Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
February, 2004

In this Issue

February Events Dr. Jill Tarter Lecture
Saturn Gaze Report 2004 Membership
Georgia Star Party  Miscellany

February Events

February Meeting:  This month’s meeting will be on Friday, February 6, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, at 8:00 PM.  

Star Party: Friday/Saturday February 20/21, at Cliff Hill’s farm.

Feb 03 - STARDUST, Deep Space Maneuver #4 (DSM-4) 
Feb 04 - Ulysses Closest Approach To Jupiter 
Feb 15 - Mercury Passes 1.9 Degrees From Neptune 
Feb 26 - Rosetta Ariane 5 Launch (Comet Orbiter & Lander) 
Feb 24 – Dr. Jill Tarter Lecture  AU Hotel and Conference Center at 4 PM (see below)
Feb 29 - Direct-TV 7-S Zenit 3SL Launch 

Thanks to John Zachry for the dates from Space Calendar
And to Larry Owsley for the Jill Tarter lecture information.  If you have events of interest to the members, please sent that information to your editor by the last weekend of each month.  

John Clifton wrote to suggest that we return to the Friday/Saturday night options (depending on which has the better chance of clear skies) for our star parties.  We’re getting back to that format this month.

Jill Tarter Lecture
February 24, 2004

Are we alone in the universe? If other rational beings exist, what are they like and where are they? Can we communicate with each other? Dr. Jill Tarter, Director of the Center for SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Research at the private, non-profit SETI Institute at Mountain View, California, is after answers to these questions. Not relying simply on belief or on the day when little green creatures land on Earth for the answers, she and her colleagues travel twice annually to the mountains of Puerto Rico where they use the world's largest radio telescope to listen for radio signals coming from other solar systems. She reminds us though, that if signals from other extraterrestrial civilizations are received, they will contain information sent eons before our time due to the immense distances between us and even the closest stars. Therefore, she notes that we might study these communications as we do the works of Shakespeare or the ancient Greeks. In addition to being a gifted and dedicated scientist, Jill Tarter is passionately committed to educating the next generation of scientists. She has won numerous awards for her science and nature books for young readers and is currently supported by NSF to produce a 9th grade integrated science curriculum called Voyages Through Time.

The lecture is free and open to the public. Littleton-Franklin Lecture will be in the auditorium of the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center, February 24, 2004, at 4 PM. 

Saturn Gaze Report

On  Saturday night, January 3, 2004, members and friends of the Auburn Astronomical Society, in cooperation the W. A. Gayle Planetarium, held a public Saturn Gaze.  Saturn was at a favorable opposition -- closer to the Earth than it had been for the past thirty years, and as close as it would be for the next 30 years.  This event was conceived and was brought to fruition by Mack Acheson with the encouragement and support of Rick Evans, director of the W. A. Gayle Planetarium. The event was free to the public as a Public Service of  Troy State University Montgomery. The agenda for the evening was: 

             6:00 PM Doors Open
             6:30 PM Telescope Clinic
             7:00 PM Planetarium Program (entitled Ring World)
             8:00 PM Telescopic Viewing of Saturn

The night was unseasonably warm and partly to mostly cloudy, but all of the 300+  visitors had a chance to see the ringed planet through any of the many telescopes made available to them by our volunteers and several guests who brought their own              telescopes.  Several guests who were having assembly and operational problems with their personal telescopes, brought them to the "Telescope Clinic" that opened the evening's activities. William Baugh was the "scope doctor" on the lawn outside the planetarium while Russell Whigham attended to the optical patients that had been brought inside by their owners.  Among the people who received some much need instruction was State Senator, Larry Dixon, who subsequently sent William a personal "thank you" note that he shared with us at the January meeting of the AAS.

Mack had rented several commercial sized urns and provided coffee and hot chocolate to the visitors once they had entered the lobby of the planetarium.  Mack had also written the media outlets in Montgomery to publicize the event.  Rick contacted Rich Thomas, meteorologist at WSFA, channel 12, who gave some valuable publicity before the event.  Rick had also sent news of the event to his Planetarium e-mail list.  Because of these efforts, we had a reporter and photographer from the Montgomery Advertiser, and a reporter and videographer from WAKA, Channel 8, the local CBS affiliate.  The interviews and video aired on the 10:00 PM news that evening.  Mack did an outstanding job of his on camera interview.  Sunday’s Advertiser ran the story with photos.  Thanks, Mack!

The following people volunteered to have their telescopes set up outside the planetarium for the public:  Mack Acheson, William Baugh, Taylor Jernigan, Jim McLaughlin, Gail Smitherman, and Russell Whigham.  

Thanks to Mack for conceiving of and coordinating this event and to Rick Evans for making the planetarium available for the event.  Mack showed his appreciation for the help of the volunteers in this letter:

