Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
October, 1998


Greetings Astrophiles,


October Meetings Future Programs Discount Magazine Subscriptions/Renewals
From the W.A. Gayle Planetarium New Member New To The Mail List:
Member News New On The Web DSRSG '98
Dustin Smith's Messier List The Third Annual Highlands Stargaze Leonid Meteor Shower
This month's meeting will be on Friday October 2, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building, on the campus of Auburn University. Several of us in the Montgomery area carpool over to Auburn for the meetings. If you'd like to ride with us, we enjoy visiting while we commute. We meet here at my house (518 Seminole Dr.) and leave for Auburn at 7:00 PM on meeting nights. You can find a map to my house under the "Members and Friends" page on the web site. Find my name (Russell Whigham), and click on "Map to my house".

The regular new moon Star Party weekend this month will be on Saturday, October, 17, at Holley's Field. Because several of us will be attending the Deep South Regional Star Gaze over in Mississippi that weekend, we may try to squeeze in an extra star party on October 10. Check your e-mail that afternoon.

Jim McLaughlin has a colleague whose father is a professional astronomer. His area is binary stars. Jim is trying to line up a presentation to the society while he's here during the holidays -- probably December. Jim is also working on having his friend who works at the Marshall Space Flight Center to give an encore presentation, possibly in November.

One of the privileges of membership in The Auburn Astronomical Society, is the club discount subscription rate for Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines. Now is the time to subscribe or renew. You may subscribe or renew to either or both of the magazines.

AAS rate
Sky & Telescope
We must have FIVE MEMBERS for each to qualify for the discount rate and AAS treasurer, John Zachry, MUST submit them to the magazines all at once to qualify for the discount. It's imperative that you get your renewal in to John promptly.

John will be taking orders for at this monthís meeting.  If you can't attend the October meeting, send your check to:

Mr. John Zachry, AAS Treasurer
501 Summerfield Road
West Point GA 31833

Make checks payable to: "Auburn Astronomical Society"

If this will be your first time to subscribe at the club discount rate, include your mailing address.

If you already are subscribed to either or both magazines, your current subscription will be extended by one year if you take advantage of the club discount.

If you're not an AAS member, and have just been needing an excuse to join, this is it. AAS dues are $15.00 per year, $7.50 for full-time students. Make checks payable to "Auburn Astronomical Society".  Auburn Astronomical Society Membership Application Form

You can e-mail John at: if you have questions.
From Rick Evans, Director

I watched most of the show [Observatories]. I was amazed at how much of that show mirrors (no pun intended) the show we are currently running...Through the Eyes of Hubble. I would offer an invitation for your organization to hold one of its meetings out here sometime, and we could run the program for them. We can work around most any scheduled time (with a little advance notice) and would happy to it as a gesture of our gratitude for your support during National Astronomy Day.

Just let me know.

PS. I appreciated the heads up on the show. We now have the NASA channel piped into the auditorium, so if there is a significant event occurring that the club would like to view, we can arrange that as well.

I answered:
This sounds great to me! I'll mention it in the next newsletter and try to get a consensus at the meeting. Would it be safe to assume that you had a Saturday or Sunday afternoon show in mind as opposed to our regular Friday night time? Changing our time isn't a problem and I know you have to make special arrangements to be there after dark.

Are you doing the laser shows every weekend (Saturday?) or more like once per month? Rick Fanning said you had a pretty good turnout for the first one.

I'd be glad to include the planetarium's show titles along with dates & times in the newsletter if you can get them to me by the Friday BEFORE the first Friday of each month.

And Rick Replied:
We will work around whatever time suits your club best, Friday night, or Saturday or Sunday. We are here for you.

The next laser light show will on Halloween Weekend, and will be from Pink Floyd, Dark side of the Moon. Then in December we will run a show every weekend (a planetarium Christmas show and a Laser Light Christmas show) up until Christmas. Ambitious endeavor but should be worth it. I think the Laser Light shows will probably end up being a monthly thing instead of a weekly show, but Iím going to hold off on that decision.

I need some business cards from you that I can hand out or make available in the lobby.....just a thought.

My Reply:
Excellent idea. I'll get on it.
Rick had a nice write up on the planetarium in the Montgomery Advertiser's "GO" on September 17, entertainment supplement.

NEW MEMBER Robert West of Prattville 3-inch Reflector. We look forward to having Robert as part of the group.

NEW TO THE MAIL LIST Charles Harris lives in Deatsville He has a Celestron C-8, C-90, and a 80mm f/5 and enjoys astrophotography in the dark skies of Deatsville. The standard referral fee goes to Rick Evans and staff at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium. ;-) Michael Hein is in the Building Science department at Auburn. Michael and his wife Kitty were at the August star party as guests of Alan Cook. Jack McDaniel whom we met several years ago when there was an attempt to form an astronomy club in Montgomery, has renewed his interest in astronomy and is considering attending the Deep South Regional Star Gaze with us.

