Tag Archives: Virgo

CNYO Observing Log: Green Lakes State Park, 25 July & 15 August 2014

* Session 1 – 25 July 2014

Exactly 364 days after our last outing past the now-defunct Fayetteville Friendly’s, Bob Piekiel and I hosted another well-attended session in the large open (frisbee) field of Green Lakes State Park on July 25th. This Friday evening saw reasonably warm and dewy conditions and no small amount of bug spray. The generally young crowd (2/3’s in the mid-teen or younger) was treated to Bob and mine’s usual post-dusk schtick, early sights of Saturn and Vega, and then a small host of other celestial objects as the night grew darker (after many of the youngest were dragged away by schedule-conscious adults).


Bob Piekiel inspecting the dusk skies during setup.

After setup, the race was on for one of us to find Saturn to make sure everyone had seen at least one planet before leaving. After a lucky run of star finding (Vega and Arcturus) to align his Celestron NexStar 11, Bob had a long planetary line behind him, leaving me to start the evening with my New Moon Telescopes 12.5″ Dob on Vega (giving my post-Saturn line a glimpse of increasing numbers of stars around Vega as it darkened). By the end of the Vega line, Saturn was obvious to all and Mars was just between widely-spaced branches, allowing us to fill in the planet views before 1/2 the attendees (and all the youngest observers) left just after 9:00 p.m.

The rest of the evening was the usual free-for-all. While the sky still wasn’t nearly dark enough for dedicated observing at 10:00 p.m., we were fortunate to have a remaining group with both great interest in astronomical phenomena and vivid imaginations to fill in the perceptual gaps left by distant Fayetteville lights and our own early event timing. The discussions around the scope were as well received as the objects themselves.

As you might expect, having a session almost exactly 1 year apart means that the “pick hits” of last year were very similar to the “pick hits” of this year. The only real difference was the swapping of one swiftly-moving planet (Venus) with another (Mars). Saturn, in that one year block, has slid only slightly from Virgo last year to Libra this year. As for my usual policy of presenting at least one from the list of standard types of objects at each session, my observing and lecture list was as follows:

* (Hopefully) One PlanetSaturn
* One StarVega in Lyra was the obvious choice, giving all an early view of how bright stars shimmer strongly upon magnification (and allowing us to show how the shape of the spiders holding up our secondary mirrors affects our views). At Bob’s request, we also threw in Herschel’s Garnet Star in Cepheus as an example of very strongly-colored stars in the night sky (after showing Albireo to demonstrate the same).
* One BinaryAlbireo in Cygnus. I also included epsilon Lyrae in Lyra as it was close to Vega. Alcor and Mizar in Ursa Major are also excellent for testing visual acuity among attendees (and the magnified view gives still more to say about double stars in our neighborhood).
* One Open ClusterThe Double Cluster (Caldwell 14) in Perseus
* One Globular ClusterM13 in Hercules
* One NebulaM57, The Ring Nebula in a href=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyra”>Lyra. The use of an inflating balloon to demonstrate how you can see through the middle of a well-inflated balloon but can’t see well through the edges is as clear an explanation of what the Ring Nebula is from our vantage point as any other I can think of.
* One GalaxyM31, The Andromeda Galaxy in Andromeda. Despite the closeness to the horizon, M32 and M110 were also visible to observers at low magnification.
* Anything Else? – we were treated to several dozen obvious satellites and at least one bright meteor tail before packing up.

* Session 2 – 15 August 2014

The week of August 11 – 17 will be remembered as an almost useless one for CNY amateur astronomy. The Perseids were not only washed out by the timing of the Full Moon, but also by the constant overcast conditions (mixed with a few interesting lightning storms). Planned sessions at Baltimore Woods, Beaver Lake Nature Center (rescheduled for August 21st!), and North Sportsman’s Club were all scrubbed.