To the members and friends of AAS,  

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who showed up at the Saturn event! The people who showed up at the event did an incredible job with the visitors who brought their telescopes to us in hopes of being showed how to use them! We were a little overwhelm by the crowd. Mr. William Baugh set up a mini clinic out side by his telescope and made some ladies very happy when he got their telescope to work (thanks)! A young college student and his father and mother brought an old telescope to me and asked if I could get it to work. After about tem minutes I decided to give him my number and we are going to get together and fix it for him before he goes back to college. It is missing more than a few screws. 
Russell I was right about Rick Evans, he has God’s ear!  The clouds parted right when Saturn came up and the crowd went to the telescopes to look at Saturn.  The coffee and cocoa went fairly quickly -- the crowed drank 260 cups of the stuff. It had to be shut down due to staffing  shortage on my part. (Man those kids can drink hot cocoa)!  Rick did a fantastic job alerting the public. I think we have started a base that we can build on to boost our membership by getting us public attention to boost are membership. 
I have to say that I was shocked by the channel 8 news crew being there. And was more shocked by them wanting to interview me. I was later informed that Mr. Rick Evans sent her my way! They made a couple of mistakes when they broadcasted at 10:00 pm. They said that Saturn is 700.000 miles away when it is over 7000.000.000 miles away! They did a wonderful job and I am going to thank them.
I put  Auburn Astronomical Society applications in five spots around the Planetarium and it seems that it really worked out well. They took approximately twenty-five of the applications. So I am hoping that it will boost us up some. 
The green laser that I bought was a big hit with the crowd, every one asked me where Saturn was so I would take my green laser out and point to it and show them Orion's belt. I think they really just wanted to see the green laser go up to the sky! (I need more batteries for it)! I found a great place to buy a really good one. They have modified ones! 
 It was allot of work, but well worth it. To see all those kids get so excided to see what they have been reading about Saturn in school and to actually see it, is a wonderful feeling!  I can't wait till we can do it again.  Thanks Gail Smitherman for driving so far to come help out. They really like talking and seeing Saturn through your telescope! 
Mackall W. Acheson III

Those who volunteered their time and telescopes, also received the following letter from Dr. Martindale, president of TSUM.  A facsimile of the letter follows:  



Office of the President 
P..O.. Drawer 4419 
Montgomery. Alabama 36103-4419 (334) 241-9537 
FAX: (334) 241-9591 

January 12, 2004 

Mr. Russell Whigham
518 Seminole Dr. 
Montgomery, AL 36117 

Dear Mr. Whigham: 

I wanted to take just a minute and thank you personally for your participation in 
the W.A. Gayle Planetarium's Saturn Gaze event. It was very generous of you to donate 
your time and allow the public to view the wonders of Saturn through your telescope. 
The planetarium continues to receive numerous e-mails from people who attended the 
event and were thoroughly impressed. You provided many people with a chance in a 
lifetime to view this celestial wonder. 
I greatly appreciate the time and effort you made in promoting an appreciation in 
the field of astronomy at Troy State University Montgomery, as well as helping the public 
to view first hand what many only see in textbooks. Because of your support and 
enthusiasm, the Saturn Gaze event was an overwhelming success. 
Again, thank you for your contribution to this worthwhile endeavor. 


Cam  Martindale

Cameron Martindale, Ed.D. 


c: Mr. Ray White, Vice President for Financial Affairs 
    Mr. Rick Evans, Director, W.A. Gayle Planetarium 

Troy     Dothan    Montgomery    Worldwide


See photos on the AAS Web page.  Follow the navigational links: Field Trips / W.A. Gayle Planetarium Events / Saturn Gaze 2004

2004 Membership

Here’s the official list of AAS members that goes to the Astronomical League.  If you don’t see your name below, and wish to enjoy the benefits and privileges of membership, you’ll need to send $15.00 for Regular Membership or $7.50 for Full-Time Students to:

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

Make checks payable to:  Auburn Astronomical Society.  You can save the postage and bring your dues to the meeting.  For questions about your dues or membership status, contact John at 

Bill Blankley  Lesa Leon *   John Tatarchuk  
Alan Cook   Everett Leonard   Scott Thompson  
Charles Floyd  Dr. Jim McLaughlin   Carl & Joyce Vella *  
Jeff Graves  Japhet Nylen and family Robert West 
Rhon Jenkins   Mark Pratt  Russell Whigham  
Eddie Kirkland   Robert Rock  Ricky Wood  
Ray Kunert   Allen Screws   John B. Zachry 
 *  New

Georgia Star Party
Dawn Knight

I would like to let everyone know that the Flint River Astronomy Club in Griffin, GA is going to be trying their hand at a star party.  The party will be held May 21-23, 2004 at Camp McIntosh, Indian Springs State Park, Jackson, GA.  Information about the party can be obtained from  Registration is limited to 75 people.
Thank you and we look forward to hopefully seeing some of you there. 

Dawn Knight
Flint River Astronomy Club


Astro Words

orrery (OR-uh-ree) noun
 A mechanical model of the solar system that represents the relative positions and motions of the planets around the sun.  [After Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), who was given one of those models by John Rowley, a London instrument-maker. They were invented by George Graham c. 1700.]  A picture of an orrery:

The father of model solar system simulators was Archimedes, who invented the planetarium.

Mars rover program  

If you want to learn how to control the Mars rover, you can download a  simulation program just like the guys at NASA are going to use to drive Spirit  and Opportunity around on the Red Planet.  Updates with real pictures are  going to made available as they are obtained from Mars to update the  program.  And best of all, it's all free (well, except for the taxes we  already have paid!).  Check it out.  

Linda Harley

2" to 1.25 Adapter Tip 

(In a reply to a question on parfocal eyepieces)  2" to 1.25" adapters aren't very expensive.  If you typically switch between 2" and 1.25" EPs when observing, you'll find it very convenient to give each 1.25" EP you commonly use, its own 2" adapter.  Then, you can also make the EPs parfocal by simply locating each one in the correct position in its own adapter and just leave it at that position.

Ted Kurkowski

Another option would be a “parfocalizing ring”.  Google on “parfocalizing rings” for a comprehensive list of suppliers

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,