Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 23rd and Thursday, September 24th written by Louis Suarato.

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 23rd and Thursday, September 24th written by Louis Suarato.

Autumn arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 4:21 a.m. EDT Wednesday. This astronomical event, known as the Autumnal Equinox, occurs when the Earth’s celestial equator passes through the center of the Sun from north to south. It is during this time that the terminator is perpendicular to the equator and both hemispheres are equally illuminated. In our latitude, there will be 12 hours, 7 minutes and 51 seconds of daylight Wednesday. The Sun will rise due east and set due west on the day of the equinox.

After sunset, look for Saturn approximately 17 degrees above the southwestern horizon. The 77% illuminated, waxing gibbous Moon will be about 28 degrees above the south-southeastern horizon. Fomalhaut, also known as the Autumn Star, rises in the constellation Piscis Austrinus, at 8 p.m. above the southeastern horizon. Fomalhaut appears at its highest in September and remains above the southern horizon during the months of Autumn. It is the brightest star over that region in an area devoid of bright stars. Fomalhaut is 25.13 light-years away and shines at magnitude 1.15. Fomalhaut is the second brightest star as viewed from Earth, after Pollux, known to have a planetary system. Fomalhaut is a relatively young star estimated to be about 440 million years old. It is also a binary star with its companion star, Fomalhaut B, .91 light-years away from the main star.

Venus rises around 3:30 Thursday morning, followed by Mars a half hour later, and Jupiter at about 5:00. Leo’s brightest star, Regulus, and Mars will separated by less than a degree early Thursday and Friday mornings. Both Regulus and Mars will be 11 degrees to the lower left of Venus. Jupiter will be approximately 10 degrees to the lower left of Mars and Regulus.

Join the Dudley Observatory for the September 27th full lunar eclipse! On this night, the moon will pass through Earth’s shadow, making it appear blood red in the sky. The eclipse will occur from ~8:00pm to 1:30am the night of September 27th, with totality (full eclipse) occurring from ~10-11:30pm. miSci will be open (rain or shine) from 8-11:30pm with moon activities indoors and eclipse observing outdoors. Members of the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers group and Dudley Observatory Outreach Astronomer Valerie Rapson will be on hand with telescopes to help everyone enjoy the view. This is the last full lunar eclipse until 2018. You won’t want to miss it!

Moon activities and eclipse observing are free with museum admission. See for museum information.

Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, September 21st and 22nd

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Monday and Tuesday, September 21st and 22nd written by Joe Slomka.

The Sun sets at 6:55 PM; night falls at 8:30. Dawn breaks at 5:07 AM and ends with the Sun rising at 6:42.

The Moon officially turned First Quarter early Monday morning, but rose in our skies in the afternoon. The eight-day-old Moon is already quite bright, at magnitude minus 10.1 and inhabits Sagittarius both nights. It appears a bit more than half illuminated and sets after midnight.

Saturn is the only other brilliant object in our sky. Saturn still resides in Libra and appears midway between Libra and the head of Scorpius. By nightfall, it is only ten-and-a-half degrees high and sets about 9:30 PM.

Twilight’s end reveals the distant planets Neptune and Uranus. Neptune is nearly eighth magnitude in Aquarius, and Uranus is a brighter 5.7 in Pisces. Both require charts, which are found in astronomy magazines, websites and apps. Neptune is best observed at 11:30 PM, and Uranus at 2:04 AM. Neptune sets at 5 AM, while Uranus remains up past sunrise.

By 10 PM, Perseus is moderately up in the eastern sky. At 11:30 PM on Tuesday, the star Algol (also known as Beta Persei) dims. Algol, the “Demon Star,” varies its light every 2 days, 20 hours and 49 minutes. It fades from second magnitude to third – easily seen by the naked eye. The entire cycle takes about nine hours. John Goodricke theorized that a dimmer star was partially eclipsing a brighter star. In 1889, the new technique of spectroscopy verified this theory. The main star is one hundred times the Sun’s luminosity. The eclipsing star is actually slightly brighter than our Sun. There is a third star that orbits the system once every 1.8 years, but plays little part in the occultation. The system is about 96 light years away and the most easily studied “eclipsing binary.” Astronomy magazines and websites provide timetables of its eclipses. Begin observing about 10 PM.

Astronomical Dawn sees the arrival of three bright planets. Venus rises first, at 3:27 AM. It blazes in the dim constellation Cancer. Under magnification, it appears about a third illuminated. Mars emerges a half hour later and is about eleven degrees to Venus’ lower left. Mars lies about one-and-a-half degrees from Leo’s brightest star, Regulus. Jupiter brings up the rear, rising before 5 AM. All three are great observing targets and all will remain in our skies for the rest of the year. They also experience several close conjunctions later this month.

