Date: Mon, 28 Jul 1997 07:51:36 -0400
To: (Rhon & Joyce Jenkins), (Larry Owsley), (Allen Screws), (Allen Screws), (Christy Screws), (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), (Neal Murphree), (Dennis Grantham), (William Baugh), (Scott Thompson), (Ricky Wood), (Paul McKee), (Yen-Ming Cheng), (Mike & Adam Roberts), (Jim Locke), (Tim & David Rich), (DAVID E. GREGORY), (Dacia Marshall), (Chris Talley), (Margie Brand), (Marcus and Susan Howell), (Vince Cammarata), (Luther Richardson), (J. D. Perez), (Michael Bozack), (Jean-Marie Wersinger), (Jason Ramsey), (Christian Nelson), (Thad Phillips), (Rick Evans -- W A Gayle Planetarium), (Alisha Vila), (David T King Jr ), (Hudgins, Dr. Michael), (Salyer, Dr. Gregory), (Carole Rutland), (Jim Wert), (Astronomy)
From: (Russell Whigham)
Subject: ASTROFILES, August '97

E-Newsletter of the Auburn Astronomical Society 
August, 1997

Greetings Astrophiles,

Special thanks to all who responded to my request  for Astrofiles
contributions.  I'm sorry if  yours wasn't included in this issue, but we
seem to be making up for last month's dearth of newsworthy items.  You've
made editing Astrofiles much easier.


The August meeting of the Auburn Astronomical Society will be on  Friday,
August 1, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building at 8:00 PM.  

Montgomery area car poolers, meet at my house (518 Seminole Drive).  We'll
head for Auburn at 7:00 PM.  If you've never been to my house, you can get a
map from our web site:  Select "Members and Friends" from the main menu,
find my name, and click on [Map to my house].

Let's plan the June star party for the following Saturday, August 2, at
Holley's Field.


I'm reading the book now and will probably wait until the movie is released
in the video rental stores to see it.  The reviews that I've seen give it
generally quite favorable ratings.  There are a few astronomical errors, and
it softens Sagan's philosophical perspectives to be more palatable to the
general public, but most of the comments that I've seen give it high marks.
See for some fact vs. fiction


Cynthia Ford , Lapine AL, has recently joined our list of "Friends".
Cynthia enjoys the luxury of dark skies in her backyard, and is well on her
way to learning the sky.  Glad to have you as part of the group, Cynthia.

Former AAS member, Mike Brown, has returned to the area.  Mike, who was an
AAS member back in the early eighties, has been in Pensacola for the past
several years, with the Escambia Amateur Astronomer's Association.  Mike is
back in Opelika now and his old 6 inch reflector has grown to 12 inches.
Welcome back Mike!


Submitted by David T King Jr. 
Forwarded from Dr. David Dunham, IOTA

Dr. King,
Montgomery, Alabama, is one of the cities for which I had predicted event
times as listed on our Web site, and that shows the following for Montgomery:

                  h m             angle
   Disappearance  4:09.5 am CDT   -73N
   Reappearance   5:15.3 am CDT   +80N

The disappearance will be a little earlier for those in the southern suburbs
and the reappearance will be earlier south and west of downtown, but for
each event, the edge of the Moon's shadow will sweep over the whole
metropolitan area in less than a minute.  

The cusp angle locates the events, an angle measured around the
circumference of the Moon's disk starting from the northern horn, or cusp,
of the lunar crescent (negative on the bright side, positive on the dark
side).  With the way the Moon will be tilted, the disappearance will be on
the Moon's lower left side, and the reappearance near the top, a little to
the right of the topmost point.  The location is not too important for most
observers.  For the disappearance, the star can be seen before the event and
just followed
in (but that will be difficult for naked eye or camcorder observers due to
glare from the bright side, at least during the last seconds as the star
draws really close to the Moon's edge).  For locating the reappearance
point, that is most important for telescopic observers where the field of
view is smaller than the Moon's disk.  The star is so bright that its
reappearance on the dark side will be obvious for those with a view of
the Moon's full disk, including naked-eye, camcorder, and binocular
observers.  Naked-eye observers of the reappearance can gain some advantage
by blocking the sunlit lower part of the Moon with a rooftop, top of a
telephone pole, etc.

