Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
March, 2002

In this Issue

March Meetings Full Moon at Perigee
Maxwell Star Party Member News
Astronomy Day 2002 Comet Ikeya-Zhang
Saturn Occultation Images Tracking Satellites with your Telescope
HST Upgrade Analemma Tutorial
March Meetings

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, March 1, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University.

This month’s members and friends dark-sky star party will be on Friday/Saturday, March 15/16, at Cliff Hill’s farm.   The Friday date being the primary date Saturday as a fall back in case of clouds on Friday.  Die-hard observers can participate in this year’s Messier Marathon.  The middle of March is the best time to try to observe the entire Messier Catalog in one evening.  The Astronomical League has compiled a handy observing log sorted by the most efficient star hopping route.  Check it out at 

On Tuesday, March 19, Jim McLaughlin will be hosting the third annual star party for the science students at St. Bede School, in Montgomery.  If you’ll be able to give Jim a hand, please let him know at  Sunset will be at 5:51, so let’s try to be set-up and ready to go by 6:00PM.  St. Bede School is located near the intersection of Atlanta Highway and Perry Hill Rd..  The entrance to the observing field is from Perry Hill Rd. 

Full Moon at Perigee
From: "John B. Zachry"

This Full Moon (Wednesday, 2/27, 4:17 a.m.) occurs at almost exactly the same time as the closest perigee of the year (3:00 p.m.), which means that it will technically be the largest Full Moon of the year. Perigee refers to the time when the Moon is nearest the Earth, roughly 356,897 km (221,766 miles) in this case." - John

Maxwell  Star Party
Submitted by Tom McGowan

On Monday, February 18, club members Russell Whigham, Jim Locke, Mark Brown, Jim McLaughlin, Julie McGowan and Tom McGowan met at Maxwell Air Force Base to treat the residents to a celestial show. Views of Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon and the Orion nebula were enjoyed by all. We had good skies. For many people, this was their first time looking thru "real" telescopes. Everyone was delighted to be able to view such beautiful sights as I had much feedback thru-out the week. They expressed many thanks to the club members for taking the time to share with them. I receive many drawings from the kids as well as letters. Here is a particular letter I wish to include:

"We Really enjoyed "gazing at the stars" last night. It was an experience that Cody and I will never forget. Thank you so much for your time, effort and thoughtfulness--- and for caring so much about our kids in the community! 
                God Bless! 
                        Jem, Sherie and Cody  " 
This is one of the main reasons we should continue to participate in Public Star Parties. Many people don't have the equipment and knowledge to see for themselves but do have the wonder and interest of the heavens. And it is us, the club members, who can make the skies accessible to them. Who knows how we may influence these people-especially the children, to open up a new window of discovery for them. I like to think that their exposure to the skies from a star party will always be in their memories and may be the catalyst for some to further their interest in astronomy. And all it costs us is the time of one evening. 

Many thanks to the club members for contributing their time to make this happen! 

Tom McGowan,

[Editor’s note:  Due to the increased number of public star parties, I’ve expanded the Educational Outreach page on the AAS Web site.  Start from the menu icons on the AAS homepage, scroll down to “Field Trips” then  Educational Outreach.  Please send me photos and written accounts of any star parties that you host.]

Member News
From: Tom McGowan

Subject:  New Telescope 

I'd like to congratulate Eddie Kirkland on becoming the new owner of a 16-inch F/4.5 MidnighTelescope. I'm sure that will keep Eddie busy for awhile! 

Tom McGowan

The AAS “Members and Friends” page has been updated to agree with AAS treasurer, John Zachry’s, records of those who have paid their dues for 2002.  Be sure to check out the bio links of our newer members.

Astronomy Day 2002

Just a reminder, if you would...could you put out the call to arms for assistance on Astronomy Day.  This year the event will fall on April 20th.  I'm working on guest speakers, and will post it on our Upcoming Events page as we get them finalized.
Thanks in advance....

