Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TONY was a Good Man...

Tony Dralle, PhD. (Physics), of Leprechaun Dr. in Bethel Park PA; lately of the Asbury Heights complex on Bower Hill Rd…


Tony passed this morning. 
Tony was a good man.

I’ve known him as fellow astronomy enthusiast and have been seeing him at our local astronomy club almost every month for the last 43 years. Over its history, our membership was never large, averaging 5 or 6 people, and for many years it seemed that we could only be sure that at the meetings there would at least be Erik B., Tony, and myself (EricC.).

That constancy and his gentle but fundamental decency were the hallmarks of Tony’s character to me. It was through Tony I learned that two people can maintain very different political opinions and still not let that ever get in the way of the mutual appreciation for each other’s basic goodness. Throughout my life I had always referenced Tony’s manner in that area as the very definition of “gentlemanly” conduct.

Tony loved astronomy and in the 60’s contributed a stream of his own careful backyard observations of the changing brightness of variable stars to the AAVSO, the national organization that compiles that work for the use of professional astronomers. He was always an eager contributor to our discussions on telescopes and observing techniques and his observations of the latest apparitions of the moon and planets, comets, and stellar phenomena. He owned several large telescopes and often brought them out to our public star parties to show kids and their families the wonders of the nighttime sky.

He also loved jokes; the cornier the better, and it seemed that hardly a month would go by without him stopping the conversation, barely masking the wry expression on his face that portended what was to come. We knew it was coming, and we always looked forward to it.

Tony was a lifelong Roman Catholic and held his spirituality close to his heart, living it as a quiet example of how a good Christian relates to his God and others. I always imagined that Tony’s broad knowledge of Physics and Astronomy only further enriched his spiritual appreciation for the Universe; of this I’m certain.

Like most of us he had his share of heartbreak; troubles, the details of which he rarely acknowledged to us but would on occasion, to at least clue us in to the current challenge he was dealing with. It was only a couple years ago that we stood with him before his son’s coffin at Henney’s Funeral home in Bethel Park as he bore up under the harshest of burdens ever visited upon a parent.

And so it is that we will join him there one last time, and remember him every time we look up at the stars.

Eric Canali   7/26/2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SUMMER SKIES 2016


Here's a short list of celestial options for those in the South Hills this summer of 2016...

STAR PARTY NIGHTS at MINGO PARK OBSERVATORY:


July 8 & 9, 
August 12 & 13, 
September 23 & 24, 
October 21 & 22, 
November 12.

You can visit the Mingo Observatory without a reservation any clear Friday or Saturday night, April through October - BUT - the nights listed above are worth considering because of their optimal dates relative to the Moon's phase and the number of extra telescopes available and the added programming planned for those nights

------------------------------

METEOR SHOWERS for the remainder of 2016:

MORE DETAIL and many more links are available on our "ASTRO-LINKS" page.

--------------------

A simplified MAP to the MINGO OBSERVATORY:


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Choosing a First Telescope?

This morning I got an email forwarded to me that asked:

"I wonder if you might have a recommendation on a telescope that I can get my nine year old son for his birthday?"


This is how I replied.:

"It’s hard to make a good choice and still
meet the expectations of a 9 year old…

----------------
EXPECTATION: 
It’s gotta “look” like a telescope…

Like this? >>

















<< but those are not the best use of $200.

Above is  a “refractor”-style telecope (i.e. the “spyglass” type with a lens up-front);

The other kind, the “reflector” (below) is less familiar in appearance but typically gives
you much more telescope per dollar since they have a larger diameter element
as the primary optical collector, in this case not a lens, but rather, a mirror…













<< a “reflector” telescope  = more scope per dollar...
-------------------------
EXPECTATION:  
It’s gotta give HUNDREDS-“X” of power…

Er, nope.
If it can do powers from 30x up to around 90 or 100x –that’s all you really need.
((We advanced hobbyists do 90% of our observing time around 60x. Really!))

