Auburn Astronomical Society
In this Issue
This month’s meeting will be on Friday,
May 7, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace
Engineering Building. 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
leave for Auburn at 7:00PM.
Our star party this month will be on Friday/Saturday,
May 14/15 at Cliff
Hill’s farm. We actually have two good weekends this month.
The above has Moonrise at 3:00 or 4:00AM, which won’t be a problem for
most of us. The following weekend will also be an option for those
not attending the Georgia Sky View (see below). Surely we can get
at least one good night out of the four.
On Saturday April 24, The Auburn Astronomical
Society and the W. A. Gayle Planetarium joined astronomical societies and
planetaria across the nation, to host the celebration of Astronomy Day,
when we share with the public, our passion of the night sky. This
was the seventh such joint venture for us and Planetarium Director, Rick
As always, we’re gambling that the weather will
cooperate so that our guests can have a look through the many telescopes
provided by our members and friends. We had mixed blessings this
year. The clouds stayed away for the early hours of the evening so
that everyone was able to enjoy the beauty of the planets and Moon.
Later, as the clouds began to roll in, we were able to peek between the
clouds long enough to allow all of the guests to have a look through the
Again this year, we were able to assist visitors
who had trouble using their personal telescopes. Most often, it takes
a simple adjustment or correction to get them going. Special thanks
to the following, many of whom drove all the way from eastern Alabama and
western Georgia, to share their hardware and expertise:
Ray Kunert, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT
Alan & Susie Cook, 10-inch LX-50 SCT
Russell Whigham, 11-inch SCT
Eddie Kirkland, 16-inch Dobsonian
Lesa Leon, 70mm refractor and 115mm reflector
David McConnell, 8-inch LX 50 SCT and
a 4-inch reflector "go to"
Mack Acheson, 10-inch Newtonian
Paul and Michele Williamson, 120mm f/5
Susanna Fillingham, 100mm f/6 refractor
Robert Rock, 90mm Maksutov
Gail Smitherman, 127mm Maksutov
Japhet Nylen (with mom, and sister), 8-inch
John Tatarchuk , 18-inch Dobsonian
Thanks also to Rhon & Joyce Jenkins, John
Zachry, Jim McLaughlin, for pitching in to help. The scopes listed
above, plus several telescopes brought by our visitors, brought the total
to 18 telescopes available for public viewing. It was good to have a visit
with parents, children, and spouses – and with each other.
While we were busy outside with the some of the
visitors, others were able to learn more about the natural wonder in our
own backyard – the Meteor impact Crater in Wetumpka, by none other that
the preeminent expert on the feature, Dr. David T. King Jr., of
Auburn University’s Department of Geology. Rick had put together
another great program in the auditorium while we waited for dark.
wanted to thank you for all you did in support of Astronomy Day.
turnout from the Auburn Astronomical Society was spectacular to say the
least. I realize that many of your members commuted from a great distance
to be here and support this event...and I truly appreciate the effort from
each and every one of them.
we did not have as a big a crowd from the public as we have had in past
events, I was still pleased with the approximately 300 visitors we did
have. There were a lot of events going on that weekend (Talladega,
dog show, art festivals etc) but I think we were able to hold our own.
You’re most welcome, Rick, and thanks back
to you and Planetarium Specialist, Beverly Miller for making this happen.
Without your planning, publicity, and your wonderful facility, it would
be just another star gaze for us. Thanks also for providing the sandwiches,
drinks, and name tags as well as the beautiful setting and police security
that you provide at no cost to the visitors each year.
Images of this event are at http://www.auburnastro.org/aday_04.htm
April Star Party
Alan Cook, Mack Acheson, Russell Whigham, Paul
Williamson, Susanna Fullingham, Casey Curry, Everett Leonard, Andy &
Rebecca Camerio, Jim McLaughlin, and John Tatarchuk.
