Astronomy Day 2004

On Saturday April 24, The Auburn Astronomical Society and the W. A. Gayle Planetarium joined astronomical societies and planetaria across the nation, to host the celebration of Astronomy Day,  when we share with the public, our passion of the night sky.  This was the seventh such joint venture for us and Planetarium Director, Rick Evans.

As always, we’re gambling that the weather will cooperate so that our guests can have a look through the many telescopes provided by our members and friends.  We had mixed blessings this year.  The clouds stayed away for the early hours of the evening so that everyone was able to enjoy the beauty of the planets and Moon.  Later, as the clouds began to roll in, we were able to peek between the clouds long enough to allow all of the guests to have a look through the telescopes. 

Again this year, we were able to assist visitors who had trouble using their personal telescopes.  Most often, it takes a simple adjustment or correction to get them going.  Special thanks to the following, many of whom drove all the way from eastern Alabama and western Georgia, to share their hardware and expertise:

Ray Kunert, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT
Alan & Susie Cook, 10-inch LX-50 SCT
Russell Whigham, 11-inch SCT
Eddie Kirkland, 16-inch Dobsonian 
Lesa Leon, 70mm refractor and 115mm reflector
David McConnell, 8-inch LX 50 SCT and a 4-inch reflector "go to" 
Mack Acheson, 10-inch Newtonian
Paul & Michele Williamson, 120mm f/5 refractor
Susanna Fillingham, 100mm f/6 refractor
Robert Rock, 90mm Maksutov 
Gail Smitherman, 127mm Maksutov
Japhet Nylen (with mom, and sister), 8-inch Dobsonian
John Tatarchuk , 18-inch Dobsonian

Thanks also to Rhon & Joyce Jenkins, John Zachry, Jim McLaughlin, for pitching in to help.  The scopes listed above, plus several telescopes brought by our visitors, brought the total to 18 telescopes available for public viewing. It was good to have a visit with parents, children, and spouses – and with each other.

While we were busy outside with the some of the visitors, others were able to learn more about the natural wonder in our own backyard – the Meteor impact Crater in Wetumpka, by none other that the preeminent expert on the feature, Dr. David T. King Jr., of Auburn University’s Department of Geology.  Rick had put together another great program in the auditorium while we waited for dark. 

Rick wrote:

I wanted to thank you for all you did in support of Astronomy Day.

The turnout from the Auburn Astronomical Society was spectacular to say the least. I realize that many of your members commuted from a great distance to be here and support this event...and I truly appreciate the effort from each and every one of them.

Although we did not have as a big a crowd from the public as we have had in past events, I was still pleased with the approximately 300 visitors we did have.  There were a lot of events going on that weekend (Talladega, dog show, art festivals etc) but I think we were able to hold our own. 

Rick Evans, Director
W.A. Gayle Planetarium
1010 Forest Ave.
Montgomery Al  36106

You’re most welcome, Rick, and thanks back to you and Beverly for making this happen.  Without your planning, publicity, and your wonderful facility, it would be just another star gaze for us.  Thanks also for providing the sandwiches, drinks, and name tags as well as the beautiful setting and police security that you provide at no cost to the visitors each year.

AAS members set up their telescopes on the eastern side of the planetarium entrance in the late afternoon.
Rick "lightened" the atmosphere by issuing novelty glowing fiber optic neckties for all who dared.  Here, John Tatarchuk, Eddie Kirkland, Robert Rock, and Rhon Jenkins pose with their newest fashion accessories. 
Rhon made good use of the daylight hours by assisting a visitor who had been struggling with his telescope.  Rhon demonstrates his expertise by explaining that the most essential piece of observing equipment is a comfortable chair.
Also acting as medics in our "Telescope Clinic" were Paul Williamson and Susanna Fillingham as they assist another visitor with his go-to telescope set up.

Susanna Fillingham, 100mm f/6 refractor

Paul Williamson, 120mm f/5 refractor

John Tatarchuk , 18-inch Dobsonian

 Eddie Kirkland, 16-inch Dobsonian 

Ray Kunert, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT

Lesa Leon, 70mm refractor 


Lesa and Russell wrestle an unruly refractor to the ground.
Photo by Mack Acheson

Eddie, Russell and Ray enjoy a rare day-time visit.
Photo by Mack Acheson
Little boys admiring the "big guns".
Mack Acheson and his solar filtered 10-inch.

Photo by Mack Acheson

Planetarium Specialist, Beverly Miller, provided the images below of guests as they observe the Moon and planets through the telescopes .  Thanks Beverly!