demonstrated by showing (a) how to approach an eyepiece (I tell people to put their hands behind their back and simply lean into the eyepiece) and (b) just how easy it is to nudge a scope away from its target. Specifically for the Dob, I’m sure anyone who’s brought their scope to a public session has had at least one person lean on or pull closer an eyepiece. I’m pleased to report that, once the observing started, our collective intro to scope workings made my Dob-running life simple with no unplanned re-adjustments (just adjustments of the unmotorized kind).

As stated in a previous post (2013 March 8 – At The Syracuse Inner Harbor), new observers are best introduced to observing with easy objects that don’t require training. Deep, dim, distant galaxies are not useful starters for someone with no background in eyepiece observing. For my part, a good 70 minutes were spent on Jupiter (low in the Western Sky with all four Galilean moons present), Saturn (low in the Eastern Sky and my first view of it this year), Arcturus in Boötes (its shimmering in the sky both with and without magnification was a point of discussion for several near my scope), M13 (the globular cluster in Hercules, which served as a first “way out” object and an example of using the constellations as a “coarse adjustment” for finding Messier and other objects), and the pair Alcor and Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper/tail of Ursa Major (to show the separation and additional detail that comes with magnification).

With a much smaller crowd around 9:30 p.m., I did treat a few interested parties to some more difficult observing in my scope – The Leo Triplet – after first briefly explaining the mechanics of averted vision. Of the five people who looked, all could make out M65, all could at least tell that something “was there” where M66 rested, and three people could tell that “something else” was there at NGC 3628‘s position. And I did miss a golden opportunity to observe NGC 4565 (my personal favorite) in Coma Berenices.

We closed up shop at 10 p.m., just as Cygnus and Lyra began to peak out over the horizon and announce the approaching return of our Summer Constellations. I am pleased to report that we will be hosting a Summer Session on Thursday, August 8th (with an August 15th rain date) where we will again do a little bit of mechanics and instruction outdoors, followed by Saturn, Venus, and all that our summer view of the Milky Way can provide.

August 8 – Stargazing with CNY Observers & Observing

CNY Observers (CNYO) hosts an introductory lecture to the Night Sky, focusing on planets and other objects observable during August and September.  Part of the lecture will discuss some simple ways to learn the Constellations, while the rest of the lecture will provide details about meteor showers, observing satellites and the ISS, and the ever-expanding description of our own Solar System.  If time and weather permits, some early evening views of Venus and Saturn will be had from the Beaver Lake parking lot.  Free for members; $2 for nonmembers.

CNYO Observing Log: ShoppingTown Mall, 17 April 2013


Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Our most recent solar session was organized by Larry Slosberg via facebook:

“Any up for an impromptu Lunar and solar observing session at Shoppingtown Mall at about 6pm? I’ll be heading to Scotch and Sirloin for a CNY Skeptics in the Pub at 7pm (you’re welcome to join that too) and thought, it’s such a nice clear night. Might be nice to get a couple scopes out and maybe get some people as they are leaving the mall.”

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The approximate location (at center) of the session.

With Larry’s 8″ Meade Schmidt–Cassegrain Telescope (SCT) (and homemade Baader solar filter) and my Coronado PST in tow, we hosted a 90 minute session before the CNY Skeptics meet-up with about one dozen attendees (and a curious ShoppingTown Mall security guard) and our two most prominent celestial neighbors – the Sun and Moon.


Larry and attendees #1.


The Moon was a 7-day-old waxing crescent on the 17th and high in the sky at 6:00 p.m. While Larry had his Baader filter at the ready, he ended up spending most of his observing time (due to crowd interest) examining all of the blue-on-grey surface detail that this late afternoon session afforded. A later evening image of the waxing crescent (from two days prior) is shown below from local astrophotographer John Giroux.


The waxing crescent Moon on 15 April 2013. Photo by John Giroux.


The Coronado PST filters nearly all of the incoming light from the Sun, making it comfortably observable and making anything else seen through the Coronado (short of a blindingly bright hydrogen lamp) pitch black. So, by necessity, my part of the session was dedicated solely to the Sun as it set in the tree-lined western DeWitt sky.


Larry and attendees #2.

The Coronado brings out sunspot, surface, and prominence detail using a 1.0 angstrom hydrogen-alpha filter (which is to say, that’s the only wavelength of light that gets through). The views are composed of ever-so-slightly different shades of red, but the detail is obvious with proper focus, magnification, and filter adjustment. The Sun was busy with prominences and highlighted on the surface by Sunspot 1745, shown at lower center in the image below from Ted Adachi’s submission to spaceweather.com that day.


The Sun, by Ted Adachi.

Over the course of 90 minutes of observing, I learned two valuable lessons for the Coronado. 1. Reducing some of the incoming light does a bit to help bring out some solar detail. Even covering the objective 50% produced detailed views that helped enhance some of the surface detail (as Larry demonstrates below). 2. The perfect eyepiece for filling the Coronado with a view of the Sun lies somewhere between 7 and 10 mm (a point that will be addressed in an upcoming discussion about NEAF 2013).


Larry demonstrates the light-block maneuver with a piece of reflective aluminum/bubble wrap.

With short notice, small scopes, and a clear sky, the daytime becomes just as interesting and enjoyable a time for an introductory sidewalk astronomy session as the night does. Young kids and adults alike get to take in a brand new view of our nearest neighbors while being able to see the scopes that make these views possible. And it is much easier to find missing eyepiece caps!