Tag Archives: Uranus

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 27 September 2013

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The September 27th Baltimore Woods session was notable for several reasons. On the down side, my drive to Marcellus through Fairmount was delayed when a minivan with far too many large dogs in it had one of its automatic windows dropped down to the delight of an ejected dog that bounced off my driver side door (my non-astro thought for the day – if your pets are your children, please use the child safety options built into your very modern vehicle!). On the up side, for the first time since March, a Baltimore Woods session started at 7 p.m. The skies were dark enough to begin seeing the brightest stars with ease and cold enough to freeze out the many bugs that frequent the BW Nature Center.

Attending scopes included Bob Piekiel‘s massive 16″ Meade GOTO (with some included heavy lifting by the two of us to get it set up and torn down), Larry Slosberg’s 12″ New Moon Telescope, and my 12.5″ NMT Dob (herein referred to as “Ruby”). A fourth scope appeared early in the evening with the first attending family, but ended up not getting too much use. Despite being a bit worse for wear, their “retail store” Stratus 60mm refractor scope surprised the owners (and kids) with a good view of a distant cellular tower and a fuzzy but noticeably “half-moon cookie” Venus (whatever description works is fine with me).

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Bob inspecting the Stratus 60mm.

The final size (25ish) of the crowd (and the number of first-time attendees) dictated the observables for the evening, with all of us sticking mostly to bright, easily identifiable objects. As for our local neighborhood, the good news was that more than half of the planets were out for the evening (counting the views of Earth). The bad news was that Venus and Saturn set early (both due to the time and the high trees along the Western horizon), leaving the very distant Uranus and Neptune as targets for later-night observers.

As has been my standard procedure, I picked one object from my standard list of “kinds of” objects so those at my scope would be sure to get a sampling of the types of objects we amateur astronomers look forward to looking at. My list included:

* (Hopefully) One Planet – From my (scope’s) vantage point, Venus and Saturn were impossible catches behind large trees. Neptune and Uranus were, for the entire viewing session, nestled within the glow of Marcellus (and Syracuse beyond), so I didn’t even bother attempting to find them. Bob, however, had at his disposal a massive GOTO, so the gathered crowd was able to take in at least one of the two distant planets (making them part of the way-less-than-1% of the entire planet who can claim the same).

* One Star – At Bob’s request, I gave special attention to Herschel’s Garnet Star (mu Cephei) in Cepheus. One of the real benefits of magnification through good optics (or long-exposure photography) is the appearance of color in many stars that are otherwise just too slightly colored to be noticeable to Naked Eye observers. While the different colors of the binary star Albireo are generally obvious to most people, the Garnet Star jumped out to everyone through every eyepiece as a very orange star. This red supergiant, affectionately known to some as Erakis, is BIG. Those who have seen the image below in one of our CNYO library lectures…

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The scale of familiar objects in our vicinity (click for the wikipedia version).

Will recognize Mu Cephei as the third star from right (in the “Big Block” 6) in the bottom of the image. Our own Sun peters out in Block 3. If a super race of aliens were to swap out our Sun for the Garnet Star, the outer edge of its plasma would engulf Jupiter and either engulf or roast Saturn. Big. Not only big, but old to boot. Mu Cephei is what is known as a “carbon star,” one that has nearly exhausted its helium (which is produced from all the fusion of hydrogen, which it then exhausted quite some time ago) and is now producing carbon in the star’s core. The near-exhaustion of the star’s fuel means that it’s likely only a few million years from going supernova (somewhere between a finger snap and ringing wine glass in cosmic terms) and is currently identified as a variable star for its subtle and erratically changing brightness.

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Mu Cephei, Cepheus, and surrounding constellations.

As you scour Cepheus some evening, do take the Garnet Star in. If you’re scanning randomly along the bottom of the barn, you can’t miss it!

* One BinaryAlbireo in Cygnus remains an easy favorite. Everyone saw Albireo A as slightly orange or yellow, while Albireo B appeared as slightly to “clearly” blue (clearly a demonstration of the importance of dark adaption and cone sensitivity in the retina). One point of interest is that we’re not entirely sure of Albireo is an optical binary (the two just appear close, but one is much farther away than the other as projected onto our two-dimensional sheet of the Night Sky) or a gravitationally-bound binary pair. If gravitationally-bound, the two are likely far from one another, with the orbital dance occurring over 100,000 or more years.

* One Open Cluster – The Double Cluster (Caldwell 14) in Perseus

* One Globular Cluster – The ever-obvious M13 in Hercules

* One Nebula – The Veil Nebula in Cygnus – typically, this would be considered one of the less-easy objects for a new observer to make out. Through an OII filter, however, the wispy-ness jumps out and new observers, with a little patience, can even see the curvature of each fragment well enough to know where the Veil must be radiating from.

