Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
July, 2007

In this Issue

July Events Upcoming Events
Member Contributions AAS Shirts
12.5-inch Loaner Progress Cool Links

July Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, July 13, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building.  The parking lot behind the AE building has reopened.  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, July 14, at Cliff Hill’s farm, clouds permitting of course. 

Upcoming Events

July 13, July meeting
July 12, Venus at greatest brilliancy
July 14, July star party at Cliff Hill’s farm
July 16, Moon, Venus, Saturn, Regulus grouping
August 3, August meeting
August 11, August star party/Perseid meteor shower at Cliff Hill’s farm
August 28, Total Lunar Eclipse
September 7, September meeting
September 8, September star party at Cliff Hill’s farm
Member Contributions

From: Scott Thompson 
Under the Stars, July 2007

Clouds now and again give a soul some respite from stargazing, but this year there have been far too few rain clouds, and lake water levels continue to drop. Water is a precious resource and we sometimes forget this fact because it is so readily available to us.  Count yourself lucky; 1.1 billion people lack access to an improved water supply. 
Astronomers look for water on other planets and even the star known as Sol, our Sun. Let's take a look at how precious this resource, water, H2O, is on the planet Earth. 

Seventy percent of the earth is covered with water, mostly in the oceans. Water also exists in the air as water vapor and in the soil as groundwater. So just what is the total water supply of the world? The Department of the Interior, Geological Survey states that it is 332.5 million cubic miles, or 1.386 million cubic kilometers of water. One cubic mile equals 1.1 trillion gallons of water. 

So you are probably thinking, that’s a lot of water and we don’t have anything to worry about. Well, the old saying, Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink is very appropriate since only 2.5% of the Earth's water is fresh (not salty) and most of that percent is locked up in the glaciers, air or ground. Think of it this way. If all the earth’s water fit in a gallon jug, available fresh water would equal just over a tablespoon. So out of the total about .014% is the readily accessible water found in lakes, streams and rivers. This is “small potatoes” compared to the total. 

What about water on other planets, moons, and even the sun? There is evidence that water resides elsewhere in our solar system. 

Our nearest neighbor, the moon, may contain water. In 1994, the Clementine spacecraft mapped the moon’s surface and detected reflections that seemed to come from icy material. Then, in 1998, a signal from the polar craters checked by the Lunar Prospector indicated hydrogen, possibly as the H in H2O. However, all this seems inconclusive. So watch for a new spacecraft in 2008 called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) featuring many advanced sensors that can sense water in at least four different ways. 

Mars has water and scientist think in large amounts. Where it is located and how to get to it are two topics still under debate.  With water on Mars, we humans would have the ability to grow food, create and store energy, and protect ourselves from radiation if we should decide to take up residence. 

Next year NASA plans some promising missions to Mars to study water near the planet’s North Pole. The upcoming Phoenix mission has two goals.  One is to study the geologic history of water, the key to unlocking the story of past climate change. The other is to search for evidence of a habitable zone that may exist in the ice-soil boundary, the "biological paydirt", as they call it on their website

Europa, the moon of Jupiter, may contain an ocean of water.  Enceladus, a moon of Saturn, shows stripes or fissures that appear to be the source of H2O vapor geysers. The latter evidence came from observations by the Cassini spacecraft. Pluto’s composition is unknown but many think it could be made up of 10 percent H2O ice. There are many more planets and moons that we could list, but what about our sun? 

It has been discovered that water exists on the surface of the sun in sunspots. These sunspots are cooler regions on the sun, where it has been proven that water exists in a non-liquid form. The sun is, of course, too hot for the water to be liquid but not for water vapor or steam.  This water plays a part in the greenhouse effect that occurs within the sunspots. 
There are many, many more indications of water inside and now outside our solar system. Astronomers’ recent discoveries of water on other planets could be an indication that water is one of the main components of this particular system. 
Even if you are unhappy with the lack of sufficient water levels in the lake for recreational activities, then try to be thankful that we have such a large amount of clean accessible water in our backyard on this minute planet called Earth. 
I made this month’s photo back in May when the Moon and the planet Venus were close together.  July offers a different pairing of two planets. On July 1st look in the west to see Saturn and Venus only 0.8 degrees apart! The constellation Leo will be just above them. 

On July 16th look for the crescent Moon, Saturn, Venus and the star Regulus. Regulus and Venus will be two and a half degrees apart. 

