Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
December, 2001

In this Issue

December Meetings Opelika Middle School Star Party
Treasurer’s Report and Magazine Subscriptions Member & Friend News
Space Art, by Scott Thompson Aurora in the Deep South, by Mark Brown
For Sale & Wanted to Buy Chiefland Star Party –2001 & Leonids, Part I
Chiefland Star Party –2001 & Leonids, Part II More Leonid Reports

December Meetings

This month’s regular meeting will be on Friday, December 7, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building. Scott Thompson has offered to lead us in a astro-art painting/audience participation/demo for this month’s  program.  (See Scott’s article on how he does it, below).

Our December star  party will be on the weekend of December 14/15 at Cliff Hill’s farm.

Opelika Middle School Star Party

We’ve been asked to give a star party for the students of Opelika Middle School on Thursday, December 13.  We’ll begin at 6:00PM and end at 7:00PM.  Here’s how to get there:

SHORT VERSION (FOR THOSE FAMILIAR WITH OPELIKA): go along 2nd avenue to 5th street.  Turn north on fifth, pass the “monkey park”, look up the hill and to the left, and there’s the school. 

LONG VERSION: Take I-85 to exit 62 (old US 280 exit).  Turn left (coming from the south) or right (coming from the north) towards Opelika.  Before you reach the 3rd traffic light, you’ll see a sign for the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail on the right.  Turn right here .... this is 6th street.  Go north on 6th street to 2nd avenue.  Turn right one block to 5th street and turn left..  You’ll have a couple of stop signs ...  you’ll eventually see Northside School on the right, followed by a small park (the monkey park) on the right.  5th street miraculously turns to Denson street here, but don’t worry .... you’re almost there.  Go another block and you’ll see a group of buildings on the left.  The first is a rec center ... the second is the school

Treasurer’s Report / Magazine Subscriptions
John B. Zachry

The club subscriptions to SKY & Telescope and Astronomy magazines have been sent. Club members and new members can now renew their subscriptions at any time during year but November meeting would be appreciated. Astronomy magazine: 1 year $ 29.00, 2 year $ 55.00;  SKY & Telescope: 1 year $ 29.95. Make checks payable to Auburn Astronomical Society not to me personally. As noted, Astronomy magazine offers new 2 year rate of $ 55.00.  Those wishing to extend their subscriptions one year more please send me a check or give me a check at next meeting for $ 26.00. Club subscribers to SKY & Telescope may order Sky Publishing books and products and receive 10% discount.  Current bank balance after paying club subscriptions - $ 961.65

Member/Friend News

Returning after a brief absence is Robert West  of Prattville, .  Also back after an extended absences are  Brown Mike of Opelika,  and  Jim Locke of Montgomery,  .  Jim writes:


You probably do not remember me, but, you graciously invited me and my wife to an evening of observing near Lake Martin a few years ago.  I was interested in buying a telescope and thoroughly enjoyed my time out there in the dark field looking skyward.
Well, I finally bought a scope.  It's an 8" Celestron Celestar.  I've had it for only a few days and have yet to really get into its workings.  This is going to be fun!
I enjoyed the planets, Pleaides, the Orion Nebula, and the ET Cluster last night from my driveway.  I look forward to learning how to polar align and find remote objects.
Have you seen comet Linear?  I've been looking around Aries but see nothing.  It would be a great and fun find.
Just thought I'd drop you a line and tell you thanks for your hospitality--even though it's taken me a while to get a scope and get outside with it!

Jim Locke

To which I replied:

Hello Jim,

Of course I remember you and your wife.  I think we were bidding farewell to Hale-Bopp when we were still using Holley's Field.  I lost contact when your old WSNET address bounced.  Congratulations on the new scope!  I think you'll enjoy your scope for years to come.  Which eyepieces, filters, etc.?   There are plenty of folks eager to help you get started.  I hope you can make it to the next star party.

C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR) was visible in my 8x50 finder 2 weeks ago from our dark sky site and continues to brighten.  You may still have to get out of town to get the best view.  It was still tail-less when I saw it.  Here's a chart that plots the comet for the next week as it races through Cetus.


And from erstwhile member, Mark Moe

Hi Russell,

Hope everyone is doing well and will be receiving lots of new astronomical toys for Christmas.

I recently purchased a 127 Mak-Cass, It is on Orion's Apex models and seems to be built like a tank.  However, as soon as I received it, the clouds rolled in and haven't left.  About par for the course.

