Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
February, 1999

Greetings Astrophiles,

In This Issue
February Meetings
 January Meeting 
January Star Party 
Member News 
 Solar System Geology 
Winter Star Party
Current Comets 
Jovian Moons 
 MAS Reunion 
True Field Size 
February Meetings
This month's meeting will be on Friday, February 5, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building at 8:00 PM.  Following the business portion of the meeting, we'll watch the second half of the John Dobson video, Telescope Building.

This month's star party  will be on Saturday, Feb 13 at Holley's Field. For those travelling to Holley's Field on SR 170, the bridge that we detoured around for two years has reopened.

January Meeting
William Baugh, Alan Cook, Ron Hatherley, Phillip Hosey, Rhon and Joyce Jenkins, Everett Leonard, Jack McDaniel, Jim McLaughlin, Larry Owsley, Robert and David Rock, Tom McGowan, Julie Ross, Allen Screws, Marty Skelton, Russell Whigham, John Zachry, and visitor, Jeff Graves were present for Dr. Sarma Mukkamala's excellent presentation on binary stars .   Special thanks again to Jim for arranging Dr. Mukkamala's visit with us.  At right are, Rhon Jenkins, Robert Rock, Dr. Sarma Mukkamala, Russell Whigham, Jim Mclaughlin, and Tom McGowan following Dr. Mukkamala's presentation .  (That's Allen Screws playing "Where's Waldo".)
January Star Party
Allen & Christy Screws, Michael Crouse, David McLain, Everett Leonard, Phillip Hosey, Eddie and Nathan Kirkland, Ron Hatherley, Russell Whigham, and Tom McGowan met on January 16, at Holley's Field, following 24-hours of perfect skies, only to be joined by some very UNwelcomed guests. Clouds appeared on the western horizon just at sunset and within 30 minutes, the entire sky was overcast.  We completely missed the Io shadow transit of Jupiter and the seasons first peek at Venus.  Persistence paid off, however, as  the cloud gods, apparently bored with our conversations, moved on to harass amateurs somewhere to the east of us and revealed the "diamonds on black velvet" sky that we had anticipated.

As hoped, several of us, had our first look at the elusive Horsehead nebula -- thanks to Tom's beautiful home-made 20-inch and his expert tutelage.  I didn't see the snout on the horse; just a "thumbprint" into IC 434, using the H-Beta filter.  It was still very faint.  I feel somewhat vindicated for not ever having seen it in the C-11.  After an hour or so of cloud dodging, we were socked in again around midnight.  This was the first really dark sky for Eddie, Everett, and Phillip and their new telescopes.  We all enjoyed sharing eyepiece time and getting to know each other better.

Member News

Hi Russell!
Frank Moon here. Long time no see. Just thought Iíd drop you a line to let you know that I have been elected president of the Tri-State Astronomers.  Actually, in the interest of Political Correctness, we call it Chairman of the Board. Like Sinatra. TSA is a nonprofit group that was established in 1985 to promote astronomy and encourage related activities to anyone interested in the Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia area. We have about 50 members, most of whom have paid their dues. :) As soon as itís been revamped, Iíll send you the address for our web page. If you are interested in opening dialogue with other clubs, we are at your service.  I enjoy reading the AAS newsletter and remembering the good olí days under darker Alabama skies. Congratulations for being recognized by the AAAA! Say hello to Robert for me and let me hear from you guys soon.
Best Regards,
Frank Moon

Geology Of The Solar System
MTW, 2-3 PM
HC 2182


AUBURN, ALABAMA  36849-5305 USA / VOICE 334 844-4882 / FAX 334 844-4486
Winter Star Party Chiefland February 14-21, 1999
(From Skypub's Star Party Calendar)

The 1999 Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys has been cancelled due to hurricane damage to Camp Wesumkee. This year we are opening our site, The Chiefland Astronomy Village, to those who were planning to attend the WSP.

Northwest Florida has some of the darkest skies in the eastern US. Since 1985 astronomers have been using a site six miles south of Chiefland. This site consists of a road where all the land is owned by astronomers. Many of the resident astronomers have built their own observatories. Normally two small star parties a year are held here - in May and October.