Venus will be at its greatest brilliancy on July 12th. We will have a new moon on the 14th and on the 16th the moon will be a thin crescent just above the horizon. The earth will be at its farthest point from the sun this year around 7p.m. on July 6th. 
Clear Skies … well, rain clouds would be nice, too,
Scott Thompson

July's and past issues of Under the Stars articles are online (with images): 

From: Michael Schwartz <>
Telescope Question

Well, I finally started the process of EP upgrades. I received the Denk Power Switch 2X diagonal, Nagler 11mm, and a wide angle 31mm made by Proxima.

I've only given them a test run under the city light glare so far. Hopefully, I'll be able to make the Star party for July. I'd like to see how these new additions will do under darker conditions. Maybe we can put them onto someones larger scope ( vs. my C-8 ) and see what they can really do. I'm still in the mind to purchase a large ap. Dob sometime in the future. The more I read about the Meade Light-bridge 16 , the more I'm inclined to get one. Here's my Q of the month
         1. Is there really that much difference between a 12" Dob and a 16" that would justify the additional 1000.00 expense?
         2. Has anyone mentioned any plans to buy the new Nagler Ethos EP in the Fall?

Talk to you soon- Chef

From: Syd Spain
University of Mississippi Observatories and Telescopes

Barnard Observatory

Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard was the University's first chancellor.  In 1856, Barnard, the former Chair of Physics and Astronomy convinced the Legislature to appropriate funds to order the largest telescope in the world for the University and to construct an observatory for it on campus.  The large telescope that Barnard had dreamed of was ordered from Alvan Clark & Sons in 1857.  In January, 1862, when Alvan Clark was testing the telescope he discovered Sirius B, the "white dwarf" companion of Sirius the "dog star.”  However, due to the outbreak of the Civil War, the telescope was never delivered to the University of Mississippi.  Barnard's telescope was subsequently purchased by the Chicago Astronomical Society in 1863, and was given in trust to Northwestern University in 1887.  That telescope, together with Barnard's collection of physics instruments, would have allowed the University of Mississippi to become the foremost institution in America for the study of physics and astronomy.  One of only three remaining antebellum buildings on campus, the Barnard Observatory is now the home of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
Kennon Observatory
The Kennon Observatory was completed in 1939.  Two copper-roofed domes were included to accommodate two different instruments:  A fifteen inch telescope, with co-aligned visual and photographic telescopes, was moved from the Barnard Observatory into the bigger dome, while the smaller dome housed a five inch telescope that had been acquired by F. A. P. Barnard in about 1856.  The large telescope was purchased from the Sr. Howard Grubb Co. of Dublin in 1893.  It consists of three co-aligned visual and photographic telescopes; a fifteen-inch visual telescope, a nine-inch photographic telescope and a four-inch visual telescope.  The five-inch refractor was made by Murz & Son of Munich and is now a part of the Millington - Barnard Collection on display at the University Museum. 

The main entrance of the observatory, faces due south, and the building is precisely aligned east to west.  A small tube in the south wall is oriented such that direct rays of the sun shine through it to the floor only twice a year, at noon on the vernal and autumnal equinoxes.  The slanted metal roof of the transit room (between the main and small rooms) was designed to open for observations using a three inch meridian telescope.

In 1997 the smaller dome and the octagonal rooms of the Kennon Observatory were refurbished. The smaller dome currently houses an electronic CCD camera attached to a twelve inch Schmidt-Cassegrian telescope.
Teaching Telescopes
The following University of Mississippi telescopes are used today in the astronomy teaching laboratories:

• A 25-inch Obsession reflector
• Five 12-inch Meade LX200 reflectors
• Two 8-inch Meade LX200 reflectors
• Four 8-inch Celestron reflectors
• A 7-inch Questar reflector 
• Five 10-inch Meade reflectors
• Two 10-inch Discovery reflectors
• A 70-mm TeleVue Pronto refractor 

Kennon Observatory 2007

Mounted Wedge

Fifteen Inch Grubb Refractor

Astronomy Open House

Each month on Friday, nearest the date of the first quarter moon, the University has an open house for community residents and visitors to view planets, stars, and constellations.  Three mounted wedges which have power outlets are arranged around the Kennon Observatory.  Note the mounted wedges shown in the second and third photos above.

