Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
June, 2004

In this Issue

June Events Transit of Venus
Shopping Spree Georgia Sky View 2004
May Star Party at Cliff Hill’s Farm Ham Radio-Carrying Rocket
Lunar Transient Phenomena Research Program  

June Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, June 4, 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.

June 8, Transit of Venus (see below).

Our star party this month will be on Friday/Saturday, June 11/12 at Cliff Hill’s farm.  We actually have two good weekends this month.  The above has Moonrise at 2:00 or 3:00AM, which won’t be a problem for most of us.  The following weekend June  18/19, will also be an option.  Surely we can get at least one good night out of the four.

Transit of Venus

When and Where: Venus will be nearing the end of its transit at sunrise in Auburn on June 8, 2004 at 05:33.   Montgomery residents will get to sleep for four more minutes that morning, where sunrise will be at 05:37.  Since we’ll be nearing the Summer Solstice, The Sun will be at 62 degrees (0 degrees is North, 90 degrees is East) when it clears your unobstructed eastern horizon.  If you don’t have a good horizon in your back yard, you have a couple of options.  For the Auburn folks, the western end of Cliff Hill’s runway should be very good.  If someone has planned a public viewing, or found a better place closer to town, let me know where and I’ll get the word out.

In Montgomery, we’ve been asked to share our solar filtered telescopes with Joe Albree’s AUM math class on the tenth floor of AUM’s Library Tower.  Volunteers from our group so far are Paul Williamson, Susanna Fillingham, Robert West, Mack Acheson, John Clifton, Russell Whigham, and Ray Kunert.  If you want to join us there, you’ll to let Joe know so that he can have your name on the list for the security guard.  The East Room is a large conference room located near the elevators, so it should be easy to find.  Ray has visited the room and reports, as Joe told us at the May meeting, that although the windows are recessed, viewing to the northeast will be good.  The windows have permanent blinds (adjustable tilt, but not “raisable") within the double panes, but they should pose no problem with the Sun’s image when focused at infinity.  This minor problem should be more than offset by being able to enjoy the event in the comfort of air conditioning!

Here are links to maps that will help you get to the AUM Library Tower:
The Library Tower is the only ten story building on campus.  Most folks will enter the parking lot from the Taylor Road entrance.  If your telescope is too heavy to carry across the parking lot, contact Joe Albree, , for directions to the loading dock.

Safety:  Shade #13 or #14 welders shades are deemed safe but most welding supply houses do not keep shades this dark in stock. 

You can find information on the safety aspects of solar observing and a list of filter suppliers at:
Draco Productions

If you plan to photograph or video the event, you can practice by using the full Moon on June 3, as your practice target to achieve a good image size and white balance.  Use the same filters for imaging the Sun as for visual use.  If you video, see if your camcorder has a time lapse feature, say 1 second exposure every 15 seconds,  to make your movie more dynamic.

AAS Shopping Spree

AAS treasurer, John Zachry, reports a budget surplus of just over $1,000 in the society’s bank account.  Some suggestions for how to spend the money are:

AAS Shirts ($25.00 each) We’ve been nickeling and diming Ricky Wood every year with orders for one or two AAS shirts.  A proposal has been made to order a dozen or so in an assortment of sizes to make them more readily available for new members.

LCD projector ($1000 +) for Power Point and astronomical software presentations.

SLOOH ($50 - $100 per year) Subscription to time on a C-14 telescope in the Canary Islands)  If we opt for this, we’ll need a volunteer to coordinate it.

Solar prominence telescope (to be used for school and other public events) such as the Coronado Personal Solar Telescope ($500)

Chrome “barefoot” accelerator pedal ($8.00) for Rhon’s Corvette. 

OK, just kidding about that one, but bring your other ideas and suggestions to the June meeting for discussion.

Georgia Sky View 2004

On the weekend of May 21/22, the Flint River Astronomy Club hosted their first “Georgia Sky View” at Camp McIntosh on the grounds of  Indian Springs State Park near Jackson, GA.  By doing so, they filled a void in the southeast regional star party calendar that was created when the Atlanta Astronomy Club changed their regional “Peach State Star Gaze” from the spring to the fall and relocated in the Tennessee mountains.  Thanks to the members of FRAC, we now have a regional spring event nearby once again.