* One Galaxy – M31, The Andromeda Galaxy in Andromeda (and M32 and M110), which were easy for all to spot with a little scope nudging.

As has become the norm recently, I packed up Ruby around 9:30 p.m. and pulled out the Canon T3i and tripod for an extended session of scope-less astrophotography. Three highlights include a very discernible Milky Way, complete with Great Rift, from opposite the direction of Marcellus…

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The Milky Way (plus one bright plane and one dim satellite). Click for a larger version.

A dimmer part of the Milky Way that seemed to radiate from (and be washed out by) Marcellus…

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The Milky Way and Marcellus (plus a dim plane (dashed line) and dim satellite). Click for a larger version.

And a quite decent view of the varied objects in the vicinity of the constellation Perseus (in the pocket between the two trees and closer to the left tree), including the components of the Double Cluster, NGC 884 and 869 (the fuzzy splotches at the base of the small necklace – 1/3 over from the left edge and 1/4 down the image).

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Perseus, NGC 884, and NGC 869. Click for a larger version.

I packed it in around 10:00 p.m. in great anticipation! Within the glow of Marcellus lay the Pleiades (M45) and just a hint of its closer cousin the Hyades in the head of Taurus the Bull. These objects have likely served as markers for many millennia that the clear, dark, steady, and uncomfortably cold night skies of winter approach.

Bob Piekiel’s August 12th Baltimore Woods Perseid Session Now Listed As An “International Starry Night” Event

UPDATE: 28 July 2013 – The International Starry Night page for the Baltimore Woods event can be found @ THIS LINK.

Check cnyo.org on the 12th (and 13th) for final event details.
To Register By Email: info@baltimorewoods.org
To Register By Phone: (315) 673-1350
Please register for this event! Low registration may cause programs to be canceled.
Date: Monday, August 12th (weather-alternate: Tuesday, August 13th)
Cost: $5 for Baltimore Woods members/$15 for BW families; $8 for non-members/$25 for families
Time: 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. (maybe beyond?)
Bring: Chairs (or something to lay on), bug spray, and long sleeves
About The Perseids: See THIS EXCELLENT SUMMARY at earthsky.org
Location: Baltimore Woods Nature Center in Marcellus, NY (directions)


View Larger Map


Greetings fellow astrophiles!

Bob Piekiel, Baltimore Woods, and CNYO are pleased to be hosting a local session for the “International Starry Night,” (herein referred to as “ISN”) an event organized by the “One Star at a Time” Program. While the official ISN night is scheduled for Saturday, August 10th, ISN-related events are being scheduled throughout the days around the Perseid Meteor Shower, and we have opted to host this event during the peak nights of the Perseids. Dedicated amateur astronomers cannot be bothered with such trivialities as their mental states at work on Tuesday (or weather-alternate Wednesday) mornings!

The ISN, which coincides with the Perseid Meteor Shower this year, is being used as a way to organize meteor shower observers and amateur astronomers around to world in the interest of both increasing nighttime observation and decreasing the amount of light pollution through understanding of the issues and public action. As described on the starry-night.org website (and note that their August 10th date is NOT our August 12th date):

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Click on the image for a full-sized version (8 MB).

The “One Star at a Time” program is a worldwide effort to create accessible public spaces to view a starry night sky. The program uses night sky conservation to unite people across the planet, their cultures and their skies. This is a story of how people from around the world united together to give the gift of natural starlight for all children of this planet.

A National Parks Service study predicts that unless we can significantly reduce light pollution, by 2025 only 10% of people in the United States will EVER see a starry night sky in their LIFETIME. Similar concerns are coming from all around the world.

“One Star at a Time, Reclaim the starry night sky” is a campaign to engage and unite the public on a global scale to reduce light pollution so that we may reconnect with the stars and each other. The motto of Astronomers Without Borders is “One People*One Sky”. If we can unveil the inspirational night sky we share with all people of this planet, and share experiences and explorations of the cosmos together, we may regain steps toward peace… the greatest gift we could ever give to our children.

On Light Pollution…

Overcast skies and light pollution are THE biggest problems facing amateur astronomy. Unlike the weather conditions, light pollution is a problem that CAN be addressed through legislation and education. International organizations, such as the International Dark-Sky Association, and local groups that lobby for proper lighting legislation, such as SELENE-NY (selene-ny.org), have been pushing for years to educate the public on the potential health risks of light pollution, the importance of dark nights for other species, the best choices of lighting fixtures that help reduce light pollution, and the obvious cost benefits that come from lighting ONLY places that need lighting with ONLY the amount of lighting that is required.

Observers throughout CNY have noticed the increase in light pollution from many familiar observing locations – including Darling Hill Observatory, Beaver Lake Nature Center, and Baltimore Woods. The problem is one of engagement – if more people, organizations, municipalities, and companies know how to illuminate the night in keeping with pro-dark sky practices, light pollution could be greatly reduced. Imagine how much more observing could be done if the sky near our horizons were that much darker!

