Girls’ night out

What’s more fun than a winter hike? A winter NIGHT hike, naturally.

On the eve of the Winter Solstice, 7 Girl Scouts, their leaders and sibs, earned their Hiking badge in the nature preserve. We set out at 6 p.m., flashlights in mittened and gloved hands. The sky was a little hazy, but we could see Cassiopia and the Big Dipper, with flashlights off, from our seats in the new Nature’s Classroom. Venus, the dazzling evening “star” of December, greeted us on the return hike up the hill south of Red Fox Cabin.

The hike was lively, with the questions and observations that are some of the best things about sharing the trails. We didn’t hear or see wildlife but they undoubtedly saw us. Turkeys had been there first, leaving trails with their wingtips in the snow. Squirrels had crossed the paths, leaving little prints at the top of one hill where its looked like they took a breather before moving on. We saw tiny hoof prints and larger padded paw marks left by a fox or Stitch, the large neighbor cat who stops by when children are onsite.

Thanks to the troop for bringing apples, carrots and potatoes for the residents of the farm animal sanctuary.

On Friday, as we walked the main trail, one of the scouts asked me if I best liked hiking during the day or at night. Come on over and decide for yourself on Saturday, January 11, from 8 to 9 p.m. We will hike under January’s Full Wolf Moon named after howling wolves who are, tragically, no longer here. But we can imagine and celebrate what is and what may be. Please bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. Call 419-384-7195 or email thequarryfarm@gmail.com by Friday, January 10, at 4 p.m. to tell us you are coming.

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.

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