Dr. James Armsby

Dr. James H. Armsby

Dr. James H. Armsby

In a previous post, I mentioned that Dudley had benefited from two institution builders, the first being Ormsby Macknight Mitchel.  Mitchel was an energetic founder of observatories and lecturer on the topic of astronomy, and his enthusiasm is likely what started the idea of building the Dudley Observatory.

But the person who first gave voice to the idea, and who worked hard to see that the idea took root, was Doctor James H. Armby (1800-1875).  Armsby was vital to Dudley Observatory, but he was also important for many other educational and medical institutions in Albany.  It’s safe to say that Armsby, now largely forgotten, is partially responsible for the shape of intellectual life in Albany today.

For all that, he was not an Albany native.  Born in Sutton, Massachusetts and trained at the Vermont Academy of Medicine, Armsby didn’t arrive in Albany until 1932. He followed his brother-in-law, Dr. Alden March, to the Capital Region to help combat the Cholera epidemic that swept New York during the summer.

Armsby became a resident the next year.  Albany got a glimpse of what it could expect from the new citizen when he began campaigning to establish a new medical school, hospital and YMCA chapter in the city.  Like Mitchel, Armsby turned to the lecture circuit to raise money and support.  Those lectures, along with come public dissections, eventually founded the Albany Medical College.

Until his death by heart disease in 1875, Armby worked to build educational institutions.  Through another series of lectures, he raised enough money to save Albany Law School during a financial crisis.  He helped organize the Albany Army Relief Bazaar which supported the US Sanitary Commission (and our collection of his correspondence include many of the tedious but necessary letters where he sells raffle tickets.)

Armsby appears to have been the first person to suggest that an observatory be added to the plans for a university in Albany.  Even after the idea of the university faded, he remained a booster of the Observatory.   He served as the secretary of the board during the early years, but realistically was far more important to the budding institution.  He seemed to be everywhere and doing everything.  If you liked him, he was indefatigable and endlessly helpful.  If you didn’t like him, he was a meddling busybody.

One of the few people who seemed to have disliked him was Benjamin Gould.  It was Gould’s inability to get along with Armsby, and a few ham-fisted comments that were perceived as sleights at Armby, that turned the disagreement between Gould and the board into verbal warfare.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 20th and Thursday, April 21st, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, April 20th and Thursday, April 21st written by Louis Suarato

The 99% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon rises at 6:22 p.m. Wednesday. The Full Moon occurs at 1:24 a.m. Friday. April’s Full Moon was known as the Full Pink Moon by some northeastern Native American tribes. The reason being it’s the time for seeing moss pink, or wild ground phlox, one of Spring’s first flowers. The Farmer’s Almanac tells us that this month’s Full Moon is also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon. The Moon reaches apogee, its furthest distance from Earth during this lunar month, at 12:05 p.m. Thursday, 252,495 miles away. You can locate Virgo’s brightest star, Spica, 5 degrees below the Moon at 11 p.m. Wednesday. The Moon and star will move a degree closer through the night.

At sunset Wednesday, and Thursday, with the nearly Full Moon rising, Jupiter will appear approximately 50 degrees over the southeastern horizon. Mercury will be setting in the west at that time, about 14 degrees over the west-southwestern horizon. Look for the Pleiades star cluster about 8 degrees above Mercury. You’ll find the Beehive Cluster, or M44, to the west, between Jupiter and the heads of Gemini, Castor and Pollux. Mars rises in the constellation Scorpius at 10:50 p.m., followed by Saturn about a half hour later. The two planets are now separated by 8 degrees. Scorpius’ brightest star, Antares, and the globular cluster, M4, can be found 5 degrees below Mars, and can best be seen in the pre-dawn sky when the two planets, the red super-giant star, and globular star cluster are 20 to 24 degrees above the southern horizon.

If you would like the opportunity to meet other people interested in astronomy, the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will be holding their monthly meeting at miSci, in Schenectady, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. These meetings usually include a discussion of current astronomical events and/or answers to questions about telescopic equipment. Non-members are always welcome.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 18 and 19, 2016

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 18th and 19th.

The Sun sets at 7:41 PM; night falls at 9:26. Dawn breaks at 4:22 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:06.

