Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
December, 1998

Greetings Astrophiles,

December Meeting  Ben Zellner Lecture  December Star Parties
Membership Renewal  New Member New on the Mail List
Model Solar System  November Meeting Leonid Star Party
Help Wanted   E-Mail List Stats

The December meeting will be at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium, located in Oak Park, in Montogmery at 8:00 PM, on Friday, December 4.  There will be no admission charge for the show.  This is Rick Evans' way of showing his appreciation for our group’s assistance with the National Astronomy Day event at the planetarium.  Rick writes:  "We hope to forge a long lasting working relationship with your organization, something that should have happened years ago."  [Editor's note:  Hear! Hear!]

This will be another opportunity for those who live in the Montgomery area, who find it difficult to attend the meetings in Auburn and the star parties at Holley's Field, to come out and visit with us.  For those coming from Millbrook, Prattville, and downtown Montgomery, exit I-85 at the Forest Avenue, turn left back over I-85.  Oak Park is in the first block north of the interstate.  If you're coming down I-85 from the east, take the Mulberry St. exit.  Turn right on Mulberry, go a couple of blocks and take a left on Park Place .  Park Place intersects Forest Avenue just across from the park entrance.  The park road is one-way.  You should enter  at the northern most entrance and circle the park.  The planetarium is near the exit at Jackson Hospital.  Parking is available across from the planetarium.  For a map see:

The folks at TSUM have asked for a preview of the Christmas program as well.  Rather than run two previews, Rick invited them to attend the show with us. All are welcomed to bring their Families and/or guests.  Rick has asked for an approximate head count when you can, so he can plan accordingly.  Please RSVP Rick at:   or call the planetarium at 334-241-4799.

Rick writes:

If you enjoy the shows and want to recommend them to your friends, here are the Public Show Times:  Friday and Saturday Nights; Dec 11,12 at 7 P.M.;  Friday and Saturday Nights; Dec 18,19 at 7 P.M.  Matinees: Sunday Dec 13: 2 P.M.; Sunday Dec 20: 2 P.M;  Sunday Dec 27: 2 P.M, Monday Dec 28 through Thursday, Dec 31 at 2 P.M.  Admission:  $5.00 for adults, $3.00 for Children under 12, Children under 5 admitted free.

For our Chattahoochee valley members, who may find it difficult to attend the meeting at the Gayle Planetarium, there will be a simultaneous event in Columbus.  Ben Zellner will be lecturing at the Space Science Center Omnisphere Planetarium Theatre on December 4, 1998 (Friday) at 7.30 PM, EST.   Ben discovered the rings around Uranus in 1978.   He will be talking about his discovery and also about his more recent work  with asteroids and the Hubble Space Telescope.  There is a $5 admission charge and tickets will be available by phoning the Center (706) 649 1470.  The new URL for CCSSC is  Thanks to Everett Leonard for passing this information on to us, and to Dr. Carole Rutland for attracting speakers of this caliber to the area.


Geminid Meteor Shower

Let's shoot for Sunday night/Monday morning (December 13-14), with the next night as a back up in case of clouds.  We'll also take this opportunity to try out a new dark-sky site discovered by Scott Thompson.  It's just a couple of miles north of Holley's Field.  Specific directions will be sent prior to the event.  See Scott's letter under the November Meeting heading.

Our regular new moon weekend star party for this month falls on Saturday December 19 and will be at Holley's Field.  Dress warmly and come out for the driest, darkest skies of the year.  We'll keep trying for the elusive Horse Head Nebula.


Also, 'Tis the season… to renew your membership.  AAS treasurer, John Zachry, reports that the following members have ALREADY have paid their dues for 1999:  William Baugh, Tom McGowan, Dr. James T. McLaughlin, Dr. David S. Newton, Robert Rock, Jeffrey Schaub, John B. Zachry, Allen Screws, Neal Murphee, and Charles Boyd.  If you don't see your name, it's time to renew.  Benefits of membership in the society include the magazine subscription discounts, and quarterly issues of the Astronomical League's newsletter, The Reflector.  In an effort to have all membership renewals coincide with the calendar year, John reminds us that if you haven't paid your dues for 1999, the rates for membership are $15.00/per year.  Half rates for full-time students apply.

