horsehead Nebula Albany Area Amateur Astronomers



Star Party Schedule

Star Party Instructions



Meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at 7:30 pm at miSci, 15 Nott Terrace Heights, Schenectady, New York, 12308 518/382-7890 (formerly the Schenectady Museum) (Directions),
except in August, when we have a star party at the Landis Arboretum.

A Note on Meeting Cancellations during Winter Months

Remember that bad weather may force a meeting cancellation.  If the miSci Museum is closed, our meeting is canceled.  Most of the local radio and television stations have on-line listings of closings, or check with the museum (382-7890).  We will announce cancellations on the club and Rising Star Yahoo groups (astro_albany and risingstar), or you can call Alan at 374-8460.

Upcoming Meetings

May 15, 2014 7:30 pm - Dr. Rebecca Surman, Union College: TBA
June 19, 2014 7:30 pm - "Celestial Potpourri:" Club members share their favorite celestial sights; what they are and why they enjoy them.
July 17, 2014 7:30 pm
August 21, 2014 (at Landis Arboretum) 7:30 pm
September 18, 2014 7:30 pm
October 16, 2014 7:30 pm
November 20, 2014 7:30 pm - Planatarium Show
December 18, 2014 7:30 pm


Past Meetings

April 17, 2014
Dr. Francis Wilkin, Union College: "Planetary Nebulae: What an astrophysicist thinks amateur astronomers should, or might like to, know."

Glowing, hot bubbles created in the final stages of the lives of ordinary stars are called planetary nebulae, a misnomer that dates to William Herschel (we should forgive him, since he discovered the planet Uranus). Like neon signs of stellar evolution, these objects glow due to ionizing, ultraviolet photons from the central star. Many planetary nebulae can be seen with small telescopes, and a few are visible even in a pair of binoculars. Unlike other nebulae (clouds of gas) such as the Orion Nebula, a planetary nebula is made of gas that comes from one star - all of the cloud was once the atmosphere of a now dying star. I will explain how planetary nebulae are related to the late stages of stellar evolution, from the red giant phase onward, and we will see breathtaking examples of many planetaries taken by recent space-based observatories.

March 20, 2014

February 20, 2014

Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 7:30 pm

The AAAA's annual "Share Your Astrophotography" meeting. Club members and guests are invited to bring in and share their photographs of the night sky taken over the past year, or photos that have not been shared before. All are welcome to submit work. Art work is also welcome.

Thursday, Dec 19, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Dr. Allan Weatherwax will be returning to update us on "Firefly," a satellite that will study the powerful beams of electrons and gamma rays created by thunderstorms. You may recall his talk two years ago about the northern lights and Firefly. Firefly was aboard the Defense Department ORS-3 mission launched on November 19 from Wallops Island (some of you saw the launch from here). Dr. Weatherwax is a Professor of Physics and Associate Dean of Science at Siena College. Students from Siena, with students from University of Maryland Eastern Shore and University of Maryland College Park, worked on the Firefly satellite.

Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 7:30 pm
Understanding Star Types and How Stars Evolve:
What the H-R diagram tell us
Francis P. Wilkin, Ph.D.
Lecturer and Observatory Manager, Union College

This talk is aimed at the general public and amateur astronomers.
Stars come in many familiar (and less familiar) types such as red giants, white dwarfs, and main sequence stars. Some stars will transform from one of these types into another, and all stars evolve and eventually die, whether due to an explosion or simply running out of fuel. The H-R diagram, invented about a century ago, allows us to classify the stars and understand their properties. I will explain several of the uses of this diagram including comparisons of stars of different mass, temperature, luminosity, and age. Along the way, we’ll learn about some of the things going on inside the stars, though this talk focuses primarily on what we see from the outside.

Thursday, May 16, 2013 at 7:30 pm at miSci (formerly Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium)
Dr. John Moustakas of Siena College discussing "Galaxies at the Dawn of Time." Watch for details.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Dr. Mark Changizi
"Alien Vision Revolution."
"I will describe research that has led to a new understanding of the function of color, binocular vision, illusions and the shapes of writing over history. By understanding the design principles underlying these visual phenomena, we have a basis for speculating on how aliens are likely to see. In particular, I will argue that aliens will perceive the same kinds of illusions and have writing that looks like those found here on Earth, but that they will not have our variety of primate color vision, nor have our forward-facing eyes."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Dr. Rose Finn, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics & Astronomy, Siena College
"Clusters of Galaxies:  Life in Galactic Cities"
Clusters of galaxies are the most massive structures in the Universe.  They can contain thousands of galaxies, large amounts of hot X-ray emitting gas, and even more dark matter.  I will review our current understanding of how clusters form, and I will highlight some of the remaining mysteries yet to be solved.  In particular, my area of research explores if and how the cluster environment affects the evolution of member galaxies.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Annual "Share Your Astrophotos, and Winter Solstice Party"

Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Alan French (and a panel of experts)
"Almost Everything You Wanted to Know About Eyepieces"
  The talk will include basic eyepiece characteristics and their importance, basic designs, selecting eyepieces for a telescope, and his perspective on eyepieces, their importance, and the difficulty in making objective comparisons.  Additional comments will be provided by some other club members, and your questions will be welcomed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Various club members. 
"Member Potpourri"
Club members will talk about their favorite celestial object, a book they've read recently, or an eyepiece or telescope they are fond of.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Meteorologist Steve Caporizzo

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 (snowed out in February and rescheduled)
Various club members 
"Member Potpourri"
Club members will talk about their favorite celestial object, a book they've read recently, or an eyepiece or telescope they are fond of.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Dr. John Delano
"Astrobiology: The search for life beyond the Earth"

We are very pleased to have Dr. John Delano as our speaker once again.  Dr. Delano's talk will be "Astrobiology: The search for life beyond the Earth."

"Questions in astrobiology are being explored by teams of scientists in astrophysics, biochemistry, geochemistry, and geophysics.  How common are habitable planets?  How are complex biomolecules formed on initially lifeless planets?  What processes and environments are required for planets to become habitable?  What instruments are needed by robotic spacecraft to detect either living or fossilized microbial life?  These are some of the fundamental questions where substantial progress is being made.  In addition to results from NASA's Kepler spacecraft that are anxiously awaited bearing on the presence of Earth-sized planets orbiting other stars, these are exciting times!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Sue French
"A Few of My Favorite Things"

Long-time amateur astronomers collect a wealth of favorite sites over the years.  These celestial wonders may be treasured for their beauty, for their nature, or even the circumstances under which they were seen.  Sue will share some of her most memorable deep-sky observations, garnered over the last three decades. Sue is an avid deep sky observer and a Contributing Editor for Sky & Telescope, writing their monthly "Deep Sky Wonders" column.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Various club members
"Member Potpourri"

Our February "Member Potpourri" went very well and was well received, so we're going to do another for the July 20 meeting. Perhaps you have something to share with the club - a review of a book or an accessory, some favorite targets in the night sky, a memorable telescope or night of observing, or a trip or convention report. Maybe you have some insight into a specific aspect of astronomy or some news in the world of astronomy other club members would enjoy hearing about.

Please let me know if you have something to share at the July meeting. (Please include an estimate of the time required.) We are looking for several talks that take from five to fifteen minutes.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Meeting and Star Party at Landis Arboretum

Our August meeting is held in the Meeting House field at Landis Arboretum.  Weather permitting, there will be a star party after the meeting.  We generally socialize and check out everyone's telescopes if the weather is nice.  If the weather is poor we do a variety of short topics in the Meeting House.  You are also welcome to bring items for the "August Swap Shop."

Tuesday, September 21, 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum
Dr. Harry Ringermacher speaking on
"The State of the Universe."

The universe continues to amaze and provoke.  You see recent discoveries in every popular venue.  Black holes in the center of every galaxy, "dark matter", "dark energy" everywhere and we don't know what it is except it's 96% of the stuff out there and we're the dregs.  Extra dimensions and multiple universes.  Science fiction, reality?  You will get the latest scoop along with pretty Hubble images and the latest incredible super-computer simulations.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 7:30 at the GE Theater at Proctors
Our October Meeting, by Alan French

The second of Dudley Observatory's Skywatch Lectures, Alex Filippenko's talk "Dark Energy and the Runaway Universe," coincides with our October 19 meeting.  Although we try to avoid moving our meeting, this marvelous opportunity is far too good to pass up.  We will not be holding our regular meeting at the Schenectady Museum, but will be meeting in conjunction with the Skywatch Lecture at the GE Theater at Proctor's.

The Skywatch Lecture begins at 7:30 pm.  Tickets are $11 for general admission, $8 for members of Dudley Observatory, and $6 for students.  We strongly urge you to support the Skywatch Lecture series by purchasing tickets, although we will have a limited number of complimentary tickets available for AAAA members.  Your support, through the purchase of tickets, will help insure the success of this year's Skywatch Lectures and its continuation in years to come.  If you do require a complimentary ticket, and your dues are up to date, see me before 7:20 pm outside the entrance to the GE Theater.