Our club had a campout a few weeks ago at a state park over in the western part of Wisconsin.  After napping through early evening clouds, we had two nice nights of observing.  As there were several young people present, we spent most of the nights looking at the usual DSO's (M42, Ring, etc).  About 4am we decided to point the 18 Obsession at Jupiter,  I though I had gone blind from the intensity of the image.  This was definitely not a good idea :)

The little one is growing like a weed.  I can't wait for him to get big enough to take observing, fishing, etc.

Say hello to all.

mark moe

New to the list this month are:
Jason Brewer of Wetumpka , referred by Scott Thompson; Ben Hammond of Montgomery who found Jim McLaughlin via the Web page; and Jimmy Dobbs of Montgomery  referred by our friends at the Gayle Planetarium.  Robert  Spotswood, of Montgomery
Submitted his “online interview” via the “Who R U” page on the AAS site:

Area of special interest:  Just kind'a watching the sky

1. Are you a seasoned amateur astronomer or just getting into the hobby?
Just starting, want to get my children interested

2. What was your first experience that attracted you to astronomy?
A long time ago, watching the movements of the stars

3. Tell us a little about your family members; spouse? kids? siblings? significant other?
Spouse(1), for 25 years.  Children, several @ home. Kevin (age 21); Chris (age 17); Timmy (age 14); Phillip (age 12); Katie (age 10)

4. Can you tell us a little about your formal education?
Both my spouse and I have Batchelor's degrees.   Me? Business, Spouse? Education.

5. Do you have any pets? What kind?; How Many?
Are you kidding? My children are enough.

6. Where do you work? If you're retired, what was your occupation?; If you're still in school, have you chosen a career?
Me. Customer Service for  electric utility.  Spouse.  Primarily a homemaker (and a damn good one)

7. Besides astronomy, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
Running; photography.

8. What was your first or favorite car?
First?  A purple Dodge Duster w/ white trim that I wrapped around a tree.  The car, not the trim.

9. What was your first or most interesting job?
Everything job I have is interesting.

10. Tell us about your favorite vacation.

11. Have you ever lived in some other part of the U.S. or another country? Where?; When?
Mobile. then Montgomery.  The difference can be measured in years.

These latest bring our e-mail list total to 124.

Space Art
Stargazer Scott Thompson

When we went to the Atlanta Peach State Star Gaze this last August Jerry Armstrong, "co-discoverer of the supernova in M51," gave us a look at how he paints Astro-Art. It was quite enlightening and looked surprisingly easy.

I have done a few of Bob Ross type paintings among other types. He was the guy that painted "Happy Paintings" on the Education Channel. Big fuzzy hair. Anyway I thought I would attempt such a painting since I had some experience. Not much mind you!

It took me a couple of hours and I was finished. It really is quite easy and you can do this as well. The steps are as follows.

Materials: Purchased at Michael's in Montgomery.

Coated Canvas Paper-- Start small 8x11
Bob Ross Paints:   Black Gesso, Liquid White, Cadmium Yellow, Cadmium Red, Phthalo Blue.

Two Brushes: One stiff the other medium/soft with a tip.

Determine what type of galaxy you would like to paint. I decided on a strong Sb type.

Step One: Apply the Gesso and let dry 20 minutes.
Step Two: Mix yellow and white and apply the core of your galaxy.
Step Three: Mix blue and white and make it runny! You sprinkle the canvas by holding your finger on the end of the brush and draw your finger quickly  across it, flinging the paint in drops onto your canvas. You can attempt this on newspaper for effect. Go across the canvas in the shape of the galaxy.
Step Four: Come back across the galaxy with a gray/blue mix for dust then sprinkle again over that. This can be done a number of times till it looks good to you.
Step Five: Add Globular Clusters and sporadic stars.
Step Six: Let dry two weeks or three " remember this is oil paint"
Your finished!

Optional: Buy some Varnish and protect your masterpiece. It also makes it look shiny! Apply only after the painting has been dry at least a month or two!

The attached painting was signed for my niece who is the only one in our family that has taken an interest in Astronomy. Russell wants a demo, so maybe at the next meeting I can do just that.

