Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
In this Issue
This year, Astronomy Day, May 2, falls on the Saturday following our usual first Friday meeting on May 1. We’ve decided to combine the two events on Saturday at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium, in Montgomery (see below).
Our new moon dark-sky star party this month will be on Saturday, May 23, at Cliff Hill’s farm.
May 1, NO monthly meeting. Any business
will be handled at our Astronomy Day event.
May 6 - Checkout of Kepler satellite should be
complete (2 months after Mar. 6 launch)
The Auburn Astronomical Society in partnership with the W. A. Gayle Planetarium, will celebrate National Astronomy Day at the planetarium in Oak Park in Montgomery, on Saturday, May 2. In recognition of the International Year of Astronomy, we’ll have an expanded role in astronomy education at this year’s event.
This has traditionally been our best attended event of the year. We extend a special invitation to those of you who live too far away to attend most of our events, to come and spend the afternoon and evening with us. If you plan to attend, please let me know. If you’re bringing telescopes, let us know what type(s) and size(s). Planetarium director, Rick Evans, needs a list of names for the name tags and a head count for refreshments.
We've heard from the following volunteers to help with Astronomy Day this year. If I've mis-remembered that you volunteered (or didn't), let me know.
• Ray Kunert , AAS 12.5-inch Dobsonian
Here is this year’s agenda:
3:00PM: AAS members and friends begin setting up telescopes in time to have them ready by the time the visitors begin arriving. If you can't be there that early, just come when you can. We'll try to set up around the entrance to the planetarium first, and save the area to the east of the sidewalk for those who arrive later.
4:00PM: Early visitors will be able to view the eight-day-old Moon, and the Sun in the light of hydrogen-alpha with the AAS PST solar scope, and members’ scopes filtered white-light images.
5:00PM: Telescope Clinic will be open for guests to bring their sick, disassembled, or otherwise malfunctioning telescopes for repair. This year, we will expand the telescope clinic to include a walking tour of our telescopes, stopping at each for the owner to describe his/her telescope, why they selected the one they did, and its assets and liabilities. If it turns out that there are six SCT's, some owners could use their time to explain:
• Why they have a box full of eyepieces and filtersBy spending five minutes or so at each telescope, we could impart a lot of information about telescopes without taxing the visitors' attention spans, and finish in time for Rick to start the indoor programs at 6:00 . When Rick turns them loose to come back out to the telescopes at 8:00, they should have a better appreciation of what they're looking through.
6:00 PM: Marshall Space Flight presentations in the auditorium and door-prize drawings.
“The Universe: Yours
Abstract:7:00 PM: Rick will present a "Tour of the Night Sky" in the planetarium, giving an overview of what the guests will see when they see when they step outside.
8:00 PM: The guests come out to view Saturn, its rings and its moons; the mountains and craters of the eight-day-old Moon. The Moon will be one day past first quarter, making the “Straight Wall” and lunar highlands an impressive view.
For those who have never attended one of our Astronomy Day events, you can get a feel for what goes on, by going to the “Field Trips” link from the AAS menu, then to “W.A. Gayle Planetarium Events”.
Here are a few reminders to help make the most of your Astronomy Day experience:
On Astronomy Day 2009 instead of just answering "What power is your telescope?" it would be nice to be able to tell visitors looking through a telescope at Saturn or some other object at a particular magnification (for example 100 power magnification) "Saturn is currently (8.601 x 93,000,000 on April 15) approximately 800,000,000 miles from Earth. What you see through the telescope is what Saturn would look like if you were looking out of a spacecraft window when your spacecraft is (100 times closer) only 8,000,000 miles away. With each members' list of eyepieces and their magnification I would suggest including with each how far away would the planet being observed appear to be.
This Web page gives a nice animation on the ISS'
progress over the years...
New comet: A small 8th-magnitude comet is now making its way slowly across Cassiopeia toward Perseus. <http://www.skyandtelescope.com/resources/proamcollab/astroalert/42672257.html>
You’ll find hundreds of concise articles on virtually every aspect of amateur astronomy at One Minute Astronomer www.oneminuteastronomer.comby Brian Ventrudo, Ph.D.
