Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
June, 2005

In this Issue

June Events AAS Shirts
Upcoming Events Forest Preserve Star Gaze 
AAS 25-year Anniversary Celebration Dark Skies in Conecuh National Forest
Space News  


June Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, June 3, 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, June 4, at  Cliff Hill’s farm.  

AAS Shirts

John Zachry has sent the AAS shirts orders to Scott Thompson for:  Patrick Moylan, Lisa Spencer, Ray Kunert, David McConnell, Mike Holley, Charles Lewis, Will Baugh, and Olivia Baugh.  We’ll let you know when you can pick them up as soon as we receive them.  Thanks again to Scott for handling this for us and to John for compiling and sending Scott the orders.

Upcoming Events 

June 3, AAS Meeting
June 4, Star Party at Cliff Hill’s farm  
July 8, AAS Meeting – Note the deviation from the 1st Friday because of the holiday conflict
July 9, Star Party at Cliff Hill’s farm
August 5, AAS Meeting
August 6, Star Party at Cliff Hill’s farm
September, AAS 25-year Anniversary Celebration.  Date TBA

Forest Preserve Star Gaze 
Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest 

On Saturday, May 14, AAS members Rhon & Joyce Jenkins, Mike Holley, Russell Whigham, Allen & Christy Screws, Dave McConnell, and Eddie Kirkland met at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest for what we’ll either call a “return engagement” or a “make up for a rain date”.    Last November the weather did us in.  This time, it threatened to do the same, but we wound up the evening just before the clouds rolled in.  

Margaret Holler estimated that around 50 the members of her forest preserve group were in attendance for the star gaze.   We shared views of the near first quarter Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn with out hosts.  

As should be expected with all of the hi-tech gear we have, we did have one minor problem when Eddie’s primary instrument transport system suffered a catastrophic chemical-to-electrical energy conversion unit failure.  Fortunately, Eddie only lives a few miles from the site, so his wife brought her SUV for him to use.

Thanks to event coordinator, Rhon Jenkins, for his work to make this happen.  See photos under “Field Trips”/”Educational Outreach”/ “Mary Olive Thomas Forest Preserve” or at:

AAS 25-year Anniversary Celebration

Plans are in the making for the society’s 25-year anniversary celebration.  We haven’t decided on a date but, it will be on a Saturday to be determined in September at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium.  We are hoping to have the meal catered.  Rick Evans will provide the  tables and chairs, and Rhon is lining up our speaker.  We’ll let you know about the menu and cost of the meal as that information becomes available.

Dark Skies in Conecuh National Forest
From: "John Tatarchuk" <tatarjj(AT)> 

As you guys know, I have been looking for a very dark site within Alabama to observe from for a few years now. Well, when browsing the clear sky clock page for Alabama, I saw someone had put up a clock for Conecuh National Forest.  The light pollution map for the area can be found at:
Tom McGowan and I went down on Saturday, May 7th despite the hazy and cloudy conditions and had a great night.  It lies about 5 miles or so north of the Florida state line, due north of Eglin Air Force Base.  It is about a 3 hour drive from Auburn, and a 2 hour drive from Montgomery.   Tom and I got directions from an old, haggard fisherman at the county lake, who showed us to a small cleared strip along a dirt road.  The only light pollution dome was a very minor one in the northwest.  

Even under a hazy sky, the summer Milky Way was beautiful, and it was really a shame when the sky in the east started getting light after what seemed a very short night (time flies under dark skies!).  The Milky Way reminded me of views I had of it from the Nebraska star party. The North America nebula was plainly visible naked eye. The Great Sagittarius Star Cloud was extremely bright, and the handle of the pipe nebula (as well as the larger pipe part) could be plainly seen. M13 was a fairly easy naked eye object, as was M22. Our galaxy plainly appeared as a giant edge on galaxy, the bulge very clearly visible in Scorpius and Ophichus. If it weren't for the large amounts of haze causing a lot of atmospheric extinction, the Milky Way would have stretched from horizon to horizon. Even Tom (the former Arizonian) was impressed.

I estimate the limiting magnitude was around 6.5. People with even more acute vision than mine might be able to make it into the limiting magnitude 7 range.  And this was on a HAZY NIGHT!

Despite the relatively long drive time, you can bet your Naglers that I will be coming back every single clear new moon weekend I can.

The prospects of this site really excite me.  Just imagine what it will look like after a cold front sweeps through in the fall/winter!!!

See a more detailed account of John’s all-nighter at :

Space News
John B. Zachry

The current launch date for the Cosmos-1 Solar Sail spacecraft is June 21 at 2:46 CDT. Diameter of the solar sails will be 100 feet. Should be interesting to look for in the night sky.   

Hope to see everyone at the meeting and star party,