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POV Special – The City Dark – PBS Premiere July 5th (Online July 6 – August 5)

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Prof. John McMahon sent along the following announcement well before an actual commercial made its way to my airwaves:

Ian Cheney’s highly-acclaimed documentary “The City Dark” about the loss of the night sky will air on PBS’s program “POV” (Point of View) this July 5.

Please disseminate this info to those you know, both astro-types and others … since public awareness of light pollution’s numerous adverse effects is the first step to reducing it.

The special airs on WCNY-TV at 10 p.m. on July 5th, 2 a.m. on WCNY-2, and at the POV website through August 5th.

More information about this documentary can be found at the PBS POV website, www.pbs.org/pov/citydark/.

Is darkness becoming extinct? When filmmaker Ian Cheney moves from rural Maine to New York City and discovers streets awash in light and skies devoid of stars, he embarks on a journey to America’s brightest and darkest corners, asking astronomers, cancer researchers and ecologists what is lost in the glare of city lights. Blending a humorous, searching narrative with poetic footage of the night sky, The City Dark provides a fascinating introduction to the science of the dark and an exploration of our relationship to the stars.

I’ve included the youtube preview of this documentary below:

The issue of light pollution is never far from the minds of amateur astronomers at Darling Hill Observatory, as our Northern (Syracuse), Southern (Cortland), and Eastern (a particularly bright auto dealership) Horizons have all been negatively impacted.

If this documentary shines particularly bright to you, note that there are organizations actively engaged in dark sky/light pollution issues. These include the International Dark-Sky Association and SELENE-NY.

Astrophotography Highlights From The London Chess Classic, 7 December 2011

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles,

Passing along an interesting link (and note) sent by Steve Capp, SAS Member and reigning king of the Darling Hill Big Dobsonian owners (and the last amateur astronomer you want to play chess against on an overcast night). Embedded here are a few images from the great read at chessbase.com.

Dr. Christian Sasse, Vishy Anand, John Nunn at the astronomy session.

Being a chess player, I have been following a world class chess tournament in London this week. One Grandmaster from London (Dr John Nunn) along with the world champion (Viswanathan Anand) are really interested in astronomy.

John Nunn’s image of Rho Ophiuchus Nebula. Click HERE for a larger version.

During the tournament yesterday, after round four, they gave a lecture along with Dr Christian Sasse on astronomy. It’s pretty good. The first part of the talk is about the images that John has taken and then it moves more into the equipment and software. World Champion Viswanathan Anand has taken up imaging which I found cool.

The site is: http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=7739

New York Center for Astrobiology – 2012 Astrobiology Short Story Contest

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Greetings (younger) fellow astrophiles!

I am pleased to announce that the New York Center for Astrobiology is sponsoring a writing contest for 9th – 12th graders. A brief overview of the contest is below, with the complete list of rules, story proposals, and lots of extraterrestrial parameters included in the linked PDF you can find at:


NOTE: I urge you to have wikipedia open as you read the two plots. Some good explanations and a whole lot of potential inspiration lies within!

This contest is sponsored by the New York Center for Astrobiology, a member of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute program, headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY. The New York Center for Astrobiology at RPI also involves scientists at the University at Albany (SUNY), Syracuse University, and the University at Arizona. The multi-disciplinary team of scientists from these four institutions is working to better understand the origin and distribution of life on Earth and on other planets in the Galaxy. For more information about the New York Center for Astrobiology, please visit its website at www.origins.rpi.edu


> An award ceremony will occur in early May 2012 for students, teachers, and parents with scientists and high school teachers associated with the New York Center for Astrobiology

> $200 for each of the best stories (up to 4 to be selected)

> An interview with the winning authors on WAMC Northeast Public Radio in Albany, NY

About the Contest

> Open to all students in grades 9-12 from Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. Eligible students within that grade-range can be from public schools, private schools, and home schools.

> One entry per student. Entries must be authored by one individual only.