---------------------------------
EXPECTATION:  
It’s gotta have all kinds of technical doo-dads and computer controls…

Not really. The computer control options can make something that’s a little
challenging, initially, into something that’s often a frustrating dead-end for
many kids. Keep it simple and put your money into a scope of a bigger-diameter
and having a solid, easy to use mounting without the computer stuff.
While they can be fun for some technically inclined folks, computer controlled
“Go-To” setups are absolutely unnecessary in a general sense.
--------------------------------------------------------

--------- SUGGESTION ------------------------

one of the most highly recommended “beginner” scopes:
- Eric C.
============================ 
OH, and PS:

If you think this is a good "first scope" for your kid - - or for yourself...
then consider if this would be a good "first car" for your kid  - - or yourself...



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Friday July 11th 2014 Annual STARGAZING program at SOUTH PARK

Friday, JULY 11th, 2014:  9-PM to midnight 
at the South Park WAVE POOL PARKING LOT...




Our annual STARGAZING program for the South Park Nature program...
Eric Canali's been doing this program for South Park since the mid 1980's and in recent years Erik and Tony have become indispensable additions to to the event.

We'll have a number of different types of telescopes and, weather permitting, we'll be looking at SATURN, MARS, and the MOON and a host of star clusters and nebulae as well as lots of first-hand instruction on learning your way around the sky including how the sky "works" and which constellations are up and where to look.

Those of you who need help are welcome to bring your own scopes and we'll help you with learning how to setup and use them too.


=========================================== 

Well... yuck. As it turned out, it wasn't cloudy but it was very humid and the light of the full moon was so well conducted through the moisture in the air that everything in the sky except the Moon, Mars and Saturn were kept at such a low contrast factor that they were almost invisible to the naked eye. So, all the cool stuff we could have done with finding constellations and deep sky objects was largely a no-go... Regardless, the attendees all got excellent views of the Moon, Mars, and Saturn

THERE'S PLENTY OF GOOD OBSERVING LEFT THIS SUMMER AND FALL ...
and more on our ASTRO-LINKS page.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Unearthly Spirals in the Sky?

Some of the strangest things you'll ever see in the sky are not necessarily UFO's.

Just do a Google image-search on the term Norway sky spiralor just sky spiral and you’ll get tons of photos from the Dec. 9, 2009 event seen by hundreds in the sky over Norway. Oh, and by the way, you may end up on some very strange websites... so be warned.




As unbelievably strange and Photoshopped as those images seem – that’s exactly what these events look like. What you are seeing is not cumulative time-smeared imagery, these portray immediate "snapshots" of the effect of a moment's glance at the sky....

I can say so, because I have seen one myself.


And as I said above, that's exactly what they look like. The night was Aug.12, 1986 and I was doing one of my annual public Stargazing presentations for the South Park Nature Program...  It was the night of the Perseid Meteor shower and we had 25 witnesses at our event, including John Doyle, the park naturalist. Of course, being the night of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, many hundreds of folks all over the eastern United States were already watching the sky that night and saw the (8/12/1986) event also. 

- For full details of that event, see this excellent article by 

JAMES OBERG
author of several  fascinating histories of the American and Russian space programs...  

EXPLANATION:

Sorry, UFO / Conspiracy enthusiasts,  there are few if any unknowns here...

1.) A rocket is launched to insert a satellite into orbit...

2.) Upon the rocket reaching orbital speed and altitude, its payload is released into orbit.

3.) Either if successful in it's attempt to achieve #2., or not, the booster's remaining fuel is released ("vented") at a specific moment with the intent of slowing the booster and thereby causing the booster to drop out of orbit and fall harmlessly into the ocean.