The twelve-day-old Moon blazes at minus 11 Monday night and is best observed at 10:50. Tuesday night finds a brighter and fuller Moon highest at 11:32. It occupies Virgo both nights and sets after 5 AM both days.

Jupiter is also already up. It is located under Leo’s belly and is best seen at about 10 PM. While binocular watchers can see Jupiter and some of its four Galilean moons. Telescope users can witness events on Jupiter. Wednesday at 12:16 AM, one can see the Great Red Spot, a giant storm, on Jupiter’s face. Telescopes also reveal the moon Callisto begin its march across Jupiter at 8:38 PM Tuesday and exit the planet’s surface at 11:37 PM. Jupiter sets after 4:30 AM.

Mercury makes the best appearance of the year on Monday. It appears about 19 degrees above the western horizon. It shines is about 0.2 magnitude and, in telescopes, appears about 8 arc seconds in size. Mercury is at greatest elongation tonight, about twenty degrees east of the Moon. Use binoculars to spot it amid the sunset sky. Mercury sets about 9:30 PM.

Mars rises in Ophiuchus at 10:51 PM. The Red Planet steadily grows brighter and larger in our telescopes in preparation for its May opposition. Saturn, also in Ophiuchus, rises about a half-hour after Mars. Mars shines at minus 1.1 magnitude, while Saturn is a sedate zero magnitude. Both are best observed at about 4 AM. Saturn, Mars and the bright star Antares form a neat triangle Tuesday morning. Mars is the triangle’s apex, with Saturn seven degrees to Mars’ East and Antares about five degrees below Mars. All three are great sights in any size telescope. Saturn is famous for its rings, Mars for its red color, and Antares for its rival color to Mars. All three remain up the rest of the night.

Besides the rings, Saturn has sixty-two moons. One of these, Iapetus, has puzzled observers for centuries. Iapetus is bright when it is on one side of Saturn, but markedly darker when on the other.

Two groups of astronomers think they have figured it out. Iapetus is tidally locked to Saturn, just like the Earth’s Moon – showing the same side to the planet. The leading side of Iapetus sweeps up debris from a newly discovered (and invisible to amateurs) ring. Thus one side looks like it was covered in chocolate dust, while the trailing side is as white as snow, really ice. In addition, the dust, warmed by sunlight, melts the ice below, which flows to the trailing side and re-freezes. Iapetus has a 79.3-day orbit, and is visible in amateur telescopes. Astronomy programs and websites assist the observer.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers hold their monthly meeting at miSci on Thursday, April 21st at 7:30 PM. This month, club member David Scott talks about the Analemma, that strange figure-eight you see on maps and globes. He will explain it and how it helps astronomers. All club events are free and open to the public.

Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Friday, April 15, through Sunday, April 17, 2016

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, April 15, through Sunday, April 17, written by Sam Salem.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 6:15am and sets at 7:39pm. Look for the waxing gibbous Moon with 65% of its visible disk illuminated on Friday, increasing to 74% on Saturday, and 82% on Sunday night. The Moon sets at 2:58 am on Friday, 3:34 am on Saturday, 4:06 am on Sunday, and 4:36 am on Monday.

On Friday evening, the Moon forms a curving row with Regulus to its left and then Jupiter.  Look above the Moon after dusk, on Saturday, for Regulus, the bottom of the now-vertical Sickle of Leo.  Regulus is the brightest star in the constellation Leo.  On Sunday, watch as the Moon pays a visit to the brightest planet of the night, Jupiter, as both rise in the southern sky.

Mars begins its retrograde motion westward in the sky, on Sunday.  Mars will continue its backward march until June 30.  For a couple of months every two years, Mars changes the direction of its motion against the backdrop of fixed stars. This apparent reversal is due to the fact that Earth is orbiting closer to the sun than Mars and is moving faster on its orbital track. That means our planet periodically passes Mars, creating the illusion that it has changed course. Seen from Mars, Earth appears to be in retrograde during this time.

Mid-April Mars is 63,236,776 miles away from Earth.  Now is the time to start exploring Mars through the telescope.  It blazes highest in the south before the first light of dawn, to the right of dimmer Saturn and above Antares.  In a telescope Mars grows this week from 13 to 14 arc-seconds in diameter.   By the time of its opposition and closest approach in late May, Mars will triple in brightness and grow to 18.8 arc-seconds wide.

