Tag Archives: Supermoon

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

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

The latest article in the series, “Upstate NY Stargazing in December: Geminid meteor shower, another Supermoon,” has just been posted to newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com.

The discussion is fairly Taurus-centric this month, and very much localized to that part of the sky with the Geminids, Supermoon, and Aldebaran occultation occurring all mid-month. This month also includes more event announcements for several NY astronomy clubs with posted December observing sessions, which reportedly worked out (too?) well for Baltimore Woods attendance.

Direct Link: newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/2016/12/…_meteor_shower_another_supermoon.html

Direct Link: syracuse.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2016/12/…_meteor_shower_another_supermoon.html

The Learn A Constellation section also includes one of my all-time favorite images. Among the many treasures in the Lascaux Cave paintings is one that very, very much looks like a simple constellation map of Orion’s Belt, the Pleiades, and the Hyades, with the Hyades superimposed on a drawing of a bull with extra-long horns – all a perfect match for that part of the sky.

Time may never tell if we can track down the descendants of the artist as they migrated through southern Europe and into the Middle East and North Africa, carrying the story of the great Bull in the Sky with them that ultimately became our constellation Taurus. The story of people and animals in the sky may not be in our distant folklore, but it did make its way into our DNA in the way that we see such pictures where none actually exist (better to be safe than sorry when that bump on the savanna turns out to be more toothy than the usual mount of dirt).


Caption: No bull – a Lascaux painting marking the location of an ancient Taurus, c.a. 15,500 B.C. Click for a larger view.

NASA Space Place – Measure The Moon’s Size And Distance During The Next Lunar Eclipse

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in September, 2015.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceThe moon represents perhaps the first great paradox of the night sky in all of human history. While its angular size is easy to measure with the unaided eye from any location on Earth, ranging from 29.38 arc-minutes (0.4897°) to 33.53 arc-minutes (0.5588°) as it orbits our world in an ellipse, that doesn’t tell us its physical size. From its angular size alone, the moon could just as easily be close and small as it could be distant and enormous.

But we know a few other things, even relying only on naked-eye observations. We know its phases are caused by its geometric configuration with the sun and Earth. We know that the sun must be farther away (and hence, larger) than the moon from the phenomenon of solar eclipses, where the moon passes in front of the sun, blocking its disk as seen from Earth. And we know it undergoes lunar eclipses, where the sun’s light is blocked from the moon by Earth.

Lunar eclipses provided the first evidence that Earth was round; the shape of the portion of the shadow that falls on the moon during its partial phase is an arc of a circle. In fact, once we measured the radius of Earth (first accomplished in the 3rd century B.C.E.), now known to be 6,371 km, all it takes is one assumption—that the physical size of Earth’s shadow as it falls on the moon is approximately the physical size of Earth—and we can use lunar eclipses to measure both the size of and the distance to the moon!

Simply by knowing Earth’s physical size and measuring the ratios of the angular size of its shadow and the angular size of the moon, we can determine the moon’s physical size relative to Earth. During a lunar eclipse, Earth’s shadow is about 3.5 times larger than the moon, with some slight variations dependent on the moon’s point in its orbit. Simply divide Earth’s radius by your measurement to figure out the moon’s radius!

Even with this primitive method, it’s straightforward to get a measurement for the moon’s radius that’s accurate to within 15% of the actual value: 1,738 km. Now that you’ve determined its physical size and its angular size, geometry alone enables you to determine how far away it is from Earth. A lunar eclipse is coming up on September 28th, and this supermoon eclipse will last for hours. Use the partial phases to measure the size of and distance to the moon, and see how close you can get!

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Image credit: Daniel Munizaga (NOAO South/CTIO EPO), using the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory, of an eight-image sequence of the partial phase of a total lunar eclipse. Click for a larger view.

About NASA Space Place

The goal of the NASA Space Place is “to inform, inspire, and involve children in the excitement of science, technology, and space exploration.” More information is available at their website: http://spaceplace.nasa.gov/

Astronomical Double-Header This Week: The Perseids At Baltimore Woods And Stargazing At Beaver Lake

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The week of the Perseid Meteor Shower is always an exciting one for amateur astronomers, as the Perseids combine high meteor counts (what can be the best for the year) and reasonably warm nighttime temperatures (which certainly keeps the Leonids from being many people’s preferred event of the year). While this year’s Perseid peak happens to fall very close to a Full Moon (or one of those crazy supermoons all the non-astronomical websites like to post about), people are still reporting being able to easily see the brightest fireballs. Those of you heading out on this clear Saturday Night may even see some early shooters a few days before the peak.

It is with this great summer observing event in mind that Baltimore Woods and Beaver Lake Nature Center will be hosting Public Viewing Sessions this week.

1. Perseids At Baltimore Woods, Tuesday, Aug. 12 – 8:30 to 11:00 p.m.

Bob Piekiel is hosting (and other CNYO members will be attending) his yearly session in Marcellus on Tuesday night with Wednesday, August 13th as the weather-alternate. This has been a fun and well-attended event in previous years, with the attendees half-aligned on blankets to the Perseid radiant and half enjoying the views through the attending telescopes. From the official announcement:

The annual Perseid meteor shower, one of the year’s finest, plus Summer Skies and the Milky Way. Look into the heart of our Milky Way galaxy to see the finest examples of rich star clusters and gaseous nebulae. Also fantastic views of Mars and Saturn.


* Registration for these events are required. Low registration may cause programs to be canceled.
* $5 for members, $15/family; $8 for nonmembers, $25/family.
* To Register By Email: info@baltimorewoods.org
* To Register By Phone: (315) 673-1350

We invite you to enjoy the (hopefully) busy nighttime sky and support Baltimore Woods at the same time!

2. Stargazing With CNY Observers At Beaver Lake, Thurs. August 14

CNYO makes it seasonal return to Beaver Lake Nature Center this Thursday (with August 21st as the weather-alternate) at 8:00 p.m. (usually ending around 10:00 p.m.). From the official announcement:

The CNY observers host an introductory lecture to the night sky, focusing on planets and other objects observable during August and September.  This outdoor lecture will cover some simple ways to learn the constellations, details about meteor showers (including the week’s Perseid meteor shower, 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 Mars, Saturn and Neptune will be had from the Beaver Lake parking lot.

Advanced registration is required for this event (if a critical number does not register, they will cancel the event. It hasn’t happened yet, but don’t take that chance!). See their official event page for more information: events.onondagacountyparks.com/view/160/stargazing-with-the-cny-observers

If you want to help us keep track of attendance, consider adding yourself to our meetup.com group and register for this event at: www.meetup.com/observe/events/200029892/