Astrofiles
Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
May, 2000
 

In This Issue

May Meetings Astronomy Day 2K Please WelcomeÖ
AAS Membership AAS Shirts  HST Stamps
G8 Telescope Review Peach State Star Gaze Baader Solar Filters 
 

May Meetings

Our May meeting will be on Friday, May 5, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building on the campus of Auburn University. As usual, Montgomery area car poolers, meet at my house, 518 Seminole Drive. Weíll head for Auburn at 7:00 PM. 

The consensus at the last star party at the Tuskegee National Forest site was that it's too bright to be considered our permanent dark-sky location. We'll see if anyone has found a darker site at the May meeting. Our new-moon Saturday will be on May 6 (the day following the meeting). So, we'll decide at the meeting where we'll meet, and I'll send out a notice Saturday morning. If nothing better is found we'll return to the Tuskegee site.

Astronomy Day 2000

It was bound to happen. After enjoying perfect weather for our first two Astronomy Day celebrations at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium, April showers rained on our parade this year. And, while this precluded any telescopic observing by the visitors, we did manage to have an excellent turn-out, thanks to the ambitious publicity efforts of Rick Evans, director of the planetarium, and his staff. By 5:00 PM, it was obvious that we would be looking at telescopes -- not through them, so we set up all of the telescopes up in the lobby of the planetarium. It afforded an excellent opportunity for the visitors see some serious amateur equipment as well as have questions about telescopes, amateur astronomy, and their own hardware answered and explained. Rick had sandwiches and drinks for those of us who had a hard time fitting dinner into the evening's schedule.

The evening began with AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, narrating the Power Point presentation (created by Rick Evans) introducing the Auburn Astronomical Society to the guests, explaining who we are and what we do. Following Rhon's AAS promo, Rick turned on the stars in the planetarium (where it never rains), gave us a sky show and concluded with a laser demonstration. 

From there we adjourned to the lobby for our optical show-and-tell and answered questions that ranged from "What telescope should I get for my child.", to "Can you put this telescope together for me?" Scott's demonstration of his new Paramount go-to mount driven by his TheSky software running on his laptop. Rhon's 18-inch mirror in the bottom of his StarMaster Dobsonian was equally impressive.

Again, our heart-felt thanks to Rick Evans, Rick Fanning and Herb Traywick for doing all of the work on publicity and logistics, and without who this event would not even be taking place.

Special thanks also to those who went to considerable effort to bring their equipment out on such a rainy evening:

Rhon and Joyce Jenkins; 18-inch StarMaster
Russell Whigham; Celestron, C-11; Criterion, RV-6; Meade 80mm f/15 refractor
Winston Blackmon; Celestron C4.5 Newtonian 
Alan Cook; Meade 10" LX50 and 20x80 binoculars
Scott Thompson, Ricky Wood, and David Wayne Key ; 7-inch Astrophysics
Nick Nicholson; 12-inch Meade LX-200 
Charles Boyd; 60mm refractor

Also representing the society and lending moral support were: Dorn Majure, Nichole Long, Dennis Grantham, Jeff Graves, Pauline and Jasmine Bechtold. A sign-up sheet for visitors interested in keeping up with what we do, yielded several new names to the e-mail listÖ

Welcome

Astronomy Day 2000 has been the most productive yet as far as outreach to new amateurs goes. Please join me in welcoming:

Tyler Tombacaris yacker@knology.net
Tim Hensley TimEUROPAxx@aol.com
Ryan Hensley 4hensley@bellsouth.net
Jill Robinson dww26@yahoo.com
Lonnie Wiggins mimiwigs@aol.com -- New Member J ,
Ragau Ram raghvramn@hotmail.com
Phillip Lyman p.lyman@mindspring.com

Also new to the mail list are Craig McCraw CraigMcCraw@aol.com of Montgomery, who has done occultation timings for IOTA.

And, Dr. Marty Skelton drmskelton@aol.com who, while a veteran member of AAS, has officially plugged-into the wired world and has graduated to e-mail. J

AAS Membership

Our current have 35 members as of April 2000:

Mr. William Baugh baugh@eng.auburn.edu
Mr. Winston W. Blackmon wblack mon@aol.com
Mr. Charles Boyd IceIgloo@aol.com
Ms. Emily A. Carter carter@usfs.auburn.edu
Ms. Nancy J. Coburn njcoburn@aol.com
Mr. Alan Cook cookala@groupwise1.duc.auburn.edu
Mr. Jefferson E. Graves jeff.e.graves@eng.auburn.edu
Mr. Gregory A. Glasscock gglasscock@home.com
Mr. Carsten M. Haaland haalandc@lakemartin.net
Mr. Ronald Hatherley ronh@wrldnet.net
Mr. Phillip Hosey helix@mindspring.com
Dr. Rhonald Jenkins, President rjenkins@eng.auburn.edu
Mr. Eddie Kirkland ekirk37@aol.com
Mr. Everett Leonard eleonard@mindspring.com
Mr. Jack C. Lewis 
Mr. Scott McCullough DrSkotz@aol.com
Mr. Jack McDaniel jmcdaniel@doc.stste.al.us
Mr. Tom McGowan midnightelescope@aol.com
Ms. Nichole Long nlong@hotmail.com
Mr. Roger Lugo lugosam@mail.auburn.edu
Mr. Dorn R. Majure D_Majure@Hotmail.com
Dr. Stuart May 
Dr. James T. McLaughlin ksjtmclaughlin@mindspring.com
Mr. Mark Moe petzl@mindspring.com
Mr. Neal Murphree nmurphree@aol.com
Dr. David S. Newton dnewton@auburn.campus18.mci.net
Mr. Robert Rock TheRocks@mont.mindspring.com
Mr. Jeffrey Schaub jschaub579@mindspring.com
Mr. Allen Screws, Vice President scewsea@mindspring.com
Dr. Marty Skelton drmskelton@aol.com
Mr. John Scott Thompson scott@lakemartin.net
Mr. Russell Whigham, Webmaster rwhigham@mindspring.com
Mr. Lonnie Wiggins mimiwigs@aol.com
Mr. Ricky Wood gazer@webshoppe.net
Mr. John B. Zachry, ALCor jbzachry@miundspring.com

Thanks to AAS Treasurer, John Zachry, for his time spent keeping the membership records and forwarding them to the Astronomical League. If you sent your dues for 2000 and don't see your name above, send John a note jbzachry@miundspring.com so you won't miss the next Reflector.

 

AAS Shirts

While at our Astronomy Day event, Ricky Wood asked what I thought about having AAS shirts with the club logo. I told him that I'd been wanting to do the same thing. Here's our subsequent correspondence: 

Ricky wrote:

I checked on the price of club shirts embroideried With the new aas logo that is on the webpage. The set-up is $75.00 and $20.00 per shirt (100% cotton picque golf shirts). Let me know what you Think. Some of us could split the cost of set-up and sell shirts at higher Price to recoup set-up cost.

Ricky

And I replied: I'll include this in the May ASTROFILES and see if I can get a consensus at the meeting. I think we have enough money in the treasury to cover the set-up. Would a printed logo (as opposed to the embroidered) be an option? Any cheaper? Do you have any samples of other work they've done to show to the membership?

Russell

Ricky answered: The logo I carried for the set-up price was the aas logo that is on the webpage. They do the embroidery work for all the Dixie League baseball caps. I will try to get sample of work if you think Necessary. 

They scan in photos at the Russell retail store and print for $6.50 (small prints) and I can order shirts for $11.00 and change; but there are cheaper shirts. The shirt I picked out are nice shirts that I have been wearing and I think they will last longer than some of the cheaper shirts (IMHO). This way no set-up fee but the embroidered ones would be for nicer.

Ricky

Russell Again: Don't go to a lot of trouble finding a sample -- I just thought if you already had something the members might like to eyeball it.

I agree that we should get the best quality shirt. I'll mention your points for the embroidered style -- just wanted to present all of the options.

If you could wear your shirt to the meeting, it might help with the visual aids. 

Thanks again,

Russell

Well, what do you think? Let's talk about it at the meeting Friday.

HST Stamps

The US Postal Service announced that it was going to run with a HST stamp series. If you canít find it at your local post office you can order it online: https://www.stampsonline.com/ordering/index.htm and its the "Edwin Powell Hubble 33¢ Pane of 20 Item #402340 " series. Click on "Collector's Corner to see the stamps.

Celestron G8 /CG5 Review
(Via the SCT-Users Mail List
by Phillip Hosey

Well, Iím back after being an infidel for a while I have returned to the way of the CAT (at least for imaging anyway). I decided to take the hard road. Knowing all the things that are wrong with the CG-5 mount I decided for whatever reason that I wanted a cheap German Equatorial Mount for my C8 this time. Too many things I didnít like about the C8 Deluxe that I decided to do things differently this time around. I used to do CCD imaging with the FASTAR setup on my C8 Deluxe, then I switched to film and then got tired of all the hassle and sold it all and got a big Dob. After going to the Peach State Star Gaze this year and seeing others doing CCD my interest came back and I started kicking myself for selling all my equipment. So now Iím starting over and decided to go the route of the G8 with the Vixen drives. Took the scope out for first light last night. With the vibration pads, the giggles were a lot less than I had expected with the stock tripod. It wasnít bothersome at all. The only complaint I have is that the mount is stiff, so Iíll have to do the re-lube on it. One thing that bugs me is that I have gotten so used to the view in my 15" Dob that the view through the 8" was just plain dim, but then again, it is easier to carry the G8 outside than it is to carry that 100lbs beast of a Dob. 