Because it was their first such event, they wisely limited the number of attendees to 75.  I was able to make the cut as late as the weekend before, so few if any were turned away because of the limit.  I was only able to attend on Saturday.  It’s a three hour drive from Montgomery – just over two from Auburn.  Ray Kunert and Eddie Kirkland arrived on Friday and had already staked the AAS claim on the eastern side of the observing field.  It was unseasonably hot, making the shade from Eddie’s canopy very much appreciated.  The field was well populated with telescopes, but not to the point of being crowded.  We passed the afternoon visiting, inspecting the telescopes on the field, and attending the presentations and door-prize drawings in the auditorium.  Ray has become the official “AAS door prize winner” at regional star parties which entitled him to chauffeur Eddie and I, to The Plantation Steak House, in Jackson, for an early dinner. 

We returned to mostly cloudy skies, as was the case for most of the previous evening.  Because of the heat, I had deferred setting up my telescope until after sunset.  As darkness fell, it was still partly to mostly cloudy with no hint of clearing.  So, the C-11 never was never set up and I had become a “telescope bum”.   By 10:00PM  temperature had dropped to a comfortable level and there was enough clear sky have a good look at comet NEAT with my 15x70 binoculars. I later to stayed busy finding myriad deep-sky objects with the binoculars as well as in Eddie’s 16-inch and Ray’s 10-inch.   By 01:30, fatigue was beginning to set in, so I headed for the bunkhouse, happy that I had made the trip.

Camp McIntosh is a well maintained facility and the skies surprisingly dark considering its location midway between Atlanta and Macon.  The event was very well organized with very nice door-prizes, and good programs and speakers.  The observing field had been mown, with active ant beds having recently been treated.  Event organizers made a conscience effort to group friends and fellow club members together. The field was well marked off to maximize its usage.  The rules were simple and based on common sense courtesies.  A much appreciated touch was the sausage & biscuits and cinnamon rolls made available at midnight on the field.  Everyone was friendly and made us feel right at home.

Thanks to Steve and Dawn Knight, event coordinators, for their time and efforts, and to all of the other FRAC members who worked so hard, to make the first GSV a huge success.  I hope that as soon as they recover from this year’s event, that they will see fit to make this an annual tradition.


Star Party at Cliff Hill’s Farm
Mack Acheson

I went up to the air field Saturday, afternoon for the star party. There was one other person there -- Lesa Leon, from Montgomery she had two telescopes. Thank goodness I brought my laptop I never would of found that comet NEAT!  That sure is a big comet, well if you had a big telescope to see it through! eheheehe.   We also looked at the planets, clusters and galaxies. The sky's cleared up good, I had some trouble with dew on my spotter scope but my baby Hubble was unaffected by it.

Ham Radio-Carrying Rocket Hopes To Reach Space
Submitted by, Robert West
Space Bulletin 007  ARLS007
From ARRL Headquarters

An amateur rocket team this month will attempt to send a 21-foot-tall rocket carrying a ham radio avionics package into the fringes of space. The launch by the Civilian Space Xploration Team (CSXT) could occur as early as Monday, May 17, from Black Rock Desert in Nevada. A CSXT try to reach space in 2002 ended some three seconds after launch when the rocket's engine exploded. Avionics Team Leader Eric Knight, KB1EHE, says CSXT has since rebounded from that devastating blow with a newer, bigger vehicle.

''We are very pumped,'' the Connecticut amateur told ARRL. ''Our confidence level grows with each launch. All the ingredients are there for success.'' Knight's avionics team includes eight Amateur Radio licensees, most of whom also were involved in the 2002 launch attempt. The entire CSXT team, headed by CSXT founder and Program Director -- and former Hollywood stunt man -- Ky Michaelson of Minnesota, has 18 members.

In terms of Amateur Radio, the GoFast rocket, named for a corporate sponsor, will transmit telemetry on the 33-cm amateur band and Amateur TV at 2.4 GHz using a high-quality color camera. The avionics also incorporate multiple global positioning system (GPS) units to record the vehicle's precise location and flight path, redundant data acquisition and storage systems, and a variety of data sensors.

Once the rocket goes up, appropriately equipped amateurs may be able to receive signals from the approximately 2 W transmitters onboard, even at some distance from the launch site, Knight says. Specific frequencies have not yet been selected, however. In addition, the team may set up an HF station at the launch site.

Knight says the avionics crew even salvaged a few electronic components for the 2004 launch from the 2002 avionics package, which continued to function flawlessly until the rocket crashed into the desert.

