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Astronomical Events Calendar
Next Meeting:
September 26/27, 2008
Public Viewing Session
Darling Hill Observatory, 7:30 pm - ??
Jupiter, Neptune, and Uranus cross the Southern
Sky, the Andromeda Galaxy will be nearly at zenith
(the best place for viewing in the 16” Cave Scope),
the Pleiades make their triumphant return to premidnight viewing, and much more. Come join us!
Table of Contents
Next Meeting and Astro Events Calendar
President’s Message For September, 2008
Ancient Skies for Modern Eyes
The Constellations: Perseus and Andromeda
SAS Member Gallery
2008 Fact Sheet
Membership Application
Sept. 5, 7:30 - 9:30 pm
Baltimore Woods
Bob Piekiel hosts a Planet Party (rain date on
the 6th). See for fees,
directions and more info.
Sept. 19, 8:00 - 11:00 pm
Clinton, NY
CNY Astronomy Club Public Star Party. See for more info.
Sept. 26/7, 7:30 pm - ??
Darling Hill Obs.
SAS Public Viewing Session and Society
Meeting. Check the website for more info and
updates by 5 pm each day.
Oct. 3, 7:30 - 9:00 pm
Baltimore Woods
Bob Piekiel hosts a Planet Party (rain date on
the 6th). See for fees,
directions and more info.
Oct. 24/25, 7:30 pm - ??
Darling Hill Obs.
SAS Public Viewing Session and Society
Meeting. Check the website for more info and
updates by 5 pm each day.
President’s Message For September, 2008
Greetings fellow astrophiles! We’ll get right to the
Summer Seminar 2008 Recap
We managed two beautiful nights this past August
22/23, which was a feat in itself given the limited
number of good evenings we’ve had for viewing
this year. The usual day-long festivities of past
Summer Seminars were collapsed into two evenings
of lectures by noted author and Baltimore Woods
astro-organizer Bob Piekiel. Perhaps best known
(certainly how I knew of him) for his beyondcomprehensive history of a scope-making giant,
“Celestron, The Early Years”, the focus of his two
Syracuse Astronomical Society
Bob Piekiel hard at play.
lectures was “Testing and Evaluating the Optics of
Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes,” also the subject of
his new, very recently published book (those in
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 1
attendance who bought copies had the foreword
pasted into place, as these books really were “hot
off the press”). With nearly 300 lbs. worth of gear
brought into the Observatory, Bob covered a
number of tests used to evaluate the quality of
scope mirrors, doing so with the help of his own
projector system to give everyone in the room a
view down the eyepiece. We were also thrilled to
host members of CNY-SPARC on Friday night and
were pleased that the skies held up for a few hours
of near-perfect naked eye viewing.
The Saturday program became a hands on for
attendees, with Bob performing the same tests on
the scopes of Mike Brady, Jeff Funk, and my own
“Stu Special,” which will receive its own little article
in the near future. We’ll have a copy of both the
Celestron ebook and Bob’s new SCT book for
perusing at Darling Hill. For those of you interested in
purchasing your own copy (two great gifts for when
the skies cloud over), you can get them directly
from Bob at [email protected]
SDSS 1: “Cosmic Haul” Reminds That “Data” Is
Plural, After All
The BBC Sky at Night featured a short article on the
recent identification of 50 new objects in the outer
reaches of our Solar System, a number that will no
doubt grow tremendously as more of the same
data are analyzed and more powerful telescopes
are pointed to the heavens. Of specific interest is
the discovery of the aptly-named 2006 SQ372, an
object that may be an old Oort Cloud resident but
is now in an eccentric orbit that has it at about the
distance of Neptune but will, at its maximum,
distance itself from the Sun 75 times beyond its
current 2 billion mile position.
2006 SQ372 (red ring not included). See article for more info.
Syracuse Astronomical Society
The discoveries of these new objects demonstrate
the power of recycling. The data used for these
findings come from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and
were part of a survey of supernovae that finds the
telescopes and cameras pointed at the same strip
of sky every three days. Instead of looking for new
pinpoints of light in distant galaxies, the Solar
System researchers simply performed image
overlays to look for before-and-after shifts in the
position of objects that existed in both images.
With Stripe 82 successfully analyzed (the origin of
these first discoveries), researchers can continue to
work backwards and forwards, with all of us looking
forward to the identification of new objects in our
own backyard.
SDSS 2: Do Dwarf Galaxies Stick To The Roof Of
Your Mouth?
In an odd twist, it seems that the Milky Way has
quite an appetite. A second study from the Sloan
Digital Sky Survey has revealed that the outer
galaxy contains “streams” of stars that originate
from satellite galaxies that were torn apart but still
remain connected through their motions. In short,
ribbons of stars from entire dwarf galaxies are
moving within the outer halo of the Milky Way,
gravitationally bound to the galaxy center. Using
the Sloan data, researchers have been able to
identify 14 such distinct ribbons of stars by
observing the motions of each. Further, this same
data was used to identify 14 dwarf Milky Way
companions that remain intact within the dark
matter halo of the Milky Way.
A model of the Milky Way. By. K. Johnston, J. Bullock. See
article for more info.
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 2
The separation of these 14 ribbons is quite a mess of
correlated motion and rigorous tracking of untold
numbers of stars, but understanding the origins and
results are straightforward here on Earth. Those that
know of the American composer Charles Ives know
that a major inspiration for his compositional
approach came from hearing two marching bands
playing simultaneously. In effect, the 14 ribbons of
stars are the marching bands playing distinct songs
in Ives’ parade, with gravitational forces playing
the roles of the drum majors directing the bands
along their paths.
As long as you know the
different songs (and, thanks to Newton and
Einstein, every good physicist can hum along to
those tunes), you can work back and identify the
bands. While these bands are playing too far
away for us to observe even in the 16” Cave, it is
worth noting that our Milky Way plays host to an
increasingly more complex arrangement than
we’re capable of hearing, although our speakers
are improving all the time.
We’re Unique, Just Like All The Rest Of Them
delicate balance of initial stellar disk mass (how
much matter the Solar System had to work with)
and viscosity (a measure of the primordial
“soupiness” of this gaseous disk of matter). Using
computationally demanding simulations (as a
computational chemist, I can attest to how long
one has to wait to have an answer show up on a
computer screen) and available data on the 250
identified planetary systems (including our own, of
course), researchers identified that the wrong
combinations of mass and viscosity can lead to no
planets forming (low mass, high viscosity) or
planets forming quickly and falling towards the
center of the disk (high mass and low viscosity.
Note the number of systems discovered with
massive planets sitting quite close to their
associated stars), while the right combinations can
yield systems just like our own (warm porridge and
large spoons).
As equipment improves and we’re capable of
identifying ever-smaller planets around reasonable
stars, we’ll begin to test the accuracy of the
theoretical models. When presenting the results of
theoretical work (including my own), I often find
myself quoting the great one, Han Solo. “Hokey
religions and ancient weapons are no match for a
good blaster at your side, kid.”
I’ll Take A Shallow Pothole Any Day
Most debris in space from old missions, damaged
satellites, and stalled UFOs scoot around the Earth
at a non-trivial 17,500 miles/hour. The world’s
astronauts (and our space-enthusiast tax dollars)
find no small amount of comfort in knowing that
predictions of the motions of this debris. But what
do you do when that debris is shooting straight at
you? Crew members of the International Space
Station opted to err on the side of caution and
used booster rockets to move the ISS clearly out of
the path of a piece of the Russian Cosmos-2421
surveillance satellite that was blown up earlier in
Who are the planets in your neighborhood?
It appears as though Extra-Solar Systems may be
common, but our particular arrangement may be
a lot harder to come by. A computational study
predicts that our Solar System is the result of a
Syracuse Astronomical Society
This relocation of the ISS is noteworthy because,
well, they did move their house to avoid the
baseball from the kids next door and, despite all
the green-friendly efforts we make here on Earth
to cut fuel usage, this ISS motion was a “wasteful”
endeavor. While the ISS uses rockets to move itself
away from the planet on a regular basis (because
of drag from the far, far upper atmosphere that
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 3
causes the station to fall closer to Earth by several
hundred feet every day), this move pushed the
station closer to Earth (because it was already at
its maximum preferred distance). Interestingly,
Russians deny the existence of the debris (well, the
satellite), while the ISS crew has had to keep track
of quite the messy debris field.
Extreme Extremophiles, Or Don’t Try This At Home
Or In Low Earth Orbit
The International Space Station (from above).
