Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 18th and Thursday, November 19th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 18th and Thursday, November 19th written by Louis Suarato

The 46% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon will be 35 degrees above the southern horizon after sunset on Wednesday. The Moon will set before reaching its First Quarter phase at 1:28 a.m., rising again at 12:36 p.m. Thursday. Thursday night, use the Moon as a guide to locate Neptune. Neptune will be the bluish looking “star” just 3 degrees to the lower left of the Moon. Use binoculars or a telescope to find this outermost planet. The bright star below the Moon, and closer to the southern horizon, is the Fomalhaut, the brightest star in the constellation Piscis Austrinus. Fomalhaut shines at magnitude 1.15 and is thought to be one of 16 stars moving in a group. Other members of this group include the stars Castor and Vega. Approximately 15 degrees to the Moon’s upper right, is the globular cluster M2. Discovered by Jean-Dominique Maraldi in 1746, M2 is one of the largest globular clusters. M2 is about 37,500 light-years away and estimated to contain 150,000 stars. At the age of 13 billion years, M2 is one of the oldest globular clusters in the Milky Way galaxy.

The constellation Orion dominates the late night eastern to southeastern sky. The bright stars Pollux in Gemini, Procyon in Canis Major, and Sirius in Canis Major, follow Orion. At magnitude -1.15, Sirius is the brightest star in our sky. After the bright stars come the planets as Jupiter rises after 1 a.m., followed by Mars an hour later, and Venus two hours later.

The Dudley Observatory will be hosting an Octagonal Barn Lecture and Star Party this Friday, November 20th beginning at 7 p.m. in Delanson, NY. The lecture, “Exoplanets: Hidden in the Light”, will be given by Ben Placek, Ph.D. and Instructor of Physics at Schenectady Community College. Admission is free, but donations are graciously accepted. Directions to the Octagonal Barn can be found at

Octagon Barn Lecture and Star Party, Friday, November 20, 2015, 7 pm

“Exoplanets: hidden in the light”

Ben Placek, Ph.D., Instructor of Physics Schenectady County Community College

How do we make use of minute details in starlight to determine the presence and even characteristics of planets around other stars, or exoplanets?  We’ll review notable discoveries from the Kepler Space Telescope and expectations for future space-based telescopes.

Monthly Astronomy Talks & Dark Sky Star Viewing, Delanson, New York, Fridays in 2015

Family friendly.  Programs will be held rain or shine.
Amateur astronomers and families are invited to bring binoculars or telescopes.
Free Admission – $5 donation graciously accepted

Octagon Barn, 588 Middle Road, Delanson NY 12053

Counting Questions: Dudley Observatory FAQ

To start off, I thought I would use this space to answer some of the most common questions that I receive on the exhibit floor:

Where is the Observatory?

Funny story about that. We’re actually an observatory without an observatory.

During the sixties and the space race, Dudley Observatory shifted away from astronomical observation and focused on lab research of things like micrometeorites. At the time, that was where the money was. The shift meant the telescopes went away and the microscopes came out. At that point the observatory was located on the corner of South Lake Ave. and New Scotland, where the Psychiatric Center of Albany Medical College is currently. Lacking a need for the building, Dudley sold it to Albany Med in the late sixties. It burned down in 1970, and you can see photos of this in the Times Union archive. The remains were destroyed and the CDPC was built on the site.

Since then, Dudley has been without an observatory. We still have most of our old telescopes and other equipment, and those are in storage with the miSci collections. We hope to build a small observatory on the greenspace beside the miSci building and reconstruct one of our major telescopes for installation there.

Who was Charles Dudley?

Charles Edward Dudley (1780-1841) was an Albany merchant and politician. He served in the State Senate and the US Senate, and was twice mayor of Albany. His wife, Blandina Bleeker Dudley, survived him and donated a large sum of money towards the building of the Observatory.

Did he have any connection to astronomy?

Supposedly he had an amateur’s interest in astronomy, but it didn’t leave a mark on history. He’s most famous for being a member of Martin Van Buren’s Albany Regency.

The Albany what?

Real quick: when Martin van Buren was elected for the US Senate in 1821, he worried about leaving New York in the hands of his opponents. So he organized a group of friends and allies to keep running things while he went to Washington, and this turned out to be much more effective than anyone probably expected. The group, which quickly included Charles Dudley, voted and organized as a unit and handed out patronage to loyal members. In short, the Regency was America’s first political machine.

What telescopes do you have?

Our major telescope right now is the 12″ refractor, purchased from the company of John A. Brashear in Pittsburgh with money from the Pruyn family. This is the one we’re hoping to set up in a new observatory. We also still have the trunk of our original Meridan Circle, named after the banker Thomas Olcott. This one is damaged and incomplete, but hopefully we can put it on display. Our most famous telescope is the Clarke Comet Seeker, currently on display in the gallery, which has found two comets and an asteroid. We also have several antique brass telescopes, including a Pistor & Martins and two Bardou’s.

