Astronomy Day 2005

Each spring, planeteria and astronomical societies across the nation and around the world celebrate the joys of astronomy with the public.  The Auburn Astronomical Society and the staff of the W. A. Gayle Planetarium in Montgomery, have established a cordial and symbiotic relationship that brings together the best of both worlds for the public.  The wonderful facilities at the planetarium are complemented by the hardware and collective knowledge of amateur astronomers.

The conditions were near perfect on Saturday, April 16, for our eighth annual event -- absolutely clear blue skies, and temperatures in the mid-seventies, with a nice breeze.  We had the largest number of telescopes available for the visitors since we’ve been working with Rick Evans and the staff of the planetarium.

The day began with solar viewing at 3:00.  Rick had the planetarium’s Coronado Solar Max-40 hydrogen-alpha light scope set up next to the AAS Coronado PST H-alpha scope. Mike Holley arrived early and was helpful to all of the guests who observed the Sun.  Mike’s daughter, Taylor, had artfully prepared a poster detailing the solar features visible and the inner workings of our Sun, to help the visitors understand what they were seeing in the eyepiece.  Other members and friends had traditional solar filters mounted on their scopes as a contrast.  Visitors were also treated to preview glimpses of the first quarter Moon in the daytime sky.

The following people gave of their time, talents, and telescopes, to help with our Astronomy Day activities. 

• Alan & Susie Cook, 10-inch LX-50 SCT
• Mike Holley  ETX-70 refractor and AAS’s PST
• Taylor Jernigan, Meade ETX-125 Mak-Cass 
• Ray Kunert, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT
• Chuck Lewis, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT
• Dave McConnell, 8-inch LX 50 SCT
• Tom McGowan 8-inch Homemade Reflector 
• Jim McLaughlin, Meade 8-inch LX200
• Patrick Moylan, Meade ETX-125 Mak-Cass
• Allen Screws, 8-inch Dobsonian
• Gail Smitherman, 127mm Maksutov
• Scott Thompson 7-inch Astro-Physics refractor
• John Tatarchuk 18-inch Obsession Dobsonian
• Robert Rock, Meade ETX 90 Maksutov 
• Robert L. West, 3-inch reflector
• Russell Whigham, 11-inch f/10 SCT
• Paul and Michele Williamson, 120mm f/5 refractor

AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, circulated among the visitors to make everyone feel welcome, helped with the telescope clinic, and  represented the society during the part of the program in the auditorium, when Rick acknowledged the AAS.  We were able to help visitors who were having problems with their telescopes, notably one guest who drove all the way up from the Wiregrass area to get help with a recalcitrant clock drive of a vintage reflector.

At 6:00 PM - guest speaker, Dr. David T. King Jr. gave a presentation in the auditorium, on the Wetumpka Meteor Crater, followed by  Rick’s presentation:  a "Tour of the Night Sky", that began at 7:00 PM, to give an overview of what the guests would see when they see when they stepped outside.  Following the “Tour”, Rick presented a tribute to the crews shuttles Challenger and Columbia.  Wrapping up the indoor portion of the day’s activities were the door prize selections.

By 8:00 PM when the guests exited the auditorium, the sky was dark enough for them to  view the planets Saturn, its rings and retinue of moons; Jupiter with its Galilean moons and prominent bands; and the mountains and craters of the Moon. The guests seemed delighted with their views through the telescopes.  Several signed up to be included on the AAS e-mail list.  John Zachry drove all the way from West Point GA and had prepared an extensive list of satellite passages for our guests to observe.

Other AAS members and friends present were:  Susanna Fillingham, Brent Holman, Marty & Duane Skelton, Ricky Wood,  Wayne Baker, Jeff Graves, Nichole Long, Dale Harrison, John Howard, and keynote speaker, David T King Jr.  It was great to see many folks we haven’t see for a long time.  Thanks to all for your support.

And finally, special thanks to Rick Evans, who consistently handles the publicity, provides the Subway sandwiches and drinks for us, makes name tags for the AAS volunteers and otherwise makes the event the success that it is each year. 

Planetarium specialist Paul Bonner looks on as Ricky Wood and one of our visitors have a look at the Sun in Hydrogen-alpha light

Planetarium director, Rick Evans, readies the SolarMax 40 for the visitors, as Taylor Holley stands by to assist with the society's PST

Mike Holley with his ETX-70 refractor

Dave McConnell and his 8-inch LX 50 SCT

Rick, Scott Thompson and Brent Holman enjoying a visit

Taylor Holley looks on as dad, Mike, displays their solar feature poster

John Tartarchuk's 18-inch Dobsonian dominates the entrance to the planetarium

AAS members Jim McLaughlin and Gail Smitherman discussing Gail's 127mm Maksutov

Chuck Lewis and his 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT

Ray Kunert and his 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT

Wayne Baker discussing Robert West's 3-inch reflector

Early arrivals viewing the 1st quarter Moon through Russell's C-11

Kneeling L-R:  Alan Cook, Russell Whigham, Ricky Wood, and Dave McConnell.  Standing L-R:  Scott Thompson, Allen Screws, Brent Holman, Jeff Graves, Mike Holley, Jim McLaughlin, Chuck Lewis, John Zachry, Rhon Jenkins, Ray Kunert, Paul Williamson, John Tartarchuk, Gail Smitherman, and Patrick Moylan.