By Dave Fuller on 9/10/2014 8:45 PM

A month or so ago, I met a gentleman named Chris who is part of a group that is trying to revitalize the downtown Kankakee area by supporting artistic endeavors. What they do is very wide-ranging, and last month he asked me to introduce one of their film nights, "2001: A Spacey Odyssey" that he indicated I could talk about anything I wanted that had to do with space. After doing that, we talked a bit about what other ways we could collaborate. We decided to do a "Sidewalk Astronomy" event, and it was held last night. We did not do a lot of promoting of the event - a few Facebook posts and shares, but not much else. I also highlighted the event with the Kankakee Area Stargazers club and two of our members offered to join me.


It turned out to be a GREAT night.

By Dave Fuller on 8/29/2014 5:18 PM
Spica during the day? 

Today is the day that the Moon was to be within 2 degrees of Spica in the daytime sky. Cloudy weather and even a bit of rain was the order of most of the day today. But I just went outside a little bit ago, and realized... hey, it's clear! Well, clearish. Not exactly superb transparency by any means. 

Moon points to Spica during the dayBut always being one to try for all things astronomical whenever possible, I hauled out my 6" f/5 scope, as it was the quickest and easiest scope I could get out the door while the Moon was still in between two sets of tall pine trees to my southwest. Found the...
By Dave Fuller on 8/26/2014 7:49 PM
People are surprised that they can see stars during the day that are not the Sun. “What? Really? How is that possible?” It is possible because bright stars are... well, bright! The trick is that you need to know the exact spot to look, because you won't have the crutch of a dark sky to make the star's contrast with the sky as obvious.

So how to find a star in the sky this week? Use the Moon as your guide. On Friday August 29th, the Moon will be a waxing crescent. Now, some people are still surprised that the Moon can be seen during the day, but that's another matter. Even crescent like this shines at magnitude negative nine, more than sufficient to be seen in a clear blue sky.

Moon and Sun in sky Aug 28 2014

The first step is to find the Moon in the sky, and you have a window of a couple hours for the easiest spotting of the star. For the first opportunity, look slightly before 3:00 pm EDT/12:00 pm PDT....
By Dave Fuller on 8/18/2014 4:05 PM
On August 2, 2014, members of the Kankakee Area Stargazers, the Kankakee Valley Theater Association, other members of the community, artist-in-residence for Kankakee Brandi Burgess and I put together a show for about 55 audience members at the Willowhaven Interpretive Center east of the Kankakee / Bradley / Bourbonnais area. See this previous blog post for information about the event; see pictures below for some fun scenes from that night.  

The program ran 45 minutes, and amateur astronomers plus about half the crowd stayed for another hour and fifteen minutes to look at Saturn, Mars, the Moon and some other objects through a couple of telescopes that were brought by a couple members of the Kankakee Area Stargazers. Below are few photos from this theater-astronomy-mythology-outreach event. 

Brandi Burgess and David Fuller welcome the audience to Star Stories

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By Dave Fuller on 7/31/2014 8:17 AM
In the world of music, "mash ups" have been a phenomenon for some time. Parts of two songs are typically blended together to create a new song, often with the verses of one song, and the chorus of another.  Astronomy outreach is something I've enjoyed doing for quite a while, whether it be in-person with a telescope and engaging with the public, or via the videos I make and post on YouTube. Particularly with my YouTube offerings, I have often enjoyed "mashing up" theater with astronomy. While the science itself certainly carries its own interesting points, many people already do a fine job of communicating that to the public. What I enjoy is taking some of what is used as a means of identifying what we see in the sky (International Astronomical Union-approved stars and constellations), and telling the stories that the ancient Greeks told about the shapes they saw in the sky - that is, mythology.Star Stories - Hercules over Draco

