Tag Archives: Syracuse

CNYO Observing Log: A Quick Overview Of The Last Month

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members (several of them, anyway) have grown tired of sorting and cleaning their eyepieces this extra-frosty winter (not me – I think it’s fun!) and are getting ready for a long Spring and Summer of (hopefully) using them at observing sessions. With several scout, school, and public sessions scheduled or in the works, CNYO already has several successful events under their collective belts. A quick sampling of updates from these events is listed below.

1. North Syracuse Community Room For International Dark Sky Week – Tuesday, April 14

It happens to all of us at some point – we become so wrapped up in the minutia of a hobby or profession that we completely forget that the vast majority of the rest of the planet has little idea what we’re rambling on about. Light pollution – the encroachment of civilization on amateur astronomy due largely to a lack of forethought in the way people and businesses attempt to turn “the night” into “the late afternoon” – has been shown to have negative impacts on health (melatonin!), safety (street light glare!), security (blind spots big enough to eat hay!), energy conservation (714 lbs of coal are required to light one 100 W bulb for a year!), and the environment (plant cycles can be affected by stray light and the nesting and migration habits of several species have been shown to be affected by a lack of proper day/night cycles).

Within minutes of my starting the lecture on light pollution, I discovered that this was a completely brand new topic to half of the audience. The tone of the lecture changed rapidly from complaining to educating (you do learn to think on your feet a bit when giving public lectures), and I am optimistic that the audience left with a new understanding of the problem and many of the solutions now available (from simple solutions at Home Depot and Lowe’s all the way to legislation recently passed in Albany).

2. Bob Piekiel At Baltimore Woods – Friday, April 17

Bob’s monthly sessions at Baltimore Woods are, bar none, the most reliably-scheduled public observing events in CNY. Despite a bit of light pollution to the East-ish from Marcellus and Syracuse and a tree line that eats the very edge of the horizon for early-setting objects (and we’ve still managed to catch some photons from special objects at tree level in the past few years), the rest of the sky is wide open for constellations, planets, and the Messier Catalog.


A colder Baltimore Woods session (February, 2015).

Bob reports that this session hosted about 20 enthusiastic observers – a sure sign that CNY was starting to thaw in April (as only the bravest/craziest made it out to the earlier sessions this year).

3. NEAF 2015 – Saturday & Sunday, April 18 & 19

Ryan Goodson and I missed the April 17th BW session, instead heading Southeast with vehicles full of both New Moon Telescopes Dobsonian parts and a very large fraction of the Stuventory. The NMT NEAF 2015 booth was (quite fortuitously) wider than expected, providing ample room for (1) Ryan to showcase a newly completed Dob, collapsible truss assemblies, and a new design prototypes and (2) me to run the biggest little used equipment sale I’ve seen in my 5 years of attending NEAF. I am pleased to report that the vast majority of the Stuventory is now in the hands of dedicated amateur astronomers from all around the Northeast and as far away as the Dubai Astronomy Group!


4. Maker Hall At Parent University – Saturday, April 25

Larry Slosberg, Ryan Goodson, and I lucked out with clear skies and a large crowd of kids and adults alike at the Dr. King Elementary School. What could have been a demonstration table indoors turned into a full-on solar session outdoors in the playground, complete with some of the best and busiest views of the Sun I’ve ever seen through my Coronado PST.


A snapshot of the observing crowd.


A prominent prominence at 2:30 p.m.

As has been the case with all of the kids’ sessions to date, half the kids keep you on your toes and the other half approach observing with their pint-sized science caps on (these ones are easy to pick out as they spend a good long time at the eyepiece).

5. CNYO At Beaver Lake Nature Center – Thursday, April 30

Our weather-alternate session at Beaver Lake started a bit on the soupy cloud cover side, but ended up clearing nicely just after sunset to give Bob Piekiel, Chris Schuck, Larry Slosberg, and myself reasonable skies for the Moon, Jupiter, Venus, and a few bright Messiers. With a short lecture on the observing highlights for the year (see below) already loaded on the laptop, several of us waited out the Sun indoors while others allowed their eyes to adjust gradually as the skies darkened and the early bugs slowly cooled out around the main rotunda.


Attending observers at Beaver Lake.

We’re tentatively scheduled to host a Summer observing session late August and will post as the schedule finalizes.

6. Syracuse Rotary Lecture – Friday, May 1

2015may10_rotarymbs_rgbAn invitation to speak for 30 minutes (which turned into nearly an hour with questions) to the Syracuse Rotary Club provided the perfect excuse to prep a lecture on all of the major astronomical events happening in 2015 (planets, eclipses, International SUNDay, NASA missions, and comets). How often do you end up hearing about something interesting the day after? The +30 attending Rotarians were very welcoming and engaging during the lecture, with several questions taking us far, far away from the Powerpoint presentation into all areas of astronomy. If you ever get the opportunity to lecture to a Rotary Club, take it!

