An astronomical page-turner

In 2016, the Bluffton Public Library organized a hike on the trails of The Quarry Farm. Next month, another hike will take place–this time, under the stars.

Star Walk @ The Quarry Farm
Thursday, Feb. 23 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm (“Cloud Date” Feb 25, same time)
The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve
1/8 mile north of 14321 Road 7-L, Pandora
Park along the road and meet in the shelter house. Bring a flashlight and be sure to dress for the weather, including good walking boots/shoes. (Sorry, no infant strollers allowed.)

Grab a cookie and chat for a bit as everyone arrives, then take a guided walk to the preserve area to gaze at the stars. Please sign up by Friday, Feb. 17 to let organizers know you are coming and to get details of potential “Cloud Date”:

Bluffton Public Library
145 S. Main St
Bluffton, OH 45817
(419) 3585016
www.blufftonpubliclibrary.org

Group in FieldDetails for Star Walk @ The Quarry Farm “Cloud Date”

Please refer to www.weather.gov the morning of the Star Walk and check the forecast for Pandora, OH. If the forecast for the evening is clear or mostly clear for that evening, the program is a go.

Fall 2015 newsletter

Fall 2015 TQF Newsletter-1The Fall 2015 newsletter of The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve and Conservation Farm is here, “hot off the press.” Have a click and read all about it. You may see yourself or someone you know in the pages.

So much has happened in the past three months, especially in September. Despite the cooling temperatures, we have plans for more this winter. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook for Star Walks and programs.

See you on the trails, with boots on.

Winter news

2014 Winter NewslettercoverS'moreWith temperatures above 0°F and sun overhead, the visuals are breathtaking on the banks of Cranberry Run today.

Turkey track

Goat-tracked corridors criss-cross the upland sanctuary. Wild turkeys are on the move on the paths as these elusive birds forage in the floodplain and on the cover of the 2014 winter newsletter. Click of the cover to the left to read more.

Hope to see you under the stars later this month. Don’t forget to RSVP.

What’s Your Sign?

Group in Field

Alicia and Andrew Phillips review a winter star chart before leaving Red Fox Cabin for the trails.

Alicia and Andrew Phillips review a winter star chart before leaving Red Fox Cabin for the trails.

Astronomers have posited that if you were to count each and every grain of sand on all of the world’s beaches, you still wouldn’t come close to the number of stars in the sky. As a matter of fact, it’s suggested that you’d have to multiply that number by ten before you’d even come close. So it should come as no surprise, then, that the human imagination has configured the stars into any number of shapes over the thousands of years that we’ve been staring skyward. This past Saturday night, a group of participants in The Quarry Farm’s first Star Walk had the opportunity to view a few of these constellations.

It was nearly a perfect night for such an event. Although cloud cover had made star-gazing next to impossible for most of the week, a cold front moved in late Saturday afternoon and swept the sky clear. And while still chilly, the woods that surround the big back field provided a windbreak and pulled the teeth of the worst of the cold. While the wind howled outside the preserve, some stargazers even removed an outer layer.

Mike Erchenbrecher looks to the stars

Mike Erchenbrecher looks to the stars

Mike Erchenbrecher, an award-winning retired Franklin County science teacher and avid amateur astronomist, escorted more than a dozen people through the woods and back to the big eleven-acre field where we all turned our faces up. Mike immediately pointed out the Hunter’s two dogs, Canis Major, the big dog, and Procyon, the little dog, and then the Hunter himself, Orion, with his belt of three stars. His finger traced a giant W as he talked about Cassiopeia, the Queen, who is forever chased by Cepheus, the King. And then, of course, there were the zodiacal constellations. At this time of year, the most readily recognizable of such is Gemini, with its two bright stars, Castor and Pollux. Taurus is also recognizable, as well as Cancer.

Some closeups of what we saw:

  • The constellation Cygnus the Swan, which contains Cygnus X-1, the first object identified as a probable black hole
  • jupmoon4Jupiter and its moons*…we could make out a moon on either side of bright Jupiter overhead.
  • Orion NebulaThe Orion Nebula** below Orion’s Belt appeared to us as a hazy spot.
  • Core of Andromeda GalaxyOur Milky Way was outshown by the half moon, but the Andromeda galaxy** was visible to the north.

 

 

Mike handed out star charts and independent-study over hot chocolate and cookies. Here are satellite passes for the next few days:

International Space Station

Brightness                 Start                 Highest point                 End                 Pass type
                [Mag]                 Time                 Alt.                 Az.                 Time                 Alt.                 Az.                 Time                 Alt.                 Az.
20 Jan -0.8 06:11:53 13° N 06:11:53 13° N 06:13:03 10° NNE Visible
21 Jan -0.9 06:56:32 10° NNW 06:58:23 14° N 07:00:13 10° NE Visible
22 Jan -0.8 06:08:04 13° N 06:08:04 13° N 06:09:28 10° NNE Visible
23 Jan -1.2 06:52:31 11° NNW 06:54:49 18° NNE 06:57:12 10° ENE Visible
24 Jan -0.9 06:04:09 15° N 06:04:14 15° N 06:06:16 10° NE Visible
25 Jan -1.8 06:48:34 13° NNW 06:51:01 29° NNE 06:53:57 10° E Visible
26 Jan -1.4 06:00:13 21° NNE 06:00:27 21° NNE 06:03:04 10° ENE Visible
27 Jan 0.1 05:11:53 11° NE 05:11:53 11° NE 05:12:04 10° ENE Visible
27 Jan -3.0 06:44:40 18° NW 06:46:56 62° NNE 06:50:11 10° ESE Visible
28 Jan -2.2 05:56:22 37° NNE 05:56:25 37° NNE 05:59:30 10° E Visible
29 Jan 0.0 05:08:06 13° ENE 05:08:06 13° ENE 05:08:37 10° E Visible
29 Jan -3.0 06:40:53 24° WNW 06:42:33 50° SW 06:45:44 10° SE Visible

Iridium Flares
OK, so what’s an iridium flare? Iridium flares are relatively new ultra bright objects in the sky, produced by the glancing reflection of the sun’s rays off a particular type of satellite–the Iridium satellite. Because the main mission antenna are pointing towards Earth, at predictable points in their orbit, they pickup the sun’s glare and direct it towards the Earth, producing the “flash”. Because they flash so quickly, here are the dates and times to look fast:

Time                     Brightness                     Altitude                     Azimuth                 Satellite                 Distance to flare centre                 Brightness at flare centre                 Sun altitude
Jan 22, 18:18:55 -0.5 31° 198° (SSW) Iridium 46 33 km (W) -7.0 -7°
Jan 23, 18:12:57 -2.6 31° 200° (SSW) Iridium 49 17 km (W) -6.9 -6°
Jan 23, 19:48:44 -0.9 34° 155° (SSE) Iridium 58 34 km (W) -7.6 -24°
Jan 24, 19:42:42 -3.7 35° 156° (SSE) Iridium 55 14 km (W) -7.6 -22°
Jan 25, 19:36:36 -0.1 34° 155° (SSE) Iridium 31 40 km (E) -7.6 -21°

For these and other updates realted to satellites (natural and human-made): http://www.heavens-above.com/?lat=40.94806&lng=-83.96111&loc=Pandora&alt=227&tz=EST

To find out where the International Space Station is in relation to you, enroll at http://spotthestation.nasa.gov/ to get alerts for your specific area

Find yourself looking at the night sky with your cell phone in hand? Use to “GoogleSky” to help you navigate the view.

* Michael Stegina/Adam Block/NOAO/AURA/NSF

** Satellite images taken by the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) aboard NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope

No Point In Mopping

Winter 2013 TQF CoverThe word of the day is WET. The Quarry Farm, indeed all of Putnam County, went from snow and blue skies to green grass, brown fields, swollen and fast-moving streams and gray skies in 48 hours.

Saturday’s 60-degree temperatures saw the flock–all ten Priscillas, Barbara, Big Girl and Karen–out of the hen-house. As I cleaned their digs, as well as the goose buildings, the girls murmured their pleasure at being out to scratch in the grass and in their tunnels under the forsythia, elderberry and tamarisk. I swear they even purred.

Buddy brayed a few times, bringing me on the run to see what concerned our good guard donkey. Twice it was to let me know that Beatrice was thinking about visiting the neighbors. The third I found out later was because a pair of bald eagles had led a Gilboa couple from the Blanchard down the Riley Creek river valley to The Quarry Farm and the banks of Cranberry Run.

October BridgeLast night’s and today’s rains have laid low the eagles as well as the hens. The geese enjoyed splashing in the puddles, but the girls preferred to scratch through the fresh straw of the hen-house. Buddy stuck his head out a couple of times, but he and the goats mostly stayed high and dry. Not so for anything in the floodplain. Compare the photo taken during the fall photo shoot and sketch walk (right) to the one taken today of the same foot bridge and you’ll see that Cranberry Run has some receding to do from the rainfall, snowmelt and torrential runoff from surrounding fields. But if you scroll back to the January 1 post you’ll see how quickly the scenery changes here.

Here’s a little quiz for you: Your eyes and nose present clues that can help you determine cause and effect. We all know that. When you study the photo above of the flooded foot bridge (click for an enlargement) you can see different kinds of plants, trees, and even water. See the stacked foam along the bridge? What does an accumulation of six inches or more of foam along a water body’s edge indicate? Check back tomorrow for the answer.

flooded bridge

No doubt we’ll have clear skies and firm ground by January 19. Click on the cover of our current newsletter (upper left) to download the complete issue. You’ll find announcements for two upcoming events including this weekend’s first Stargazing Walk. Hope to have a good gathering for this new event. Mike Erchenbrecher is a dynamic speaker and educator. He’s one of those people who can draw you into a subject with his infectious love for all things earth science. Top that off with hot chocolate and a warm campfire and you couldn’t find a better way to spend your winter Saturday evening. Owl calling and counting is optional.

Since The Quarry Farm trails aren’t open to the public without appointment, at least until the boardwalks are in and the permanent trail markers are up, we ask that you call or email ahead. Plus we need to know how many lanterns to have on hand to light the way.