4.) As the fuel is released (un-ignited) and with guidance systems and stabilizing jets no longer effective, the booster spins wildly as the fuel sprays out into the vacuum of space. The rarified vapor from the fuel expands exponentially and disperses in a cloud which rapidly spreads over an area of literally dozens (hundreds?) of miles and it's of such an altitude that, if the timing is right, its effects can be seen illuminated by the Sun's light although the area on the ground below from which it's being observed may already have been rolled over into the Earth's shadow (nighttime) for several hours. 


If this had happened against a sunlit sky over the daylight side of the Earth (or much later at night and therefore completely within the Earth's shadow) the event would have been invisible.
(c) 2013 Eric Canali 
========================================================
ADDENDUM   re the 2009 Norway event, from:
 http://www.universetoday.com/47219/what-was-the-norway-spiral/#ixzz2ajC2VvyI
“ UPDATE ( Dec. 10. 2009):

    Russia has finally admitted a missile accident with the Bulava ICBM. 
This rocket already has failed six of 13 previous tests, according to the BBC, 
so Russia might have been a little embarrassed about it.
    In what seems to confirm a rocket launch, yesterday, 

a message from NAVTEX was issued message warning airplanes not to fly, 
and ships not to sail in that area :
          ZCZC FA79
          031230 UTC DEC 09
          COASTAL WARNING ARKHANGELSK 94
          SOUTHERN PART WHITE SEA
          1.ROCKET LAUNCHING 2300 07 DEC TO 0600 08 DEC
          09 DC 0200 TO 0900 10 DEC 0100 TO 0900
          NAVIGATION PROHIBITED IN AREA "

==========================================================

 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

2013 ANNUAL STARGAZING NIGHT at the South Park WAVE POOL

Friday, JULY 12th9-PM to midnight 
at the South Park WAVE POOL PARKING LOT...




Our annual STARGAZING program for the South Park Nature program...
Eric Canali's been doing this program for South Park since the mid 1980's and in recent years Erik and Tony have become indispensable additions to to the event.

We'll have a number of different types of telescopes and, weather permitting, we'll be looking at Saturn, and the Moon and a host of star clusters and nebulae as well as lots of first-hand instruction on learning your way around the sky including how the sky "works" and which constellations are up and where to look.

Those of you who need help are welcome to bring your own scopes and we'll help you with learning how to setup and use them too.


=========================================== 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS over the South Hills

Comet PanSTARRS has arrived in our skies. It's one of the nicest
we've had in the last couple years but will require clear skies and
a low, unobstructed view of the northwest horizon.

Keep up with the latest observing info on S&T's page:

http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/home/185665152.html

What to expect...
HERE'S MY NOTES from my first view of the comet:

It took until around 8:15 PM EDT before I could pick it up. Sunset was around 7:26 or so; beautiful clear sky but a full 12 degrees or more of horizon-murk persisted the whole time. It was only about 8 degrees off the horizon when I located it and about 5-10 degrees north of due west. 


I was using my 20x80 Celestron Binocs on heavy studio-style photo-tripod. Observing site: my 3rd floor window at my home along the ridgetop of Brookline. My view from that window gives me nearly 180 degrees of unobstructed SW/W/NW horizon which I confirmed as virtually Zero-degrees altitude by using a finely graduated pendulum-protractor squared on the center-axle  of my 20x80's. 


 Watched it dim in and out as the layers of horizon-murk passed between me and it. Tracked it down to just under 5 degrees. I can't imagine that dark-sky sites would be worth the trouble; far more important here will be skies that run dead-clear down from 10 degrees through the last 5 degrees to the horizon. 


Looks like a comet, albeit wedge-shaped, not just a fuzz-patch.


Assessing it from this session vs. the published maps, I'd say looking for it will -remain- as challenging as this and will continue to require nights as clear as tonight and better, of course the (unlikely) occurrence of less horizon-murk would call for "exceptional" skies. I say "remain challenging" since the maps indicate that it's not due to climb much higher but instead simply creep northward through the coming weeks. 


 - ERIC C. @Thurs. March 14th, 2013