Saturn is also moving retrograde but at much slower speed than Mars.  The pair moves apart from each other then start to converge and pass each other on August 25.

By early dawn, Saturn and Mars stand in the south-southwest.  Saturn, Mars, and Antares form a triangle.  Saturn stands on the left, Mars stands on the right, and the fainter, Mars-colored Antares stands beneath Mars.  Antares is the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius.  It is often referred to as “the heart of the scorpion”.  Along with Aldebaran, Regulus, and Fomalhut, Antares comprises the group known as the “Royal Stars of Persia”.   They were regarded as the guardians of the sky during the time of the Ancient Persians.  Persians believed that the sky was divided into four districts with each district being guarded by one of the four Royal Stars.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 11th and 12th, 2016

This is the Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, April 11th and 12th

The Sun sets at 7:33 PM; night falls at 9:15. Dawn breaks at 4:37 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:18.

The Moon dominates the sky on both nights. Monday, the five-day-old Moon blazes at minus 8.3 magnitude in Taurus; Tuesday finds it in Gemini shining brighter at magnitude minus 9.1. It sets after midnight on both nights.

Jupiter still resides in Leo; it rises about 4 PM and lies under Leo’s belly. Jupiter is best seen at about 10:37 PM. While the binocular observer can see the planet and some of its moons, a telescopic astronomer can make out the weather bands, witness the Jovian moon Io disappear behind the giant planet at 2:26 AM, Wednesday and see the Great Red Spot (a giant storm on Jupiter) at 11:49 PM Tuesday.

The twilight sky also hosts Mercury. As mentioned last week, this is Mercury’s best appearance of the year. It hovers at about eleven degrees above the western horizon and shines at magnitude minus 0.6. It sets at about 9:11 PM. There are no brighter stars in Mercury’s neighborhood, so identification should be easier. In a telescope it appears about 62 percent illuminated.

Mars rises in Ophiuchus at about 11:15 PM and is best observed at approximately 4 AM. Mars continues to brighten and grow larger in our telescopes in preparation for its May opposition. Saturn, also in Ophiuchus, rises a half hour after Mars. Saturn shines at a sedate 0.3 magnitude. Compare Mars’ color with that of the star Antares in nearby Scorpius. Also note the distance between Saturn and Mars; they come closer to each other until April 17th.

Jupiter, Mars and Saturn remain up the rest of the night.

Jupiter points to another constellation to Leo’s right – Hydra. Hydra begins with a diamond-shaped head and the rest of the body extends southward. In fact, Hydra is the longest and largest constellation. One must travel well South to enjoy Hydra to its fullest extent. Hydra is unique in that two smaller constellations ride atop it: Crater, the Cup, and Corvus, the Crow. In Greek mythology, Hydra is a mythical water snake. It attacked Jason and his shipmates on the good ship Argo. In Roman myths, Corvus was commanded by Apollo to bring a cup of water, but got sidetracked by ripening grapes. Corvus tried to excuse his tardiness by blaming the snake. Do not confuse Hydra with the similar sounding constellation Hydrus. Hydrus is relatively modern. It was one of many, invented by explorers who ventured below the equator for the first time.

Skywatch Line for Friday, April 8, through Sunday, April 10, 2016

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, April 8, through Sunday, April 10, written by Sam Salem.

This is a weekend amateur astronomers throughout the Northeast look forward to the annual Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF) at SUNY Rockland Community College in Suffern, New York. This is the world’s largest trade show of telescopes and accessories, and it’s only a two to three hour drive from the Capital District region. In addition to exhibits by more than 100 vendors, there are lectures, programs for beginners, and special events for children. Weather permitting; there is also solar party daily observing, where some of the finest safe solar telescopes provide fantastic views of the Sun, in white light and the red light of glowing hydrogen.  Event hours are 8:30 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday, April 9, and 10:30 am to 5:00 pm, Sunday, April 10. For full details visit the NEAF website.

On Friday, the Sun rises at 6:25am and sets at 7:31pm. The New Moon occurred on Thursday, at 7:24am. Waxing crescent of the Moon’s visible disk is 2% illuminated on Friday, increasing to 7% illumination on Saturday, and 15% on Sunday night.  The Moon sets at 9:11pm Friday, 10:24pm Saturday, and 11:32pm Sunday.

