Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
February, 2003

In this Issue

February Events Ogletree Elementary School Star Gaze
AAS 2003 Membership Roster January Star Party
A Cold Night In South Alabama Observing Site
Astronomy Day 2003 Can’t Reach Heavens-Above?
Neil Armstrong Biography It Was a Sad, Sad Day


February Events

Our monthly AAS meeting will be on Friday, February 7, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University. 

The February dark-sky star party will be on Saturday, March 1, at Cliff Hill’s farm. We find ourselves in the unusual circumstance of having the New Moon weekend fall before our regular, first Friday meeting.

 Ogletree Elementary School Star Gaze
Greg Glasscock

 We are invited back to Ogletree Elementary (south side of Auburn) this year.  The teacher in charge wants us to come the first week of March.  She suggested Tuesday the 4th, Wednesday the 5th, or Thursday the 6th but does not care which.  If anyone who can help would e-mail their preferences as to which day works out the best, I will get with the teacher and set the date.  Last year we had 4 telescopes going and were very busy for about an hour and stayed another 30 minutes or so for the people with more questions and interest.

AAS 2003 Membership Roster
John Zachry

We have sixteen dues paying members of A.A.S. for calendar year 2003.  Treasurer, John Zachry, has sent the following names to Astronomical League.  If you thought you had paid for this year but don’t see your name on the list, drop John a note  to have this resolved.  Also, remember to send John any change of address so that you won’t miss your future issues of the Leagues quarterly publication,  The Reflector. 

1.)  Mr. Mackall W. Acheson
 2.)  Mr. William Baugh
 3.)  Mr. Alan Cook
 4.)  Mr. Gregory A. Glasscock
 5.)  Mr. Jefferson E. Graves
 6.)  Mr. Eddie Kirkland
 7.)  Dr. Rhonald Jenkins, President
 8.)  Mr. Everett Leonard
 9.)  Dr. David S. Newton
10.)  Mr. Mark A. Pratt
11.)  Mr. Robert Rock
12.)  Mr. Allen Screws, Vice President
13.)  Mr. John Scott Thompson
14.)  Mr. Russell Whigham, Webmaster
15.)  Mr. Fredrick D. (Ricky) Wood
16.)  Mr. John B. Zachry, ALCor; /Treasurer

If you’ve let this slip up on you and forgotten to send your dues, see the prorated dues table at   (or click on the “Application” icon in the navigation frame of the Web page) and send your check made payable to  “Auburn Astronomical Society” to:

Auburn Astronomical Society 
c/o Mr.  John Zachry, Secretary/Treasurer 
501 Summerfield Road 
West Point GA 31833 

January Star Party
Jim McLaughlin 

It was a cold and lonely vigil at Cliff Hill farm Saturday nite. I got there at sunset, in time to be buzzed by a Cessna as I tooled to the east end of the runway. Checked out the early moon but not enough detail visible to fit the puzzle-pieces together.  Went through the early evening and early dawn sections of the Messier marathon list out of S&T and could ID all but five or six of the 30-odd objects, some were not well placed and I decided my frozen toes wouldn't allow for hanging around until Leo and Ursa Major were well up. At 8 PM Allen Akin joined me and we took a look at Saturn and Jupiter. Saturn displayed a little more color than I usually can detect and a faint brownish cloudband was seen about where the ring shadow should fall. Three Galilean moons were out. By 9:30 PM I was scraping the frost off my windshield and beating it home. Thank God for GOTO!!!!!

A Cold Night In South Alabama
or , “No, John I Don’t See The Abell Planetary.”
Eddie Kirkland 

On the night of January 4th and 5th, John Tatarchuk and I journeyed down to the Wiregrass area of Alabama for a night of observing.  The site was a 100 (?) acre hay field (Duncan’s Field) just west of the town of Baker Hill in Barbour County; the field is also the site of a remote controlled airplane strip, so the grass was well manicured.  We were invited to the site by Scott Guidry, who has recently moved to Dothan and was looking for observing partners.  Ross Armstrong from Ashford was also present, as were a couple (sorry, I don’t remember their names) from Fort Rucker who had to leave very early.  So, for most of the night, it was John, Scott, Ross, and I.