I attended on June 22, 2007 from 8:30 PM until midnight.  Astronomy faculty members and several student assistants answered questions and helped between 75 and 100 visitors enjoy views of the night sky.  The main dome of the observatory was open, and the 15 inch Grubb refractor focused on the moon.  It’s an awesome telescope which doesn’t show its age of more than 110 years.  It’s equipped with tracking motor drives, but the original tracking gear system is kept in an adjacent room.  The gear mechanism was attached to suspended weights to enable easier moves of the large telescope.

Two telescopes were mounted on the wedges.  One was a 12 inch Meade LX200 which tracked Venus until it descended behind a campus building.  It then was skewed to various stars and planets based upon requests from the attendees.  An 8 inch wedge mounted Celestron SCT tracked Jupiter, and a 70 mm tripod mounted Televue was moved to a variety of visual destinations.  The Astronomy Laboratory was open, and the 25 inch Obsession dobsonian dominated the lab.  It has large wheels and is moved outside when there is an unusual astronomical event.  A number of computers were operating in the lab.  They illustrated astronomical photographs taken faculty and students as well as astronomy information.

I was surprised that there is no astronomy club in Oxford.  The nearest ones are in French Camp and Memphis.

If you plan to be in Oxford about the time of the first quarter moon, then you should visit the University’s web site and search for the public announcement of the open house.  If you are unable to locate it, just contact me at  I’ll be happy to find it and send it to you.  Come and visit when you can!

From: David McConnell
Help Wanted:  Meade LX50 Problem

I wondered if you  might have any ideas in this problem I'm experiencing. 

C.C. to Meade:

Dear sirs 

I have a Meade LX50 8" and for a while my RA motor was working off and on so after checking here and there I found a solder connection bad under the shrink wrap insulation I fixed that. It was right at the motor. 

Now rather than feeding the continuous tracking voltage to track as objects appearing to move east to west it just surges the wrong direction about 4X too fast. 

I wondered if it would be cheaper to just replace the PC board behind the face plate or send you guys the face plate and PC bord.  Oh! and when I turn it on I get the "all ok" lights blinking on the hand box and on the face plate saying all is well with the handbox and inside unit? 

Waiting to hear back from you and thanks ... David McConnell

That is what I sent to Meade tech support as I've yet to hear back with the 4th and the weekend and all.  Can you think of even a non- Meade way to fix the problem?  It would be nice to have true tracking and even possibly a "go to” feature if I re mounted my LX50 tube. 

David McConnell

From: Raul San Miguel, CTR USAR
Subject: New to Astronomy

Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Raul. I am located just outside of Ft. Rucker, in Daleville, AL.   I have recently purchased an 8" Orion XT8 Dobsonian mounted reflector telescope. 
I am looking to join a club to help me learn more and to get better use out of my new telescope. 
I have hundreds of questions and I need to get away from all these lights and trees around here. 

The AAS website mentioned a star party before each new moon. If there is
one this weekend I would really like to try and make it. 

Thank you, 

Raul San Miguel 

Hello Raul,

Everyone is pretty much on a first name basis here, so, please just call me Russell.
Thanks for making the effort to seek us out.

We'll be glad to help in any way we can.  We look forward to seeing you at the meetings and/or star parties.  I know it's a long drive, so just come when you can.  I don't know if you're familiar with Alabama weather, but the high temperature and humidity during the summer months really take a toll on transparency, making going to a dark-sky site almost futile until late September.  I'll be out of town this weekend, but if you want to drive up to our dark-sky site, you'll be welcomed.  From the AAS home page, select "Star Party" and Cliff Hill's farm. for directions.

About five years ago, the was a "Wiregrass Astronomical Society".  They had a few star parties with 6 or 8 folks, but the fellow who organized the effort, moved to New Orleans, and I think the group fell apart.  There's still a "wiregrassastronomy" group, but it too is now moribund.  You might try posting something there and see if you get any responses.  For the past several years it's been only spam, but I've kept it subscribed in hopes that someone down there would breath new life into the group.  Go back to the 2002 messages to see if any of the e-mail addresses are still good.  You may also check with the folks at Landmark Park. 

Well, I found the farm easy enough, but I got mighty lonely. Seems that I missed the cancellation memo 

I checked out Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and even had a go at the new moon.  Seeing was poor and the clouds sent me home early.
 Well, that and the eerie 1970's horror B-movie soundtrack performed by the local insects, fowl, dogs, horses and a donkey (I think)

Next time I think I will ask for a contact phone# to ensure I won't be stuck out there alone.

