Date:Sat, 30 Aug 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), (Ted Kicklighter), (Jason & Claudia Glasgow), (Carole Rutland), (Jim Wert), (Astronomy)
From: (Russell Whigham)
Subject: ASTROFILES, September '97

Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
September, 1997

Greetings Astrophiles,

Many of us have vowed to do something unpleasant "when hell freezes over" or
"on a cold day in August."  I’m not sure about the former, but I’m guessing
lots of folks had to make good on their promise for the latter on the
weekend of August 23.  New record low temperatures were set across the
state, as  a cold front, pushed through a full month ahead of schedule
bringing crisp clear skies to astonished amateur astronomers.   And while we
still, no doubt, have several sultry days ahead, we have been teased with
this harbinger of  fall.  And with fall we bid farewell to the best of the
summer stars and the chance to get reacquainted with our old friend
Andromeda and her entourage of celestial royalty which serve as a frame of
reference for the hidden treasures that lie within.

September Meetings

The September meeting of the Auburn Astronomical Society will be on  Friday,
September 5, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building at 8:00 PM.
As usual, Montgomery area car poolers, meet at my house (518 Seminole
Drive).  We'll head for Auburn at 7:00 PM.  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].

We’ve finally broken free of the pattern of the same weekend for the regular
meeting and star party.  Let's plan the September star party for Saturday,
September, 27 at Holley's Field.   You might also want to check your e-mail
any Saturday afternoon when we have deep blue skies and the Moon is not a
factor, to see we’ll have a bonus star party.


We were pleased to welcome John Zachry’s guest, Susan Norman at the August
meeting.  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing you again, Susan.  Also attending
the August meeting for the first time was Chris Talley, of Montgomery.  New
to the official membership roster are: David Rich, from Tallassee, and
Michael Crouse, of Prattville. Bill Possel, an experienced observer from
California, stationed here at Maxwell AFB for the next several months, and
Ted Kicklighter, Jason & Claudia Glasgow, all of Wetumpka, not only found
us, but have already had their first star party with us. 

August Star Parties

August 2:  The day began with puffy fair-weather clouds and crisp shadows –
almost unheard of in Alabama during August.  Marc Schrier, first time
visitor, Ted Kicklighter, and your editor met at Holley’s Field for what
degenerated into a couple of hours of "sucker-hole" observing with Marc’s 10
inch Meade and his Tele-Vue Ranger "finder". By 10:00 PM, the clouds turned
to rain, putting a abrupt end to the star party.

August 23:  Ron Hatherley, Jason and Claudia Glasgow, Bill Possel, Mike
Brown, my wife Cathy and I met for an unscheduled star party, again at
Holley’s Field.  This time, the weather cooperated perfectly with
comfortable temperatures, and a transparent sky, full of Milky-Way.  It was
the first trip to Holley’s Field for Jason & Claudia with their 4.5 inch
Meade equatorially mounted Newtonian; Bill, and his 4 inch Astro-Physics
Traveler; and Mike with his 12.5 inch Meade Dobsonian.  Ron, with his
Coulter Odyssey 10.1 inch Dob, and I, with the C-11 represented the star
party veterans.  The "Veil" nebula bordered the periphery of Bill’s 35mm, 2
inch Tele-Vue Pan-Optic eyepiece, equipped with an O-III filter, and was
visible all the way around.  We also were treated to a same field view of
the Lagoon and Trifid, and later the Andromeda Galaxy with companions.
Other deep-sky objects, including several of the summer showpieces were
shared among all there.  Solar system objects observed were Venus, Jupiter,
Uranus, Saturn, and finally at midnight, the Moon.

Deep South Regional Star Gaze, ’97

>From the keyboard of Barry Simon (, we received this message:

The mailing for this year's DSRSG is composed.   As  soon as I make copies,
they will be on their way.
1. DSRSG XV - Wednesday, 10/29 through Sunday, 11/2, held in conjunction
with the SERAL Convention.
2. Halloween is on Friday night, please bring treats for the field for
distribution to the kids in attendance.
3. 12lb, 13oz Gibeon meteoritie (fine octahedrite) is our main raffle prize,
with a value of over $800.00
4. Park fees have gone up for the first time in over 10 years, so our fees
and  registration are as follows:    
5. bunk - $7.00 per night 
6. meals - 3 for $17.00,  4 for  $21.00, 5 for $25.00 and 6 for $29.00 -
note that first available meal this year is  lunch on Friday.  Our
registration has been raised to $8.00 per person and $10.00 per family.   
7. Have very little information on SERAL involvement in our stargaze, as
information  becomes available, I will get the word out via internet.
8. Please note that I can be reached via e-mail at  

Once again, expect your registration packet within the week.  Let me know.
If I can   be of help.