     David Dunham, IOTA

          Preparations for the July 29th Occultation -
                    Things you should do

     There is now only one week to the July 29th occultation of Aldebaran by
the crescent Moon, one of only 3 easy naked-eye occultations of the star
that will occur in the USA during the current 4-year series of these events.
Information about the event is on pages 93-96 of the July issue of Sky and
Telescope, and much more detailed information (predictions for almost 300
cities, Moonviews for several cities, maps showing local times, graze path
details and maps) is on IOTA's lunar Web site given at the bottom. Much
remains to be done, and you can help.

1. Encourage other amateur astronomers, and other friends and relatives in
the region of visibility to record the occultation with camcorders.  Try to
borrow one if you don't own one.

2. Spread word about the occultation at star parties, astronomical society
meetings, newsletters, and bulletin boards.

3. Contact Local Newspapers and TV Stations to inform them of the event, and
the need for camcorder observations.  Use the IOTA information for this.
Prepare a local moonview; Dunham will prepare one upon request if it will be
used in a newspaper or on
television (several are already available on the Web site).

4. Encourage those with telescopes to use it with a camcorder to record the
disappearance, as well as the reappearance without the telescope (in the
scope, the R will be too far from the cusp).

5. If the graze path is within reasonable range, join one of the IOTA
expeditions, or make your own independent effort.  If the latter, try to get
others to join you, and let us know so we can inform others via the IOTA Web
page.  If a 1:250,000-scale plot of the path has not been prepared for your
area, one will be supplied upon request.

6. Use your camcorder to record The Weather Channel along with WWV time
signals to create a master tape for your area; we want at least a few of
these to check for any local variations in the time receipt of the national
broadcast.  In southern California, observers
should instead record the Cable News Network (CNN); it will be recorded with
WWV there.  Please let me know if you can make a master tape, for several
minutes before and after (but not during!) the reappearance in your area.
Collect videotapes of the occultation made in your region.

David W. Dunham, IOTA  email:  phone: 301-474-4722
IOTA Web site:

Observing Report
Submitted by Jim Locke 
Did you see all the shooting stars this weekend?  I was on the lake LATE
Saturday night and saw over a dozen rather brilliant streaks in a three-hour
period.  On of them was very bright and burst into a large green "poof!" (no
sound, of course) as it extinguished.  

Perseids Meteor Shower
The best night to watch the Perseids this year should be on the Monday
night, Aug. 11/12.
Most Perseids are pretty faint.  The Moon will be at first quarter then,
making the chances of seeing any pretty slim until after midnight.


Asteroid Mathilde, viewed from a distance of only 1200 km by the Near-Earth
Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) space probe, is heavily cratered from millions of
years of rough travel through the solar system.  By sensing the Doppler
effect on radio waves returning to Earth from NEAR owing to the (very
slight) gravitational tug between asteroid and spacecraft, Mathilde's mass
could be estimated.  Surprisingly, its density turns out to be not much
greater than that of water, suggesting that it is not a solid object but
rather a compacted pile of debris.  NEAR's next assignment is to meet and
orbit the asteroid Eros in 1999 (Science, 4 July 1997.)


There seems to be a lot going on in the area of space exploration currently.
I'm sure John Zachry will have all the latest at our August meeting.

>From the keyboard of Allen Screws: 
Here are some interesting pictures I've come across while surfing.
First there are some excellent pictures of the Russian `Lunar module' at Also, Sky & Tele. had a link on
it's site(Gordon Garradd,7/11 update under Comet Tabur item) to a guy in
Australia. Among the photos he had at his site was an atmospheric phenomenon
he called `acoustic gravity waves' I've never heard of this before, but the
picture and text with it were fascinating. The address is  If either of these sites are `gone' I have
downloaded them to disk.


