Tag Archives: Messier Marathon

Upstate NY Stargazing In April: The Lyrid Meteor Shower – Posted To syracuse.com And nyup.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The April, 2018 UNY Stargazing article is up for your reading and sharing pleasure at syracuse.com and newyorkupstate.com:

Links: newyorkupstate.com & syracuse.com

There are still random listserv mentions of hosted Messier Marathons among some of the local clubs. Be sure to check your local astronomy club to see if any events are being scheduled. I wasn’t sure if the article was going to come out before or after the Tiangong-1 final descent, so kept the opening discussion of potential problems with things “up there” general. On top of some excellent planetary viewing this month, The Lyrids make their yearly return, then we continue to zodiac discussion with Gemini – perfectly placed in the western skies this evening for some strain-free scope and bino observing.

The good, the bad, and the potentially ugly things that fall from space. Micrometeorites (IFLScience.com), a SkyLab fragment (from wikipedia), and the Chelyabinsk meteor trail (Alex Alishevskikh).

When asked to list the contents of our Solar System, some stop at the Sun, planets, and moons. Others will remember comets – a list of objects that grows much longer every year. For those looking for up-to-date info, see minorplanetcenter.net – we have comfortably cleared the 4000 comet mark. Some may add the asteroid belt – a region between Mars and Jupiter which looks less like the chaotic debris field from “The Empire Strikes Back” and more like oases of larger rocks separated by vast, empty deserts of tiny particles. Don’t forget the currently 18,000-long list of NEOs, or Near-Earth Objects.

These are among the more than 18,000 reasons why the late-great Stephen Hawking and others have championed the need for colonization beyond the Earth’s surface.

Changing positions in the sky is one thing – changing elevations is very different. Occasional bright flares make the news when captured on video. Events like Tunguska and Chelyabinsk remind us that there thing in space we might miss that could level cities. We are fortunate that most of the roughly 160 tons of debris from space that hits the Earth *each day* is in the form of micrometeorites that you could start collecting with a strong magnet and a flat rooftop.

The highly-anticipated demise of the Tiangong-1 over the weekend was a reminder that we may not be able to always rely on the “dilution-solution” of handling our garbage. Our planet is large, spherical, mostly covered in water, and largely unpopulated – but the number of satellites going to space will only increase as launches get cheaper. It remains to be seen if nations will opt to address the dangers of space junk before or after something serious – and unavoidable – happens here on the ground.

Read more…

“Upstate NY Stargazing In March” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the Upstate NY Stargazing series, “Upstate NY Stargazing In March: Messier Marathon and the Lunar Occultation of Aldebaran,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

Direct Link: newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/2017/02/…lunar_occultation_of_ald.html

Direct Link: syracuse.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2017/02/…lunar_occultation_of_ald.html

* Prof. Leslie Hebb’s Cazenovia College Science Cafe lecture, “Distant Worlds: What We Know About Extra-Solar Planets And Their Potential For Habitability” was a great success this past Wednesday and we look forward to announcing and co-sponsoring future astro-related events.

* With one day to go and the potential for clear skies, interested parties are encouraged to read up on how to observe – and record – the lunar occultation of Aldebaran on the night of March 4th.

* And, finally, the March article is the perfect time to introduce new observers to Messier Marathons prior to any attempts of the same at month’s end.

Caption: M31, the Andromeda Galaxy, and its satellite galaxies M32 (a hazy star just above-left of M31’s center) and M110 (the oval structure below-left of M31’s center). Photograph taken at Kopernik Observatory & Science Center by Kopernik Astronomical Society member George Normandin. Click for a larger view.

Turning our attention to the North, and in anticipation of a larger discussion about circumpolar constellations, we introduce Ursa Major – a great, easy-to-find constellation with a small fortune in Messier Objects.

Caption: Ursa Major and the Big Dipper, including brightest star labels, the locations of Messier Objects, and an arrow to follow to the north star Polaris. Click for a larger view.

Distro Astro 3.0 Is Out – Just In Time For CNY’s Hibernating Observers

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Wintertime CNY amateur astronomy is not for the faint of heart, and certainly no good for those with bad circulation. While many of the very best objects grace the nighttime skies from roughly November to March (I’m talking the primo sights for the Northern hemisphere, including the Andromeda Galaxy, the Pleiades, and the Orion Nebula), bouts of precipitation mix with often bone-chilling temperatures to keep even the most dedicated observes indoors. I’ve found myself pondering on more than one occasion the price of an atomically-flat all-diamond window that would let me scan the heavens from the comfort of my own living room. An important take-home from Bob Piekiel’s wintertime Baltimore Woods sessions is that, after sunset, the thing heating Marcellus is YOU – if you’re not dressed for an ascent of Mt. Everest, chances are good you’re going to leave early with the knowledge that standing still at night requires a few additional layers of insulation. And even the pros forget – Ryan and I can recall at least one especially frosty session at Baltimore Woods that had us both moving slowly for 3 days after.

That said, you don’t have to spend the Winter months just cleaning your eyepiece case, replacing all your batteries, arguing in a cloudynights.com thread with someone named “Myopic from Minnesota,” and googling for interesting astronomical events in the upcoming year. Instead, you could be learning a bit about computer operating systems, updating your GOTO scope’s database with the absolute latest in near-Earth objects and exoplanets, greatly advancing your astrophotography skills, and making your own darned star charts.

2014nov17_astrodistrowelcomeDistro Astro (www.distroastro.org) is a Linux distribution specifically designed for astronomers of all abilities – and I do mean all abilities. Astronomy is one of those fields where someone needs a program to do A, they write a program for A, and they often make it freely available for anyone else to do A or test B. These developers might be hobbyists wanting to turn Newton’s equations of motion into a learning tool, or might be serious programmers and professional astronomers wanting to process the latest Keck and Hubble data for analysis. The Distro Astro Team has collected some of the best free software across all areas of amateur astronomy and wrapped it up into a Linux distribution that you can install on your “outdoors” computer, giving you a suite of tools that will keep your astro-gears spinning all winter until you step outside for the next Messier Marathon.

Version 3.0 of Distro Astro just came out (November 9th, to be exact) and is available for free download from the distroastro.org website. Instead of re-listing all of the features here, I refer you to the official item list on the distroastro.org website, then a few good intro reviews describing the operating system and suite of programs. If we’ve enough local interest in a walkthrough of Distro Astro, a full *indoors* demonstration might make for a chance to introduce some of the CNY amateur astronomy community to some of the Linux gurus in the Syracuse Innovators Guild (full disclosure – I’m a member of SIG as well and suspect the facilities would be perfect for such a lecture).

And speaking of Distro Astro presentations, CNYO’s own Christopher Schuck just happened to take over one of Stellafane’s lecture spots this past August in order to introduce Distro Astro to just the kind of audience it was developed for. For a quick tour of some of the pick-hits in Distro Astro, I invite you to check out the youtube video of his presentation above.

For another discussion of Astro Distro, check out this video from a Linux group in Perth, Western Australia: www.youtube.com/watch?v=qvC5vj74lGE.

If you’ve any questions about getting it all up-and-running, I direct you to either the Distro Astro Facebook Page or to CNYO’s own Facebook Page (the collective know-how on our Facebook Page is probably enough to get new users over any initial humps).