Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
May, 2005

In this Issue

May Events Please Welcome…
AAS Shirts Upcoming Events
PST Availability Forest Preserve Star Gaze 
Astronomy Day 2005 Mars Express Radar
Star Ware 4 Reader Survey  Einsteinian Magnification Detected  


May Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, May 6, 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 dark-sky star party this month will be on the following Saturday, May 7, at Cliff Hill’s farm.  If you have Mother’s Day weekend plans that don’t include a star party, consider attending the combined AAS Star Party / Forest Preserve Star Gaze on Saturday, May 14. (See below)

Please Welcome…

Please join me in welcoming: W. Glynn Alexander, Montgomery;  Lisa Spencer,  Daleville, AL;  and Patrick O. Moylan, Prattville.  We look forward to many clear nights under the stars together.

AAS members John Tatarchuk, Scott Thompson, Ricky Wood, Brent Holman,  and Dave McConnell have also returned to the fold.  This brings our current membership to twenty-nine.

AAS Shirts

Scott Thompson has volunteered to place our order for the AAS Shirts. It would be prudent to act ASAP to ensure delivery of your shirt.   It will probably be a couple of years before we do this again.  Be sure that you are current with your membership dues if you want a shirt.  We'll collect applications for the shirts and the checks and give Scott the "go-ahead" to place the order at the meeting this Friday.

From Scott Thompson: 

Cross Creek Shirt Style 3845 Premium Pique Sport Shirt with Jacquard Knit Trim 
Made from 100% COMBED ring-spun cotton single knit pique. Garment 
washed. Jacquard knit collar and cuffs. Two-button contrast 
continental placket with woodtone buttons. Vented side seams. Extended 

$25.00 with AAS LOGO FOR S, M, L, XL 
$27.00 with AAS LOGO FOR 2X 
$28.00 with AAS LOGO FOR 3X 
To have your NAME embroidered is an additional $2.00  How do you want your name to appear? __________________________ 

Add 8% sales tax 

1) Select from the options above 
2) Calculate the total amount, and 
3) Make your checks payable to "Auburn Astronomical Society".  
4) Bring your check to the meeting.
5) If you’re unable to attend the meeting, mail your order and check to our AAS treasurer and be sure that it’s in his hands by Friday.

Auburn Astronomical Society 
c/o John B. Zachry               
501 Summerfield Road 
West Point, GA 31833 

Upcoming Events 

May 6, AAS Meeting
May 7, Star Party at Cliff Hill’s farm.  
May 6-May 8, 2005, Georgia Sky View, Indian Springs GA 
May 14th, Combined AAS Star Party / Forest Preserve Star Gaze 
June 3, Meeting
June 4, Star Party
September, AAS 25-year Anniversary Celebration

PST Availability

Mike Holley has the PST.  No one has requested the scope for May, so Rhon asked Mike just to hang onto it.  We do have one reservation in June, but if you’d like to use in May, contact Rhon or Mike.  There’s been a huge sunspot  display for the past few days.

Forest Preserve Star Gaze 
Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest 
Saturday, May 14

Margaret Holler and the members of her forest preserve group have invited us back to the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest for a star gaze.  The first time we tried, the weather was most uncooperative.  Only a smattering of dedicated AAS members were available under mostly misty skies.  We’re trying again and hoping the sky will behave this time.  Event coordinator, and AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, writes:

Margaret has already sent out flyers announcing a 7:30PM start time.  I think that sunset is between 7:30 and 8:00.  I think our folks should plan on getting there around 7:00 or so to get set up and greet the inevitable early birds.  I plan on getting there around 6:45 (but then it's only 3 minutes from my house).  

Below is Rhon’s description of the venue:

The Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest  is on Moore’s Mill Road (near where we live).  I can honestly say that it’s probably the nicest site (from the standpoint of amenities) that we’ve ever used for an event like this... including the planetarium in Montgomery.  The site is about 1/3 mile off the road (Moores Mill) on a very accessible dirt/grass road.  It contains a nice open area (about 3 to 4 acres) for viewing, with good visibility to the east and south, acceptable viewing to the west, and Auburn city lights to the north :-).  There is a covered pavilion area (I’d guess about 40 ft by 60 ft) and restrooms for the guys and gals.  It has power and lights, and the lights are on switches.  There are a couple of floods on the pavilion exterior;  I think we can switch them off too... Margaret is going to check on that with AU.  I think that we can throw a circuit breaker as a last resort.  I couldn’t get on the property at night, but I’m pretty sure there are no other extraneous lights.  The road, and a residence near the road, are definitely well shielded by trees.  Oh, and there’s a nice parking area for visitors too. 
Directions to Mary Olive Thomas Forest:

For those familiar with Auburn:  on Moore’s Mill Road, one mile east of the Ogletree Village shopping center ... on the north side of the road.  There will be a sign at the gate.  The shopping center is at the intersection of Moores Mill Road and Ogletree-Hamilton road.  This intersection is east of Dean Road, on Moores Mill.

