Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
March, 1998


Greetings Astrophiles,

In this Issue
March Meeting  February Meeting  Mystery Object Identified
Web News Member News Partial Eclipse 
Aldebaran Occultation   New to the List  Peach State Star Gaze
March Meeting

This month's meeting will be on Friday, March 6, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building. Montgomery area car poolers, meet at my house (518 Seminole Dr.). As usual, we head for Auburn at 7:00PM sharp. 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]. Bring your eclipse and occultation photos and videos (see below). We'll plan a star party at Holley's Field for Saturday, March 21.

February Meeting

If you were unable to attend last month's meeting, here's a few of the things that you missed. Our program was a video on "Black Holes". John Zachry gave out several "Magic Eye" (3-D image) books. Thanks John! I finally made it happen. First time visitor, Christina Wilson, brought her 80mm (?) SCT for some suggestions on how to repair a broken finder ring. Hope you got it back in service and tried it out on the stars since then, Christina. We look forward to having you back with us. Robert Rock demonstrated his Night Vision Scope. You may remember Dr. Alan Cook. It was Alan's class that came up with the Kiesel Park observatory designs. It turns out that Alan has more than just a passing interest in astronomy. He's about ready to order a 10-inch Meade SCT. We look forward to having Alan join us at Holley's Field in the near future. Allen Screws shared his photo of Mir/Shuttle taken on January 29th just after separation Allen also supplied the answer to the mystery object spotted at the January star party…

 Mystery Object Following Mir

The following poser was reported in the February edition:

At 6:05 PM on January 31, we saw Mir, passing from the southwest to northeast almost directly overhead. A second object on the same trajectory and speed but about 5 seconds behind Mir was also seen. We all thought that Endeavor was supposed to land earlier that day, but assumed that the second object was the shuttle. An article in the following Sunday paper reported that Endeavor had landed just before sunset. The pass that we observed was 45 minutes after sunset. The second object was about 25% as bright as Mir. Anyone have a guess as to what it was?
Allen Screws did some checking and found out that it was Soyuz TM-27 launched on 1/29 with a replacement Russian crew for Mir. Thanks for doing our homework, Allen!
Aldebaran Occultation

Last month's occultation of the asteroid Arethusa was clouded out for me here in Montgomery. Did anyone catch this one from another location? This month we have a chance to observe the occultation of the first magnitude star Aldebaran by the first quarter Moon. It takes place this Wednesday, March 4. Because the event takes place just after sundown in a fairly bright twilight, you'll want to use your binoculars or telescope. Such an occultation is a rather dramatic event. Because the Moon has no atmosphere, and the star is a point source of light, the star appears to blink out instantly as the eastward motion of the Moon covers it. You might want to try to videotape the event. Not only would it be of interest to the other members of the AAS, it would be your chance to contribute to science. If you can record the time signals from WWV (or CNN's audio -- see the article in the March '98 issue of Sky & Telescope, pages 98-100), your data can be used by the International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) to precisely determine Moon's profile. If you do capture the event on video, bring your tape to the meeting this Friday. For more information see IOTA's web sites at: and

From: Joan and David Dunham

Press Release: Naked-Eye Eclipse of Bright Star Evening of March 4th
Astronomers need your camcorder records for lunar and solar (Earth climate) studies

Early Wednesday evening, March 4th, the bright orange star Aldebaran will be eclipsed by the crescent Moon. The disappearance on the dark side of the Moon will be easy to see with the naked eye from much of the U.S.A. east of the Mississippi River, as well as from the Caribbean Sea region. This event is called an "occultation" by astronomers. The figure below shows what the occultation will look like for several major cities. But observers in the eastern U.S.A. only need to look near the top of the Moon, on its dark side, to easily locate the bright star a few minutes before it is abruptly cut off by the advancing edge of the Moon.  The figure will soon be placed on IOTA's Web site at .  In the region of nighttime visibility, the occultation can be videotaped by anyone with a camcorder. The International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA) encourages as many camcorder owners as possible to record this rare event, as well as a selected national TV broadcast (use Cable News Network Headline News unless another station is publicized in your area) before and after the event to provide an accurate time base. Recordings from as many locations as possible will allow the edge of the Moon to be mapped in unprecedented detail, reducing the current largest source of error for analysis of past solar eclipse timings. These solar eclipse observations in turn are used to measure small but climactically significant variations of the solar diameter, possibly shedding light on the controversy of how much the current global warming trend is due to increased buring of fossil fuels and how much of it is due to natural variations of the Sun. But the use of solar eclipse timings for this purpose is now limited by our knowledge of the lunar topography.
Camcorder users should do the following:

1. Find Aldebaran about half an hour before the disappearance, making sure that you can focus the camcorder on the Moon and zoom in to see the star, and possibly the dark edge of the Moon, which is faintly illuminated by "Earthshine", sunlight reflected from the Earth.

2. Five minutes before the disappearance, turn on your camcorder and record a minute of CNN Headline News (or a local station if one is publicized).

3. Keeping the camcorder recording, go outside and record the Moon and Aldebaran.

4. Just after Aldebaran disappears, go back to your TV and record another minute of CNN Headline News, with the camcorder running the whole time.