I was able to test the new scope out pretty well last night. The transparency really sucked, but the seeing was great, I forgot just how good it could be around here this time of year. Looks like this C8 OTA is better than the last one I had, the star test was a bit better. Celestron seems to be using a different focus knob now, it has a ridged rubber cover on it as opposed to the aluminum they used to use. I like the new one better.

My CG-5 mount doesnít seem to be any different than anyone elseís, it has the same glue-like grease inside which I will replace the first chance I get. Moving the mount by hand is nice and smooth but the slo-mo action is really stiff. The tripod is marginal at best but I used the vibration dampers and it was more than adequate for visual use, vibrations damped out in 2 sec or less, but without them, forget it. I will be making a wooden tripod first chance I get. Overall I like this mount, even if the fit & finish is a little lacking.

Now for the good stuff. I bought the Vixen dual axis drives and controller that were made for the GP and GP-DX mount. They arrived yesterday and I installed them with minimal trouble. The gear on the motor and the gear on the RA shaft donít fit quite square, which results in a little bit of a shift when changing directions, itís not bothersome at all, but it makes me worry that the gears might wear unevenly. I think the RA shaft on my mount may be a little bent causing the problem. The hand controller has 3 speeds, 1.5x, 2x and 32x. They really need something in between the 2x and 32x. At low powers the 32 is fine but above 200x itís too fast to accurately center stuff. There is also this really bright green LED on the hand controller, it was very distracting. Iíll have to dim it somehow, maybe fingernail polish or something. The motors tracked very smoothly and were very responsive, instantly changing directions. I had no trouble with binding. These motors must be pretty good to move the mount, I can barely turn the shafts with my thumb and index finger without the knobs. This should get better with the re-lube and worm tension adjustment. The Vixen stuff really looks like good quality equipment and it seems to perform really well. Iíll know more about how accurate the motors are when I get an IR eyepiece and can check the PE. The one main drawback to this drive system is there is no autoguider input. Iíll either have to rig one up, or see if one exists, although if they turn out to be accurate enough, FASTAR will negate the need for autoguiding. Iím going to start saving up for a Sky-Sensor 2000, I would like to make this into a nice GOTO for CCD imaging.

Post Script: 

I finally finished the re-lube and clean up on the CG-5 mount. I had heard how bad the so-called Ďgreaseí was thatís used in this mount but to actually see just how glue-like it really is was just amazing. I canít believe they use this stuff. I swear that stuff was like thick maple syrup, only stickier. The most difficult part about the whole thing was cleaning the worm. I couldnít figure out how to get the worm out of itís bracket so there was a little of the old grease still left in the spots where the shaft goes through the bracket. I soaked it in mineral spirits and Greased Lightning for about an hour and scrubbed it with a toothbrush but I still couldnít get the to the areas where the shaft runs through the bracket. It seemed to me that this is where most of the problems where. That sticky glue like grease kept the worm from being able to turn freely. I got enough of it out so that it works much better than before. I can now turn the shaft with my thumb and index finger with no knobs. The only problem I encountered using the Vixen MT-1 motors on the CG-5 is that the gear on the RA motor didnít match quite square with the gear on the RA shaft. The reason this was happening is because when I tightened down the mounting bolt for the RA motor, it did seat exactly right, it was pressing the gears together too hard, so I had to shim it a little with folded paper to keep the motor from moving too far up into the cut-out. Once I did all this and tested the drives, they seem to work very well. The next thing Iíll do is run a tracking test and check the PE and so forth.

Phillip [See Phillip's images at: http://members.xoom.com/ross128 ]

Peach State Star Gaze 2000

Ken Poshedly, PSSG event organizer and chairman, reports that this year was the largest PSSG ever with over 290 folks registered. Representing AAS were: Phillip Hosey, Eddie Kirkland, Alan and Max Cook, Susie Jensen, Allen Screws, Darwin Ridgway, and your editor. We also renewed friendships with old observing buddies: Scott Smith, Rod Mollise, Marv Uphaus, Betsy Hobson, Elaine Osborne, and Eric Greene. Conspicuous by their absence this year were Scott Thompson, Ricky Wood and Robert Rock. We hope to have you guys back with us next year.

As usual, the observing field was well populated with telescopes when I arrived shortly after the 2:00 PM "Do not arrive before" time. The weather was looking very good. Eddie, Phillip and I had our obligatory Fresh Air Bar-B-Q for an early evening meal. We arrived back on the field and prepared for an evening of observing. The weather was just about perfect. Just before dark Alan, Susie, and Max arrived, and set up camp next to the AAS canopy.

