Thursday, October 13, 2011

Extensive Watermilfoil Found in Champlain’s South Bay

Variable-leaf watermilfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum), an aquatic invasive plant, has been found in the South Bay of Lake Champlain, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced today.

Variable-leaf watermilfoil is difficult to control once a population is established in a waterbody. It is able to grow in a wide variety of environmental conditions, is aggressive and grows rapidly. Dense growth of variable-leaf watermilfoil crowds out beneficial native aquatic plants and can impair recreational uses including boating, fishing and swimming. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

High Peaks Happy Hour: Slickers, Old Forge

The brightly painted yellow exterior of Slickers Adirondack Tavern caught our attention as we made our way back into Old Forge. Since it was within walking distance to most of the accommodations in Old Forge, plenty of parking was available. Wearing a bright yellow coat, Slickers is perched on the edge of the Fulton Chain of Lakes, the beach and lake on view from the bar.

Slickers was the sixth of eight bars we covered on our Old Forge tour back in July, but somehow we never got around to writing the review. Since we didn’t go anywhere new over the weekend we resurrected Slickers from the “unfinished” bin.

The bar seats about 10 people, and all seats were taken with several patrons standing. The upbeat crowd steadily building on this Saturday night in July, we ordered drinks from the typical beer and booze options and found a seat along on the wall where we could rest our drinks, take notes, and keep out of the way of the wait staff passing through to the busy restaurant seating area. Additional bar seating was available in an adjacent room, but we needed to be in the mix.

Weathered in a charming, New England way, the building is summer cottage-like, of unknown age, and has to have been around long before 1984. With low ceilings, a dark pine floor, lots of wood, and decorated in a fishing theme, the most impressive feature is the Hoosier-style antique bar shelving featuring brass-trimmed roll-top coolers and glass door cabinets, crammed into the minuscule space behind the bar.

We weren’t able to get close enough to the bar for our usual question and answer session with the bartender, but a local named Bob gave us his positive opinion of Slickers and introduced us to another patron whose wife is the owner of Tony Harpers Too. The people at the bar seemed to be a blend of locals and tourists of varying ages, but everyone was getting to know each other. Bob, who says, “Every bar in the Adirondacks is wonderful!” appeared to be on a quest to meet everyone – at every bar in Old Forge. (We ran into Bob at several of the venues we visited that night.)

Established in 1984, Slickers offers entertainment on Friday and Saturday nights in the summer months. We got the impression that the restaurant would quiet down in time to allow more space for the evening bar crowd who were beginning to arrive for the entertainment. A small deck area is available just outside, but seating did seem to be limited. Offering an array of pizzas, sandwiches, burgers, and homemade soups and desserts, Slickers is a favorite of natives and visitors alike.

No matter how you travel – by boat, snowmobile, kayak, or on foot – Slickers is a must-see while in Old Forge, whether you’re just having drinks, visiting with friends, having a meal, listening to music, meeting new people or all of the above.

Kim and Pam Ladd’s book, Happy Hour in the High Peaks, is currently in the research stage. Together they visit pubs, bars and taverns with the goal of selecting the top 46 bars in the Adirondack Park. They regularly report their findings here at the Almanack and at their own blog, or follow them on Facebook, and ADK46barfly on Twitter.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

John Warren: What the Occupation is All About

Over the past few weeks Adirondackers have gathered to hear about their economic situation and what we can do about it. North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann has been suggesting that the Adirondack Park Agency shift its focus toward economic development. Clarkson University’s Forever Wild initiative has brought forward plans to expand broadband services and connect local workers to new wired jobs. The Adirondack North Country Association (ANCA) provided its own twist on our economic situation, offering a panel that suggested we’re not as bad off as others around the nation.

Missing from these discussions has been the big picture thinking about our economic problems, namely the changes in our economic and democratic system that have endangered the ability of young people to control their economic destinies.

At the ANCA meeting last week Jaison Abel, Senior Economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, reported that “The Upstate economy has generally proven to be more stable than average, and has performed relatively well through the recession and recovery to date” [Emphasis His]. His presentation (available as a pdf here), like most of the economic discussions in the Adirondacks lately, was misleading in its narrow scope.

