Southern Maine Astronomers
6 October, 2022 7:00 p.m.
Attending were members David Gay, Kevin Kane, Russell Pinizzotto, Greg Thorup, Ron
Thompson, Greg Shanos, Jack Gelfand, John O’Donnell, Jon Wallace, Chris Parent, Craig Snapp,
Earl Raymond, Anita Devito, John Saucier, George Bokinsky, Al Disabatino, Scott Lovejoy, Bob
Dodge, Dwight Lanpher, Mike Simmons, Chalmers Hardenbergh, Maame Andoh, Howie
Marshall, Abby Gardner, Dave Thibeault, James Hummer, Paul Schumann and Rob Burgess and
guests Nancy Hathaway, Julie Claffey, Elias Zamore-Cohen, Bruce Kanter, Don Perkins, Carl
Gurtman, Alec Rudenko, Jahna Romano, Carole __ and our speaker Tara Roberts Zabriskie.
Rob welcomed three new members since last month: Peter Simpson, Susan Woodward and
Mark Hamilton. This brings membership to 89, another record high. Five new persons joined
our Google Group forum which now has 104 participants. Rob also welcomed Nancy Hathaway,
one of the founding members of Dark Sky Maine, who not only helped Katahdin Woods &
Waters National Monument win a Dark Sky Reserve designation but also facilitated the
Defending the Dark film being shown tonight.
Since our last meeting the club has hosted a well-attended star party at Neptune Drive on
9/10/22 as well as a public solar observing session earlier that day as part of a Community BBQ
in Brunswick. Rob represented SMA at the 9/17/22 Stars Over Katahdin star party just outside
of the KWW National Monument and spoke at the event (Dwight Lanpher was also there
representing many clubs.) The club co-hosted a star party with Maine’s First Ship in Bath on
9/24, focusing on navigational stars that would have been used by 17 th century navigators.
Special thanks to George Bokinsky for his talk on navigational techniques at that time.
Rob reported that in the last six months the club has engaged in outreach with the following
organizations: Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, Dark Sky Maine, Friends of Katahdin Woods &
Waters National Monument, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine’s First Ship and Maine
Coast Heritage Trust. We amplify our reach through these affiliations.
Reports from Club Members:
Carl Gurtman (guest) informed the audience of ASNNE’s Starfest event on 9/24 and Dwight
Lanpher mentioned his attendance at a Downeast Amateur Astronomers event in Pembroke,
ME. Russ Pinizzotto mentioned an article he read in Real Clear Science that discussed the
possibility of constellations of satellites that could be arranged to do advertising from space.
[Egad!] He also recommended a new book “The Sky is for Everyone” heralding the work of
1. “Defending the Dark” will be shown again at Patagonia in Freeport on 10/7/22 at 6:30, co-sponsored by DSM and Natural Resources Council of Maine. SMA has been asked to provide a short astronomy talk after the film.
2. Club Star Party at Neptune Drive, Saturday, October 8, 7-9 pm. As always, volunteers are needed to run or assist with telescopes and laser-pointer tours, manning a welcome table, and just assisting with set up and tear down. Many hands make light work! Please consider helping out and contact Rob if you can do so.
3. Club Directors’ Meeting, Wed., Oct 19 at 7 pm, via zoom. All members are welcome to attend.
4. Club Star Party with Maine Coast Heritage Trust at Woodward Point in Brunswick, Sat., Oct 29, 7-9 pm.
5. Club Meeting, Thurs., Nov 3 at 7 pm with Prof. Thad Comacek of the Univ of Maryland discussing atmospheres on exoplanets.
6. Club Star Party at Neptune Drive November 12, 7 -9 p.m.
Speaker and Presentation:
Rob introduced our speaker, Tara Roberts Zabriskie, the filmmaker who produced “Defending
the Dark.” Tara has a long history producing films for outdoor organizations about the natural
environment. She has no formal training in astronomy other than spending many summer
nights as a young girl sleeping out in her backyard under the stars. Those experiences instilled
in her a fascination and deep respect for the universe and its imponderable mysteries and how
it shapes us as humans.
After the showing of the 35-minute film there was a period of Q&A with Tara. The comments
were very positive across the board with many praising the film for its clear and understandable
presentation of the multiple deleterious effects of light pollution on animals, habitats, human
health and global warming. Filmed largely in northern Maine at the AMC Mediwasla Lodge,
KWW and Rangeley, the film displayed some beautiful starlit skies. There was significant
attention to Maine’s Wabanaki spiritual tradition and stories regarding the night sky. And in a
vignette with Nancy Hathaway the film provided a practical approach on how to talk to the
neighbor with the offending outdoor light: “I’m going stargazing tonight. Would you mind
turning off your light for an hour?” Nancy reported that the neighbor’s light went off and has
never been turned on again. We have had many questions from people on how to have that
neighborly discussion, and the film provided a great approach.
The film is being shown in several venues in rural Maine over the next week but will be
available to be shown elsewhere. Members were encouraged to think about venues in their
communities, probably local libraries, where the film could be shown and to coordinate with
DSM or Rob about making such arrangements.
Tour of Lyra and Lacerta:
Lyra, the lyre and Lacerta, the lizard, reside on either side of Cygnus, directly overhead at this
time of year. Vega, the primary star in Lyra, is one of the most studied stars in the heavens. It
is the 5 th brightest of all stars and the 2 nd brightest in the Northern Hemisphere, behind Sirius, It
is very close to Earth at 25 light years and has figured prominently in science fiction, including
the book and movie, Contact, by Carl Sagan. Vega was the first star to have its spectrum
analyzed by Henry Draper in 1872. Vega served as our Pole Star in 12,000 BCE and will again
assume that position in year 13727 due to the Earth’s precession. Vega supports a dust disk
around it, visible in infrared.
Another interesting object is Epsilon Lyra, the “double double”: twin pairs that are separated
about 2 arc seconds apart and that provide a real test to a telescope’s resolving power if the
pairs can be split. The alignment of the pairs is perpendicular to each other.
RR Lyra is the progenitor of the RR Lyrae class of variable stars that, like Cepheid variables, are
used to determine stellar distances. RR Lyrae stars are more common than Cepheids. Like
Cepheids, their luminosity varies as to their period.
M56 is a somewhat unique Globular Cluster, discovered by Messier in 1779. It has low
metallicity suggesting it was not part of the original Milky Way. In fact, it is one of five or six
globulars in the MW that are believed to have emanated from a so-called Sausage Galaxy that
collided with the Milky Way 8 to 10 billion years ago.
M57 is the most well-known denizen of Lyra, the Ring Nebula. The planetary nebula is the
result of a dying star about the mass of our sun. It lies about 2,000 LY from Earth and is the
likely fate of our sun.
Finally, NGC 6791, a 9.5 mag dense Open Cluster and NGC 6745, an Irregular Galaxy that is
believed to be the survivor of a 3-galaxy collision, are two other noteworthy objects. However,
NGC 6745, at 13 th magnitude, would need a telescope to be seen.
Lacerta is a relatively quiet, small constellation. It has no M objects and just one Caldwell
object, a very discrete open cluster. It does have one odd object, BL Lacerta, an active galactic
nucleus, a blazer (black hole with dramatic jets). It is also the name of an Avant Garde
performance art jazz combo that our veritable constellation tour guide, Dr. Piniozzotto, saw in
Dallas in 1981 and still remembers the event!
Next month’s constellation: Pisces.