Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
June, 2002

In this Issue

May Events Cactus, Canyons, and Craters
Celestron’s Future in Question Member News
Things & Stuff  

May Events

Our monthly AAS meeting will be on Friday, June 7, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University.  Scott Thompson will share images and recollections of his recent astronomical sojourn in the land of “Cactus, Canyons, and Craters” tour.  See an overview of Scott’s trip, below.

Because our meeting and New Moon falls on the same weekend this month, the members and friends dark-sky star party will be on Saturday, June 8, at Cliff Hill’s farm. 

Cactus, Canyons, and Craters
by  Scott Thompson 

WOW what a trip! I will recommend this trip for any amateur astronomer. This is a Travel Quest International & Sky and Telescope trip. We boarded a bus at the Tucson Airport and headed for the Biosphere 2. 

This was the first trip of it's kind and I believe there will be more like it. Because it was the first trip we had three guides. This included the Aram, President of Travel Quest, Chuck the real guide, and Stuart Goldman from Sky and Telescope. 

We arrived at Biosphere 2 and had lunch together. Charles Wood, Professor of Education for Columbia University, sat at our table. He also writes the moon articles for Sky and Telescope! We had an excellent conversation about his studies of the moon and his work for NASA! Next, we got the "special" tour of Biosphere! We went places the normal public would not go. We actually went under the Biosphere and in the rain forest., ocean, mangrove, and desert areas.  Later we had dinner and then went to listen to a graduate student give a talk on star formations. After that we viewed many objects through their 24” OGS telescope.  Excellent first day!

The next day we visited the Arizona Sequoia Desert Museum and then went on to Kitt Peak! I now know a LOT about cacti! At Kitt Peak we went on two tours. One was on the 4 meter Mayall the largest and the other was on the space watch program telescope 36”. They were not observing on the McMath-Pierce Solar scope so we did not get to tour it. Excellent second day!

The third day we toured Roger Angel’s Optical Mirror Making facility. They were grinding one of the 8.4 meter f1.4 VLB’s “very large binocular” mirrors. They were spinning down a government mirror  that was hush, hush. No one knew what it was for except a government project. This was all very informative and just plain neat.  Next we toured the U of A Optical Sciences Center. They make a lot of smaller mirrors and high technology stuff. They had the next generation space telescope proto-type in the basement. The mirror was paper thin and had hundreds of actuators on it.  After that we went to Starizona “a telescope store”. And then the best tour of all. I was very excited because this was not on the normal itinerary. It pays to have someone from Sky and Telescope with you. Stewart got us in the door. We observed at David Levy’s house. I talked to him about his comet search program and got his autograph. He and his wife were very nice. We viewed through his 16” Dob, 7” Meade refractor, 8” Dob, and 3” Questar.  He also has a 12” Meade Schmidt camera, 2   8” S-Cass with ccd’s for comet searching and 2  6” schmidts for picture taking. He lives just outside of Tucson. This was the highlight day!

The fourth day we headed to Sedona heart of Red Rock country.  We viewed the vistas and later had a BBQ and stargazing with Rick Shaffer a retired Astronomer. We viewed the many objects with his 20” Dob. We watched satellites blink in and out of view from the earth’s shadow.

The fifth day we headed to Flagstaff via Oak Creek Canyon. There were many nice rock cliffs and gorges. Once in Flagstaff we toured the US Geological Survey office. Our tour guide was the lead geologist from the Mars Rover project. Very outspoken and intelligent. After our tour we headed to the Grand Canyon. We walked along the south rim as the evening sun set. It’s just a BIG HOLE in the ground. Nothing to see really. HA! I got some great pictures.

The next morning we viewed the east rim and headed on out to the Meteor Crater. It was another BIG HOLE in the ground! Before we got there Michael from Alaska gave us all a part of the Meteor Crater. I now have two pieces from the Barringer Meteor. He had lots of small pieces with a Certificate of Authenticity.   We took the tour and saw the movie about Impacts and Collisions. The most interesting thing was the two shinny pieces of metal in the crater. It was parts of a plane that could not fly out of the crater because of winds creating a dome of air over the hole. They finally had to crash. They broke the plane up and put most of it down the mine shaft. Later we went back to Flagstaff and that night was treated to a view through the 24” Clark refractor at Lowell Observatory! WOW what a view of M3 and M104. They had the blink comparator setup so that you can look at the two plates with Pluto on them moving across the sky. Excellent day!

