The Celestial Observer – September, 2014

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We are children of the night. Our species evolved under an overarching canopy of stars . . . .  During long hours of darkness there was nothing much to do but sleep and wonder.

Chet Ramos, Night Sky

From the President
Greetings NSAAC Members! 
Labor Day has passed, the kids are back in school, and temperatures are dropping–fewer mosquitos! We begin to say goodbye to the summer constellations and eagerly anticipate rediscovering our favorite fall and winter celestial objects.

Vice President Ed Burke’s efforts to secure an additional observing site have borne fruit! NSAAC has permission to use Strawberry Fields in Groveland for observing on four nights in September. Two of those nights coincide with the upcoming Trails & Sails star parties hosted by NSAAC at Battis farm in Amesbury. We will fully support the Trails & Sails star parties and take advantage of Strawberry Fields on the other two nights. Meanwhile, Ed continues to work with the Town of Groveland to set up an ongoing observing schedule and permit to use Strawberry Fields. Thanks, Ed, for all of your efforts to support the club!

Following our September 5 Club meeting at Brooks School, several members walked up the hill to see the school’s domed observatory, which Dennis Gudzevich, Kevin Ackert, and school faculty member Maylo Keller have restored to working order. The observatory and its 12-inch Meade SC scope will be the centerpiece for an NSAAC-hosted star party for the Brooks faculty in late September.

Download Newsletter (PDF)

Armchair astronomy topic for September – This summer NASA’s Cassini probe has passed a significant milestone: ten years in orbit around Saturn. Cassini-Huygens has spent the last decade studying the planet, its ring system and many moons. Read more here →

Member spotlightBrewster LaMacchia, Star Party Coordinator. 
In addition to his role as contact person and scheduler for many NSAAC star parties, Brewster spends immeasurable hours creating the pre-star party presentations he gives to elementary school students and community groups throughout the Merrimack Valley. Brewster’s tireless efforts contribute to one of NSAAC’s primary missions: public outreach. Thank you for all you do, Brewster!
I hope to see members old and new at upcoming meetings and observing sessions.

Clear Skies, Kevin Hocker,
NSAAC President

Scope Clinic Reminder: Need help with using your telescope or accessories? Are your mirrors out of alignment? Have a broken part? Then sign up for the next “scope clinic.” Clinics are held at 7:00 PM, one hour prior to the Club’s monthly business meetings (first Friday of the month). Go to for complete details.
Three clinic requirements:

  1. Register at at least one week prior to the meeting date and describe your scope and whatever problems you are having with it. That will give us time to round up the people who can help with your problem.
  2. Confirm 24 hours prior that you will be there. Our volunteer “fixers” knock themselves out to be there an hour early. They are bummed out when the people who ask for help fail to show up without notice.
  3. Tell us your home address. Brooks School requires us to provide the names and addresses of all attendees to our on-campus meetings, clinics and observing sessions.

Deadline Near for Ordering 2015 Handbooks and Calendars

The Observer’s Handbook is a must-have for advanced amateur and professional astronomers. Published by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) since 1907, many considered the Handbook the finest compendium of annual astro highlights and detailed information.
While sports fans have the Sports Illustrated swimsuit calendar, astronomers have the RASC’s annual Observer’s Calendar, which contains spectacular astro images, daily rise and set times, lunar phenomena, conjunctions, eclipses, meteor showers and more.
Both items are available to NSAAC members at a discount, $26 and $20 respectively. Dennis Gudzevich is taking orders through Saturday, 20 September.

Comet Stuff
Many Club members had a chance to see Comet Jacques in late August and early September as it traveled night by night through Cassiopeia, on past Deneb in Cygnus on the night of September 4, then arcing down toward Albireo. It was easy to spot with binoculars and showed itself as a fuzzy ball through a scope.
Internet link, attributed to Tony Sharfman, captured the comet’s movement against the background of stars. Check it out.
To keep tabs on Jacques and other bright comets, go to and click open its star charts to see where these comet are and where they are headed.

Book Review

cometThe Caldwell Objects
Stephen James O’Meara with a Foreword by Sir Patrick Moore
Sky & Telescope/Cambridge University Press, 2002, 484 pages

Reviewed by Dick Luecke

In April 2013 I entered the Astronomical League’s Messier Club Certificate Program, which requires systematic observation of at least 70 Messier objects. Bagging the entire list qualifies one as an honorary member of the League’s Messier Club.
Tackling the list has given structure to my observing sessions. Doing it without benefit of a GoTo mount (a Messier Club no-no) has forced me to pour over star atlases and acquaint myself with unfamiliar corners of the night sky where guide stars are few. A lot of work, but all to the good, right?
For new astronomers and owners of small-to-medium-aperture instruments, the “M”s are usually the first order of business, being relatively brighter and easier to locate than most other deep-sky objects (DSO). But once these low-hanging fruit have been picked, where should we turn? I asked myself that question this summer as I closed in on the last twenty “M”s.