See article for more info.
The tardigrade (water bear). By Rick Gillis and Roger J. Haro,
Department of Biology, University of Wisconsin - La Crosse.
When crossing the street, look both ways. Then,
look up.
This article from LiveScience reports on a group of
“water bears“ that don’t believe in stay-cations.
Or probably wouldn’t, even if they had a choice.
A sample of tardigrades (see the cute picture)
were sent into Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) aboard a
FOTON-M3 and left to experience the harshest the
void of LEO had to offer: high vacuum and deadly
cosmic and solar radiation. Amazingly, a number
of these critters returned to Earth no (or little) worse
for wear and even managed to produce
completely normal offspring, no doubt in the
hopes of telling their several thousand grandkids
the ultimate bedtime story.
Clash Of The Titaniums (And Assorted Elements)
While a number of us enjoyed the Perseid meteor
shower from the comfort of the Darling Hill
Observatory, two amateur astronomers set their
sights (and their scopes) on the Moon to watch for
visible explosions resulting from impacts.
article from NASA reports on astronomers taking
images of flashes of light on the Moon using
reasonable scopes, recording equipment, and
LunarScan, a freely available program for
detecting lunar explosions. Anyone pointing a
scope of any kind at the Moon knows just how
hard the lunar surface has been hit in its 4.5-or-so
billion year history (our own surface would look
much the same if not for tectonic shifting, large
bodies of water, and atmospheric phenomena).
George Varros, Mt. Airy, Maryland. See article for more info.
I cannot overstate just how cool the links
associated with this article are. Do have a look at
Syracuse Astronomical Society
The Earth is covered in extremophiles, organisms
that exist (in fact, thrive) in conditions that most
every other life form on the planet would cook,
freeze, squeeze, or dissolve in. There are bacteria
that literally eat heavy metals for lunch, microbes
that thrive in water as high as 122 degrees Celsius
(and those of you that remember your conversions
will note that this is 22 degrees hotter than boiling
water), and organisms that grow at pH levels of 3
and below (as in their prefer their hydrochloric
acid undiluted, thank you). As for setting the
record for most cost spent and least damage
done, the simple water bear holds the new World+
Space is the place,
Damian G. Allis, Ph.D.
[email protected]
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 4
Ancient Skies for Modern Eyes
By John McMahon, Ph.D.
Astronomy In Homer
The Iliad and the
Odyssey provide the
Western Tradition. In
their present form the
two epic poems are
dated to the mid 8th c.
B.C.E. and represent
the end stage in an
process reaching back at least four centuries
earlier into the Bronze Age. Since they are
amalgams of historical and cultural material from
such a lengthy time span, an analysis of the
specific origins of their astronomical concepts is
The astronomical references in the two works
demonstrate a traditional (as opposed to a
scientific) approach to the visible universe. Thus,
no account of cosmology appears in either epic,
but certain ideas about the larger cosmos are
evident. For example, the Earth, whose shape and
form are unmentioned, is encircled by the river
Ocean. Above the earth arches heaven
(ouranos), which is seen as solid and is regularly
called "starry" (asteroeis). It is supported above the
earth on pillars. Through the aither (upper air) the
heavenly bodies are seen to shine when the sky is
clear; a kind of a mist (aer) lies closer to the
surface of the earth itself.
The Homeric poems show an awareness of the
basic properties of the sky, of star patterns and of
individual stars. In Book 18 of the Iliad the star
clusters of the Hyades and the Pleiades appear,
along with the constellations Ursa Major and Orion,
in the description of the world depicted on
Achilles' shield. These are also mentioned in Book 5
of the Odyssey as is Boötes. The star Sirius also
figures prominently in the Iliad, although nowhere
is it specifically named. It also appears in literary
comparisons as the "autumn star," as "baleful" and
as "Orion's dog" in a description of Achilles in Book
22. Homer also recognizes the concept of
circumpolar stars by stating that the Bear (Arktos)
does not dip into Ocean as the other stars do.
Syracuse Astronomical Society
There is no mention of a pole star or of the Milky
Way. Similarly, while the poet incorporates a
description of an evening and morning star here
and there into the narratives, no real identification
of the planets is acknowledged. A comparison of
the goddess Athene to a meteor or comet
appears in Book 4 of the Iliad.
