Astronomy and photography combine in picturesque hobby
By Corey Sipe - ReminderNews
Colchester - posted Mon., Dec. 2, 2013
Despite it being a cloudy night, preventing the observation of stars through a 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 who enjoys astronomy as a hobby. He said that he first became interested in the subject at age 16, as it helps provide an escape from the bad news of the day. His love for photography and astronomy has 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 that a large full moon rises behind the castle, he said.
Chaniewski 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 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, he said.
For the best experiences in enjoying the nighttime sky, people should be aware 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.
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 the darkness and to use only red flashlights, which won’t disturb their night vision.
When looking up, take note that stars appear to twinkle, while planets, which are closer to us, do not. The more than 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 or 5 a.m., which include 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.
Chaniewski believes it’s very possible that there is life out there somewhere.