Higher Hanging Fruit Thankfully, the late Sir Patrick C. (Caldwell) Moore created another list of interesting DSOs: The Caldwell Objects. Like Messier’s, Moore’s Catalog contains 109 objects. They represent a wide range of magnitudes (down to 13) and are scattered between declinations +85° and -80.° By Moore’s design:

  • Objects are numbered in order of declination, beginning in the far north and working southward
  • Some are more challenging to locate than are others
  • The Catalog includes DSOs in southern skies
  • All objects are accessible to 4-inch scopes under dark skies
  • All types of DSOs are included: nebulae, clusters, galaxies–the works

Sky and Telescope introduced the Caldwell Objects in a 1995 article. Seven years later, S&T alumnus Stephen James O’Meara released a guide to the Caldwells, a follow-on to his “Deep Sky Companion” to the Messiers. (Note: O’Meara’s second edition of Messier Objects is illustrated with photos taken by Dr. Mario Motta.) Using a 4-inch Tele Vue Genesis refractor, O’Meara located most of the Caldwells from his home base on the Big Island of Hawaii, and viewed more southerly targets from New Zealand and South Africa.

His book is nicely organized with 4 or 5 pages dedicated to each of the 109 objects. Each section opens with the object’s NGC or other designation, its type (e.g., elliptical galaxy), celestial coordinates and constellation, magnitude, dimensions, estimated distance, the name of its discoverer, and the year of first sighting. Each object’s section also includes a photo, a usable star chart, and the author’s at-the-eyepiece hand sketch. Descriptions gleaned from William Herschel and other catalogers are also included. For example, for Caldwell 21 (NGC 4449) its discoverer, William Herschel, tell us:
Very brilliant. Considerably large. . . . With difficulty resolvable. Has 3 or 4 bright compressed spots.
Following these preliminaries, O’Meara provides several pages of historical information, observing hints for amateurs, and the latest scientific understanding of what is going on with a particular Caldwell Object.

Caldwell 31, IC 405 Flaming Star Nebula | Photo by John Hobbs

Caldwell 31, IC 405 Flaming Star Nebula | Photo by John Hobbs

All of this adds up to a handy tool for planning and executing observations of Patrick Moore’s favorites beyond the Messiers. Printed on glossy 7”x10” stock, this deep-sky companion is heavy enough to stay open on the table, though not as well as it would with a lay-flat binding, and survive many nights in the field. The sky charts that serve as front and back end papers make it easy to see where each C object is located.
The Caldwell Observing Program The Astronomical League has created an observing program for the Caldwells with two award categories: 70 objects, and the complete list of 109. Participants can use any binos or telescope but, as with the Messier program, GoTo scopes are not allowed.

Seventy-five or so of the 109 should be viewable from our latitude. Given the frequent turbidity of our North Shore skies—and moonlit nights—finding and viewing them should keep me busy and off the streets for a couple of years!

Caldwell 4, NGC 7023 Tulip Nebula | Photo: John Hobbs

Caldwell 4, NGC 7023 Tulip Nebula | Photo: John Hobbs

The compete Caldwell list can be viewed at

Sky Object of the Month: Messier 22 in Sagittarius
Glenn Chaple has chosen M22 as September’s object. Located just above the top of the “Teapot” in one of the most spectacular regions of the Milky Way, this globular cluster is a worthy rival to M13. Chaple’s article, along with a useful star chart and excellent image of M22 by Mario Motta, is now on the Club website.

Upcoming NSAAC Activities
Collins Observatory Now that classes are back in session, Monday night public viewings at Salem State University have resumed with, as always, Dennis Gudzevich at the controls of the 12-inch Meade. The observatory is closed on school holidays and cloudy nights, so stay tuned to announcements on the website,
Mendel Observatory Merrimack College’s observatory is open every Wednesday from dusk until 10 p.m. when the sky is clear, with Kevin Ackert and Fred Sammartino operating the scope and dome. Check before driving out.

Star Parties
Led by Brewster LaMacchia, the Club hosted public viewings in August at both Endicott Park in Danvers and Newburyport’s Maudsley State Park. Both were well attended. Brewster extends his thanks to all who pitched in. Next up are:

Friday, September 19 and 26 at Battis Farm, Amesbury. “Explore the Night Sky,” hosted by NSAAC as part of the Essex Heritage slate of Trail & Sails events. No rain dates. This is a good location: a big open field and about as little light pollution as you can find near 495.

Tuesday, September 30, Brooks School, North Andover. The Club will host an open house event for Brooks faculty at the campus’s recently renovated observatory.

Stay posted for more information on NSAAC star parties at as it becomes available.

Next Business/Members Meeting Friday, October 3, 8 p.m. at Brooks School in North Andover.

