StarWatch for the greater Lehigh Valley



Print Large Sky Charts For 10 p.m. EDT:   NORTH | EAST | SOUTH | WEST | ZENITH

[Moon Phases]


423a  October 3, 2004:   Find the Andromeda Galaxy
Rising in the east at 9 p.m. is the mighty steed, Pegasus, represented in suburban areas by the Great Square, a group of four stars that form his box-shaped body. Because Pegasus rises at a substantial angle to the horizon, the Great Square in early autumn evenings looks more like a great diamond ascending into the sky. See the map and photo posted along with this edition of web StarWatch at the URL below. Stretching outward to the left of the Square is a shallow arc of three stars that comprise the brighter of two segments of Andromeda, the Chained Maiden. A similar arc of fainter stars stretches above the lower curve, and the two converge on Alpheratz, the star farthest left in the Great Square. Actually, Alpheratz seems like it should be part of Pegasus, but it really belongs to the star pattern of Andromeda. It is here that the Great Andromeda Galaxy can be easily found with binoculars. The spiral system of 600 billion luminaries with 10 smaller satellite galaxies is thought to be the second most massive component of our Local Group of 45 galaxies. Our Milky Way is number one. To find the Andromeda Galaxy, use binoculars to view Mirach, the middle star of the lower arc. Move Mirach to the lower portion of the binocular field and a fainter star, Mu Andromedae, will appear at the top. Repeat the same procedure with Mu, and Nu Andromedae will appear at the top of the field of view. Nu is yet fainter than Mu. You’re almost there. Move Nu to the 7 o’clock position in your field of view, and the oval-shaped Andromeda Galaxy should glide into view. If the night is exceptionally clear and you are in a rural setting, all three locater stars, including the fuzzy football-shaped Andromeda Galaxy should be visible to the unaided eye. Good viewing!

[Andromeda Locator Map]

[Photo locator map]
Easily find the Andromeda Galaxy by using binoculars and following the instructions given in the above article. This eight minute digital image was taken by Gary A. Becker using an Olympus E20N camera at Star Hill Inn, near Sapello, New Mexico in July of 2004.

423b    OCTOBER 9, 2004: Science Fest 2004 to Shine
For over a decade a group of Valley science enthusiasts promoted a wonderful event called the Nazareth Science Project, held in early fall at Bushkill Elementary in Nazareth. The program ended in 2002. Now an equally dedicated group of individuals is trying to recreate a day of science-related activities similar to the Nazareth Science Project. They’ve renamed the program Science Fest 2004, and it takes place Sunday, October 10 in NE Bethlehem at Marvine Elementary School, 1425 Livingston St., from 1 to 5 p.m. Nearly three-dozen amateur and professional groups involved with the physical and biological sciences will be represented. The Allentown School District Planetarium’s StarWatch Team will be safely showing the sun to interested participants if it is clear, and towers and other objects visible from the Marvine campus if it is cloudy. Moravian College Chemist, Dr. Carl Salter will be demonstrating a digital spectroscope used to analyze the chemical composition of materials. His unit is extremely small, but very versatile and very easy to use. Salter’s hope is to make several of these units available to local schools for classroom use. Groups like the Wildlife Information Center in Slatington and Hawk Mountain of Kempton will also represent the biological sciences. There will be kite construction, artillery demonstrations, and rocket building, as well as a talk on clock making, mineral exhibits, and imploding steel drums. Donald Stahl of Harrison-Morton Middle School in Allentown will have a robotics exhibit. If you’re hungry, check out the butter making exposition and the liquid nitrogen ice cream. Okay, regular food like hot dogs and sodas will also be available. Have a great day!

[Cold Science Fest 2004]
A Cold and Cloudy Science Fest made viewing the sun difficult for StarWatch members and the public. A rubber band battle at the end of the day warmed things up nicely. From left to right, Caleb Rochelle, Jesse Leayman, Gary A. Becker, Sarabeth Brockley, Deborah Rowe, Stephen Hopkins, and Evan Burke trade smiles after the battle in front of an artifical sun. Caroline Brockley photograph...

