The Observer Newsletter - the TriState Astronomers


The Observer Newsletter - the TriState Astronomers
Newsletter of The Tri-State Astronomers
October 2016
Volume 31 Number 10
BlackWaterFalls Astronomy Weekend
I just returned from the 27 Annual KVAS BlackWater Falls Astronomy weekend that was held
on September 22-25 at BlackWater Falls State Park, Davis WV.
This was my 2nd year attending and it is a small rather cozy event with speakers on Friday
and Saturday covering topics such as next year’s solar eclipse, detecting gravitational waves,
gravitation wave astronomy, the evolution of galaxies, the significance of the Indian mounds
in the Kanawha Valley believed to be used for astronomical observation.
©BlueMarmot / CalculatorCat.Com
Pluto Best Evening Visibility of the Year
Wed Oct 05, 7:20 PM
(Near the handle of the Tea Pot)
ISS Cargo Re-Supply
Sun Oct 09, 10:47 PM
Wallups Island Night Launch Visible from our
Area to the East
First Quarter Moon
Sun Oct 09
Uranus in Opposition of the Sun (Above the
Sat Oct 15, 8:21 PM
Above the moon to the East 3.7°
Full Moon
Sun Oct 16
Orionids Meteor Shower Max
Fri Oct 21
(In the Club of Orion, Near the Feet of the
Gemini Twins) (25 per Hr))
Tri-State Astronomers Monthly Meeting
Wed Oct 19, 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM
Wm Brish Planetarium
Hagerstown, MD
Last Quarter Moon
Sat Oct 22
One presenter covered planning for the eclipse showing resources he used to map out the path
of the eclipse and choose custom viewing locations within a reasonable driving distance of 6
hours to account for weather. He did not share his viewing locations with those in attendance,
but discussed how he mapped out places along all routes where he could easily stop and view
the eclipse such as ball fields, local parks, open fields. He also talked about techniques for
photographing the eclipse and what you could expect to see. Fortunately, I had the presentation that George Michael created for the 2006 Eclipse in Adeta, Togo with me, and I was able
to share the pictures of the 2006 total eclipse.
One of the most interesting presentations was on the detection of gravitational waves. So
far there have been 3 detections using the LIGO instruments in Livingston LA and Hanford
Washington. Two of those detections are confirmed gravitational wave detections. The
presenters brought a working model of the detector to demonstrate how it worked. Amazingly someone from across the room could speak normally and the detector would produce
a visible detection using sound waves to simulate gravitational waves. The LIGO website has
plans for making the model.
The park provides the nature center area for observing for all 3 nights of the event and
provides facilities and a light free environment. This year Thursday and Friday nights were
pretty good with Thursday being the best night and is the night I was able to snap a few pics.
You can see how clear and dark the sky is in the pictures later in the newsletter.
It’s a free event, and they sell $1 raffle ticket chances to win prizes such as scopes, binoculars,
books, and accessories. I won prizes both years I attended and everyone is very friendly and
approachable and everyone has a great time. Unfortunately, attendance has diminished over
the years from 100+ attendance to only 30 this year. Next year’s event is from September 14
-17. If you are interested in attending next year, the park gives a discount for attendees that
stay at the park lodge on a first come first served reservation basis. For more info see the
KanawhaValley Astronomy Society (KVAS) website - Mike
Ceres Max Brightness
Mon Oct 24, 7:43 PM
Near Cetus in the low in the Eastern Horizon
Venus/Saturn Conjunction
Sat Oct 29, 7:36 PM
Low in the SW Horizon
October 2016
By Chris Kopco, WCPS Planetarium Teacher
and Andy Smetzer, Tri-State Astronomers
Fall is upon us and with it come clear, crisp nights,
perfect for spending your evenings under a
blanket of stars.
