Despite it being a cloudy night with the inability to observe stars through the telescope, about 20 people came to hear amateur astronomer Alan Chaniewski speak at the Cragin Memorial Library in Colchester on Nov. 21.
Chaniewski, a Marlborough resident, is a professional photographer for the Hartford Courant and FOX 61. He enjoys astronomy as a hobby, which he first become interested in at age 16, as it helps provide an escape from the bad news of the day.
His love for photography and astronomy have allowed him to capture some interesting pictures.
“I like shooting the moon a lot, I try to add something in the foreground,” Chaniewski said, showing photos of the full moon rising behind Castle Craig in Meriden and Heublein Tower in Simsbury. The Castle Craig photo was challenging as there is only one time in the year for 10 seconds that a large full moon rises behind the castle.
Chaniewski explains when the moon rises, it is “an optical illusion when a nice red or orange Harvest moon turns into a big white dot.”
He also enjoys taking pictures of airplanes in front of the moon. Based on his observations, he has only seen an airplane in front of the moon once every 30 hours.
The best time to catch an airplane in front of the moon, he said, is in November and March between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. in the Colchester and Marlborough areas which is in the New York to Boston and New York to Paris flight path.
“I’ve devoted a lot of time to the daytime and nighttime sky,” Chaniewski explained, adding that money is not required to enjoy astronomy as you can just use your eyes. There are about 3,000 stars that can be seen with the naked eye and 6,000 stars that can be seen through a small telescope.
For the best experiences in enjoying the nighttime sky, people should be of light pollution and seek places outside major metropolitan areas.
“Colchester is one of the darker locations in our state along with the northwest corner and southeast Connecticut,” Chaniewski said, adding that the worst places for light pollution are car dealerships.
Light posts that have confining tops help reflect light toward the ground and cause much less light pollution than traditional parking lot lights.
He recommended those wanting to gaze at the stars go to the McDonald Road Park in Colchester. He advised stargazers that it takes 20 minutes for their eyes to adjust to light and to use only red flashlights as it won’t bother their eyes.
When looking up, take note that stars twinkle while planets, which are closer to us, do not. The over 30,000 satellites that exist, ranging from the International Space Station to DirectTV, have lights that go from being bright to dim as they are rotating around the Earth.
As for upcoming astrological events, early morning star gazers should take note of two comets that will be visible around 4 a.m. or 5 a.m., which include the Ison near Mercury and Lovejoy near the constellation Leo and the Big Dipper.
“Both comets will swing around the sun around Thanksgiving,” Chaniewski said, adding that Ison will “hopefully be the greatest comet our generation has seen”.
While there is the possibility Ison will get destroyed in the atmosphere, the tail will be traveling 7,000 miles a second around the sun and will leave a trail of dust behind.
Lovejoy will be bright, high up in the sky and will have a fuzzy green patch to it.
Chaniewski ended the night saying that “we are a very, very, very tiny part of the universe,” and that our Milky Way Galaxy with 100 to 300 billion stars appears quite small in the Hubble telescope which can see 50 billion galaxies.
He believes its very possible that there is life out there somewhere.