AAS president, Rhon Jenkins, has just ordered an 18-inch StarMaster Dobsonian telescope to be delivered in February. Rhon writes: "Iím hoping that everyone in the club who wants to can enjoy the scope with me." Rhon will be easy to find at star parties; just get in the longest line to have a look. Here's Rhon's description:

"It's a f/4.5. Accessories include an enhanced secondary coating (99%) (but no enhanced primary ... Iíve heard too many people say they can actually degrade performance ... including John Hall (Pegasus) whoíll be making the mirror and Rick Singmaster who also cautioned against it. Included is a Televue paracorr coma corrector, a 27mm Panoptic eyepiece, a 2X barlow, digital setting circles (so sue me ... Iím lazy), transport (wheelbarrow type) handles and wheels, and various light shrouds and dust covers. Also a telrad reflex finder and a set of Tectron collimation tools. Iíll also be using my old 13mm Nagler which Iíve got around here someplace."
The new web address for The Escambia Amateur Astronomers Association (the Pensacola club) is: It's the same great site that was singled out for special recognition in the October '98 (page 65) Sky & Telescope, just with a new address.

Beginning in December, The Mobile Astronomical Society web site will have an extra 10 Megabytes of storage space on their server. Since the page is now running in just slightly more than 2.5 megabytes, this means that webmaster, Rod Mollise, will be able to add a lot of new features. Check it out at:

 Galaxies behind the Milky Way, by Renée C. Kraan-Korteweg and Ofer Lahav

NightSkies: The Art of Deep Space, A virtual exhibition by David Malin

The October issue of National Geographic Magazine also contains a map on human population which depicts Earth at night. There are so many lights that it is easy to recognize whole cities, countries, and continents just by their light-polluted outlines!

For similar images, see this page on the International Dark-Sky Association Web site:

The sixteenth annual Deep South Regional Star Gaze will be held from Wednesday, October 14 through Sunday October 18, 1998 in McComb MS. An online registration form can be obtained at: If youíve never attended, you can get a feel for the event by visiting our web page:

For Sale:  Laminated Messier Reference
Dustin Smith, an enterprising 15 year-old aspiring amateur astronomer, is offering a chart giving details on all 110 Messier objects brightness, size, common name, etc.), laminated to protect it from dew -- $5.00 /set. Profits to go toward purchase of a 8-inch Dobsonian. Contact Dustin at

Send orders to:
Dustin Smith
531 County Road 178
Waterloo AL 3567

The date has been set for the Third Annual Highlands Stargaze: January 14-18, 1999. Since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is on Monday, the 18th, weíve scheduled a 4-night event this year. The Stargaze will again take place at the Nine Mile Grade Campground which is located between Sebring and Okeechobee, Florida, under some of the darkest skies in South-central Florida. We can accommodate tents, campers and motorhomes. There are flush toilets and hot showers, and electrical hook-ups for your astro-equipment. The campground is located on the Kissimmee River and there is a boat ramp if youíre interested in fishing or water sports during the day.

We will provide swap tables, and we plan to have a program of Guest Speakers. Our Door Prize Giveaway will be bigger and better than last year! A snack bar with free coffee will be set up.

For all the details and an on-line registration form, visit our web site, or e-mail me.

Richard Lindblom
Highlands Stargazers
Visit our web page at:

 Leonids Live!

Joe Rao sent me the following message from Bing Quock of the San Francisco Planetarium. If anyone is interested please contact Bing. His address is at the end of the message.

" I have been contacted by a meteor researcher at NASA who is planning to observe the peak of the Leonids from a plane out of Okinawa on November 17th. This peak will be during daylight hours in the U.S., and the observing session is expected to take place from about 9:30 a.m. PST to 2:00 p.m. PST, with the maximum at about 11:00 a.m. PST. He is negotiating to see if they can broadcast a live-feed from the plane, which will have a camera pointed straight up from the aircraft and have a 30-degree field of view. I volunteered (silly me!) that the whole planetarium community would probably love to carry it, and he asked me to survey my colleagues, just so he can get some idea of the level of interest. He doesnít want his e-mail system to get swamped, and Iím trying to figure out how to avoid having that happen to mine, but here goes:

If you/your institution would be interested in carrying a live feed of the Leonid meteor shower from Asia during the calculated peak on November 17th, please let me know so I can convey some sense of the level of interest to him. Iím only compiling a rough number, so kindly keep your responses brief.

Please note that this whole thing is still in the planning stages and that the availability of this feed has not been finalized, so this is NOT A SURE THING. An indication of how much interest there is out there will certainly help him negotiate permission for feed, and if they can pull it off, it sure could be neat!