Taking a wider view are the demonstrators that have been occupying cities and towns across America in recent weeks. The Occupy Wall Street movement began when a large group of people, calling themselves the 99%, established a modern day Hooverville at a privately owned park near Wall Street. Despite claims they are unorganized anarchists, they have met daily in a direct democratic assembly to make decisions and plan and prepare for what has become a nationwide movement to change the fundamental operation of our relatively recently failed economic and democratic systems.

In exchange for exercising their First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble for redress of grievances, they have been maced, beaten, and driven from the places where they have assembled for democratic change. News of police actions in New York City were widely circulated via social media (disturbing video 1, 2, and 3 for example) and served to grow the ranks of protesters exponentially.

In recent days there have been beatings, macings and arrests of many more in cities such as Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Albuquerque, Portland, San Francisco, and even in Des Moines, Iowa where a former Iowa state representative and a 14-year-old girl were arrested. Many of those arrests have included bystanders, independent media, legal observers, and medics caring for the injured. It appears that more than 2,000 have been arrested so far and with widespread demonstrations planned for Saturday that number is likely to rise. Demonstrations are expected to take place over the next week in Canton, Saranac Lake, Montreal, Plattsburg, Burlington, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Albany, Utica, Rochester, Syracuse, and Buffalo.

Although the call for an end to corporate control of our economic and political systems is no more vague than the Tea Party’s call for an end to big government, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been characterized as unfocused and lacking concrete goals. Two videos that have gone viral in the movement serve to sum up most of the complaints being voiced, and counter the recent criticisms. The first, which has played frequently on the Occupy Wall Street livestream is an older video from George Carlin (warning: explicit language) who warns: “it’s a big club and you ain’t in it”. The second is the first cohesive response to the movement’s detractors from John Stewart.

It’s no surprise these videos come from comedians, a class of Americans who are often the only people who can be so direct in their critiques. They also reflect the nature of the movement itself, which is forced to use a kind of comic theater of the streets to be heard. There are more serious commentators as well. Bernie Sanders points out why he thinks protests are a necessary part of the process and even traditional conservatives have weighed in at The Atlantic. The Christian Science Monitor reminds us of the long history populists movements occupying Wall Street. The Nation published an Occupy Wall Street FAQ some weeks ago when the movement was small that explains in a serious way what it’s about.

This being a largely social media driven movement, videos and documents from the 1% have been used against them. Take for example this video of a Wall Street trader on BBC who defiantly claims “governments don’t rule the world, Goldman Sachs rules the world,” or the page from JP Morgan Chase’s website which reminded protesters that they had given $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation, a gift they said (even while the NYPD was keeping protesters from protesting in front of their building) that “was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple.” Both links have gone viral among the Occupy Wall Street movement. Some of most interesting coverage of the movement is being written by a group of reporters with the Village Voice toting cameras and smart phones and posting to the #OccupyWallSt and #OccupyWallStreet hashtags on Twitter. There have been more than sixty 24-hour livestream channels set up from occupations around the world in the last 24 hours.

No doubt there will still be some who say they just don’t understand what it’s all about, so it’s probably fair to say that the movement’s goals are to roll back a number of economic trends which Adirondackers, like nearly all Americans, are experiencing. For those who like charts with facts and figures, Business Insider has a series of charts titled “Here’s What The Wall Street Protesters Are So Angry About…“. Here are a few excerpts from the most salient:

Unemployment: Three years after the financial crisis, the unemployment rate is still at the highest level since the Great Depression (except for a brief blip in the early 1980s). A record percentage of unemployed people have been unemployed for longer than 6 months. The average duration of all unemployment remains at a near an all-time high. If people working part-time who want to work full-time and people who have given up finding a job through official means are included, the unemployment rate is at 17%. That is the lowest percentage of Americans with jobs since the early 1980s.