Rick Evans
W.A. Gayle Planetarium
1010 Forest Ave
Montgomery Al.  36106


From: "Mark A. Brown" 

As of right now, we don't have a set agenda. We are still waiting to hear back from Marshall Space Flight Center on our guest speaker.  As far as donations, we are still working on that. Here is the list so far:

  • Orion Telescopes and Binoculars 

  • (1) Deluxe Medium Aluminum Accessory Case
    (1) Star Target Planisphere
  • Jet Propulsion Laboratory - The Space Place 

  • (30) Deep Space 1 "Incredible Ions" posters
  • Firefly Books LTD 

  • (2) Astronomy Books
    Nightwatch (3rd Ed) by Terence Dickinson
    Splendors of the Universe by Terence Dickinson and Jack Newton 
  • Auburn Astronomical Society

  • A complimentary one-year membership to the club.

The Planetary Society and National Space Society will also be donating a wealth of educational information from their respective organizations. 

Updates to our Astronomy Day 2000 agenda can be seen by visiting our website at Once inside the site, click on "Upcoming Events". We have also posted an event listing to the Astronomical League's website.'s website has now posted our astronomy day event. Go to .  Scroll down the left side of the page and click on Calendar of Events. Go to April 2002 on the calendar and then click on April 20th. We are listed and you can click on that link to get the full details/description.

Things are coming together and I'm sure we'll have a great turn out weather permitting or not. We are certainly looking forward to it.

Best Regards,

Mark Brown 

Comet Ikeya-Zhang

 Keep an eye on this one.  A magnitude estimate of 3.4 is predicted by the middle of March! Check out the links below for details: 
(If this doesn’t work for you, just go to then, Astronomy, then, Comet Ikeya-Zhang.) 

Saturn Occultation Images
From: "Mark A. Brown"

Here are some photos from the February 20th occultation of Saturn. I was fortunate enough to have the clouds clear out in time so I could capture these shots of Saturn's reappearance on the lit side of the Moon (7:21pm CST). I photographed the occultation using my C8 by means of eyepiece projection with a 25mm eyepiece. The exposure times were two seconds thus the reason for the Moon being overexposed. I used Fuji 400 speed film. By using eyepiece projection, the effective focal length was ~ 27,430mm at a focal ratio of f/135. I've also included a daytime/dusk shot of Saturn about 15 minutes prior to its disappearance. That shot is at prime-focus through the C8. Saturn is just visible to the left of the unlit portion of the Moon. This was the last occultation of Saturn to be seen from this location until February 28, 2037.

satoccu1.jpg     satoccu2.jpg     satoccu3.jpg     satoccu4.jpg     satoccu5.jpg     satoccu6.jpg


Telescopic Satellite Tracking

Owners of Meade LX200, AutoStar, LX200 Compatible, Celestron Ultima, NexStarGPS and NexStarGT telescopes can track satellites using downloadable software ($20.00)

New Instrument Package to Expand Hubble Space Telescope's Vision
From: Ron Baalke 


NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has been pushing the frontiers of astronomy since its launch in 1990. The orbiting observatory has watched a comet disintegrate as it passed by the Sun and pinpointed a massive star that exploded 10 billion years ago. It has provided a view of a bewildering zoo of young galaxies that existed when the cosmos was a youngster. It has measured the expansion rate of the universe and detected clumps of matter - perhaps the seeds of planets - swirling around nascent stars.

Now its time to expand Hubble's vision even further during Servicing Mission 3B, scheduled to begin Feb. 28 with the launch of the space shuttle Columbia. The mission will give the orbital observatory a series of midlife upgrades that includes the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), a new instrument package that covers twice the area, has twice the sharpness, and is up to five times more sensitive to light than Hubble's workhorse camera, the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2. The simulated image [right frame] depicts how the cosmos will look through the "eyes" of the ACS. 

More information on the Advanced Camera for Surveys is available at web sites:  and

Analemma Tutorial

If you curious about the figure “8” pattern shown on globes in the Pacific Ocean and wonder why some sundials have the same thing, check out: 

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,