All posts by Mark Yorkovich

I am a database programmer for a medical software company in central Minnesota. In my off time I enjoy reading, amateur astronomy, camping and canoeing.

Don’t Miss Eclipse 2017!

Mark your calendars – on Monday, August 21st a good swath of the US will be thrown into darkness during a total solar eclipse!

For those of us outside of the path of totality we’ll have to suffice with a partial eclipse – how much depends on where you are. Here in central Minnesota we’ll get about 83% totality.

If you haven’t made plans to go somewhere that will have totality, you may be hard-pressed to find a hotel or campground near the path.

I could include loads of resources here to help you find out more about the eclipse but really, it’d be easier if you just Google 2017 eclipse – you’ll find lots of information. Also, if you get your hands on Astronomy Magazine‘s August 2017 issue there is an excellent section dedicated to the eclipse.

Some things you may want to search for:

A Dark, Busy Night!

We had nearly 50 visitors last night and it was a perfect night to have so many people show up.

When John and Mark arrived, Kris was already set up with his 12.3″ Truss-tube Dobsonian and there were already about 30 visitors milling about the viewing area. It was still about 1/2 hour before we were able to start viewing anything, so after Mark and John got their viewing equipment set up, Mark handed out sky maps and held a short orientation on how to use those.

Shortly after we finished sky map orientation, Jupiter showed up so we got everyone lined up at our three scopes to take a look at the planet and three of its Galilean moons. As we were looking at those, the fourth Galilean moon just started peeking out right below the southern rim of the planet.

As everyone was taking turns looking at Jupiter, Saturn popped out, along with it’s largest moon, Titan. The rings of Saturn always get “Wow”s from everyone and are a favorite for any seasoned amateur astronomer.

Though everyone there had a good time looking at the two planets, the mosquitoes unfortunately – and understandably – did a very efficient job of deterring some visitors. They (the mosquitoes) were quite persistent – even after having applied a whole can of bug spray!

But for those of us that stuck it out, it got dark enough – around 10pm – to start taking a look at the “bread and butter” of amateur astronomy: galaxies, nebulae, star clusters and more!

We had a very inquisitive group and had a great time talking about everything from identifying some of the more common constellations to what a nebula is to how far away stars are, to whether you can see the flags left on the Moon. No question is a bad or dumb question – we’ve heard them all and will do our best to answer anything thrown at us!

As I said, we had nearly 50 visitors, coming from all around the state: Morris, the Cities, some locals – even from Sioux Falls.

Thank you all for coming – we love astronomy, but also we love to share your passion with anyone that is interested. You are why we do this!

Until next time,
Clear skies!
Mark

Cloud-gazing – not stargazing

A quick look at the Clear Sky Chart makes it obvious we’d just be cloud-gazing this evening! Sorry, guys.

We hope to see you next time!

Sorry, No Public Stargazing Tonight

Well, one look outside and it’s easy to see that we won’t be able to see much in the way of stars or planets – and those clouds apparently don’t plan on leaving any time soon. So we’re going to have to cancel our public stargazing event tonight at Glacial Lakes State Park.

We hope to see you next month, though – and keep an eye out here – on occasion we hold impromptu/last-minute stargazing events at GLSP on weekends.

‘Till next time,
Clear skies!

First Star Party of 2017

I’m a little late posting this – not quite back into the habit yet!

After a beautiful, warm Spring day on Saturday, it cooled down quite quickly, but the cloudless day gave us great skies that night.

We had about 15 visitors and there was plenty for them to look at. Jupiter was very bright, and its four Galilean moons gave quite a show. We found a few galaxies: M81 & M82 in Ursa Major; and M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy and its companion galaxy in Canes Venatici. There were a few multiple star systems to look at as well: Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major and Polaris, the North Star, in Ursa Minor. We also looked at a few star clusters: M13, the Hercules Cluster in Hercules; and NGC457, the ET Cluster in Cassiopeia.

Like I said, it got pretty chilly and dew collecting on the equipment started to put a “damper” on things into the evening, so we wrapped it up around 10:30.

Thanks to all who came out. (A shout-out to Dan from Minneapolis and his homemade truss-tube: it’s always great to have you come out!) If you didn’t make it, our next public stargazing event at GLSP is on May 20th. We hope you can join us!

