Thursday, August 24, 2006

On public outreach

When surfing the web about astronomy public outreach, I came across CAP2005, Communicating Astronomy with the Public. CAP2005 has made available talks, slides, and other material for public consumption.

Interestingly, under heading "Plenary Session 5: Innovations" is a presentation written by S&T editor Dr. Rick Feinberg & Night Sky editor Kelly Beatty, Using the Night Sky to Cultivate Public Interest in Astronomy. Download
abstract or the PowerPoint presentation.

The presenation speaks about the astronomy community known of their readership and through interaction with dealers and spectators. They go onto speak if the challenges taht exist and how they have responded to increase appreciation and reach (sales). For instance here they offer up an illustration of their average reader:
  • 10% beginner
  • 50% amateur
  • 35% advanced amateur
  • 5% professional
  • Owns 2+ telescopes
  • Owns 2+ binoculars
  • Observes regularly
I was surprised that the readership is only 108,000 paid subscriptions. I would have thought it greater. That in itself makes me think that S&T has to be agile with slim resources. Who knows they may be doing better in the other areas of there domain like retail.

My experience - go out and share the views with the public. I've yet to see anyone disappointed.

Sky & Telescope & Me

Sometime in summer of 2002 I purchased an annual subscription to Sky and Telescope. Late this summer I passed on renewal.

As a newstand buyer my interest in astronomy grew to warrant creating a feeling of anticipation with the mail each month. I subscribed. Each month I'd pull the rolled up magazine from the tiny apartment mailbox careful not to tear any of the edges. After ripping off the clear plastic wrap off I first looked to the cover and then the table of contents to see what topic Gary Seronik's column on would cover about amateur telescope making. I am a penultimate armchair ATM'er with 2 incomplete projects collecting dust, and am easily impressed by the craftmanship and engineering of others.

Well Gary's column is not a regular feature and obviously S&T determined that amateur telescope making is passe. Like families gathering round the radio in the sitting room, it's an era past. Names of other early ATM evangelists like Albert Ingalls, Russel Porter, and C.L. Stong come to mind (from SciAm and through re-formatting the Amatuer Scientist was lost) and in my eyes Mr. Seronik shares this distinction. However, his column is very scarce. The telescope making columnis the key differentiator for me over any of the other pubs out there and was enough for me to continue the subscription knowing that the Internet provides a goldmine.

In a queer sort of way, the subscription served as my membership card for the astronomy community.

I thought I would miss receiving each issue but the wealth of info on the web and the astronomy blogosphere have totally accounted for the little contribution that magazine offered.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sunspot 904 - Without Optical Aid

20060813 sunspot 904image credit:

After an all nighter on Saturday, Charlie and I observed sunrise. He brought his solar filter but I had forgotten mine. He mentioned how large 904 was and he mentioned that they could be large enough to observe naked eye. The sky was too clear to observe the rising Sun without any filters and he had already attached the filters to his glasses. We observed sunspot 904 in his Canon 15x bins.

So today my plan for a brief observing and sketching session of the sunspots. Holding the Baader film filter to my eyes I could see both spots in the lower left part of the solar disk, no magnification required. The larger one was obvious, the second smaller spot was not so easy but I suspected it.

Susequently, I setup the Tak bins with the Thousand Oaks solar filter for a closer look. The larger, westward spot has two large dark umbrae surrounded by an irregular penumbra. The smaller, eastward spot also consists of two umbrae surrounded by irregular shape penumbra. Each penumbra has a "taffy pull" towards the other. This is evident in the image provided by

Returning to the unaided view after using the bins, I could see the second spot with more confidence a bit to the right and higher.

Free Lunar References

There are many resources available on the web, naturally. Here are two, one I have printed and use from time to time; the other has been bookmarked and recently re-discovered. They are both large but can be downloaded in pieces. Check out their respective web pages for more info and see if they're for you.

  1. Alan Chu's Photographic Moon Book
  2. Don Wilhelms' Geologic History of the Moon (originally published as the United States Geological Survey Professional Paper 1348)

Passed on Perseids Saturday night

Click on this screenshot from Astromist for a marked up illustration.

Two nights in a row of clear skies!! Unheard of.

Yet it happened, and I passed on going to TotL or CSP to observe the Perseids. Instead I chose to observe the Moon from my daughter's bedroom window using Takahashi 22x60 bins. I have always been impressed with the Nectaris Basin, Rupes Altai, and the 3 eye catching craters: Theophilus, Cyrillus, and Catharina. I still confuse the names of these three with Ptolemaeus, Alphonsus, and Arzachel, even though they differ in size and location. Their arrangement is enough to echo one another in appearance. Also when the first smaller trio stands in relief during approaching sunset, the larger central pair is remains washed out in sunlight, their rimmed walls providing ghostly outlines to the persistent observer.