Corporate Profits: Corporate profits are at an all-time high. As a percentage of the economy, corporate profits are near a record all-time high. With the exception of a short period just before the 2007 crash, profits are higher than they’ve been since the 1950s, vastly higher than they’ve been for most of the last half-century.

Worker Pay: CEO pay is now 350 times the average worker’s pay, up from 50 times the average worker’s pay between 1960-1985. Adjusted for inflation, CEO pay has jumped 300% since 1990 alone and corporate profits have doubled. Average “production worker” pay has increased just 4% and the minimum wage has fallen. After adjusting for inflation, average hourly earnings haven’t increased in 50 years. While CEOs and shareholders have been cashing in, wages as a percent of the economy have dropped to an all-time low.

The 1%: The top 1% of American wage earners have the biggest percentage of the country’s total pre-tax income than any time since the late 1920s, almost 2 times the long-term average. Income inequality has gotten so extreme that the US now ranks 93rd in the world in “income equality” behind China, India, and Iran.

Social Mobility Through Hard Work: Social mobility in America is near an all-time low. The top 1% of Americans own 42% of American financial wealth; the top 5% own nearly 70%. 60% of the net worth of the country held by the top 5%. Taxes on the nation’s highest-earners are close to the lowest they’ve ever been. The aggregate tax rate for the top 1% is lower than for the next 9% — and not much higher than it is for almost everyone else.

Bank Theft: Despite bailing out the banks so that they could keep lending to American businesses, bank lending has dropped sharply except to the American Government, which has risen sharply. They’ve also been collecting interest on money they are not lending — the “excess reserves” at the Federal Reserve Bank. At the same time, because the Fed has slashed the prime rate to almost zero, the banks are able to borrow money for essentially free – as a result they have made $211 billion in the first six months of 2011. That’s one reason there is near-record financial sector profits while the rest of Americans have sunk to their economic lowest.

Check the facts for yourself, but one thing is clear – all the hand-wringing about our local economies in the local media has missed the point entirely.

Photo: Above, photo-shopped Occupy Saranac Lake illustration courtesy Aaron Hobson; Middle and below, two viral Occupy Wall Street photographs that have made the rounds in the past few weeks.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Volunteers Sought for Ausable Tree Planting

Landowners and volunteers are being sought to participate in planting trees along river and stream corridors in the Ausable River Valley on Friday, October 14. The tree planting will be part of an event to kickoff a new program to restore and protect river and stream corridors in the Lake Champlain watershed by the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

Landowners with property along the Ausable River, either of its branches or any their tributaries that need trees along the river and stream banks can receive free trees from the DEC Saratoga Tree nursery planted by volunteers. The trees will shore up eroded stream banks, protect property from flood damage and improve wildlife habitat.

Volunteers are being sought to join federal, state and local officials in planting trees along stream and river banks. Volunteers will meet at Marcy Field along Route 73 in the Town of Keene at 10 am on October 14. Refreshments will be available at that time. After hearing about the new program and receiving encouragement and instruction from officials, volunteers will be assigned to teams and plant trees under the instruction of a team captain. DEC and others will be providing transportation for volunteers and the trees.

The tree planting will wrap up by 4 pm, or when all trees or sites have been planted. Volunteers do not have to stay until end, they can plant for as much time as they desire. Volunteers are asked to dress properly for the being outside and the weather conditions for that day as the event will take place rain or shine. Sturdy hiking shoes or boots will be needed. Volunteers should also bring the following items:

* Work gloves;
* Shovel (if possible, there will be some shovels available );
* Water bottle;
* Snacks (if desired); and
* Lunch (if you plan to work into the afternoon).

Landowners and volunteers are encouraged to contact their local town office or the DEC (897-1291) before close of business Thursday, October 13, if they plan to participate. In the Town of Keene contact Supervisor Bill Ferebee at 576-4444, and in the Town of Jay contact Supervisor Randy Douglas at 647-2204.