As darkness approached, we watched the grouping of a two-day-old Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, low in the western sky. After an hour or so of revisiting a few of my favorite objects and swapping views with Eddie and Phillip, someone on the field noticed a reddish glow in the northeastern sky. Someone else speculated that it might be an aurora. My impression was that of a distant forest fire. The glow faded and reappeared several times over the next 45 minutes or so. Ever the skeptic, and never having seen aurora aside from video images, I held out for more evidence. Some nice green rippling curtains is what I wanted, but about an hour into the event, the glow disappeared from the northeast and was now glowing even brighter in the northwest. OK! OK!, Now I'm convinced. This was my first aurora and the first for several who had never lived "up north", I'm sure. http://www.spacescience.com/headlines/y2000/ast25apr_1m.htm

As the aurora faded, we continued what was essentially a Messier object and better NGC object voyage into the spring night sky. We made it through the Virgo and Coma Galaxies and started into the early summer objects when fatigue sat in. We called it a night at about 3:00 AM.

Friday we were up by 9:00 AM. This was the first year that lectures were held on Friday. We tried sitting through a couple of lectures on the Moon by Tony Rukl -- an expert in his field -- but we were getting comfortable to the point of subconsciousness. A visit to the vendors, Rex's Astro Stuff and Wolfe Camera, helped bring us back to life. There's nothing like a new eyepiece to get things stirring again.

Friday night began just as good as Thursday. We observed more off of the beaten path Friday and did more comparisons with the other scopes, swapping eyepieces, filters and the like. By 11:00 PM clouds had covered the sky. That's OK. We needed a break. We sat around doing what amateur astronomers over 21 do when it's cloudy -- some serious socializing.

Saturday morning we woke to dark clouds. The cold front waited until after the traditional pancake breakfast in the dining hall. Later that morning, we huddled around the center of the canopy to avoid the rain and wind came. The worst was over in about an hour. Unfortunately, the winds tripped a circuit breaker that left the afternoon speakers and our event chairman in a bit of a quandary until someone brought a portable generator near the door at which time the programs went on as scheduled. Ahhh, human ingenuity!

I had to leave just before dark Saturday, but as I was pulling out, the skies were crystal clear, although a bit windy and pretty cold. Phillip reported excellent transparency for the last night.

It was a very enjoyable weekend of astronomy. The only disappointment this year was the new rule concerning vehicles on the field. In order to accommodate the large crowd, no vehicles were allowed except to unload your equipment. I have always used my tailgate of my SUV as my observing desk. This helps to keep charts, eyepieces, and books dry. It also affords the additional security of being able to lock up same during the day. Tents and canopies were allowed (although our canopy took up twice as much space as my truck) and we later learned of a loophole in the rules. If you sleep in your vehicle, it's a tent and can be left on the field. We struggled with the new rule by using the my C-11 case (a foot locker) as a desk under the canopy several feet away from my scope. Kenpo has indicated that registration in the future may be limited to 250, so maybe this was a one-time necessity. Other than that, it was a most excellent adventure. 

Solar Filters
Dr. Wayne Wooten WWooten@pjc.cc.fl.us

Russell, your members might be interested in a group order of the Baader planetarium solar filters from Draco. We have 3" off-axis mounted (suitable for 6" reflectors, C-8, etc., for just $20, and for the group order, we would probably cut down on shipping greatly. These give a blue-white solar image superior in resolution to Iconel or mylar. Send back an e-mail if you are interested. Well, I took Wayne up on his offer and ordered one. A quick test with the 80mm f/5 produced an excellent image of two major sunspot areas and dozens of smaller spots. My impression of the color was not so much blue-white as just white -- very pleasing aesthetically compared to aluminized mylar. Let me know at the meeting if you'd like to order one. For details on the Baader filters see: http://www.astrovid.com/Baader%20AstrosolarTM%20Safety%20Film.htm

Planetary "Alignment"

My hand-wringing over the dreaded May 5, 2000 planetary "alignment" hoax seems to have been for naught. I haven't received a single panic message regarding this, nor have I seen anything in the media. The fear mongers still have a few days though, so just in case there's some last minute hysteria, here are a few links to help put things in perspective:

http://www.badastronomy.com/bad/misc/planets.html
http://www.GriffithObs.org/SkyAlignments.html
http://www.skypub.com/news/special/whypanic.html
http://www.ncinter.net/~alonmac/ecmog/
http://www.space.com/science/solarsystem/planet_alignment_000309.html

If the world DOES come to an end Friday, the meeting will be cancelled. J

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,

Russell