Tag Archives: M42

CNYO Observing Log: Lunar Eclipse And Syracuse Academy Of Science, 8 October 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Despite weather forecasts indicating that an early rise might have been a wasted one, a few CNY amateur astronomers braved the 4 a.m. skies and temperatures in hopes of watching our Moon all but disappear from most of the visible light spectrum. The total lunar eclipse on the morning of October 8th marked the second eclipse of the year (with the first occurring on a washed out April 15th) and the second in a series of four (known as a tetrad) that will complete with two more total eclipses on April 4th and September 28th of 2015.

Those keeping track of the local eclipse news will very likely have found Glenn Coin’s (at syracuse.com, twitter: @glenncoin) two reports (“Will full lunar eclipse…” and “To see total lunar eclipse…“) about the eclipse and the potential for us in CNY to see it, with the second article featuring a few snippets from myself and Bob Piekiel. Our continued thanks to Glenn for keeping astronomical phenomena appearing on the syracuse.com website!

Bob Piekiel reported an excellent session at Baltimore Woods that morning, producing the series of images below before cloud cover obstructed any additional views:


The lunar eclipse from Baltimore Woods. Click for a larger view.

We had a crystal-clear break in the clouds for nearly an hour on Wednesday morning, enough to get some good views of the eclipsed Moon, as well as Jupiter, and some amazing views of M42 as the sky darkened with the setting Moon. The Moon’s covered area did indeed turn a bright red, noticeable even as the twilight approached, right up until we lost sight of it in some low clouds above the tree line.

My part of the lunar eclipse viewing was performed from my downtown rooftop. Unlike much of what we observe in the Night Sky, lunar eclipses are good from anywhere regardless of the amount of light pollution. I watched Bob’s clearing float East (the view at 4:20 a.m. Around the Moon as as perfect as one could hope for), then watched the Moon become consumed, then caught just enough of an opening to take the three images below.


The progressing lunar eclipse. Click for a larger view.

With the camera still out and the view above me clear, I also decided to grab a quick view of Orion’s Belt and M42 (this with just a 5 second exposure – and still from downtown).


Orion’s Belt and the Orion Nebula (M42). Click for a larger view.

With only a short window of observing to be had, the early wake-up call was well worth it (one surprise clearing is worth about two cups of coffee). With the eclipse image above and the standard CNYO presentation gear in tow, the astronomy morning ended at the Syracuse Academy of Science for their 8th Annual College & Career Fair, with over 100 students stopping at the booth to hold a piece of Mars, learn why Polaris doesn’t move in the sky, and grab all of our social media info to attend an upcoming CNYO observing session.


From the booth at the Syracuse Academy of Science. Click for a larger view.

CNYO Observing Log: Pedro Gomes Runs Another Watertown Sidewalk Astronomy Session, 2 April 2014

Fresh on the heals of his previous one-man space show, Pedro Gomes has hosted another Watertown sidewalk astronomy session at the YMCA. His write-up on the event is posted below with a few select snapshots. Many thanks, Pedro!

I brought my telescopes out for another sidewalk astronomy night at the Watertown YMCA on a clear and relatively pleasant Wednesday evening. This is now the second time I have done so at this location and it seems to have caught on with more “customers” this go-around than last. I even had a couple of repeat customers from last month who took it upon themselves to call some friends of their own over to get a look through the telescopes. I would say it is catching on.

The equipment was once again my 150mm Celestron Omni XLT reflector along with my William Optics 80mm ED. However, this time I brought along a few reference materials to help illustrate some points. I brought a laminated mirror-image moon map with all of its features identified and labeled as well as April’s Sky and Telescope issue to talk about some celestial highlights for the month. I felt having the images along helped if they had questions. The moon map was especially helpful as the moon was one of the two targets for the night.

Speaking of which, the targets were very limited that night, as I was sandwiched between two very “noisy” and tall streetlights. I tried to get the Orion Nebula (M42) and the Pleiades (M45) into the mix as well but the streetlights drowned out many of the stars that I use to find the Pleiades, and they also created way too much light pollution for any untrained observer to clearly make out the nebulosity in M42. So, I just stuck with two bright and prominent targets, the Moon and Jupiter.

The “customers” seem to all appreciate the views and I received plenty of “wows” and “shut the front doors” (no, seriously). I noticed that the hardest part was getting the first two or three people over but once they agreed to take a peek, other people would slow down and wait for an invite over. I have to admit if you are not familiar with astronomy gear it can be quite an intimidating sight. One person even thought I was the local news station.