What is your connection to Union College?

In the 1870s, both Union and Dudley were part of an attempt to create a full university out of various institutions in Albany, including Albany College of Pharmacy, Albany Law and Albany Med. This federation of institutions still exists, but it isn’t very active. Beyond that, Union Archives and Special Collections houses our collection of rare astronomical texts, including first editions of Copernicus, Galileo and Kepler.

If you have any questions, you are more than welcome to ask them at, or check out the Dudley Facebook Page.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, November 16th and 17th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, November 16th and 17th written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 4:32 PM; night falls at 6:10. Dawn begins at 5:11 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:49.

The five-day-old Moon rose this morning and is already well up in the southern sky. It appears about one-quarter illuminated in Capricornus, blazes at minus 8.1 magnitude and sets at 9 PM.

Saturn, the lone bright planet, hangs on very low on the western horizon. The observer needs an unobstructed vista to catch the planet before it sets at 5:16 PM.

Outer Solar System members Uranus and Neptune and asteroid 4 Vesta reveal themselves at nightfall. Neptune still occupies Aquarius and is best observed at 6:48 PM, when it is highest due South. Asteroid 4 Vesta is a tiny dot about two-and-a-half degrees from Iota Ceti, in the constellation of Cetus; it is best seen at 8:23 PM. Uranus brings up the rear in Pisces and is best seen at 9:16 PM. The nearby brilliant Moon may overwhelm the view to these objects. All three require detailed finder charts obtained from astronomy apps, magazines and software. Neptune sets at 12:15 AM, Vesta at 1:49 AM, and Uranus at 3:41 AM.

Jupiter rises at 1:11 AM and shines next to Leo’s hind leg.
The minus 1.9 magnitude planet has two events for the all-night sky watcher. The first is the appearance of the Great Red Spot at 2:35 AM on Wednesday. The Great Red Spot is a giant storm, larger than Earth, in Jupiter’s atmosphere. Recent reports indicate that it is shrinking. Jupiter’s moon Io disappears into the planet’s shadow at 4:51 AM, also Wednesday.

Mars, at magnitude 1.6, rises at 2:19 AM. It is in Virgo, about thirteen=and-a-half degrees below Jupiter. Venus, also in Virgo, rises at 2:54 AM, about seven degrees below Mars. The once compact group is breaking up. Venus becomes lower daily, and is closing in on Virgo’s bright star Porrima.

November has two meteor showers. The Taurids appear most of the month. They seem to originate near the Pleiades star cluster. The equally sparse, but more famous, Leonid meteor shower also happens this month. This year, the Leonids peak at Midnight Wednesday. The Leonids are famous because they are the litter of Comet Temple-Tuttle, which orbits the Sun about every 33 years; the meteor shower follows this cycle. Occasionally, the Leonids have generated a meteor storm, producing hundreds or thousands of meteors per hour. The storms of 1833 and 1966 are legendary. This is an average year for Leonids, with a maximum of 20 per hour under ideal conditions. Bright meteors might be seen streaking from Leo’s mane, identifying them as a Leonid. The Leonids are also famed for their “trains.” As the meteor streaks toward Earth, it heats and ionizes upper atmosphere gasses, creating tiny clouds that are twisted by high winds. These “trains” can persist for minutes. Binoculars are the best instrument to see these trails. Remember, November nights can be chilly and the observer should dress warmly.

Night Sky Adventures @ miSci Tuesday, November 17th, 6 pm “Buying a Telescope for your Family Clinic ”

If your plans include the possibility of buying a telescope you’ll not want to miss this event. Members of Dudley Observatory and the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will be presenting a family clinic for telescope purchase decisions. The evening will also have a Winter Star Planetarium program.

The Adventure takes place at miSci, museum of innovation and science, 15 Nott Terrace Heights, Schenectady, New York 12308 518-382-7890
$ 3 per person, $ 5 per family, free for miSci members.

Lead by astronomy educators and volunteers from the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers group.

Amateur astronomers and families are invited to bring binoculars or telescopes. One or more telescopes will be provided by The Dudley.

Family friendly! Programs will be held rain or shine!

Dudley Observatory @ miSci
15 Nott Terrace Heights
Schenectady, NY 12308
(518) 382-7890 ext 259

Skywatch Lecture, Friday, November 13, “Mars – The Wet Red Planet.”

Part of the miSci museum of innovation and science’s Science Festival

miSci’s 2nd Annual Science Festival!

miSci’s 2nd Annual Science Festival!