From Vega, look a short distance south for another
bright star, sandwiched between two dimmer
stars. This is Altair, the brightest star in
Aquila the Eagle. Now connect those
three stars we just found to make a
big triangle in the sky. This is the
asterism known as the Summer
We’ll begin our tour of the October
night sky by looking up. Way
up to the point that is directly
overhead at your location,
called the zenith. Not too
far from here to the west,
the direction in which
the sun sets at the end
of the day, you’ll find a
bright star at the top of
a cross shape. This star
is Deneb, and it marks
the tail of a swan named
Cygnus. The main part of
the cross shape is the body
of the swan and the head
of the swan is marked by
Alberio, the star at the bottom
of the cross, which is actually
a double star that can be clearly
separated into a blue star and yellow
star through a small pair of binoculars. The arms of the cross then mark the
wings of the swan. Now look a little further
to the west of Deneb and you’ll find an even
brighter blue star called Vega, which is the brightest star
in Lyra the Harp.
Now go further south
and above the southern horizon you’ll find
a bright star amongst
many dimmer stars. This
bright star is Fomalhaut,
which is the brightest star
in Pisces Austrinus, the
Southern Fish. Fomalhaut
is easy to find as it’s clearly
the brightest star in this part
of the sky this month.
For a more detailed tour of the night
sky check out Skylights, the monthly
podcast tour of the night sky, downloadable at and on the Washington County Public Schools YouTube Channel.
Evening Planets
Morning Planets
VENUS can be found in the southwest as the sun sets, shining brightly at
magnitude -4.0 this month. Venus moves from Libra at the beginning of
the month into Scorpius and ends the month in Ophiuchus. If you keep
your eyes on Venus throughout October, you’ll see it moving closer and
closer to golden Saturn and orange Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius
the Scorpion, finally “splitting the uprights” between Saturn and Antares on
the evening of the 27th.
MERCURY and JUPITER will trade places in our skies this month, with
Mercury beginning the month in the morning skies in the constellation
in Leo, while Jupiter is lost in the glare of the sun. However, as the month
wears on, Mercury rises later and later each month, eventually lost in the
glare of the sun as it moves toward superior conjunction with the sun on
the 27th. Jupiter meanwhile climbs out of the glare of the sun as the month
wears on, rising in the east in the constellation Virgo just before 5:30 a.m.
by month’s end.
SATURN will spend the month in Scorpius, shining much less brightly
than Venus at magnitude 0.5. Saturn and Antares will be joined by a waxing
crescent moon on the 6th in the southwest sky after sunset. Saturn sets a little earlier each night throughout the month, setting around 10 p.m. to start
October, and around 8 p.m. by the end of the month.
On October 1st sunrise is at 7:07 a.m., while the sun sets at 6:54 p.m. for 11
hours and 47 minutes of daylight. By October 31st sunrise is at 7:38 a.m.
with the sun setting earlier in the evening at 6:11 p.m. for 10 hours and 33
minutes of daylight, a 74 minute decrease from the beginning of the month.
MARS is also in the evening sky this month, found moving eastward
through Sagittarius and dimming slightly from magnitude 0.4 at the beginning of October. Mars’ eastward motion through the skies of Earth keeps
it setting consistently around 11:00 p.m., give or take about 15 minutes,
throughout the month.
The Sun enters the constellation Libra from Virgo October 30th. The
change is caused by the Earth’s revolution around the Sun. The Sun seems
to line up with distant background stars from our point of view from Earth,
so the sky changes by seasons and months.
NEPTUNE and URANUS are also both evening planets in October, found
in Aquarius and Pisces respectively. For most a telescope or binoculars
will be necessary to spot these planets of the outer solar system, with the
exception of Uranus if you have extremely dark and clear skies and know
just where to look.
The first quarter moon appears in Earth’s skies on the 9th of October, the
moon is full on October 16th, third quarter is on October 22nd and the
moon is new on October 30th.
There will be two small meteor showers of note this October. On the evening of the 7th of October the Draconids meteor shower will peak, producing up to 10
meteors per hour. This shower is a little different than most due to the fact that best observing time is actually early evening instead of after midnight. There
will be a large waxing crescent moon that will wash out dimmer meteors, but it still may be worth a look if you have some time to do some sky watching that
evening. Later in October, the Orionids meteor shower will peak on the evening of the 21st, producing up to 20 meteors per hour. Though this is a little larger
meteor shower than the Draconids, it’s a little less convenient for some to observe as the best time to see these meteors will be after midnight. There will be a
third quarter moon that will wash out some of the dimmer meteors, but the Orionids are typically bright and should still be worth a look.