On Saturday, the crescent Moon shines in the west in twilight.  Look for Mercury far down to its lower right.  Mercury just passed the perihelion point of its orbit, when it’s closest to the sun. Therefore, it is moving rapidly, becoming more favorably placed with each passing day.

As the stars come out, spot Aldebaran to the Moon’s upper left and the Pleiades to its upper right.  Aldebaran is a giant star.  It is the brightest star in the zodiac constellation of Taurus.  The name Aldebaran means “the follower” in Arabic.  Presumably, it got this name because it rises near and soon after the Pleiades.  Aldebaran is about 65 light years away.  The planetary exploration probe Pioneer 10 is currently heading in the general direction of Aldebaran and should make its closest approach in about two million years.

Venus is deep in the glow of sunrise.  Saturn and Mars continue to move closer to each other until April 20 when the minimum distance between them is reached. Saturn shines near Mars from late evening until dawn where they are both near Antares in the constellation Scorpius.

Jupiter continues to be the brightest planet on April nights.  It is the only planet to light up the sky almost immediately after sunset.  The giant plant climbs highest up to its transit altitude around 10:50pm and sets in the west before dawn.  Although Jupiter is almost impossible to miss, it might be possible to confuse it with Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky.  At nightfall and early evening, Jupiter moves over the eastern half of sky, while Sirius shines to the west of Jupiter, dominating over the western half of sky.  To confirm if you’re looking at Sirius, and not Jupiter, use the three stars forming the Orion’s belt to point down towards it.

Skywatch Line For Wednesday, April 6th and Thursday, April 7th, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line For Wednesday, April 6th and Thursday, April 7th written by Louis Suarato

Wednesday, just after sunset, you may be able to see Mercury about 10 degrees above the western horizon. Mercury will become more visible after its trek around the Sun, and now in the evening sky. After Mercury sets, the Pleiades star cluster sinks into the western horizon. In the east, Virgo is the first constellation to rise after sunset. You’ll find Jupiter above Virgo,and about 50 degrees above the southeastern horizon. A telescopic view of Jupiter will reveal its moon, Io, crossing the face of the planet from 9:52 p.m. to 12:07 a.m. Thursday. Io’s shadow follows its source from 10:32 p.m. to 12:47 a.m.,Thursday. Europa, the smallest of the Galilean satellites, and sixth largest moon in the solar system, hides behind Jupiter at 10:48 p.m.

Mars rises in Scorpius at 11:40 p.m., Wednesday, followed by Saturn at 15 minutes at past midnight. The red and ringed planets are separated by about 8.5 degrees. Watch Mars’ magnitude, and apparent size through a telescope, increase, as it approaches opposition in May. Saturn will reach opposition in June. Mars and Saturn form a triangle with Scorpius’ brightest star, Antares. To the upper right of Antares, you’ll find the globular cluster, M4. Discovered by Philippe Loys de Chéseaux in 1746 and catalogued by Charles Messier in 1764,M4 is approximately 7,200 light-years away. M4 contains some the earliest stars, some aged at 13 billion years, about 820 billion years after the origin of the universe.

The New Moon occurs at 7:24 a.m. Thursday. Lunar perigee occurs 6 hours later at 1:36 p.m., when the Moon will be 221,931 miles from Earth. Expect higher, and lower than normal tides during this time.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will be hosting a star party at Grafton Lakes State Park this Friday. If Friday night’s event is cancelled, it will be rescheduled for Saturday night. This weekend is also the time for the annual Northeast Astronomy Forum (NEAF), held at Rockland Community College. A wealth of knowledge can be obtained from experts and vendors about telescopes and related equipment. It would be a good opportunity to obtain a Sun-safe filter or telescope to view the transit of Mercury on May 9th.

Skywatch Line for Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 3, 2016

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, April 1, through Sunday, April 3 written by Sam Salem

On Friday, the Sun rises at 6:37am and sets at 7:22pm. The moon rises at 2:46am Saturday, 3:31am Sunday, and 4:12am Monday.

Mercury climbs quickly into the western sky after its superior conjunction last month. This is the best evening apparition of Mercury for the year.

Venus is still bright in the dawn sky, but dropping toward the Sun.

Saturn and Mars, continue to move closer to each other in April. Mars spends most of the month in Ophiuchus. Mars rises around 23:54 on Friday and is visible the rest of the night. Saturn is retrograding in Ophiuchus, rising around 00:37 at midnight and will be visible all night.