Barry Simon

If you’ve never been to the Deep South Regional Star Gaze, check out the
"DSRSG" page under our "Field Trips" link, on the AAS web site. Be patient
while all of the graphics load.  I'll be going over there that Wednesday.  I
usually leave here about 9:00 AM and arrive in McComb about 3:00 PM.  The
cabins are bunkhouse style and accomodate about 20 snorers.  The bathrooms
have showers, lavatories, and toilets.  Each cabin has a chaperone’s room
and usually used by the husband & wife registrants.  One of the cabins is
reserved for women.  Be advised that shower and restroom facilities are not
necessarily gender specific and are not for the overly modest.  The exercise
of common sense and courtesy, has never made this a problem.  The cabins
have heat and air conditioning.  I usually just take a sleeping bag and
pillow to throw on the bunk.  The cafeteria fare is... well, it gives us
something to complain about if the weather is perfect.  Their specialty is
the Unidentified Fried Object. The prices are right and it can’t be beat for
convenience. There are several restaurants near the camp; All-you-can-eat
catfish at Mr. Whiskers is a Thursday evening tradition.  The Fernwood Truck
Stop, just up the road, is famous for their country fried steak.  I also
take some "pulpwooder's food" -- direct from can to mouth cuisine.  You'll
also want to take some fruit, soft drinks, and munchies.  If you haven’t
received your registration packet, I’ll try to have some extra copies at the
meeting or you can e-mail Barry.
Telescope Stolen

Jim McLaughlin’s 8 inch Meade LX-200, with fork and tripod was stolen from
his home in Montgomery, on Wednesday, August 20.  The eyepieces, power cord,
and hand controller were not taken. Jim asks that anyone hearing of  a
telescope fitting this description for sale, please call him at
334-244-7008.   He also reminds everyone to record the serial numbers of
your prized possessions along with complete descriptions and photos.  If
there is any silver lining here, it’s the fact that word of the theft has
been spread to astronomy clubs throughout the southeast and thanks to our
contacts in the Astronomical League, across the country in only a couple of

S&T's Weekly News Bulletin Mail List

In response to numerous requests, and in cooperation with the Astronomical
League and the American Association of Amateur Astronomers, S&T's Weekly
News Bulletin and Sky at a Glance are available via electronic mailing list
too.  For a free subscription, send e-mail to and put
the word "join" on the first line of the body of the message.  To
unsubscribe, send e-mail to and put the word "unjoin"
on the first line of the body of the message.

The Dob Driver II (by Tech2000)
A Product Review by Marc Schrier

Aren't Dobs great? They give you a lot of aperture for the buck; they're
stable and easy to setup; they're simple to operate; their mirror is almost
totally immune to dew; and you don't have to worry about scratching up the
tube's pretty finish (because it doesn't have one). However, I can hear you
saying, "That's all well and good; but a Dob can't track. It's only good for
one thing - low magnification, wide field observing." That's why I'd like to
tell you about the Dob Driver tracking system that I recently installed on
my 10" Meade Dobsonian.

The Dob Driver (DD) consists of two quartz-locked axis drives and a control
"pendant" that fits in the palm of your hand. It does not require any
polar-aligning and works on a completely different principle than an
equatorial mount. It guides on objects using "Fuzzy-Logic". To start
guiding, you center the object in your eyepiece and but the DD into tracking
mode. For about 1 minute, you use the push-buttons on the pendant (which
resemble the + pad on a Nintendo) to keep the object centered. After that,
the DD has learned what movements you made and takes over to continue
tracking the object automatically. While tracking, you can continue to make
minor manual adjustments (which the DD monitors to improve its
auto-tracking). Admittedly, using this method is NOT as accurate as using an
equatorial drive - but it doesn't weigh 50 lbs. either (more like 3). With
that in mind, I have been able to initially track Jupiter for well over a
minute at 357x without making any adjustments. Subsequent tweaking over the
following few minutes allows me to get an even better track which keeps the
object centered indefinitely. This comes in really handy when I show off the
heavens to my family and friends who are severely
telescopically-challenged... I no longer have to readjust the scope for them
every 30 seconds!

