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.

Dates Announced for the 2018 Public Stargazing Season!

We had a few too many cloudy/rained-out nights last year, so let’s hope the weather cooperates better this year. If it is completely overcast or rainy, a message saying that the event is cancelled will be posted here. If you’re not sure, check back here to see if it’s cancelled or not.

We will be holding our public stargazing events, as always, at Glacial Lakes State Park. They will be on the second Saturday of each month from April through October. Here is a list of the specific dates for the public stargazing events.

April 14th
May 12th
June 9th
July 14th
August 11th
September 8th
October 13th

We usually show up within 1/2 hour prior to sunset. For specific times, please check here a day before the event. We’ll post a message when sunset is and about when we’ll show up.

A busy night, but the Moon shut us down too early!

We had about 25 visitors on Saturday from all over the area – Rosemount, Maple Grove, Grove Lake and more.

The day started out with promising skies, and that held when it got dark enough to start looking at some things around 7:30. We started off with Albireo in Cygnus and the Andromeda Galaxy. We looked at Mizar and Alcor in Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), the Ring Nebula in Lyra and some other nebulae, the Hercules Cluster, but the highlight was Saturn, which always gets some “Wow”s.

We also talked about the different constellations and how to identify some of the major ones, how to find the North Star, and so much more.

Unfortunately, the 96% waning gibbous Moon completely drowned everything out by about 8:45.

All in all, though – and by all accounts it was a good night and a great finish to a fun season of skygazing at GLSP.

Next year is our 10th anniversary – yes, it’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years! We’re really looking forward to another season of bringing the night sky to Pope County and beyond!

Star Party Report for September 9th

Sorry, guys. I’m a bit late with this update – life gets in the way…

Saturday started out beautiful – mostly clear skies, good temperature, no more than a breeze. But as we were driving out to the park we were watching the clouds come rolling in from the West.

When we got to the park most of the Western and Southern skies were overcast and the rest of the sky wasn’t much better, with only a few “sucker-holes” we maybe could look at something through.

Despite that (and in hopes of better skies), we stuck around and the campers started showing up. The Western horizon still had a glow from the setting Sun when Diane spotted Saturn through some thin clouds. Saturn is one of my favorite viewing targets and always draws “wow”s and “cool”s from the uninitiated. It didn’t disappoint! By then we had about 10-15 visitors and we did, indeed get our share of “wow”s and “cool”s from Saturn.

Fortunately sky overhead and to the North were starting to clear, so we were able to point out some constellations, talk about how we find things (“Star Hopping”) and while we were doing that things cleared up enough to look more neat things, like the Andromeda Galaxy, the Hercules Nebula, the Ring Nebula, Mizar and Alcor, and Albireo.

Our persistence paid off that evening. Unless it’s raining we stick around. Chances are we’ll be able to do some viewing.

Until next time,
Clear skies!

Next Public Stargazing Event on Sept 9th

Join us at Glacial Lakes State Park around dusk on Saturday, September 9th for a great evening of viewing planets, binary stars, star clusters and more!

We meet at the Horse Camp in the park. See here for directions.

Rained out

You didn’t have to watch the forecast or the radar to see that it wasn’t likely we’d be having any sort of viewing opportunities last night. It was overcast most of the day. But we (John, Diane and I) went out there anyway to meet anyone who showed up.

One group was set up at the horse camp, hoping they would be able to do some stargazing, so we chatted with them for a bit while it started raining. We stuck around for a while, but finally admitted defeat and left after about 1/2 hour.

A few reminders about the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21st:

  • NEVER look at the sun directly!
  • Please read this article at the American Astronomical Society website about how to safely view the eclipse
  • For those of you who weren’t able to get the day off to travel to an area to see the total eclipse, and will be viewing here in Minnesota, the eclipse will peak at about 83% coverage (in Western Minnesota) of the sun at about 1:06pm

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!

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!