Remembering the 20th annual

Connecticut River Valley Astronomers Conjunction


September 6 to 8, 2002

2002 Program

The 20th Astronomers Conjunction was held at the NORTHFIELD MOUNTAIN RECREATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL CENTER over the weekend of September 6 to 8, 2002.  Some 85 amateurs from nearby New England and New York attended.

The Conjunction kicked off with dinner at the Starlight Diner in Erving, Ma, located on Route 2, about 5 miles southeast of Northfield Mountain. Afterward, we gather at the environmental center's Fuller's Pasture for observing.  Friday night was partly cloudy, though everyone held out hoping that the sky would clear.  It did, but not until after midnight.

Saturday began at 9 AM, when the center's doors opened and the flea market sprang into life.  Man astronomical goodies were bought and sold throughout the day on Saturday.


Saturday Morning Program

The Saturday morning program was entitled YOUR FAVORITE ASTRONOMY BOOKS.  What's your favorite astronomy book?  Maybe it's an observing guide.  Or it could be a book that probed an especially interesting and thought-provoking topic.  That was the question put forth to the group on Saturday morning.  While everyone who brought along happened to bring different titles, one thing was for sure: there are a lot of great astronomy books out there!

Saturday morning also featured a very entertaining Conjunction retrospective by Rich Sanderson.  Hard to believe that everyone has lost weight and actually looks younger today than we did in 1982! 










Saturday Afternoon Program


One of the great features of the Conjunction is our varied programs on Saturday afternoon, and 2002 was certainly no exception.  The small venue lets participants meet and talk with each speaker in a relaxed atmosphere.  2002 featured the following:

Amateur observations of variable stars constitute a very important source of data toward our understanding of the universe. In this presentation, Glenn Chaple discussed how to keep a careful watch over variable star activity and report magnitude estimates on a monthly basis to the American Association of Variable Star Observers in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Later that evening, he led an observing session for those who wanted to try their hand at estimated the brightness of selected variable stars.

A contributing editor for Astronomy magazine, Glenn Chaple writes the magazine's Astronomy 101 column as well as frequent articles on observing.

  • Alan Hirshfeld: "Crossed Eyes and Wobbling Stars"

In this talk, based on his book Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos, Dr. Hirshfeld spoke about the eventful lives and eccentricities of the many famous and not-so-famous astronomers who struggled to be first to determine the distance to a star. The talk also covered how technology revolutionized the practice of precision astronomy, both in the early 1800s and in the modern era.

Alan W. Hirshfeld, astronomer at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Associate of the Harvard College Observatory, received his undergraduate degree in astrophysics from Princeton and his Ph.D. in astronomy from Yale.  His widely praised book Parallax: The Race to Measure the Cosmos, published in hardcover by W. H. Freeman & Co. and in paperback by Henry Holt & Co., chronicles the human stories involved in the centuries-long quest to measure the first distance to a star.

In this presentation, author Phil Harrington discussed light pollution and how urban astronomers can learn to deal with the problem.  Observing equipment, technique, and strategies were outlined, observing projects were all considered, and state and local legislative bills were discussed.

A Contributing Editor for Astronomy magazine, Phil Harrington is best known to amateur astronomers for his six books that detail various aspects of the hobby and science as well as his articles that appear regularly in Astronomy.

  • Ron Woodland: "Greek Astronomy"

Continuing his theme from last year, Ron presented an abbreviated presentation that discussed how the ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes was able to determine the diameter of the Earth.



"Wonders of the Day Sky"

Bob Berman

The day sky holds far more treasures than most people imagine. This presentation, accompanied by colorful images taken by the lecturer over the past 15 years, explored the vagaries of the blue sky (and what various shades tell us about upcoming night conditions), the nature of light and color, and the exploration of halos, glories, parhelia, the twilight wedge, arcs, rainbows, and diffraction phenomena. 

Along with tips on daytime telescope use, this odyssey was aimed at total beginners (and spouses) while helping the seasoned telescope owner learn how to greatly extend observing hours.

Bob Berman is Astronomy magazine's "Strange Universe" columnist. He's also been Discover Magazine's astronomy columnist since 1989, and is responsible for the astronomy section of the Old Farmers Almanac. An astronomy professor and author of two major books ("Secrets of the Night Sky," Morrow 1996, and "Cosmic Adventure," HarperCollins 1999), Berman has a weekly segment on National Public Radio, and has appeared on numerous TV shows such as Today, CBS This Morning, and Late Night with David Letterman. 

During the question and answer session after Bob's presentation, we got word from those outside that the skies were wonderfully clear and an aurora was underway.  Rays and curtains extended up from the northern horizon very nearly to the zenith at maximum, colored with gentle hues of red and turquoise.  Jack did great arranging that for the 20th Conjunction!  Although nobody had a camera with them to capture the display on film, NASA's web site has assembled a wonderful gallery of photos showing the display from across the country.

Although the aurora died down after 11 pm, the sky continued to treat observers to the treats of a late summer sky.  The 20th Conjunction was now history, but for many of us, it was the Conjunction yet!

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