Astronomy Day 2011

On Saturday, May 7, the Auburn Astronomical Society, in partnership with the  W. A. Gayle Planetarium, celebrated National Astronomy Day, at the planetarium in Oak Park [map] in Montgomery.  We had a beautiful sunny day with mild temperatures, clear blue skies, and a welcome breeze.  Planetarium director, Rick Evans, had secured several presenters: 
  • Susan Mallett, Maxwell Cival Air Patrol Youth Development Program Coordinator
  • Dr. Michael Sterner, and Dr. Michael Patton, University of Montevallo
  • Dr. George Michael, Extraterrestrial Aliens 
Volunteering their time, telescopes, and expertise for AAS were:
  • Rhon Jenkins; Emcee and PST solar scope
  • Frank Ward; 12-inch Meade Lightbridge Dob 
  • Alan Cook; 10-inch Meade LX50 SCT 
  • Russell Whigham; Celestron 11-inch SCT 
  • Eddie Kirkland; 10-inch Dob 
  • Allen Screws;  AAS 12.5-inch Dobsonian
  • Everett Leonard; 10-inch Orion XT10 IntelliScope Dob
  • Mike Holley; Celestron CPC1100 SCT
  • Stephanie Doss Ladner; Event Photography
  • Jim McLaughlin and John Zachry; Support staff
  • Michael Pastorett and Christopher Ward; Information Table

2:00 PM:  AAS members and friends began setting up telescopes for the early visitors. 

3:00 PM: Early visitors viewed the four-day-old Moon, and the Sun in the light of hydrogen-alpha with the AAS PST solar scope.  The Sun is waking up from its extended nap and showed lots of interesting detail.

4:00 PM- 8:00PM: Susan Mallet presided over the children's activities such as making foam rockets. 

5:00 PM:  The Telescope Clinic was open for guests to bring their sick, disassembled, or otherwise malfunctioning telescopes for repair. We were able to help two families restore their telescopes to working order.

6:00 PM: Dr. George Michael: "Extraterrestrial Aliens: Friends, Foes, or Just Curious." in the auditorium followed by AAS spiel by Rhon and door-prize drawings.

7:00 PM: Dr. Sterner and Dr. Patton, directors of the James Wylie Shepherd Observatory at the University of Montevallo, spoke on the construction, operation, and future expansion of their new facility and its 20-inch PlaneWave telescope.

7:30 PM: Rick presented  a "Tour of the Night Sky" in the planetarium, giving an overview of what the guests would see when they see when they stepped outside. 

7:30 PM:  Sunset 

8:00 PM:  Telescopic viewing with Auburn Astronomical Society:  Our guests came out to view Saturn, the mountains and craters of the 4-day old Moon and binary star systems. 

8:10:  International Space Station Pass, rising in the northwest, passing directly overhead and silently soaring into the SE horizon.

Thanks to all who made this year's Astronomy Day a great success.  It was good to see Susan Mallett again.  We knew Susan when she was the principal at Head Elementary School and hosted AAS stargazes there.  She was an inspiration to all of "her children" there and remains a passionate advocate for flight and space education in her new position with the Civil Air Patrol, at Maxwell AFB. Thanks to the presenters for their informative talks while we waited for dark.  Thanks to all who helped with their telescopes -- especially those who drove from out of town to help.  And finally, special thanks to Rick Evans, for doing all of the planning and execution of the event and drawing the large crowd for us.  We're looking forward to a return visit next year.