The William Brish Planetarium will hold a grand re-opening, free and open to the public from 7:00 -8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26th. Come see the newly remodeled planetarium, and experience a short demonstration of what the newly upgraded Spitz SciDome XD-S system can do. For more information visit:
The next meeting for the TriState Astronomers will be held at the William Brish Planetarium Wednesday, October 19th at 7:00 p.m. All are welcome! For more
information visit
Boonesborough Days
Myersville Harvest Festival
Oktoberfest/Harvest Festiv​al
Saturday 8am until 11am Solar
observing (sun spots, prominences,
and flares)
Sat Oct 01, 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Myersville Fire Hall
Myersville, MD
Antietam National Battlefield
Public Star Party
Fri Oct 07, 6:30 PM - 11:00 PM
Antietam National Battlefield
Visitor Center
Sharpsburg, MD
Photos by Mike Sager
Antietam National Battlefield
Public Star Party
Sat Oct 08, 6:30 PM - 11:00 PM
Antietam National Battlefield
Visitor Center
Sharpsburg, MD
Big Cork Vineyards Star Party
Event at Big Cork Vineyards in
Rohrersville, MD October 14, 2016,
a Friday evening. They have a robust
music program on Friday evenings
and guests would certainly enjoy
looking at the stars. Music program
starts at 6pm.
Fri Oct 14, 8:30 PM - 10:30 PM
4236 Main St
Rohresville, MD
Photos by Andy Smetzer
Boonsboro Library Telescope
Sat Oct 22, 10:00 AM - 2:00 PM
401 Potomac St
Boonsboro, MD
Research Talk and Star Party
Series 2
Electronic Cigarettes by Nursing
series of three evening talks
followed by a star party (weather
permitting) at Penn State Mont Alto
7:15 PM Open the room for the talk
7:30-8:30 PM Feature talk (in the
Auditorium of the General Studies
building) 8:30-8:50 PM Light
refreshments and cookies - time
to set up telescopes 8:50-10:30 PM
Star Party (in the Perry Field not far
from the talk location)
Thu Oct 27, 8:50 PM - 10:30 PM
Penn State
Mount Alto, PA
Greenbrier State Park 09/24/16
By Kay Papeskov
Vicki, Jeff, Bob, Tom and I were at Greenbrier State Park on Saturday 9/24 for an outreach. We had about 71 campers as well
as 2 rangers show up to admire the view and what a view it was! The sky was beautiful and dark enough that we could see the
dark bands of the Milky Way as well as the Double Cluster and the Andromeda Galaxy naked eye!
Through the three telescopes (Vicki, Bob and Tom) we were able to see Mars, Saturn, open and globular clusters, nebulae,
galaxies and double stars. Most of the campers had never looked through a telescope before and many of them live in a big city
where they are usually able to see only the moon and a few stars.
We were also fortunate to have Jeff do a laser guided tour. It had a historical twist that took us from the time of the Babylonians to the present and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I especially liked the pop quiz at the end.
The atmosphere was one of wonderment and discovery that makes all the effort that us volunteers put into such events worth
while. For anyone who has not done an outreach before, there are no words to describe the immense satisfaction you get from
even just being there not only with the public but amongst amazing and knowledgeable people like Vicki, Tom, Bob, Jeff and
the rest of our many volunteers.
I am extremely fortunate that I bumped into the Tri State Astronomers 5 years ago. It has been an amazing journey which
luckily has no end in sight.
Hope to see you all at Antietam National Battlefield!
Gettysburg Middle School Capitol Camps 09/28/16
By Andy Smetzer
Member Pictures
Ursa Major/Milky Way September 22
by Mike Sager
Ursa Major, BlackWater Falls WV
Milky Way, BlackWater Falls WV
Milky Way, Dry Fork WV
Moon with Ice Crystal Ring September 21
by Steve Berté
Beautiful ice crystal ring around
the moon. As always, such rings
are 22 degrees in diameter. If you
look closely you can see Orion in
the lower left corner; within the
ring and to the left of the Moon
is Aldebaran; within the ring and
above the Moon are the Pleiades.
