Observe Comet PanSTARRS on Saturday

telescope clipartExperienced comet hunters from the York County Astronomical Society are inviting the public to view Comet PanSTARRS, 7:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday at their John C. Rudy County Park observatory.

The comet will emerge from the sun’s glare low in the twilight, but the event will only be held if it is clear or partly cloudy out.

If the weather is questionable, call (717) 578-9109 for notice of any late cancellation. If it is clear or mostly clear, the activity will occur as scheduled. If it is completely cloudy, raining or snowing, the activity will be cancelled.

For directions to the observatory or information about other YCAS events, visit www.ycas.org.

Read More

Three shows in March at York planetarium

telescope clipartThe York County Astronomical Society will present three shows on Friday, March 8, at the York Learning Center planetarium, 300 E. 6th Ave., North York.

7 p.m.: “Max Goes to the Moon” — Max (the dog) and a young girl named Tori take the first trip to the Moon since the Apollo era. Along the way, the story sets the stage for sophisticated science topics — all thoughtfully explained so that grownups and children can learn together.

7:40 p.m.: “StarWatch” — Become a star watcher by exploring the current night sky, locate visible constellations, and enjoy some sky lore. Receive a star map and get answers to commonly asked questions.

8:20 p.m.: “The Planets” — Tour through the solar system and fascinating, recently-discovered sights in this program narrated by Kate Mulgrew of “Star Trek Voyager” fame.

Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Admission to any second or third show is $1 each.

Read More

Planetarium shows spotlight the solar system

telescope clipartThe York County Astronomical Society will present three planetarium shows on Friday, Jan. 11, at the York Learning Center, 300 E. 6th Ave., North York.

Winter Wonders looks at the time of the winter solstice, the point where the noontime sun is lowest in the sky. Join Jackie and Michelle, two teenage girls, as they hear about the Christian and Jewish religious events during this time of year. In addition, the girls learn about celebrations and rituals of many other cultures that originate from solstice observances. We also look at some of our more light-hearted traditions: gift-giving and decking the halls with candles and greenery. This program includes a look at some of the solstice customs of some of the peoples of central Africa, China, Native Americans, the Inuit, and the Incas to name a few. We conclude by looking at some of the monuments that have been built by prehistoric peoples to the winter solstice. Winter Wonders is a great holiday program for families.

StarWatch allows you to become a star watcher by exploring the current night sky, locating visible constellations, and enjoying some sky lore.

The Planets is a tour through the solar system and fascinating, recently-discovered sights. It is narrated by Kate Mulgrew of “Star Trek Voyager” fame.

Times are 7, 7:40 and 8:20 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors for one show, and $1 for each additional show.

For more information, visit www.ycas.org.

Read More

Learn how to use your new telescope at free YCAS clinic

The York County Astronomical Society will conduct a New Telescope Clinic, 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 29, at the John C. Rudy County Park observatory.

Did you get a new telescope recently or discover an unused one in your attic? Experience has shown that the first night out with a new telescope can be daunting as you try to perform all the initial setup work required. Consequently, many new telescopes are used only once or twice, then never again due to frustration.

Bring your telescope and all the items that came with it (including batteries, if required, and the instruction manual). We will check out your telescope, help you align the finder scope, show you how your telescope works, and help you with some initial observations of the sky (clear skies permitting). Afterwards, take home a free Star Chart to help you continue your exploration of the nighttime sky.

This is a FREE clinic and will be offered even if it is cloudy, but will be cancelled if it is snowing. Please dress appropriately for the weather. Call the YCAS hotline at (717) 578–9109 or check http://www.ycas.org for more information.

Read More

YCAS to present three planetarium shows on Dec. 14

Learn how to find the planets and constellations visible in York’s December night sky during three shows presented by the York County Astronomical Society, Dec. 14 in the York Learning Center planetarium, 300 E. 6th Ave., North York.

– Max Goes to the Moon (7 p.m.): Max (the dog) and a young girl named Tori take the first trip to the moon since the Apollo era. Along the way, the story sets the stage for the more sophisticated science of the topics: phases of the moon, wings in space and Frisbees and curve balls on the moon — all thoughtfully explained so that grownups and children can learn together about science. Toward the end, Max and Tori’s trip proves so inspiring to people back on Earth that all the nations of the world come together to build a great moon colony from which “the beautiful views of Earth from the moon made everyone realize that we all share a small and precious planet.”

– StarWatch (7:40 p.m.): Become a star watcher by exploring the current night sky, locate visible constellations, and enjoy some sky lore. Receive a star map and get answers to frequently asked questions,

– Winter Wonders (8:20 p.m.): This show looks at the time of the winter solstice, the point where the noontime sun is lowest in the sky. Join Jackie and Michelle, two teenage girls, as they hear about the Christian and Jewish religious events during this time of year. In addition, the girls learn about celebrations and rituals of many other cultures that originate from solstice observances. We also look at some of our more light-hearted traditions: gift-giving and decking the halls with candles and greenery. This program includes a look at some of the solstice customs of some of the peoples of central Africa, China, Native Americans, the Inuit, and the Incas to name a few. It concludes by looking at some of the monuments that have been built by prehistoric peoples to the winter solstice. Winter Wonders is a great holiday program for families.

Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Admission to any second or third show is $1 each.

Read More

Three shows at North York planetarium

In the early evening sky, Jupiter shines brightly in the East. Learn how to find the planets and
constellations that are visible in York’s November night sky during three shows Nov. 9 at the York Learning Center planetarium, 300 E. 6th Ave., North York. The programs are presented by the York County Astronomical Society.

– Winter Wonders, 7 p.m.: This show looks at the time of the winter solstice, the point where the noontime sun is lowest in the sky. Join Jackie and Michelle, two teenage girls, as they hear about the Christian and Jewish religious events during this time of year. In addition, the girls learn about celebrations and rituals of many other cultures that originate from solstice observances. We also look at some of our more light-hearted traditions: gift-giving and decking the halls with candles and greenery. This program includes a look at some of the solstice customs of some of the peoples of central Africa, China, Native Americans, the Inuit, and the Incas to name a few. We conclude by looking at some of the monuments that have been built by prehistoric peoples to the winter solstice. Winter Wonders is a great holiday program for families.

– StarWatch, 7:40 p.m.: Become a star watcher by exploring the current night sky, locate visible planets and constellations, and enjoy some sky lore.

– New Telescope Clinic, 8:20 p.m.: Are you planning to buy or just considering buying a new astronomical telescope for the holidays – for your family or for yourself? Experience has shown that purchasing the wrong telescope to fit your viewing or budgetary needs can result in frustrations that might result using your new acquisition only once or twice, then never again. To help get you started properly, the York County Astronomical Society is offering a New Telescope Clinic to help you discover what will make a good beginning telescope for you, what additional equipment you will need to maximize your enjoyment, and where and how to shop.

Admission is $4 for adults and $3 for children and seniors. Admission to a second show is $1 each. Admission to the telescope clinic is free with seating on a first come, first seated basis.

Read More

Have an astronomical day at Rudy Park

The York County Astronomical Society will offer a day of activities for children and adults and a night of public observing on Saturday, Oct. 20, at John C. Rudy County Park.

Activities from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Rudy Park observatory are:
– Radio Astronomy – listen to the mysterious sounds of the Universe using a small radio telescope.
– Solar Observing – safely observe the Sun through various types of telescopes.
– Solar System Walk – help us build a scale model of the Solar System.
– Learn how to use your telescope – daytime is the best for learning how to use that telescope gathering dust at home. Bring the telescope, any accessories and instructions to get help from experienced astronomers.
– Catrina Hamilton, Dickinson College professor of physics and astronomy, will present a talk about the discovery of planets around other stars, 2 p.m.

Then, return to the park at 7 p.m. for a three-hour observing session. See all that the October sky has to offer. Bring your own telescope or view through the society’s telescopes.

Both programs are free. The daytime program will be held rain-or-shine. Solar activities will only be offered if it is not cloudy. The evening observing session will only be offered if it is clear or partly cloudy. Call the YCAS Hotline at (717) 578-9109 or check www.ycas.org after 5 p.m. on the day of the event if the weather is questionable.

For more information, visit www.ycas.org.

Read More

Looking for that spot called Venus

A young boy uses a pair of binoculars with special filters, to observe the transit of Venus at the National Science Museum in Gwacheon, south of Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, June 6, 2012. It's important to remember to NEVER look at the sun through binoculars unless they have special lenses attached. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)


Filtering the sun’s light to a minuscule fraction of its true power allowed sky-gazers around the world to watch a silhouetted Venus travel across Earth’s closest star, an extremely rare spectacle that served as a reminder of how tiny our planet really is.

After all, the next transit is 105 years away — likely beyond all of our lifetimes but just another dinky speck in the timeline of the universe.

“I’m sad to see Venus go,” electrical engineer Andrew Cooper of the W.M. Keck Observatory told viewers watching a webcast of the transit’s final moments as seen from the nearly 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Kea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island.

From Maui to Mumbai, Mexico to Norway, much of the world watched the 6-hour, 40-minute celestial showcase through special telescopes, live streams on the Internet or with the naked eye through cheap cardboard glasses.

“If you can see the mole on Cindy Crawford’s face, you can see Venus,” Van Webster, a member of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society, told those who stopped by his telescope for a peek on Mount Hollywood.

For astronomers, the transit wasn’t just a rare planetary spectacle. It was also one of those events they hoped would spark curiosity about the universe and our place in it.

Sul Ah Chim, a researcher in South Korea, said he hoped people see life from a larger perspective and “not get caught up in their small, everyday problems.”

“When you think about it from the context of the universe, 105 years is a very short period of time and the Earth is only a small, pale blue spot,” he said.

The transit began just after 6 p.m. EDT in the United States. What observers could see and for how long depended on their region’s exposure to the sun during that exact window of time, and the weather.

Looking up:
Those in most areas of North and Central America saw the start of the transit until sunset, while those in western Asia, the eastern half of Africa and most of Europe could catch the transit’s end once the sun came up.

Hawaii, Alaska, eastern Australia and eastern Asia, including Japan, North and South Korea and eastern China, get the whole show since the entire transit happens during daylight in those regions.

