Monday, January 31, 2022

Mark your calendars: What to expect from WNY’s nighttime skies in 2022


If you live in rural Western New York you’re probably a backyard astronomer of sorts.


You might find yourself outdoors on a clear night marveling at the countless stars in the heavens. There’s something innate, primeval, about the love affair with the nighttime skies. The universe is fascinating, awe-inspiring, and relaxing – after a day of hustle and bustle and going in a hundred different directions, it’s comforting to look skyward, see that vastness and realize that we and our human experiences are but tiny, inconsequential blips in the whole scheme of things.

We WNY backyard astronomers like to maximize this appreciation, because, too often, Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with us. The Niagara County and Erie County skies, especially, are some of the cloudiest in the United States thanks to the Great Lakes and the prevailing southwesterly winds that drive the moisture from Lake Erie.

So, any time that we are blessed with a clear night, we like to take advantage of it. And, we always hope that it happens when some celestial event is taking place. To help you plan for that in 2022 -- and to give you the signal to start praying to God to ease up on the cloud machine a little bit -- here’s a look at some of the nighttime sights on tap for this year.


Lunar eclipses


It’s a good year for viewing eclipses in WNY as we will be graced with two total lunar eclipses.


The first one will happen on Sunday, May 15th heading into Monday, May 16th. The event will begin at 9:32 PM and become a total eclipse – and a red moon – at 11:28 PM. That will last for an hour before gradually reverting back to the full moon at 2:50 AM.


The second one will occur early the morning of Tuesday, November 8th – Election Day, no less (foretelling the future?). It will begin at 3:02 AM and hit full eclipse at 5:59 AM, perfect timing as you arise for work or to be first at the polls.  


Northern Lights


The aurora borealis or northern lights are more abundant when the sun’s face is covered with sunspots and it is emitting all sorts of flares and other solar energy. In recent years, the sun wasn’t too eventful as it was at the bottom of the 11-year sunspot cycle -- and that past cycle was somewhat of a dud to begin with. Solar Cycle 25 is now underway and it’s taking its sweet time ramping up to the 2025 peak, but, she’s trying.

That said, the northern lights won’t be very common -- you might even call them downright rare -- for our latitude again in 2022 (we aren’t as lucky as northern Canada). But that doesn’t mean the sun won’t surprise us on occasion.


If you want to know when you have a chance, a great tool is the aurora oval (updated every few minutes) on the left side toolbar of the website If the green or red hue takes over or comes close to the US-Canada border on that map, it’s time to get outside and look. You don’t ever want to miss the northern lights.


The best meteor showers


The Persieds meteor shower never ceases to amaze, throwing some really bright meteors out there. 2016 was an outburst year, and I saw nearly 100 shooting stars over an hour and a half period on the peak night. While this year’s shower won’t reach such numbers, the Perseids is always a good show. Even during lean years, you can see 30 to 60 per hour.


In 2022, Perseids will peak on the night of August 11th heading into the morning hours of the 12th.  Unfortunately, the full moon will drown out the faint and mid-magnitude meteors. But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look. Perseids has the tendency to produce incredibly bright massive fireballs – if you see one of them, you will never forget it. Trust me. Your best bet is after midnight. Look towards the constellation Perseus to see them in their full beauty.

December’s Geminids shower will be somewhat muted as it takes place under a waning gibbous moon on the night of December 12th.  This underrated shower can throw out 50 an hour. It’s likely an underrated shower because of the weather conditions – the Perseids is easy to watch on a summer night. Geminids in December? You never know what Jack Frost will throw at you.


New moons


If you are serious about stargazing, you will so as I and mark on your calendar every date on which there is a new moon. Basically “no moon,” the new moon ensures there is no moonlight robbing your skywatching experience, meaning you have full visibility of the stars, the Milky Way, meteors and more. You typically have perfect dark sky viewing for four days on either side of the new moon.


New moons will occur on: February 1, March 2, April 1, April 30, May 30, June 28, July 28, August 27, September 25, October 25, November 23, and December 23. 



From the 10 January 2022 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

Monday, January 3, 2022

It’s time to recertify your pistol permit


When my fellow handgun owners and I applied for pistol permits we did so with the understanding that they were lifetime permits, revocable only by our moving out of state or committing a crime.


Then along came the NY SAFE Act in 2013 which changed the whole landscape of gun ownership in the Empire State. Among the tenets of that law was the requirement to recertify those once-unlimited pistol permits every 5 years.


This began in January of 2017. The New York State Police were granted control of these pistol permit renewals. This move, atypical to standard pistol permitting which is run by county clerks’ offices, saw the creation and administration of an online process through which handgun owners could affirm that they still own the guns appearing on their permit.


It took some time, and considerable amount of outreach by local and state officials and shooting clubs, but most permit holders met the initial deadline in 2018. Fewer than 1-in-5 registered handgun owners failed to certify.    


For those of you who immediately took part in that recertification process, you’ll need to renew soon, maybe even this month. Your 5 years is nearly up.


It’s not an arduous task. The process was made easy and many of the reservations we originally had before its launch never appeared – there were and are no classes, interviews, and references required for recertification. Instead, it’s just some basic data entry.


To recertify your pistol permit, visit the website  There, you can either download a paper application that you can mail to the state or you can fill out an online form.


The whole process takes 10 to 15 minutes; just be sure to have your driver’s license and pistol permit handy. You will be updating your personal information and once again entering every single handgun that you own – manufacturer, model, serial number and co-registration with spouse if that applies. Understand that the data you submitted 5 years earlier is not made available to you online – you must re-enter all the information.


Many will find this to be an exercise in futility because we all know that the state already has the information – it was entered when you got your permit, it is updated every time you purchase a pistol, and you just verified everything a handful of years ago. But, that hassle is far better than the alternative: It really could have been much more difficult to renew under the SAFE Act which could have further eroded our Second Amendment rights. 


Check your records as to when you last certified your permit and tackle this before your expiration date comes. Back in January of 2018, with the initial deadline looming, the State Police said they wouldn’t take criminal enforcement action against permit holders who unknowingly failed to recertify. But, that was 2018. This is 2022. At lot has happened since then – a new Governor, a new State Police Superintendent, and many more attempts at new gun laws. Don’t tempt the fates and ignore this simple process.


From the 03 January 2022 Greater Niagara Newspapers, Batavia Daily News, and Wellsville Sun