Plans call for the solid-fuel rocket to zip upward from the desert floor and reach a speed of more than 4000 MPH in about 9 seconds.  Assuming all goes well, the suborbital vehicle will, on its own momentum, attain an altitude of 100 km or 62 statute miles—high enough to be considered ''space''--linger there for a couple of minutes then arc back to Earth some 26 miles down range. The whole thing will take somewhat less than a half-hour, Knight says. If successful it would mark the first amateur rocket launch into space.

Knight is optimistic that the team has gained valuable knowledge from its past failures. ''We've learned a lot that you can't get from a textbook,'' he said. ''We feel we have a chance to make history.''

There's more information on the CSXT Web site, .

(608) 837-6054 
 I am sending this letter to inform you for the need for lunar observers. They are needed to participate in a global effort to monitor the Moon for Lunar Transient Phenomena.  Lunar Transient Phenomena is short lived changes detected on the Moon and can consist of glows, flashes, darkening of lunar features and red and blue color phenomena. My goal is to coordinate and combine the talents and efforts of the professional and amateur astronomical community from around the world to monitor the Moon during upcoming spacecraft missions to the Moon. This concerted effort will be to assist all observers who choose to participate with the latest information about lunar transient phenomena and the latest information on reported events. There will also be coordinated observing programs to examine the behavior of historical lunar transient phenomena sites under similar lighting conditions. 

This L. T. P. Research web site will also be an effective tool for observers with similar interests to communicate with each other concerning their own study of this phenomena and to present ideas on other lunar topics by utilizing the Internet and email as a cost effective conduit.

The primary function though is to attempt to establish a world wide network of observers that can be contacted when a lunar transient phenomena event takes place. Due to cost involved the use of Internet can be extremely effective and allow almost immediate notification to observers all over the world. Also being part of this network will help people learn of other observers within their region who also share an interest in this phenomena. 

I have had the pleasure of establishing and running two major ground based operations in coordination with the Clementine mission and the Lunar Prospector mission. With both of these programs I had about 150 observers in many different countries participate with great success. What I did not have was a WEB Site to allow more interaction with the observers and have the ability to post the latest information about recently observed phenomena. The information about these two mission is located on my web page under Past Ground Based Observing Programs.

It is generally expected that observers participating with this program would have a background in lunar observing. This is very helpful but should not discourage the newcomer to lunar observing. I have established a manual for frequently asked questions about how to observe and document lunar transient phenomena. Also there are many books on lunar observing that have been published that will assists the observer in a better understanding of this subject. 

You are probably wondering what is this going to cost you. In the form of money nothing. I require no dues or fees for your participation. I only require that you observe, document, and submit observations. The time commitment to the program is up to you. There are generally four levels of participation. The first level is to just monitor the Moon whenever out observing and if you detect something unusual you submit a report and if possible activate the lunar transient phenomena network to attempt to get a confirmation. The second level is to systematically observe selected features on the Moon monitoring them for any changes or abnormal appearance. The third level is to participate in coordinated observing sessions of a specific lunar feature, recording and documenting what is observed during that observing window and submitting your reports to be evaluated and analyzed. The fourth level would be to monitor the Moon during a space mission to the Moon. Presently there are no missions at the Moon. The Lunar Prospector was the last and the observations from that have been posted on my web page under Past Ground Based Observing Programs. Future missions on the drawing table are the Smart 1 by the European Space Agency, planned arrival to the Moon in December 2004, and the Lunar A to be launched in 2004 or 2005 by the Japanese Space Agency. Both of these missions I have contacted the Principle Investigator and they have endorsed our participation by monitoring the Moon during their time in orbit around the Moon. The third mission called Lunarsat will happen in 2005 and is by the European Space Agency. The fourth mission on the table is again by the Japanese and is called Selene and expected to launch in 2004 or 2005. There is also a private company called Trans Orbital which is planning a Moon shot to conduct live video and high resolution imaging of the lunar surface, December 2004. This mission will only last for three months. Those who decide to participate with the program at what ever level you chose will be kept informed by monthly newsletters and updates being placed onto the LTPRESEARCH web site. 

If you want to become a part of this international program click on the my web site and complete the registration form and join the great adventure.

Thank you for taking the time for reading this request and I hope to hear from you soon.

My Web Site is: you then go to Observer Registration and complete the form.

Thank You.

David O. Darling 
Association of Lunar & Planetary Observers & British Astronomical Association, Assistant 
Lunar Transient Phenomena Recorder

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,