Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
June, 2003

In this Issue

June Events Astronomy Day, 2003
Please Welcome… Member News & Contributions
May Star Party 5th Annual Laurel Highlands Star Cruise
MarsWatch 2003  

June Events

Our monthly meeting will be on Friday, June 6, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University.  Montgomery area car poolers should meet at my house (518 Seminole Drive).  We’ll head for Auburn at 7:00 PM.

The June star party will be on Saturday, June 28 at Cliff Hill’s farm.

Astronomy Day 2003

On Saturday, May 10, the Auburn Astronomical Society and the W. A. Gayle Planetarium joined astronomical societies across the nation, in  celebrating  National Astronomy Day.  Representing the AASm this year were:

Alan & Susie Cook   10-inch Meade SCT
Allen Screws 8-inch reflector 
Rhon and Joyce Jenkins  18-inch StarMaster Dobsonian
Jim McLaughlin, 8" LX 200 and a 80mm refractor
Robert Rock  Meade ETX 90
Gail & Marvin Smitherman 127mm Starmax 
Scott Thompson 7-inch Astro-Physics refractor
Russell Whigham  11-inch Celestron SCT
Ricky Wood  12-inch LX200 Meade SCT

Brent Holman and David Wayne Key accompanied Ricky and Scott.  We were pleasantly surprised to see that  Nicole Long and Laura Kelly were there. Bill Blankley was on his way to Alaska, but sent several handout materials for the visitors.  Eddie Kirkland and Everett Leonard had planned to bring their scopes, but unforeseen circumstances prevented their participation.

Visitor, Paul Williamson  brought his 120ST AstroView refractor.  We hope to see more of Paul at future events.  We had several new names added to our e-mail list as well.

Rick Evans has offered to open up the planetarium on a Friday night for us to have a meeting.  This seems like a wonderful opportunity.  We’ll discuss this at our meeting this Friday, and see if we can find a date mutually convenient for Rick and AAS.    Photos of the day’s activities are on the AAS Web site under “Field Trips”/ “Gayle”/ “Astronomy Day 2003”.

Thanks again to Rick for the drinks and sandwiches, the publicity, and everything else that he does to make this happen.

Please Welcome…

Mike Brown 

Russell, I'm interested in checking out the crater. Can you give me some info on tours, price, etc.  How did they decide it was a meteor crater?

thanks, Mike

Good to hear from you again, Mike.  You fell off of our e-mail list about a year ago (your old mindspring address kept bouncing), but I've just updated the mail list with your new address.

Dr. David King gives the tours several times each year.  The most recent was just a couple of months ago.  All I know about the crater is on our Web page under "Field Trips"/"Wetumpka Meteor Crater".  There are some additional links at the bottom of the page.  If you'll let Dr. King know you're interested, he'll probably let you know when the next available tour will be.

The story of how this was determined to be an impact crater as opposed to just some random hills took many years to determine.  The first clue that something unusual was going on was the "horseshoe" shape of the feature.  The topographic diagram on the Web page shows this quite dramatically. 

Later gravitational and magnetic anomalies reinforced the suspicion.  The conclusive proof was found with the discovery of "shocked quartz" from core samples.

The City of Wetumpka has realized that they have a potential tourist attraction in their backyard, and have begun plans to construct an observation site on Bald Knob.

I hope this helps,



My name is Ray Kunert and I live in Wetumpka. I have been talking with Dr. Jenkins about perhaps joining the astronomy club. I would like to attend the meeting on the 6th. I would also like to attend the star party on the 31st. I borrowed a telescope for the event. I would like to follow you to the star party and to the meeting if it is all right with you. Are you planning to observe the "Lunar Eclipse" ? Thanks for your help,

We're glad you found us.  You're welcome to follow me over to Macon County for the star party on May 31.  I could meet you at one of the service stations at exit 11, on I-85.  As the date draws nearer, and we're able to see if the clouds are going to cooperate, we can decide on which one and at what time.  It takes about 45 minutes to get there.  Let me know what kind of vehicle I should be looking for.

And for the June meeting on June 6, you're welcome to ride over there with me and whoever else shows up.  We leave my house (518 Seminole Dr., Montgomery) at 7:00.  Call me at 271-3684 if you get lost.

I'm checking on the eclipse between clouds.  So far, the umbra seems quite dark.

Thanks for looking us up,


Joel Donald

I noticed your Web site on the Internet. I currently live in Montgomery. I am interested in astronomy and would like more information about your club. I do not own a telescope at this time but look to get one in the near future.  Any information about your club and next meeting time would be greatly appreciated.


Joel Donald

Hello Joel,

AAS treasurer, John Zachry, forwarded your message to me.  I believe he pointed you to the Web page, which should answer most of your questions about our group.  Our archived e-newsletters, Astrofiles, are there so you can read about what we've done in the past.

I've added your name to our e-mail list so that you can keep up with what we're doing.  If you have specific questions not addressed on the Web page, feel free to ask.



