Clear skies for July 25 public stargazing

CAA Observatory - Photo by Alan Studt
CAA Observatory – Photo by Alan Studt
by William Murmann, CAA President

We had another successful public star party last night (July 25) for the Medina County Park System. CAA members brought 12 personal telescopes to Letha House Park for the 9 PM event. Our observatory director, Jay Reynolds, manned our observatory so guests could also use the club’s large scopes.

Our park hosts, Ron and Mary Hank, estimated that we had at 50 or more guests attend the star party. This included a mixture of adults and children. We had clear skies until about 11:30 PM when things clouded over. Jay said the sudden appearance of clouds had something to do with the dew point.

So far our programs for the park district in May, June, and July have had clear skies and great turnouts from the public. Let’s hope this is a trend that continues through the summer.

Apologies if I miss anyone but thanks to: Bill & Carol Lee, Larry Smith, Carl Kudrna, Rich & Nancy Whisler, Tim Campbell, Bruce Lane, Jay Reynolds, Bob Wiersma, Dave Watson, Dave Nuti, Chris Christe, Susan Petsche, and Alan Studt who joined me for our program.

Major observatory donated to RASC

Photo: David Dunlap Observatory
David Dunlap Observatory

Richmond Hill, ON – In what astronomers might describe as “stellar news,” Corsica Development Inc. is donating the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) to the facility’s long-time stewards – the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Toronto Centre. The observatory is 80 years old this year. It houses what is still the largest optical telescope in the country with a mirror measuring 74 inches (1.9meters) across.

The decision was made in 2012 by Corsica to transfer the Administration Building and Dome to an agency that would honor the spirit of the Observatory and ensure its long-term viability. Members of the RASC Toronto Centre have been managing and operating the David Dunlap Observatory for the last six years and are the resident experts.

Corsica, which purchased the 190 acre Observatory property from the University of Toronto in 2008, is also donating nearly 100 acres of the land to the Town of Richmond Hill.

RASC Toronto Centre has been involved in public outreach programs at the Dunlap Observatory since it first opened in 1935. The registered charity took on full responsibility for the Observatory and Administration building in 2009, including maintaining and operating the largest optical telescope in Canada. “We’re honored by this incredibly generous gift,” says Paul Mortfield, President of RASC Toronto Centre. “Fred DeGasperis was very supportive of our work at the DDO and our commitment as stewards of the Observatory and telescope. We will always be grateful for the confidence he showed in us.”

The historic buildings will continue to be a centre for education and science literacy for the community.

For the last six years RASC Toronto Centre member volunteers have managed the facility and provided hundreds of award-winning educational and outreach programs to York Region families and students. They’ve done so without the use of local tax dollars.

Centre members say they’re looking forward to working collaboratively with the town on new programs and projects that will continue to benefit town residents.

Please see the announcement on www.theDDO.ca for more information.

Observatory improvements stellar

by William Murmann, CAA President

Observatory Director Jay Reynolds recently reported the good news about our Letha House Park observatory.

Jay told me that he and Bruce Lane went out last week and made the final adjustments on our 16-inch Meade.  This scope and the recently donated 8-inch Celestron are now fully operational and user-friendly.

When I became club president nearly four years ago, one of my goals was to get our observatory up and running so it would be an asset to our club.

For years, our observatory sat largely unused.  It was full of mice, dead bugs, and spider webs.  Parts of it were literally rotting away.  During the past two years, this has all changed.

I contacted the Medina Park District’s executive director and asked for help getting our building repaired.  He graciously agreed to help, although he didn’t have to because the building belongs to the club and we are responsible for its maintenance.

The park staff replaced the building’s rotting south wall, fixed the leaky roof, and replaced the rotting door frame and door.

We paid for materials; the park district staff donated the labor free of charge.  And, recently, the park maintenance staff restored the fold-down sections of the south wall at my request.  All the labor and materials for this job were donated to us free of charge.

And last month, we installed a new door lock on the advice of the park district’s locksmith, who warned me that the old lock was about worn out and could simply stop working.

The park district, under its current executive director Tom James, has been very supportive of our club. We owe them our thanks, and thanks to the park district’s maintenance supervisor Rick Perry for the excellent work he and his staff have done in repairing our observatory.

Jay Reynolds, who I appointed last year as our observatory director,  has played a key role in restoring our observatory.  He has spent hours and hours cleaning and organizing the building, getting rid of junk, installing the 8-inch Celestron that was donated to our club, and repairing and mounting our 16-inch Meade in a new spot on the old Byers mount that had sat basically unused for years.

Jay, with help from Suzie Dills and others, has made all the difference in giving us a “new” observatory.  Many thanks to all.

Fireball thrills observers

Published on Sep 28, 2013
Last night, a meteor exploded in the skies above the US midwest. Witnesses report shadows cast upon the ground, unusual sounds, and a swirling contrail marking the aftermath of the blast. A NASA all-sky camera in Hiram, Ohio, recorded the fireball at 11:33 pm EDT: 

”This was a very bright event,” reported Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office. “Flares saturated our meteor cameras, and made determination of the end point (the terminus of the fireball’s flight through the atmosphere) virtually impossible. Judging from the brightness, we are dealing with a meter-class object.”

Data from multiple cameras shows that the meteoroid hit Earth’s atmosphere traveling 51 km/s (114,000 mph) and passed almost directly over Columbus, Ohio. Cooke has prepared a preliminary map of the ground track. According to the American Meteor Society, the fireball was visible from at least 14 US states. The meteor is estimated to have exploded 41 miles directly above Columbus, Ohio.

Members of the CAA, at the club’s Letha House Park observing site near Spencer, Ohio, also saw the event. Observatory Director Jay Reynolds recounted the sight: “[Others] were observing in the parking lot, I was in the observatory reviewing photos I had taken when the observatory grew from darkness to BRIGHT in half a second! [It was] initially white, then green, then FLASH as if someone took a photo. As we looked, Capricorn now had a large glowing scar running 15-20 degrees horizontally across, running through it. The smoke trail was so bright, it too, may have been able to cast a shadow in the first second after it’s flashy birth, slowly fading, taking nearly a minute to disappear.”