Adirondack Region Continues Astronomical Celebration After Solar Eclipse

04 Apr Adirondack Region Continues Astronomical Celebration After Solar Eclipse

The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism is anticipating increased interest in stargazing among visitors to the Adirondack region of upstate New York in 2024. Public interest in astronomy post-eclipse, additional celestial events taking place throughout the year, and the region’s reputation as a prime stargazing location support the growing trend of travel to areas offering natural, starry skies and dark nights. 

Staggering statistics indicate that light pollution is increasing at 10 percent each year globally; and it’s  estimated that eighty percent of Americans cannot see the Milky Way, due to the glow of artificial light. One way to measure the darkness of the night sky for a particular location is the Bortle Scale, a nine-level scale that quantifies light pollution with Class 9 being the most extreme amount of light pollution typically found in a big city. 

Most of the Adirondacks are a Class 2 on the Bortle Scale, which is described as a “typical truly dark site.” The region offers minimal light pollution, relatively low humidity, and elevation – all important factors for viewing the stars. The area’s mountain tops, open fields, lakes, campgrounds and even within the area’s small towns offer prime viewing areas. The Adirondacks’ clear, dark skies, weather conditions, solitude and wide open spaces provide the perfect conditions for celestial observation.

According to Jane Hooper, communications manager at ROOST, the Adirondack Park is known for its scenery, day or night. “The Adirondacks is an exceptional location for viewing the nighttime sky,” she said. “While it is known for its mountains, lakes, lush green trails and spectacular fall foliage, the nighttime sky is equally beautiful – it’s an incredible place to stargaze. Clear, cool nights offer millions of bright twinkling stars set against ink-black skies. The Adirondack region offers incredible views, day or night.”

Visitors to the Adirondacks will have myriad opportunities to take part in stargazing, as a casual observer with the naked eye, with binoculars, or personal telescope. People can also visit the Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory, the Adirondacks’ only public astronomy-based organization for close-up views of deep space through their many high-powered professional telescopes. Its president, Seth McGowan, is also preparing for increased interest this year, with public events and viewing opportunities scheduled throughout the year.

McGowan is excited about the anticipated increase in Adirondack region astrotourism. “Undoubtedly, the recent solar eclipse will lead to an increase in curiosity regarding celestial events throughout the year as it did in communities along the path of totality in 2017,” he commented. “I believe that more people will seek out opportunities for stargazing –  there will be an increased interest in the Milky Way and its stars, planets, comets, and other celestial activity this year. I am thrilled to be able to provide information and assist with making the universe more accessible to our visitors.”

The Adirondacks offer some of the best opportunities for outdoor recreation in a beautiful, natural setting; it is within a day’s drive for 25 percent of the entire North American population. Stargazing is certainly one of the region’s most beautiful experiences.

Celestial activity in 2024 includes:

Lyrids Meteor Shower – April 22 – 23
Produced by dust particles from the C/1861 G1 Thatcher Comet, the Lyrid shower produces 20 meteors per hour. This annual event peaks on the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd with meteors that can produce bright trails lasting for several seconds. The full moon will likely block out all but the brightest meteors this year. 

Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower – May 6 – 7 
The Eta Aquarid shower, produced by Halley’s Comet, is capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour in the Southern Hemisphere and 30 per hour in the north. The meteor shower will peak during the night of May 6 and the morning of May 7. The moon’s phase will offer dark skies, providing optimal viewing.

Perseids Meteor Shower – August 12 – 13 
The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, produced by dust from the Swift-Tuttle comet. It offers 60 bright meteors per hour, from July 17 to August 24; peaking during the night of August 11 and morning of August 12. The moon sets after midnight, creating dark conditions for viewing. 

Saturn – September 8
The ringed planet will be at its closest to Earth on September 8; its face fully illuminated by the sun. The planet will be brighter than any other time of the year, and visible throughout the night. A medium-sized telescope will allow stargazers to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons. This will be the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. 

Supermoon / partial lunar eclipse – September 18 
A partial lunar eclipse occurs when the moon passes through Earth’s shadow, or penumbra, with a portion of it passing through the darkest shadow, or umbra. During this eclipse, part of the moon will darken as it moves through the shadow. In 2024, the September moon is considered to be a “supermoon” meaning it is closest to Earth, making it appear much larger than is typical. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America.

Tsuchinshan-ATLAS comet – October 13
Comet observers are hoping that this comet will be easily viewed, beginning in late September. Comets can be somewhat difficult to predict but many astronomers believe that it will become visible with the naked eye.

Orionids meteor shower – October 21 – 22 
The Orionids, produced by dust left behind by Halley’s Comet, produce up to 20 meteors per hour. It takes place each year throughout the month of October, peaking on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.

Leonids meteor shower – November 17 – 18
This meteor shower takes place throughout most of November, with approximately 15 meteors per hour, resulting from the Tempel-Tuttle comet. This meteor shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen – the last peak was in 2001. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight.

Geminids Meteor Shower – December 13 – 14
The Geminids is considered to be the best meteor shower for viewing, with up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour. The meteors are produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon. The event takes place each year from early to mid-December; in 2024 it will peak during the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The nearly full moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. 

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