The Sun, like the stars, rises from and sets into
Ocean and attains its highest point in the middle
of the sky. The moon's phases are not noted
specifically but must have been used if the lunar
cycle formed the basis for monthly time
measurement. East and west are marked by the
sun's rising and setting, although there are no
astronomical bearings for north and south. No
division of daylight into hours is indicated; but the
day itself is seen as tripartite: morning, midday,
and afternoon. The night is similarly depicted but
with less specificity.
Homeric epic offers a sometimes confusing picture
of the seasons and of the passage of time in
general. While the years are described as
"revolving", there is no stated beginning of the
year proper. Winter, spring and summer are
recognized but not delimited with any precision,
although early autumn may be considered distinct
from the last. The length of the day in winter and
summer is not differentiated, nor is there a definite
concept of the solstices despite the mention of the
"turnings of the sun" and "long days" in a line of
dubious authenticity (Odyssey 10.470).
Overall, the Homeric poems reveal a clear
familiarity with heavenly phenomena but a scant
association made with their actual causes. Some
stars and constellations are recognized and
named while the planets themselves are hardly
noticed as independent entities. Although the
celestial bodies are not considered divine in and
of themselves, there is some suggestion that stars
could affect the human condition (e. g., Sirius).
The passage of time, particularly that of the
seasons and the years, is seen as related to the
state of the heavens, indicating a growing
awareness of the importance of astronomical
observation for human activities and affairs.
John M. McMahon is Professor of Classics at Le
Moyne College and Co-Founder and Board
Member of SELENE (“Sensible and Efficient Lighting
to Enhance the Nighttime Environment”). He can
be reached at [email protected]
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 5
The Constellations, By Stu Forster
Perseus and Andromeda
Map reproduced from Deepsky 2000 with permission of Steven S. Tuma
At sundown the Autumn sky is dominated by the great square of Pegasus. The stars of the square are jumping off
points for many deep sky objects. There are several binocular objects that are also naked eye if one can make it
to dark skies. The northeast star of the square is the star Alpheratz, which is actually in the constellation
Andromeda. If one moves east to Mirach then north one comes to The Andromeda Galaxy, M31. M31 is a naked
eye object at mag 4.4 and over 4 degrees in size. In comparison, a closed fist at arms length is 5 degrees in size.
It’s large!! In binoculars and small telescopes The galaxy is seen only as a blur, a far cry from the photos one sees
in magazines. In a little larger scope, one can see two companion galaxies, M32 and M110. M32 is a round mag
9.0 blob seen close to the central core of M31. On the opposite side of the core of M31 is a faint oval, M110 at
mag 8.8. the orientation of the axis of M110 is nearly at a right angle to the M31 long axis.
M33 is another large galaxy east of M31. M33 is spread out over several degrees, and although it has a mag of
6.3, Its surface brightness is low, making it hard to see, even with binoculars and telescopes. M33 is reportedly
easier to see with binoculars than telescopes. It can be located by first trisecting a line from alpha Triangulum to
Mirach in Andromeda, then looking just south of the division between the eastern and middle thirds.
Another binocular object that also looks great in small telescopes is M34 in Perseus. This is a mag 5.2 open cluster
just west of the middle of a line drawn between Almach in Andromeda and Algol in Perseus. A telescope only
object northwest of M34 is M76, also known as the “Little Dumbbell” nebula. The overall size is small and one can
only expect to see a small, squarish patch of light. Larger scopes will reveal a bilobed shape.
On Perseus’ northern edge lies the famed double-cluster. Many are amazed that Messier missed this naked eye
and (easy) binocular object. It looks beautiful in small to medium scopes as long as low powers and wide field
eyepieces are used. As Messier missed it, it doesn’t have an M designation, but goes by NGC869/884.
If we continue a little further north, we come to Cassiopeia, The Queen. Its distinctive W shape is easily seen at this
time of year north of Polaris, the Pole star. There are two Messier Objects in Cassiopeia. M52 is an open cluster
found north of the western tip of the W. M103 is a smaller, tighter open cluster along the W eastern portion.
If you find all the Messiers, you will have added 8 more to your total. For a nice log sheet for Messier objects, visit
Happy hunting.
