All the sky's a stage for summer stargazing
By Amanda Jermyn



Summertime, and the living is easy… Stargazing is too, now that the warm nights are upon us.

While the starry skies are yours to enjoy on any clear night, there are also a number of organized stargazing activities in the area throughout the summer. When skies are clear, the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association will host the following free programs during the summer: solar observing on Saturdays at 1pm at Mount Pollux in Amherst; night sky observing on Saturdays at 9pm at the Amherst College Wilder Observatory; and observing on Sundays at sunset at Mount Pollux. For more information on these and other events visit http://www.astronomyassociation.org/.

The 34th annual Connecticut River Valley Astronomer’s Conjunction runs from July 8th to 10th at the Northfield Mountain Recreation and Environmental Center in Northfield, MA. The keynote speaker is science journalist and physicist Marcia Bartusiak who will speak on “Black Hole: How an idea hated by Einstein was finally proven by a gravity-wave song.” Bartusiak is a professor at MIT and the author of six books, including “Einstein’s Unfinished Symphony” and “Black Hole: How an idea abandoned by Newtonians, hated by Einstein, and gambled on by Hawking became loved.” Other events include a talk by Ron Woodland and Rich Sanderson on “The Solar Eclipse Experience” and a presentation by NASA Ambassador Jim Zebrowski on “The Real Martian: Earth explores the Red Planet.” Tim Connolly will talk about “Smartphone Apps for Stargazing” and Jack Megas will present “Star Light, Star Bright: A Survey of the 20 Brightest Stars.” Other activities include solar and nighttime viewing through telescopes, a swap table, camping at Barton’s Cove on the Connecticut River, and an outdoor buffet dinner. For more information visit http://www.philharrington.net/astroconjunction or contact Richard Sanderson at rsanderson@springfieldmuseums.org.

This year, Stellafane, the 81st Convention of Amateur Telescope Makers, will be held from August 4th through 7th on Breezy Hill in Springfield, Vermont. This annual gathering gives amateur telescope makers the opportunity to show off their creations and teach one another about telescope making. The Keynote speaker will be Fred Espenak, a NASA astrophysicist known as “Mr. Eclipse.” Espenak will highlight all aspects of the total eclipse of the sun that will cover a large swath of North America on August 21st, 2017. As an expert astrophotographer, he will also discuss techniques to capture this event. Kristine Larsen, professor of geological sciences at Central Connecticut State University will deliver the Shadowgram address. Other talks include “Why Asteroid Light Curves,” “Deep Sky Imaging with Small Scopes” and “Science with your DSLR Camera.” A key feature of the Stellafane Convention is the telescope competition, which gives amateur telescope makers a chance to compete for awards. In addition, there will be astronomy activities for children and teens. For more information visit http://stellafane.org/.

You may also want to consider attending the Rockland Astronomy Club’s Summer Star Party, organized by the Northeast Astronomy Forum, at the Peppermint Park Camping Resort in Plainfield, MA. Events are open to the public, and run from July 29th to August 7th. Come for a night or stay for all ten days. Activities include talks, dinners, demonstrations and stargazing, with telescopes available for dark sky observing. For more information visit http://www.rocklandastronomy.com/ssp.html.

On August 12th at 7.30pm join the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association at the Amherst College Planetarium for a talk by Adam Jermyn on “How Stars change when they are heated externally by Pulsar Companion Stars.” Jermyn is a Hertz Fellow, National Science Foundation Fellow, Goldwater Scholar and Marshall Scholar currently pursuing a PhD in astrophysics at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge. While an undergraduate at the California Institute of Technology he was the recipient of numerous research awards. The talk is free and open to the public.

Also on August 27th, the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomers Association, together with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, will host a free public star party at the summit of Mount Greylock, and another at the same venue on September 10th. Both events run from 5.30pm to 11.30pm, weather permitting. For more information contact Crystal Mengele at cmengele@hotmail.com or visit the Amherst Area Amateur Astronomy Association’s Facebook page.

Another stargazing highlight is Arunah Hill Days at the Arunah Hill Natural Science Center in Cummington from September 2nd to 4th. This family-oriented weekend includes stargazing, nature walks, GPS treasure hunts, rocket building and launching, and science education. Several large telescopes will be available for nighttime viewing, and experienced amateur astronomers will conduct constellation orientation talks. Keynote speaker, Sarah Zuraw, will talk on “Discovering Gravity Waves.” Zuraw is a graduate student in astrophysics at the University of Massachusetts and is part of the U Mass LIGO team involved in the groundbreaking detection of gravity waves. All events are free and open to the public. For more information visit www.arunah.org or contact Ed Faits at efaits@comcast.net.

Happy stargazing, and enjoy the wonders of the night sky!