Jupiter is easily visible in the evening following its opposition last month. It sets before sunrise around 5:53am. Jupiter is retrograding in Leo. The ancient and well-known constellation, Leo, is a Zodiac constellation, where the ecliptic passes through it. Leo is one of the 48 constellations listed by the Greek astronomer Ptolemy in the second century, but it dates back at leas a thousand years earlier to the Babylonians.

If you have a telescope, the most interesting star in Leo is the second one above Regulus, where the lion’s back joins onto his mane. The star is called Algieba, which means “the forehead” in Arabic. Algeiba is a double star, described as one of the finest double stars in the sky. However, it’s difficult for low power telescopes to resolve.

Arcturus, the bright Spring Star, shines just as high in the east as Sirius, the brighter Winter Star, does in the southwest. The Big Dipper, high in the northeast, points its curving handle lower right down toward it.
Arcturus forms the pointy end of a long, narrow kite asterism formed by the brightest stars of Bootes, the Cowherd. The head of the kite, at the far left, is bent slightly upward.

Friday, at 8 p.m., the Dudley Observatory will host a lecture and star party at the Octagonal Barn in Delanson, NY. The evening’s lecture will be “The Astrophysics of Time Travel“ by Dr. Matthew Szydagis of SUNY Albany. The star party will be held, weather permitting, after the lecture. Directions to the Octagonal Barn can be found at http://dudleyobservatory.org/directions/.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will be hosting their first star parties of the year this Friday and Saturday nights at the Landis Arboretum at 8:00pm. Star Parties are cancelled if the skies are mostly cloudy. Please call the Frenches at 518-374-8460 if you are unsure. Directions to the Landis Arboretum can be found at http://dudleyobservatory.org/AAAA/directions/.

Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel

Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel (1810-1862)

Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel (1810-1862)

American astronomy has benefited from a number of people who had a knack, and an obsession, with institution building.  The most famous is George Ellery Hale (1868-1938), who secured funding to build the Yerkes Observatory in Wisconsin and the Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories in California.  There’s an old joke that the success of American astronomy hinged on two major discoveries: Edward Pickering’s discovery of women, and George Hale’s discovery of money.

Dudley Observatory began with two dedicated institution builders.  One was Dr. James Armsby, who we’ll meet later.  The other is Ormsby MacKnight Mitchel, the (almost) first director and (briefly) second director of the Dudley Observatory.

Hale would buy telescopes and build observatories, Armsby would build hospitals and colleges, and Mitchel would build anything.  He was a restless, tireless individual who wore a multitude of hats and had a dizzying career.    During his early career he was a soldier and a lawyer, but worked as a professor of mathematics at West Point and then Cincinnati College.  While in Cincinnati he began teaching astronomy as well, in addition to becoming an engineer building railroads, and an administrator founding the college’s law school.  And he was just getting started.

Mitchel is probably most famous for raising the funds to build the Cincinnati Observatory, starting in 1842 and ending with a functioning observatory in 1845.  There are stories of him going door-to-door to collect funds,  but one of the most important things he did was go on the traveling lecture circuit.

In the 1840s, lectures were big business.  With few other entertainment options, people were willing to pay money to spend an afternoon being educated.  The emerging railroad system could take popular lecturers from city to city, allowing them to reach fresh audiences.  Mitchel was focused on astronomy, and there had been a surge of interest in the subject in America following an impressive meteor shower in 1833 and an particularly bright comet in 1843.

Charles Piazzi Smyth's "The Great Comet of 1843"

Charles Piazzi Smyth’s “The Great Comet of 1843”

Competition for lecturers was high, but Mitchel turned out to be a spell-binding speaker.  He continued to tour even after the observatory was complete.  During the winter season, when the clouds made observation difficult, he would travel the country giving astronomy lectures, raising money to keep the observatory running.  He is partially responsible for the popularity of astronomy in mid-19th century America, and his tours would spark the building of many small observatories.

In January, 1951, he took a tour through Albany, New York.  Plans were in the works to build a new university, and suddenly an observatory became a part of the design.  Mitchel was brought into the planning, and while his schedule kept him from being a major contributor, his name helped popularize the idea.  So much so that the observatory became an independent part of the plan, and while the overall plan for the university faded the observatory continued.  And supposedly it was Mitchel who selected the site for the new Dudley Observatory on a rise just to the north of Albany now known as Dudley Heights.