Gerald Many, a neighbor of Cliff Hill’s, brought a friend and his
granddaughters out to look through the telescopes. Crystal clear
skies and mild temperatures made for a perfect evening. We especially enjoyed
viewing the huge globular cluster Omega Centaurii skitter along the southern
Georgia Sky View
Date: May 21 - 23, 2004
Location: Camp McIntosh (Indian Springs State
Park), Jackson, GA
If you’ve missed the spring star parties since
the Atlanta Astronomy Club changed the time and place of the Peach State
Star Gaze to Tennessee in the fall, you’re in luck. The Flint River
Astronomy Club has picked up where AAC left off by is hosting the Georgia
Sky View. If you’ve never been, the facilities are very good.
One warning -- as this is the first such event for FRAC, they have limited
registration to 75 people, so that they won’t be overwhelmed while working
out the finer points of hosting a regional star party. From our group,
Ray Kunert and Eddie Kirkland (perhaps others) are going.
I didn’t know about this event last November when I had to pick my vacation
days for 2004, so the best I can do is to show up late Friday night or
Saturday morning. Here’s hoping that this is the first of many to
A. L. Observing
Jim McLaughlin, M.D.
got my Lunar Club certificate from the Astronomical League last month and
have sent off for the forms for several other of their observing programs
which I'll be glad to share with the club. I'm rather conditioned to respond
to criteria such as they spell out as a result of my professional training,
so I may go for some more certificates, we'll see when I get back what
I sent off for.
The observing forms can be downloaded from:
Transit of Venus
-- JUNE 8, 2004
Joe Albree, Department of Mathematics, AUM
Transit of Venus is not one of the heaven’s more spectacular events, but
it is so rare an occurrence that no one alive today has ever seen
exactly is it? When the Sun, Venus and the Earth are in perfect alignment,
Venus will appear to trace a path across the disk of the Sun. If
Venus were only bigger, as seen from the Earth, this would be an eclipse.
Instead, Venus appears as only a black dot on the Sun’s face. Over
a period of up to nine hours, Venus’ shadow will move from one side of
the Sun’s disk to the other — it will transit the face of the Sun.
1716, Edmund Halley (1656-1742) [“A new Method of determining the Parallax
of the Sun, or his Distance from the Earth,” Philosophical Transactions
of the Royal Society, vol. 29] first described how to use several carefully
timed observations of a Transit of Venus from different locations on Earth
to obtain what we now call the A.U., the Astronomical Unit. (Halley’s
original paper is available online through NASA’s Transit site; see below.)
In outline, the procedure was direct: calculate the Sun’s parallax from
the multiple observations of the Transit’s ingress and egress; find the
distance between the Earth and Venus at the time of the Transit; and then
finally use this distance in Kepler’s Third Law to calculate the distance
between the Earth and the Sun at this time.
went on to confirm the “schedule” of Transits of Venus. Johannes
Kepler (1571-1630) had predicted but did not live to see the Transits of
December 7, 1631, and December 4, 1639. Halley predicted the Transits
of June 6, 1761, and June 3, 1769, knowing that he would not live long
enough to see either of them. However, because of Halley’s paper
(and because of his stature), the 1761 Transit stimulated the world’s first
large-scale, multi-national scientific endeavor, and in 1769, the scientific
efforts were even greater. Practical results, however, were somewhat
disappointing due to the weather, politics, and other contingencies.
next Transits of Venus occurred on December 9, 1874, and December 6, 1882.
As we can see, these Transits come in pairs, the Transits in each pair
separated by almost exactly 8 years, and the pairs themselves separated
by either approximately 122 years or 105 years.
Alabama on June 8, 2004, the Transit of Venus will be in progress at sunrise,
5:37AM CDST in Montgomery. Depending on the how much the horizon
deviates from the ideal, we should be able to begin observing the transit
shortly thereafter. The transit will end about 6:26AM CDST. (If you
want to plan ahead, in Alabama, we should be able to observe all of the
June 5, 2012 Transit of Venus!) The AUM departments of mathematics
and physical sciences would like to join forces in some way with the Auburn
Astronomical Society to view the Transit of Venus on the morning of June
for vast amounts of information and links to NASA and other pertinent sites.
Joe Albree, Department of Mathematics, AUM. May 1, 2004
Joe is planning to visit with us at the May
meeting to discuss his plans for viewing the transit, possibly from atop
AUM’s library tower. I hope it goes without saying that only a safe
solar filter or projection method be used to observe this rare event.
Hope to see everyone at the meeting,