Tag Archives: Milky Way

Upcoming Events: Baltimore Woods This Friday, Star Search! @ Green Lakes, NMT @ MVAS, And A Photo-Op From Saturn!

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Several events are occurring in the next few days and next few weeks for those hoping for a respite from recent CNY weather. In rapid succession:


1. Bob Piekiel At Baltimore Woods This Friday (July 12)

The weather-alternate is Saturday, July 13th. Several CNYO Observing Logs have been produced from these sessions this year already (1, 2, 3, 4) and we hope for clear skies this weekend to take in some prime Summer views of Saturn, the center of the Milky Way, and the many clusters and nebulae therein. Details about this event (directions, fees, etc.) are available @ THIS Link.


2. “Star Search!” At Green Lakes State Park on Friday, July 26

The weather-alternate is Saturday, July 27th. This is a free observing session at one of the gems of our local state park system (although you won’t be able to appreciate much of it unless you get there early) hosted by CNY’s own Bob Piekiel. The poster for this event, start-end times, and directions are available @ THIS Link.

NOTE: While the temperature might beckon shorts and T-shirts, I bring you this word of caution from Dr. John McMahon: Green Lakes is one of the areas identified in Onondaga County where Black-legged Ticks (Ixodes scapularis) — aka deer ticks –have been identified as being abundant.

He (and I) refer you to the following NY Department Of Health sites for more info.

health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/lyme/ & health.ny.gov/publications/2813/

In short: Bug spray ( I will have a DEET-free bottle on hand) and long sleeved everything is the order of the night (including tucking pants into socks. Remember, it’ll be dark. No one will see you).


3. Ryan Goodson & New Moon Telescopes Present: The Evolution of the Alt-Azumith Telescope At MVAS, Wednesday Sept. 11

Mark your calendars! Ryan is presently scheduled to give a one hour lecture for the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society on Wednesday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m. We do not know know if this will be open to the public or just to MVAS members, so you should consider joining and supporting this very active and very knowledgeable organization to our east. I consider their monthly newsletter – Telescopic Topics – to be one of the very best amateur astronomy club newsletters out there. This month’s edition includes Ryan’s article “Going Big” – posted on the CNYO site this past June 27th.

We will provide more details on the CNYO site as the date approaches.


4. Wave At Saturn Day – Friday, July 19 − 5:27 To 5:42 p.m. EDT

The Cassini Space Probe is set to image Saturn as Saturn occults (that is, passes in front of in a “greater than” eclipsed manner (although I’ve seen it described as “eclipsing”). This is not a transit, as the Sun will not be directly visible behind Saturn, and a transit requires that the “passing” object be smaller than the object being passed) the Sun (from the vantage point of the probe, that is) on July 19th. This is guaranteed to be a spectacular image of Saturn by all metrics (anyone who’s seen the image serving as this post’s banner knows what a remarkable combination Saturn and sunlight are).

It just so happens that this will occur (1) while the Earth will be in the field of view of the probe’s imagers and (2) while the North American continent is being illuminated by sunlight. The images below (from NASA/JPL-Caltech) summarize the situation on the 19th.

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If we don’t host an official event (it is cutting it close to quittin’ time, after all), consider getting outside for a few minutes of Saturnian exposure and give your tax dollars a big wave.

CNYO Brochure – A Guide For Solar Observing

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

In preparation for upcoming 2013 lecture and observing sessions, we have put together instructional brochures to help introduce the Night Sky to attendees. The third of these, entitled “A Guide For Solar Observing,” addresses our solar observing sessions and is provided below in PDF format. This brochure will be available at our combined lecture/observing sessions, but feel free to bring your own paper copy (or the PDF on a tablet – but have red acetate ready!).

Download: A Guide For Solar Observing (v6)

NOTE: These brochures are made better by your input. If you find a problem, have a question, or have a suggestion (bearing in mind these are being kept to one two-sided piece of paper), please contact CNYO at info@cnyo.org.

NOTE 2: We’d like to thank the great solar photographer Alfred Tan for the use of his solar image in this brochure. For a regular feed of his stellar (pun intended) solar views from Singapore, we encourage you to subscribe to his twitter feed at: twitter.com/yltansg.

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A Guide For Solar Observing

Solar Safety: Read Me First!

“NEVER Look At The Sun Through ANY Eyepiece Without Protection!”

Pre-Observing Observing Tips

“The Sun is a blindingly bright object all by itself – and your observing session has you constantly looking in its direction!”

Sun Cross Section – 697,000 km Radius

“Radiative Zone: 348,000 km thick, energy from the core is passed through as photons (light) – thousands of years for light to pass through it from the core!”

The Solar System To Scale

“The solar diameter in “planets” is listed.”

More Information About The Sun

“The Sun is the reason why we’re here!”

And Just Why Is The Sky Blue?

“At sunrise and sunset, most of the blue light has been scattered by air molecules, so more of the Sun’s longer wavelength light (red and orange) makes it to our eyes (“R”).”

What You’ll Observe On The Sun

“The savvy (or lucky) observer may see a plane (1), a satellite, a planet (“transit” of Venus (2) or Mercury), or the International Space Station (3).”

About The Sun (History & Future)

“The Sun is a spectral type G2V star in the Orion Arm (Orion Spur) of the Milky Way, some 25,000 light years from the Milky Way’s center and, on average, 8 light minutes away from Earth.”

What You’ll See Through Solar Filters

“All other filters work by picking out a single wavelength (shade of one color) from the entire visible spectrum (ROYGBIV – red, orange, etc.), allowing only that color to pass through to your eye.”

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

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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.