This month’s meeting will be on Friday, April
6, at 8:00PM, in room 215 of the Aerospace
Engineering Building, on the campus of Auburn University. Anyone
from the Montgomery area who’d like a ride should be ready to leave for
Auburn at 7:00PM from my house at 518 Seminole
Dr. in Montgomery.
Our star party this month will be on Saturday,
April 21 at Cliff Hill’s Farm
-- Saturday, April 28
W.A. Gayle Planetarium Director, Rick Evans
tentative agenda is on our web page, if you want to peruse it and give
me your thoughts. Any inputs would be appreciated. We are trying
to make this the BEST to-date. I have a tremendous staff on board
right now, and their efforts are reMARKable.
(Click on any image to go to the next page, then select “Upcoming Events”)
The Tentative Agenda
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.
Guest Speaker: Dr. Matthew Bobrowsky
Topic: Window on
6:00 PM Intermission
6:15 PM Guest Speaker, Mr. Roy Young, NASA
engineer from George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville
7:00 PM Auburn Astronomical Society presentation
7:15 PM “Saving the Night Sky” planetarium program
7:30 PM “Challenger Tribute”
7:45 PM Tour of the Night Sky - spring/summer
8:00 PM Telescopic viewing (outside)
On Going Events
Telescope and Accessory "Swap Table"
Telescope Assistance/Advice in optimizing YOUR
This will be our fourth year of our Astronomy
Day events at the planetarium (see the Web pages under the AAS “Field Trips”
link). We’ve had great turn-outs for each of these. They have
been mutually beneficial for both the AAS and the planetarium. Please
let me know if you plan to help us out with your telescope again this year.
If this will be your first Astronomy Day with us, the W. A. Gayle Planetarium
is located at Oak Park, near Jackson Hospital, in Montgomery.
Remember to bring any telescope(s) or accessories
that you'd like to sell or trade for the "Swap Table".
Rick has asked if there is something that we could
donate as a door prize -- perhaps a year’s membership in AAS, or a Star
Party for the Lucky Winner’s school. We can talk about it at the
Special thanks to Rick Evans, Rick Fanning, and
Mark Brown for all of the efforts toward making this year another success.
School Star Gaze 2000
On December 5, Jack McDaniel, Mark Brown,
Joe Champion, Russell Whigham, and Tom and Julie
McGowan returned to Head School at the invitation of principal, Susan
Mallett, for our annual star party for the students, faculty, and parents.
In an unexpected gesture of appreciation, Ms. Mallett wrote a letter (see
below) to each of our volunteers along with individual photographs of us
at the telescopes, Head School ballpoint pens, and thank you notes
and drawings by the kids. I’ll bring the “thank you” packets to the
meeting and to our Astronomy Day event for those who helped.
"Star Gazing Team" from the Auburn Astronomical Society:
all of us here at Head School, to each one of you, THANK YOU from
bottom of our hearts! We enjoyed last night's "Star Gazing Party" so
much! The comments heard throughout the evening, and this morning
our arrival back at school, were all most complimentary. Everyone
how much fun they had, and how much they found out that they didn't
about the "night skies." They all hoped that we could plan another
like this during the school year. 50, if ya'll need a place to "set up"
gaze with an audience, please let us know. 'I: think that we can plan
around this to ensure good attendance.
you enjoy the students' pictures and words of thanks to you. Those
in last night's event were so excited to be able to draw you their
of the evening's activities. Also, please use the photos in any
you want to -- they are yours to keep.
thank you for the time and effort involved from each of you. I really
this, and I know that it was most worthwhile for the attendees.
love for any of you to visit the school at any time, if you would
to share your avocation with the students. They would eagerly tune in,
seem to love the night skies!
School Star Party
On March 5, AAS members Jim McLaughlin,
Tom and Julie McGowan, and Russell Whigham hosted
a telescopic tour of the Moon and planets for Nick Bourke’s sixth
grade science class students at St. Bede Elementary School. We were
blessed with another wonderful night and were rewarded by the enthusiasm
of the awe-struck students. Thanks to Jim McLaughlin for making all
of the arrangements.