The Vernal Equinox takes place at 4:21 AM Wednesday. This happens when the Sun dives below the projection of Earth’s equator on to the sky. The Sun also rises exactly East and sets exactly West. The word “equinox” means, “equal night.” Indeed, day lasts 12 hours and night also lasts 12 hours. This event signals the beginning of Fall for the Northern Hemisphere and Spring for those in the Southern Hemisphere.

Skywatch Line for Friday, September 18th through Sunday, September 20th

This is Dudley Observatory’s Skywatch Line for Friday, September 18, through Sunday, September 20, written by Alan French.

The Moon will reach first quarter very early Monday morning, so a waxing crescent will dominate the early evening skies this weekend. The Moon sets at 9:57 pm Friday, 10:38 pm Saturday, and 11:25 pm on Sunday.

Weather permitting; the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers, in association with NYS Parks, will hold a public star party at 7:30 pm on Friday, September 18, at the Deerfield Pavilion in Grafton Lakes State Park. At star parties telescopes are set up to provide guests with views of a variety of celestial objects – galaxies, nebular, star clusters, and double stars. Lovely ringed Saturn will be visible low in the southwest during the early part of the star party.

All ages are welcome and there is no admission charge. For directions visit this web site, call the Park office 279-1155, or use the address 100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way, Grafton, NY, 12082.

The star party will be canceled if the skies are mostly cloudy. If weather permits, it will be rescheduled for 7:30 pm on Saturday, September 19. In case of possible cancellation, or for more information, call one of the coordinators, Ray (658-3138) or Bernard (658-9144).

If you look fairly high in the southern sky around 9:00 pm you should spot the bright yellow-white star, Altair. If you’re looking at the right star, it has two fainter stars to either side, one roughly to the lower left and one at about equal distance away on the other side. Altair is the brightest star in Aquila, the Eagle, and its name means “the flying eagle.”

Like most of the brightest stars, Altair shines brightly because it is one of our nearer neighbors, lying at a distance of just under 17 light years. The light you see tonight, traveling 186,000 miles every second, left the star in 1998, the year many watched “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact.” The 1956 science fiction classic, “Forbidden Planet,” was about a visit to Altair 5, a planet orbiting Altair.

The star to the lower left of Altair, Alshain, lies almost 48 light years away, while the one to the upper right, Tarazed, is 390 light years from us. As you can imagine, Tarazed is inherently much brighter than Alshain, but its light is dimmed by its greater distance.

Don’t forget to check next weekend’s Skywatch Line for details on the total lunar eclipse on Sunday night, September 27.

Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 16th and Thursday, September 17th

This is the Dudley Observatory Skywatch Line for Wednesday, September 16th and Thursday, September 17th written by Louis Suarato

The 12% illuminated, waxing crescent Moon can be seen low over the west-southwestern horizon after sunset before setting at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. This is a good time to see “Earthshine” on the Moon. Earthshine is sunlight reflecting from the Earth onto the Moon’s shadowed surface creating a faint glow. It was Leonardo Da Vinci who concluded that Earthshine was created by the Earth’s reflected sunlight. Da Vinci was wrong about sunlight reflecting off the Earth’s oceans onto the Moon’s oceans, since Earthshine occurs when sunlight reflects off the Earth’s clouds, and, of course, the Moon doesn’t have oceans. But given Da Vinci’s perceptions occurred during the early 1500’s, years before even Copernicus’ heliocentric theories were published, it was an amazing discovery. Earthshine, also known as “The Da VInci Glow”, is best viewed 1 to 5 days before and after the New Moon.

You can find Saturn in the constellation Libra, to the upper left of the crescent Moon. Look about 15 degrees over the southwestern horizon. It was September 17, 1789 when William Herschel discovered Saturn’s moon Mimas. Mimas is the 7th largest moon of Saturn, and the 20th largest in the solar system. Mimas’ most outstanding feature is a gigantic crater known as Herschel. This crater measures one-third of Mimas’ 242 mile diameter.

The pre-dawn hours welcome the arrival of three planets. Venus is the first to rise at 3:40 a.m. Thursday, followed by Mars at 4:08 and Jupiter at 5:15. Look over the eastern horizon for all three planets. Continue to follow these planets as they draw closer during October.

The Dudley Observatory will host two events this week. The first is a lecture and star party at the Octagonal Barn in Delanson, NY on Friday, September 18th, beginning at 7 pm. The lecture will be given by Dudley Observatory’s archivist Josh Hauck on “A Scientific Sweatshop: The Industrialization of American Science and the Women of Dudley Observatory”. The Dudley Observatory will also be hosting “International Observe the Moon Night” at MiSci in Schenectady, beginning at 7 pm on Saturday, September 19th. More information about these events can be found at

The Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will be hosting a Star Watch on Friday, September 18th at Grafton Lake State Park. If the Friday event is cancelled, it will be held Saturday night.

Star Parties sponsored by the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers and NYS Parks

Star Parties sponsored by the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers and NYS Parks at Grafton Lakes State Park in the Deerfield Pavilion:

2015 upcoming dates:

Friday, July 24, 8:30 PM
September 18, 7:30 PM
Friday, October 16, 6:45 PM
Friday, November 13, 6:45 PM

Starwatches East is holding stargazing events at Grafton Lakes State Park at the Deerfield Pavilion. These programs are open to the public and are sponsored by NYS Parks and the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers.

When arriving after dark, please use the Winter Entrance and follow the signs. In the event of rain or heavy clouds, the starwatch will NOT be held on the scheduled Friday, but will be held the next evening, Saturday, again weather permitting.

The physical address is 100 Grafton Lakes State Park Way, Grafton, NY 12082. Call Starwatches East coordinators, Bernard 518/658-9144 or Ray 518/658-3138 for information on possible cancellations. For directions call the park office at 279-1155.

Union College Observatory Open Houses for 2015 dates to be announced.


Clear weather only! Please go into Astronomy classroom, room 301 on the 3rd floor of Olin Science Center, then up stairs to dome. Additional open houses and rain dates may be announced on our web page at

Viewing targets can include: the Moon, Saturn and its moons, Mars, as well as deep sky objects beyond the solar system such as double stars, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.

Come view the skies through our 20″ reflecting telescope on the roof of the Olin Science Center! Open houses are free and open to the public.

Open houses for the general public are offered monthly, frequently timed near the first-quarter moon. These are clear-weather only events, so we are closed if there is any precipitation, strong winds, or mostly cloudy conditions. Note that with the exception of Homecoming and ReUnion weekends, all open houses are free and open to the public with no tickets or reservations required. Only for Homecoming and ReUnion open houses do we issue tickets at the Reamer Campus Center, and these tickets are free. The observatory hotline (518)-388-7100 announces the date and time of open houses as well as announces last-minute cancellations. These cancellations are often decided only 1/2 hour prior to the opening time, unless rain or fully-cloudy conditions make it obvious we cannot open.

Open houses will be canceled in the event of cloudy, rainy or snowy weather. Cancellations will be announced through the hotline at 388-7100.

The Union Observatory is located on the top of the Olin Center (off room 301), northeast of the Nott Memorial next to the Reamer Campus Center.

For additional information on the Open House or Dudley Observatory, contact Observatory Manager Francis Wilkin at (518) 388-6344 or via e-mail at College, F.W. Olin Center, 807 Union St. Schenectady, NY 12308 (518) 388-6000. Further information may be found on the observatory website
Click here for a map.


Fourteen films, archived for over fifty years, are making their debut on the new Dudley Observatory YouTube Channel today. The fascinating visuals of early astronomical documentaries and research materials will delight scientists and historians as well as the general public. To access the channel, go to Highlights include: Trip to the Moon, The Mystery of Stonehenge, Adirondack Visions, and The Sikhote-Aline Meteorite.

“These short films enable easy access to important, and in their time, ground-breaking experiments made by Dudley astronomers, such as Curtis Hemenway’s rocket launches,” said Elissa Kane, interim executive director. “These 14 selections show the breadth of the archive – from raw footage in the field to educational films produced mid-century. Our collection is huge, and it is our intention to release new items to the channel regularly in our role as the Capital District’s Astronomy Resource.”

In addition to the new YouTube channel, the Dudley Observatory hosts and co-sponsors internships, professional development, school and community educational experiences, and star gazing in local rural locations where viewing is best.

The Dudley Observatory was chartered in 1852, and is currently housed at miSci, in Schenectady, New York. It is the oldest organization in the U.S. outside of academia and government dedicated to the support of astronomical research, and continues to serve the Capital Region through educational programs such as star parties, inflatable planetarium programs, and astronomy program partnerships.

We wish to thank the following for their generous support of these programs!

– Stewart’s Shops

– Times Union

– “Hope Fund” of The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region