Other Upcoming Astro Activities

Acadia Night Sky Festival
September 25 through 29. Year seven of this five-day event is expected to draw 50-60 telescopes and upwards of 4,500 participants (mostly visitors to Acadia National Park) under some of the darkest skies in the northeastern US. More info can be found at

Astroblast 2014
September 26-28. A weekend-long gathering in Oil City, PA. for information go to

New England Fall Astronomy Festival
Friday October 17 and Saturday October 18. Get the details at

Volunteers Needed!
NSAAC depends on member volunteers to keep its many astronomy-related activities going. The Club is particularly in need of anyone who can:
Assist Brewster LaMacchia with star parties and presentations, the Club’s foremost outreach/education initiative. Contact:
Help to operate the Merrimack College Observatory on Wednesday evenings. Contact: Kevin Ackert at
Take responsibility for bringing snacks/drinks to the monthly meetings. Perhaps 2-3 members could divide up the year. Contact:
Help Ed Burke with the website. He needs someone to take charge of posting one or more of the site’s regular features such as this newsletter, book reviews, the calendar, etc.. Contact:

Meeting Minutes 5 September 2014
President Hocker called the September Business Meeting of the NSAAC to order at 8:12 PM. There were eleven members present plus five Board members. There was a quorum. Meeting was official.

Secretary Minutes of the August Business meeting were approved by acclamation.

Treasurer No report

Membership There are 94 members in good standing.

Early Meeting Announcements Open forum on the agenda after New Business

Committee Reports
Merrimack College: No report

Salem University: The observatory is open for the winter. Dennis and his son installed the Peterson Engineering Easy Focuser kit onto the telescope. The focuser worked much better. The observatory will open Monday the 7th of September.

Star Party Committee: August Events–Endicott Park, Danvers, hosted in conjunction with the Peabody Library, Danvers. There was a presentation to about 35 people and around 50+ for observing. There was a campfire and folk singer too.

Maudslay State Park, Newburyport had about 30+ people, great location – big open field with about is little light pollution as you’ll find inside of 495 (i.e. Milky Way was just about visible). Thank you to the volunteers that assisted at these events. Our Club’s one “public” star party this fall, held in conjunction with the Essex Trails & Sails weekends, will be on Friday Sept 19 and Sept 26, weather permitting. This event is now first in the event listings (Amesbury, Explore the night sky) instead of being 100 entries down as before. Brewster does not have a signup count yet but will provide an update. We will be holding this event at Battis Farm in Amesbury. For those that came to the spring star party there, Battis Farm is a good location – a big open field and, again, about as little light pollution as you can find near 495. Brewster will provide more details closer to the event, but he asks members to mark their calendars with those dates and come out and share their passion for observing with the public.

A Brook’s faculty Star Party/observatory open house is planned for Tuesday, September 30th. Details remained to be worked out.

Other fall star parties: So far only two school requests, from Elementary Schools in Beverly and Newburyport.

Other: For those on the Star Party Volunteer list, Brewster has gotten good feedback about his use of Survey Monkey for signing up for events. Members should let him know if they have ideas for making it easier. He might be able to switch to something like “Meetup,” though with school events there’s an issue of keeping them “members” only.

Telescope Clinic: No activity.

YAP Program: No report.

Old Business
The club needs more volunteers to do star party presentations. Please contact Brewster LaMacchia if interested. We also need more volunteers to operate the telescope at Merrimack College. If interested, contact either Kevin Ackert or Fred Sammartino.
The town of Groveland has finalized the acquisition of “Strawberry Fields” and we have a permit to use the area on four nights in September; the 19th and 20th and the 26th and 27th.

John Hobbs has renewed the club’s permit to use Bradley Palmer State Park (“dark park”). The conditions of use are that at least one member has a permit with him and that someone notifies the park and the Hamilton police department that members will be there. Permits were available for handout and anyone not at the meeting can email John Hobbs at

The repository for NSAAC documents and emails has been setup on gmail by Brewster. It allows board members to retrieve items. Non-board members can contact a board member for special items.

It is calendars and book time again. Dennis Gudzevich has sent out an email asking for items members want to purchase. Orders need to be in Dennis’s hands by Saturday, 20 September.

New Business
Claudia Keller of the Brooks School said that the south gate will be open at future meetings and members don’t have to go by the security office. She indicated that we might want to use another classroom that also has a projector, but not as nice seats. Maylo Keller mentioned that the school has several scopes including two C8’s and a few others. He also found a 16-inch DOB with a red tube; members thought it might be an old Coulter Dob.
The evening’s entertainment was looking at the various scopes at Brooks School and a visit to the observatory to see the Meade 12-inch telescope and dome.
The next Board meeting date will be Monday, 15 September at 7:30 PM at a location TBD.
Meeting adjourned 9:45 PM.

Respectively submitted by John Hobbs, Secretary NSAAC

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