Given the lousy conditions all week for nighttime observing, I was a bit hesitant to drive out to Bob Piekiel’s August 15th session at Green Lakes State Park (even with one scope, it’s a lot of gear to drag around for a session where it won’t be used). That said, the Clear Sky Clock indicated a potential opening in the 9-ish to 11-ish range and the s’mores weren’t going to eat themselves. The crowd of around 25 (all crowded around a fire pit that smelled of charred marshmallow) were ready to observe and full of questions and fun discussion, so the early views of Saturn, Vega, and Arcturus were enough to keep us all occupied.

Around 9:20 p.m., a small miracle occurred as a massive clearing of the sky swept South/SouthEast, taking with it all of the present clouds in a slow, straight band that eventually gave us views of the entire sky before closing back again around 10:30 p.m. The clear, steady 70 minutes were more than enough to allow us to re-scan last month’s observing list (all little changed since last month!).


Old and new light – the end of the fire pit and inspecting flashlights.

With everyone departing soon after, we were left to take in a bit of the remaining fire in the pit (and our observing attire left to take in that burning wood smell) before giving the grounds one last scan with a bright flashlight before departing. A lousy evening turned into a fantastic (and slightly shortened) night for a Public Viewing Session. Kudos as always to Attilla Danko for his ever prescient Clear Sky Clock!

209P/LINEAR Meteor Shower, Bob Piekiel At Baltimore Woods, And CNYO’s Public Viewing Session At North Sportsman’s Club – All This Weekend (May 23rd and 24th)!

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

This coming weekend will be a busy one for CNYO, amateur astronomers, and meteor shower hopefuls alike.

Possible Meteor Super-Storm, Late Night 23rd To Early Morning 24th

Some have already seen the articles over the past several weeks. On the night of Friday the 23rd and into the early morning of Saturday the 24th, the Earth will be passing through the debris field of Comet 209P/LINEAR, a relatively newly discovered comet (2004). All of the predictions reported so far indicate that the meteor shower produced as we go through this debris field (the remnants from the comet’s tail as it goes around the Sun) may be very dense, with some people predicting hundreds or thousands of meteors per hour within in fairly narrow window (perhaps only a few hours). Better still, the meteor shower peaks during a very old Waning Crescent Moon that won’t rise until nearly 4:00 a.m., giving us a good clear night to observe.

Not only might this be a dense meteor shower, but we may be witnessing the arrival of a brand new annual meteor shower to our yearly calendar of showers. If all goes well, you can say you were outside and observing for the first May Camelopardalids!

From the ScienceAtNASA youtube Channel.

Southern Canada and the U.S. are perfectly placed for the densest part of the predicted meteor shower based on the calculation of the comet’s path and our timing as we go through it. Scientists are predicting activity like the 2002 Leonids, which spoiled any observer that year for any other meteor shower in recent history.

Additional info about the 209P/LINEAR Meteor Shower can be found below:
* earthsky.org/space/comet-209p-linear-meteor-shower-storm-may-2014
* www.universetoday.com/111474/may-meteor-storm-alert-all-eyes-on-the-sky/
* www.space.com/25768-new-meteor-shower-comet-linear.html

At present, you’ve two Public Viewing Sessions to catch some of this meteor shower and all of the other objects in the Night Sky this weekend.

Friday, May 23rd (weather-alternate is the 24th)

Bob Piekiel hosts his monthly session at Baltimore Woods. The description for this event is below. For additional information, including RSVP’ing with Baltimore Woods for the event, Click HERE.

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!

Saturday, May 24th – CNYO Hosts A Session At North Sportsman’s Club

CNYO is pleased to announce our first official Public Viewing Session at NSC for 2014. Our practice session this past April 19th was excellent, featuring New Moon Telescope’s 27″ Dobsonian and several other attending scopes.

the NSC in google maps. Click to generate directions.

In addition to possible stragglers from the 209P/LINEAR shower, attendees will be treated to views of Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn, all of which are out during “reasonable hours.” Additionally, the massive group of galaxies in the vicinity of the constellation Virgo are at their highest right now (and my personal favorite edge-on galaxy, NGC 4565, is right next-door in Coma Berenices). If you had any interest to looking back several tens of millions of years, this session will be a golden opportunity.

