May Events
This month’s meeting will be on Friday, May 5, 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 from Toomer’s Corner.
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, May 27, at Cliff Hill’s farm, clouds permitting of course.

Upcoming Events

Blondheim Star Gaze

Rick Evans wrote to say that everything is set for this event .  Rick said that Mr. Blondheim expressed interest in having a facility for Montgomery that would be home to a state-of-the-art planetarium and/or observatory.  Rick asked that we do a star gaze for the Blondheim's and their friends at their home, on May 4.   This could be a really nice thing for Montgomery.Thanks to the AAS volunteers for this event:

  • Ben Wouters - C-11 CPC
  • Russell Whigham  - C-11
  • Patrick Moylan  - EXT125
  • Aaron Wilson  - 8-inch Meade LX90
  • Jim McLaughlin - 8-inch Meade LX200
  • Wayne Martin – Meade ETX 70
We’ll have a report on how it went at Friday’s meeting.


Astronomy Day 2006

This year, the Auburn Astronomical Society observed Astronomy Day in conjunction with NASA's "Vision for Space Exploration Experience" exhibit at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium on Saturday, April 15th.The sky was clear most of the afternoon, but unseasonably warm, with temperatures approaching 90 degrees at mid-afternoon.Our day began at 3:00 PM with solar viewing provided to the public with the planetarium's and AAS's Hydrogen alpha filtered telescopes as well as a few scopes with traditional white light filters.While relatively quiet, the Sun did show one prominence and a lone tiny sunspot. 

The Telescope Clinic was open, but we had no "patients" this year.Normally members from the Auburn Astronomical Society host a telescope clinic to answer questions about different types of telescopes as well as doing minor repairs and cleaning. 

Guest speaker, Mitzi Adams, gave her talk in the auditorium at 6:00 PM.Her presentation was followed by remarks from Auburn Astronomical Society President, Dr. Rhon Jenkins, telling the visitors of the purpose and activities of the society. 

At 7:00 PM , visitors were treated to a "Tour of the Night Sky" with the Spitz STP projectorin the auditoriumset to display the stars as they would be seen outside.A brieftour of the simulated night sky was conducted to point out the constellations visible from inside the planetarium. 

8:00 PM - Telescopic celestial viewing:The Auburn Astronomical Society provided telescopes for the public to view the wonders of the night sky. 

Here is the list of telescope folks & scopes who made this possible: 

  • Rhon & Joyce Jenkins -- AAS PST solar scope 
  • Mike Holley – AAS 8-inch Dob 
  • Russell Whigham – Celestron C-11, SCT 
  • Ray Kunert -- Meade LXD55 Refractor & Takahashi Sky90
  • Taylor Jernigan -- Meade ETX 125 Maksutov 
  • Alan Cook -- 10-inch Meade LX-50 
  • Wayne Martin and Jean Hafer – 5-inch reflector and ETX-70 
  • Ben Wouters -- Celestron 11 CPC 
  • Greg Glasscock -- 12.5” StarMaster 
  • Patrick Moylan -- Meade ETX-125 
  • John Tatarchuk -- 18-inch Obsession 
  • Paul Williamson -- 120 ST rich field refractor 
  • John Zachry

Thanks to all who volunteered -- especially those who drove from out of town, as well as those who were unable to attend this year for sending your regrets.See the photographs at the Astronomy Day 2006 Web page or from the AAS main menu, select “Field Trips/W.A. Gayle Planetarium Events/Astronomy Day 2006”. 


New Member

Please join me in welcoming Peggy Russell of Montgomery to the society.Peggy is eager to learn to use her Tasco 11 TR reflector.New to the mail list this month are Mr. and Mrs. Tom Eubanks, and from Astronomy Day 2006: Kenneth Lenn, Tony Allen, and Jarrod Evans.We look forward to seeing each of you soon and often.


Star Party Reports

From Aaron Wilson:
Observing Report:  22 Apr 06 Cliff Hill Farm

The weather looked too good to pass up, so I drove out to C.H.F. for a solo observing session.  The evening started out with a splendid view of the ISS as it rose through Orion, just passing Mars, and fading into the North through the Little Dipper and Draco.  With my Dewbuster earning its keep, I observed Jupiter, Saturn, and several Messier and NGC objects.  Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (73P) oblong tail was barely visible at a dim mag 9.2 in Corona Borealis.  I then tried some guided imaging with my 300D at prime focus and an 80mm guide scope I apparently didn’t do so well on the comet, but did manage some decent images of M104, M65/66 Leo Triplet, M3, and M57.  I still need to finish processing the images, but M104 is attached for viewing.  About 14-15 mag 3 or higher random meteors were observed between 8pm and 1am, most of course occurring after 1030pm.
Overall, it was a nice evening despite the presence of two enemies:  high humidity and biting bugs.  Be prepared to combat moisture and mosquitoes the next time you head out! 