For those coming from out of town:  take exit 58 off I-85 (Tigertown exit) south (away from Tigertown).  This exit road takes a curve toward the east and, approximately 0.7 miles after you get off the interstate, intersects Society Hill Road (runs north-south).  It's a fairly large intersection, so it'll be hard to miss.  If you were to continue straight through the intersection, you'd 
end up in a clump of trees about 1/2 mile later, so it's probably best to turn right (south again) on Society Hill.  Approximately 3.2 miles later, Society Hill intersects Moores Mill at a flashing red light.  There's a convenience store called the LAZ-B at this intersection.  Turn right on Moores Mill.  The gate will be about 0.9 mile on the right.

Activities are supposed to begin at 7:30, but the gate will be open before sunset. 

[Editor’s Note:  This sounds like a lovely opportunity for a picnic supper.  Why not bring your family or a friend with you?]

Astronomy Day 
W. A. Gayle Planetarium, Saturday, April 16, 2005

Each spring, planeteria and astronomical societies across the nation and around the world celebrate the joys of astronomy with the public.  The Auburn Astronomical Society and the staff of the W. A. Gayle Planetarium in Montgomery, have established a cordial and symbiotic relationship that brings together the best of both worlds for the public.  The wonderful facilities at the planetarium are complemented by the hardware and collective knowledge of amateur astronomers.

The conditions were near perfect for our eighth annual event -- absolutely clear blue skies, and temperatures in the mid-seventies, with a nice breeze.  We had the largest number of telescopes available for the visitors since we’ve been working with Rick Evans and the staff of the W. A. Gayle Planetarium.

The day began with solar viewing at 3:00PM.  Rick had the planetarium’s Coronado Solar Max-40 hydrogen-alpha light scope set up next to the AAS Coronado PST H-alpha scope. Mike Holley arrived early and was helpful to all of the guests who observed the Sun.  Mike’s daughter, Taylor, had artfully prepared a poster detailing the solar features visible and the inner workings of our Sun, to help the visitors understand what they were seeing in the eyepiece.  Other members and friends had traditional solar filters mounted on their scopes as a contrast.  Visitors were also treated to preview glimpses of the first quarter Moon in the daytime sky.

The following people gave of their time, talents, and telescopes, to help with our Astronomy Day activities.   

• Alan & Susie Cook, 10-inch LX-50 SCT
• Mike Holley  ETX-70 refractor and AAS’s PST
• Taylor Jernigan, Meade ETX-125 Mak-Cass 
• Ray Kunert, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT
• Chuck Lewis, 10-inch LX-200 GPS SCT
• Dave McConnell, 8-inch LX 50 SCT
• Tom McGowan 8-inch Homemade Reflector 
• Jim McLaughlin, Meade 8-inch LX200
• Patrick Moylan, Meade ETX-125 Mak-Cass
• Allen Screws, 8-inch Dobsonian
• Gail Smitherman, 127mm Maksutov
• Scott Thompson 7-inch Astro-Physics refractor
• John Tatarchuk 18-inch Obsession Dobsonian
• Robert Rock, Meade ETX 90 Maksutov 
• Robert L. West, 3-inch reflector.
• Russell Whigham, 11-inch f/10 SCT
• Paul and Michele Williamson, 120mm f/5 refractor

AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, circulated among the visitors to make everyone feel welcome, helped with the telescope clinic, and  represented the society during the part of the program in the auditorium, when Rick acknowledged the AAS.  We were able to help visitors who were having problems with their telescopes, notably one guest who drove all the way up from the Wiregrass area to get help with a recalcitrant clock drive of a vintage reflector.

At 6:00 PM - guest speaker, Dr. David T. King Jr. gave a presentation in the auditorium, on the Wetumpka Meteor Crater, followed by  Rick’s presentation:  a "Tour of the Night Sky", that began at 7:00 PM, to give an overview of what the guests would see when they see when they stepped outside.  Following the “Tour”, Rick presented a tribute to the crews shuttles Challenger and Columbia.  Wrapping up the indoor portion of the day’s activities were the door prize selections.