“Mars – The Wet Red Planet.”,  Dr. Valerie Rapson, Dudley Observatory Outreach Astronomer

Lecture 6 pm, Star Party 7-9 pm (weather permitting)

Valerie recently obtained a Ph.D. in Astrophysical Sciences and Technology from the Rochester Institute of Technology, where she conducted research on how stars and planets form. She is a National Astronomy Ambassador, and has spent many years teaching people of all ages about the wonders of the Universe. Join Valerie as she discusses the recent news of liquid water on present-day Mars. Learn about the history of Martian exploration, the search for water and life, and the possibility of astronauts traveling to Mars in the future.


Admission to the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Lecture and Star Party is $10 per adult and $15 per family.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 11th and Thursday, November 12th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 11th and Thursday, November 12th written by Louis Suarato

The New Moon occurs Wednesday at 12:48 p.m., leaving the skies dark for optimal viewing of the peak of the North Taurid meteor shower Wednesday and Thursday nights. Although this is peak time for the North Taurid meteor shower, two great Leonid meteor showers took place on November 12th. In 1799, Andrew Ellicott wrote the first known record of a meteor shower when he documented his observations from a ship off the coast of the Florida Keys. Ellicott wrote, “In every instant the meteors were as numerous as the stars,” and that the “whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after day break.” What was amazing about Ellicott’s observation, was that it occurred during a Full Moon!

Another great Leonid shower was recorded on November 12, 1833. Observational estimates of this meteor shower range from 100,000 meteors per hour to 240,000 meteors over its nine hour duration. The Taurids have been known for its fireballs, and some have been reported prior to the writing of this Skywatch Line. The Taurids normally have about 7 to 10 meteors per hour and seem to have a peak of fireballs every 7 years, and 2015 falls into that cycle. The radiant of the Taurids is near the Pleiades star cluster, but they can been seen throughout the sky. Although the constellation Taurus is above the eastern horizon after 8 p.m., the best time to view this shower is between midnight and dawn.

While lying back watching for meteors and fireballs, you’ll be able to view the parade of planets as they rise in the east. Jupiter rises first around 1:30 a.m. below the constellation Leo. Mars follows Jupiter about an hour later in the constellation Virgo. Twenty minutes later, Venus adds her brilliance to the eastern horizon.

On Friday, November 13th, beginning at 6 p.m., Dudley Observatory Outreach Astronomer, Dr. Valerie Rapson will give a lecture on “Mars – The Wet Red Planet”, at miSci in Schenectady, NY. A star party will follow the lecture, weather permitting. The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will also be hosting a star party on Friday at Grafton Lake State Park. The star party will be rescheduled to Saturday if Friday’s event is cancelled.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, November 9th and 10th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, November 9th and 10th written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 4:38 PM; night falls at 6:15. Dawn breaks at 5:03 AM and ends with sunrise at 6:40.

The evening sky contains only one bright planet. But Saturn is now very low on the western horizon and poses problems for astronomers without a clear horizon. Saturn sets at 5:41.

Nightfall reveals three subdued members of our Solar System. Neptune resides in Aquarius; it is best viewed at 7:16 PM, when it lies due South. Uranus inhabits Pisces; it is best observed at 9:44 PM. The asteroid 4 Vesta is visiting Cetus, and is found about two-and-a-half degrees from the star Iota Ceti. It is best detected at 8:50 PM. Neptune sets after Midnight, Uranus at 4:10 AM and Vesta at 2:15 AM. All three require finder charts found in astronomy magazines, websites and apps.

The Moon is mostly absent from our skies. The waning 28 day-old Moon rises at 5:23 Tuesday morning and is quickly engulfed by the Sun’s glare. The Moon turns officially “New” at 12:47 PM on Wednesday.

The Moon’s absence is a boon for meteor watchers. The Taurid Meteor shower is still ongoing. The constellation Taurus rises at twilight’s end and, by 10 PM, is high enough in the southeast to permit meteor viewing. The radiant, the point from which meteors seem to originate, drifts southward during November. Under ideal conditions, one may see between 10 and 15 meteors per hour. Taurids are famous for fireballs – very bright meteors. Last week, Capital District residents spotted a fireball. No special equipment is needed; just go out, set up a lawn chair and observe. November nights can be chilly, so dress warmly.

The parade of bright morning planets continues. Jupiter rises first, after 1:30 AM, and appears, at magnitude minus 2, near Leo’s hind leg. At 5:51 AM Tuesday, Jupiter’s moon Io casts its shadow on the giant planet. At 2:58 AM Wednesday, Io is eclipsed by Jupiter’s shadow.