The observing site has a tremendous horizon as it is located on top of a hill; the nearest trees were several hundred yards away.  Very small light domes were visible from Eufaula, Clayton, and Abbeville; all very unobtrusive.  Some local light sources were seen all around, but none within several miles.  I am not very good at estimating limiting magnitude, but John estimated 6.2.  Transparency that night was good, maybe 7 out of 10; seeing was average.  One aspect of the early night was that we could readily see the Zodiacal Light, but as the awe wore off, it just became light pollution.

On the field that night was John’s 18” Obsession Dobsonian, my 16” Midnightelescope Dobsonian, Scott’s 8” SCT, and Ross’ 8” equatorial reflector.  We started the night observing the usual showpieces such as the Orion Nebula (M42), M31, M33, the Horsehead Nebula.  While I concentrated on viewing the brighter, showy stuff, such as Jupiter, Saturn, the objects listed above, some bright open clusters, and splitting doubles, John was hunting down the illusive Abell planetary nebulae.  Now Russell will attest to John’s remarkable observing skills regarding faint (can I say invisible to ordinary mortals?) planetaries at the Deep South Star Gaze back in October.  I have finally established a criteria for looking in the eyepiece of John’s telescope:  if he says the planetary is “very bright” then I “might” be able to see it with direct vision; if it is “bright” then I might see it with averted vision; if he says it is “pretty dim”, I don’t even bother trying to see it.  Maybe it’s just my 48 year old eyes.  But keep up the good work, John, we really do believe you.

Observing Site 
Dustin Smith 

I just wanted to let you know that the Auburn Planesmen R/C Club leases land from the University to fly planes on, and it would make a great observing site also. As a member of the club, I have a key to the gate, so if you or one of the officers would like to go check out the site just let me know. The Planesmen club has no use for the field after sundown, so I don't see any border clashes if a handful of astronomers would like to share it. Here are some directions:

My girlfriend and I are taking Astronomy as an elective course this semester. We do our observing in front of Parker Hall/Allison Lab on the main campus with a University-loaned Celestron C8. Or well, we're supposed to. The last 3 times we've been out, clouds have laughed in our faces. Better luck next time I guess.

Astronomy Day 2003
Rick Evans

 I'm starting early to plan for this year's Astronomy Day event.  This year's event will be held on May 10th, 2003.  As you know this will be our 6th Annual event, and to-date each of these events have been better than the last.

Agreed!  I'll put the reminder in our Astrofiles so folks can mark the date on their calendars.

I would like to invite the Auburn Astronomical Society to once again partner with the W.A. Gayle Planetarium and display telescopes.  Can I count on your continued support?

We eagerly and gratefully accept. 

I am still working on the agenda, and am in the process of coordinating with Huntsville to get a speaker. I also intend on inviting Dr. King this year to speak on the Wetumpka Meteor Crater.  I will keep you posted as things progress. 

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

This sounds terrific!  This has traditionally been the best attended event that we have each year.  As long as you keep 'em coming, we'll be there with the telescopes.

Thanks for the work you do to make this happen,


Can’t Reach Heavens-Above?
Chris Peat 

This is just to let you know that the present unreachability of Heavens-Above is caused by our Internet service provider blocking access to most network ports, including the DNS packets which are used to resolve names like into IP addresses like 

They did this without informing me, and I have now requested the situation be corrected with the utmost urgency, but I have my doubts anything will happen for a few hours at least. In the meantime, you should be still able to access the server by replacing with

This problem is beyond our control, and is unrelated to the attack at the weekend by the Slammer worm.

I apologize for this outage, and hope we will back in full operation as soon as possible. 

On a more positive note, we have ordered a new, faster server which should improve response times and support more hits than the current set up.


Neil Armstrong Biography
David T. King, Jr

AU Historian, James R. Hansen, has been selected to write the authorized biography of former astronaut Neil Armstrong.

It Was a Sad, Sad Day
Gail Smitherman 

Yes it was a sad, sad day in America Saturday.  I was watching a movie when my husband Marvin came into the greatroom. He had been talking to his dad on the phone, and he said “Honey, I think something bad happened to the space shuttle”.  So we immediately turned to CBS.  I knew the shuttles were getting old and I was afraid something was due to happen. I hope they are able to figure out exactly what happened.   These people died having reached their dream of space flight.

The captain's father said his son died doing something he loved!   God be with them and their grieving families. 

Hope to see everyone at the meeting, Friday,