We have enough room for thousands of astronomers, but no facilities except porta-potties. Camping on the observing field next to your telescope is the normal routine. Motels are available in town, along with plenty of restaurants.

The weather in Chiefland is expected to be in the high 30s-low 40s at night, and 60s during the day. Be advised, it can be warmer or cooler. Come prepared for everything. Observing conditions are usually excellent.

Registration and Fees: Pre-registration is not required, but an RSVP to let us know how many to expect is necessary to help us plan ahead. Requested donations are $10 registration plus $5 per night per person to help us cover expenses. There is no charge for children under 12. You are welcome to attend for just one night or the entire week.

For more information, see

(Tom McGowan will be representing AAS and invites others to join him there.  This is as close as the Winter Star Party is ever likely to be.)

Comet Comments By Don Machholz
Both Periodic Comet Jager and Periodic Comet Harrington-Abell can be found against the background of the Winter Milky Way.  Also up nearly all night long are Comets Linear (1998 M5) and Williams.
C/1998 X1 (ODAS):  This comet was discovered by a German Asteroid Survey on Dec. 15.  It remains faint.
P/1988 VS24 (LINEAR):  Here's another instance of an object being identified as a comet after appearing as an asteroid at discovery.  This comet orbits the sun every nine years, with a perihelion distance of 3.4 AU.
C/1998 Y1 (LINEAR):  Found on Dec. 22 by the LINEAR program, this comet will remain faint.
P/1998 Y2 (Li):  The Lick Observatory Supernova Search program imaged this comet in the field of NGC 1041.  It was found by Weidong Li.  The comet orbits the sun every 15 years and remains faint.


                              C/1998 M5 (LINEAR)
Date         R.A. (2000)      Dec              El      Sky   Mag
02-01     19h16.9m          +54o07'       75o     M       9.1
02-06     19h20.7m          +57o12'       77o     M       9.0
02-11     19h24.7m         +60o37'       79o     M       9.0
02-16     19h28.9m         +64o21'       82o     M       9.0
02-21     19h33.2m         +68o26'       84o     M       9.0
02-26     19h37.8m         +72o49'       87o     M       9.0
03-03     19h42.9m         +77o30'       89o     M       9.0
03-08     19h49.2m         +82o24'       90o     M       9.0

                             C/1998 P1 (Williams)
Date         R.A. (2000)      Dec          El         Sky     Mag
02-01     10h55.4m         +24o13'     151o     M     10.6
02-06     10h26.8m         +29o08'     159o     M     10.8
02-11     09h57.4m         +33o16'     160o     M     11.0
02-16     09h28.7m         +36o27'     155o     E     11.2
02-21     09h02.1m         +38o44'     148o     E     11.5
02-26     08h38.7m         +40o15'     140o     E     11.8
03-03     08h18.7m         +41o11'     132o     E     12.1
03-08     08h02.3m         +41o43'     124o     E     12.4
                          P/1998 U3 (Jager)
Date        R.A. (2000)        Dec          El         Sky     Mag
02-01     06h19.3m         +31o05'     142o     E     10.5
02-06     06h19.0m         +29o53'     137o     E     10.5
02-11     06h19.5m         +28o42'     132o     E     10.6
02-16     06h20.9m         +27o34'     127o     E     10.6
02-21     06h23.1m         +26o27'     123o     E     10.7
02-26     06h26.2m         +25o24'     119o     E     10.7
03-03     06h30.0m         +24o22'     115o     E     10.8
03-08     06h34.5m         +23o23'     111o     E     10.8

Date      R.A. (2000)      Dec              El         Sky     Mag
02-01     07h03.7m         +36o13'     149o     E     10.6
02-06     07h03.8m         +35o07'     145o     E     10.7
02-11     07h04.9m         +33o58'     140o     E     10.7
02-16     07h07.0m         +32o49'     136o     E     10.8
02-21     07h10.1m         +31o38'     132o     E     10.9
02-26     07h14.1m         +30o28'     129o     E     11.0
03-03     07h18.9m         +29o19'     125o     E     11.1
03-08     07h24.5m         +28o11'     121o     E     11.2

