Tag Archives: Ryan Goodson

Highlights From Bob Piekiel’s Green Lakes Solar Observing Session, 8 February 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

A decent-sized group of appropriately-dressed observers braved the mid-winter cold to attend a solar observing session at Green Lakes State Park this past Saturday, February 8th (approx. 1 to 3 p.m.). The event, organized by Baltimore Woods favorite Bob Piekiel, was wing-observered by Ryan Goodson, Larry Slosberg, and Steve Capp. Observers were treated to a reasonably busy solar surface, with the massive sunspot 1967 and the small constellation of sunspots around 1968 just disappearing out of the field of view with the Sun’s rotation (and our revolution), then several smaller sunspots working their way across the Sun’s equator (that said, note the Earth size in the image below. Sunspots 1973 and 1974 are large enough to swallow the Earth whole!).


The Sun on 8 February 2014. Image from NASA/SOHO.

Below is a gallery of images from the event (our first attempt at a CNYO gallery. If you have issues loading images or just don’t like how it works on the site, please let us know) featuring photos by Ryan Goodson and Cindi Farrell. Another session is coming up from 1 to 3 p.m. on February 22 (with the 23rd as the weather alternate) at Baltimore Woods. We hope you can join us for that one as well!

[envira-gallery slug=”2014-green-lakes-solar-session”]

CNYO Observers Log: Pulaski Middle School Science Club, 20 November 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members Larry Slosberg, Ryan Goodson, and myself hosted our first science club observing session of the year at Pulaski Middle School (my third year doing so, Larry’s second year, and Ryan’s first).

The cold weather kept the crowd to about 25 (early-October sessions having maxed out at around 50 previously) students, teachers, and parent chaperones (no doubt to keep our astronomy humor clean) for an evening that gave us about 1 full hour of good observing and 30 minutes of increasing cloud cover and decreasing body temperatures.


Larry getting ready. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

In a shift from the usual procedure, we held the entire event outdoors. Powerpoint slides were replaced with red flashlights and two of our CNYO brochures (How The Night Sky Moves and Guide For New Observers) to direct a walk-through of the Night Sky while it was clearly visible (with extra thanks to the Pulaski Middle School staff for turning out the football and tennis court flood lights). The first half-hour was also used as a Q+A session. One long-lived, slow-moving meteor coaxed a 10 minute discussion of meteor showers and motion in the Solar System. A few quick beams from our green laser pointers were used as a springboard to discuss both vision (our sensitivity to green and our insensitivity to red, the differences between rods and cones, dark adaptation) and the law (because they are most definitely NOT toys). Ryan also gave a walk-through of an 8″ NMT Dobsonian to explain to everyone present how the photon traffic is directed to the eyepiece and where to place your eye at all three scopes to see the sights.


Kids watching Larry with an NMT Dob in the foreground. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

The following hour was an observing free-for-all, with each of us picking and describing objects in the Night Sky. With the line and discussion as long as it was, I only managed to observe Albireo, the Ring Nebula (M57), the Pleiades, Vega, and Jupiter (it quite close to the end of the event).


The author dressed for radio. Photo by Ryan Goodson. Click for a larger version.

Despite the cold, everyone was attentive and full of good questions (perhaps the best part of running these events is discovering that the science gears are spinning quickly in the heads of science club members). We finally packed up around 9:30 p.m. after I ran a 15-minute warm-up session indoors to talk a little more astro-shop (spending most of the time on intelligent life in the universe and the reason why we’ve so few impact craters on Earth).

Larry summed up our session best on Facebook:

I would like to take a moment, and thank the kids and adults at Pulaski Middle School for inviting us up last night for another great astronomy night. All the kids were engaged, enthusiastic, and contributed to lots of great discussions. We had a wonderful night of observations, nice clear skies and I can’t wait to do it again. I am truly amazed by the breadth of knowledge of the kids and their eagerness to learn more. Keep it up, kids!!!