Bing Quock
Morrison Planetarium
San Francisco


Date: Fri, 18 Sep 1998 20:38:02 GMT
From: Ron Baalke

The November Leonids: Will They Roar?
Donald K. Yeomans
Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology
August 7, 1998

Each November when the Earth runs into the dusty debris from periodic comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, some Leonid meteor shower activity is noted. These annual displays of meteors, or shooting stars, seem to originate in the constellation Leo so they are termed Leonid meteors. Normally, the observed rate of the Leonid meteors is about 15 per hour under ideal observing conditions. However, every 33 years or so when the parent comet Tempel-Tuttle returns to the Earthís neighborhood, there is a possibility that the Leonid meteors rates can get substantially higher. In some years such as 1799, 1833, and 1966, when the Earth passed particularly close to the tube of debris following in the cometís wake, there were Leonid meteor "storms" noted of up to 150,000 meteors per hour. Periodic comet Tempel-Tuttle passed closest to the sun (reached perihelion) most recently on Feb. 28, 1998 and a month later on March 5, the comet passed through the plane of the Earthís orbit about the sun.

Another way of saying the same thing is to note that the comet passed through the ecliptic plane from north to south or it passed through its descending node. We can expect the maximum Leonid meteor shower activity when the Earth arrives close to this nodal crossing point on November 17, 1998 at 19 hours 43 minutes Universal Time (UT). The peak Leonid meteor shower activity takes place within one hour but some activity can be observed for a few hours on either side of this peak. Unfortunately for observers located in the United States, the Nov. 1998 shower maximum will occur during daylight hours (2:43 PM local time on the east coast and 11:43 am on the west coast). While some enhanced 1998 Leonid activity may be visible just before dawn for U.S. observers, the Leonid shower maximum should be best observed by those located near the regions of Japan and eastern Asia. In November 1999, the Leonid shower will be best observed from the regions near Europe and North Africa.

Table 1. Predicted Leonid Shower Circumstances. Although slightly enhanced meteor shower activity was evident in 1996 - 97, impressive meteor showers are most likely in 1998 and/or 1999.

 Leonid Shower
Predicted time  
Date (UTC)  HH:MM
Observed time peak of shower peak ZHR meteors/hr (Hours) Good observingLocations 
1996-Nov-17 07:20 05 - 10 60 Eastern U.S. 
1997-Nov-17 13:34 12 - 14 40 Western U.S., Hawaii 
1998-Nov-17 19:43 ??? 200 - 5000? Japan, Asia 
1999-Nov-18 01:48 ??? 200 - 5000? Europe, North Africa
As noted in Table 1, the predictions for the times of the 1996 and 1997 maximum shower events were rather accurate and there is no obvious reason to doubt that the 1998 and 1999 predictions will be seriously in error. What sort of Leonid meteor rates can we expect in 1998 and 1999? Meteor shower rates are often expressed in terms of the so-called zenith hourly rate (ZHR) or the hourly rate of meteors an observer would witness under ideal conditions with the meteors appearing directly overhead (at the zenith). The geometric circumstances between the cometís orbit and that of the Earth for 1998 and 1999 are most similar to those circumstances during the Leonid showers in 1866-67 and 1931-32. Since the observed Leonid meteor rates in 1866-67 and 1931-32 were approximately 5000 and 200 per hour respectively, we might anticipate a zenith hourly rate in 1998 and 1999 bounded by the rates witnessed in the earlier events - between 200 and 5000 meteors per hour.

Like the weather, it is extremely difficult to predict the hourly rates of meteor showers. Table 1 is meant only as a rough guide. Peter Brown, a respected researcher of the Leonid meteor phenomena, has suggested a more optimistic prediction of between 1000 and 9000 meteors per hour in 1998 (zenith hourly rate). In any case, it is well worth the effort to observe the upcoming Leonid meteors since it will be another century after the 1998-1999 events before significant Leonid meteor displays are once again likely.

Suggestions for further reading:
* Meteor Streams (
* Kronk, G.W. 1988. Meteor showers, a descriptive catalog. Enslow Publishers, Hillside, N.J.
* Mason, J.W. 1995. "The Leonid meteors and comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle". Journal of the British Astronomical Association 105(5):219-235.
* Rao, J. 1995. "The Leonids: king of the meteor showers". Sky and Telescope 90:24-31.
* Yeomans, D.K. 1991. Comets: A chronological history of observation, science, myth, and folklore. John Wiley and Sons, N.Y.
* Yeomans, D.K., K, K. Yau, and P.R. Weissman 1996. "The impending appearance of comet Tempel-Tuttle and the Leonid meteors". Icarus 124:407-413.

 Here are some more Leonid web pages: Spectacular Encounter In Space Expected In November Leonids: King of the Meteor Showers Leonids Leonid '98 Meteor Outburst Page Leonid meteor storm 1998

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,