Date: Tue, 04 Mar 1997 20:55:33 -0500
To: (Rhon & Joyce Jenkins), (Larry Owsley), (Allen Screws), (Christy Screws), (Gerald Marfoe), (Ferenc Fodor), (John Shaw), (Rich Hammett), (John Whigham), (Scott Enebak), (David Stanbury), (Randy Russell-AUM), (Ward Knockemus-Huntingdon), (Marc Schrier), (Jeff Clark), (Robert Rock), (Jim Chesnutt), (Furman Smith), (Russell Whigham), (Mike Fulmer), (Jim Burns), (David & Raye Newton), (Ron Hatherley), (Tony Miller), (Neal Murphree), (Gerald Roberts), (Dennis Grantham), (William Baugh), (Scott Thompson), (Ricky Wood), (Luther Richardson), (Michael Bozack), (Jean-Marie Wersinger), (Carole Rutland), (Jim Wert), (Bob Howell - Channel 12)
From: (Russell Whigham)
Subject: ASTROFILES, March 1997

Greetings Astrophiles,

The March meeting of the Auburn Astronomical Society will be Friday March 7,
8:00 PM, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building on the campus of
Auburn University. We have the video tape on comet Hyakatake that John
Zachry ordered for us.  This should be quite timely as we anticipate comet
Hale-Bopp's passage during the next couple of months.

Our March star/comet party will be the following Saturday, March 8 at
Holley's field.  Mars is coming around nicely. Comet Hale-Bopp will be about
12 degrees above the northwestern horizon at 6:00 PM and will rise again at
about 3:00 AM Sunday morning.  This is traditionally the time of year for
the Messier Marathon, so if you're up to an all-nighter, you'll get to see
THE comet twice. At this writing, the comet is at magnitude -0.5, with a
three degree tail, and still brightening!

We had a very good turnout for last month's visit to the Coca-Cola Space
Science Center in Columbus. We had the additional pleasure of meeting our
newest members, Scott Thompson and Ricky Wood, from Alex City, and their
friend David Wayne Key.  Special thanks to Luther Richardson, who led the
tour of the facility and to Kevin Scott for the show and demonstrations in
the planetarium.  For those who were not able to attend, a brief summary:

The evening at CCSSC began with a program in the Omnisphere Theater,
"Journey to Infinity".  The Omnisphere featured interactive keypads on the
arm rests that allowed audience members to test their astronomical knowledge
prior to the program.  We then "traveled", via the magic of the Digistar
projector, through the Solar System and beyond; returning to Earth near Fort
Benning, flew above the Chattahoochee River to downtown Columbus, made a
U-turn at the Dillingham Bridge and "landed" back at CCSSC.  The Digistar's
special effects, combined with the battery of projectors and tremendous
sound system bordered on sensory overload.

Next was a tour of the Mead (Paper Products) Observatory and the Meade 16
inch LX-200.  Although clouds precluded any actual observing, Luther gave us
slewing and dome rotation demonstrations, then went on to describe their
plans for remote access capability of the telescope via the Internet.

>From the observatory, we went to the space Shuttle mock-up and sat in the
cargo bay as Luther described the "Challenger Center" mission program
available to students.  Classes are divided into three teams:  The shuttle
crew, the space station support crew, and mission control.  Each of the
stations is an authentic replica of their real world counterparts and each
team member's tasks are essential to a successful completion of the mission.

At this point, we returned to the planetarium have Kevin put the Digitstar
through its paces.  We traveled from the Sun to Sirius, watching the
constellations distort as we made the nine light-year trip in about ten seconds.

I thought that the star images on the dome were as sharp as the old
"starball" technology. Even if they weren't, it's so much more versatile,
that any compromise was far out weighed by the additional features.  I was
very impressed with the entire facility and the staff.  I'm looking forward
to a return visit.