424    OCTOBER 10, 2004:   Valley to be Eclipsed, October 27
Mark Wednesday, October 27 in your day planners if you would like to observe the last well-positioned total lunar eclipse until 2007. Dieruff’s StarWatch Team of student and adult astronomy enthusiasts will be hosting, weather permitting, an eclipse night in the upper main parking lot at Dieruff High School, 815 N. Irving St. in Allentown, starting at 9:00 p.m. The event is free to the public. We’ll have the telescopes; you bring the thermals, warm blankets, lawn chairs, and flashlights to make yourself more comfortable. Dieruff grad, Jeff Makos and his wife Leslie, owners of Dad’s Hot Dogs in Bethlehem, will be supplying wieners and sodas. Java Joe’s will be providing hot chocolate. All proceeds will benefit the Allentown School District Planetarium’s StarWatch Team in its continuing efforts to bring the heavens closer to the Earth for everyone’s enjoyment. Total lunar eclipses occur when the moon passes entirely into the shadow of the Earth. This means that the moon must be full and opposite to the position of the sun in the sky. Since full moons are perfectly safe to watch through telescopes, observing the full moon sweeping into the Earth’s shadow is a direct way of participating in the clockwork motions and beauty of our universe. The moon begins entering Earth’s primary shadow, the umbra, at 9:14 p.m. By 10:23 p.m. the eclipse becomes total with a reddened and highly subdued moon dominating the southern sky. Maximum eclipse, when the moon should appear darkest because it is deepest into the umbra, takes place at 11:04 p.m. The moon begins to exit the Earth’s shadow by 11:45 p.m., and an hour later, the bright full moon will once again be in complete control of our Valley skies. More about this lunar eclipse next week!

[October 2004 Total Lunar Eclipse]

425    OCTOBER 17, 2004:   Observing the October 27 Lunar Eclipse-1
The total lunar eclipse of Wednesday, October 27 is rapidly approaching, and you are invited to witness this spectacular event, weather-permitting, from Dieruff High School’s upper main parking lot, 815 N. Irving St., Allentown, starting at 9 p.m. We’ll have at least a dozen telescopes set up and moonward looking. The Allentown School District Planetarium is also encouraging the public to bring along their own scopes because the more instrumentation we can have on the field, the easier it will be for everyone to enjoy a magnified view of the moon as it sweeps through the shadow of the Earth. Contact the planetarium at 484-765-5557 if you can bring a telescope. StarWatch members will help you set up your scope if you’re unsure. What will this eclipse look like? By kickoff time at 9 p.m., the leading limb of the moon, the part of Luna that is closest to Earth’s shadow, will have a dusky appearance. Anyone on the moon looking back at Earth would see part of the Earth covering part of the sun. When the moon makes contact with the main shadow of Earth, the umbra at 9:14 p.m., you’ll see an ever-larger cookie bite being taken from the moon. Moment by moment, the shadow will plow across craters and mountain ranges, racing across the moon’s surface at slightly over one-half mile per second. Look into a telescope, then give a few others a chance to view, then look again, and you will notice a distinct change. Craters that were near the shadow boundary will be gone or highly subdued as the shadow’s relentless tempo continues to gobble up more and more of the moon. As totality approaches at 10:23 p.m., the sky and ground will appear darker. Have a flashlight handy. I’ll be discussing the moon during totality next week or read ahead on the web.

[December 1992 Total Lunar Eclipse]
Seeing the Earth's Umbra:   The following images of the very dark total lunar eclipse of December 9, 1992 were taken individually by Gary A. Becker and reconstructed to show the Earth’s shadow by Adam R. Jones.