I am a soon to be new member.  I would like to attend the star party on Sat. May 31st.  I just wanted to make sure the  star party is still scheduled.  I also would like to know its location.  Is it the Cliff Hill farm location or the Russell  site.  I live in Columbus Ga.  I was a member back in 1985.  This was when the dark sky location was off Crawford Rd.  Believe it or not I remember you from back then.  I can't believe it has almost been 20 years.  Imp sure you don't remember me because I went off to college soon after that.  I can still remember having some great times at the star parties.  Looking forward to seeing you again.
P.S. I still have the same old telescope  a celestron super C8 and it still performs as good today as when I bought it 18 years ago.


Jeff Crawford

It's great to hear from you again, Jeff and yes, I do remember you.  I thought that I had a photo of you and the Celestron -- I think it was at the time of our Moore's Meadow Observatory dedication, but I can't put my hands on it right now.  You've certainly done very well for yourself since we saw you last.  We're glad you looked us up again.  I think Rhon Jenkins is the only other person you might remember.  I'll include you online bio in the e-newsletter due out next week.  Thanks for taking the time to complete it.

The weather forecast for tomorrow looks marginal, but the rain is supposed to diminish later in the day Saturday, so maybe we'll have a chance to see something.

Our rule of thumb for this type of weather, so prevalent in the summer months, is:  If you can see any blue sky, we'll go for it.  Watch your e-mail tomorrow afternoon just before time to leave for the star party.  I'll try to make a call one way or the other.  The location is the Cliff Hill farm.  Cliff Hill is a pilot also.  Our observing site is actually along the side of his gravel and sand runway.  You may have seen it when you were flying.  It's about a mile south of and to the east of the intersection of highways US 29 and US 80.  It's actually just a few miles east from the dark sky site we had back in the mid-eighties, when you were with us before.  Watch for approaching aircraft before crossing the runway.  Try to allow yourself enough time to be set-up by sunset. 

Looking forward to catching up on the past 20 years under the stars,


Here is Jeff’s thumbnail bio:

Jeff Crawford, M.D.
Columbus GA 

Telescope(s):  8 inch super C8 (same scope since 1985) 

Area(s) of special interest:  Astrophotography

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

JC:  Was a member  way back in 1985.  Have been observing off and on since. 

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

JC:  Solar eclipse in 1985.  Photographed it using a cheap reflector, then returned it to get my super C8

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

JC:  Robin, my wife and two children 6 and 8.  I have recently unpacked the C8 due to the interest of Kelly my 8 y.o

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

JC:  BS Biology Columbus College/ M.D. Medical College of Georgia/ Internal medicine Univ. Ala. B'ham

AAS: Do you have any pets? What kind?; How Many?

JC:  Cat named Lacey

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

JC:  Emergency Room Doctors Hosp. Col. Ga.

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

JC:  Avid Private pilot.  Love to fly local over the Auburn area.

AAS: What was your first or favorite car?

JC:  I just bought my wife a 68 Vet.  My first car was a 72 Vega at 15 yo.  My favorite was a 79 Black Trans Am. 

AAS: What was your first or most interesting job?

JC:  I loved working at the Piggly Wiggly bagging grocery's. Started at 15yo. ( lied about my age.)

AAS: Tell us about your favorite vacation.

JC:  In March of 1985, Two other college friends and myself took an RV to Miami and the 
Keys to get pictures of Halley's comet.

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

JC:  Local areas / Athens Ga/ Augusta Ga/ B'ham  Ala./ Dothan Ala. 

I hope to get my daughter Kelly interested in Astronomy as much as I am. She is very smart for her age and she has already stumped me with a few facts about the planets.  I would like to take her to a few star parties and hope she would want to continue.  I was a member of the society back in 1985. Maybe I will be able to recognize some of the early members. Going through the members section I do remember Russell W. 


Bill Lawrence  William.Lawrence@MAXWELL.AF.MIL

Hello!  My name is Bill Lawrence, and I'm a Navy pilot going to school In Montgomery at Maxwell AFB.  I got your name from the friendly folks at The Gayle Planetarium.  I called them originally to see if they were doing anything for the upcoming lunar eclipse on Thursday night, and since they aren't, they sent me to you.

I'd like to know if your group was planning to set up shop for this rare event, and ask if a few friends and I could join you.

I've been looking for special events & venues to pique the interest of Some of my classmates, and this would more than fit the bill.  Please let me Know if this will be a possibility.

I anxiously await your response.


Thanks for looking us up.  It's always good to hear from someone who shares our enthusiasm.

Unfortunately, we have no special group eclipse watch planned for Wednesday.  We're just coming off of our annual Astronomy Day event this past Saturday, and were scheduled to have a star gaze for Edgewood Academy in Elmore County tonight, but it was canceled last night.

