Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
March, 2004

In this Issue

March Events Messier Marathon
February Star Party Report The Comets Are Coming
Astronomy Day 2004  Star Words

March Events 
(Note the meeting date change)

March Meeting:  In a slight departure from the norm, and for a very good reason, this month’s meeting will be on Thursday, March 11, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building, on the campus of Auburn University, at 8:00 PM. 

From AAS president, Rhon Jenkins:

Jim Voss has agreed to present a program for us on the evening of THURSDAY, MARCH 11.  The program will concern the space station and its role in a possible future mission to Mars.  Jim will present a short movie taken aboard the station, some slides, and his expert commentary on what life is really like aboard the station.  This should be the best program we've had in a long time!  Time will be 8 o'clock, as usual.  Go ahead and say room 215, but I'm going to try to get a bigger room in the building if I can.  We can always direct people to it.
You can read Dr. Voss’s CV at:

As usual, riders from the Montgomery area are welcome to meet at the home of Russell Whigham, 518 Seminole Dr., and carpool over to Auburn.  Plan to be ready to head to Auburn at 7:00PM sharp.

March Star Party: Friday/Saturday March 19/20, at Cliff Hill’s farm. This will coincide with 
Messier Marathon weekend. 

Messier Marathon
From Ed Flaspoehler, President,
 American Association of Amateur Astronomers:

The Messier Marathon presents an opportunity to view the entire Messier List 
in one night. Each Spring, the period around the Spring Equinox on March 21 
allows observers to view all 110 of the Messier objects in one observing 
session. In 2004, the new moon weekend falls on March 20-21, allowing for a full 
night of observing. During other weekends in March and April, the appearance of 
the moon during part of the night will hinder observers from viewing the whole 

To make your Messier Marathon more fun and rewarding, the AAAA has provided 
our Messier Marathon Packet in Adobe Acrobat 3.0 PDF format. Our packet 
contains a checklist and observing sheet for you to use to keep track of your 
observations. This is intended to be a fun project, so observing and recording on the 
checklist is done on the honor system. Finding objects and sharing 
observations with other observers is OK.

You may use any size telescope or binoculars for the Marathon, since the 
object is to SEE the object, rather than to OBSERVE and LOG it. For this reason, 
it is OK to use setting circles and other electronic devices, even though such 
observations would not qualify you for the Astronomical League's Messier 

Start with M77 right after sunset, and continue on to M30 just before dawn. 
Use your own star charts and maps to help you find the individual objects if 
you do not already know where they are. You will find there will be periods of 
inactivity while you wait for the next object to come up, and periods of 
frantic activity trying to find that one last object before it sets. While the 
objective is to see all 110 objects, a very difficult project, whatever total 
number of objects you observe will be a successful night. And if you do not see all 
of the objects in one night, you can always try again next year! 

You do not have to conduct you own Messier Marathon on the dates indicated. 
These are just the ideal weekend dates for 2004. You can observe anytime during 
March or April that you have an opportunity to be out. The objects will be 

This is a great club project for any astronomy club. Get your friends 
together and go out and observe!

Ed Flaspoehler, President
American Association of Amateur Astronomers

More Messier Marathon observing forms and other aids at:

February Star Party Report

The February star party was attended by: Mack Acheson, Mark Pratt, Russell Whigham, Alan and Susie Cook, Lesa Leon, Allen Screws, John Clifton, John Tatarchuk, Japhet Nylen and family.  We shared views through a wide assortment of telescopes and observed scores of winter deep sky objects, a 1.5-day old Moon, and four bright planets.  One special guest passing through the solar system was Comet LINEAR (C/2002 T7) was an easy target at magnitude 6.8 near Gamma Pegasi.  This one may be a harbinger of things to come:

The Comets Are Coming

A pair of comets show much promise for early 2004, though keep in mind that predicting the brightness of comets remains a somewhat unreliable science. However, one is now at 7th magnitude and brightening.

Astronomy Day 2004

Astronomy Day 2004, will be observed on Saturday, April 24, at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium in Montgomery.  In what has become an annual tradition, Rick Evans, director of the planetarium, and the Auburn Astronomical Society pool our efforts to bring astronomy to the people of central Alabama.  This year’s speaker will be Dr. David T. King Jr. presenting his findings on the Wetumpka meteor crater.  We’ll have a 5-day old Moon, a sky full of planets for the visitors to see through the telescopes. 

The telescope clinic proved very popular at the Saturn Gaze in January so let's count on doing that again prior to the presentation in the auditorium.  Rick is still working out the details for the agenda.  Watch this space for specifics, next month. 

Each year attendance for this event grows.  We’ll need help from everyone who has a telescope to share with the visitors.  We typically have about a dozen telescope volunteers, but could really use several more to reduce the length of the queues. 

We’d also like to have a couple of people at the AAS information table to hand out information sheets and answer questions about the society.  If you don’t have a telescope, but do have a camera, we could use your help capturing images of the event.

Gail Smitherman reminds us to bring our old telescope catalogs to share with the visitors and keep door prizes in mind when browsing at the book store.  Please let us know if you think you’ll be able to help.

Star Words

CONSIDER: In its literal sense, this word means "observe the stars." It began in Latin as a term describing the work of astrologers, who needed to study the stars in order to do their work. In the original Latin, the verb was considerare. It didn't acquire its current meaning until sometime in the 1500s.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,