Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
In this Issue
This month’s meeting will be on Friday, July 9, 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 Saturday,
July 10 at Cliff
Hill’s farm.. We actually have two good weekends this month.
The above has Moonrise at 2:00AM, which won’t be a problem for most of
us. The following weekend June 16/17, will also be an option.
Surely we can get at least one good night out of the four.
Considering the hour of the day and that it fell in the middle of a work week for most of us, little serious thought (and no planning) had been put into organizing a group meeting for this historic event. That was before we were contacted by Mr. Joe Albree of the Department of Mathematics at Auburn University at Montgomery. Joe teaches the History of Mathematics course at AUM and saw this as on opportunity to have his class experience first-hand, the kind of event that was used to determine the Astronomical Unit – the distance from the Sun to Earth that they had studied. Joe called to ask us if we would be interested in sharing our solar filtered telescopes with his math class. Just like Blanche Dubois, we’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers. We jumped at the opportunity.
Joe had selected a site on the top floor of AUM’s Library Tower. Originally, Joe had sought the availability of the roof of the AUM Library Tower, but learned that WSFA’s Weather Radar was putting out dangerous levels of RF energy up there. Plan “B” was the The East Room -- a large conference room located on the tenth floor. Ray Kunert visited the room and reported, as Joe told us at the May meeting, that although the windows in the room 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 posed no problem with the Sun’s image when focused at infinity. This minor problem was more than offset by being able to enjoy the event in the comfort of air conditioning!
On the day of the event, I arrived at AUM at 4:30AM. Several people were already set up in the room on the tenth floor of the AUM Library Tower. Venus would be nearing the end of her transit at sunrise in Montgomery on June 8, 2004 at 05:33. The Sun rose at 62 degrees azimuth into a bank of clouds on our otherwise unobstructed northeastern horizon, and spoiled the first several minutes of the event. Venus then teased us like and exotic dancer, with sneak peeks between the veil of clouds until about 15 minutes before she exited, stage right. The atmosphere in the room where we were gathered was one of quiet ecstasy during the transit. Everyone had a good view at one time or another as we took turns at the telescopes. At the end, we gave her a round of applause and a curtain call , but there was no encore -- not for another 8 years anyway. It was a truly memorable experience.
Ray Kunert observed chromatic aberration
(red tinge on one side of the image – blue on the other side) above and
below Venus with his 10-inch Meade SCT. We mused over why this might
be as the phenomenon had never been seen in this instrument before.
Subsequently, we read numerous reports of this on astronomy mail lists.
The consensus seemed to be that it was atmospheric chromatic aberration
and that it was more pronounced when seen using larger apertures.
Others observed the event from various locations in our area:
Gail Smitherman, Selma: I got to see a smidge of the end of the Venus transit through the tree limbs [in Selma]. Enough to say I saw it!!!!
Wayne Padgett, Cliff Hill's Farm: I will be in Auburn Tuesday morning, visiting my parents (Tom and Mary Lou Padgett). I am considering trying to visit Cliff Hill's farm to view the transit. If you hear of a location closer to town that others will use, I'd love to hear about it. I'll be able to check my email while traveling, so please let me know. Thanks. -Wayne Padgett
[When was asked to tell us about himself, Wayne replied:]
I grew up and got my B.E.E in Auburn, and my parents are still there (here, at the moment). My father, Tom Padgett is a former director of the the Co-op Program, and big into ballroom dancing. Rhon Jenkins knows them from dance class, and I know he has a telescope. I have a very small telescope, but I've been working to get the kids into astronomy so I can get a bigger one. :)
I built a homemade little solar projector so I can do sunspot watching with the kids during the day - the web page is the first hit on Google for 'cheap solar projector'. I haven't finished putting up my best images from it (not very good) or the math to figure the length of the tube from the lens and screen spacings.
I guess I'll try to find Hill's farm in the morning (maybe I'll run out there today to see if I can find it in daylight first).
Later, Wayne reported: My father and I went out to the farm, and we saw Mr. Hill, who came out to chat for a minute. There were low clouds, so the sun wasn't visible until about 6 am, but when it came up over the clouds, it was still before 3rd contact. My homemade scope worked well, and I got some pictures and video of the transit on it. Neither device was easy to focus on the projected image, so all my records are a bit blurry compared to what I saw, but the venus shadow is clearly visible (just not sharp-edged). I will put up some of the photos on the cheap solar projector page soon.
