Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
September, 2006

In this Issue

September Events Upcoming Events
Space News Under the Stars
Cool Links Loaner Scopes

September Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, September 8, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building.  AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, will give our program on “The Latest Findings in Cosmology”.  This will be an “away” football weekend so parking should be no worse than usual.

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, September 23, at Cliff Hill’s farm, clouds permitting of course. 

Upcoming Events

Finding Earth's Cosmic Twin
John Zachry

Saw an interesting article in the September 2006 issue of Popular Science magazine, pages 72-73 entitled "Finding Earth's Cosmic Twin" which said among other things:
"WHAT: A way to spot Earth-size planets orbiting distant stars. ... a new strategy called gravitational microlensing uses the bending of light to detect those elusive ersatz Earths. ... The latest, located in Scorpius, is an icy orb only 5.5 times as massive as Earth ...
"Can I Help In The Planet Search? Sure, if you live south of 35 degrees north latitude and own a telescope with a 10-inch aperture equipped with a CCD detector.
Readers interested in joining the effort should contact Andrew Gould at <>." - John

--- John Zachry

Good time to see the International Space Station next week. I hope members will tell their local newspapers and get some free publicity for A.A.S. - John

The International Space Station will pass almost directly over the Montgomery area on Wednesday, September 6 traveling from Northwest to Southeast between 8:02 p.m. CDT and  8:07 p.m. CDT (but not on Friday, September 8).

The International Space Station will pass over the Auburn area on Wednesday, September 6 traveling from Northwest to Southeast between 8:02 p.m. CDT and  8:07 p.m. CDT and again on Friday, September 8 from Northwest to Southeast between 7:13 p.m. CDT and  7:19 p.m. CDT

The International Space Station will pass over the West Point area on Wednesday September 6 traveling from Northwest to South southeast between 9:02 p.m. EDT and  9:07 p.m. EDT and again on Friday, September 8 from Northwest to Southeast between 8:13 p.m. EDT and  8:19 p.m. EDT

Good web site to see Space Shuttle Atlantis flight plan if it is launched on Wednesday, September 6.

 --- John Zachry

Under the Stars 

Scott Thompson is sharing his always informative and well written astronomy articles with us again.  Scott writes: 

I posted my feature article of the Wetumpka Meteor Crater on the web and I will let everyone get a peek at the October's article early.  All previous publications are here:


September:  Wetumpka’s Meteor Crater 

 Near-Earth asteroids seem to make the headlines more often these days as we continue to search skyward. At this moment no asteroid seems likely to hit Earth anytime soon. However this was not the case in the early years of our inner solar system, including planet Earth. These cataclysmic events have left many scars across the Moon, Mars, Venus and Earth. Now local geologists have the first direct evidence proving that the “Astrobleme” in Wetumpka came from a meteorite impact that occurred around 83 million years ago.  [more…]

October:  Pluto and Charon

The ruler in darkness, the icy unstable rock, the little rear brakeman waving from the back of the caboose, is now no longer a planet! The poor guy didn’t even get a farewell party. He was booted out of the club before a century had even passed.  The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has voted to downgrade Pluto to the status of dwarf planet. 
Pluto gets its name partly because of its distance from the Sun, which keeps the planet perpetually in the dark, and partly because “PL” stands for Percival Lowell who theorized the existence of a 9th planet. Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto in 1930 while working at the Lowell Observatory. The observatory promoted the discovery as a 9th planet despite considerable controversy between scientists. 
Pluto has three moons. Yes, that’s right. Charon, discovered in 1978, is not the only moon. In 1995 the Hubble Space Telescope spied two more bodies which were confirmed by a follow-up image in 2005. It is the first body in the Kuiper Belt to have more than one satellite. The names of these objects are S/2005 P1 and S/2005 P2. 
The new moons of Pluto are very small with diameters of 40 and 125 miles. Charon is about 730 miles in diameter with Pluto itself being smaller than our moon at 1410 miles in diameter. These new moons are 5,000 times fainter than Pluto and are moving in counterclockwise rotation.
Pluto is peculiar in many ways. Many of the other planets were named after Roman Gods who represented various aspects of human life, but Pluto was named after the god of Hades, a residence for the dead. Pluto’s moon Charon was named after the boatman that ferries dead souls across the river Styx into the depths of Hades.  [more…]

Cool Links

Celestron SkyScout

From: "Thad Floryan" <>
Subject: [sct-user] Celestron SkyScout's a winner

Wellllll, I couldn't resist.  My buddies at the local Orion store in Cupertino called last Wednesday stating the units are trickling in and they'd hold one for me.  So I bought one yesterday and, without a doubt, Celestron has a real winner here.  A mini-review, PDF manuals and docs, and pictures can be found at:  <>

From: "astronomics1" <>
Subject: [sct-user] Re: Celestron SkyScout's a winner

Here are some numbers for anyone who cares.

Celestron Pre-Sells to dealers.   14,000
Cut off date for dealer orders.  Aug. 10, 2006.  The entire yearly allotment has been pre-sold to the dealers.  Any orders place by a dealer after that date will deliver 1Q 2007.  Chance of finding one off the shelf for Christmas...Slim.

They are a very hot item.  I hope they jumpstart the astronomy hobby and get new people wondering what the heck is going on up there.   While it might not appeal to seasoned vets, but people that pay $400 for an IPOD (me being one of those people.  I have 5 different models.   I know, I know, it is a sickness) will scarf them up.  People like my cousin with 3 kids and he doesn't know a lick about astronomy and can never answer a question like,"Daddy, what is that?"


Fun with Pluto

From: "Jim Webb" 
Subject: [sct-user] You just KNEW this was gonna happen

From: Gary Spiers 
Subject: Re: [sct-user] You just KNEW this was gonna happen

An unofficial email circulating at JPL first put a spin on the Pluto
story in this fashion:


Night Lights

From: Anthony Arrigo <>
Subject: Link Request From Starry Night Lights

My name is Anthony Arrigo... I'm the president of an organization that I'm sure you'll be happy to hear about.

My company, Starry Night Lights is a night sky friendly lighting retailer. (

Our goal is simple... to provide the widest selection of attractive, high quality, night sky friendly lighting available anywhere.

This is something that's been really hard to come by for way too long.  If you'd be so kind as to add a link to Starry Night Lights from your Auburn Astronomical Society website I'd be grateful.

I'd also be willing to offer a 10% discount to you and your members. Simply enter astronomy-06 into the coupon field at checkout time.

I've put together a few "suggested" link formats (
We carry only dark sky friendly fixtures... so you'll be safe in sending folks to our site to address their lighting needs.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments you might have... as well as suggestions on how I might improve my site or product line.

Thanks for any support you can provide!


Loaner Scopes

Let Loaner scope steward, Rhon Jenkins, know if you (members only) would like to have your name added to the list to borrow either of the loaner telescopes. 

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,