Ray K and the April Star Party 

Forget Sky Clock and the Weather Channel.Ray Kunert has figured out how to tell if the weather will be good for a scheduled star party at Cliff Hill’s farm.If the newsletter editor sends a cancellation, the sky will be clear.Ray missed the e-mail canceling the event and had 4 hours of clear sky all to himself.In Montgomery, we couldn’t even see Jupiter!Good call, Ray! 

Georgia Sky View:

I haven’t heard if any of our folks attended, but Rod Mollise, author of: Choosing and Using a Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope and: The Urban Astronomer's Guide, has written a report on the 2006 edition of the Georgia Sky View, on his Astro Blog:


Loaner Scopes

Loaner scope steward, Rhon Jenkins, reports that the PST solar scope will be available at this Friday’s meeting. 
Pratap Prasad has reserved the 8-inch Dob for May. 


You may have noticed the new link on the AAS main Menu: “Loaner Scopes”.Instructions for using the 8-inch are now online.

Let Rhon know ASAP if you (members only) would like to borrow either of these scopes.


Space News
John Zachry

Venus Express News 

May 7, 2006 - Venus Express reaches final 24-hour polar orbit around Venus 

June 4, 2006 - Official start of Venus Express observations
"A series of further engine and thruster burns are planned to gradually reduce the apocentre during the following 16 orbital loops around the planet and the spacecraft is due to attain its final 24-hour polar orbit on 7 May, ranging from 66 000 to 250 kilometers above Venus." 
Such opportunities will not occur again during the nominal mission, starting on 4 June 2006, when the range of distances from the planet will be much smaller."

Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3

This month there will be the close approach of Comet Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (also known as Comet 73P, and shortened by amateur astronomers as simply S-W  3).  Check out Sky & Tel's: .  The last two paragraphs are copied below: 
The whole comet train is now several degrees long, chugging from Corona Borealis into Hercules well up in the east by late evening. Don't miss this event! Use the charts in the May Sky & Telescope for bright Fragment C. Fragment B is currently (May 1st) following about 4 days behind it and 5° farther north. Detailed finder chart for C, B, G, and R. 
Note: On the evening of May 7th for North America, C will pass almost exactly over the Ring Nebula in Lyra! Closest approach should be around 11 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (3:00 May 8th Universal Time). Mark your calendar. 

This comet broke apart back in 1995 and is now in up to 36 fragments.  With binoculars and a dark sky, observers will see the combined light of these -- the fragments are only visible in larger telescopes.  It will appear as fairly large faint fuzzy glow from dark skies.
Because the approach is so close to earth, the apparent motion is relatively fast with the key word being relatively.  As viewed against the background stars, the motion will have the approximate apparent motion of the minute hand of a clock.

Astronomy Primer
Seeing , Darkness, and Transparency


From John Mahony and “Starhopper44” via the Yahoo! SCT-Users Group 


"Seeing" refers to the effect of atmospheric turbulence on the image.  Stars may appear to bounce around or wiggle or blur.  It affects planet images or views of close double stars.  It doesn't have much affect on deep-sky objects (usually faint and viewed at lower power, so you don't notice the effect as much), but it can make it difficult to guide a long exposure image accurately. 


One of the most common mistakes in terminology that newbies make is to use the term "seeing" to refer to atmospheric viewing conditions in general.  They incorrectly lump "seeing" with "transparency", which refers to how clear or hazy it is.  Good transparency is needed for good views of faint deep-sky objects, but doesn't have much effect on bright planets or double stars. 


See <> for an explanation of the Pickering seeing scale, and animated examples of what stars look like in different seeing conditions.  This is a 10 point scale. 


A good explanation & how it's applied to your Clear Sky Clock can be found here: .And if you'd like to read up on the subject in more depth, Google up this text string: "Pickering scale" +seeing . 

Homemade Scope Covers
Thad Floryan via the Yahoo! SCT-Users Group

In, "magsterone2001" wrote:

>   Just wondering what y'all use as scope covers for outside?  What 
> materials and where to buy it? 

Reflectix.  Rolled into a cylinder and fastened with Reflectix tape, then a "cap" also made from Reflectix and joined to the cylinder with Reflectix tape.  Mine's worked fine for almost 2 years now:

Bought the Reflectix at OSH (hardware subsidiary of Sears) but it's also available at Home Depot and any similar type of store.

Astronomy Minute
on WSFA Channel 12


Recently, Rich Thomas, chief meteorologist at WSFA, has launched an "Astronomy Minute" to the Sunday 10:00 newscast, near the end of the broadcast. The first two installments have dealt with what’s up, how to find Jupiter and Saturn, and how to locate Arcturus and Spica, using the Big Dipper as a guide.I’ve offered our input on local activities and events that have been welcomed by Mr. Thomas.If you have suggestions for topics to be aired, contact Rich at

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,