“November Stargazing In Upstate” And “Upstate NY Stargazing In December” Articles Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

They’re still settling on the title.

2016 has been a looooong year in many respects (and I’m not even taking about Bowie, Prince, Cohen, Hutcherson, Bley, Glass, Schulten, Minksy, and now Glenn, to name but a few), made all the more difficult by many of the most significant events happening without warning and/or adequate statistical analysis.

Amateur astronomers, on the other hand, have had thousands and tens of thousands and maybe millions of years of advanced notice that 2016 was going to stink – at least for meteor showers. The timing of Full Moons this year has meant that the Perseids, Leonids, and Geminids were all going to occur in the presence of considerable lunar glow, wiping out the quality of all but the brightest shooting stars.

So, how doe one remain optimistic in the face of physics?

One possible way is to thank the gods for astrology. I’ve struck an ambivalent tone of sorts this year with the new Upstate NY Stargazing series concerning this thing we call the “Supermoon.”

Does a supermoon mean anything scientific? Meh, minus an inch or so difference in tides during the best of them. Do supermoon articles in the local papers receive attention? The Supermoon “likes + shares” kick the dark side of the Moon out of the monthly overview articles – which means people are reading and out-and-about taking pictures of our nearest and most important satellite. And so, there it is.

The November article, which I completely forgot to post about last month, included a new section announcing UNY/CNY observing opportunities with local clubs and organizations (Bob Piekiel reports that his November attendance was excellent!) and some subtle observing opportunities for those with decent binoculars. This was also the last good month for any observing of objects in the Summer Triangle, (meaning I have to think of a different shape for next year to keep the articles fresh).

* syracuse.com/outdoors/2016/10/november_star…

* newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/2016/10/november_star…

The featured constellation in the December article gave me an opportunity to write about something I’ve lectured about since 2007 (when I started the Liverpool Public Library and Beaver Lake circuit). Of all of the delights in the nighttime sky, none stop me cold like the view of Orion and Taurus comfortably above the horizon. The December article gave a perfect opportunity to highlight the near-recent history of this part of the sky in light of discoveries in the Lascaux Caves in France.

Half of the image at top (you can find the original and many others at baerchen3.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/la-grotte-de-lascaux/. And, I ain’t gonna lie, someone spent an awful lot of time on the following: 19thpsalm.org/Ch01/LascauxSkyChart.html) has made up one desktop background on my MBP for quite some time – the figure of a Bull, complete with a number of dark spots strategically placed as if the artist – or someone soon after the artist – meant to overlay the most prominent, eye-catching stars in the Orion-Taurus grouping on top. Pareidolia and our common genetics being what they are, it would not be surprising that many cultures would see a bull’s head out of the Hyades and Aldebaran, just as they’d see Orion as a human figure. What would be a surprise was a discovery that our modern Taurus and this ancient cave painting were directly related through time, migration, and story telling around open fires – a 17,500 year long game of celestial telephone.

* syracuse.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2016/12/upstate_ny_star…

* newyorkupstate.com/outdoors/2016/12/upstate_ny_star…

“Upstate NY Stargazing In October” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

The fourth article in the series “Upstate NY stargazing in October: Prominent constellations of summer and winter visible on Autumn nights” is available for your reading and critical review at newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com. The editors are still having a bit of fun with the word arrangement in the headline (I suspect the newest version was selected to get rid of the double “in” – but can’t speak to the seasonal capitalization preferences – I trust in my editors), but everything else is going fairly smoothly.

star-4jpg-11365d07d678b3d4

Mars to find other. Click for a larger view.

I lament the lack of any mention of the Orionid Meteor Shower, which won’t be impressive anyway thanks to the Moon, but should still have been included for monthly completeness. What would have been included in the article is provided below:

Meteor Showers: Orionids, Oct. 2 – Nov. 7, Peaking Oct. 20

Meteor showers are the result of the Earth passing through the debris field of a comet or asteroid. As these objects approach the warming sun in their long orbits, they leave tiny bits behind – imagine pebbles popping out the back of a large gravel truck on an increasingly bumpy road. In the case of meteor showers, the brilliant streaks you see are due to particles no larger than grains of sand. The Earth plows through the swarm of these tiny particles at up-to 12 miles-per-second. High in the upper atmosphere, these particles burn up due to friction and ionize the air around them, producing the long light trails we see. We can predict the peak observing nights for a meteor shower because we know when and where in Earth’s orbit we’ll pass through the same part of the Solar System – this yearly periodicity in meteor activity is what let us identity and name meteor showers well before we ever had evidence of what caused them.

The name of each meteor shower is based on the constellation from which the shooting stars appear to radiate – a position in the sky we call the radiant. In the case of the Orionids, the meteor shower radiant appears to be to the north/above of the belt and left shoulder of Orion, which rises from the east after 11 p.m. this month. The meteor shower itself is provided to us by Halley’s Comet, and is the best of the meteor showers associated with Halley’s debris field.

How to observe: Sadly, the Moon will be prominent in the late-night/early-morning sky during the days around the Orionid peak, making for a far less impressive display. The Orionids are not known for their impressive counts either, with 10 to 20 meteors per hour expected.

Orion marks the position of the meteor shower radiant, meaning the meteors themselves will seem to shoot roughly from the east to the west. To optimize your experience, lie flat on the ground with your feet pointed east and your head elevated – meteors will then appear to fly right over and around you. Counts and brightness tend to increase the later you stay out, with peak observing times usually between midnight and 4 a.m. The swarm of tiny particles is distributed broadly in orbit, meaning some people may shooting stars associated with the Orionids anytime this month.

Also, kudos to friend and fellow space trucker Prof. John McMahon for one orientational catch – the following:

Starting around mid-October, Jupiter will peak above the Western horizon just after 6:30 a.m.

should read:

Starting around mid-October, Jupiter will peak above the Eastern horizon just after 6:30 a.m.

The ability to iterate with the newspaper after providing the full content is perfectly encapsulated in a Charlie Rouse comment about Thelonious Monk in “Straight, No Chaser” – which I totally understand.

2016oct5_charlierouse“You know that you got to play correctly the first or second take or that’s it. He would take it anyhow. You mess up, well that’s it. You know, that’s your problem. You have to hear that all the rest of your life.”

For interested parties, this article also marks the second (and final) official mention (to the best of my knowledge) of our upcoming MOST/TACNY/CNYO hosting of International Observe The Moon Night on Saturday, October 8th. At present, the weather is looking less-than promising for even lunar observing, but plans are underway to handle the crowd either way.

If it rains Saturday night, then I recommend the following:

“Stargazing In Upstate NY In September” Article Posted To newyorkupstate.com And syracuse.com

The third article in the series – “Stargazing in Upstate NY in September: Look for more subtle objects on autumn nights” – is available for your reading and critical review at newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com. I’m pleased to report that we’ve hit our stride with the formatting and content transfer, and I can only hope the star charts make sense in their current forms.

For interested parties, this article also marks the first official mention (to the best of my knowledge) of our upcoming MOST/TACNY/CNYO hosting of International Observe The Moon Night on Saturday, October 8th. Additional details to follow, but expect the observing to happen somewhere around The MOST itself.

image_1__2016sept_smdomecomposite

Extra-special thanks to Nick Lamendola from the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science (image above, taken from the grounds of my new observing stomping grounds at the Farash Center – click for a larger view) for the use of his Perseid composite as the article opener (one of the benefits of being a member of several local clubs is the listserve content – and the many fantastic images that fly by on a weekly basis).