April will be the last month to observe our old
friends Jupiter and Saturn before they disappear in the Sun’s glare.
But, we’ll still have plenty to look at this spring and summer:
Mars will be nearest to Earth around the
summer solstice, but is already out shining it’s rival, Antares.
There’s a wonderful little freeware program that you can download from
Sky Publishing’s site that will show the central meridian and surface features
for any date that you plan to observe.
Mars Previewer II http://www.skypub.com/resources/software/basic/programs/mp/mp201.zip
There is currently a huge cluster of sunspots
that has produced aurora as far south as Arizona. Check out the
Sun Spot Animations at http://www.fvas.net/animation.html
Comet LINEAR 2001 A2 (which was not expected
to exceed double digit magnitude) has recently undergone an unexpected
outburst. It’s presently in the southeastern region of Orion, headed
for Lupus. http://www.skypub.com/sights/skyevents/0104skyevents.shtml
Party Report, Part I
Submitted by Tom McGowan Midnightelescope@aol.com
was able to attend the Kisatchie Star Party held in the Kisatchie State
Forest in western Louisiana from March 22-25. It is a 9 hour drive from
the Montgomery area. Underestimating the drive time, I left at 1:30pm on
Thursday, hoping to arrive by 8:00pm. Well, I finally pulled in about 10:30pm
and had to wait until midnight to pull onto the observing field. I met
a fellow Alabamian from the Birmingham area during the wait. He helped
me unload and setup my 20-inch Dob. The skies were fair with some clouds
around the horizon. Most people were sleeping by now. About 1:30 the sky
was almost totally clear but with a heavy dew factor. We observed mostly
Messier objects and a few NGC's until about 3:30am when fatigue set in.
Sleep was uncomfortable in the back of my car.
Friday morning, I woke early and decided to find a spot to set up my tent.
As I was about to do this, I was greeted by a fellow Auburn Astronomy Club
member, Eddie Kirkland from Auburn. It was a nice surprise. I setup the
tent and we all move our scopes to a more central area.
The field is rather spacious. The skies are fairly dark with no light domes.
Overall attendance was about 120 people thru the weekend. The only on site
facilities are porta-potties. A shower can be had about 3 miles away at
a little country store. Same with food.
Friday night, I was hoping to do a Messier marathon. At dusk I started
with Jupiter and Saturn, leaving all who looked much impressed. I
started on the Messier objects, but soon had visitors hoping for soon views.
The next 5 hours were spent sharing the skies with all that came by, looking
at the favorites M42, M81+82, M3, NGC4565,.... The nicest view was of M51
using a Bino-view. Talk about 3-dimensional!
Clouds rolled in about 2:00am. The following morning I awoke to light rain.
The forecast was for increasing rain until Sunday and with that, Eddie
I decided to call it quits.
It was certainly fun though a bit tough for the unprepared camper
Kisatchie Star Party Report,
Submitted by Eddie Kirkland Ekirk37@aol.com
thought I would drop you a line about the Kisatchie Star Party last week.
I arrived Thursday afternoon to a five acre clearing in the middle of Kisatchie
National Forest near Natchitoches, Louisiana. I took my 8-inch Celestron
Dob and 120mm f/8.3 refractor. By nightfall there were probably 60-80
people present. High cirrus clouds were scattered which pretty
much vanished by dark, but skies were still hazy from high humidity.
Early targets for the evening were, of course, Jupiter and Saturn. Seeing
was a little above average, transparency not great. Besides
my scopes, I viewed the Gas Giants through a 6-inch refractor, a 6inch
Intes Mac-Cass (MK66), a very good 12.5-inch truss Dob, and others.
Having no intentions of doing the Messier Marathon that weekend, I did
visit quite a few Messier objects. About 1 AM some clouds moved
in, at which time most observers called it a night, myself included.
next morning as I was walking around looking at scopes and talking to folks,
I noticed a 20-inch truss Dob and a familiar face moving around it.
He had arrived late and was in the process of setting up his tent.