The Lake Champlain conservation projects are part of President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors (AGO) initiative and these conservation projects are receiving $1.3 million dollars. On October, 12 the Obama Administration is releasing a report which details how AGO is opening up access to lands and waters, restoring critical landscapes, and supporting thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity. The report outlines combined conservation and recreation successes, including gains in youth employment, new trail designations, the creation of urban campgrounds, and historic investments in large landscapes from Lake Champlain to the Florida Everglades.

Photo: A recent Ausable River tree planting volunteer effort (Courtesy Ausable River Association).


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Take A Crown Point Historic Schooner Tour

This weekend the historic wooden schooner, Lois McClure will make her last stop for the season at another historic location, Crown Point Pier, located on the water just below the Champlain Lighthouse. Those visitors of history; rejoice, lovers of ships; unite and budget watchers; celebrate. This tour is free.

Part of the Farm, Forestry and Fishery Tour, the 88′ schooner Lois McClure and Urger tugboat will offer free tours from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 on October 15-16 at the Crown Point Pier. This tour has been raising awareness of the importance of “sustainable agriculture, responsbile foresty and clean, healthy waterways.” » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

LGA Completes Indian Brook Project

A multi-year project to protect the upstream waters of Indian Brook has been completed by the Lake George Association (LGA). The project is located at the intersection of Federal Hill and Sawmill roads in the town of Bolton.

Over a number of years, a small section of Indian Brook started to collect sediment in an area that was once a swimming hole. Eventually the swimming hole completely filled in, and non-wetland vegetation became established. Without the swimming hole to slow the velocity of the water, the brook started to carry more sediment downstream and into Lake George, contributing to a delta at the mouth of the brook.

In 2009, the LGA cleaned out the swimming hole. Approximately 500 cubic yards of material were removed. In the spring of 2010, native shrubs were planted along the bank to filter storm runoff. The former swimming hole is now functioning as a sediment basin, allowing sediment that is carried during high flow periods to swirl around and drop out of the stream. The sediment remains in the basin and does not flow down to the Lake.

This summer the LGA completed construction of a second sediment basin, a little further upstream from the original. “Our goal with this second project was two-fold,” said Randy Rath, LGA project manager. “One, create an offline basin that will capture and settle out suspended material during storm events. Two, enhance an existing wetland area and use the natural process of wetland formation to remove some nutrients present in the water column.”

“The wetland area is actually more like a sand bar,” Rath said. “It was originally formed during the 2005 storm event that brought about 7” of rain and washed out many roads in the Bolton area. During the storm, some finer material was deposited on the back end of the sandbar, and the area was eventually able to support wetland vegetation.”

LGA Education Director Emily DeBolt selected plants to match wetland species already present in the area. After installation by LGA staff, the wetland plants were given over a month to grow. With frequent watering from LGA staff and some timely rain, all of the plants and grasses survived a hot summer. Initially the wetlands were separated from the flow of the stream by sand bags and a straw bale dike. Fortunately the dike was not opened until after Tropical Storm Irene, and even though water overflowed the dike during the storm, the basin and wetlands remained intact, and continue to function as designed.

A third component of this Indian Brook project included roadside drainage improvements. A roadside ditch was stabilized and several check dams were put in place to slow the stormwater flow running down the shoulder of Federal Hill Road. A small basin installed at the end of the ditch captures the flow and allows sediment and debris to fall out. Additional road shoulder work allows for some stormwater sheet flow to occur over a vegetated area. The remaining shoulder work reinforced and directed the flow around a bend in the road to another small basin that captures the stormwater.

“Now with these essential upstream projects complete,” Walt Lender, LGA Executive Director, said. “We expect to see a dramatic reduction in the growth of the delta at the mouth of Indian Brook. The size of the delta that exists there now we know is not healthy for the Lake, and we are moving forward with our effort to remove this delta, as well as deltas located at the mouth of Finkle and Hague brooks,” he added.