CNYO Observers Log: Comet ISON At Highland Forest, 15 November 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

One of the benefits of spending your time in the sciences is the development of a healthy skepticism for science news that makes it out to the major print and online news services. Be it new findings on vitamins or “breakthroughs” in fusion, there’s often an astronomical difference between what appears in initial reports and what actually settles as established fact in the laboratory or marketplace. As one of my favorite radio personalities puts it (about military conflicts, but the logic applies) “The first three reports are always wrong.”

Comet ISON started out early this year with such headlines as “Comet Of The Century?” (and that was NASA), “ISON May Appear Brighter Than Full Moon As It Passes Earth,” (from HuffPo, among many others), and other all-too-optimistic accolades undeserving of an object for which almost nothing was known at the time. But it sounded good in the small news snippets that passed around many astronomy email lists. This last month has finally seen some more serious scientific questions raised in the media concerning its composition, actual brightness, flaring, etc., as real data has made its way to us for analysis. The final result, so far, is far from advertised early on. But coal to the eyes of a non-observer can be gold to to the eyes of an observer, so many an amateur has found time to make it outside to take in at least one view of Comet ISON.

It is with the above in mind that I report on a facebook-announced CNYO observing session for Comet ISON held on Friday, November 15th at the most unreasonable hour of 3:30 a.m. The attendees, including Ryan Goodson, Hanh Le, and myself, braved the bitter cold for a 30 minute drive South to Highland Forest, an all-around excellent location for enjoying the Night Sky (and, I am pleased to report, a future location of regularly-scheduled CNYO events for 2014. Post to follow!).

And why the 15th? There are many factors that govern when an observer will drag their equipment outside.

* The easy one is the weather – cloudy nights, bitter cold, or hot, swampy nights (and their associated mosquito infestations) leave the intrepid amateur to hang out at home and in the discussion forums on cloudynights.com.

* The second one is the presence or absence of the Moon. As our closest natural satellite, the Moon is one of the most enjoyable (and brightest) objects to spend one’s time exploring (and, with a clear window, can be done just as enjoyably indoors). The downside is that the lit Moon washes out the dim details of many a fuzzy nebula, galaxy, or comet. If the Moon is out, many an amateur astronomer isn’t. In the case of the morning of the 15th, the Moon set just before 4 a.m. (at which point something as dim in surface brightness as a comet becomes a much more tempting target).

* The third is the timing of the object itself. While much of what’s observed in the Night Sky lasts for hours at a time every night, certain events occur over relatively narrow windows. The occultation or transit of Jupiter’s moons is one, satellite or ISS fly-bys is another. Comet ISON at its then-current window was yet another one, as it rose quite close to the beginning of sunrise (“the beginning” meaning the start of brightening skies that would wash its detail out) and wasn’t going to appear at any more convenient a time prior to its closest approach to the Sun.

* The fourth is the combination of all three. During the week of the 11th, the skies were predicted to clear only at the end of the week, Comet ISON was set to rise later every morning in the East, and the Moon was set to set later and later in the West. Combined with increased cloud cover on the 16th, the early morning of the 15th became THE WINDOW for Comet ISON.


The West and constellations from Highland Forest at 4:00 a.m. Click for full size.

The group convoy’ed out to a frosty Highland Forest and set up the scopes just to the East of the main building. As anyone who’s stopped at the building before or after a hike will know, the view from this location is remarkable, with a low tree line and steep-ish hill bracketing views of the Fenner Wind Farm towards the South and just a hint of Syracuse civilization towards the North. The Winter Constellations of Canis Major, Taurus and Orion just beginning to peak out at “reasonable hours” now were in full view to the West at 4:00 a.m. Comet ISON, while approaching uncomfortably low on the horizon for a Dob, was visible as a fuzzy 4th magnitude ball with a slight tail (most definitely an obvious object in Ryan’s New Moon Telescope Dob and my 25×100 Zhumell binos). The wind was just fast and gusty enough to keep us from finding Comet Lovejoy, which was at about 9th magnitude in the same sky (it will be a target for future observing sessions).


Ryan Goodson sneaking a low peak at Comet ISON. Click for full size.