One Incredible Galaxy Cluster Yields Two
Types of Gravitational Lenses
By Ethan Siegel
Space Place Partners’ Article
There is this great idea that if you look hard enough and
long enough at any region of space, your line of sight will
eventually run into a luminous object: a star, a galaxy
or a cluster of galaxies. In reality, the universe is finite
in age, so this isn’t quite the case. There are objects that
emit light from the past 13.7 billion years—99 percent
of the age of the universe—but none before that. Even in
theory, there are no stars or galaxies to see beyond that
time, as light is limited by the amount of time it has to
But with the advent of large, powerful space telescopes
that can collect data for the equivalent of millions of seconds of observing time, in both visible light and infrared
wavelengths, we can see nearly to the edge of all that’s
accessible to us.
With a huge, towering galaxy cluster in one field and no
comparably massive objects in the other, the effects of
both weak and strong gravitational lensing are readily
apparent. The galaxy cluster—over 100 trillion times the
mass of our sun—warps the fabric of space. This causes
background light to bend around it, converging on our
eyes another four billion light years away. From behind
the cluster, the light from distant galaxies is stretched,
magnified, distorted, and bent into arcs and multiple
images: a classic example of strong gravitational lensing.
But in a subtler fashion, the less optimally aligned galaxies are distorted as well; they are stretched into elliptical
shapes along concentric circles surrounding the cluster.
A visual inspection yields more of these tangential alignments than radial ones in the cluster field, while the parallel field exhibits no such shape distortion. This effect,
known as weak gravitational lensing, is a very powerful
technique for obtaining galaxy cluster masses independent of any other conditions. In this serendipitous image,
both types of lensing can be discerned by the naked
eye. When the James Webb Space Telescope launches in
2018, gravitational lensing may well empower us to see
all the way back to the very first stars and galaxies.
The most massive compact, bound structures in the
universe are galaxy clusters that are hundreds or even
thousands of times the mass of the Milky Way. One of
them, Abell S1063, was the target of a recent set of Hubble Space Telescope observations as part of the Frontier
Fields program. While the Advanced Camera for Surveys instrument imaged the cluster, another instrument,
the Wide Field Camera 3, used an optical trick to image
a parallel field, offset by just a few arc minutes. Then the
technique was reversed, giving us an unprecedentedly
deep view of two closely aligned fields simultaneously,
with wavelengths ranging from 435 to 1600 nanometers.
If you’re interested in teaching kids about how these
large telescopes see, be sure to see our article on this topic at the NASA Space Place:
Galaxy cluster Abell S1063 (left) as imaged with the Hubble Space Telescope as part of the Frontier
Fields program. The distorted images of the background galaxies are a consequence of the warped
space dues to Einstein’s general relativity; the parallel field (right) shows no such effects. Image credit:
NASA, ESA and Jennifer Lotz (STScI)
This article is provided by NASA Space Place.
With articles, activities, crafts, games, and lesson plans, NASA Space Place encourages everyone to get excited about science and technology.
Visit to explore space and Earth science!
Hubble discovers rare fossil relic
of early Milky Way
(The image used for the October OBSERVER Banner)
A fossilised remnant of the early Milky Way harbouring stars of hugely different
ages has been revealed by an international team of astronomers. This stellar system resembles a globular cluster, but is like no other cluster known. It contains
stars remarkably similar to the most ancient stars in the Milky Way and bridges
the gap in understanding between our galaxy’s past and its present.
Terzan 5, 19 000 light-years from Earth, has been classified as a globular cluster
for the forty-odd years since its detection. Now, an Italian-led team of astronomers have discovered that Terzan 5 is like no other globular cluster known.
Image credit: NASA, ESA
More Information can be found at:
The Observer is the monthly
Astronomers, Inc. (TSA), a
501(c)(3) non-profit organization
founded in 1985. The purpose of
the TSA is to educate the public
about the science of astronomy in
Maryland, Pennsylvania and West
Virginia. The group conducts
educational outreach events for the
public, as well as a monthly meeting
on the 3rd Wednesday of each
month from September through
May and a variety of informal
observing sessions.
TSA Officers
Chairwoman...............Vicki George
Secretary .......................Chris Stitley
Treasurer ..................... Chris Kopco
Outreach .................. Dan Kaminsky
Newsletter......................Mike Sager
Webmaster ............... Andy Smetzer
Contact Information
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Youth (<18) ............................ $15
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