Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
August, 2003

In this Issue

August Events Mars Gaze 2003  Please Welcome…
Wetumpka Meteor Crater News Member Contributions DSRSG 2003

August Events

Meeting Date Change

There will not be a meeting on the first Friday in August.  Our August meeting will coincide with the public Mars Gaze at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium in Montgomery, Saturday, August 30.  We’ll return to our normal first Friday meeting date on September 5.

Perseid Meteor shower peaks on Wednesday, August 13.  >:-)
The August Full Moon is on August 12.  >:-(

This month’s star party will be on Saturday, August 23 at Cliff Hill’s farm, clouds permitting.

Mars Gaze 2003

It’s only a month away now.  We’ll be witness to the best apparition of Mars in tens thousands of years and The Auburn Astronomical Society be sharing this event with the visitors at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium, in Montgomery  on Saturday, August 30.  The telescopes won’t go into action until 9:00 or 9:30 when Mars will be high enough to clear the Earth’s atmospheric haze.  Rick Evans has plans to keep the visitors entertained inside the planetarium until then.  Local television  stations have told Rick that they’ll be there around 5:00PM to make some video for the 6:00PM newscasts.  So, if you want to have your smiling face on TV, be set up by 5:00PM.  Otherwise, you can wait until after sunset and set up your telescope when it’s a little cooler.  City lights and even hazy skies will not interfere with what will be lifelong memories for all who attend.  Directions and a map to the planetarium are at .

The following (to the best of my recollection) have given affirmative head nods for supplying their expertise and telescopes for Augugust 30 : 

  • Alan Cook, 10-inch SCT 
  • Eddie Kirkland, 16-inch Dobsonian 
  • John Tatarchuk, 18-inch Dobsonian 
  • Robert Rock, 8-inch SCT 
  • Allen Screws, 8-inch Dobsonian 
  • Ray Kunert, 4.5-inch Newtonian 
  • Russell Whigham, 11-inch SCT 
  • Andy Camerio, 4.7-inch refractor 
  • Mack Acheson, 10-inch Newtonian 
  • Jim & Diane Locke 8-inch SCT (If possible) 
  • Taylor Jernigan  ETX-125 

We’re anticipating quite a large crowd so we’ll need all of the telescopes we can muster.  Please let us know if you can help. 

From: Rick Evans 

I need some feedback on an idea I am tossing around. What would you think about if we played War of the Worlds in the auditorium prior to the telescopic viewing?

We would have to pay a $250.00 licensing fee to be able to "legally" air it in the auditorium. I did not want to charge admission to Mars Gaze, sow would absorb the cost. The only question I really have is whether or not it is appropriate and whether or not you think it is a good idea. You can be honest, let me know your feelings as soon as you can. 

I replied:

That sounds great to me.  We'd actually rather you keep the visitors entertained inside while we're waiting for Mars to be high enough to observe. 

Thanks for being the creative half of our team,

John Zachry wrote:

Willing to bet NASA TV, Discovery Channel, PBS will have a lot of "Mars stuff" right before closest approach. Might want to watch instead. Hold off decision about movie until late as possible? - John 
Or, do both if possible since we'll want to keep the visitors entertained until Mars is high enough to see well.  I'm passing this along to Rick as a suggestion.

Keep the ideas coming,

Rick Evans responded: 

We do have a big screen TV located in the lobby that we can put on to PBS, Discovery or any other channel for that matter. In this case it is possible to have the best of two "worlds", Movie in the auditorium, and television in the lobby.
I don't know if you saw it or not, but WAKA came out here and did a little piece for the news last night. They aired a "teaser" on their 5 o'clock news and then aired a little more of it on the 6 o'clock news along with a sound byte from the interview with me. They did repeat/announce that the Auburn Astronomical Society would have telescopes out here on August 30th and plugged our event. So that's a start....

I have been in contact with WSFA (Rich Thomas) about our event as well. He stated that they are going to try to send their weekend weather guru out here to do a piece on August 30th. From what I gathered they would like to do it around 5:00 P.M. to air on their 6 o'clock report that night. If we could get your folks out here early that evening it would be great. Personally, I envision any interviews that night being done with members from the AAS, so your folks might want to be sure to wear their AAS shirts. WAKA also said they were putting it on their calendar to come out and film the telescopes. 

If you’re not on Rick’s  “Planetarium Visitors" mail list, just drop him a note at
and ask him to add your name.

From: David King 
Mars Dust 

Hi! I thought you'd be interested in this story from Science@NASA: Something is happening on Mars and it's so big you can see it through an ordinary backyard telescope.
So far, the feared global dust storms have not materialized.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
Please Welcome

Raymond  (Ray) Kunert 
Wetumpka AL
Area(s) of special interest:  Astrophotography

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

RK:  Just beginning the hobby.

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

RK:  I grew up in the space program, but always seemed to be busy with other things.