I was kept pretty busy from dusk until about 10PM when I finally called it a night. I did find it a bit challenging to operate two scopes while also trying to provide some sort of quick-bite facts and information about what they would be observing through the scopes. The good part was that the night flew by but the down side was that I found myself with little time to offer any real insight into any particular topic. However, I felt that it was still a bit too cold for people to want to stick around and chat, so this wasn’t a real issue at that moment.

All in all, it was a successful night that even received another solicitation for an astronomy session by the head of 4-H Camp Wabasso. He seemed extremely interested in putting something together for the kids in the camp that would allow them to get a little bit of instruction and then put that instruction into practice with a nighttime observing session.

There was no better way to end the night. It was not only engaging and educational but the fact that someone else could sense the enthusiasm I had for the stars and for passing along that knowledge and passion really validated the effort for me. And in the end isn’t reaching young and enthusiastic minds the reason we stand out there and point people to the stars?

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CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 22 March 2014 (And An Erigone Summary)

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The often-announced (on this site, anyway) Regulus occultation by asteroid (163) Erigone on the morning of March 20th was a near-wash (no rain, but plenty of cloud cover), with only a few messages being passed around at midnight to see if anyone was even going to try for 2:00 a.m. That said, the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) got lots of good press and, with luck, a similarly notable occultation will occur to catch other eyes and instigate the IOTA to prep another big public recording effort. Those who want to relive the non-event can watch the Slooh Community Observatory coverage in the youtube video below.

Then, two days later, Bob Piekiel with his Meade C11 and I with my New Moon Telescope 12.5″ Dob treated two couples at Baltimore Woods to the kind of crystal clear and steady skies you read out but usually never have the good fortune to be out for. With the late March and early April temperatures beginning to melt the high hills of ice and snow around all the big parking lots in the area, the Baltimore Woods setup was a bit solid, a bit slushy, and quite dirty. Our four-person audience arrived early in time to watch the clear skies darken and Jupiter, Sirius, and Betelgeuse first appear in the South/Southwest sky. For the next 90 minutes or so, the observing list included Jupiter (several times at several magnifications, both early in the evening and after the skies had sufficiently darkened to bring out more detail), the Pleiades (M45), the Beehive Cluster (M44), the Orion Nebula (M42), Alcor and Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) and its prominent satellites (M32 and M110) very low on the horizon (very likely our last catches of our sister galaxy for several months to come), and even M82 to say that we had, at least, seen the location of the recent supernova (if not a last few photons from it).

In an attempt to help someone remember as many constellations as possible at the Liverpool Public Library lecture a few weeks prior, I retold one of the more memorable tales of the winter star groupings of Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull, Canis Major (the big dog), Canis Minor (the little dog), and the Pleiades that I picked up from the excellent Dover book Star Lore: Myths, Legends, and Facts by William Tyler Olcott (which you can even read and download for free in an earlier form at archive.org).

Long story short, the Pleiades (also known as the Seven Sisters or the Seven Virgins) were the target of Orion’s rather significant attention, so much so that in his last run to them, the ever-invasive Zeus placed an equally significant bull in Orion’s path, leaving Orion and his two dogs (Canis Major and Canis Minor) stuck in their tracks. As is apparent from the images below, these four constellations (and one star cluster/Messier Object) are all tightly spaced in the Winter Sky. Better still, the end of Winter even finds these constellations standing on the horizon (instead of upside down in morning Autumn skies), making the picture all the more easily seen. As Orion is second only to the Big Dipper in terms of ease-of-seeing by practically everyone (raised in the tradition of Western Constellation arrangements, anyway), it’s the start constellation from which to find the other three. Canis Major is easily found by its shoulder star Sirius, the brightest start in our nighttime sky. Canis Minor is a leap from Sirius to Procyon, also a prominent star. Taurus the Bull is easily found by its head, the local star cluster known as the Hyades, and its orange-red eye, Aldebaran. The small sisters lie within the boundary of Taurus in a cluster that to the slightly near-sighted might just look like a fuzzy patch (but which, in binoculars, reveals numerous tightly-packed stars).


Our cast of characters (and nearest neighbors). Image made with Starry Night Pro.


The prominent stars in their starring roles. Image made with Starry Night Pro.

After packing up around 9:30 (about when the temperatures began to drop precipitously), I managed a single long-exposure image with my Canon T3i of the region above – quite possibly my last good look at the most famous Winter grouping until they appear again in the morning Autumn skies.


Final scene from Baltimore Woods (with story labels). Click for a larger view.