Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
May, 2003

In this Issue

May Events Astronomy Day, May 10, 2003
Edgewood Academy Star Gaze May 15 Total Lunar Eclipse
Please Welcome… Mid South Star Gaze Review

May Events

  • Eta Aquarid meteor shower peaks on the night of May 5-6
  • The first dark-sky star party for the month will be on Saturday, May 3, at Cliff Hill’s farm.  And,  because we have two New Moons this month, a bonus star party on May 31.
  • On May 10, we’ll meet in Montgomery at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium for National Astronomy Day celebration (see below).
  • Edgewood Academy Star Gaze Monday evening, May 12
  • Total Lunar Eclipse, Wednesday May 15
Astronomy Day 2003

On Saturday, May 10, we’ll gather at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium for our sixth annual joint venture with the planetarium for our celebration of  National Astronomy Day.  The agenda and a list of door prizes are on the planetarium’s Web site at :

The AAS’s contribution to the effort is scheduled to begin at 5:00PM.  Volunteers with telescopes should arrive and begin setting up their equipment at least an hour before, as access to the area where we’ll be set-up is fairly restricted.  We always have early arrivals who want a look at the Moon as well as some who need help assembling or adjusting their personal telescopes.    Thanks to planetarium director, Rick Evans, for doing all the work and publicity! 

If you think you’ll be able to participate, please let me [Russell] know so I can update the list of volunteers and telescopes to Rick so he can have the name tags made for us.  If this will be your first time, you can have a look at past Astronomy Day events on the Web page.  at  scroll down to “Field Trips” then select “Gayle”. 

We still have room for several telescopes.  AAS members who do not own a telescope can contact Rhon Jenkins  about borrowing the AAS 8-inch Dob for the event. 

Thanks to the following who have stepped forward to give of their time, talents, and telescopes:

Mack Acheson 10-inch Dobsonian
Alan Cook 10-inch Meade SCT
Allen Screws 6-inch reflector
Eddie Kirkland 16-inch MidnighTelescope Dobsonian
Rhon and Joyce Jenkins 18-inch StarMaster Dobsonian
Jim and Diane Locke 8-inch Celestron SCT
Robert Rock Meade ETX 90
Gail Smitherman 127mm Starmax 127mm
Scott Thompson 7-inch Astro-Physics refractor
Russell Whigham 11-inch Celestron SCT
Ricky Wood 12-inch LX200 Meade SCT 

Gail Smitherman writes:

I have e-mailed Rick that I have a couple of items to donate as prizes; a book from life: man in space, $10.99 found in Wal-Mart magazine section (really great pictures from Sputnik to Columbia) and an electronic educational solar system game.  Remind everyone to bring those old Astronomy and Sky & Telescope magazines, Orion, catalogs, etc. that are lying around the house  for a free grab table. See you soon. Gail
Great idea Gail!  I’m sure the rest of you have some of the items Gail mentioned to share with our Astronomy Day visitors.  We’ll also have an e-mail sign-up sheet and copies of the “Frequently Asked Questions” handouts for prospective members.

Bill Blankley sends his regrets that he’ll not be able to join us that day, but writes:

I have some materials from Kalmbach and NASA that you might want to use for handouts.  I'll bring them to the meeting, Friday.

Edgewood Academy Star Gaze
Jim Locke

The planned evening for the  star gaze in Monday evening, May 12th. They have planned a "cow pattie" event that afternoon and early evening as well and, thus, should lead to a sizable crowd. A map to their campus is here:

They have a couple of parking lots with fairly close access to fields--including the football field. I think there shouldn't be too much problem finding a suitable place to set up without much of a hike--if any. The cow pattie event will be taking place on the baseball field and there is a large field next to it where they suggest setting up the telescopes. These fields are well behind the school buildings (and lights). They do not plan to turn on any of the athletic field lights; the cow pattie drop should be over before dark.

The cow pattie drop starts at 6:00. We can arrive whenever we want to.

No rain date. If it rains, well.... It's just too close to the end of the year to schedule a rain date.

Jim & Diane Locke 

[Editor’s Note:  Don’t let this slip up on you – it’s the Monday following Astronomy Day.  Please let Jim know if you can help with this event.]

Total Lunar Eclipse
Wednesday May 15

Eclipse stage UT EDT CDT
Moon enters penumbra 01:05 09:05 p.m. 08:05 p.m.
Partial eclipse begins 02:03 10:03 p.m. 09:03 p.m.
Total eclipse begins 03:14 11:14 p.m. 10:14 p.m.
Mideclipse 03:40 11:40 p.m. 10:40 p.m.
Total eclipse ends 04:06  12:06 a.m. 11:06 p.m.
Partial eclipse ends 05:17 01:17 a.m. 12:17 a.m.
Moon leaves penumbra 06:15  02:15 a.m. 01:15 a.m.