426a  OCTOBER 24, 2004:   Observing the October 27 Lunar Eclipse-2
You are invited to witness the beauty and spectacle of the moon passing through the Earth’s shadow from the upper main parking lot at Dieruff High School, 815 N. Irving St., Allentown, on Wednesday, October 27. Allentown School District Planetarium StarWatch members will start pointing their telescopes moonward at 9:00 p.m. The eclipse begins promptly at 9:14 p.m. and over the next hour and nine minutes, the moon will pass completely into the Earth’s shadow. Lunar eclipses are routine until the last 20 to 30 minutes prior to totality. See last week’s online StarWatch. As the last 25 percent of the moon glides into the Earth’s shadow, colorations of reds and yellows can become discernable or the moon may just gray out and even disappear. It all depends upon the amount of dust in the atmosphere along the circle of tangency where sunlight is bent into the shadow. The shorter blue wavelengths and intermediate colors get filtered by the atmosphere and never make it into the shadow. But the longer red wavelengths get through if the atmosphere is free from dust. Had Mt. St. Helens undergone a serious eruption three to four weeks ago, it would have been interesting to see whether a darker eclipse would have resulted. The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991 caused a very dark eclipse 18 months later. Currently, the air is relatively free of dust, and that should make for a colorful eclipse, especially near the moon’s northern limb. By using telescopes or binoculars to collect more light, the colorfulness will be greatly enhanced. The Dieruff event is weather-dependent. A go/no go message will be posted at by 6 p.m. Wednesday. A new StarWatch update will also appear here on Wednesday.

426b  OCTOBER 27, 2004:   Final Call for Tonight's Total Lunar Eclipse
Astronomy aficionados are invited to join the Allentown School District Planetarium’s StarWatch team tonight at Dieruff High School, 815 N. Irving St., to observe telescopically the last total lunar eclipse until 2007, starting at 9:00 p.m. We will begin to assemble scopes in the upper main parking lot at 7:30 p.m. Interested members of the public who own telescopes are heartily encouraged to bring them along and to set them up along with us. If you need assistance, there will be plenty of people available to assist, including John Evrard and Steve Miller of Dan’s Camera City. Bring a stepstool so that kids can reach the eyepiece of your scope. Special concerns can be addressed by calling the ASD Planetarium at 484-765-5557. Dieruff campus lights go out at 9:00 p.m. as this free public event kicks off. The lunar eclipse begins at 9:14 p.m. By 10:23 p.m. the eclipse is total, and your surroundings will appear as if there is no moon in the sky. Make sure to bring a flashlight to improve your mobility on the darkened Dieruff campus. This eclipse is expected to be colorful, and the many telescopes on hand will accent the hues and saturations dramatically. Totality ends at 11:45 p.m., and the moon takes another hour to exit from the primary shadow of Earth. We will keep watching as long as the public remains. Dress warmly, protecting especially your head, hands, and feet. Susan Rochelle of the StarWatch Team will be supplying hot chocolate. Dad’s Dogs, located on Catasauqua Road in Bethlehem, will sell hot dogs and sodas. All proceeds will benefit the ASD Planetarium StarWatch fund. A go/no go message will be posted by 6 p.m. tonight at or call the ASD Planetarium for a recorded message. Clear skies to all!

427    OCTOBER 28, 2004:   Aries the Ram
If you watched the lunar eclipse last night, then you were looking in the direction of the important, but difficult to view constellation of Aries the Ram. If you can find the Great Square of Pegasus, which at 10:00 p.m. is due south and about two-thirds of the way to the zenith, then you have a fighting chance of seeing Aries’s brightest star, Hamal. The midpoint of a line stretched from Alpheratz, the upper left corner of the Great Square to the Pleiades in the east will just pass above Hamal. An average pair of binoculars will reveal Aries looking like an upside down and reversed “L,” all within one field of view. So how would such an obscure and small star pattern become so significant? Although Aries is currently visible in our fall sky, the sun passes through this constellation from April 18 through May 13 of each year. That makes Aries one of the 12 zodiacal star patterns, privy to not only yearly visitations by the sun, as Earth revolves around our daystar, but also to monthly visitations by the moon, and periodically, the planets. However, Aries was even more important thousands of years ago, for it was here that the sun crossed the Vernal Equinox on its yearly northward sojourn, not only inaugurating what today we call the first day of spring, but also the New Year for many ancient cultures, including the Romans. People were so attuned to the rhythmic cycles of the seasons, planting and harvesting, that it would have seemed out of place to celebrate the rebirth of a new year during the gloomy season of winter as we commemorate it today. Over the last several thousand years the Vernal Equinox has moved westward into the constellation of Pisces the Fish and will continue its westward trend into Aquarius by about 2650 AD—the Age of Aquarius.