A view of the NSC facility from the observing grounds. Click for a larger view.

We hope you can join us!

CNYO Observing Log: Baltimore Woods, 14 June 2013


Perhaps the last bug-free (of the buzzing kind, that is) observing session until later in the fall, Bob Piekiel hosted his monthly Baltimore Woods observing session on Friday, 14 June 2013 at the same time that the Syracuse Astronomical Society hosted a public viewing session at Darling Hill. An excellent Friday for taking in the CNY skies beyond the Syracuse skyline!


Bob Piekiel performing collimation surgery.

Scope-wielding CNYO members in attendance included Bob Piekiel with 8″ and 11″ SCTs, Larry Slosberg with his trusty New Moon Telescopes 12″ Dobsonian, and myself with my 25×100 Zhumell binoculars (despite a last-minute re-collimation surgery, Bob couldn’t get his monster pair of Vixen 25×125 binos up to his satisfaction. I await the next session to take in that view!).

Beyond the several deeper sky objects we observed that evening, attendees were treated to (1) two ISS flybys (and the rather spectacular run of ISS flybys this month will be the part of an upcoming article), (2) four bright meteors (total count from among the observing group) that all appeared to radiate from the vicinity of Libra and Virgo (so the meteors all appeared to move from the SouthWest to the NorthEast), and (3) more than 20 satellites that crossed fields of view or were prominent enough during the ISS watch to jump out to most everyone. The sky was dominated by the 6 day old waxing crescent *always super* Moon, excellent at all magnifications and the best binocular object in our Night Sky.

As has been a recurring theme in some of these observing logs, the variety of available optics gives one the ability to experience the pros and cons of different equipment first-hand both in terms of setup and magnification.

The Zhumell big binos are easy to setup and provide excellent views of the Moon and some of the very open star clusters. We used the binos as a “sneak preview” of our observing of Saturn as we waited for enough bright stars to appear for Bob to get his GOTO scopes aligned. Even in the binos, Saturn is obviously “Saturn,” with the ring system, planet, and gap between the rings and planet visible. You will fight for the Cassini Division in less transparent skies, but a steady mount and patience will grant you a peak of this dark band between the two major rings.


Larry S. and Michelle M. in a Dob setup action shot.

Larry’s NMT Dob is a 5-minute setup from car to observing, with only a modicum of labored transport from the parking lot to the ground. In moonlit skies, nebula, galaxies, and faint fuzzy objects require a good memory or a great trust in one’s Telrad. On the minus side, you spend extra time trying to find faint objects – this only being a real problem during Public Viewing sessions when you really don’t want to spend all your time finding “something” to see. On the plus side, you really learn the sky this way, you don’t have to worry about battery life and any of the problems that come from modern observing technology, and you can generally get a larger mirror for the same amount of carrying-intensive weight in a Dob over a Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT), which means a generally better view.

Bob’s two SCT GOTO scopes are, after setup, perhaps the best way to facilitate a Public Viewing session, as you simply call for the object you want to see in the GOTO controller and, with some grinding of gears, you spare yourself from the hunt. In the case of his image intensifier, your GOTO scope might land on a galaxy too faint to even acknowledge seeing through a good eyepiece. Your GOTO purchase is validated when the intensifier then brings out subtle detail in an otherwise invisible object, a search that might easily aggravate a novice Dob user.

All of that said, we remind ourselves of the words of Stu Forster – “The best scope is the one you use.”

For my part, I spent time Naked Eye observing and adding to discussions going on around scopes. The confirmed sightings list contained Saturn, M3, M13, and M57 (the Ring Nebula, both with and without enhancement).


15 seconds of fun with a red flashlight and green laser pointer.

Increasing dew around 10:30 p.m. left us to pack up gear and simply enjoy the naked eye Night Sky (and play with the long exposure setting on my Canon Digital Elph). The next even is scheduled for July 12/13 at Baltimore Woods, followed by Bob Piekiel’s “Star Search” event at Green Lakes on July 26th. We hope you can join us!