Because this eclipse falls in the middle of the week, we didn't schedule a group eclipse watch.  You may want to try to contact on of our members, Mack Acheson, who is a Navy dependent, living on base at Maxwell.  Mack has an 8-inch telescope and has taken some fine digital
images through it.

I'll CC: this to Mack and you can see if you want to get together.

I'll add your name to the AAS e-mail list so you can keep up with what we're doing.

Here's hoping we still have clear weather,


Member News & Contributions

Scott Thompson 
 New Images: 

Before the rain starts and the humid, buggy, hot summer arrives I have been able to obtain some images:

 May’s Lunar Eclipse:

 M63, Jupiter etc…:'s_new.htm

GEM Photoshop Plugin: You gotta’ try this if you have a digital camera and of course Photoshop!

Image Stacker is a $17 program that stacks images in about 1 second. A lot faster than Photoshop with the same results… I plan on trying it during some night digital images “not astrophoto” but terrestrial. One thing it does not have is a way to register the images like Photoshop or CCD Soft. 


Clear Skies!

John Zachry
Interesting Web site: 

Found real interesting web site. Gives launch dates and information about future planetary missions. Might want to have a look.

Mack Acheson WOLF359@KNOLOGY.NET
New toy:

Mack has a new Orion heavy-duty Atlas equatorial mount supporting his 10-inch reflector.  We gave it a whirl at the star party – very nice!  Orion Atlas 10 EQ Reflector 

May Star Party

Mack Acheson, Ray Kunert, Mark Pratt , and Russell Whigham hoping for clearing skies, showed up at Cliff Hill’s farm this past Saturday evening.  We had brief looks at Jupiter with Mack’s and Ray’s scopes before a nearby thunderstorm and the scent of rain sent us packing. 

5th Annual Laurel Highlands Star Cruise – 2003

Monday, June 23 thru Sunday, June 29, 2003  (Scheduled events begin Wednesday 6/25) Pinehill Campground, just off Exit 29 of I-68 near Hazelton, West Virginia Elevation approximately 2250'

  • 27 Presentations by 18 different presenters
  • Many Children's activities every day
  • Very dark skies
  • NASA AeroBus
  • Astronomy Team Challenge
  • Beginners Classes
  • Many Door Prizes
  • Observing Contests
  • Model Rocket Launching
  • Vendors
  • Swap Meet
  • Food caterer from an area restaurant
  • New-improved Star Cruise FM radio
  • Scope clinic
  • Home made scope tour
  • Bicycle tour
  • Area site-seeing tour
  • Discount registration fee till June 8, 2003

MarsWatch 2003 
 Vilia Zmuidzinas

Earth will be closer to Mars this summer, when, on August 27, 2003, the Red Planet's opposition brings it nearer to us than it has been in about 73,000 years. In August, The Planetary Society will begin our international Mars celebration with MarsWatch 2003, a program encouraging people everywhere to take a closer look at this fascinating world next door. The Planetary Society has proclaimed August 27 as "Mars Day," for all of Earth. On that day, we hope to turn the world's attention to Mars -- both with educational and observing activities, and information about the five spacecraft going to Mars to join the two already there. We hope you will help us achieve our goal to have half of the world's population looking at, or thinking about, Mars on that day!

The Planetary Society, the Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers, and the Astronomical League urge your organization to join other astronomy groups, planetariums, and science centers in celebrating Mars. Please join us by sponsoring an event during the weeks leading up to August 27. Events might include 

Star parties
Planetarium shows about Mars
Family festivals

The Planetary Society will help advertise Mars Watch events worldwide by

Sending flyers or e-mails to our local members Listing all MarsWatch 2003 events on our website Sending you materials for distribution at your event

Additionally, our MarsWatch 2003 web page, , offers a variety of materials for you to duplicate and distribute at your events. You will find Mars fact sheets, games, activities, puzzles, and even recipes.

This year's excitement about Mars will culminate in The Planetary Society's Planetfest '04, which we will celebrate on January 2-4, 2004 in Pasadena, California. This will be a huge celebration of an unprecedented confluence of spacecraft encountering their targets the Mars Exploration Rover will touch down on Mars; Nozomi will examine the outer atmosphere of Mars; Beagle 2 will explore the Martian surface; and

Mars Express will join Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey already circling the red planet. Your organization and members can join our co-chairmen, Bill Nye the Science Guy and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, at Planetfest '04, where we will have a live video link from some of the missions, top-of-the-hour updates from leading space explorers, Hollywood celebrities, and much, much more.

We want to lock in the schedule of Mars Watch events that we are co-sponsoring by June 16, 2003. If you think you would like to plan a Mars-themed public activity this August -- or are already planning one -- and want to increase the attendance at your event, join our network of Mars Watch organizations by filling out the form on our website, , or faxing the form to my attention at
(626) 793-5528.

Please join us for the excitement of MarsWatch 2003! Sign up to host an event today at!


Vilia Zmuidzinas
(626)793-5100 X231

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,