Do you have any member here in my area? Anyone willing to show me the

Maybe next time.

Thank you,

Raul San Miguel

Hello Raul,
At 01:22 PM 6/20/2007, you wrote:

Well, I found the farm easy enough, but I got mighty lonely.   Seems that I missed the cancellation memo :)

Yikes!  I'm sorry you drove all that way only to be "stood up".

I checked out Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and even had a go at the new moon.
Seeing was poor and the clouds sent me home early.

Maybe that's why you had it by yourself.  If it was that bad, most folks can see the objects you mentioned from their own light-polluted backyards.  For what it's worth, star party attendance probably will not improve until late September when we once again have dry transparent skies.

 Well, that and the eerie 1970's horror B-movie soundtrack performed by the local insects, fowl, dogs, horses and a donkey (I think)

You were just on the wrong track.  You should have changed your player to the "Frogs croaking, Whip-poor-will's mournful trill, and Crickets chirping Symphony" track, with the Fireflies and the Milky-Way providing the light show.  The good news is, that the donkey keeps the coyotes away!

Next time I think I will ask for a contact phone# to ensure I won't be stuck out there alone.

You may have a hard time placing that bell around the cat's neck.  It turns out that I'm the world's worst weather guesser.  So, usually you should do the opposite of what I recommend.   Seriously, check the "Transparency" metric on the Sky Clock (on the "Star Party/Cliff Hill's Farm link).  If it's lighter that medium to dark blue, it will probably be a pretty lonely star party.

Do you have any member here in my area? Anyone willing to show me the ropes?

I'm afraid not.  You seem to be the most experienced person on our mail list from the Wiregrass.  BTW, I saw your message on the Yahoo!groups list, but no replies. 

Stay in touch,


From: Heather Sherbourne
Subject: Astro Club Info

Dear Dr. Jenkins,

My name is Heather Sherbourne, and I have recently moved to west Georgia.  I am looking for an astronomy club to get involved with, and am interested in visiting the AAS.  Is your next club meeting on July 6th?  When will your next dark-sky observing session be?

I have been fairly active as a "backyard astronomer" for about 5 years.  I have an 8" Newtonian on an equatorial mount, . . . and I'm currently working on the AL's double star list.

I'm looking forward to meeting you all. 

Heather Sherbourne

From: Rhon Jenkins"
Subject: Re: Astro Club Info
Ms. Sherbourne,

Welcome to the neighborhood!  Our next meeting has been moved back a week because of the July 4th holiday, to Friday July 13.  The next dark-sky event is this Saturday, June 16.  If you haven't found it already, please check out our web site at for directions, etc.  I'm going to take the liberty of sending a copy of this to Russell Whigham, our webmaster, so that you can receive mailings of our newsletter and other announcements.  You'll find archive copies of our newsletter on our website.  If for some reason you don't want to receive any mailings, just let me know.

We are certainly looking forward to  meeting you. 

Rhon Jenkins

To: Heather Sherbourne
From: Russell Whigham 
Subject: Welcome to the Auburn Astronomical Society

Hello Heather,

Welcome to the Auburn Astronomical Society!  Thanks for looking us up.  I have just added your name to the AAS e-mail list.  You'll be receiving an e-newsletter a few days before each meeting, and star party reminders.  Unfortunately, we're in our summer doldrums with high temps and humidity.  Dry transparent skies will not return until the end of September. 

We have five members/friends who are from over your way in LaGrange, West Point, and Columbus, so maybe you can car pool with someone to our events.

Let me know if you have any questions that you can't find in the Web pages.

Looking forward to seeing you at the meetings and star parties,


From: Heather Sherbourne 
To: Russell Whigham
Subject: Re: Welcome to the Auburn Astronomical Society
Thanks for adding me to your list.  I'm really looking forward to meeting you and the rest of the club members.  And, I'm thrilled to hear that there are a few that live somewhat close to me.  I'm shooting to be at the meeting in July.  Hope to see you then.


