Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
February, 2006

In this Issue

February Events Upcoming Events
Maxwell Elementary Star Gaze Wetumpka Crater Lecture and Tour
Please Welcome… Loaner Scopes
2006 Membership Treasurer's Report
Rhon’s “Last Stand” Observatory, Part 2 "Magnificent Desolation"

February Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, February 3, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building.  If available parking space is still an issue, Rhon suggests trying the on-street parking on Wright St., the first street (north) off of W. Magnolia. 

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 Saturday, February 25, at Cliff Hill’s farm, clouds permitting of course. 

Upcoming Events

Maxwell AFB Star Gaze
Thursday, 2 Feb. 2006.
Maxwell AFB Elementary
800 Magnolia Blvd 
Maxwell AFB, AL 36112-6147
Organized by Major Aaron Wilson.
Cell  803-361-2932

2:30pm-4pm  Classroom telescope show-n-tell, and how to read a sky chart (for evening session).  They also have an inflatable Star-Lab planetarium that we might also use to help students prepare for their evening viewing.  Aaron Wilson will handle this, but assistance is always welcome!

4pm-5pm        Set-up telescopes in soccer field next to school. 

*** If you don’t have a military ID card, please let me know by 1 Feb.  I will meet you at the gate and sign you onto the base. 

Directions From 85W 

  1. Take ramp onto I-65N - go 0.6 mi 
  2. Take ramp toward N HOLT ST - go 0.1 mi  (Follow signs to Maxwell AFB using Herron Street Exit)
  3.  Follow ramp straight through 1st light.
  4.  Continue ~1/8 mile to 2nd light at the T-intersection with Bell St. 
  5.  Turn on left onto BELL ST. [AL-108] go 1.0 mi.  Stay in right lane, and watch for the Maxwell AFB visitor sign on right (Bell splits off and becomes Poplar taking you to the gate.
  6. Proceed to the gate guard they will direct you to the visitor center where I will meet you and sign you in. 

***IMPORTANT.  Please bring a valid drivers license, current car insurance and registration to get a temporary car pass.  Maj. Aaron Wilson will take care of remaining paper-work. 

5pm-~7:30pm            Observing session (WX dependent).  Light pollution limits our scope viewing to stars about mag 9.5 (with average seeing).  Head count not final, but estimate 20+ students Grades 3-6 , plus parents and/or siblings so perhaps 50 people total.

Ground crew:  Aaron Wilson, 8LX90.  Russell Whigham, C-11.  Pat Moylan, ETX90.  Bill Holt, 80mm Celestron.  Not sure if the clubs reflector is available, but between the four of us, I think we probably have enough. 

I did not see any power sources, so come with charged batteries.

Plan on the following objects:

o       Moon (quarter phase)
o       Mars 
o       M45
o       M42
o       Sirius
o       Saturn and M44 Beehive
o       We might be able to coax the fuzzy shape of M31, but obviously not optimal viewing)
o       Requests or other favorite objects, i.e.; double stars
o       Major visible Constellations (i.e.; Orion, Taurus, Pleiades, Cassiopeia, Ursa Major/Minor, Canis Major,
Canis Minor, Gemini)
I’m willing to stay later if we continue to have an interested crowd, but expect a final tear-down NLT 10pm.  Your schedule may require you to leave early that’s fine.

WX Plan:  Well make an early CX if the 24hr forecast is poor and reschedule for the next day (3 Feb, Friday).  We will have a green light if the weather is partly cloudy without high stratus/cirrus.  Any questions, please call Aaron's cell phone (803-361-2932), leave a voice message if I don’t pick up right away and Ill call you back.

Ms. Hill says the students are very excited and are looking forward to a fun, educational event! 

Let me know if you have any questions!


Wetumpka Meteor Crater Lecture and Tour

Dr. David T. King Jr. will give a lecture on his findings in the investigations of the Wetumpka  impact crater at the old Wetumpka Courthouse on Thursday, February 23, at 7:00 pm.  The lecture is open to the public. 

On the following Saturday, February 25, David will give Impact Crater Tours from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Tour times: 9am, 11am, and 1pm. Meet at Gold Star Park. You’ll have to sign up for the field trip by calling 334-567-9541. There is a $20.00 fee for the tour.

The new 68 page guidebooks will be for sale.  If someone wants one and is not going on the trip, contact David. 

Please Welcome…

Taylor Jernigan
Montgomery AL
E-mail:  Taylor(AT)TaylorJernigan(dot)com
Web Page URL:
Telescope:  Meade ETX 125 Maksutov
Area(s) of special interest:  Privatization of spaceflight and space tourism. I would also like to try my hand at astrophotography, and I enjoy taking my scope to public events where someone new may get interested in astronomy after looking through a telescope for the first time. 

AAS:   Are you a seasoned amateur astronomer or just getting into the hobby? 

TJ:  I'm a longtime space enthusiast, but I bought my first telescope just 4years ago. 

AAS:    What was your first experience that attracted you to astronomy? 

TJ:  My interest in space in general began during the Skylab missions when they showed video of the astronauts floating around inside Skylab. My interest in astronomy really began when I had to teach a regular class in astronomy at Space Camp in Huntsville. My first good telescope experience was in Arizona while taking part in an Astronomical Adventures tour. 