5. Turn off the camcorder. If successful, either send the tape to a local IOTA coordinator or to: Thomas Campbell, Jr.; 13418 Thomasville Circle; Tampa, FL 33617 (phone 813-985-1842). Enclose with the tape a diagram showing about how far you were from the center of the nearest street, and then the distance along the street to the center of the nearest intersecting street. You can just pace the distances; we need an accuracy of about 10 feet.


If your camcorder has an electronic "anti-shake" feature, turn it off. It delays the video signal relative to the audio signal, degrading the timing accuracy. If you have a shortwave radio, please also record WWV

time signals at 5.0 or 10.0 megahertz during the observation. Any observations that you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

The occultation occurs in bright twilight from Illinois to the Florida panhandle. In that area, the star should be visible and recordable with camcorders, but with more difficulty in the western part of the zone. The occultation will not be visible north of a line passing 30 miles south of Minneapolis; near Green Bay, Wisc.; 25 miles south of Mackinaw City, Mich.; 10 miles south of Ottawa, Ont.; along the U.S.- Quebec border crossing into northeastern Vermont; and a few miles south of Bangor, Maine. Within a mile or two of this line, the star will just graze the northern edge of the Moon, disappearing and reappearing several times among the lunar mountains and craters. A few IOTA expeditions will attempt to record the graze.

 Data for 267 cities are given on IOTA's Web site at

that also has some maps showing the region of visibility. A local-time map of the eastern U.S.A. will soon be added so that at least the time of the disappearance can be estimated to a minute or two for any location in the area. Additional information about this occultation and about camcorder observations is given in the March issue of Sky and Telescope magazine and at

 David W. Dunham, IOTA, February 20, 1998

Welcome to the E-mail List:

John Williams, John lives in Prattville AL and has a 10-inch Meade LX50. Fellow list member, Lee Cook, referred John to us.

Royal Harrell, of Millbrook AL found us on the WWW and has expressed interest in joining.

Mike Wallace, of West Point GA, also found us on the web. He has an 8-inch Meade telescope. See Mike's Thumbnail Biography at

 I found Monroe Harden, of Enterprise AL on the ASTRO Mail List. Maybe he and AAS member Marcus Howell can get together for some observing down that way. Monroe had warned the list of some unsafe information on eclipse viewing on CNN's web page that was subsequently corrected because of his action.

And we had a message from former AAS member, Bob McGwier, , the latest addition to the "Gone, But Not Forgotten" list. While looking for Bob's e-mail address on the web's many address locators, I found that Bob has more addresses than Saturn has rings. He's out of the country a good bit now doing work for Uncle Sam, but still doing some astronomy when he's back at home in New Jersey. Great to have you back in touch, Bob.


Member News

While cyber-surfin' the other night I came across an interesting astronomy page and then learned that it was our own, Marcus Howell's web page: Have a look. You'll be impressed!

John Howard attended the Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys in February. I'm trying to get John to give is a full account of the event.

Web News

After a year and a half and six new URL submissions to Yahoo, the Auburn Astronomical Society finally has a listing under Astronomy/Clubs. Whew!

The Pontchartrain Astronomy Society (New Orleans) has a new Web site at:


February 26 Partial Eclipse

Mostly cloudy conditions allowed only brief glimpses of the eclipse last Thursday. Using my solar filter, I made a couple of spot checks with 1-power eyeballs. If you had better luck, please bring you photos/video tapes to the meeting.

PSSG ' 98, March 26-29

If you didn't receive your Peach State Star Gaze Registration packet in the mail, use the one on the following page:

To register, include the information listed below along with your check or money order (payable to the Atlanta Astronomy Club) to:
Ken Poshedly, PSSG Chairman
1741 Bruckner Court, Snellville, Georgia 30278

Make your check or money order payable to the Atlanta Astronomy Club.
Confirmation packets will be sent by return mail and include your lodging assignment, a map of the park's location, and a photocopy of your registration form.
If you have any questions, phone (770) 979-9842 or e-mail to
Rain or shine event

Registration (required) -- $20 per adult (age 13 and up); $10 per child (ages 5 through 12); children under 5, free.
State of Georgia Parking fee (required) -- $2 per vehicle. Covers your entire stay.
* Private Rooms -- $20 per person per night. Include heat and showers. Each room has two twin beds.
* Bunkhouse -- $15 per person per night. Includes heat and showers in bunkhouse-style arrangement.
* Camping -- $8 per person per night. Tent or vehicle on the observing field. No open or campfires or waste dumping is permitted. Showers available in the nearby bunkhouses.
* Off-Site Lodging -- A list of several motels will be provided on request.

* Cook your own at the fully stocked dining hall (you provide the food)
* Cook your own at your campsite stove (no open fires permitted anywhere)
* Visit any of the area restaurants listed on the handout provided when you arrive

TEESHIRTS (optional; specify quantity and size):  XXL _____ XL _____ L _____ M ______
Street Address
City, State, ZIP
Work Phone
Home Phone
Total Enclosed
Check #