Saturday, May 14, 2022

AIR day 6

The following is a blog post from the Astronomer-In-Residence (AIR) web site, reproduced here with permission.

Day 6 blog entry.

Sat 14 May 2022: Learning the Sky

Ha, ha, when I looked at my phone, it was 8:47 AM. Wondered why my 8:00 alarm had not gone off. 'Cause it's Saturday, silly. I'm losing track of the days. :-)

Sunny, lots of blue sky. Maybe we would not get rain today after all?

astronomy booth in the park office

Walked over to the park office and bought the last package of After Bite! While there I checked out the astro-stuff the Friends of Killarney store have for sale. Spotted a few books, including Nicole Mortillaro's Almanac and the latest edition of the Backyard Astronomer's Guide by Terry Dickinson and Alan Dyer. As I returned to the observatory, the black flies found me. Holy smokes, they're gonna make me use up all my anti-itch stuff!

From the Dog House, I aggregated all the photos from the previous day including the attempt to image the flyover of the International Space Station. Then prepared a presentation slide deck for the evening. Considered logistics for how I'd talk to the audience and show the slides. Along with a live view of the Moon. Kate and Marisa checked in and we firmed up the evening plans.

Still sunny and clear. But I noted the fire-smoke notice on the Killarney Clear Sky Chart page. Dang. That time of year again. Smoke and air-borne particulates degrade the transparency of the sky.

After dinner, I spotted some clouds in the west. A bank of clouds over Huron I had been monitoring was almost upon us.

7:52 PM. I set up at the Kchi Waasa Debaabing SkyShed POD and waited for the Moon to rise. Meanwhile, thin clouds moved overhead.

9:00 PM. Started my presentation on learning our way around the sky. We provided everyone a copy of the excellent The Evening Sky Map and I explained how to read the chart. I talked about how learning the stars and constellations of the sky was like using driving directions and terrestrial maps to find our way on the ground.

As an example, we identified the bright stars of the Big Dipper (or The Plough for people in the United Kingdom). I pointed out, however, that is an asterism (group of stars). I showed a larger stick figure with a torso, head, nose, front and back legs, making up The Great Bear or Ursa Major, the popular constellation in Western culture though I prefer H.A. Rey’s stick figure of a polar bear.  I then showed the borders defining the "territory" of the constellation, like a country or a province, and noted that was the official constellation designation, the international standard, as defined by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Then with Stellarium, I showed the same region of the sky according to different cultures. For example, the Ojibwa see The Great Fisher, the brave hero who brought summer to the land.

We had periodic looks at the Moon through the 16-inch with the DSLR camera. While nearly full, I pointed out the craggy craters and bumpy mountain ranges along the terminator line. The park visitors head back to camp.

Took some excellent questions from the park staff. We spotted a faint Moon halo, 22 degrees away from Luna. We identified Polaris using the Big Dipper. That’s finding north at night. And we enjoyed the bright flyover of the ISS, right on schedule.

At 11:05, Kate spotted a weird bright object low in the north, near Capella. It looked like a long white bar! I did not understand what we were seeing! A UFO?! It was slowly moving to the south-east. As I made notes of the date and time, Marisa and Kate examined it with their binoculars. I asked if it was in fact made up of individual points of light. Yes, they said, yes it was. I realised it was a recent launch of a gaggle of satellites, perhaps another batch for the Starlink internet constellation. In the binoculars, I saw about 40 objects. A couple of minutes later, they disappeared into the Earth's shadow. Never see that before, the satellites so close together!

(Checked the SpaceFlightNow website: "SpaceX lofted another 53 internet relay stations at 4:40 p.m. EDT (2040 GMT) Saturday from Cape Canaveral.")

I had one last look at my portable weather station. It showed 71% relative humidity and 14.1°C air temperature. The stack of extra paper sheets were soaked. Everything was covered in dew...

That's all, folks.

The Astronomer-In-Residence program is coordinated by the Allan I Carswell Observatory (AICO) at York University with the Killarney Provincial Park Observatory (KPPO).

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