2017 Schedule for Public Viewing Events at GLSP

Spring is right around the corner (actually, it starts at 5:28am tomorrow, Monday March 20th). That means warmer weather (finally!), longer days and stargazing at GLSP!

Our schedule this year won’t be as “regular” as it has been in past years – every 2nd Saturday, for example. So here are the dates for public stargazing at Glacial Lakes State Park:

April 22nd
May 20th
June 17th
July 15th
August 12th
September 9th
October 7th

We’ll be setting up about 1/2 hour before sunset on each day. Check back here for exact times as the dates come up.

Mark your calendars, make reservations for a campsite (or cabin) at GLSP and we’ll see you there!

A Great Ending to a Great Season of Viewing!

For our last public viewing event at GLSP for the season, it was a great one: Clear skies (mostly) and lots of visitors – LOTS of visitors – about 40 in all.

There were a lot of kids visiting, including a young Scout group from Glenwood. It’s always exciting to be able to introduce our hobby to young ones.

We had a lot to look at, too. Mars and Saturn were out early, near Sagittarius in the South, just after dusk. Saturn always produces some “Wow”s and “Holy cow”s from first-time viewers. And we hobbyists never grow tired of looking at it, either.

We did an introductory tour of some of the more common and prominent constellations in the sky: Cassiopeia, The Big Dipper, Cygnus, Lyra and Sagittarius. Some of the objects we looked at included the Hercules Cluster in Hercules, the double star Albireo in Cygnus, Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major, the Ring Nebula in Lyra – and plenty of others.

We were also treated to a very long fly-over of the International Space Station.

It was a great evening and it’s been a great year, having the opportunity to bring our hobby to you! Thanks for the fun and we look forward to next year.

Keep an eye out here for when we start back up in the Spring.

Clear Skies!

A Cloudy but Educational Night

Despite the forecast for partly cloudy skies, we got overcast from sunset on!

We still had plenty of visitors, though and are always happy to share anything about astronomy that we can – even if we can’t show you anything at the time.

We had about 25 people filter in and out for a couple of hours and answered a lot of questions. We talked about telescope design and how they work, and how we change magnification with a telescope. We answered questions about what we look at – both in the Solar System and outside of it.

We love answering questions – especially when they help clarify common misconceptions. That’s why we come out to the park: to educate our visitors! If you’d like to learn some more about the hobby of amateur astronomy, check out or Astronomy Primer Guide.

We’ll have at least one more public stargazing event in October before winter sets in. We hope to see you there!

Public Stargazing set for Saturday, Sept 3rd

So far the forecast is looking good for stargazing this Saturday. Let’s hope that holds out.

Mars is in retrograde in Scorpius right now and is still high in the sky in the evening, along with Saturn nearby. They’ve made a great pair to keep an eye on throughout the summer.

The New Moon is Thursday, so it will be just a slight, 5% sliver on Saturday. Unfortunately, the ISS won’t be making a pass over us on the 3rd, but fear not, there will be plenty to look at and learn about.

Sunset is at 7:55 (gettin’ earlier and earlier!), so we will be showing up at the Horse Camp at around 7:30 to start setting up. Come early and feel free to learn about the equipment when you see it better!

A Great Night for Viewing!

After weeks of bad luck trying to get out to park to hold a star party, it turned out to be a great night for viewing last night.

We were visited by about 25 campers, who were from places such as Rochester, Canby, Minnetonka – even from as far as Western North Dakota. – and plenty of mosquitoes!

We started out the night looking at a sliver of a moon, with Venus in phase, too. And that was before the Sun even set.

When it finally got dark enough to start viewing “the fun stuff”, we looked at several multiple-star systems, like Albireo in Cygnus, and Mizar and Alcor in the Big Dipper. We also looked at the Hurcules Cluster and nebulae such as the Trifid Nebula in Sagittarius and the Ring Nebula in Lyra. Galaxies were on the list too, including the Andromeda Galaxy and the galaxy pair M81 and M82.

A highlight of the evening was a beautiful long-lasting meteorite, burning bright yellow and green.

Thanks to all of you who visited us last night – you’re why we do this!

Clear skies!