AAS Shirts

We now have six (members only) requests for new AAS shirt orders: 

Name M/W Size Qty Name Member
Don Cluck M 1 Don Y
Kim Cluck W 1 Kim Y
Erika Lefever W S 1 ------- Y
Jeff Logue M XL 1 ------- Y
Shane  Bledsoe M XL 1 Shane Y
Mike Holley M XL 1 Mike  Y

Scott Thompson has offered to get prices when we’ve heard from all who wish to order.  This is the final call.  If you are interested in having one (or more), let me know and I’ll forward the order to Scott, If you want to get your order in, we’ll need to know:

  • Men’s or Women’s
  • Size,
  • Quantity 
  • With or without your name embroidered.
12.5-inch Loaner Scope Progress Report

Just to bring everyone up to date, here’s a brief recap of the project: 

When Ray Kunert learned that AAS had a 12.5-inch, f/7 Cave Astrola telescope languishing in storage, he started a campaign to resurrect the beast and get it back into service.

Last July, we made arrangements to pick up the scope that had been at Jim Chestnut’s house for the previous twenty years. [See the AAS History page, for the years 1983-1988].  As we have no observatory to keep it permanently mounted, and given that the massive german equatorial mount precludes it from being easily moved, a decision was made to mount the original tube assembly on a Dobsonian mount and that it be used as a loaner scope.  Ray has since reconditioned the hardware and done an excellent job of putting a new finish on the tube.  The primary mirror was in pretty good shape, but the secondary needed to be realuminized.  William Baugh volunteered to take care of that for us.  At last month’s (June) meeting, William returned the newly aluminized diagonal.  A big “Thank you!” to William for doing that for us. 

Meanwhile, we had contacted our resident telescope maker, Tom McGowan, about making a rocker box.  Tom called the Sunday following our June meeting and said that he would have time to work on the rocker box during the next few weeks.  Tom said that he would need the optics in the tube for balancing.  He recommended a Telrad rather than a finder scope.  He'll see if we can incorporate the rotating rings into the mount.  The rings aren’t really necessary with the Dobsonian configuration, but Tom determined that using them as a saddle would be the easiest way to mate the tube assembly to the rocker box.

Tom offered a couple of options for the rocker box: 

  • A traditional stained/polyurethane finish on the Birch plywood or, 
  • he could have it ready for paint if Ray has some more of the kind (white gloss) he used on the OTA. 
We opted for Tom’s recommendation to go with the stain.

Later that same Sunday afternoon, I met Ray at his house with diagonal in hand.  Ray already had the 12.5-inch tube assembly loaded up in his van.  We delivered it to Tom and discussed his proposals.

We need to be thinking about a an eyepiece (or 2).  I think we need something better than the 2-inch 32 Kellner (I think) that came with the scope.  Tom mentioned a couple of Pan-Optics, but we need to keep in mind that this will be a loaner.  John Zachry reports $756.91 in the treasury.  We can discuss this at this month’s meeting.

When I mentioned to Tom about his expenses, he said he had some left-over plywood and hardware and generously offered to donate the materials and his time.  When Tom made that offer, I think he had under-estimated how much wood that would be.  We'll certainly want to cover Tom's expenses, and an expression of thanks to Tom and "Midnightelescopes", somewhere on the box would be nice.  Thanks Tom!

We'll also need to decide on where to keep the scope when it's finished.  One possibility would be to keep it at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium when not loaned out.  Rick Evans has a small scope at the entrance to the planetarium now.  If we could put this one there, perhaps with "Auburn Astronomical Society" and "" nicely lettered  on the tube, it would provide some excellent publicity.  This would also make a wonderful addition for our annual Astronomy Day events, there.  Rick has welcomed the idea, and offered to “accommodate you in any way we can. Just let me know”.

 Tom has warned that the finished product will be quite large.  It will require a good size van or pick-up truck as well as two people to transport and use, but should provide magnicifant images.

Cool Links

Here's an interesting virtual tour of Canon's lens plant from the raw materials to the finished product (a 500mm lens).  The same or similar techniques are no doubt used on refractors and eyepieces.  <>

From: Larry Owsley 
Huge Crater Found in Egypt

From: Dennis Persyk sct-user
Afocal and Eyepiece Projection

Afocal: Camera lens is attached and camera focuses on virtual image of the eyepiece. 

Eyepiece projection: Camera lens is off and eyepiece serves as its lens and projects the real image onto the film/chip plane. 

Here are some nice ray diagrams illustrating the various imaging modes: 

ISS transiting the Sun Image

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,