I heard him speak to some others nearby and was pretty sure from his Boston
accent that it was Tom McGowan of our club. Upon introductions I discovered
that it was indeed Tom (I had only met him once over a year ago).
night’s skies were considerably better. I opened up again with
the Gas Giants and was rewarded with much better views than the night before.
We observed the beginning of either a transit or occultation of one of
the moons of Jupiter just as it was setting. Among the objects
we viewed that night were the Orion Nebula (always awe-inspiring to me),
many of the open
and globulars. I guess the best views of the night for me were M51
and M5 (and some others) through Tom’s 20-inch using a neighbor’s
binoviewer. Having never viewed through a binoviewer before,
I was awe-struck. The globular was particularly 3-D like. Another
object that was amazing was ”Thor’s Helmut” in Tom’s scope.
As an approaching front with lightning
be seen in the north and clouds began to obscure the sky around 1:30 AM,
many people began to take down or cover their scopes for the night (myself
included). Saturday morning was completely overcast with the promise
of rain most of the day and night. I decided to call it a weekend
and head for home.
in all, I was very pleased with the Kisatchie Star Party; there were overall
about 120 attending. I got to meet some new people and place
some faces with people I had “talked” to on the various astronomy forums.
I also got to view through some different scopes and dream (plan) of owning
a few, but don’t tell my wife. I had such a good time, I plan to
attend next month’s (April18-22) Mid-South Star Gaze in Mississippi; anyone
want to join me.
Mr. Randy Rogers had his personal scope stolen
out of storage in the Dallas Texas area, a 25” F-5 Obsession Dobsonian
A Galaxy Primary Mirror #605 with Feathertouch
Focuser, Hi-Res DSC’s, Sky Commander, and Light Shroud for the OTA. A Brass
Plate with the Inscription “Mike Benz” is on the scope.
Also stolen was a Wooden Eyepiece Case with 14
Eyepieces—Naglers, Pano’s, Tak LE’s, etc.
This scope was stolen in the Dallas TX. area,
and a reward is offered.
Contact Randy Rogers with any pertinent info
Please keep an eye out for it.
Stolen Telescopes, Part II
Although it does not happen often, it does appear.
I hear once or twice a year about someone having some equipment stolen
or misplaced. I have also noticed that the Astronomy community is pretty
good about distributing the information around. This is good as the info
gets out, but I felt there could be a better way. For this reason I started
a group on Yahoo. The groups sole propose is to broadcast notices to members
about lost or stolen Astronomy related equipment. My goal is to get every
person in astronomy subscribed to this group. By having as many as possible
aware of a occurrence there exists a much higher chance of recovering the
product. If this group ever recovers one piece of equipment or prevents
one from being stolen it will have served its purpose.
Please visit the link and join the group. Please
distribute this to as many people as you can. Please help each other.
The e-mail for the group is.
Public Observing Coordinator - Texas Astronomical
Society (Dallas, TX)
To Polar Align, Part I
by Dr. Rich Caruana firstname.lastname@example.org
[Editor’s Note: These two items were written
in response to a list member’s question on the SCT-Users mail list.
Since this is how I do my polar alignment, I thought the rest of you might
enjoy it. RDW]
printing a “finder” chart for Polaris is a good way to do polar alignment
by finder. It’s particularly good if you don’t have a finder specifically
designed for polar alignment.
another approach is the following:
level tripod (optional, but usually a good idea) and do rough
polar alignment by aiming fork towards Polaris
set scope to sidereal time so RA circle is correct
set scope to Polaris's RA and Declination using RA/Dec controls
adjust mount using azimuth and altitude (not RA/Dec) until Polaris is centered
in high power eyepiece, working your way up from low power EPs if necessary
works as well as using a finder for alignment, and is easier if you have
the sidereal time handy. Note that Polaris’s RA and Dec changes slowly
(due to precession), so you only need to look this up every few years.
This last approach can be used to polar align a scope using any visible
object for which you know the RA/Dec. I’ve used this in daytime using
the sun for alignment (using charting software to get the sun’s RA/Dec).