And tonight seems very promising. Might be enough to tease me out even though tomorrow morning I need to rise early.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Perseids pale to Sunset in Crisium

Session name: 20060811.2200

Friday night Charlie, Kin, and I went to Carl Schurz Park (CSP) to observe the Perseids. Actually we started at TotL with a plan to relocate around midnight to CSP because curfew in Central Park is enforced and a pain. We were clouded out anyway at TotL so we happily left around midnight to make our way to CSP. Kin left sometime between 2 ~3am, Charlie would see sunrise. At CSP, the police cruised by the entire time about once an hour, leaving us be. Safe and sound. Thank you very much.

The Perseid meteor shower paled to a waning gibbous Moon, nearly 18 days old. In my book, sunset in Mare Crisium was so fabulous that I really didn't care to look up in to the vast expanse of the New York sky. For a short period of time, I saw maybe four or five meteors within a few miuntes, over the course of the night maybe a total of 7, 8 would be strectching it. None was spectacular.

Mare Crisium features along its western rim were remarkably lit by the setting Sun as the evening terminator progresses west across the nearside of the Moon. In the northeastern United States we have Cape Cod, but here on the northeast of the lunar disk my eyes were glued to Cape Olivium and Cape Lavinium which appeared as if the open expanse between them leaked light onto the floor of Mare Crisium. Their peaks cast shadows like fangs drawing blood and creating drama in the last pool of light in the basin's interior.

Crater Yerkes and Peirce marked locations on the terminator where the western walls rose high to catch the sunlight. As they eventually capitulated to darkness there western walls persisted with reflecting light as long as they could.

This LOPAM photograph above shows crater Isidorus and craterlets: A (6mi x 6mi/10km x 10km) is interior the greater crater, F (12mi x 12mi/20km x 20km) touches the crater wall to the southeast, and K (4 mi x 4mi/7km x 7km) is detached a short distance to the southwest. Amazing that small amateur scopes can resolve such detail. The pictures don't do justice to what the eye and imagination offer. Here Isidorus with neighboring crater Capella, and the craterlets I was able to see clearly a realistic face with two eye sockets and a "Camel Joe" nose, the craterlets mentioned earlier helping make the shape.

Monday, August 07, 2006

other activities in Central Park

This weekend my daughter and I found recess in Central Park for both leisure and activity.
In the children's playgrounds cold water rained from sprinklers and ran through concrete troughs to cool our feet. These city-days are hot and humid. It was refreshing!

We entered
from the south side of the park passing by familiar grounds where I typically do daytime observing. These are mapped here. When I mention to Arissa that Papa sets up here and here...and here...and here - it's just not her dig, she shrugs and says I know you've told me. Okay. We're on our way past Heckscher Playground destined for Umpire Rock.

A map to Umpire Rock for the tourists looking for a great view of the Manhattan skyscape. For the daring, like my daughter Arissa, its northern face is known as Rat Rock to another ilk of persons. Greensward Foundation, a terrific resource with a number of free online books, including Rock Trails in Central Park.

My daughter digs rock climbing and so do I. A sport we both share a growing interest. I don't know enough yet whether to call it bouldering or climbing or if those terms are even synonomous, but you can bet if I get real with the interest I have now I'll be able to distinguish the two.

After climbing the rock outcrops we made our way up to Adventure Playground. Sheltering trees, monkey bars, and water games provided some relief from the sun and heat in the open air. Onward to
Loeb's Boathouse where we get a row boat to take on the Lake. Much to see and lotsa fun. Crashes are common, noone gets upset. Hey how often do you go rowing in NYC outside of a gym?

While on the row boat we saw some birds we've never noticed, probably fair to say we've never seen. I'm still trying to find out what kind they are. The easy way to pass the pics to a birder ;^D but that would way to easy.
A resource chock full of links concerning birds in Central Park.

Clicking the photos offers a larger view. (Mental note: Find out why these photos aren't crystal clear.)

As we rowed up to this little creature, she walked towards the right of the photo along the tree branch. Apparently she had her eye on something and the boat did not even bother her.

What caught our eye was that longish beak. Just not common when one sees so many pigeons, starlings, robins, and sparrows. Red appeared to stretch from shoulder to cheek.

This guy is large and odd looking, sort of gawky. His lower cheek or throat was fluttering away like Sach would do with his cheek on the Bowery Boys, like a flapping motion. His legs are pretty thick with webbed feet. Later we would see either this one or another submerging in the water and popping up a good distance away. Hence some strong legs to displace a lot of water as he moves through the water.