While astronomers used the latest technology to document the transit, American astronaut Don Pettit aboard the International Space Station was planning to take photos of the event and post them online.

Online streams with footage from telescopes around the world proved popular for NASA and other observatories. A NASA stream midway through the transit had nearly 2 million total views and was getting roughly 90,000 viewers at any given moment.

Vision warnings: Meanwhile, terrestrial stargazers were warned to only look at the celestial event with a properly filtered telescope or cardboard eclipse glasses. If the sun is viewed directly, permanent eye damage could result.

Roy Gal, an assistant astronomer at the University of Hawaii, told those viewing the transit at Waikiki Beach on Oahu that the telescopes were filtered to block all but 1/100th of 1 percent of the sun’s light, plus all its infrared rays to keep the instruments from overheating.

“What we need to do is block out most of the light from the sun so that we don’t go blind and we don’t melt things,” Gal said in an interview.

Telescopes with special filters were set up next to the lawn and people took turns peering at the sun before and during the transit. Astronomers and volunteers lectured about the rarity of a Venus pass to anyone who would listen.

Song:
Minutes before Venus first touched the outer edge of the sun, they blared Sousa’s “Transit Of Venus March.” The crowd turned their attention skyward.

Jamie Jetton took the day off from work to bring her two nephews, 6 and 11, visiting from Arizona, to the observatory. Sporting eclipse glasses, it took a little while before they spotted Venus.

“I’m still having fun. It’s an experience. It’s something we’ll talk about for the rest of our lives,” she said.

Bo Tan, a 32-year-old software engineer took a half day off from work and went with his co-workers to the observatory. He admitted he wasn’t an astronomy buff but could not miss this opportunity.

He pointed his eclipse glasses at the sun and steadied his Nikon camera behind it to snap pictures.

“It makes you feel like a small speck in the universe,” he said.

Clouds obscured the view in Tokyo, but students and other viewers under clearer skies in southern and western Japan were seen on TV using dark lenses to gaze at the sun. One child remarked that it looked as if the “sun had a mole on its face.”

In Mexico, at least 100 people lined up two hours early to view the event through telescopes or one of the 150 special viewing glasses on hand, officials said. Observation points were also set up at a dozen locations.

The planet: Venus, which is extremely hot, is one of Earth’s two neighbors and is so close in size to our planet that scientists at times call them near-twins. During the transit, it will appear as a small dot.

It was the seventh transit visible since German astronomer Johannes Kepler first predicted the phenomenon in the 17th century. Because of the shape and speed of Venus’ orbit around the sun and its relationship to Earth’s annual trip, transits occur in pairs separated by more than a century.

It’s nowhere near as dramatic and awe-inspiring as a total solar eclipse, which sweeps a shadow across the Earth, but there will be six more of those this decade.

One view: Some observers at the University of Alaska, Anchorage gathered on a campus rooftop, peering at Venus through special filtered glasses and telescopes.

“It’s not really spectacular when you’re looking at it,” Kellen Tyrrell, 13, said. “It’s just the fact that I’m here seeing it. It’s just so cool that I get to experience it.”

Staring at the sun: Most people don’t tend to gaze at the sun for long periods of time because it’s painful and people instinctively look away. But there’s the temptation to stare at it during sky shows like solar eclipses or transits of Venus.

The eye has a lens and if you stare at the sun, it concentrates sunlight on the retina and can burn a hole through it. It’s similar to when you hold a magnifying glass under the blazing sun and light a piece of paper on fire.

It can take several hours for people to notice problems with their eyes but, by that time, the damage is done and, in some cases, irreversible.

During the 1970 solar eclipse visible from the eastern U.S., 145 burns of the retina were reported, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Planet Venus, pictured as a black dot, left, is seen in transit across the sun near the Victory Tower in Chittorgarh, India, Wednesday, June 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Atish Aman)


———

Reported by OSKAR GARCIA of the Associated Press from HONOLULU, Hawaii.
He can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/oskargarciaContributing to this report are AP Science Writer Alicia Chang in Los Angeles; and Associated Press writers Rachel D’Oro in Anchorage, Kelvin Chan in Hong Kong and Hye Soo Nah in Seoul, Nasr ul Hadi in New Delhi and Noel Waghorn in Takoma Park, Md.

Read More

View the May sky Saturday at Rudy Park

The York County Astronomical Society will conduct a free public observing Starwatch, 8:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday, May 12, at the John C. Rudy County Park observatory.

View the May sky through one of the YCAS telescopes, with experienced members to guide you on a tour of celestial wonders, including stars, planets, nebulae, and the moon. You are also invited to bring your own telescope and share your experiences with other amateur astronomers. Star Charts are available to help your exploration of the nighttime sky. The event will only be held if it is clear or partly cloudy out.

If the weather is questionable, call (717) 578-9109 for notice of any late cancellation. If it is clear or mostly clear, the activity will occur as scheduled. If it is completely cloudy or raining, the event will be cancelled.

For directions, visit www.ycas.org/directions.htm. The observatory is inside the park, not at the park administrative headquarters.

Read More