When the Dudley Observatory was still on the drawing board, it was actually assumed that Mitchel would be the first director.  But money was getting increasingly tight for Mitchel, and the touring schedule must have been taxing.  Mitchel ended up taking another job as an engineer to make ends meet and had to turn down the offer of a directorship.  The organizers of the Dudley would go on to use Mitchel’s name to support their fundraising, but found a new director in Benjamin A. Gould.

When this didn’t work out ( see the Battle of the Board) and Gould was ousted, and so in 1859 the organizers of Dudley turned once again to Ormsby Mitchel.  This time Mitchel was on a better footing, and accepted.

This is a great “what if” moment.  Mitchel and Gould were polar opposites.  Gould represented the new “professional” science, while the mostly self-taught Mitchel was very much of the old way.  Gould was probably the better astronomer and very much wanted to drive the science of astronomy forward, while Mitchel had a more balanced focus on diffusing the existing understanding of astronomy to popular audiences.  Both men were driven, but Mitchel was clearly the more gregarious and better at working with the public.  A Dudley Observatory under Ormsby Mitchel would be a very different place than under Gould or Lewis Boss.

But it wasn’t to be.  Mitchel’s wife began having health problems, and so they remained in Cincinnati for a time.  By the time Mitchel was ready to move, the Civil War began.  Mitchel returned to his original trade as a solider, and died of yellow fever is South Carolina in 1862.  While Mitchel was the second director of Dudley Observatory, he never actually set foot in the finished building.

Today, Mitchel is remembered as an important part of the history of American science, and his Cincinnati Observatory is known as the birthplace of American astronomy.  Here in Albany, Mitchel is also remembered as the man who lit the spark and fanned the flames that created Dudley Observatory.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 30th and Thursday, March 31st, 2016

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, March 30th and Thursday, March 31st written by Louis Suarato

The 60% illuminated, waning gibbous Moon sets at 11:04 a.m. Wednesday. The Last Quarter Moon occurs at 11:18 a.m. Thursday and will set around noon, leaving the sky darker for observing. After sunset, look for Jupiter about 35 degrees above the east-southeastern horizon. There will be several Galilean moon events Wednesday night, beginning with the transit of Io at 8:07 p.m., followed by the occultation of Europa at 8:32 pm. Io’s shadow transit begins at 8:38 p.m., followed by Ganymede’s transit at 9:38 pm. At 9:39 p.m., only Callisto can be seen away from Jupiter, as Io and Ganymede transit, and Europa is occulted. At 10:22 p.m., Io’s transit ends, and at 10:53 p.m., Io’s shadow transit is complete. Ganymede’s shadow transit begins at 11:45 p.m., and ends at 3:02 a.m., Thursday. Europa reappears 19 minutes after midnight. Ganymede’s transit ends at 52 minutes after midnight.

There will be a very bright International Space Station pass over our region Wednesday night. Look to the southwestern horizon to watch the ISS rise toward the sky’s brightest star, Sirius. The ISS will sail through the Milky Way, but disappears into Earth’s shadow below the Beehive Cluster in mid-sky before reaching Jupiter in the constellation Leo.

Mars rises at 2 minutes after midnight Thursday, followed by Saturn 40 minutes later. The two planets are now separated by about 9 degrees. The Moon will join them after 2 am.

This weekend, you’ll have several astronomy events to consider attending as the Dudley Observatory and Albany Area Amateur Astronomers begin this year’s monthly star parties. Friday, beginning at 8 p.m., the Dudley Observatory will host a lecture and star party at the Octagonal Barn in Delanson, NY. The evening’s lecture will be “The Astrophysics of Time Travel“ by Dr. Matthew Szydagis of SUNY Albany. The star party will be held, weather permitting, after the lecture. Directions to the Octagonal Barn can be found at http://dudleyobservatory.org/directions/. The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will be hosting their first star parties of the year this Friday and Saturday nights at the Landis Arboretum. Star Parties are cancelled if the skies are mostly cloudy. Please call the Frenches at 374-8460 if you are unsure. Directions to the Landis Arboretum can be found at http://dudleyobservatory.org/AAAA/directions/.