By 8:00 PM when the guests exited the auditorium, the sky was dark enough for them to  view the planets Saturn, its rings and retinue of moons; Jupiter with its Galilean moons and prominent bands; and the mountains and craters of the Moon. The guests seemed delighted with their views through the telescopes.  Several signed up to be included on the AAS e-mail list.
John Zachry drove all the way from West Point GA and had prepared an extensive list of satellite passages for our guests to observe.

Other AAS members and friends present were:  Susanna Fillingham, Brent Holman, Marty & Duane Skelton, Ricky WoodWayne Baker, Jeff Graves, Nichole Long, Dale Harrison, John Howard, and keynote speaker, David T. King Jr.  It was great to see many folks we haven’t see for a long time.  Thanks to all for your support.

And finally, special thanks to Rick Evans, who consistently handles the publicity, provides the Subway sandwiches and drinks for us, makes name tags for the AAS volunteers and otherwise makes the event the success that it is each year.  See the Astronomy Day 2005 Web page or from the AAS navigational menu, select “Field Trips”/”W.A. Gayle Planetarium Events”/”Astronomy Day 2005”. 

Green Light For Deployment Of ESA's Mars Express Radar 
John Zachry saw this story on the European Space Agency's website and thought you would like to see it.

ESA PR 08-2005. The European Space Agency has given the green light for the MARSIS radar on board its Mars Express spacecraft to be deployed during the first week of May. Assuming that this operation is successful, the radar will finally start the search for subsurface water reservoirs and studies of the Martian ionosphere.
Read more:

Star Ware 4 Reader Survey 
From: Phil Harrington

I've been given the go-ahead for the book's fourth edition!  Right now, I am poring through web sites, company literature, and pretty much anything I  can get my hands on to come up with a working list of equipment to include.  As if I didn't know it already, there is a lot of stuff out there!

This is where you come in.  In the third edition of Star Ware, as in the previous two, readers are invited to send in their impressions of their astronomical equipment, listing both good and bad points.  What do you think of your telescope, binoculars, eyepieces, and other accessories?  Are they good?  Are they lousy?  I want to know!  I am especially interested in new equipment -- that is, anything that has been introduced since the 2002 publication of the book's third edition.

I would be extremely grateful if you took a moment to complete my Star Ware Reader Survey.   There is an on-line form version available at .  

As before, I'll keep every survey to reference when I sit down and begin the task of revising the book's reviews.  And please include your e-mail address, just in case I need to contact you for further information.  Rest assured that you will not receive ANY junk mail as a result of including your address, nor will your name EVER be given to a telescope manufacturer or dealer.  This survey goes no farther than my hard drive. 

Thanks, as always, for your support!  And I will certainly keep posting updates about the book as the manuscript develops.  Right now, it is looking like an early 2007 release.

Philip S. Harrington

Einsteinian Magnification Detected On A Grand Scale
Dr. Michael Strauss, Princeton University

 Ninety years ago, Albert Einstein published his greatest breakthrough,  his General Theory of Relativity.  It was a complete reinterpretation  of the nature of gravity, explaining it as a consequence of the  distortion of spacetime by mass.  The theory gained general acceptance  four years later, when observations of stars during a solar eclipse  showed them to be slightly displaced by the effects of the Sun's mass,  exactly as Einstein had predicted.

   Astronomers have now seen this 'gravitational lensing' effect on a  grand scale.  Consider a distant quasar, 10 billion light years away,  whose light passes close to a foreground galaxy.  General relativity  predicts that the light of the quasar is slightly focused by the mass  of the galaxy, appearing just a little bit brighter than it would  otherwise.  Thus one predicts that on average, quasars which appear close on the sky to galaxies be slightly brighter than normal quasars,  and slightly further apart from each other than they otherwise would  be.  It is a subtle effect, a few percent at most in the brightness,  and thus requires an enormous sample of quasars and galaxies to  detect.  Indeed, it is only possible now with the Sloan Digital Sky  Survey, a massive census of the heavens in which Princeton University  is playing a leading role.  Gordon Richards, a researcher here at  Princeton, and his colleagues developed techniques for selecting  hundreds of thousands of quasars from the survey images.  With such a  large sample, the subtle effect predicted by Einstein 90 years ago is  apparent, at just the level expected.  Indeed, in addition to being a  beautiful confirmation of Einstein's ideas fifty years after his  death, it allows astronomers to determine the masses of the galaxies,  dark matter and all.  And the results show once again, that the vast  majority of the mass in the universe is indeed dark.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting and star party,