I was disappointed nobody else showed up, but I guess they found easier places to see the sunrise from. Mr. Hill came back by as we packed up and looked at the video I took on the camcorder. So, thanks for having a nice place to go and look from.
Jim McLaughlin, Gulf Shores:
I was in 6/8 and a bank of clouds on the eastern horizon blocked
the sun til about 6AM, at which point I estimate Venus was within 2 diameters
of egress. Saw first contact with the limb at egress with a slight "teardrop"
effect and last contact but views were interupted by scattered clouds,
but it was worthwhile seeing planetary orbital motion in real time.
Joe Albree: Thanks to all of you in the Auburn Astronomical Society for making last Tuesday really special. I know that the students and faculty who we did have there benefited from having all of you there also. With the death of President Reagan last week, I believe the coverage that the Transit would have gotten was probably scaled back in most newspapers and TV stations. But, how many events from that day 122 years ago (even those that made the front pages of all the newspapers) are still remembered? Without meaning any disrespect to Mr. Reagan or expressing any political partianship, in the long view of history, I think we arguably had an event that was at least as newsworthy.
We are looking forward to Frank Williams' photos also, and I hope to post some of them on our bulletin board. I'm confident that he would welcome publication of some of them in "Astrofiles." I've forwarded your note to him.
Thanks to all who pitched in. Attending were: Paul Williamson, Susanna Fillingham, Casey Curran, Mark McGregor, Robert West and grandson Tom Mooneyham, Rhon & Joyce Jenkins, Rod Havens, Robert Rock, John Clifton, Russell Whigham, Ray Kunert, Mike Holley, Taylor Jernigan, Ricky Woods - Math Club President, Randy Russell – AUM Astronomy Professor, Jack and Gina Franz & family. And finally, special thanks to Joe Albree – Math Professor and event organizer, for making this happen.
Last month we asked for suggestions on how to spend some of the clubs treasury. With a budget surplus of just over $1,000 in the society’s bank account. Some suggestions for how to spend the money were:
AAS Shirts ($25.00 each)
At our June meeting, we discussed each of the suggestions. The LCD projector and SLOOH subscription were were eliminated as being the least cost effective. Receiving thumbs-up were:
At our June meeting someone asked how many hits
our Web page received. Since the first crude AAS pages made their
Web presence premier in June 1996 and the conversion to "Frames" in July,
1999, I’ve always been amazed at the number of visitors we have.
The table below is for the past 12 months:
The table below lists the most popular pages in
June 2004, which is fairly typical of other months:
* These pages are
all associated with the Title page. These get a hit each time I access
the Web (2 – 3 times a day) since I have the AAS as my default page to
be sure all’s well there. Also inflating the totals are Web "spiderbots"
that look around for keywords. Discounting these, the most popular
pages (in June 2004) were:
1. Wetumpka Crater
For the past year:
· Total Hits 128,233
I traveled to the Microsoft Tech Ed conference in San Diego a few weeks back as part of my job. I went out early and visited Palomar Observatory. It just so happened that they had a tour group there at the time they opened the gate so I was able to tag along and we got the full inside tour which was great. The best part however was when the tour guide let us go outside on the railing that ran around the dome while it was being rotated.
The first thing we talked about was a large cement
disk that was half embedded in the ground just outside the observatory.
It served as the mirror and counter weight to test the telescope as they
prepared the real mirror. At the time the road up the mountain had still
not be completely finished for the mirror to be brought up on. Once it
was complete the mirror arrived and was installed and that was 1947. It
took twenty years from the start of planning to the completion of the observatory.
From John Zachry: Thought you would be interested: Next on NOVA: "Galileo's Battle for the Heavens" http://www.pbs.org/nova/galileo/ Broadcast: July 6, 2004 (NOVA airs Tuesday on PBS at 8 p.m.
Check your local listings as dates and times may vary.)
From David McConnell (via Sky & Telescope): ASTRONOMERS LAUNCH PRO-AM "REGISTRY"
The past decade has seen an explosion in the number of backyard observers using high-end equipment and sophisticated software to record faint asteroids, discover supernovae, and even detect extrasolar planets. So it's not surprising that many accomplished amateurs yearn to contribute directly to scientific research. Over the years many of them have sent observations to organizations like the American Association for Variable Star Observers and the International Occultation Timing Association. But for those who wanted to work one-on-one with a professional astronomer, the opportunities were few and far between.Powerpoint Presentations for Astronomy Clubs: This Web page is full of free PowerPoint presentations for local astronomy clubs. Permission to use them is encouraged too, in addition to a few other downloads of interest. Follow the link below:
Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,