Tag Archives: Uranus

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods (And More!) – 2018 Observing Schedule

This event list will be added to as the year progresses. Check back often!

I’m pleased to have obtained the official schedule for Bob Piekiel’s growing observing and lecture programs for the 2018 season. For those who have not had the pleasure of hearing one of his lectures, attending one of his observing sessions, or reading one of his many books on scope optics (or loading the CD containing the massive Celestron: The Early Years), Bob Piekiel is not only an excellent guide but likely the most knowledgeable equipment and operation guru in Central New York.

Notes On Baltimore Woods Sessions:

The Baltimore Woods events calendar is updated monthly. As such, I’ve no direct links to the sessions below. Therefore, as the event date nears, see the official Calendar Page for more information and any updates on the event.


* 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

Baltimore Woods:

* January 19 (Fri.)/20 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Winter skies at their finest, The area surrounding the constellation Orion has more bright stars and deep-sky clusters than any other section of the sky. Still good views of Uranus.

* February 16 (Fri.)/17 (Sat. weather alternate), 5:30-8:30 p.m.

This is a good chance to see the elusive planet Mercury, right after sunset, plus the area surrounding Orion, one of the brightest in the sky. We have to start early to catch Mercury. We might still get a good view of Uranus.

* February 24 (Sat.)/25 (Sun. weather alternate), 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Solar viewing program – see our nearest star with specially-equipped solar telescopes, showing sunspots, flares, and eruptions.

* March 16 (Fri.)/17 (Sat. weather alternate), 6:00-9:00 p.m.

Goodbye to winter skies, but still great views of Orion. Maybe a few Lyrid meteors as well.

* April 13 (Fri.)/14 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Hello to Spring skies. Watch as the seasons change both on the ground and the starry night. Orion will be setting, and being replaced by Leo the lion.

Green Lakes:

Awaiting 2018 scheduling.

Clark Reservation:

Awaiting 2018 scheduling.

NASA Space Place – Is There A Super-Earth In The Solar System Out Beyond Neptune?

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 August, 2016.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceWhen the advent of large telescopes brought us the discoveries of Uranus and then Neptune, they also brought the great hope of a Solar System even richer in terms of large, massive worlds. While the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt were each found to possess a large number of substantial icy-and-rocky worlds, none of them approached even Earth in size or mass, much less the true giant worlds. Meanwhile, all-sky infrared surveys, sensitive to red dwarfs, brown dwarfs and Jupiter-mass gas giants, were unable to detect anything new that was closer than Proxima Centauri. At the same time, Kepler taught us that super-Earths, planets between Earth and Neptune in size, were the galaxy’s most common, despite our Solar System having none.

The discovery of Sedna in 2003 turned out to be even more groundbreaking than astronomers realized. Although many Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) were discovered beginning in the 1990s, Sedna had properties all the others didn’t. With an extremely eccentric orbit and an aphelion taking it farther from the Sun than any other world known at the time, it represented our first glimpse of the hypothetical Oort cloud: a spherical distribution of bodies ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of A.U. from the Sun. Since the discovery of Sedna, five other long-period, very eccentric TNOs were found prior to 2016 as well. While you’d expect their orbital parameters to be randomly distributed if they occurred by chance, their orbital orientations with respect to the Sun are clustered extremely narrowly: with less than a 1-in-10,000 chance of such an effect appearing randomly.

Whenever we see a new phenomenon with a surprisingly non-random appearance, our scientific intuition calls out for a physical explanation. Astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown provided a compelling possibility earlier this year: perhaps a massive perturbing body very distant from the Sun provided the gravitational “kick” to hurl these objects towards the Sun. A single addition to the Solar System would explain the orbits of all of these long-period TNOs, a planet about 10 times the mass of Earth approximately 200 A.U. from the Sun, referred to as Planet Nine. More Sedna-like TNOs with similarly aligned orbits are predicted, and since January of 2016, another was found, with its orbit aligning perfectly with these predictions.

Ten meter class telescopes like Keck and Subaru, plus NASA’s NEOWISE mission, are currently searching for this hypothetical, massive world. If it exists, it invites the question of its origin: did it form along with our Solar System, or was it captured from another star’s vicinity much more recently? Regardless, if Batygin and Brown are right and this object is real, our Solar System may contain a super-Earth after all.

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


Caption: A possible super-Earth/mini-Neptune world hundreds of times more distant than Earth is from the Sun. Image credit: R. Hurt / Caltech (IPAC)

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With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology. Visit spaceplace.nasa.gov (facebook|twitter) to explore space and Earth science!

Observing Update: North Sportsman’s Club Session Is ON For Tonight, Saturday Oct. 10th

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

A red-lit view of the NSC building (and several tens of billions of stars towards the galactic center).

It’s looking good enough tonight for the session (very partial cloud cover, which is good enough given past scheduled events), so we’ll be at NSC from 8 to 11. We’ll lose Saturn soon after 8:00 p.m. to our Southwest, leaving Neptune and Uranus as the planetary viewing for the night (and we can, at least, look in the direction of Pluto). The night will be peppered with great objects, from our own backyard to sights beyond our Local Group.

The NSC in google maps. Click to generate directions.

For additional details, check out our original post: Two (Maybe Three) Saturday Sessions Announced For The North Sportsman’s Club – Sept 12th, Oct 3rd, And (Maybe) Oct 10th