Tag Archives: Uranus

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.

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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!

First Announcement: CNYO At Beaver Lake Nature Center, Thursday – September 18th

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

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After a very spotty Summer for observing, CNYO is putting its Autumn events calendar together, starting with a rescheduling of our August 8th Beaver Lake Nature Center session on September 18th (with the 25th as the weather-alternate). The description remains more-or-less the same, as the one-month change in timing doesn’t affect what will rise from the East or fall to the West too much.

CNY Observers host an introductory lecture to the Night Sky focusing on planets and other objects observable during September and October.  This outdoor lecture will cover some simple ways to learn the constellations, 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 Mars and Saturn will be had from the Beaver Lake parking lot, while Neptune and Uranus will be visible (to telescopes) for the entire viewing session.

As with all Beaver Lake events, this one only charges the parking fee ($2 or $3, waiting on the final announcement from Beaver Lake to see what this will be). And, as usual, be sure to check the CNYO website during the afternoon of Thursday, Sept. 18th for confirmation that the event is on (or that the rain date of the 25th will be used).

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!). You can call them now at (315) 638-2519 or email them at blnc@ongov.net and make mention of the CNYO session on September 18th.

If you want to help us keep track of attendance, consider adding yourself to our Facebook Event and/or meetup.com group and register for this event at: www.meetup.com/observe/events/205614452/

Upcoming Event: Bob Piekiel At Clark Reservation State Park – Friday, August 29 – 8 to 10 p.m.

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Bob Piekiel’s tour of the county and state parks system this year continues this Friday, August 29 (with Saturday, August 30 as the weather-alternate) with a stop at Clark Reservation in Jamesville. We are approaching the last of our Summer observing sessions, with the Summer Triangle high overhead just around the time we expect to pack up (10 p.m.). This event is FREE (not even a parking fee) and open to the public.

Those there at the 8 p.m. start may catch the thin crescent Moon (depending on the tree cover at the Clark Res. ball field) followed by early views of Mars and Saturn. The rest of the night will be a Summer free-for-all as we take in the highlights of the Milky Way (and maybe some dim views of Uranus and Neptune). For those not keeping track, this is a pretty busy year for comets as well, and I plan on taking in a view of Comet Jacques (Comet C/2014 E2 Jacques for anyone keeping full track) as well (which was just inside Cassiopeia’s boundary last week and will be well inside Cepheus territory on Friday).

CNYO Observing Log: International Sidewalk Astronomy Night, 7 March 2014

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

CNYO members Larry Slosberg and Michelle Marzynski, John Giroux, and I used the available clear skies of Friday, March 7th (and forecasts of far worse conditions on the official night of March 8th) to host the CNY branch of the International Sidewalk Astronomy Night (ISAN 7). ISAN 7 was made more significant to the amateur astronomy community with the passing of John Dobson on January 15th of this year (instead of reproducing more content about John Dobson in this post, I will instead refer you to the official announcement of our ISAN session. Needless to say, he left quite a legacy).

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Our session was held at our favorite downtown location – along the length of the Creekwalk between the MOST/Soundgarden and the Syracuse University Architecture School/Warehouse, on the same block as Walt the Loch West Monster. The location is definitely bright, but this limitation to observing can be overcome with the judicious selection of Messier Objects and planets (no galaxies!). The last two astronomy events held at this same location – the 2012 Transit of Venus and 2013’s NASA/MOST Climate Day, featured an easier target (the Sun), but also gave us plenty of on-the-ground time to find the Creekwalk a great spot to have both reasonable parking and a regular stream of passers-by to coax into looking into strange telescopes.

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“And so,” you might ask, “how long was your observing list for the evening? And what’s the point of observing from such a bright location?” I’ve run into such questions a few times in my own travels, and I assume that some other outreach-centric amateur astronomers have been asked the same questions. The answer for ISAN 7 over a +2 hour session was the Moon, Jupiter, the Pleiades (M45), and the Orion Nebula (M42). That’s it. Didn’t try for anything else, didn’t want to.

And, importantly, those four were plenty.

At the heart of sidewalk astronomy is getting people who’ve never looked through a scope before to take in a detailed batch of photons a few seconds (the Moon), several minutes (Jupiter), or even several light years (M42, M45) older than the ones they’re usually exposed to. As some people are hesitant to even get their eye near the eyepiece, the very best way to run a sidewalk astronomy session (or any public viewing session) is to put the easiest, most obvious, and brightest nighttime objects into the field of view to draw the observer in. Any fuzzy object, 16th magnitude asteroid, or even Uranus and Neptune are the last things a trained observer should try to expose a new observer to (IMHO) given that the passers-by at a sidewalk astronomy event will only stick around (as we discovered) for about 4 minutes (a few definitely stuck around longer, while a few others we surgical about their inspection of the Moon and Jupiter before continuing on. I think they half-expected us to “pass the hat”).