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By Dave Fuller on 1/26/2014 9:41 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of January 27 thru February 2 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Jan 27:  Camelopardalis contains a several sights like Kemble's Cascade and NGC1502 Tuesday, Jan 28: Mars is 5 degrees north of Spica, and remains close to the star all week long...
By Dave Fuller on 1/20/2014 10:35 AM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of January 13 thru January 19 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Jan 13:  Find and observe colorful double stars in Cassiopeia Algol at minimum, 08:12 UT Tuesday, Jan 14: Camelopardalis contains a several sights like...
By Dave Fuller on 1/5/2014 8:31 AM
I actually had what I thought was a clear-ish night last night. Well, I could see stars out the window, which is better than what I've had for most of the last 3 or 4 weeks. But it was also 15F with winds blowing 10 to 20 mph, so rather than take a long focal length scope out, I decided on the Starblast 4.5. I knew the tripod was solid, and the wind wasn't likely to catch the short tube.

Wow... did that turn out to be one of my worst observing sessions ever. I shoveled some snow in my yard to have a decent spot to set up without having to stand in 4 inches of snow. I even dressed totally properly for the weather too - layers of clothing, hand and toe warmers, plus mittens over gloves. Everything was warm. Had my tablet with Sky Safari all set up, and the gloves under my mittens have the little "pads" on them so I could manipulate the tablet while protecting my hands from the cold.

I had wanted to look for a few things in Cepheus, but all those were wayyyy too low behind my house by the time I got...
By Dave Fuller on 1/1/2014 10:03 AM
One of the best meteor showers of the year peaks when the Moon is out of the way. But when and where to look? Meteor showers are named after constellations, because their radiant - that is to say, the place in the sky from which they appear to come from - is generally a specific constellation. We have the Perseids radiating from Perseus, the Lyrids coming from Lyra and the Quadrantids coming from... ummmm - Quadr... what now? 

Constellation names Ah yes, that leads to another point: Sometimes constellations got named in the past, but also discarded often because they either fell into disuse or, more recently, were thrown out by the International Astronomical Union. However, the Quadrantids kept the name of the the defunct constellation Quadrans Muralis. This was named after a tool that astronomers of yore used to measure angles in the sky. It is located just off the end of the handle of the "Big Dipper" or "Plough" asterism in Ursa Major, and between Draco and Bootes. Composed of largely dim stars, it's...
By Dave Fuller on 12/30/2013 3:18 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of December 30, 2013 thru January 5, 2014 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Dec 30:  Find and observe colorful double stars in Cassiopeia See more colorful doubles and the open cluster NGC752 in Andromeda...
By Dave Fuller on 12/22/2013 6:01 PM
Here's what's happening in the night sky for the week of December 23 thru December 29 Want to see what's up in the sky this week? This daily reminder chart will let you know lots of individual, time-sensitive events occurring in the night sky for amateur astronomers to observe naked eye, with binoculars and sometimes a telescope.

Not sure how to convert the Universal Times to your local time zone? For U.S. observers, click here. For other visitors, check this site.

Monday, Dec 23:  Find and observe colorful double stars in Cassiopeia See more colorful doubles and the open cluster NGC752 in Andromeda Tuesday,...
By Dave Fuller on 12/4/2012 9:44 AM
Astronomy binocular buying guide Binoculars seem to be everywhere today.  Miniature, pocket-binocs can be had for $15 or $20, which is an astonishing price point when you stop to consider how many lenses and prisms are in them.  And though these may be perfectly acceptable for quick views of the occasional bird or squirrels, the sheer physics of their limited light gathering make them impractical for usage in astronomy.

That leads to the flip side the binocular world: The large aperture, high magnification ones.  These seem like a great idea as well: 60 and 70 millimeter lenses with 15, 20 and 25 times magnification.  We need more light through the lenses to see more, and higher magnification is always a good thing, right?  Well... yes and no.  Good, high-quality, anti-reflection coated lenses, BAK-4 prisms, expertly-collimated binoculars make great, specialty astronomy binoculars, but observers with instruments such as these will also need a beefy, strong tripod, because their weight will make them heavy...

The Nightlight

This blog includes what to see in the night and daytime skies, thoughts on telescopes, binoculars, and other astronomy observing accessories and equipment, plus my own occasional notes on objects I've seen and observed. Oh, and the random theater or other "my take on life" post. In other words, there is always something interesting. Check it out.