Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike at Topstone Park in Redding on Tues., April 22nd and Thurs., April 24th.

Take Topstone Rd. off of Rt. 7.
Follow road over RR tracks until it becomes a dirt road.
Shortly after, a parking area will be on the right side of the road.
Meet at 8:30am.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


April 2014 Constellation of the Month: Leo

Every year, around March, Leo makes its appearance low in the Southeast, a welcome sign that spring is on the way.  Leo is easily recognizable by two shapes it contains – a triangle and a backwards question mark.  The latter shape is known as "the Sickle".

First, find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major).  Imagine a line extending from the bottom of the Dipper's bowl southward to the horizon.  About halfway to the horizon is the constellation Leo, the Lion.  In case it's easier to remember, start with the two stars at the right edge of the Dipper.  If you follow the line they make to the North, you'll find the North Star.  Go the opposite way (South) and you'll find Leo.

Traditionally, the head of the Lion is pictured as being outlined by the Sickle, and its hindquarters by the triangle.  Some people, however, have an easier time picturing the
triangle as a head and the Sickle as a tail.

Leo's brightest star, Regulus, is at the dot of the question mark (bottom of the handle of the Sickle).   It's actually a 3-star system with the blue-white main star about 140 times as bright as our sun, which is orbited by a pair of much fainter, much lower-mass red dwarfs.  There is also evidence of a 4th star, which has not been directly observed.

Just below the triangle is a pair of spiral galaxies, M65 and M66, which can be seen in a small telescope – like the ones the Discovery Center brings to its astronomy events.   Every November, there is a meteor shower in which the  meteors appear to be coming from the direction of Leo.  So, the shower is called the Leonid shower.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The DC Women's Hiking Group will not hike on Tues., April 15th and Thurs., April 17th due to Spring break and no school in Ridgefield.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike at Pine Mountain in Ridgefield on Thurs., April 10th.
Take Ridgebury Rd. to George Washington Highway.
Make right on to Pine Mountain Rd.
Parking area will be near end of road.
Meet at 8:30am.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Dealing with Bears

Bears are making a comeback in our state and being seen more frequently in Ridgefield.  This is mainly due to reforestation, which gives bears a wonderful natural habitat.   This is the time of year that bears start to become active again.  After their winter nap, the first though on their minds is food.  Bears are intelligent animals with keen sense of smell and hearing.  They also have good memories.  If they found food somewhere before, they tend to repeatedly revisit the area.  Birdfeeders, especially those that contain black oil sunflower seeds are an immediate draw.  This is ideal food because it contains high levels of fat and protein, factors missing in a bear’s natural springtime food sources.  If you wish to avoid a bear incident in your yard, here are some tips to follow:   Now is the time to take down your birdfeeder and rake up all spilled birdseed.  If you compost, do not put meats or sweet-smelling fruit rinds in it.  Sprinkle lime on your compost pile to reduce the smell and discourage bears.  Do not leave pet food outside overnight and store livestock food in airtight containers.   Secure all garbage in airtight containers and store it inside a secure shed or garage.  Dumpsters should have metal locking tops and doors.  Bears tend to feed at night (but can be active during the day).  Putting out you garage in the morning for pickup will avoid overnight visits from all forms of wildlife.  Clean grills after every use and store inside.  Most importantly:  DO NOT FEED BEARS.  Spreading the word and hopefully your neighborhood will be bear free.  If you do see a bear on property, leave it alone.  Wait for it to leave and remove whatever attracted it.  In order to better manage bears, the State DEP requests that you report bear sightings to:  http://www.depdata.ct.gov/wildlife/sighting/bearsight.asp.  By avoiding interactions between bears and humans, you can save a bear’s life.  When a bear becomes labeled a “nuisance bear”, unfortunately it will likely to be put down.  Relocation has limited results. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike at Sturges Park in Ridgefield on Tues., Mar. 25th and Thurs., Mar. 27th.
Take West Mountain Rd. follow and take right on to Oreneca Rd. at intersection take right on to Rippowam Rd.

Follow Rippowan Rd. .4 miles to parking lot.
Meet at 8:30am.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Canis Major

In early March 2014, an hour after sunset, you can see 4 very bright points of light in the southern half of the sky.  Jupiter, currently in the constellation Gemini, is the brightest of these.  South and somewhat west of Jupiter is the last month's Constellation of the Month, Orion.  It has two very bright stars, Betelgeuse and Rigel. 

The southernmost bright object is Sirius, the Dog Star, in the constellation of Canis Major (Big Dog).  Sirius is the brightest star in the sky -- at any time of year, northern or southern hemisphere. It is almost as bright as Jupiter right now.   Although Sirius appears noticeably brighter than Betelgeuse in Orion, it is only 23 times as bright as the Sun.   Betelgeuse is 40,000 times brighter. So Sirius is much closer -- only 8.6 light years (about 50 trillion miles) away.

M41 is an open cluster of 8,000 stars in Canis Major, south of Sirius. It is easily visible with binoculars.

The band of the Milky Way passes through Canis Major, although it is less prominent there than in the "W" Cassiopeia in the North and the summer constellations. This is because when we look at Canis Major, we are looking away from the center of the Milky Way galaxy, and there are fewer stars along the plane of the galaxy in that direction.