Archives For Stephens Memorial Observatory

UPDATE: Due to cloud cover and inclement weather, this program has been canceled; the observatory WILL NOT be open.

The Pleiades - Messier 45 - Credit: James Guilford

The Pleiades – Messier 45

Stephens Memorial Observatory of Hiram College will be open to the public on Saturday, November 21, from 7:00 to 9:00 PM. On the observing list for the night are: the Moon, the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters, and possibly other celestial objects.

No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open. For updates and more information, return here or follow “@StephensObs” on Twitter.

The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory.

Latest solar image

StephensAstro —  October 26, 2015 — Leave a comment
The Sun - October 26, 2015. Photo by James Guilford.

The Sun – October 26, 2015

 

Preparing for this week’s expected heavy rains and wind, I went to the roof of the observatory to clean out the rain gutters and check the downspouts. Chores done and with the dome open, I made another experiment at solar imaging through the big vintage Cooley Telescope. I found I could focus on the Sun (through a safe solar filter) and, with a Canon DSLR camera at the telescope’s prime focus, recorded a few one-shot images at ISO 400 and 1/500 second. The telescope is a 9-inch refractor with a focal length of 3,327mm. The results appear better than last time but show the apparent effect of atmospheric turbulence: that’s my story and I’m sticking with it! A few sunspots were visible and details of Sol’s roiling atmosphere show up. The photographic technique is the simplest we can use; more sophisticated processes are employed these days to achieve best results. Still, proof of concept is a good thing and getting the image focused is a critical step. I think next time we may try a dimmer subject.

UPDATE: As it turned out, although the skies turned cloudy just as the observatory opened for the night, the overcast cleared in short order giving way to very good seeing! About 20 visitors came and enjoyed views of Saturn, its moons, and the Cassini Division within the ring system, the beautiful Hercules Globular Cluster (M13), and Messier 57 aka: the Ring Nebula. Our views of M57 were the best we have enjoyed from Hiram thanks to an eyepiece on loan for testing! Next Open Night is set for July 25.

The title to this posting ought to include a question mark! So far this year, the weather has been very uncooperative on our public Open Nights and Saturday’s forecast doesn’t look very promising. We shall hope for the best because our June 20 event features the beautiful ringed world Saturn. We also hope to spy the Ring Nebula and, to break the ring theme, the diamond-dust Hercules Globular Cluster (M13). If the skies are clear enough, we will be open from 9:30 to 11:00 PM Saturday. The Observatory is located on Wakefield Road (Rt. 82) less than a quarter of a mile west of Route 700 in Hiram. There is no parking at the Observatory. Visitors may park on permissible side streets near the Post Office, a short distance east of the observatory. No reservations are required and there is no admission fee for observatory public nights. Cloudy skies at the starting time cancel the event and, in that case, the observatory will not open. For updates and more information, return here or follow “@StephensObs” on Twitter.

Photo: Robert Andress, Jr.

Robert “Bob” Andress, Jr. During a Visit to Stephens in 2008

We have received word that Robert Andress, Jr., former director of the Stephens Memorial Observatory, died on May 11, 2015. He was a 1953 graduate of Hiram College and active in astronomy for most of his life. Andress touched many lives as he conducted observatory sessions for the public and for college classes for many years.

Of his time at Hiram, Andress once wrote, “I found that Hiram College had a nice little observatory with a 9-inch refractor and that it was not being used. I found the keys at the college registrar’s office and became the ‘director’, tour guide, and custodian for 28 years. The observatory was a non-paying job except for free admission to plays, concerts and athletics at the college but it led to another job that did pay well in dollars and satisfaction. In 1969 I became the Director of the Planetarium for Warrensville City schools in Warrensville Heights, Ohio….”

Andress was born in Easton, Penn., on October 14, 1931. He served for 21 months in the U.S. Army. He married Lois in April 1954, and had three daughters, Nancy Lindelof, Barbara Andress and Sally Magargee; as well as 11 grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He taught for 30 years, grades 7-8, high school, and some at Hiram College.

Upon retirement, Andress moved from Ohio to Green Valley, Arizona where he was very active in the Sonora Astronomical Society and continued other astronomical pursuits. He reportedly retired as a planetarium director in 2010. We last saw him in Hiram during Alumni Weekend about two years ago when he visited the Observatory for what was to sadly be the last time.

Associates in Arizona informed us that no funeral service was held, “…(the) understanding is that he wanted everything done quietly.”

Photo: Robert Andress, Jr. with an Observatory Visitor.

Robert Andress, Jr. with an Observatory Visitor During a 1975 Meeting of the Great Lakes Planetarium Association.

Photo: Earth's Sun on May 7, 2015. Photo by James Guilford.

Earth’s Sun – May 7, 2015 @ 12:23 PM EDT

Our Sun is just past the peak of its 11-year activity cycle but has been unusually quiet of late. Many days we have seen few, if any, sunspots marking the star’s face. Over the past few days, however, there has been an uptick in activity including the passage of large sunspot region AR2339 (lower-right in our photo). The sunspot has been the source of major solar flares including one that interfered with radio communications in the Pacific region. This image is a single exposure made using a digital SLR camera held to the eyepiece of the Cooley Telescope at Stephens Memorial Observatory. A white-light filter was used for the protection of equipment and vision. A good article on the current solar cycle can be found here.