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique: “The Snowball Earth”

Saturday – January 17, 9:30-11:00am

Milton J Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology – Syracuse, NY

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Earth’s climate has changed tremendously over its history. Did you know that the Earth nearly froze solid 2.3 billion years ago and again 700 million years ago? Dr. Junium will discuss how this may have happened, how the Earth warmed after the snowball events and how life survived.

People interested in learning more about global climatic change are invited to attend the free Junior Cafe presentation on Saturday, January 17, from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) in Syracuse’s Armory Square. Walk-ins are welcome, but we ask that people RSVP by emailing jrcafe@tacny.org by January 14, 2015.


Dr. Chris Junium studies how life and climate interact throughout Earth’s history by analyzing the chemistry of ancient sediments. He is particularly interested in how the concentrations of oxygen have changed in the atmosphere and ocean over time, and how life responds to transitions in Earth’s climate state. His research spans the last 2.5 billion years of Earth’s history, and his research has taken him as far away as the Arctic Circle and as close as Green Lakes State Park. Recently, he spent two months as a scientist aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution to recover sediment cores from the Atlantic Ocean in an effort to better understand the causes of extremely warm climate 50 million years ago.

Dr. Junium received his B.S. in Geology from Dickinson College in 2000 and his Ph.D. from The Pennsylvania State University in Geosciences in 2010. From there he moved to Northwestern University under an Agouron Institute Geobiology Fellowship. He started at Syracuse University in January of 2012.

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique

TACNY Junior Cafe Scientifique, a program for middle-school students founded in 2005, features discussions about topics in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in an informal atmosphere and seeks to encourage students to consider careers in these areas. Students must be accompanied by an adult and can explore the MOST at no cost after the event.

Technology Alliance of Central New York

Founded in 1903 as the Technology Club of Syracuse, the nonprofit Technology Alliance of Central New York’s mission is to facilitate community awareness, appreciation, and education of technology; and to collaborate with like-minded organizations across Central New York.

For more information about TACNY, visit www.tacny.org.

Partial Solar Eclipse Update – 23 October (Thursday), 10:00 a.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

The skies are currently 20% clear over downtown Syracuse with predictions of worsening cloud cover as the day progresses. Accordingly, we’ll be waiting until 4:30 p.m. to make the final call on the Onondaga Lake Parkway session (for more details, including the location, see the previous link HERE).

In the meantime, there are routes to seeing the eclipse (and, very likely, the massive sunspot currently pointed near our way) in real time from the comfort of your own internet connection. The good amateur astronomers at the Slooh Community Observatory will be live streaming the event starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern.

That said, we await the afternoon skies to see if our session will happen. Stay Tuned!

CNYO Observing Log: Beaver Lake Nature Center, 18 September 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

After a double wash-out for our scheduled August 8/15 event, CNYO made a triumphant return to Beaver Lake Nature Center for one last end-of-Summer public viewing session. While the local meteorologists and the Clear Sky Clock predicting clear, dark skies for the entire evening, the observing itself was still a bit touch-and-go until about 9:00 p.m., when the whole sky finally opened up.

Despite a small snafu with the Beaver Lake events calendar (or, specifically, our lack of presence on it for this rescheduled event), we still managed 10 attendees (and passed the word along to several people there for an event earlier in the evening – I’m also happy to report that Patricia’s attendance justified our meetup group event scheduling!). With four CNYO’ers (Bob Piekiel, Larry Slosberg, Christopher Schuck, and myself) and three scopes present (including Bob Piekiel’s Celestron NexStar 11, Larry Slosberg’s 12” New Moon Telescope Dob, and my 12.5” NMT Dob) this was a great chance for several of the new observers to ask all kinds of questions, learn all the mechanics of observing through someone else’s scope, and, of course, take in some great sights at their own pace.

The 7:00 p.m. setup started promising, with otherwise overcast conditions gradually giving way to clearings to the Northwest. That all changed for the worse around 8:00 p.m. (when everyone showed up), when those same NW skies closed right up again, gradually devouring Arcturus, Vega, and any other brighter stars one might align with. The next hour was goodness-challenged, giving us plenty of time to host a Q+A, show the scope workings, remark on the amount of reflected light from Syracuse, and swing right around to objects within the few sucker holes that opened. And when all looked lost (or unobservable), the 9:00 p.m. sky finally cleared right up to a near-perfect late Summer sky, complete with a noticeable Milky Way band, bright Summer Triangle, and a host of satellites, random meteors, and bright Summer Messiers.

As has been the case for nearly every public viewing session this year, all the new eyes were treated to some of the best the Summer and Fall have to offer. These include:

M13 – The bright globular (“globe” not “glob”) cluster in Hercules
M31/32 – The Andromeda Galaxy (and its brighter, more separated satellite M32)
M57 – The Ring Nebula in Lyra
Herschel’s Garnet Star – To show very clearly that many stars have identifiable colors when magnified
Albireo – To reinforce the color argument above and to show one of the prominent doubles in the Night Sky, right at the tip of Cygnus.
Alcor/Mizar – Did you know that Alcor/Mizar is actually a sextuple star system? Alcor is its own double, each in Mizar is a double, and recent data reveals that the Alcor pair is gravitationally bound to the Mizar quartet.

