Celebration of Space - October 22, 2021

Frosty Drew Astronomy Team member, Derek Schacht celebrating a perfectly level pier foundation, finally!

Frosty Drew Astronomy Team member, Derek Schacht celebrating a perfectly level pier foundation, finally!

The big day has arrived! After years of planning, grant writing, purchasing, and preparing, the new observatory telescope is about to be installed. Three weeks ago we hosted our Last-light Celebration for our existing Meade LX200 16 inch telescope, giving visitors a chance to look through that telescope for the last time as it sat in the Frosty Drew Observatory. Since then we have been very busy removing the Meade telescope, fork mount, and pier. Once the telescope was removed, we began pier foundation upgrades. This step was the most daunting and included full removal of the original pier which was inside the diameter of the Meade pier. The original pier is what was first installed when the Frosty Drew Observatory was built in 1988, and originally supported an AstroPhysics Starfire 174 7 inch refractor. This pier was dropped into the pier foundation cement when it was poured, then the cement outside the pier diameter was smoothed and leveled. Once the cement cured the pier was filled with sand. This resulted in an elevation of 2 inches of rough cement inside the pier that sat above the grade outside the pier. So a good deal of cement removal from inside the steel tube was required to cut the original pier for a flush surface. Once flush, new anchor bolts needed to be installed into the pier foundation and secured. This allows for the new PlaneWave pier to attach to the pier foundation.

The work was daunting, and the Frosty Drew Astronomy Team has been diligent, positive, enthusiastic, and ready to take on any challenge that has presented itself, with success! It is a reminder of how fortunate Frosty Drew is to have such an amazing team.

Tonight (Friday, October 22, 2021) will bring the final pier foundation prep and the installation of the PlaneWave pier. This is all building up to the big moment, which comes tomorrow, Saturday October 23, 2021, when the new PlaneWave L-600 mount and CDK24 24 inch telescope will be lowered, by crane, into the Frosty Drew Observatory dome, and attached to the pier. After this step is completed, there will be about a week’s worth of configuration, integration, and calibration that will need to be completed. Then white paper writing begins, which will document operations and training for the Frosty Drew Astronomy Team members that will be using the PlaneWave.

Saturday’s weather is looking rather nice with sunny conditions expected and temps in the low 60’s. A perfect day to be out and about. We would like to welcome anyone to come out to Ninigret Park tomorrow to watch the installation of the new PlaneWave CDK600 telescope. The Observatory Courtyard will be closed to the general public for obvious safety reasons, but the large soccer field across the street, as well as the rest of the Frosty Drew campus will make for a great spot to set up a picnic with the family or with friends, and watch. Ninigret Park, which is home to the Frosty Drew campus has a bike path, disc golf course, dog park, and playground. The Ninigret NWR, which borders the Frosty Drew campus, has fantastic hiking trails as well as stunning views of the Ninigret Salt Pond. Installation activities will begin at 8:00 am, and will probably run for the majority of the day.

This is the culmination of years of work and it’s finally becoming a reality for us!

This past week, China’s space station, Tiangong, commenced evening passes over the United States and New England specifically. Now that we have two space stations in orbit, we have many more opportunities to catch a view of a space station passing over our region in the evening hours. Tiangong is currently inhabited with China’s astronauts, which will reside on the station for six months. Here are a few notable passes of Tiangong over the next week:

Fri, Oct 22 at 7:19 pm, starting in the W, rising overhead and into orbital sunset ← Awesome Pass!
Sat, Oct 23 at 6:20 pm, starting in the W, rising overhead and setting in the E ← Awesome Pass!
Sun Oct 24 at 6:58 pm, starting in the W, rising overhead and into orbital sunset ← Awesome Pass!
Mon Oct 25 at 7:37 pm, starting in the W, rising to 56° and into orbital sunset
Tue Oct 26 at 6:39 pm, starting in the W, rising to 78°, heading towards the ESE and into orbital sunset ← Awesome Pass
Wed Oct 27 at 7:22 pm, starting in the W, rising to 39°, and into orbital sunset
Thu Oct 28 at 6:22 pm, starting in the W, rising to 56°, heading towards the ESE.
Fri, Oct 29 at 7:03 pm, starting in the W, rising to 23°, heading towards the SSE

These passes are applicable for Southern New England, and are generally acceptable for the entire Northeast. For daily pass times of Tiangong and other bright satellites, visit the Frosty Drew Observatory Satellite Prediction Utility. Now get out and be inspired by one of humanity’s two space based residences passing 200 miles overhead.

Scott MacNeill
Scott MacNeill
Entry Date:
Oct 22, 2021
Published Under:
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