Mars rises about an hour later in Virgo. The Red Planet glows at magnitude 1.7 about 11 degrees below Jupiter. Under high powers, Mars appears about 95 percent illuminated. Venus rises, also in Virgo, at 2:42, and appears about three-and-a-half degrees below Mars. High powered binoculars or moderately powered telescopes show Venus about 58 percent illuminated.

For centuries, astronomers were confined to written reports and rough drawings. When photography was invented, they had a way of permanently recording observations and making them available for all to see.

John William Draper first photographed the Moon in 1840. In 1843, spectra of the Sun were first photographed. In 1850, Vega became the first star to be photographed. As photography became more advanced, dim, distant objects could be captured by long exposures. In 1880, Henry Draper, John William’s son, took the first picture of the Orion Nebula. Over one hundred years ago, Max Wolf first captured Halley’s Comet. Today, amateurs, using store-bought equipment, capture the night sky with results that rival the work of professionals only a generation ago.

Skywatch Line for Friday, November 6, through Sunday, November 8,

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, November 6, through Sunday, November 8, written by Alan French.

This weekend features a nice celestial treat in the morning sky just before sunrise. If you look toward the east southeast at 5 am on Saturday morning the crescent Moon, Venus, and Mars will form a nice, tight grouping against dark skies, with bright Jupiter well to their upper right. Venus will be to the left and just a bit higher than the old Moon, while fainter, reddish Mars will be above the pair. Venus and the Moon will be just over a degree and a half apart – three times the apparent diameter of the lunar orb.

If you hate such early hours, you can still spot the grouping at 6 am, although morning twilight will be encroaching on the horizon. The Sun rises at 6:38 pm.

If you up again on Sunday morning at 5:00 am, the Moon will be well below the planets, but it will be a very pretty, slender crescent, less than 10% illuminated.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will take advantage of the dark moonless skies this weekend to hold public star parties at Landis Arboretum in Esperance. The star parties will be at 8:00 pm on Friday, November 6, and Saturday, November 7. At star parties club members set up telescopes to show guests a variety of celestial sights – galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and double stars. All ages are welcome and there is no admission charge, although we encourage guests to make a modest donation to our fine hosts, Landis Arboretum.

Landis Arboretum is on Lape Road and there are good signs leading there starting at Route 20 and Charleston Street. Turn up Charleston and follow the signs (when driving into Esperance on Route 20 from the east Charleston is the first right after crossing the Schoharie Creek). You can also find directions on their web site. After reaching the farmhouse on the right and parking lot on the left continue up Lape Road for 100 yards. Turn right into the Meeting House field driveway. It will usually be marked with a “Star Party” sign.

For newcomers there will be a brief introductory talk at 8:30 pm. Gather in the south side of the gravel parking area next to the Meeting House. The talk will include hints about using and enjoying the telescopes and a brief tour of the brighter constellations.

Star parties are canceled if the skies are mostly cloudy or if it’s raining. If conditions seems uncertain or in doubt, please call 518-374-8460 to insure the event is being held. If no one answers the phone, wait for a message. We encourage people to call unless the skies are completely clear and the forecasts predict the same for the night.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 4th and Thursday, November 5th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, November 4th and Thursday, November 5th written by Louis Suarato.

The Last Quarter Moon sets in the early afternoon Wednesday, leaving the skies dark for evening observing. The constellation Pegasus is nearly straight overhead on these nights, east of Cassiopeia. Between the two constellations is the Andromeda Galaxy. There are four stars that head away from the Square of Pegasus. The third star is 2nd magnitude Mirach. The Andromeda galaxy can be found about 6 degrees above Mirach. Look approximately 6 degrees below Mirach for the Triangulum Galaxy, also known as M33. The Triangulum Galaxy is a spiral galaxy located 3 million light-years from Earth. The Triangulum Galaxy is the third largest of the Local Group of galaxies that include our Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy. It is estimated that the Triangulum Galaxy may host 40 billion stars, compared to 400 billion in the Milky Way and 1 trillion stars in Andromeda.

The 44% illuminated, waning crescent Moon rises around 11:30 p.m. Wednesday. The Moon will be about 3 degrees to the right of Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, Wednesday night into Thursday morning. Jupiter follows the Moon as it rises around 2 am. to the right of the constellation Leo. Friday morning, Jupiter will be 3 degrees to the lower left of the crescent Moon. Mars and Venus, now a degree apart, rise around 2:30 am Friday. Try to see both planets in the same field of view through binoculars or a small telescope. Venus shines at magnitude – 4.5, while dimmer Mars shines at a magnitude of 1.7.

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers invite you to join them for star parties this Friday and Saturday at the Landis Arboretum in Esperance, NY. The star parties will begin at 8 pm near the Meeting House at the top of the hill. Look for signs at the gate. Directions can be found at