Object:    Williams   LINEAR (M5)
Peri. Date:   1998 10 17.838  1999 01 24.5733
Peri. Dist (AU):  1.14674 AU   1.742213 AU
Arg/Peri (2000):  294.473 deg.   101.2873 deg.
Asc. Node (2000):  156.379 deg.   333.3766 deg.
Incl (2000):   145.730 deg.   082.2285 deg.
Eccen:    1.0    1.0
Orbital Period:   Long Period   Long Period
Ref:    MPEC 32410   MPC 32410
Epoch:    1998 10 17   1999 01 22
Absol. Mag/"n":          7.5/4.0    5.5/4.0

Object:    Harrington-Abell  Jager
Peri. Date:   1999 01 27.8772  1999 03 07.7714
Peri. Dist (AU):  1.755993 AU   2.152631 AU
Arg/Peri (2000):  138.8996 deg.   179.4942 deg.
Asc. Node (2000):  337.2882 deg.   303.8178 deg.
Incl (2000):   010.2186 deg.   019.0944 deg.
Eccen:    0.542909   0.652672
Orbital Period:   7.53 years   15.4 years
Ref:    MPC 32595   MPC 32866
Epoch:    1999 01 22   1999 03 08
Absol. Mag/"n":          8.6/4.0    6.5/4.0

More on Comets
Date: Thu, 14 Jan 1999 09:15:17 +1030
From: Tony Beresford
Subject: [ASTRO] New comet

I am pleased to be able to inform fellow ASTRO readers that Justin Tilbrook of Clare, South Australia has found his second comet.  Its a magnitude 10.5 , 1 minute of arc blob , currently a few degrees to the East of Formalhaut, and moving southwards. last measured position was RA 23h 39min 7 secs, dec -29deg 47min 43 sec on Jan 13, 12:01UT, measured by Frank Zoltowski of Woomera, S.A.. Its moving south at about a degree a day. His imaging suggests a faint broad tail about 3 min of arc long at position angle 80 degrees. Detais on IAU Circular 7084

Tony Beresford


From:  Nick Martin

Having viewed it last night  I would recommend Comet Jager to anyone with reasonable skies and reasonable sized scope. It is not just a fuzzy blob.  Unlike the brighter LINEAR comets visible at present, it has a nice arrow shaped coma at least 5í in extent, with some bright rays and the possibility of a longer tail visible from dark sky sites.

A Windows 95 Galilean Satellite Simulator
Try this great little shareware program from the Emerald Isle:  It only took about two minutes to download.
MAS 15 Year Reunion
Ginny Kramer writes:
The Mobile Astronomical Society 15 Year Reunion is open to all current member and past members.  And also open to all of our friends.  It will be May 15th, 1999.  We will have a cook out at my house, followed by a stargaze that night at the Environmental Center, and I'm working on maybe having a breakfast at a local restaurant (like Shoney's, etc) Sunday morning.  We hope to encourage people interested  in astronomy back into the club. Anyone that would like to attend can e-mail me at  or write Ginny Kramer at 1053 Linlen Ave. Mobile Al  36609
Eyepiece Field Size
Would you like to know how to determine the True Field of your eyepieces?  Here's how:

Point your telescope at the celestial equator (0 degrees declination), turn off the drive, then time the number seconds it takes for a star to cross the middle of the field.  Each second of time equals 15" of arc.  This time of year, the upper belt star in Orion, Mintaka (Min-TAK-a), works well.

Pluto Safe From Demotion
LAWRENCE, Kan. -- The short national nightmare is coming to an end. The solar system will continue to have nine planets.

"There is no plan to 'downgrade' or 'demote' Pluto," says Brian Marsden, head of the International Astronomical Union's Minor Planet Center. "It will
stay as a planet."   Sometime early this year, it's likely Pluto will be designated a "transneptunian object" -- but not lose its planetary status, as has lately
been rumored.   For more, see:

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,