Once aligned this way, I was then able to find Jupiter and Venus in daylight.
(Be VERY careful using a scope without a solar filter when the sun is up!!!!!
Polar align using the sun with the filter in place, and don’t remove the
filter until the scope is aimed far enough away from the sun that there’s
no danger of sun light hitting the primary. And be very careful about
moving the scope, slewing, letting the sun rotate into the FOV, etc.
Your eyes fry almost instantly, and a scope can self destruct or set something
on fire in seconds. I once intentionally removed the solar filter
on a C8 for 5 seconds while it was aimed at the sun to see how bright the
projected image would be, but accidentally left a neutral density filter
on the eyepiece. As you’d expect, the ND filter absorbed most of
the energy. It shattered in 2 seconds! Don’t do this kind of
thing around children, or even adults who don’t understand the
Using Finderscopes To Polar
Align, Part II
by Dr. Rich Caruana email@example.com
the finder scope is aligned with the scope’s RA axis (see below), it’s
fairly easy to polar align using the finder. It’s not as accurate as drift
alignment, but you can get close and then use drift to zero in. You
really only need the accuracy of drift alignment for photography.
align the finder to the scope, rotate the finder until moving the scope
up and down using the declination control causes a star to slide up and
down on the vertical cross hair. This makes the cross hairs parallel
with the RA and declination axes of the scope. Then use the finder
bracket adjustment screws to make a star that is centered in a high-power
field of view through the scope fall exactly on the cross hairs.
Double check to make sure that the finder hasn’t rotated by checking that
the start still slides up and down the vertical cross hair when you adjust
the scope’s declination.
that the finder alignment procedure in the preceding paragraph is only
approximate. The cross hairs will be accurately parallel to the scope’s
RA and declination axes, but the center of the finder may not be perfectly
aligned to the scope’s polar axis (RA axis) because the optical axis of
the main mirror may not correspond exactly with the RA axis. It probably
will be close. Since you’ll want to use the finder to find things,
you probably don’t want to adjust the finder so that it points to the true
RA axis if that differs from the optical axis.
you leave the finder on the scope and don’t knock it, or use a dovetail
plate to make reattaching the finder precise, you should rarely have to
align the finder to the scope as described above. I do it a couple of times
using the finder to polar align, set the scope to exactly 90 degrees declination.
Physically move the scope and tripod so that Polaris is visible in the
finder. Adjust the scope’s RA until swinging the scope in declination moves
stars up/down the vertical cross hair in the finder.
polar align the scope using the finder, use the guiding plate to figure
out where Polaris should appear in the finder scope. The inner circle on
the guide plate is the time in hours (24 hour clock). The outer circle
is the month and day. Align the current time with the current date
(correcting for daylight savings time if necessary). Then use the
tab the moves along the outer circles and the year to find where Polaris
should be. Then look through the finder at Polaris and adjust the
tripod and/or base’s azimuth and altitude until Polaris is in the right
place. DO NOT ADJUST THE SCOPE’S DECLINATION OR RA!
worry too much about getting Polaris in exactly the right place. There
are errors in this method that prevent it from being perfect. Four of these
are: 1) the optical axis probably isn’t perfectly aligned to the polar
axis; 2) the guiding plate doesn’t take into account your longitudinal
distance from the center of your local time zone, and thus can be in error
by as much as +-30 minutes; 3) the magnification of the finder scope probably
isn’t exactly what it should be so the circles may not be exactly where
they should be; 4) on SCT’s with mechanical setting circles, it’s hard
to set the scope to 90 degrees declination more accurately than about +-
scope alignment works well for visual observing. It’s possible to make
it more accurate by correcting for the errors above, but it’s probably
not worth it—drift alignment is easier. Do an accurate drift alignment
some night, then carefully check the position of Polaris in the finder
after setting the scope to 90 deg declination. If Polaris falls right
where the guide plate says it should, then you’re lucky and none of the
sources of error are large for you (or you’re even luckier and they cancel
for your scope and location).
Hope to see everyone at the meeting,