> Entries must have a minimum of 500 words to a maximum of 1600 words. The format must be double-spaced; 12-point font; 1-inch margins. Graphs, images, tables, and citations are optional, and would not count toward the length-limit.

> If sent by mail, entries must be post-marked no later than Friday, March 2, 2012. If sent electronically (pdf and doc files), the entry must be received no later than 5:00 PM EST on Friday, March 2, 2012. Results of the contest will be announced by mid-April 2012.

> Entries will be assessed by a team of (i) high school teachers with expertise in the sciences, literature, and the arts, and (ii) scientists associated with the New York Center for Astrobiology.

The short stories can range from being highly scientific to being fictional. The intent is to select up to two entries per Story Option, in which one may be highly scientific and the other may be highly fictional. In both instances, each would have been judged to be of outstanding quality. The contest-organizers fully recognize that the assessment criteria (described on page 3) will yield disparate scores for these two styles of short story. That range of scores will be calibrated by the team of reviewers.

To Enter

Mail a printout of your entry with the cover sheet to the following address: Prof. John W. Delano; Associate Director, New York Center for Astrobiology; Dept. of Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences; 1400 Washington Avenue; University at Albany; Albany, NY 12222 Alternatively, you can submit your entry as an e-mail attachment (.doc or .pdf) to Prof. John Delano at the following address: jdelano@albany.edu


For questions about this contest, please contact Professor John Delano by either telephone (518-442-4479) or e-mail (jdelano@albany.edu).

Kopernik Observatory & Science Center Winter Star Party – Saturday, 28 January 2012

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

Greetings fellow astrophiles!

The Kopernik Observatory & Science Center is hosting a Winter Star Party this coming Saturday, January 28. Information from the flyer is provided below (and the PDF of the flyer is available for download). For information call (607) 748-3685 or visit www.kopernik.org.

Is Astronomy really better in the Winter? Find out what happened this past year in the world of astronomy. Learn about meteors and meteor showers and learn about dark matter theories and how they affect our understanding of the Universe.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

5:30 PM: Kopernik Observatory Members-Only Reception (coffee & donuts provided)
6:00 PM: Astronomy: The Year in Review
7:00 PM: Meteorites
8:00 PM: Dark Matter Halos – Discrepancy Between Simulations & Observations


Our understanding of the Universe continues to expand almost as rapidly as the Universe itself. Dr. Nicholas Guydosh of the Kopernik Observatory & Science Center will present a “Year in Review” of some of the latest Astronomical discoveries and images.

An estimated 500 meteorites reach the Earth’s surface each year. These visitors from space bring with them a wealth of knowledge from our solar system. Patrick Manley, of the Kopernik Astronomical Society, will display his meteorite collection for viewing. Come join us to learn about meteorites, their origins, what they are made of, what wonderful secrets they hide inside. Discussions will cover the basics of identification of meteorites and meteor-wrongs as well as meteorite hunting practices. Please feel free to bring in your suspected finds for a brief visual assessment.

Many discrepancies exist between simulations of dark matter halos and observations of galaxies. Betsey Adams, a PhD candidate at Cornell University, will present some of her current research which involves finding the lowest mass, gas-rich, galaxies using data taken at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. One of the most well known discrepancies is the mismatch in the number of dark matter halos versus galaxies. In order to reconcile the discrepancies many solutions have been proposed; from a loss of the luminous matter from the dark matter halos to a modification of dark matter. Various solutions will be discussed revealing the current consensus.

After the programs, if it is clear, view Venus, Jupiter, the Moon, the Orion Nebula, double stars and a multitude of deep-sky objects through Kopernik’s powerful telescopes. When you need to warm up you can come back inside our warm building and visit our computer room to run night sky simulation software and build a 3D glow-in-the dark constellation. See on-going demonstrations of our 3D imaging Geowall and Ham Radio Satellite Station.


Kopernik Members: Free
$5.00 Adults
$3.00 Students/Seniors
$16.00 family maximum