Astronomy Day 2001

On Saturday, April 28, Rick Evans, Director of the W. A. Gayle Planetarium, in Montgomery, with the able assistance of  planetarium employees and AAS members, Rick Fanning and Mark Brown, planned and executed the best Astronomy Day since we joined forces for the event back in 1998. 
AAS members began arriving  just before 3:00 PM, setting up their telescopes on the lawn in the open area in front of the planetarium.  Following two days of absolutely clear skies, we were now looking up at a fairly dense blanket of cirrus clouds, with occasional patches of blue sky to keep us optimistic about the evening’s viewing prospects. 

Here, an unnamed newsletter editor, offering unsolicited advice, is advised that the owners know how to set up the telescope and receives a suggestion to "take a hike".

Photo by Ricky Wood 
Photo by Ricky Wood 
Photo by Ricky Wood 
The eyepices that we planted last fall in the telescope garden, are in full bloom by late April. Well, at least it's a good shot of the C-11.
Photo by Ricky Wood 
Park visitors and Astronomy Day guests who arrived early, strolled around the  telescopes wanting to “see something through the telescopes”. Scott Thompson and Mark Pratt had their instruments equipped with solar filters and showed the guests the prominent sunspot group when clouds permitted.  Scott had brought incredible images of the sunspots and the Moon (taken the night before just before occulting third magnitude, Eta Geminorum. 

"Hmmmm, I wonder how many six packs that thing costs."

Scott Thompson was also interviewed by the WAKA, Channel 8 reporter. The segment was aired on the 6:00 PM news.
Photo by Ricky Wood 
Photo by Ricky Wood 
Several guests brought their personal telescopes.  Most (if not all) received some much needed instruction on the poorly documented 60mm “department store” refractors,  by our de facto tutor, Rhon Jenkins.
At 5:00 PM, Family Science Night, sponsored by Tuskegee University,  W.A. Gayle Planetarium,  Montgomery Public Schools, Macon County  School System, and Lee County Schools opened the evening’s activities.  Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky began the evening’s programs speaking on “Window on  the Universe”, followed by Mr. Roy Young, NASA engineer  from George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville Alabama.  AAS president, Dr. Rhonald Jenkins narrated the Power Point presentation, produced by Rick Evans, promoting the Auburn Astronomical Society.  This was followed by  planetarium programs, “Saving the Night Sky”,  “Challenger Tribute”  and   “Tour of the Night Sky – Spring and Summer Constellations”. 
Photo by Ricky Wood 
Photo by Rick Allen
This panoramic view shows many of the telescopes and participants.  Featured at the center is Justin Allen, manning his 8-inch Dobsonian.  At the far left, a visitor shares impressions of her view of the Moon through Justin's dad's (Rick Allen) 9.25-inch SCT.  Behind Justin is Tom Crenshaw and his daughter Jennie, at their Meade 114 reflector.  To the right, Joyce Jenkins at the eyepiece of their 18-inch StarMaster as she assists hubby/AAS president Rhon Jenkins, with collimation. Just to the right is John Williams and his 10-inch Meade LX-200 SCT as he answers questions of the guests at his telescope.  Next over, Scott Thompson's 7-inch AstroPhysics sticks up above the crowd.  Next to him visitors peer into Ricky Wood's 12-inch Meade LX-200.  At the far right is Russell Whigham's venerable Criterion RV-6.

By the conclusion of the indoor presentations, the clouds had mostly dissipated, and the guests adjourned outside to queue up at our fourteen telescopes.  Kids and parents alike were dazzled at the detail on the five-day-old Moon; some returning time after time to see the sunlit and shadowed lunar craters, rilles and mountains.  A few of the scopes had a clear shot between the trees, at Jupiter with its Galilean Moons all in close proximity to their parent planet.

Michelle Wilson, Layton Smith, KevinMcMurray and Larry Mitchell all signed up on our e-mail list.  Welcome to the group!

Visitor, Gail Smitherman, of Selma, deserves special recognition.  Gail has suffered being an amateur astronomy all alone there – observing with her 10-inch Starfinder without the benefit of friends who share her passion.  She reports that she’s been following AAS via the AAS Web pages and drove over to meet us in person.  Thanks for the effort, Gail.  Good luck finding kindred spirits in the Selma area, but until then, we hope you’ll continue to keep up with what we’re doing.

Special thanks to all who made time to help:

Rick and Justin Allen: 9.25-inch SCT, 8-inch Dobsonian, and a Nexstar 80GT
Russell Whigham: Celestron C-11 SCT, Criterion RV-6 Newtonian
Rhon and Joyce Jenkins: 18-inch StarMaster Dobsonian
Scott Thompson: 7-inch AstroPhysics Refractor
Tom and Jennie Crenshaw: Meade TeleStar 114
John Williams: 10-inch Meade LX 50
Ricky Wood:  12-inch Meade LX-200 SCT
Robert Rock: 90mm ETX
Mark Pratt:  90mm Meade ETX Maksutov and 70mm binoculars
Tom McGowan 20-inch Midnightelescope Dobsonian
And, to Nichole Long, David Wayne Key,  and Marty & Duane Skelton lending moral support.

And finally, huge thanks to Mark, his co-worker Rick and his other co-worker, Rick, for weeks of planning and promotion, and to officer Youngblood, who has provided security at the event every year.  Can we expect even bigger and better next year?  I’ll bet so.