Photos: Above, an area of Indian Brook earlier this year filled in with sediment; below, the same area of Indian Brook after a sediment basin and wetlands enhancement area was created.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Adirondack Weather: The Winter Forecast

It is part of human nature to be curious about future events, and with the approach of winter, many people are currently wondering about the severity of the upcoming season. In an attempt to gain insight into the weather conditions for the next 5 to 6 months, some people turn to the scientific community. The Climate Prediction Center, the very long range forecasting division of the National Weather Service, regularly provides its “best guess” weather scenarios for the next 12 months based on oceanic and atmospheric anomalies that are believed to influence global weather patterns.

The Farmer’s Almanac and The Old Farmer’s Almanac are two very popular and long established publications that provide similar general and specific weather forecasts for the coming seasons. While the exact methods employed to devise these forecasts are still considered to be a trade secret, both of these almanacs are believed to rely on solar cycles and other natural phenomena that are thought to influence weather patterns.

As a means of learning what the future holds, some people turn to nature for those subtle “signs” of upcoming weather. Unquestionably, the woolly bear caterpillar is the bug assumed to be the most reliable and accurate in predicting the winter. The woolly bear is a very fuzzy caterpillar roughly an inch in length, identified by a reddish-brown section between the two black ends of its cylindrical body.

This caterpillar emerges from an egg late in the summer at which time it begins to feed heavily on the foliage of a variety of plants. Around the time of the first frost, the woolly bear abandons its feeding routine and starts to search for a sheltered spot in which to pass the winter. A pile of dead leaves around an old stump, a crevice in a rock that becomes covered by snow following the first winter storm, or a nook within a stack of firewood in a shed or barn are likely places where this caterpillar to retreat to and curl up into a ball before slipping into a deep state of dormancy. The reduction of moisture within its body and the development of certain substances in its tissues that lower the freezing point of water allow this caterpillar to survive prolonged periods of frigid temperatures without perishing.

According to popular legend, the width of the middle, lighter colored strip is the key to determining the severity of the coming winter. Should this middle section exceed one-third its body length, winter will be on the mild side, and the longer it is, the milder the winter will be. Scientists have discovered, however, that the relative length of this center band expands as the caterpillar ages. It has also been reported that dry conditions also promotes the expansion of this center band.

Folklore enthusiasts insist that the woolly bear’s coat responds to subtle atmospheric conditions and these factors are instrumental in determining future weather patterns, just like the Climate Prediction Center focuses on la Niña conditions across the Pacific.

Another “sign” in nature said to be useful in forecasting winter weather is the height of a wasp nest above the ground. When wasps build their nest high in trees, it indicates that there is going to be substantial amount of snowfall. However, this correlation doesn’t seem to make sense, as wasps completely abandon their nest during mid autumn. Only the queen wasp survives the winter by burrowing underground; all the workers eventually perish when the temperatures begin to regularly drop below freezing in mid autumn. The location of a wasp nest is based solely on the site the queen believes will provide the greatest level of protection from the predators in that immediate area, not on how future snowfall will impact the vacant nest.

The thickness of the coats of various animals and the bushiness of a gray squirrel’s tail are other “signs” that people cite as they attempt to peer into the future. The density of fur on all animals is regulated by genetics, yet its appearance can be impacted by the weather. For example, a deer’s coat appears to puff out as the temperature drops because of the hair’s response to cooler conditions. It is similar to a person having a “bad hair day” when moisture levels increase and the hairs react by becoming crinkled, or more rigid.

In any event here are the Forecasts:

National Weather Service: Normal temperatures and normal precipitation

Old Farmer’s Almanac: Below normal temperatures, especially from mid Jan through April and below normal precipitation

Farmer’s Almanac: Near normal temperatures with stormy and snowy conditions

Woolly bear caterpillar: (At least the ones that I have encountered.) normal winter conditions

Wasp nest: heavy snowfall winter

My own personal analysis: A mild winter to start with minimal amounts of snowfall into mid Jan. Normal to slightly above normal temperatures for the rest of the winter with above normal amounts of snowfall. (There will be 3 days this winter when the temperature never gets above zero.)