Jim McLaughlin attended the launch of STS-119 Space Shuttle Discovery on March 12. Here’s Jim’s report.
of Discovery 3/12/09
It has been an ambition of mine to see a manned launch ever since having to turn around for home on the way to a Saturn V launch when I was in the 8th grade because my father became ill. I managed to get four of my five kids to make the trip with me and I hope they'll appreciate that evening as a memory for a lifetime. I must say I expected more noise then we heard but under different conditions the volume may be plenty loud at our spot during shuttle launches. I was excited to learn of the postponement of the mid-week launch just before our spring-break Disney World trip and planned to get over to the Cape while I was in the area. Unfortunately, the scramble to complete trip preparations didn't allow me time to research the local geography and find where I should try to be for the best views. Many of you reading this may be very familiar with these things that I didn't know but I asked around in Orlando and learned that Jetty Park is a good place, across the water from the pad about a mile or so away. Problem is, that's the space-faring equivalent of wanting a spot at the 18th green at the Masters; last-minute launch day arrivals like me are just out of luck, but I didn't know that at the outset. I set out about 4:30PM from Orlando to travel the 60-odd miles to Cocoa Beach for the 7:45 launch, arriving a bit before 7PM. I had four of my five children with me and we spotted a sign for Jetty Park, parked, and started walking in the indicated direction. After going a considerable distance without finding the park, I asked a local how much farther Jetty Park was and was told my best bet was to go back in the direction we came from and get out on the beach. We did so and seemed to be all set at T minus 15 minutes. We could see a couple of gantries about two miles away, no visible shuttle but the daylight was fading fast so that didn't bother me, nor did it occur to me that the pad should be floodlit since it wasn't full dark. About halfway between us and the pad I could see a jetty lined with observers shoulder to shoulder. I watched the gantry in my binoculars as 7:45 arrived and then heard a lot of whooping and hollering. To the west of where I'd been watching, behind a rise at the base of the jetty, a brightening glow was growing and clouds of smoke were billowing, and immediately the exhaust plumes could be seen already rising quickly and accelerating as Discovery took off. The vehicle itself could not be seen in the gathering darkness as the flaming rockets overpowered everything. We were south of the pad and I thought orbit was most efficiently achieved by heading toward the equator, but Discovery headed northwest to match up with the orbit of ISS, away from us. We heard the rumble about 10-12 seconds after lift-off and it was dissipated by the stiff ocean breeze. From where I was at the launch I didn't feel any atmospheric phenomenon I would attribute to the rocket. SRB separation happened quicker than I expected and it was really cool to see the exhaust plumes reach altitude that was still sunlit and turn bright white. Discovery remained visible for about seven minutes and the exhaust gases glowed red, white, and blue (no kidding) until darkness set in.
Be warned that the road net from the Cape to points west is totally inadequate to handle launch-day traffic and it was three or four times worse than the worst ballgame traffic I've seen, plus the state of Florida operates three tollbooths along the route back to Orlando which turned the highway into a parking lot; the 60 mile return trip took 31/2 hours! But it was worth it.
I joined IDSA last spring and got ready for the current legislative session by looking thru my old issues of Sky and Telescope dating back to 1994 pulling out articles about dark-sky advocacy and only found four or five. I reviewed them all over the holidays then downloaded the model ordinance from the IDSA website along with copies of bills filed in about three or four state legislatures and gave these items to my brother [Representative. Jeff McLaughlin] around the first of February. He turned these over to the Legislative Reference Service which is the office that actually writes up proposed bills. He handed me back the product of their work last night for me/us to review before he "drops it in the hopper" to be taken up by the legislature. It isn't likely to get very far in the lawmaking process this first go-round.You can read the Night Sky Protection Act here, and here’s an Update on the Alabama Dark Skies Legislation:
Greetings from the Capital City.
From time to time, new AAS members ask about getting their own AAS shirts. And, because all men’s shirts tend to shrink around the belly area while hanging in the closet, members have needed to reorder a larger size. In the past, we’ve had to wait (every 2 or 3 years) until we had enough for an order. Scott Thompson has unselfishly done the bulk of the work to have the orders placed with the local vendor. Despite his efforts, we’ve had problems collecting after the shirts were received and getting the shirts that had been paid for, delivered.
Enter Marge’s Monograms. Steve Durham, the “Pop” of this Mom & Pop business worked for two days to get our logo just right and responded to every request. You may order at any time and there is no minimum order, but if several shirts are ordered at the same time, there may be some savings in shipping costs. Steve has set up the AAS Order Page to simplify ordering. If you’ll let me know when you’re ready to order, I’ll alert the group to see if anyone else is ready, making it easier on Steve and less costly for our members. Marge's Monograms will have the AAS Order Page available until mid-July. At that time, they will take it down and put up a flyer, and have potential customers contact them through the website for "current" pricing.
On Saturday, April 25, AAS members and friends gathered at the Mary Olive Thomas Demonstration Forest for our spring, 2009 Forest Ecology Preserve stargaze. Following Jennifer Lolley’s presentation at the pavilion, the guests came out to view through the telescopes. Volunteering their time and telescopes were:
• Rhon and Joyce JenkinsDespite the fact that the sky was not completely dark at the beginning, and that we had a veil of cirrus clouds most of the evening, the guests seemed to enjoy the variety of views of Saturn through such a diverse group of telescope designs. Thanks to all who participated.
Hoping to see everyone again soon,