Please Welcome…

At our April meeting, we had the pleasure of meeting Bill Blankley.  Here is  Bill’s on-line interview:

Bill Blankley
Auburn AL


  • Meade 8 LX200 (Deep Space) 
  • Meade ETX90 (for lunar, planetary and solar viewing)
  • Area (s) of special interest:  Astronomy Education

    AAS: Are you a seasoned amateur astronomer or just getting into the hobby?

    BB:  I guess I am what you would call a seasoned intermediate stargazer.

    AAS: What was your first experience that attracted you to astronomy? 

    BB:  At 6 a family friend had his telescope out and began to show things.  At age 10 I began to spend Saturdays at the Franklin Institute and Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia, PA. 

    AAS: Tell us a little about your family members; spouse? kids? siblings? significant other?

    BB:  Widower, 1 boy CA, 1 girl UT, 3 stepsons, 3 stepdaughters, 15 grandchildren 

    AAS: Can you tell us a little about your formal education?

    BB:  Graduated 1949 from high school in Collingswood, NJ.  BA Macalester College (Physics), St. Paul, MN 1962,  Graduate studies in Geology, Astronomy and other sciences at UCLA, USC, CSUN, Harvard, etc

    AAS: Where do you work? If you're retired, what was your occupation? If you're still in school, have you chosen a career? 

    BB:  Retired (Semi) Science educator : 30 yrs Junior HS Earth/Space in Los Angeles, CA. 3 yrs Lecturer in Lab and observing Astronomy at California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks, CA.  On freelance lecture circuit since 1992.

    AAS: Besides astronomy, what other hobbies do you enjoy? 

    BB:  Photography, Travel, Computers. (In the past SCUBA, backpacking) 

    AAS: What was your first or favorite car? 

    BB:  First 1956 Chevy,  favorite is my 2001 Ford F250 pickup with a 27’ Komfort 5th wheel

    AAS: What was your first or most interesting job?

    BB:  First: Grocery Store Deliverer, Most interesting: Aerospace Education Lecturer for NASA 

    AAS: Tell us about your favorite vacation.

    BB:  Summer travels to National Parks when teaching.  1990s 3 Solar Eclipse expeditions to La Paz, Baja, MX : El Paso, TX : Arica, Chile

    AAS: Have you ever lived in some other part of the U.S. or another country? Where? When? PA, 

    BB:  NJ, MN, CA, SD, AL,  Toured Europe 1953-56 while stationed at NATO Hq in Naples, Italy (USN) and three months touring South America from Galapagos to Antarctica (shipwrecked) and countries in between.

    Since 1995 I have been a full-time Rover.  I have visited all states except Alaska which I intend to do this summer.  For my 71st birthday I went skydiving from 13,000 feet (tandem).  Up next, bungee jumping???

    Since 1992 I have been on the senior speakers bureau for the Ventura County (CA) Superintendent’s Office with programs in Astronomy, Galapagos Islands and Antarctica.  I would like to continue sharing my programs in this area when I’m not traveling. Sept-Nov and Mar-May.  Anyone interested.  Call me 334/826-7003

    I was the founding president of Conejo Valley Astronomers back in 1966 which is now VCAS (Ventura County Astronomical Society and was for ten years a member of LAAS (Los Angeles Astronomical Society.

    You can see Bill’s and many others thumbnail biographies on the “Who R We” linked from the AAS main menu.

    Mid-South Star Gaze
    Eddie Kirkland

    I thought I would give you a short report on the Mid South Star Gaze of this past weekend.  This was held at the observatory of the French Camp Academy near Starkville, MS.  The observatory, or actually observatories, since there are about 6-8, sits on a hill with very nice horizons to the east, south, and west.

    I took my Televue 102 refractor to this one and left the 16" dob at home as the weather reports were very "iffy".  I arrived Friday afternoon under very clear skies, so things were looking good for the night.   As night fell things were looking very good, not a cloud in the sky.  I was quite humid and a little breezy, making transparency about average and seeing poor.  From dusk till about midnight, I observed Jupiter, several globular clusters, and split some nice doubles.  But with only 4 inches of aperture, I was wishing for my 16 inch.  I was set up next to a guy from New York who had come down to take delivery of a very nice Night Sky (Jim Nadeau) 18 incher with go-to and tracking.  I spent a lot of time viewing with him.  Bill Prados was there from B'ham with a 7" Mak-Cass.  At midnight the clouds rolled in spoiling the show.  I went to bed; but I heard the next day that it cleared again by 2 AM.

    The next day, Saturday, was overcast all day.  I caught up on my reading until about 10 PM and went to bed.  At about 1 AM I woke up to clear skies and observed with others (I was too lazy to get my scope out) until about 3.  We observed many of the summer treats in Scorpius and Sagittarius.

    I was fairly impressed with the darkness of the site.  If the atmosphere had been drier, the skies would have been quite nice.  I would say it compared favorably to the Deep South site.  All-in-all, the star gaze was enjoyable, and I will probably be making a return trip.

    Eddie Kirkland
    Auburn, AL

    Hope to see everyone at the meeting, Friday,