Dr. Filippenko is a Professor of Astronomy at the University of California at Berkeley.  He has produced four astronomy courses for The Teaching Company and is the coauthor, with Jay Pasachoff, of an award winning textbook, "Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium."    He is the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences and has won several major awards for his research.  He has also received top teaching awards and has been voted "Best Professor" on campus six times.  I hope you will join me, and support the Skywatch lectures, at this exciting program!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Sue French, author of Sky & Telescope's "Deep Sky Wonders" column
"Winter Sky Wonders"

"For many of us, this is the coldest time of the year - but it also harbors the most brilliant stars and some of the most spectacular wonders of the deep-sky. They include nebulae, clouds of gas and dust either glowing by their own light or reflecting the light of nearby stars; clusters of stars, both old and young; galaxies far beyond our own Milky Way; multiple stars of surprising beauty; and variable stars that challenge our notion of a constant sky. And if that's not enough, we also have intricate Jupiter in our evening sky and awe-inspiring Saturn in the morning! We will tour the brightest and best telescopic delights of the winter sky, and each object will be paired with a nearby but less-known wonder to tempt the observer with more experience."

February 17, 2011
Alan French
"Rediscovering the Telescope"

Debates about telescopes are popular on the Internet and on cloudy nights at conventions.  The pros and cons of various designs and features get debated endlessly and minor points generate lengthy discussions.   Manufacturers tout the advantages of their products and emphasize the disadvantages of their competition.  In the end, the amateur often winds up with a distorted view of telescopes, and selecting a telescope becomes more confusing than necessary.

We'll rediscover the telescope, uncovering what is really important in how they perform under the night sky.  The program will also provide a simple, non-mathematical explanation of what  determines whether a refractor is an achromat, with some visible out of focus color, or an apochromat, with no obvious out of focus color.

Alan's talk is sponsored by Flurry Astro Innovations.

April 21, 2011
"Cosmic Collisions" video on the Big Screen

Thursday, May 19, 2011
Retired Professor of Physics William Carragan on "Maya Astronomy." - postponed

Thursday, June 16 , 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
Retired Professor of Physics William Carragan on "Maya Astronomy."

The Maya calendar has been in the news, so join us in learning the real story of their calendar.  The talk will cover the structure of the Maya year, comprising interlocking cycles of 200 day (tzolkin) and 365 days (haab) and the long count (400-year period, 20-year period, 360-day year, 20-day period).  There will also be a brief outline of Maya history and architecture, and their observational resources and techniques for determining the solar and lunar almanacs.

Thursday, July 21 , 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"Member Potpourri," a variety of short talks by members of the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers.

Thursday, August 18 , 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Landis Arboretum in Esperance

Our annual informal summer meeting at Landis Arboretum in Esperance.  A variety of telescopes will be set up before dark, so this is an ideal time to ask questions and learn about telescopes, or bring your own if you want some help with it.  Weather permitting, there will be a star party after dark.  In the event of clouds or rain, there will be an informal program in the Meeting House.  This is also the club's annual "Swap Shop," a chance to bring unused astronomical equipment and accessories to sell or trade.

Thursday, September 15 , 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium

Retired Professor of Physics George Tucker on "Keeping Namibian Skies Dark (The Proposed NamibRand Dark Sky Reserve)."

Dr. Tucker has spent time under the exceptionally dark skies in Namibia in southern Africa.  He will share some of the astrophotographs he took in Namibia, talk about a proposal to preserve this dark sky resource, and share his visits to the Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT) and to Cape Town Observatory.

Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium

Tom Field will host a Webinar on spectroscopy for amateur astronomers.
Spectroscopy is the art of analyzing the colorful rainbow spectrum that a device like a prism produces.  Spectroscopy is the primary research tool used in modern astronomical research.  However, until the last few years, spectroscopy has been too expensive and difficult for all but a few amateurs.  Today, though, new tools make spectroscopy accessible to almost all of us.  You no longer need a PhD, dark skies, long exposures, or enormous aperture! With your current telescope and camera (or even a simple web cam) you can now easily capture exciting spectra, including the atmosphere on Uranus or the red shift a quasar. This talk, with lots of interesting examples, will show you what it's all about, and how you can get started.

Thursday, December 15, 2011 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
Dr. Allan Weatherwax, Professor of Physics at Siena College, will talk on the Northern Lights.

Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
The annual "Share Your Astrophotos" meeting, moved from its usual December slot.

Thursday, February 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"A Tour of Our Solar System," by Alan French.
"Things have changed greatly since I devoured my 1958 copy of Roy A. Gallant's Exploring the Planets.  My tour will feature some of the finest photographs of our solar system, and contrast what we know now with the state of our knowledge in 1958.  We've come a long way in a bit more than a half century, mostly because of spacecraft and other new tools for exploration."

Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
Annual Elections.  Program to be announced.

Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
Harvey Patashnick, "CCD Imaging in Astronomy...The Fusion of Science and Art."