Syracuse Astronomical Society
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 6
SAS Member Gallery For September 2008
M15 (Stu Forster)
M92 (Stu Forster)
NGC 7331 (Stu Forster)
NGC 6781 (Stu Forster)
About The Gallery
Full-sized versions of these images are
available in the SAS Gallery on the website.
To have your images featured, simply send
them to [email protected]
The Moon (Ryan Goodson, 12” Dobsonian at 48x)
Syracuse Astronomical Society
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 7
2008 Fact Sheet
Darling Hill Observatory Directions
2008 Meetings and Public
Viewing Schedule
February 21
April 4/5
May 2/3
May 23/24
June 27/28
August 1/2
August 22/23
September 26/27
October 24/25
October ??
November ??
MOST Series
Darling Hill
Darling Hill
Darling Hill
Darling Hill
Darling Hill
Summer Seminar
Darling Hill
Darling Hill
MOST Series
MOST Series
?? – Updates to follow
SAS Newsletter Online!
* If it is dark, remember to turn your headlights off and use your
parking lights (otherwise you will affect other observers’ night vision).
* Park in the meadow and proceed up to the observatory building,
where our 16 inch Newtonian Telescope resides.
This newsletter is always mailed in
grayscale. The full-color .pdf version of
this and previous newsletters is always
available at our website for free
SAS Viewing “Dress Code”
Ways To Help The SAS
At 1800 ft. above sea level, the Darling Hill Observatory is often 20o
cooler than Syracuse. In summer, long sleeves can make for more
comfortable viewing. Even in early fall, consider hat and gloves.
The Syracuse Astronomical Society is a
non-profit, member-driven organization
dedicated to educating the public
about astronomy, preserving a national
heritage – the night sky, and exploring
the splendors of our universe.
When To Use The Website
The website contains information about weather conditions at Darling
Hill, if/when viewing sessions are cancelled (Check the website by
5:00 pm the evening of announced viewings), and when SAS
members are at the Observatory for viewing. Check the Main Page
and the Who’s Observing page for information. To post your own
questions or check on viewing opportunities, simply join the Bulletin
Board (please also specify your location so we can sort member from
spammer). Please allow 24 hours for account activation.
How can you help? Contribute an article
to the newsletter.
Recommend a
speaker for a meeting. Let others know
about our viewing sessions. Tell people
to turn off unnecessary lights! Most of all,
the SAS meetings are best when YOU
Contact Information
president, webmaster
Damian Allis
(315) 559-4737
[email protected]
Steven Ziemba
[email protected]
Stu Forster
[email protected]
Syracuse Astronomical Society
observatory director
Raymond Dague
(315) 422-4503/2052
[email protected]
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
board of directors
Mike Brady
Rick Kellogg
John McMahon
Dan O'Shea
Greg Sigworth
Page 8
Join The Society Or Give This To Someone New!
Annual Membership Dues
About the SAS
Individual or Family Membership
Youth Membership
Reduced-Rate Subscription to
“Sky & Telescope” Magazine
Additional Donation
* 22 or younger
Subscription to Sky & Telescope ( is
optional, but SAS membership provides a discount over the
standard subscription rate.
Do you own a telescope?
Do you own binoculars?
Please enclose a check payable to:
Syracuse Astronomical Society
c/o Steven Ziemba
1294 Powerhouse Road
Memphis, NY 13112
For more information about the
SAS, please contact:
Damian Allis, President and Webmaster
[email protected], (315) 559-4737
The Syracuse Astronomical Society is a
non-profit organization dedicated to
astronomy, preserving a national
heritage – the night sky, and exploring
the splendors of our universe.
We invite you to join us. We have Free
Public Observing Nights at our Darling Hill
Observatory in Vesper, NY.
observing is held once a month from
April through October, around the new
Other viewing sessions occur
throughout the year when the night sky
is clear and available SAS members go
to the observatory. Check the “Who’s
Observing” link on the website for more
The Observatory “Cave” is a 16 inch
Newtonian telescope, capable of
showing you heavenly objects in great
detail. For those with telescopes and
large binoculars, the Observatory has
four concrete pads and accessible
We also have monthly society
meetings throughout the year.
Come and join us!
Raymond Dague, Observatory Director
[email protected], (315) 422-4503/2052
Syracuse Astronomical Society
Astronomical Chronicle for September 2008
Page 9