Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
June, 2006

In this Issue

June Events
Scope First Aid Needed

June Events


This month’s meeting will be on Friday, June 9, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building.  Our program this month will be a presentation by AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, on the construction of his recently completed personal observatory.  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, June 24, at Cliff Hill’s farm, clouds permitting of course.

Upcoming Events

June 9, June meeting

June 11, Full Moon
June 18, Third quarter Moon
June 20, Mercury greatest eastern elongation (western sky)
June 21, Summer Solstice 
June 24, star party at Cliff Hill’s farm
June 25, New Moon
July 7, July meeting
July 22, star party at Cliff Hill’s farm
August 4, August meeting
August 19, star party at Cliff Hill’s farm

Blondheim Star Gaze

Rick Evans had called our attention to the fact that Richard Blondheim had expressed interest in having a facility for Montgomery that would be home to a state-of-the-art planetarium and/or observatory.  On May 4, we had a star gaze for the Blondheim's and their guests at their home.
We arrived just before sunset.  Rick was already there and suggested a couple of locations for our telescopes.  Following the set-up, we were invited back up to the house for refreshments while we waited for dark.  After Rick introduced the society members who were there and gave an overview of what we would be seeing.  We then returned to the telescopes.  With storm clouds just to the north of us, we managed to have views of the first quarter Moon, Saturn, and Jupiter, and pointed out constellations to the gathered guests.


Thanks to the AAS volunteers for this event:  Ben Wouters, Russell Whigham, Patrick Moylan, Aaron Wilson, Jim McLaughlin, Wayne Martin and Jean Hafer

Rick writes about Mr. Blondheim’s project:

The initial conversation was about getting a bond issue, or possibly some other investors involved with that. I know that they (he and his wife) had pursued talking with someone connected with the ASF about locating a planetarium out there, but there was something about the kids of the Blount family not wanting to have a facility out there.  They did say they were going to continue to explore that avenue.The impression I had from them was they were very interested in pursuing this idea.I think too that another issue is the Mayor's comments about wanting to build a new planetarium down at the Riverfront sometime in the future. The impression I got from Mr. Blondhiem is that he didn't want it to be a competition of sorts over this, but one way or the other we should have a new(er) facility. I think the issue is still alive and I am going to continue to foster a relationship with them to see where it will go.
New Member

Please join me in welcoming Shane Bledsoe, of Opelika.  Shane has recently acquired a classic 8-inch Coulter Odyssey I (blue) Dobsonian and is anxious to discover the universe for himself.  We look forward to many evenings under the stars with Shane.

Departing Member


We are fortunate to have amateur astronomers affiliate with AAS each year who are stationed at Maxwell AFB for training.  Each one brings their unique astronomical perspective from across the country and the world.  Aaron Wilson has been a wonderful asset to our society by hosting and participating in outreach events.  Aaron is also coming along very well with his astro-imaging.  You’ll be missed, Aaron.Stay in touch.  Aaron writes:

My 10 months assigned to Maxwell AFB have come to a close and I return to my home in Raleigh, NC on 6 Jun where I’ll team up with the Raleigh Astronomy Club and continue to encourage public awareness of space and science.  Please share my thanks and appreciation to all the members in the Auburn Astronomical Society—you have a great group here and I wish everyone the best.  If anyone should find their way to Raleigh, NC, please feel free to look me up.
Clear Skies!
Aaron Wilson
Star Party Report


Date:  Friday, May 26

Location: Cliff Hill’s Farm
Attending:  Russell Whigham, C-11; Don and Kim Cluck, 120ST refractor; and Shane Bledsole.


The skies were, with the exception of some cirrus clouds, mostly cloud free, but with transparency less than ideal.  We began observing at deep twilight with Jupiter and Saturn – awesome as always.  We stepped away from the telescopes at the predicted time for a -6 Iridium flare.  Although, dimmed somewhat by its low altitude and some lingering clouds, it was nonetheless, quite impressive.

Once it was as dark, we had an unusually clear view of the glorious globular, Omega Centauri, as it culminated just 11.5 degrees above the southern horizon.  We went on to see many other, though somewhat less spectacular, summer globular and open clusters, as well as several galaxies and planetary and diffuse nebulae until 1:00AM.

Many of you may have heard of the legendary observing skills of the Houston Astronomical Society’s, Barbara Wilson.  We can now boast of our own keen-eyed observer.  After Kim had called our attention to about the seventh or eighth faint satellite passage (without the benefit of predictions), and asking if there was a star in Corvus (zeta Corvi, at magnitude 5.2), I presented her with a couple of visual acuity challenges.  She immediately saw M-13 naked-eye.  Guessing that she could see fainter objects, I asked if she saw anything in the “Lozenge” of Draco.  Without hesitation, she saw the 5.75 magnitude star in the center.  When I asked her to describe Epsilon Lyrae (using the laser pointer), Kim reported “two elongated stars”!


Loaner Scopes


Loaner scope steward, Rhon Jenkins, reports that the PST solar scope and the 8-inch Dob will be available at this Friday’s meeting.  Let Rhon know ASAP if you (members only) would like have your name added to the list to borrow either of these telescopes for the month of June. 

Space News
John Zachry


June 4, 2006 - Official start of Venus Express observations

June 4 - Venus Express’ nominal science phase begins <
June 4 - National Geographic Channel "Space Race: The Untold Story" 8 p.m. CDT 
June 13 - Science Channel "Most of Our Universe is Lost" 8 p.m. CDT
June 21 - Mercury greatest eastern elongation


Treasurer’s Report


After our annual Astronomical League dues payment of $175.00, our bank balance is $427.37.

Telescope First Aid Needed


Calling all Meade LX200 owners.See if you can help Jim with this problem:

From: "Jim McLaughlin" <>

Hope Friday nite was good and that you had some company.  I'm not sure when I'll make the next observing session, because of a problem that showed up with my scope that may be serious.  I haven't powered up my scope in some months since my observing in my backyard doesn't require GoTo and manually tracking is not a problem for what I'm generally able to see.  As soon as the power is switched on the scope goes into a slow rotation of the declination axis and the dec motor seems to stay on continuously so it won't get still to be set up for guiding or tracking; the keypad does nothing and it won't slew in that axis  but the RA slew works.  I called the Meade people and there were no words of wisdom offered.  They want $395 to ship it back to the factory for repairs and I'm not sure I shouldn’t save that money to go for a big Dob, so I'll agonize for a while.  It's like putting money in an old car, at what point do you cut your losses?  The optics are unaffected but to add insult to injury I couldn’t resist taking off the front control panel to see if there was anything simple to fix like a loose wire, etc but in the process I removed the manual control knob for the declination movement and it didn't go back on as solidly as from the factory....
I've thought about the knowledge of the deep sky one misses with a GoTo scope and this may be a signal that I should get away from that and learn my way around the old fashioned way, but not having a drive will be a major pain. Wish me luck!

If you have knowledge about the Tasco 11TR’s equatorial mount, Peggy could use some help.  Her declination slow-motion control doesn’t seem to be working:
From: “Peggy Russell” <>

… it is clear that my telescope is in need of repair!  I'd like to ask the members of the group at the next meeting if they know someone who may be able to repair it.  If not, I'll start researching a new one.


Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,