Make checks payable to:  Auburn Astronomical Society.  You can bring your dues to the meeting or mail them to:

Auburn Astronomical Society
Mr.  John Zachry, Secretary/Treasurer
501 Summerfield Road
West Point GA 31833

If you have a question regarding your membership status, contact John at:


Neal Murphree,  , of  Prattville  has graduated from the "Friends" to  "Members".  Get to know him  better at:


Join me in welcoming our latest list members:  Jessie Cole , of Montgomery, has recently joined the world of the wired and is now online. Tom McGowan  and Julie Ross  ,  also from Montgomery have been added to our list as well.


I found this site while looking into a query by Rick Fanning re: a model solar system.   It looks  like something we might consider for the Kiesel Park walking trail.

Buzz Harter, Charles Boyd, Jeffrey Schaub, Christina Wilson, William Baugh, Ricky Wood, Scott Thompson, Alan and Max Cook, Allen Screws, Marty & Duane Skelton, John Zachry, Everett Leonard, Tom  McGowan, Julie Ross, Rhon Jenkins, and your editor,  met last November 6, for one of the better attended meetings in recent memory.

One of the  topics discussed was that of locating a new dark-sky observing site.  Several possibilities were mentioned:   Rhon  Jenkins will contact Troy Beaty to see if his site is still available.   We used to use Troy's Christmas Tree farm, south of Auburn. William Baugh will check with ranger at Tuskegee National Forest to explore the possibilities of finding an observing field there.  A little closer to Montgomery, Jeffrey Schaub suggested a site that he uses at Oak Hills Golf Course, south of town off of the Troy highway.  And while it couldn't be considered a dark-sky site, Tom McGowan suggested a public star party on the grounds of the Shakespeare Festival on some clear evening when the Moon is around first quarter.  We'll check with Festival administrators to see if that's something we can do.

Following the meeting, Scott Thompson did some checking.  Scott Writes:

Following the business portion of the meeting, we watched the first half of a ninety minute video; Telescope Building with John Dobson.  Have you ever seen a grown man drive a nail with a 16-inch mirror blank?

The evening of Monday, November 16 brought gray skies.  The following Tuesday, was a perfect evening.   Jeffrey Schaub, John Zachry, Russell Whigham, Larry Adams, Paul Fields, and Robert Rock, met at Holley's Field.  Everyone commented on how dark the sky was.  Perhaps, being in the middle of the week, no ball fields in Eclectic were lighted, or maybe the air was just very dry, but whatever the reason, the stars shown brilliantly on a black sky. The temperature was cool but not cold.  John remarked being warm as toast in his sleeping bag/chaise-longue.  We saw scores of Leonids many of which were fireballs and several quite bright Taurids between the hours of 8:00 PM and 12:30 AM.  The most spectacular was a -6 magnitude orange-gold Leonid that covered 70 degrees of sky before its mass was spent, leaving a wide train that persisted for 5 seconds.

Rhon Jenkins reports:
 About 4am this morning (Tuesday) we had NO clouds and NO fog.  The show was spectacular in quality, but not quantity.  At about 4:20 I had just looked down for a second (ain’t it always the way?) when everything around me (trees, water, etc.) lit up in a brilliant flash.  My first thought was I had been struck by lightning!  Anyway, I looked up to see the brightest meteor I had ever seen move east to west.  The trail it left was about the width of a full moon, and lasted about twenty five seconds.  Shortly after, the fog rolled in, but I was delighted, to say the least.

Scott Thompson reports:
Ricky and I stayed out to 4 AM and saw 55 meteors. Five of which were real bright ones. However, none of the pictures were keepers.

Tom McGowan and Julie Ross arrived after we left and stayed until first light.  Tom reported a very good show, including several fireballs.


Our local e-mail address list has increased from 8 in December '95;  to 32 in December '96;  up to 66 last December  to 94 this year.  We have 5  who receive their ASTROFILES via fax, and 14 snail mailers.   ASTROFILES also finds it's way to 44 former members and  friends who live out of the area  including our contacts in our neighbor societies on a separate list.

Hope to see everyone at the planetarium,