On the Perseid Meteor Shower…

The issue of light pollution aside, the Perseids and the Leonids often tie for the best meteor showers of the year, with the Perseids benefiting from their appearance in the mid-Summer nighttime sky. The International Starry Night event will find groups around the planet observing the Perseids together (provided the nighttime sky remains clear). And, as an added bonus, the Perseids coincide with the tail end of the Delta Aquarids, a much smaller meteor shower that is more prominent at Southern Latitudes. But we will take any additional shooting stars we can!

But wait, there’s more! The Perseids peak during a Waxing Crescent Moon, meaning the Moon will have set before or near 10:00 p.m. for all five reasonable observing nights (August 10th – 14th). Attendees will have Saturn and the Moon to observe in early-evening skies, then intrepid observers will have Neptune, Uranus, and a host of deep-sky objects to find and observe for the rest of the night.

On the Entire Perseid Meteor Shower Weekend…

The week around the August 12th peak is a busy one for CNYO members. CNYO will also be hosting a lecture and observing session on August 8th (on the 15th as a weather-alternate) at Beaver Lake Nature Center. Maybe a few decent shooting stars on the 8th will hint at a busy Perseid peak on the 10th-12th. We will keep you posted!

Bob Piekiel Hosts Observing Sessions At Baltimore Woods – 2013 Observing Schedule

I’m pleased to have obtained the official schedule for Bob Piekiel’s Baltimore Woods programs for the 2013 observing 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. I’ve (Damian) attended two of the Baltimore Woods sessions already and plan to be present for as many of the scheduled events below as possible.

Note:

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

* Friday, February 8th (Backup – Saturday 9th), 7-9 p.m.

(Available link HERE) Another fabulous look at the bright winter skies and all the glories surrounding the constellation of Orion, the Hunter. The king of the planets, Jupiter, visible as well, as will the ice giant Uranus.

* March 15 (Friday) – 16 (Saturday), 7-9 p.m.

Comet Panstarrs should be visible in the west shortly after sunset. Its brightness is a guess at this time, but it could be quite a stunning sight. Jupiter will be visible, along with the winter skies and some of the brightest examples of nebulae and star clusters.

* April 5 (Friday) – 6 (Saturday), 7:30-9:30 p.m.

Comet Panstarrs will be visible in the northwest after sunset, right next to the Andromeda galaxy! While we can’t be certain of its brightness, it may be a stunning sight. Jupiter will be visible all evening, and Saturn will be rising in the east.

* May 4 (Saturday) – 5 (Sunday), 8-10 p.m.

Eta Aquariids meteor shower, Saturn and Jupiter visible all evening, and hello to spring skies.

* June 14 (Friday) – 15 (Saturday), 9-11 p.m.

Because it gets dark very late in June, it makes sense to do a 1st-quarter moon program, as we don’t need dark skies to get great views of the moon. Saturn will also be visible, and the start of summer skies.

* July 12 (Friday) – 13 (Saturday), 9-11 p.m.

The summer milky way at its finest. During the summer, we look directly into the core of our own milky way galaxy, giving great views of many beautiful star clusters and nebulae. The planet Saturn will be visible as well.

* August 12 (Monday) – 13 (Tuesday), 9-11 p.m.

It’s the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the year’s finest, along with great views of the summer Milky Way, the ringed planet Saturn, and also Uranus and Neptune. Bring a lawn chair or blanket to lie back and watch for meteors when you’re not at a telescope.

* August 24 (Saturday) – 25 (Sunday), 1 p.m.

Solar observing session, with safe views of solar detail using specially-filtered telescopes.

* September 27 (Friday) – 28 (Saturday), 7-9 p.m.

Uranus will be in best viewing position all night long, plus Venus and Saturn in the west just after sunset. We will say goodbye to the Summer Skies.

* October 11 (Friday) – 12 (Saturday), 6:30-9 p.m.

Oct. 12 is National Astronomy Day, Part 2, but let’s do our usual Friday the 11th with Saturday being the backup. This will be our best chance to see Mercury for the remainder of the year, along with a crescent Moon and Venus as well, plus hello to Fall skies. We will need to start early to glimpse Mercury.

* November 4 (Monday) – 5 (Tuesday), 7-9 p.m.

Nov. 4-5 for the Taurid Meteor shower, plus hello to Winter skies. The Taurids are a modest shower, but in contrast, the Leonids, which occur on the 17th, are going to be completely washed out this year by a full Moon.

* December 13 (Friday) – 14 (Saturday), 7-9 p.m.

The Geminid Meteor Shower – the year’s best (it sure was fantastic last year!) and Winter skies, with the brightest examples of clusters and nebulae, such as the great Orion Nebulae.