Scott submitted this account of his recent trip to The Astronomical League's
annual convention.  Thanks for the report, Scott.

I just got back off vacation from Copper Mountain, Colorado where the
Astronomical League had their 50th Anniversary and Convention. I had a great
time and listened a good number of topics from the professionals. The
following is a list of the talks I was able to attend:

The Astronomical League in the 21st Century
Dr. Robert Stencel, Womble Professor of Astronomy and Director of 
Observatories, University of Denver Convention Vice-Chairman

Fifty Years of the Astronomical League
Charles Allen III, Vice-President, Astronomical League 
Ed Halback, First President, Astronomical League
This was a very interesting talk about how the League was started as well as
how it faired during the war years. 

The CHARA Array - A Shaper View of the Universe
Dr. Harold McAlister, Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Director of
the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy, Georgia State University

This Telescope Array combines five telescopes on top of Mount Wilson in
California. Together they should give Astronomers a high Resolution of many
close objects that are near us. For example we might be able to actually see
the planet around the stars instead of only detecting the planets by their

The Construction of Hercules - A 41.2 inch Reflector 
This is the largest amateur made telescope in the world. Hugh telescope! I
was able to get several views through it and WOW! The lines were very long.
I was able to get some pictures as well and will show them to you next time
I see you.

The Astronomical League's Observing Program for Comet Kohoutek
Mr. James Fox, Minnesota Astronomical Society

Mars Still a Planet of Mystery
Dr. Donald Parker, ALPO
This was by far the funniest speech given, as usual. Very interesting. He
also talked about the current dust storm on Mars a few days before
Pathfinder landed.

Open House, Meyer-Womble Observatory, Mt. Evans
Mt. Evans is Located at 14,128 feet up and is the highest operating
observatory on Earth. 
The weather did let us travel up to Mt. Evans, however, my wife wished she
had not traveled with me because of the road leading up to the observatory.
The last 5 miles were a lane and a half wide and no guard rails. If you made
a mistake then you could have easily suffered a 1500 foot drop! My hands
were sweating on the steering wheel all the way up. My wife said I was in
for a whipping if we survived. 
Once on top the view was great but the wind was gusting around 46 miles per
hour with a top gust while we were there of 76 mph. That made the wind chill
-10 below. We were in a large van and that was why the ride was so tough.
The twin optical telescope was not quite ready because of delays in the
weather. I was able to get my binoculars out and view from the highest
observatory in the world and the mountain goats didn't mind at all.
We survived the drive down and said we would never do this again. At least
not in the big van.

Constructing a Mobile Astronomical Observatory 
This was a dome attached to a trailer. Neat! I'll show you the picture.

Observing Cometary Debris Trails
Mr. David Chandler who makes the Deep Sky software wrote a program to track
the Trails that were left by comets. He showed everyone that was interested
to go by and look through his scope and spot the trail left by Hale-Bopp or
other comets. This was very interesting. I did not know you could do this.

The Reflector, Why the League Needs A Newsletter
Mr. Edward Flaspoehler, Jr., Editor

Gravity and Space Time
Mr. Charles Allen III, Vice-President, Astronomical League  Very interesting

Imaging Spectroscopy: Anew Era in Planetary Mapping and Understanding with
Current and  Future Spacecraft Missions
Dr. Roger Clark, research scientist, US Geological Survey
He also had a great talk at the observing site later that evening!

Visual Astronomy of "The National Parks of the Universe"
Anticipated Martian Discoveries from Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Pathfinder
Dr. Ben Clark, Chief Scientist and Director, Advanced Planetary
Studies,         Lockheed-Martin Astronautics, Denver

Recent Spacecraft Observations and Discoveries Related to Comet Hale-Bopp
Dr. John Brandt, Seniro Research Associate, Univ. of Colorado-Boulder
These were the wonderful talks that I was able to attend and that interested
me most. 
They had about 15 vendors at the meeting. Here is a list of some:

The Sky Software Co., Sky and Telescope, Mr. Chandler's Deep-Space software
company, JMI/Jim's Mobile, INC. He brought one scope and I got a chance to look
through. Great Scope. The Porta-Ball Company, Rex's Astro Stuff ... He's
everywhere, and Home Dome.