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

RK:  My wife's name is Ann and the kids are out on there own. Two kids and two grand kids.

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

RK:  Melbourne High School, Melbourne, Florida. One year college in Dekalb County, Georgia.

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

RK:  We have one 5yr. old Dalmatian named Dixie.

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

RK:  I retired about 4 years ago after 28 years as a FireMedic (Fireman/Paramedic) with the Dekalb County Fire Dept. and the Montgomery Fire Dept.

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

RK:  I race sailboats almost every weekend. I was competitive with fire arms for several years. I enjoy a round of golf when I get a chance. I also enjoy camping and fishing.

AAS: What was your first or favorite car? 

RK:  First car was a Buick Roadmaster 75. Most favorite was a 1971 Corvette 454 convertible. Fire engine red inside and out. I took out the 4spd. and replaced it with a racing 5 speed.

RK:  Right out of High School, I was investigated and given a top security clearance. I did finished eng. drafting of the "L.E.M." 

AAS: Tell us about your favorite vacation. 

RK:  Best was California for the National Square Dance Convention and Disneyland. The hardest would be the Pacific sailing crossing on a Santa Cruse 40' . 18 days, 2500+ nm. with two storms. The last of which gave us 52kts. of wind across the deck and 30' breaking seas.

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

RK:  I grew up and lived all over Florida.

I am looking forward to learning as much as possible about telescopes and astrophotography. The problem now is learning the Constellations. 

Wetumpka Crater News
Courtesy of The Montgomery Advertiser and David King

The City of Wetumpka is planning an observation park on the crater rim.  See the story at:

David adds: 

I have one comment about the news story: The quotes from me make it 
seem as if I am part of the group promoting this, and that is not the 
case. I am in favor of any sort of preservation, but am not part of the 
park-planning group. I have advised the Commission only on scientific 
matters. I am going to the meeting in Germany to attend a conference, 
present a paper, and go on a field trip of the Ries crater. For more on 
the crater, see ...

David T. King, Jr., Professor, Dept. of Geology 
Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5305 USA 

Member Contributions

From: John Zachry 
Spacecraft to Moon 

On August 28, 2003, SMART-1 space probe is scheduled to be launched from Kourou in French Guyana.SMART-1 will be the first space probe in Europe to go to and orbit the moon. The moon is on a perfect distance in order to try using propulsion with electric energy generated with sun cells. SMART-1 will reach the moon after 15-17 months.

Scheduled  for  launch  in  October  2003,  Trailblazer™   will   provide  live streaming video of the entire mission, pictures of earth from space, detailed maps of the full Moon surface,  photographs of  Apollo landing sites  including Apollo 11, dramatic  EarthRise™ video  and a  mission ending  live  HDTV video broadcast of the spacecraft as it "Barn-Storms" over the lunar terrain. 

John also sends:

The Night Sky Live Interesting web site.

From: Rod Havens
Free Software 

I found a Website I think you'll like if you haven't seen it yet? It's called Celestia at: 

From: Gail & Marvin Smitherman

I’m sorry to say Marvin and I do have travel plans for the Mars/Labor Day weekend. It sounds like fun and I hate to miss out. I did happen to wake up Saturday morning around 3am so I stepped out the back door with my scope (which I keep ready to go in the dinning room, -not a decorating accessory many woman have)anyway it was clear skies and I got a pretty good look. What a change from seeing a star like sized object to this Jupiter size, Wow!!!.Not much surface detail visible but the sky wasn't very dark due to moonlight. I'll try again after full moon phase is over!! Gail 

I'm sorry you won't be able to be there with us.  I hate that we had to make this compromise with the holiday, but Mars just won't wait for us.  There should be plenty of good nights before and after that weekend to have a nice look.  I woke up at 3:30 this morning to see Mars hovering just above the Moon.  Thanks for letting us know.  We'll miss you and Marvin.

Gail followed up with: 

Good luck with the star party tonight.(its thundering outside right now in Selma with a hazy sky) got up this morning-Saturday around 1:30 am to try and get a better glimpse of Mars. Moon was up last time I tried. Nice dark and clear sky with Mars shinning very bright! No way you can miss him. Using my 5 inch scope, various lens and 2x Barlow I could make out the polar cap and mottled surface detail. I tried various colored filters to see if surface detail would show up better. The green seemed to work the best. One night I’ll have to bring out my 10 inch to compare with the 5 inch's view. I have to combat front yard light pollution when I use my big scope. I keep it in the garage and roll it out on wheels!! 
Mack Acheson has sent several excellent images that he’s made using his digital camera and his 10-inch Newtonian. 

DSRSG 2003

Only three months until the Deep South Regional Star Gaze 2003.  Visit the following web address for registration forms and additional information:

Russell Whigham
Montgomery AL
Auburn Astronomical Society Webmaster and Astrofiles editor