Installing the Dob Driver is relatively simple; but does require some work.
It took me about 2 days and a fair amount of new tools to complete the
project. If you're a master-craftsman, it shouldn't take as long. A wooden
pulley is attached to one of the Dob's altitude bearings which is connected
by a belt to the altitude drive mounted on the side of the rocker box. A
spring assembly alternately tightens and loosens the drive against the belt
so the tube can be adjusted by hand when needed. The azimuth drive requires
a notch to be cut in the bottom of the rocker box. Once installed, a knurled
wheel on the drive rolls across the base board to turn the scope. You also
have to replace the Teflon bearings in the base with roller bearings - a
process about which I won't go in-depth. Suffice it to say that it requires
a lot of drilling. The drives are wired to a strip mounted in the rocker box
to which the control pendant is attached. The pendant is attached with
Velcro to the tube for easy access.

To keep this article from getting too long (or boring, if you don't own a
Dob); let me offer a list of what I consider to be the advantages and
disadvantages of the DD system... 

1. Provides very good unassisted celestial tracking for long-term observing.

2. Manual telescope adjustments are much easier... instead of having to grab
the scope (risking sexual harassment), you can move around the sky at the
press of a button.

3. Allows for higher magnification. Due to the shakiness of the human hand,
most Dobs max out at 200x. With the DD, people have reported usable powers
up to 500x (although I doubt that Alabama's skies ever get that steady).

4. The Seek mode allows you to find all those elusive deep-sky objects you
keep missing - just point the scope in the general direction of the subject
you're looking for and press the magic button. The scope will rotate in
widening circles until the desired object comes into view.

5. Allows for astrophotography! Who says you can't take pictures through a
Dob? The DD allows for limited long-exposure photography using its Guide
mode. Tech2000 claims its guide speeds are the most gentle in the industry.
Of course, some people have also claimed to have seen the Horsehead Nebula
naked-eye!  :-).

6. Over the weekend, It's more fun to add on stuff to your telescope than to
mow the lawn.

1. Price. The DD system retails for around $525 - about half the price of a
low-end SCT.

2. It's not as accurate as an EQ mount. (However, you don't need to polar
align it, either. I forgot to put that in the advantages section).

3. The image "steps" as the drives keep it centered... you notice the image
shift as the system keeps it centered (but only at 175x and above). I don't
really mind this because it intuitively makes me view dim objects using
averted vision.

4. If you own a Meade, Celestron, or Coulter scope; you'll find that your
altitude bearings are pretty crappy. To get rid of the stickiness , you'll
need to order some new "virgin-Teflon" bearings from Tech2000 for $25.

5. Allows for astrophotography! If you're a serious photographer, don't buy
a Dob. Even with the DD, exposures are limited to about 10 minutes due to
field rotation. Some decent pictures have been taken using a Dob; but people
have also caught sharks using a bass fishing pole. Dobs are for visual

6. You must make sure that the base of the Dob is on level ground or the
azimuth drive may not track accurately. I don't really consider this a
disadvantage since all scopes need to be leveled.

In closing, I must say that I am really pleased with the Dob Driver II.
Since I can't always make it out to the country, it makes high-powered
planetary viewing feasible in the city using a scope that would otherwise be
totally incompatible (hey, f4.5 isn't THAT bad on planets). Also, some
people confuse the DD with Digital Setting Circle devices available for Dobs
from several different companies (such as the Magellan - which I tried and
learned to despise before I sent it back). The DD does not have any DSC
capability at this time; it is a tracking system - pure and simple. However,
Tech2000 is promising DSC capability in the future and they already have a
software program that interfaces with the DD for slewing to selected objects
(LX200 style). Unfortunately, I don't own a laptop so I can't give any
opinions on this particular feature. Oh, I almost forgot, the DD requires 12
VDC; so you'll need to purchase a hobby battery or connect it to your
vehicle's cigarette lighter to make it operate - power drain appears to be
minimal. If anybody has any questions, comments, or opinions; feel free to
send them to me. When I get that 20" Obsession I've been lusting after, I'll
let y'all know how the DD works on it :-). 

Unhazy Skies,

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,


Russell Whigham
Montgomery AL

Auburn Astronomical Society