The seventh and last day we toured Montezuma Castle Natl. Monument. This is an Indian village built into the cliffs. After that we took the train ride through Verde Canyon. It was a very scenic ride and we saw a wild Bald Eagle with two chicks in their nest. 

Everyone got along great. We made some friends from Germany, Texas, New York, Alaska and Slovenia. Our guides were great and they kept us informed about everything. They answered all our questions and entertained us. We watched a few movies on the bus between stops. They were new astronomy documentaries that Stewart brought and was reviewing. There were other stops like the trading posts and lunch areas. We had a great time. Our tour guides made the trip. They got us in doors that you normally would not get to go! Also, we got that extra information that you do not get by just going there and looking around. What a trip!

 Scott Thompson

Celestron’s Future in Question

Tasco, parent company of Celestron, called it quits last week.   See the announcement at: 
and Celestron’s response at: 

Member News

> Hello Charles,

> You got away from DSRSG before I got your e-mail.  I think you said
> you were thinking about getting a C-14.  Has that happened?

> Russell


Have a Meade 12" LX200 Classic since late 11/01. Lucked up on it through B'ham store after reading about the offer on internet, for
$1,000 off list plus $650 worth of Meade Series 4000 Plossel eyepieces 
for free and $400 in coupons from that I used to buy 8.8MM
SWA and 35MM UWA Meade eyepieces. Just could not refuse--like getting
the scope for $1900. 

Have added Millburn Super Wedge,  JMI motor focuser, mirror lock
mechanism, EXT90 finder scope on Millburn Rigs with Meade 201XT
auto guider attached, Sbig 237A CCD camera with filter wheel, Kendrick
Dew control system with Dew Buster variable temp controller, straight
through and right angle 8X50 finder scopes and Stellavue Red dot finder,
Casio 125 and The Sky Edition for pocket pc for object acquisition, HP
1.6 G Laptop with The Sky ver4 ed5, Sbig CCD Soft ver 5, Sbig TPoint and
Sbig Sharp Mask for image focus and image downloading and processing,
Atomic time accuracy program, etc., 2 deep cycle boat batteries I hardly
ever used on my bass boat, and too many books and magazine back issues 
on astronomy, astrophotography and ccd imaging.

Now all I have to do is make it all work together properly! Look forward
to your advise and help. Still can't understand why I let this passion
and obsession of my youth lay dormant so long! But I'm catching up fast
with the MUG users group and the many Yahoo user groups and web pages on
astronomy. I love it all!

Clear Skies,
Charles Floyd

AAS members, look in your May, 2002 Reflector that you just received, on page 5.  Mark Brown’s image of Comet Ikeya-Zhang is featured in the article on “Photographing a Comet”.  Congratulations, Mark! 

Things & Stuff

For a comprehensive discussion on  Light Pollution by way of a recent NPR ("Talk of the Nation") broadcast:

The Lowe’s home supply store has the aluminum accessory cases with diced foam inserts (a la the Orion model that sells for $42.95 plus shipping), close-out  sale priced at $12.50.  There were only a few near the check out this past Saturday at the store in Montgomery.

On  Monday, June 10, if you have a perfect western horizon and clear skies you will be able to see the beginning of a partial solar eclipse.  In Montgomery, the event begins at 7:30 CDT.  The Sun/Moon set in mid-eclipse.  As with all solar eclipses, use the proper safety precautions.  Here’s a link for more information: 
And, for information specific to Montgomery, go to:

See Rod Mollise’s review of the next generation of dew control, the  Dew Buster, at: 

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,


Russell Whigham
Montgomery AL
Auburn Astronomical Society, Webmaster and Astrofiles editor 
AAS Web site: