Special Issue! Free Astronomy Magazine – March/April 2020 Issue Available For Download

Above: The changed technology of libraries and library lectures (all used), including a slide projector (property of my late, great-uncle Gus Columbus) with a two-slide carousel (and a book of slides for which any spelling errors were deemed too expensive to fix), an LCD projector (I had to have one because Stu Forster had one), for which fresh slide updates and audio/video are no problem in a darkened room, and a Sandisk USB stick with built-in wifi to transfer slides to an existing projector system by USB and to set up a local network for attendees to download media after the presentation.

Yes, a series of articles about the importance of amateur astronomers coming together as a community through outreach, just in time for a global pandemic to keep everyone from coming together (for a while, anyway).

The March/April 2020 issue of Free Astronomy Magazine has been available for your downloading pleasure for (a, here, long) three weeks, featuring an opening article by myself and an international perspective (Spain, Catalonia and Italy) by the editor Michele Ferrara and other contributing language editors on the general topics of the state of amateur astronomy and outreach in our respective locations.

We were all given great flexibility in our content, so I went with a very CNY-centric perspective on some of the great observing/outreach events, as well as their hosts, we’ve known in the past decade-or-so (while trying to name-drop all the area astronomy clubs in the process). These include shout-outs to some of the better-known lectures/observers, including David Bishop with ASRAS, Larry Slosberg with CNYO, James Callens with Western NY Astronomers, Bob Piekiel and his near-rock-solid monthly schedule at Baltimore Woods, my favorite classicist and dark sky proponent Prof. John McMahon, and the late, great Barlow Bob.

Writing an article that then undergoes several translations is an interesting exercise in clear thoughts and limited, in my case, Americanisms. Ain’t easy as pie, dig? I suspect all of us contributing articles could have gone into all kinds of additional details about our experiences and other ways we’ve seen the astronomy scene change over these many years in terms of technology and outreach activities, but the need to not melt the brains of our fellow editors forces a kind of brevity (unlike this sentence). Michele continues to have my utmost respect for taking on the task of first-pass translations to hand off to each of us in these cases to produce a great bimonthly multi-language magazine.

The science returns with the May/June issue. In the meantime, please give this issue a good read. If any of the discussion peaks your interest and you’ve something to say about it, consider dropping Michele a line, commenting on the Free Astronomy Magazine Facebook page, or otherwise drop me a line.

Specifically so – if you fall into the category of potential public amateur astronomer described in the final section of my article, I urge you to consider making your presence known to your community – after your 14-day self-isolation, of course (you should easily get a number of presentation slides together with two free weeks).

"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 2009 (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…