Illustration: The probability of average, higher, or lower than normal temperatures for November, December, and January. Courtesy the The Climate Prediction Center.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Bernard Champagne: Ticonderoga Chocolate Shyster

Fort Ticonderoga’s connection to the world of chocolate has been well documented in recent years. Several additions and improvements were funded by Forrest Mars, Jr., husband of Deborah Adair Clark of Ticonderoga (they are now divorced). Forrest is worth approximately $10 billion as one of the heirs of the Mars candy company.

Eighty years ago, another famous name in chocolate—Baker—was bandied about in Ticonderoga, and it again involved mention of great wealth ($80 million at the time, equal to $1 billion in 2011). But for the village, the story left in its wake embarrassment, as bitter as the company’s most famous product (Baker’s bittersweet chocolate).

In 1928, a young man arrived in Richmond, Virginia, and responded to an advertisement offering a room rental in the exclusive Ginter Park section of the city. Finding the home magnificent and much to his liking, he paid a month’s rent in advance.

During a conversation with his new landlady (a widower), it was revealed that her new tenant was none other than 25-year-old Walter W. Baker, heir to the Baker family fortune of $80 million. He had come to Richmond to escape the busy life in New York City.

Walter settled in and soon developed a closeness with the family, particularly the woman’s daughter, Miss Lucille Fields. They dated regularly and were involved in the city’s social scene, joining exclusive clubs and spending money like … well, like he had $80 million. Baker bought a luxurious car, flashed big bills wherever he went, and lavished thousands of dollars worth of expensive jewelry and other gifts on Lucille, who became his fiancée.

The family soon learned that Baker was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. Taking advantage of his skills, abilities, and connections, his future mother-in-law entrusted $15,000 ($190,000 in 2011) to Baker for investing on her behalf.

Several months after his arrival in the city, Baker was roused from bed one Friday night by some unexpected visitors—six members of the Richmond police. The officers said he was an impostor, but Mrs. Fields was outraged, and Baker’s fiancée protested vigorously on his behalf. Ignoring their appeals, the lawmen searched his room, found $7,000 ($90,000 in 2011) hidden in a gramophone, and escorted to him to jail.

During questioning, police intimated they were privy to his background, and Baker finally relented, confessing that he was an impostor. He was, in fact, Bernard Frederick Champagne of Ticonderoga, New York.

The ruse had worked well for a while, but excessive flamboyance, wild spending sprees in subdued Richmond, and frequent flaunting of $1000 bills had aroused suspicions. Authorities investigated behind the scenes, seeking confirmation of his prominent “Baker’s Chocolate” lineage.

They soon learned that Walter W. Baker had died well prior to 1900, and that no members of the original Baker family survived. And that’s when Richmond detectives paid the surprise visit to Champagne’s Ginter Park residence, arresting him in his bedroom.

A court delay on Bernard’s case was imposed, allowing time for further investigation into his past. Champagne had been secretive for years, leaving many gaps in his trail, but enough was uncovered to prove he had been a first-class shyster. Authorities in four other cities, including Detroit and Omaha, sought further information on Richmond’s mysterious prisoner.

An honor-roll student in his Ticonderoga youth, Bernard left school at age sixteen and worked at the mill (International Paper Mill). Several years later, he left the North Country for Canton, Ohio, where he married and had a child (both were now living in Ticonderoga).

He then surfaced in Kentucky, where he met a schoolteacher from his hometown, Ticonderoga (perhaps not by coincidence). Passing himself off as Bernard Cunningham, a representative of Universal Film Corporation, Champagne became engaged to the teacher and made off with $600 of her money ($10,000 in 2011). It remained unclear how much money he bilked from other victims while using that persona.

He next turned up in Richmond, where his latest deception had been discovered. No matter what he had gotten away with in recent years, Champagne was now in a heap of trouble.

Less than two months after his arrest, Bernard appeared in a Richmond courtroom on charges of defrauding his future mother-in-law of $15,000 ($190,000 today) and promising “huge returns” on her investments. His fiancée, Lucille, described as “a prominent Richmond society girl,” did not testify, but her mother and sister did.