To the observing list was added a discussion of how to begin learning the constellations. As we’ve discussed at several sessions, the best place to start is due North, committing the circumpolar constellations to memory FIRST. For those unfamiliar, these are the six constellations that never set below the horizon from our latitude (Ursa Minor (Little Dipper), most or Ursa Major (Big Dipper), Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco, and Camelopardalis (and if you can find Camelopardalis, you’re ready for anything). We’ve even consolidated all of this material into one of our introductory brochures for your downloading and printing pleasure:

CNYO Guide For New Observers

To my own observing list was added a treat thanks to Bob’s perfect position on the rise of the Beaver Lake parking circle, as he managed to catch Uranus low on the Eastern horizon just before we packed up for the evening. Even with Syracuse’s glow dimming the view, Uranus is a clear sight either in a scope (as a slightly blue-green disc) or through a low-power finder scope.


Closing at Beaver Lake (including one low-flyer).

We offer special thanks to the Beaver Lake staff, who were fine with us staying as late as we liked (although we still finished up around 10) and who found *all* the light switches for the parking lot. I suspect our next Beaver Lake event won’t happen until the Spring, meaning we hope to see you at one of Bob Piekiel’s Baltimore Woods sessions during the winter – unless we all get inspired to throw extra layers on and organize another winter observing session somewhere, in which case we hope to see you there as well!

CNYO Observing Log: Clark Reservation State Park, 29 August 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Central New York is a reasonably reasonable place for the reasonably active amateur astronomer. A 10 minute drive away from the center of downtown Syracuse puts one far enough away from enough of the city lights to make bright clusters and galaxies visible, although not necessarily impressive. A 15 to 25 minute drive in the right direction provides skies dark enough to keep any keen amateur occupied for a long evening of Messiers. Those willing to meander their way through a 40 to 50 minute excursion can find some tremendously dark skies fit for subtle NGCs and non-CCD comets. And those of us who host sessions along the Creekwalk know it’s perfectly reasonable for the Moon, Sun, and bright planets (and, if the big globular clusters aren’t out, not much else).


First setup at Clark Reservation. Click for a larger view.

Clark Reservation State Park leans very much in the near-downtown category, lying about 10 minutes to the Southwest of the Salt City. A two-hour session hosted by Bob Piekiel and assisted by Christopher Schuck and myself revealed Clark Res to be a great harbor for new amateur astronomers wanting to get their feet wet but not ready to be thrown eyepiece-first into the deep abyss offered by Dark Sky locations. Bright constellations are obvious, the planets jump right out, the crescent Moon is a busy structure of mountains and valleys, and the brightest Messier objects are “obvious” to observers looking through the eyepiece, all while the sky is streaked by bright shooting stars and crisscrossed by satellites too numerous to keep track of.


Summer Triangle panorama. Click for a larger view.

Setup commenced around 7:00 p.m. with Bob, Chris, and I initially spaced in an equilateral-ish triangle to try to maximize the amount of “different” observables. The clear field just west of the main parking lot offered a remarkably open view of the sky, with several large clearings between trees to really let one get low to the horizon for last-look viewing. My initial proposal to Chris to catch the Moon, Saturn, and Mars between one of these South-most clearings seemed reasonable until we stepped over to Bob’s East-most setup – a change of only 50 feet completely opened up the Western Sky. What started as a Summer Triangle then turned into Triangulum, leaving me with dominion over the Eastern Sky and all of the constellations and Messiers Autumn will offer at our zenith.


Maybe a 4? The light pollution from Clark Res (lower number = better). For Deep Sky objects, not good. For learning the major constellations, not bad. From stellarium.org.

Despite the brightness of Syracuse (and some of the Clark Res safety lights), the sky wasn’t “that bad.” It was certainly a great starting point for new observers who’d only ever recognized the Big Dipper in the late-Summer sky. It was very easy to point out – then reinforce – the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Pegasus, Cygnus, Lyra, Cassiopeia, the Summer Triangle, and Hercules. The Messiers through my scope were limited to M13, M57 (which was a stretch for the newbies, no doubt about it), and M31/M32 (which, despite the location, looked excellent in a 26mm Nagler), leaving Saturn, Mars, and the Moon to Bob and Chris – this on account of a good-sized group (about 20) who kept in constant rotation between our three scopes. We did have ourselves a prominent Iridium Flare, 6 confirmed meteors, and a host of satellites (which made a few people’s day).

Final pack-up started a little before 10 p.m., requiring bright flashlights and small mops (was quite a damp evening). All in all, Clark Reservation is a good spot for those who want to get their bearings without having to drive too far from home (a nice starter spot for that 10-minute range), and I found myself spending more time with a green laser pointer and some mythology than I did looking through the eyepiece. Attendees didn’t seem to mind, and we all got home by bedtime.