We had a wonderful time once we adjusted to the atmosphere and lack of
oxygen. Our altitude was always around 7 to 12000 feet. The observing site
was 9,320 ft. at the East Fork Site.  The sky got dark around 1100 PM which
was late. Once dark, the constellations were hard to find because of all the
stars! The temperature was a cool 35 - 45 degrees and the seeing was great!
I have never seen so many stars in the summer time!  The only thing I was
disappointed in the meeting was the observing sites were so far away. One
was 40 minutes and the other was 25 minutes from Copper Mountain. I had done
so much driving already I did not want to drive any further till I was ready
to get home. However, once I got to the site I found that it was well worth
the drive!
I have a bunch of Astronomical League hand-outs that others may be
interested in and I will get them to you. I only have one copy of each so If
someone is interested they can make a copy of the original or whatever.  KA4JFN / 73's 


Australian amateur Justin Tilbrook found himself a comet on July 22nd. It's
a 10th-magnitude blur in northeast Corvus that's headed north in the sky,
but toward the Sun. Those in the Southern Hemisphere have the best shot at
seeing Comet Tilbrook before it fades from view (it reached perihelion, 1.4
a.u. from the Sun, on July 16th). For those who'd care to try, here are this
week's positions for 0h Universal Time:
             R.A. (2000) Dec.
July  27    12h 28.7m  -15d  6'
      29    12  32.8   -13  34
      31    12  36.8   -12   7
August 2    12  40.5   -10  47


     Gene Shoemaker, renowned both as a geologist and an astronomer, and a
member of the Board of Directors of The Spaceguard Foundation, was killed
instantly on the afternoon of July 18, when his car collided head-on with
another vehicle on an unpaved road in the Tanami Desert northwest of Alice
Springs, in the Northern Territory of Australia.  His wife Carolyn, who had
closely collaborated with him in both his geological and his astronomical
activities for many years, was injured in the accident and is in stable
condition in Alice Springs Hospital.

     Born in Los Angeles, California, on 1928 April 28, Eugene Merle
Shoemaker graduated from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena
at the age of 19.  A thesis on the petrology of Precambrian metamorphic
rocks earned him a master's degree only a year later, at which point he
joined the United States Geological Survey, an organization with which he
remained at least partly associated for the rest of his life.  His first
work for the USGS involved searching for uranium deposits in Colorado and
Utah. While doing this, he also became interested in the moon, the
possibility of traveling there, and of establishing the relative roles of
asteroidal impacts and volcanic eruptions in forming the lunar craters.  He
then embarked on work for a Ph.D. at Princeton University, intending to
continue his study of metamorphic petrology, although this was interrupted
when the USGS again sent him to the field, this time leading him to an
investigation of volcanic processes, for it was in the eroded vents of
ancient volcanoes that the uranium deposits were often located.