Champagne pleaded not guilty, but employed no attorney and presented no testimony on his own behalf. For that reason, the state’s case was pretty much open-and-shut. Bernard’s sentence was the maximum allowed by law—ten years in a Virginia prison.

After serving more than six years, he was released, hopefully somewhat humbled by the experience of being arrested and imprisoned. But this was one case where incarceration provided no deterrent.

Coming soon: Champagne spawns a national FBI manhunt.

Photo Top: Walter W. Baker, the man Champagne claimed to be.

Lawrence Gooley has authored ten books and dozens of articles on the North Country’s past. He and his partner, Jill McKee, founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004. Expanding their services in 2008, they have produced 19 titles to date, and are now offering web design. For information on book publishing, visit Bloated Toe Publishing.


Monday, October 10, 2011

Astronomy: The October Night Sky

Here are some naked eye objects for the month of October. All of these objects, although small, should be visible without the help of binoculars or a telescope, so long as you have clear dark skies.

Light pollution is a killer for seeing these objects with your naked eye. To find out how dark your location is, use the Google Map Overlay of light pollution. If you are in a blue, gray or black area then you should have dark enough skies. You may still be able to see some of these objects in a green location. If you aren’t in a dark sky location you may still be able to see these objects with a pair of binoculars or telescope.

You can find help locating the night sky objects listed below by using one of the free sky charts at Skymaps.com (scroll down to Northern Hemisphere Edition and click on the PDF for October 2011). The map shows what is in the sky in October at 9 pm for early October; 8 pm for late October.

If you are not familiar with what you see in the night sky, this is a great opportunity to step outside, look up, and begin learning the constellations. The sky is beautiful and filled with many treasures just waiting for you to discover them. Once you have looked for these objects go through the list again if you have a pair of binoculars handy, the views get better!

Meteor Showers
This post was a bit late for the Draconids, which peaked on October 8th. The peak was during our daylight hours and we (as far as I could see) didn’t get much of a show. I looked but saw maybe one that was a Draconid meteor. However, from what I’ve read Europe, Northern Africa, and the middle East got a pretty good show as it was dark for them during the peak hours of the meteor shower.

Orionid Meteor Shower peaks on the 21st and 22nd. With the peak you can expect to see as many as 20 fast although faint meteors per hour. This shower should be easier to spot than Draconids and Perseids since this shower will have a thin crescent moon that will rise in early morning. Orion will rise in the east around 11pm and that is when I would suggest to start looking for meteors, although they may be better as Orion is higher in the sky at 2am. Remember the darker the site for viewing the better your chances are of seeing them. I also suggest to bundle up since October is quite chilly.

The Moon
The moon will be full on the 11th, as with every full moon it rises at sunset and sets and sunrise.

On the 11th, and the 12th there will be a close encounter again between the moon and Jupiter. Around 8pm on the 11th you’ll see Jupiter just below the Moon. Throughout the night you will see Jupiter and the moon getting closer. On the 12th the two will be about a degree closer together.

The Last Quarter Moon is on the 19th which will be visible from midnight into the morning.

On the 21st and 22nd the Moon and Mars will be about 10° apart (a fist-width at arm’s length) with Mars above the Moon.

New Moon on the 26th.

Mars
Mars is still a morning object for this month rising around 2am. Before sunrise it will be about 45° above the horizon below Gemini and in Cancer.

Jupiter
Jupiter is rising just a little after sunset in the East and will be in the sky all night. In the West around sunrise. If you happen to have a pair of binoculars I suggest pointing them at Jupiter to check out some of it’s moons which change their position every day. The moons you can see are Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

Lyra the Harp, Cygnus the Swan and Aquila the Eagle
Due to earlier dark hours this month these constellations still remain directly overhead after sunset, around 7:00pm. These three constellations contain 3 of the brightest stars in the summer sky which form what is called The Summer Triangle. The star Vega in Lyra, Deneb in Cygnus and Altair in Aquila. If you are in a really dark area you should be able to see the Milky Way passing through the constellations Cygnus and Aquila. Again, if you have a pair of binoculars and want to be wowed (even from a light polluted spot) look towards the Milky Way and look at all the stars that pop out at you.