Happy Painting!
Stargazer Scott

Aurora in the Deep South
Mark A. Brown

 I received a call from my father-in-law around 8:30pm on Monday, November 5th. He lives in Iowa. He said the sky was blood red there and was wondering what was going on and if he was seeing an aurora. I quickly logged on to some solar sites and sure enough we were experiencing a major aurora event! All the maps I looked at showed that we should be seeing it from here in Alabama. I quickly ran outside and looked north-northeast. Sure enough, there it was! It was brilliant red extending nearly 40-45 degrees off the horizon. Pillars of yellow periodically extended up from the horizon and shades of blue-green could be seen along the horizon. Curtains of red would shift from northeast to northwest. It would appear to fade and then another wave would appear in the northeast. It was incredible! The rising waning gibbous moon didn't seem to affect it too much. But had there not been a moon, I can't imagine what we would have seen then. I stayed out watching until about 12:30am. That's when the aurora had faded and was pretty much over with. At one point, the red portion of the aurora was near the zenith and a trail of red blazed through Cassiopeia.

Here are some photos that I took during the course of the event. I used a Minolta 35mm SLR camera, lens 35-50mm @ f3/5, Kodak Portra 800 with exposures ranging from 20 to 40 seconds. I took the photos from my yard in Prattville. Photographed between 9pm and 11pm.

Best Regards,

Mark Brown




For Sale/Wanted to Buy

For Sale:

Meade LX-50 10" SCT with updated motherboard
 Meade Heavy Duty Tripod and Wedge
 Meade 208XT Pictor CCD Imaging System
 JMI Electronic Focuser
 Kendricks Dew Zapper
 Updated Dec. Gears (Metal)
All this equipment is in excellent condition; in fact, the Pictor has never been used.

$2200.00 Contact Jeff Schaub   334-271-6833

Wanted to Buy
From: Mike Brown

Russell, I’m a former member, who is thinking of rejoining soon. The reason I'm writing is that I’m interested in buying a telescope. I was wondering if a member is interested in selling a 6- to maybe a 10 inch Dobsonian reflector? 300.00 to 800.00 dollar range. A good home built telescope. My phone number is 334-705-8634.

Chiefland Star Party/Leonids – 2001, Part I
Eddie Kirkland

Hi Russell and fellow Auburn Astronuts:

I recently had a very exciting and enjoyable trip to the Chiefland Astronomy Village near Chiefland, Florida for the 2001 Chiefland Star Party.  I was there for three nights on November 15, 16, and 17.  I set up next to a couple from Jacksonville, FL who were Auburn alumni and fans.

On the field were probably 150 – 200 scopes of all sizes and configurations.  The largest was Tom Clark’s 36” Yard Scope Dob; others included a 30” (the same guy who was at Deep South), two 24 inchers, and a number of 20” and 18” Dobs.  And of course, a whole bunch of SCT’s, including one C-14.  Rick Singmaster of Starmaster Telescopes was there delivering one big Dob with GOTO (what service!).  I got to view three objects with the Yard Scope before it clouded up on Thursday – I should not have looked, now I’m spoiled for life.  Oh yeah, Tom is building a bigger scope, a 40-incher and an observatory to mount it in.

Thursday night started off great:  perfectly clear skies for a whole hour and a half, and then the clouds rolled in.  I happened to awaken at 4 am to clear skies again and viewed until daylight.  Friday night had some good viewing; clear, but with a lot of moisture in the air.  Saturday night was much the same as Friday but with periodic clouds rolling by.  All in all the skies were very dark, much better than what we have around here; the Milky Way was very pronounced.  I got to view many objects that I had not seen before.  As is usual for me, I spent ½ of my time with my scopes and ½ walking around taking peeks from others’ scopes.

I enjoyed meeting and talking with a number of new people and some I had met before.  Jim Nadeau was there with a couple of his Nightsky truss Dobs.  Sherrie and three others (sorry, I forgot their names) were there from the Mobile club.  I also met and spent a lot of time there with one of our old members, Tom Danei and his wife, Brit.  He was there with his 16” Midnight Scopes truss Dob built by Tom McGowan (its still in great shape, Tom).  They have been living in Brunswick, GA for about a year now, so that is why we haven’t seen them in a while.  They send their warmest regards.  Tom Clark and the others in the Village were very gracious by letting 300+ people camp and view in their front yards.  A number of door prizes were given away including two telescopes, and once again I won NOTHING.

