Look up at the sky this month!
For star-gazers, August has always been a favorite month because of the annual Perseid Meteor showers. When we are lucky enough to have a clear night with little moonlight, there are dozens of meteors per hour streaking across the heavens.
But this year, August has an even more spectacular event: The Great American Solar Eclipse on August 21. We will see only about 75% of the sun in shadow, but it will still be an amazing sight. Here is a website that shows how we will see the eclipse in Rochester. In order to see the full effect, you would need to travel down south or out west. Luckily, one of my avid sky-watcher friends is flying to Idaho, so I will get a first-hand report from him.
To learn more about the eclipse (and score some safe eclipse-watching glasses), I headed to the Gates Public Library last week for Prepare for the Solar Eclipse. Optical engineer and astronomer Jim Porter explained all we needed to know about the solar eclipse—from what to expect that day to proper safety measures to protect your eyes. To find out more about the eclipse and how to be safe when watching it, this website has it all, including Eclipse 101, safety tips, and a photo gallery.
Fun fact from Jim: In just 7 years, on April 8, 2024, we will be able to see a FULL solar eclipse right here in Rochester!
Viewing the Night Skies
One of the downsides to living close to a city is that the ambient light keeps us from seeing the full drama of stars glittering in a dense black sky. We do, however, have some great local astronomical resources to compensate: telescopes that are open to the public for viewing…
- The Telescopes at Strasenburgh Planetarium
Each Saturday night as many as 125 people climb the 61 steps to the roof of the Strasenburgh Planetarium. The 12.5 and 11-inch-diameter reflecting telescopes are open to the public most Saturday nights from dark until about 10:00 p.m. (as long as the skies are clear and volunteer telescope operators are available). Admission and parking are free, but they advise you to call the planetarium box office after 7:30 p.m. to confirm the telescope is open: 585-697-1945. If no one answers, call 585-703-9876.
- The Marian and Max Farash Center for Observational Astronomy
The Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science operates this astronomical site, which includes an education center and six working observatories on 17 acres off Route 64 in the hamlet of Ionia. Monthly open houses offer tours of the observatories and a look through a variety of telescopes. To find out more go to www.rochesterastronomy.org and click on “Our Observing Site.”
- The University of Rochester Kenneth Mees Observatory
On selected Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, the University of Rochester Department of Physics and Astronomy offers free public tours at its Mees Observatory (6604 S. Gannett Road, Naples). There are tours for adults and older children, special tours for kids, and full moon tours. Tours begin at 8:00 p.m. and finish around 11:00 p.m. After an introductory talk on astronomy and what you will see that night, you will be able to observe the heavens through their 24-inch reflecting telescope. For reservations, visit www.rochesterastronomy.org.
It's never too late to become an amateur astronomer!
Rochester’s astronomy club, the Astronomy Section of the Rochester Academy of Science (ASRAS), invites you to attend a meeting and explore their website. Here you will find information about astronomical observation in Rochester, what is overhead tonight, a blog on the sky this month, information about telescopes and viewing in the area, and practical information for beginners.
Connie Herrera is the author of 60 Fun Things to Do Within 60 Miles of Rochester, 60 Great Places to Go With Kids Within 60 Miles of Rochester, and her newest book 60 Fun Things to Do When You're Retired - Within 60 Miles of Rochester. “My goal is to help people rediscover where they live and see it with new eyes. So, if you’re new to the area, I want you to be astounded at your luck in moving here. If you’re here for a visit, I hope you’ll want to come back again to do more. And, if you’ve lived here all your life, I hope you’ll be surprised at how many places you haven’t yet explored and how many you want to visit again!” You can find out more at my website: 60funthingstodo