From the Director





by Rex Parker, Director

October 11 Meeting. Hope to see you at Peyton Hall auditorium on the Princeton Campus for our next meeting (7:30 pm Oct 11). Please see Ira’s article in this edition of S.T. for information about the guest speaker. In addition to the lecture, we’ll discuss significant upcoming events – Jersey StarQuest 2016 (below) and emerging plans for the Jenny Jump Observatory.

Let Us Know What You’re Thinking. If you’ve recently joined, are considering becoming a member, or have been an amateur astronomer in AAAP for years, we want to hear from you! We draw upon an amazing pool of local and regional talent to provide members and public with monthly guest lectures, such as recent speakers from Princeton University Astrophysics, NASA, IAS, Rutgers, Columbia, and several high tech companies. We operate an Observatory at Washington Crossing Park with state-of-the-art telescopes, and are active in public science/astronomy outreach. Please give us some feedback – we’re interested in your views, positive or otherwise. You can reach me at, or you can contact other Board members using the addresses listed on our website (“Contact Us” tab).

Jersey StarQuest, Oct 28-30, 2016. The observing event of the year for amateur astronomers in our area is fast approaching. Held each year at the Hope Conference and Renewal Center in north Jersey, StarQuest is all about deep sky telescopic observing at one of the best locations in the state (see below about light pollution and the quality of this site). Hope Center offers clean bunkhouse accommodations or camping on-site and a kitchen for cooking if desired. No meals are provided by the club; restaurants are within a few minute drive. Even if you don’t own a telescope, here’s your chance to learn hands-on about astronomy and observing and make new friends. Here’s how we’ll organize the event.

  • Walk-in registration, no advance payment, no pre-registration. You can decide to attend at the last minute. We ask that you send in a non-binding intent-to-participate form (distributed by e-mail) to help us estimate needs for the Conference Center.
  • This is a chance to meet other amateur astronomers and make friends in the club. Attendees are encouraged to observe through other telescopes on the field. You’re also welcome to bring family and invite other interested people who are not yet members.
  • Low costs (the Club subsidizes the event). Per night fees: $20 adults, $10 children (6-12), regardless of bunkhouse or tent/RV camping. No meals will be provided though the Center’s kitchen will be available. Hot and cold drinks will be provided throughout the weekend.

Why Go to Hope NJ (StarQuest site) or Jenny Jump to Observe? Light pollution limits the contrast of deep sky objects seen in telescopes – galaxies, nebulae, and star clusters. While it’s easy to see that this depends on your location, how do you know just where to go to improve visibility? Until recently, available light pollution maps offered low resolution and accuracy because they were based mainly on population density charts. But the latest maps using satellite-based physical data have markedly improved resolution and reliability. For example, extensive satellite imaging data from the Earth Observation Group of NOAA’s National Geophysical Data Center was used by Slovenian GIS expert Jurij Stare to create a new high resolution light pollution map using Bing map overlays. The data for these maps comprises nighttime radiance composite images from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS). VIIRS is a scanning radiometer by Raytheon on board the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership weather satellite managed by NOAA and NASA. Radiance, the radiant flux per unit solid angle, is visually perceived as luminance and interpreted as skyglow. The SI unit of radiance (watts/cm2*sr) can be converted to the SI unit of luminance (candelas/m2), and to the unit reported by the Sky Quality Meter (magnitudes/arc-sec2) familiar to amateur astronomers. Indeed, user-entered Sky Quality Meter data constitutes one of the map layers on the light pollution map created by Jurij Stare.

You can see in the screen shot below (or by going to the website) the gradients in light pollution across our region, and compare your home to the AAAP facilities at Washington Crossing and the darker skies at Jenny Jump and Jersey StarQuest near Hope NJ. That’s one more good reason to attend StarQuest this year! The detailed, high resolution maps are available on-line at:

Dark Sky Map September 2016

Dark Sky Map September 2016

Light pollution in the NJ area and around the globe. from satellite radiance data. Map screenshot used by permission of the author, Jurij Stare, Bing map layer by Microsoft. Data credit and global-wide VIIRS image: Earth Observation Group, NOAA National Geophysical Data Center.

This entry was posted in October 2016, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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