The Hippo


May 27, 2020








Star gazers unite at the skywatch events hosted by the Astronomical Society. Courtesy photo.

Skywatch events

Merrimack Public Library: 470 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, Wednesday, July 23, from 8:45 to 10 p.m. (Rain date: Thursday, July 24)
Gafney Library: 14 High St., Sanbornville, 522-3401, Tuesday, July 29, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. (Rain date: Thursday, July 31)
Bedford Library: 3 Meetinghouse Road, Bedford, 472-3023, Wednesday, July 30, from 8:30 to 10 p.m. (Rain date: Tuesday, Aug. 5)
McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center: 2 Institute Drive, Concord, 271-7827, Friday, Aug. 1, from 7 to 11 p.m.
Contact your local library for 
information regarding telescope rentals.

Star sightings
Planets in this telescope may be closer than they appear


 As the Earth rotates, our view of the night sky is constantly changing. Different planets and astronomical wonders can be viewed at different times of the year, from the star clusters to the rings of Saturn. For Paul Winalski, watching people witness some of these phenomena through his telescopes is as fun as doing it himself.

“I get a real kick out of seeing the reactions of people looking into the sky for the first time,” said. Winalski, who is the secretary and co-chairman of the public observing committee with the New Hampshire Astronomical Society. “An awful lot of people can’t believe [the views are] real. But, no, that’s the real thing!”
Throughout the year, the New Hampshire Astronomical Society packs up its telescopes and makes the trek out to libraries across the state for special skywatch viewings. The statewide club sets up multiple telescopes of varying sizes and directs them toward some of the most popular spots in the night skies.
The skywatch events typically start off with a brief introductory presentation by one of the members of the society, which is a group of volunteers that range from astronomy educators to amatuer telescope enthusiasts. Depending on what’s visible during that time of year, the society members discuss specific things to look out for when viewing them and explain the scientific make-up of some of the flashiest night sky attractions, such as double stars and even other galaxies. The group is then led out to the field for a special viewing of what they have just learned.
According to Winalski, the Astronomical Society sets up as far away as it can from the light pollution caused by the towns and cities.
With the new moon occurring Saturday, July 26, the stars seem to be aligning for the best viewing experiences during upcoming skywatches.
Winalski also said other popular views this time of year are Mars, the ring nebula, and several star clusters including M13, M92 and M3. 
“Usually this time of year, you can see one or two of Saturn’s moons, Titan and Rhea,” he said. “Under the best conditions, I’ve been able to see seven [of Saturn’s moons].”
You may be able to see some of the planets with the naked eye (hint: look at the “stars” that don’t twinkle), but Jeanne Gerulskis, executive director at the McAullife-Shepard Discovery Center, said the beauty of the planets goes unmatched when viewed through the lens.
“When you’re looking at Saturn, you can see Titan and the rings, which is very cool,” she said. “Mars, you can kind of see it anyways because it’s got a rusty color, but through the telescope you can really see the colors. Looking at Jupiter, you can see the different bands of gases.”
Gerulskis said during the Discovery Center’s skywatch viewings, which usually host anywhere from dozens to hundreds depending on weather and time of year, the Astronomical Society also helps attendees explore the moon. This, however, can sometimes play into the enthusiasm of the students more than the teachers.
“The Astronomical Society will show people all of the craters on the moon too,” she said. “One really funny thing about that is that [society members] see it as a big bright light that blocks the view of the [other] stuff.”
Another sky show coming up is the Delta Aquarid meteor shower from Tuesday, July 29, through Thursday, July 31. While meteor showers make for a specular viewing, Gerulskis said, the showers are best enjoyed while laying down in your backyard, covered in mosquito repellent.
“It’s not good to look at through a telescope. It’s a limited field of vision,” she said. “You really want a big wide view of the night sky. It’s magnificent looking at the wild, bright white streaks as meteors burn through the atmosphere.”
For those who don’t have the time to make it out to their local library for a skywatch event, a large number of libraries in the state have telescopes available for rent, telescopes that were donated by the Astronomical Society. 
The Astronomical Society also encourages all enthusiasts who own a telescope to bring them down to the skywatch events.
“People ask us about buying telescopes, and of course one of the things we encourage people to do is to come to the public events or to join in the club,” he said. “You can see for yourself, you won’t find anything else like the ring nebula.” 
As seen in the July 24, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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