As of this posting on 30 November, ISON has just barely survived its trip around the Sun (earliest reports saying it had disintegrated, slightly later saying it may have survived as a dark ball, now more recent reports saying something with a tail has survived) but we don’t yet know if it’s going to be observable on its “way out.” Stay tuned to future reports.

UPDATE: New Moon Telescopes’ Star Party Moved To Sunday, November 3rd At 6:30 p.m.

UPDATE: Sunday, Nov. 3 – 2:30 p.m. – We are a GO for tonight! The clouds are predicted to clear starting around 7:00 p.m., so the NMT Star Party in West Monroe is a go. We hope you can join us!

For those of you getting your CNYO updates via RSS or email –

Due to the murky forecasts (as in the weather forecasts call for murky conditions. They all seem to agree on the weather this weekend) for Friday and Saturday nights, the official call has been made to move the New Moon Telescopes’ 27″ Dobsonian Stary Party to this Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

All other information remains the same, with event details still available at the original link. Keep track of the announcement bar (at right) on cnyo.org for updates.

We hope you can join us!

New Moon Telescopes Hosting A Star Party This Weekend – Friday, November 1st – Their New 27″ Dobsonian Will Be On Display!

UPDATE: Due to the weather forecasts for CNY this weekend, this event has been changed to Sunday, November 3 at 6:30 p.m. Keep track of the announcement bar at right for more updates!

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Amateur astronomers and the general public alike will have an opportunity this weekend to take in the celestial sights through one of the largest scopes of its kind in New York. New Moon Telescopes (NMT), a builder of custom Dobsonian-style telescopes, will be holding a session this weekend at the North Sportsman’s Club in West Monroe, NY. NMT has rapidly made a name for itself within the amateur astronomy community for its novel scope designs and high-end workmanship, having most recently been featured as the cover story in the trade magazine Astronomy Technology Today. The official NMT press release for this first public outing of their flagship 27″ telescope is reprinted below.

NOTE: We’ll be forwarding along Ryan Goodson’s official weather call on Friday (then Saturday or Sunday as necessary) here at cnyo.org.

New Moon Telescopes, newmoontelescopes.com

28 October 2013 – For immediate release:

Central New York is home to a small business dedicated to building some of the largest telescopes available to amateur astronomers anywhere in the world. New Moon Telescopes (NMT, newmoontelescopes.com), located in West Monroe, NY, builds portable Newtonian-style Dobsonian reflector telescopes, many of which are far larger than those used at local universities! NMT cordially invites the public to come out and enjoy the views of the Night Sky through a recently completed behemoth 27″ Dobsonian scope – the largest portable optical telescope in NY – as well as several smaller NMTs operated by CNY customers.

Dobsonian telescopes are commonly referred to as “light buckets,” using their large primary mirrors to collect as much light from distant objects as possible. The bigger the primary mirror, the more starlight gathered and the brighter and more distant you can see. The difference in the brightness of distant objects between Dobsonians and familiar retail store telescopes is literally night-and-day. Those who have attended public viewing sessions with the Syracuse Astronomical Society or CNY Observers have, until now, had their views maxed-out at 16″ primary mirrors. The new NMT 27″ telescope gathers over two and a half times the amount of light! With a scope this size, we can take in unprecedented views of nearby nebulae and galaxies. Of great excitement to local amateur astronomers, this massive telescope will allow us to see galaxies over a billion light years away from CNY skies! And if you have any interest in “nearby” newborn baby stars, the Great Orion Nebula will be nicely placed in our late autumn sky. The view of this nebula through a scope of this size is nothing short of spectacular!

View Larger Map

We invite you to come out and see the celestial sights through a New Moon Telescope Friday, November 1st at the North Sportsman’s Club (northsportsmansclub.net, 1708 County Route 37N, West Monroe, NY 13167). This event is FREE and open to the public. Since we all know how fickle CNY weather can be, we will use November 2nd and 3rd as alternates. Keep track of newmoontelescopes.com (and our twitter feed (@NMTelescopes) and Facebook Page) for weather updates and future observing events. Let us hope that one of these nights is clear for our unique opportunity to look “back in time” a couple billion years!


Click the image for a larger version.