     Gene Shoemaker and Carolyn Spellman were married in 1951.  A visit to
Arizona's Meteor Crater the following year began to set Gene toward the view
that both it and the lunar craters were due to asteroidal impacts.  In1956
he tried to interest the USGS in the construction of a geological map of the
moon.  This work was sidelined, because the national interest in the
production of plutonium led him to study of the craters formed in small
nuclear explosions under the Yucca Flats in Nevada and invited a comparison
with Meteor Crater.  It was then that he did his seminal research on the
mechanics of meteorite impacts that included the discovery, with Edward
Chao, of coesite, a type of silica produced in a violent impact.  Awarded a
master's degree in 1954, Gene Shoemaker received his doctorate from
Princeton in 1960with a thesis on Meteor Crater. In 1961 he took a leading
role in the USGS venture, in Flagstaff, Arizona, into the study of
"astrogeology", the Ranger missions to the moon and the training of the
astronauts.  It had long been Gene's dream to go to the moon himself, but in
1963 he was diagnosed as having Addison's disease, a condition that
prevented him from becoming an astronaut.  When the USGS Center of
Astrogeology was founded in Flagstaff in 1965, he was appointed its chief
scientist and organized the geological activities planned for the lunar
landings.  In 1969 he returned to Caltech as a professor of geology and
served for three years as chairman of the Division of Geological and
Planetary Sciences there.  Until he retired from the professorship in 1985
he divided his time between Pasadena and Flagstaff.  He continued to
maintain office in the USGS Astrogeology building after his formal
retirement in 1993, while at the same time taking up a position at the
Lowell Observatory. It was shortly after the 1969 arrival in Pasadena that
he became interested in extending his geological knowledge of the formation
and distribution of terrestrial and lunar impact craters to the study of the
astronomical objects that formed them.  With Eleanor Helin he developed a
plan to search for such objects--the Apollo asteroids--with the 0.46-m
Schmidt telescope at Palomar.  This search program had its first success in
July 1973 and was soon, with the help also of a number of students and of
collaborations using other Schmidt telescopes, significantly augmenting the
rather meager knowledge that had been accrued on these objects during the
previous four decades. Carolyn became involved with measuring images from
the Palomar films in 1980, and in 1982 the Helin and the Shoemaker observing
programs with the 0.46-m Schmidt went their separate ways.  Carolyn proved
to be very adept at scanning the Schmidt films, and this new phase of the
search program had its first success with the discovery of (3199) Nefertiti,
an Amor asteroid with its perihelion 0.13 astronomical unit outside the
earth's orbit. In 1983 the first of the record 32 comets associated with the
Shoemaker name was discovered.  By the time the observing program ended, in
late 1994, it had produced 40 of the--now--417 known Amor, Apollo and Aten
asteroids (the orbits of this last group being smaller than that of the
earth).  Together with the other observing programs at Palomar, the
Shoemakers have ensured that Palomar recently became and is likely to remain
the leading site for the discovery of asteroids, with currently more than 13
percent of asteroids that have been numbered having been found there.  A few
months before the Shoemaker program was terminated came its "defining
moment", with Gene receiving the thrill of his lifetime when some 20
components of one of those 32 comets were observed to crash into the planet
Jupiter with astoundingly dramatic results. Carolyn also went along on
Gene's annual trips to Australia to examine impact craters, and the tragic
irony that his own death should occur there as the instantaneous result of
another violent impact would not have been lost on him.  Gene lived as he
died, active to the hilt, his enquiring mind participating in the adventure
of ever learning more over an unusually large range of scientific
disciplines.  His many honors included the Wetherill Medal of the Franklin
Institute in 1965, election to membership in the National Academy of
Sciences in 1980, the Gilbert Award of the Geological Society of America in
1983 and the Kuiper Prize of the American Astronomical Society in 1984.
Above all, he was truly the "father" of the science of near-earth objects,
to the discovery and study of which The Spaceguard Foundation is dedicated,
and his expertise and drive will be sorely missed.
Brian G. Marsden

Submitted by Rick Evans, Director

We should be starting the 3 year $100,000 renovations on the auditorium on
the first week of August.  Going to be a phased in project over three years.
Another thing we are working on is installing a Big Screen TV to have the
NASA channel running live out here continuously.  A lot of changes over the
past year, and a lot more to come.

Submitted by Dr. Carole Rutland, Director

We will be hiring an astronomer who will arrive in September to run the
observatory. Dr. Shawn Cruzen. We will be offering a much more extensive
observatory program at that time and we will keep you informed of our new


So far, we've heard from George, Ginny & Tony, Judy, and Sherri.  They're
OK.  No word yet from  Rod & Dorothy, or Pat.  It's probably just their
phone lines.  We'll keep checking.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,


Russell Whigham
Montgomery AL

Auburn Astronomical Society