A spate of special astronomy related programs, most addressing the
possibility of an asteroid or comet hitting Earth, have been aired in the
past few weeks.  Here are a few:

Asteroid, NBC Miniseries -- a disasterous, made for TV disaster movie.  The
following quote pretty much sums it up:  

"A lot of people were actually frightened by the NBC movie 'Asteroid.'" Says
Jay Leno. "Not to worry. Astronomers say there is only a one-in-10 chance
that another miniseries that bad will hit earth in the next 10,000 years."

"Three Minutes to Impact", Discovery:  Same subject but from a scientific
point of view.  Quite good.

"The Hunt for Alien Worlds", Nova, PBS:  An update of new techniques and
discoveries of extra-solar planets.  Only a week later, a challenge from a
Canadian astronomer who says that there is no evidence for the extra-solar
planets, only "ringing stars".  Could fiction get any better than this?

"On a collision Course with Earth; SCI-FI:  In this case, it's science fact.
A well done feature, on par with the Discovery Channel.

NBC had a National Geographic special on asteroids/impacts etc., preempted
in Montgomery for a basketball game.  

More evidence for asteroid impact, all of the networks:  Core samples from
the Chixchulub event site on the Yucatan peninsula confirms earlier
speculation of an catastrophic impact event on Earth's distant past that
contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs including the signature
iridium layer at the K-T boundary.

"FIRE FROM THE SKY" premieres Sunday  March,23 8:00 PM CT on TBS

Alan Hale was gracious enough in granting permission to use this timeline
on this home page. The timeline is from Alan Hale's book: "Everybody's
Comet - A Layman's Guide to Comet Hale-Bopp".

March 1997

   * March - Hale-Bopp spectacular to the naked eye in the pre-dawn sky?
   * Mar 03 - Beginning of International Comet Hale-Bopp Days, period 3
   * Mar 04 - Comet Hale-Bopp directly "above" the Sun, 1.04 AU from it.
   * Mar 06-21 - Best times for viewing in the morning sky.
   * Mar 09 - New Moon; total solar eclipse visible from Mongolia and
     Siberia (the comet should be easily visible during totality).
   * Mar 09 - Comet is 1.0 AU from the Sun.
   * Mar 20-30 - Comet visible all night from north of latitude 45 degrees;
     for rest of northern hemisphere, the comet is visible both in the
     evening and morning skies.
   * Mar 22 - Closest approach to the Earth (1.315 AU)
   * Mar 22 - Conjunction with the Sun
   * Mar 23 - Full Moon; partial lunar eclipse (midpoint 9:40 PM MST)
   * Mar 25 - Comet at is most northern point in its path across the sky.
   * Mar 25 - Comet Hale-Bopp is located 5 degrees north of Andromeda
   * Mar 26-Apr 10 - Best times for viewing in the evening sky; spectacular
     to the naked eye (hopefully!).

April 1997

   * Mar 26-Apr 10 - Best times for viewing in the evening sky; spectacular
     to the naked eye (hopefully!).
   * Apr 01 - Comet at Perihelion, 0.914 AU from the Sun.
   * Apr 07 - New Moon
   * Apr 10 - Near highest point above horizon in the evening sky.
   * Apr 11 - Small Bodies For Small Bodies Day, Pasadena, California
   * Apr 12 - End of International Comet Hale-Bopp Days, period 3
   * Apr 22 - Full Moon
   * Apr 24 - Comet is 1.0 AU from the Sun
   * Apr 25-May 10 - Best times for viewing (last good views from most of
     the northern hemisphere).

May 1997

   * Apr 25-May 10 - Best times for viewing (last good views from most of
     the northern hemisphere).
   * May 06 - Comet Hale-Bopp crosses plane of Earth's orbit from north to
     south, 1.11 AU from the Sun.
   * May 06 - Comet Hale-Bopp located 10 degrees northeast of Hyades star
     cluster in Taurus.
   * May 20-31 - Last sightings from mid-northern latitudes.
   * May 24-Jun 09 - Best times for viewing; easily visible from southern
     hemisphere, and possibly still quite spectacular.

Hope to see everyone Friday at the meeting,


Russell Whigham
Montgomery AL

Auburn Astronomical Society