Oh yeah, I have to mention one other little event of Saturday night-Sunday morning – the meteor shower.  It has to be one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen.  I even called my wife in Auburn at 4:00 am to get her outside for the fireworks.  Truly awe-inspiring.  It helped make up for Auburn’s dismal loss to the hated Tide.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable long weekend, one that I will long remember, and one that I plan to repeat the next time the Chiefland Astronomy Village opens their doors.

Eddie Kirkland
Auburn, AL

Chiefland Star Party/Leonids – 2001, Part II
Scott Thompson

Stargazer Scott Report:

 The meteor shower was absolutely phenomenal from the dark skies of Chiefland, FL!!! We thought it was going to be a wash-out with the clouds covering us from about 11PM till 3PM then it cleared. I had cat napped most of that night getting up regularly to check the skies. Of course there was a guy next to us named Paul who let us know when it started and ended because with each meteor we heard a HOOP HORAHH!!! THERE …. THERE…. THERE>>>>>HOLY COW!!!! So, I was sure not to miss the start.

I would say that for about 40 to 45 minutes we saw one or more a second! We estimated 700 – 800 an hour. The skies at Chiefland are inky black in the south and west. To the north and east are of course Chiefland  with very little light pollution. I had more light pollution from the next door camper and his beaming red lights! We had a ball however!!! It was some of the most fun I had in months. There was one meteor that left a trail for about 4 to 5 minutes and the wind shifted it. We looked at it through the binoculars which gave us a most excellent view of wispy streaks.

The rest of the trip:

We arrived to find flat open fields with about 350 to 450 people. It was a great turn out. I can’t say too much for the bath shower situation. Although new, the bath house had open field showers. In other words, it was a square of tin that came up to your neck! No top! The airplanes that flew over got an x-rated view! And no hot water, mainly because of too many people!!! Burrrrr! The first night was clear and cold but offered excellent views of the Milkyway!

Besides the meteor shower the next best views we had was through a TMB 4” refractor with a 90mm Coronado Solar Prominence Filter with binocular eyepieces. That was the best I have ever witnessed the solar flares !!!! WOW!!!

We listened to two speakers. One who was from the University of Florida. He talked about their new fully robotic observatory program for the University. The other was Jack Newton who showed us his excellent pictures taken from the past few years at his observatory there in Chiefland and in Canada.

What a trip… the views were great, the meteor shower was once in a life time and everyone was super nice.

Clear Skies!

More Leonid Reports

Dustin Smith

   I began walking outside and looking up at around 12:30am, and then returning inside to watch some TV. I walked out every 15-20 minutes, all the way up until 4:00am. At 12:30, I saw one about every 45 seconds. By 2:00am it had jumped to one every 5-10 seconds, and by 4:00am I was seeing one after another, with sometimes as many as 5-6 in the sky at the same time. I'm not sure how you'd rate that on the "meteors per hour" scale...I guess 3600/hour, if one is seen every second?
P.S. - My observing site was in my hometown of Waterloo, a VERY dark site...limiting mag was probably 5-6 or so. (being realistic, but some "experienced" astronomers might say it's darker out here than that)


 Alan Akin

It was the best observing experience I've ever had. My parents and I got to see a fire ball. I was looking away at first then a bright object caught my eye. It got brighter and brighter. Then it started breaking up into pieces before it finally disappeared.  A few people in Pine Mountain GA, about 7 miles away, said they figure it was heading toward us. That's why it didn't leave a trail. I clocked the number of meteors we saw a number of times in two minutes. A count of 30 was the best I got by myself. To bad my parents weren't still out to help me count that time.

David Newton

I did manage to leave warm covers and go into the front yard (for maybe 1.5 hours) at about 3:15 a.m.  (Raye joined me for about one hour.)  I probably saw 40 to 50, the most ever.

By far the most spectacular object, which I assume was not part of the Leonids, traveled relatively slow and low (about a third of the way up from the southerly horizon) from west to east, and left a very long trail.  This was about 3:45 to 4:00 a.m.  It seemed so close; I almost expected a sonic boom.  Beautiful!

David Newton

John Williams

The meteor shower / storm was spectacular.  Having all but one roll of film developed, I caught 29 Leonids on film so far.  Sending you a picture of the best which was in Taurus, with Saturn and Aldebaran, and the Pleiades as streaks.
Also recorded the Ring, Dumbell, Orion, and Horsehead Nebulas and Comet Linear WM1 with the hypered Kodak ppf 400 film.  I am not impressed with the film by the way because it is very grainy.