AAS.   Tell us a little about your family members; spouse? kids? siblings? significant other? 

TJ:  I am married to the former Mary-Aileen McLemore of Montgomery. We have two incredible sons. 

AAS:  Can you tell us a little about your formal education? 

TJ:  Graduated from Huntsville High School, Huntsville, AL, and attended Huntingdon College, UAH, and graduated Auburn University in 1993. 

AAS:  Do you have any pets? What kind?  How Many? 

TJ:  No pets yet. 

AAS:   Where do you work? If you're retired, what was your occupation?   If you're still in school, have you chosen a career? 

TJ:  I have been a realtor for 8 1/2 years in Montgomery. I am the president of the Multiple Listing Service, and will be president of the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors in 2007. 

AAS:   Besides astronomy, what other hobbies do you enjoy? 

TJ:  Masters swimming, birding, space tourism, hiking, travel, and lots of reading. 

AAS:  What was your first or favorite car? 

TJ:  A pedal fire truck when I was 3.  Nothing I have had since then can compare. 

AAS:   What was your first or most interesting job? 

TJ:  I worked for many years at Space Camp/Academy in Huntsville. I started as a counselor instructing a new team of children each week, but spent most of my time as the chief lecturer and instructor for the entire camp program. I taught space history, spacecraft systems, spacesuit systems, astronomy, crew systems, shuttle launch procedures, and others. I also worked for a year with Space Adventures, a company offering high-end space orientated travel adventures.  Space Adventures brokered the very first private trips to the space station via Russian Soyuz rockets, and they offer many other space related adventures. 

AAS:   Tell us about your favorite vacation. 

TJ:  A 10 day trip to Arizona with my wife, that included a three-day hike of the Grand Canyon. 

AAS:  Have you ever lived in some other part of the U.S. or another country?  Where?  When? 

TJ:  Grew-up on an Air Force base in Georgia, lived in England for 6 months when I was 11, but lived most of the rest of my life in Alabama. 

AAS:  This is your space. Tell us anything else about yourself that you'd like to share. 

TJ:  I am also a member of the Solar System Ambassador program for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. I may be available for speaking events at your children's schools or your own civic organizations. You can find out more about the program at

Loaner Scopes

Loaner scope steward, Rhon Jenkins, reports that the PST solar scope is available now. The 8-inch Dob, was loaned out for January.  Let Rhon know ASAP if you (members only) would like to borrow either of these for the month of February.

2006 Membership

AAS treasurer, John Zachry, reports that the following have paid their dues for 2006: 

  • W. Glynn Alexander
  • William L. Baugh
  • Alan Cook
  • Elizabeth Copelin
  • Charles Floyd
  • Jeff Graves
  • Mike Holley
  • Rhon Jenkins
  • Taylor Jernigan
  • Eddie Kirkland
  • Chuck Lewis 
  • Raymond Kunert
  • Everett Leonard
  • Jim McLaughlin
  • Allen Screws
  • Syd Spain
  • John Tatarchuk
  • Russell Whigham
  • Aaron T. Wilson 
  • John B. Zachry 
Annual dues for 2006 are  $20.00 for regular membership, and $10.00 for full-time students.  Make your check payable to Auburn Astronomical Society.  You can bring your check to the February meeting, or send your check to: 
Auburn Astronomical Society
c/o John B. Zachry, treasurer 
501 Summerfield Road
West Point, GA 31833
Make sure John has your current mailing address so that you’ll continue to receive The Reflector.  If you have questions about your membership status, e-mail John at:
Treasure’s Report
As of January 31, 2006, our checking account balance is $349.05
Rhon’s “Last Stand” Observatory: Part 2

Progress is slower than expected, but work continues nonetheless.  The walls (four circular rings), door, and DSR (dome support system, the thingy that rotates and holds the dome) are complete, as is the shutter system.  Joyce and I put two of the four dome quads together today (Saturday), and hope to get the other two together tomorrow.  Next weekend should be the big day, when we (and half a dozen helpers) set the dome on the DSR and try to get the observatory watertight.  The dome is an operation that must be completed in one go ... you can't get half of it up and come back the next day.  The halves make excellent sails if they're not connected.  Once that's done we can start the electrical wiring for the telescope, accessories, and the dome and shutter automation.  The LX200 will rest on a LeSueur pier (made in Birmingham) and will have an 80mm rich field refractor, finder, and infrared sensors (for automatic dome/telescope rotation synchronization) mounted on it, as well as a Losmandy 2D counterweight system.  For now, I'll stay with an alt-az setup until I know for sure whether the pier support is sufficient.  It looks like my presentation to the club will have to wait until March.


"Magnificent Desolation"
John Zachry

I wonder what the A.A.S. would think about a club trip to see the IMAX film "Magnificent Desolation" in 3D or the IMAX film Mars Rover some time in the future? Here is a list if IMAX Theatres in Alabama and Georgia. "Magnificent Desolation" is now playing in Huntsville. Maybe a trip to Birmingham when one of these movies is available? Please have a look at the two web sites provided. 

Thanks - John

 Hope to see everyone at the meeting,