The pursuit of astronomy for both pleasure and science no longer requires access to mountain top observatories and dark sky sites. With the advance of modern electronic cameras and software, spectacular images of stars, galaxies, nebulae and planets is now possible even for "backyard" astronomy enthusiasts at sea level urban locations.As a consequence, the division between amateur and professional astronomy has narrowed.Images obtained even by modest amateur-sized telescopes can be used for scientific data or artistically pleasing images of a spectacular universe.

In this talk, Harvey will present an explanation of the equipment and techniques he has used and the results obtained from a backyard observatory that he has constructed.Along with many images he has obtained over the past few years, he will describe the astronomy research that he guided through the mentoring of two high school students, both of whom became Intel Science Competition finalists as a result.

Thursday, May  17, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"Aphrodite's Shadow, (The June 5 Venus Transit and How to Observe it Safely)" by Alan French

When Venus catches up with our Earth and passes between us and the Sun, the planet usually passes above or below the Sun.  At intervals of more than 100 years, Venus passes in front of, or transits, the Sun twice, with the transit pair separated by 8 years.  The last transit was on June 8, 2004, and the next is visible here on June 5 of this year.  The last transit was in progress as the Sun rose.  This transit will start just after 6:00 pm, and will still be in progress as the Sun sets.
Observing the Sun without proper equipment is dangerous and can quickly cause permanent, irreversible eye damage.  The talk will include ways to safely observe this rare event.
The next transit of Venus will not be in our lifetime.  The next pair occurs on December 11, 2117, and December 8, 2125.

Thursday, June 21, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium

"Member Potpourri"
Members of the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers will give short talks on a variety of topics.

Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"Astrolabes," by Sam Salem.

Astrolabe projection principles date back more than 2000 years ago. The astrolabe has been known as the medieval astronomical instrument capable of measuring the altitude of the sun and stars or a star. The astrolabe has been viewed as an observational device, an astronomical computer, a model of the heavens, a timekeeping device, and an educational tool.

The astrolabe is an interesting example of how different cultures have contributed to the progress of astronomy by adding new applications to the device to serve certain needs. The Arabs modified the Greek astrolabe to be able to calculate the prayer times by detecting the motion of the sun. The Europeans used the astrolabe as a nautical device to tell the time and measure the altitude. The astrolabe evolved to be a sort of analog computer with hundreds of uses. The craftsmanship of the astrolabes in the medieval time was a representation of the art and culture at that time. Then, astrolabe was a piece of art and a symbol of prestige for its owner.
The talk gives an overview of the history and applications of this beautiful astronomical instrument

Thursday, August 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm Landis Arboretum in Esperance
Every August we meet at Landis Arboretum instead of the Schenectady Museum.  There is no formal program, it is a chance for members and guests to socialize.  Club members set up telescopes for a star party that starts after darkness falls, so the meeting is good chance to see a variety of instruments and get some views of celestial sights (weather permitting).   The club will also hold its Second Annual Ice Cream Social," so skip dessert. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"NASA's Search for Life Beyond the Earth," by Dr. John Delano
The number of planets, confirmed and unconfirmed, orbiting nearby stars is approaching 3,000.  Among these exoplanets a few may have conditions that would be suitable for life as we know it, but there are still large uncertainties with any claims for habitability.  Dr. Delano will discuss some of the latest results bearing on the geochemistry and astrophysics of life's origins.
We are very pleased to have Dr. Delano return as a speaker.  He has spoken to the club many times over the past two decades, and has been one of our most popular guests.  Please join us for this exciting program.

Thursday, October 18, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"A Beginner's Guide to Telescopes," by Alan French, Jim Shearer, and Greg Nowell
Have you been thinking about buying a telescope?  Are you confused about the vast number of choices?  Join us for a program designed to make the decision easier.  Three experienced amateurs will talk about the three main flavors of telescope - Newtonians, refractors, and Schmidt-Cassegrains - and then answer your questions.

Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 7:30 pm
at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 7:30 pm at the Schenectady Museum & Suits-Bueche Planetarium
"Share Your Astrophotos"
December is our annual "Share Your Astrophotos" meeting and Winter Solstice party.  Club members and guests are invited to bring in and share astrophotos they've taken during the past year.

Thursday, January 17, 2013
"President's Potpourri"
A variety of stunning astrophotography and astronomical videos from the past year, including a few surprises.

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Dr. Harry Ringermacher on Discovering Planets Around Other "Suns"

Thursday, March 21, 2013
Matthew Newby on "Milkyway@home:  Citizen Science, Colliding Galaxies, and Dark Matter"

Thursday, April 18, 2013
Alan French on "The Chelyabinsk Fireball"