John Williams

Tom McGowan

I'd like to share our observations done on Nov.17/18. Julie and I went to a spot in Crenshaw County, nice horizon and rather dark skies. We arrived there a little past 1:00 am. We took a 16-inch scope to play around with but our main goal was to check out the Leonids meteor shower.
      There were a fair amount of meteors seen during the few minutes of setting up. I had a great feeling about tonight! We started out with a view of Saturn and then, Jupiter. Both were superb! We checked out a few familiar objects and also a few not too familiar. Then we setup our meteor-observing bed while having some coffee. About 3:30 am I noticed an increase in activity. There were multiple meteors to be seen and almost all were leaving a nice glowing trail. I was counting between 6 and 12 meteors a minute. But the best was yet to come! Just before 4:00 am the activity increased dramatically. Meteors zipped all around the sky. There was one each second!!! Think about it, one meteor a second!!!  At one point I saw five meteors simultaneously. But the best meteor was sporadic that started in the northern reaches of Orion and went east, thru Leo, and onward to the eastern horizon. It was a fireball that sputtered sparks off it as it traversed the sky! It was definitely better than magnitude -5. Incredible! Two other meteors left very long lasting trails that resembled giant nebulae in the sky. And another left a distinct green trail- real pretty.
      I got up just before 5:00am to take a look a Saturn and Jupiter. The seeing was very steady so I cranked up the power. What glorious views. I swung the scope to the Eskimo Nebula on Gemini (NGC 2392). With the 2x Barlow and the 9mm the detail was striking. Then back to the planets for a last look. The meteor activity was strong and steady until the sun claimed the sky. This was absolutely the best meteor shower I've ever witnessed! My friend from Texas observed it from Ft. Davis and said it was equal to seeing the Milky Way stretched across the sky from the Australian outback! It was great but not that GREAT!
            Tom McGowan

Ricky Wood sends the following image.  Aside from the Leonid, I see the California Neblua, the Pleiades, C/2000 WM1 (LINEAR)?, M33, and M-31. Do you see others?

David T. King, Jr.

    Lucille and I saw quite an awesome display of Leonids from our vantage point in the desert near St. George, Utah.  At its peak (325 AM MST), we estimated the rate to be 1500 to 2000/hour.  It was difficult to make accurate counts as the meteors were coming down on all sides (360 degrees) around us.  Now we know why the old drawings of meteor showers past show them dropping like rain, as that is truly the way it looked.  As we were leaving our site to go back to St. George (555 AM MST), a huge green fireball passed over the highway in front of our car.  It illuminated the whole sky for several seconds and was blindingly bright.  The whole evening was the most amazing experience we have ever had looking at meteors.

[David also sends this URL for listening to the Leonids]

Jim McLaughlin


So, how many meteors do you think we saw during the peak 2 hours. I was thinking 20+per minute during the peak and probably averaging at least 10-12 per minute during those peak hours, so maybe 1000+ for the 3-5AM hours and probably 1500 from midnight to 5AM. Does that sound wildly exaggerated or close to what you'd think?  I'll be interested to hear about the "official" reports. At any rate it was a night to remember and I'm sure glad to have gotten to see it.  What an awesome spectacle of nature!

And my reply:

Hello Jim,

I'm still in "afterglow".  I think your estimates are pretty close -- perhaps a bit conservative.  The American Meteor Society reports a double peak of about 2,500 ZHR from about 4:30AM to 5:15AM CST. . What is a typical peripheral vision -- 120° or so?  I'm sure we all missed about ½ of them.  Had I believed all of the hype, I'd have been better prepared.  I really hate that I didn't replace the 200 speed film in my camera with some 800 to 1000 and try to catch some on film.  I usually look straight up for meteors, but this time I offset the radiant slightly so that I could still see it well peripherally, but gazed toward the area near Canis Major.  My favorite impression was a 2-3 second interval when I saw 4 streaks within 5 degrees of the radiant.  Now THAT'S a meteor shower.  A close second, was a train near the radiant that persisted for 15 - 20 seconds and distorted into somewhat of a corkscrew before fading out completely.  I'm curious as to what caused the distortion.  It looked wind-blown, but I thought the ionization occurred in the upper levels of Earth's atmosphere -- far above any jet streams.   The bronze metal goes to the near head-on meteors that manifested themselves as less than ½ ° streaks.  Something to tell the grandkids about.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,