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Reilly, Star Party Featured

Doug Reilly, director of the Center for Global Education, was quoted in the Finger Lakes Times today, encouraging people to attend a gathering to watch falling stars Thursday night. Reilly was recently a guest on “Here on Earth,” a program on Wisconsin Public Radio, because he is the creator of the blog “Punk Astonomy.” He is an amateur astronomer who tries to inspire an interest in others; he organized Thursday’s gathering with the help of the City of Geneva, the Finger Lakes Institute at HWS and the Rochester Academy of Sciences.

“Everybody should go to it,” the article quotes Reilly. “Anybody who has ever looked up at the stars and wondered what’s there.”

The full article and details about the event follow.

Finger Lakes Times
Star light, star bright, why not watch the meteor shower tomorrow night?
Hot cocoa, popcorn will be available

Heather Swanson • August 11, 2010

GENEVA – Waiting for a star to fall may have the ring of an ’80s pop ballad, but Thursday night, area residents will have the chance to do just that.

Thanks largely to the organizing efforts of amateur astronomer Doug Reilly, a “Summer Perseids (Falling) Star Party” will be at McDonough Park starting at 9 p.m.

Reilly was assisted in his efforts by the City of Geneva, the Finger Lakes Institute and the Rochester Academy of Sciences.

Provided the skies are clear, stargazers will have the chance to witness not just one shooting star but – the hopes are – dozens every hour.

“Everybody should go to it,” said Reilly. “Anybody who has ever looked up at the stars and wondered what’s there.”

The event is free, and several amateur astronomers will be on hand to offer views through their telescopes, as well as information on the celestial bodies being seen through them.

Hot cocoa and popcorn will be available, and stargazers are encouraged to take flashlights, blankets, lawn chairs – reclining ones are best – and insect repellent.

The Star Party is weather dependent, of course, and should rain or thunderstorms force a cancellation, Reilly plans to organize a similar Star Party in the fall. If the skies are cloudy and the weather seems uncertain, would-be stargazers can check for an update.

Reilly, who spends his days working for Hobart and William Smith Colleges as programming coordinator for the Center for Global Education, said his love for astronomy began in his youth, when he says he organized many such star parties for his friends.

He rekindled that love for the skies several years ago and says in his 10 years in Geneva he has yet to see a star party held. He hopes this will be the first of many.

“There are far too many people who have never really seen the Milky Way overhead or never really seen a shooting star, and that just seems somehow tragic,” said Reilly.

For those who are not amateur astronomers, a shooting star is in fact a meteor.

“It’s a piece of rock or metal [that] enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up,” Reilly explained.

Thursday night is the peak night of the August Perseids meteor shower.

“They just tumble, and they burn up from the friction of entering so much atmosphere,” he said. Often the “shooting stars” are very quick, leaving a streak of light across the sky and burning up before they reach the ground. If meteors do reach the ground, he said, they can range in size from a grain of sand to a quarter-mile across or larger.

They are, Reilly says, “nature’s fireworks.”

Also visible will be Jupiter, the Andromeda Galaxy and the Great Hercules Cluster.


About Perseids

Comet of Origin: 109P/Swift-Tuttle

Radiant: Constellation Perseus

Active: Perseids begin to rise early August.

Peak Activity: Aug. 12 to 13

Peak activity meteor count: 50 meteors per hour

Time of optimal viewing: Crescent moon will set early in the evening, allowing for dark skies all the way up until peak viewing just before dawn

Meteor velocity: 38 miles per second

Note: The Perseid meteor shower is one of the most consistent performers and considered by many as 2010’s best shower. The meteors they produce are among the brightest of all meteor showers.


Star Party

What: Watch the annual Perseids meteor shower

When: Thursday, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Where: From the baseball diamond at McDonough Park; volunteers will guide stargazers through the viewing field.

Cost: Free

What to take: Reclining lawn chair and/or blanket, a flashlight.

Refreshments: Will be available to buy

If the weather is iffy: Go to