428a  OCTOBER 31, 2004:   Great Eclipse Despite the Clouds
There are a myriad of items to consider when planning a lunar eclipse StarWatch like the one held at Dieruff High School last Wednesday. Besides the paperwork, prepping custodial staff, getting all of the telescopes in working order, training students, readying publicity, enticing friends to bring along their high-end scopes, the food preparations, etc., etc … Well, I think you get the picture. Then there is that really major factor, the weather. Last Wednesday’s forecast went from good to bad, and finally ended up mediocre. However, despite the ensuing mackerel sky with a moon not only being eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow, but also by passing clouds, it was truly a wonderful and positive event. Every StarWatch team member showed, including Dr. Terry Pundiak with his 16-inch Dobsonian and huge moon map; Matt Gustantino, with his 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain and piercing wireless sound system; David Addison with his 4-inch Astrophysics refractor; and Mark Balanda, who drove all the way from Palmyra, PA to set up his 10-inch scope, and then patch it into the planetarium’s video projector for a mega-screen live view of the event. Thanks also to Susan Rochelle who supplied hot chocolate, Caroline Brockley for her goodie tray, and Dad’s Dogs for delicious franks and sodas. One can’t forget Channels 69 and 13 for adding to the festivities, and an exceptional audience of students—Dieruff, and Allen mainly, and hundreds of other interested folks who attended the eclipse watch and communed with the universe. Finally, special thanks to Deborah Rowe, my dedicated Kutztown University student teacher, who kept me on track while managing to learn how to run a planetarium. More eclipse talk tomorrow or read ahead on the web.

[Eclipse Composite]
Breaks in the clouds allowed Mark Balanda of Palmyra, PA to image the partial phases of the eclipse. These pictures were immediately projected onto a large screen for public display. Great job Mark!

[StarWatch Lunar Eclipse Composite]
About 400 enthusiasts attended the StarWatch total lunar eclipse gathering at Dieruff High School on October 27. About 20 telescopes were on hand to provide magnified and brighter images of the moon as it entered the Earth's shadow. Digital photography by John Evrard of Dan's Camera City, Allentown, PA.

428b  November 1, 2004:   Bright Eclipse
For the 400 enthusiasts who came to the eclipse StarWatch at Dieruff High School on October 27, and for the thousands who viewed it from their homes across the Valley, you were treated to a bright total lunar eclipse. Although the moon was completely immersed into the Earth’s umbra by 10:23 p.m., it was evident from the start that there was a fair amount of light being bent into the shadow. The altocumulus clouds, that produced a mackerel sky and a hide-and-seek portrait of the eclipse, made it more difficult to judge its vividness. One precursor to the eclipse’s brightness came just after 10 p.m. when the moon popped into what appeared to be a completely clear patch of sky. The eclipsed portion of the lunar disk looked similar to the way the unlit region of the crescent moon appears when it reflects earthshine back into our eyes. About the same time Allen astronomy students, Matthew Johnson and Adolfo Ramirez, reported that they were able to see a dull coppery hue on the eclipsed portion of the moon through Terry Pundiak’s 16-inch, light grabbing reflector. When the eclipse became total, the clouds thickened, and people began going home. After all of our equipment was dismantled and stowed, the moon briefly reappeared about 10 minutes before the end of totality. Colorations ranged from white, near the moon’s limb that was to emerge first from the Earth’s shadow, to a yellowish tan, and a coppery red near the part of the moon deepest into the umbra. This was the signature of a bright eclipse. As a final comment to this event, Dieruff senior and StarWatch member, Jonathan Brittain, excitedly proclaimed that when people asked him questions about the eclipse, he was able to provide them with answers. Hey Jonathan, two thumbs up for public education!

October Star Map

October Moon Phase Calendar