Delphinus
If you have spotted The Summer Triangle, look to the left (East) of the star Altair to find a small kite shaped constellation called Delphinus, the Dolphin.

Pleiades
A great grouping of stars in the constellation of Taurus the Bull. Looking at it has always reminded me of a smaller version of the little dipper. In dark locations you can see anywhere from 5-7 and possibly a few more stars in this grouping. It has also been called the seven sisters and is actually a Messier object, number 45. These are very hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. This grouping of stars has quite a bit of history in mythology. It rises about 45 minutes earlier than Orion in the East.

Andromeda
Although it may be easier to view later in the night around midnight or later – The Andromeda Galaxy cataloged as M31 is visible to the naked eye in the northeast. The Andromeda Galaxy is the closest galaxy to the Milky Way lying about 2.5 million light-years away. If in a dark enough location the light produced by this galaxy is roughly the diameter of 5 moons in our sky.

Perseus
The Double Cluster, cataloged as NGC 869 and NGC 884 is a beautiful cluster that shows quite a group of stars with the naked eye. M34, which you may need to wait until around 11pm for it to be high enough to see is nearly a moon-diameter wide and is a fairly easy to see open cluster.
Look for a grouping of stars around the brightest star in Perseus, Mirphak.

Sagittarius
M8 is an open star cluster and nebula complex, also known as the Lagoon Nebula . Visible to the naked eye as a small hazy patch. Bright enough that it is visible even in suburbia. It may look small with the naked eye, but it is actually quite large nearly two moon diameters across. I’m not sure if any of the other objects are visible to the naked eye, although Sagittarius is a beautiful sight as it lays in the Milky Way.

Aquila
The Great Rift is a non-luminous dust cloud that can be seen splitting the Milky Way in two separate streams. It stretches from Aquila to the constellation Cygnus although it is more prominent in the constellation Aquila.

Hercules
Messier Object 13 (known as M13) is a globular cluster. It will have a small hazy glow to it. Hercules is getting lower in the sky so M13 may be difficult to spot through the haze of the atmosphere.

Cygnus
North America Nebula (NGC7000) – The unaided eye sees only a wedge-shaped star-cloud which may be quite dim, or not visible at all. In dark skies it should pop out a bit. Located near the star Deneb. M39 an open cluster patch of stars northeast of the star Deneb. The Northern Coalsack spans across the sky between the stars Deneb, Sadir, and Gienah in the northeastern portion of Cygnus. If you don’t know which stars of Sadir and Gienah just find Deneb with the map and look to the east northeast.

Ursa Major
Very low in the North at sunset and low at sunrise. Mizar and Alcor is a double star in the handle of the Big Dipper. Was once used as a test of good eyesight before glasses. Mizar resolves into a beautiful blue-white and greenish white binary (double star system). They are labeled on the map I linked to above.

Photo: The radiant of the Orionid Meteor Shower taken from the astronomy freeware Stellarium.

Michael Rector is an amateur astronomer with his own blog, Adirondack Astronomy.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ausable River Restoration Walk and Talk

Carl Schwartz, US Fish and Wildlife Service and John Braico, NYS Trout Unlimited will lead a walk of the Ausable River on October 24 focused on rebuilding and repairing streams effected by flooding. Funds recently secured by the Ausable River Association (AsRA) for restoring tributaries damaged during Irene flooding are being considered for allocation.

Both Schwartz and Braico have worked extensively throughout New York to repair rivers and restore aquatic habitat. Schwartz works actively on river restoration projects and operates an excavator to build natural channels.

The Ausable River Association and the Essex County Soil and Water Conservation District are inviting and encouraging Citizens, Town Council members, Town DPWs, County DPW, DOT, DEC, and NonGovernmental Organizations to attend.

Date: October 24, 10 AM; Meet at the mouth of John’s Brook at the Rt. 73 bridge in Keene Valley; 2 PM Meet at the Gazebo in Ausable Forks.

For more information, contact the Ausable River Association.


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