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The Moon to a new observer is a jaw-dropper. Assume wow-factor imminent as soon as you see the Moon’s light projected out the eyepiece onto the face of someone slowly making their way to the focuser. Jupiter (and Saturn, for that matter) is also a treat at the right magnification (enough to see surface detail, but not so much that the image becomes dull and unsteady. A Barlow’ed 6 mm is NOT the way to go without a very large aperture and rock-solid mount). The Orion Nebula was our “advanced topics for the persistent observer” object, as it was bright enough to still show some nebulosity and additional detail.

Over the course of about two hours, we put the total count at about 60 (which wasn’t bad, given the temperature and the fact that we were on the far side of the restaurant-heavy part of Armory Square). Larry, John, and I made our way into a few pics (intermixed in this post – we were mostly too busy to stop and take snapshots. Thanks to Brad Loperfido for taking them).

And then there was Pedro Gomes, who single-handedly brought ISAN 7 (and CNYO) to Watertown on March 8th. Some of his image gallery from Facebook is reproduced below and we thank him for sharing his excellent scope run with us!

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Look for future Creekwalk sessions in the near future, including a few solar sessions and the next NASA Climate Day at the MOST.

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods (And More!) – 2014 Observing Schedule

I’m pleased to have obtained the official schedule for Bob Piekiel’s growing observing and lecture programs for the 2014 season and have added them to the CNYO Calendar. 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.

Also…

* 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

Green Lakes:

* February 8 (Fri.)/9 (Sat. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

Solar viewing session at the main office parking lot. See the Green Lakes website for directions.

Baltimore Woods:

* February 21 (Fri.)/22 (Sat. weather alternate), 7-9 p.m.

The giant planet Jupiter will be in prime viewing position all night long, as well as the brilliant winter skies surrounding the constellation Orion. Uranus and Neptune will also be visible early.

* February 22 (Sat.)/23 (Sun. weather alternate), 1-3 p.m.

A solar viewing program, featuring our nearest (and favorite) star! Come and enjoy safe views of the Sun through a variety scopes and several wavelengths.

* March 21 (Fri.)/22 (Sat. weather alternate), 7-9 p.m.

Jupiter will be visible high in the sky for excellent viewing in the evening, then come and bid farewell to the Winter Skies.

Montezuma Wildlife Refuge:

* March 28 (Fri.)/29 (Sat. weather alternate), 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Come and enjoy the late Winter / early Spring skies, featuring views of Jupiter.

Baltimore Woods:

* April 15, VERY Early Tuesday A.M. – Midnight to 2:30 am

Again, assume this starts at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 14th and goes through about 2:30 a.m. Tuesday morning. This is the first Lunar Eclipse CNY has had in several years, and it will be visible in its entirety for all in NY State. Watch the Moon get covered by the Earth’s shadow and turn a deep shade of orange or red. Saturn and Mars will be in good viewing positions as well for scope viewing.

Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society:

* May 14 (Wednesday)

Bob Piekiel gives the lecture “Collimating Cassegrains and Two-Mirror Scopes” for our friends in the Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society (MVAS).

Baltimore Woods:

* May 23 (Fri.)/24 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Bob Piekiel for a possible Meteor Storm! In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 24, the Earth will pass through the debris field left behind by a small comet known as P/209 LINEAR. Astronomers are predicting that this interaction may result in a brief but intense burst of meteor activity that could range from dozens to hundreds of meteors per hour. Nothing is certain, but many mathematical models are predicting that this could be the most intense meteor shower in more than a decade. Saturn will also be at its biggest for its best viewing of the whole year, plus good views of Jupiter and Mars are to be had. Come and say “hello” to the Spring Skies!

* June 6 (Fri.)/7 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Join Bob Piekiel for an in-between Baltimore Woods sessions during this weekend’s Mars and Moon Conjunction.

Baltimore Woods:

* July 18 (Fri.)/19 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

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.

Green Lakes:

* July 25 (Fri.)/26 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30 – 10:30 p.m.

Summer Milky Way, at the Frisbee Golf field.

Baltimore Woods:

* August 12 (Tues.)/13 (Wed. weather alternate), 8:30-11:00 p.m.

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.

Green Lakes:

* August 15 (Fri.)/16 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00 – 10:30 p.m.

Summer skies and left-over Perseids.

Baltimore Woods:

* August 16 (Sat.)/17 (Sun. weather alternate), 1:00-3:00 p.m.

Solar observing program

Seneca Meadows:

* August 22 (Fri.)/23 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:30-10:30 p.m.

Summer skies

Clark Reservation State Park:

* August 29 (Fri.)/30 (Sat. weather alternate), 8:00-10:00 p.m.

Baltimore Woods:

* October 8 – EARLY MORNING 4:30 – 6:30 am.

Lunar Eclipse, NO BACKUP DATE.

* Monday, November 17 (backup Tuesday 18th) 8 – 10 p.m.

Leonid meteor shower and hello to fall skies. Also the planets Uranus and Neptune.

* Saturday, December 13 (backup Sunday the 14th) 7 – 9 p.m.

The Geminid meteor shower and hello to winter skies.