Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
March, 1999
Greetings Astrophiles,
In This Issue
March Meeting  New on the Mail List Member News  February Star Party 
Membership Dues Update 
On the WWW
 Observing Programs 
 SERAL News 
DSRSG Rules 
Mars Previewer 
O. E.'s for Software Packages
Peach State Star Gaze 
Mid South Star Gaze Angular Distances    
March Meeting

This month's meeting will be on Friday, March 5 at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University. Montgomery area car poolers should meet at my house (518 Seminole Drive). We’ll head for Auburn at 7:00 PM.   If you're planning to ride over with us, please drop me a message so we'll have an idea of how many to expect.
The March new moon is midway between weekends, so we'll plan to meet at Holley's Field for the regular March star party on Saturday, March 13 AND Saturday March 20 for a Messier Marathon. Here are some links to help prepare you for the all-nighter:

Come early and stay late.


New on the Mail List

Please join me in welcoming Alan Bender of Montgomery; Sandy Miarecki currently living in Montgomery; and Gary Taunton and is girlfriend, Colleen Walton, also of Montgomery observe with Colleen's 4-inch Meade reflector. And while not new to the list, Robert West and Jim Burns have new e-mail addresses.

Member News

AAS president, Rhon Jenkins writes: "Rick Singmaster delivered the [18-inch StarMaster] telescope Tuesday around noon, just in time for the latest round of clouds and rain."

Jeffrey Schaub writes: "I have sold my TeleVue 101 refractor and ordered a Meade 10" LX-50. I'm looking forward to getting back out to Holley's Field."

And, from the keyboard of Scott Thompson: "I got my encoders back and they did not work with the NGC/MAX so I sent the computer back. I just got it back and have just checked it out the other night. I have had a time trying to get all this stuff working. Big question is whether it will keep working? I just built a cable so that I can take long guided exposures without being at the scope. Seems like you spend 3 hours of observing and 6 hours of tracking down problems and weeks waiting for equipment to come back from repair. This hobby is not suppose to be this difficult! HA!

"When is the weather ever going to let us see all these good events! Missed the Venus / Jupiter conjunction last night. I was disappointed. It has been looking good in the evenings lately!

"Ricky [Wood] is building a small observatory at his house. We got the pipe in the ground and will try to build the platform this weekend."


[Editor's Note: Scott has graciously offered to host an open house at his Walker Ferry Observatory. Several possible dates for the event have been suggested. We'll discuss the options at the March meeting.]

February Star Party
By Phillip Hosey

Sandy Miarecki and I were the only ones attending the February star party at Holley's Field. Sandy brought her camera and I had mine so we took some shots. She did about 3 or 4 star trail exposures and I tried some constellation portraits. I showed her my scope and a few of the major sights such as M42, the Rosette nebula, M31, the double cluster and so on. Because of the cold, Sandy left at about 8:30.

As I was finishing up my roll of film I noticed that I had shot the whole roll at F/22 instead of F/1.8 DOH!! Ah well, I'll try again next month. Oh yea, I forgot to mention that I did manage to get a new object under my belt. - NGC 2024. The sky was awesome! Clear bright milky way, more stars than I've seen so far - you guys missed a good sky. Anyway, I was jacking around near Zeta Orionis thinking I should at least try to see the Horsehead - yea right - well, it's at least possible with a 6", just very, very unlikely. Well, I did manage to see NGC 2024, the flame nebula without a filter even. I bet if you had been there with your 11-inch, I could have seen the HH in it.

 Maybe next month more folks will show up. I might even try to do the Messier run then too.



Membership Application Update

In an effort to facilitate membership status records, AAS Treasurer, John Zachry suggested that we prorate membership dues during the year in an effort to make renewal coincide with the calendar year. The Membership Application form has been updated to include the prorated dues table below:

Jan $15.00
 Feb $13.75
 Mar $12.50
 Apr $11.25
 May $10.00
 Jun $8.75
Jul $7.50
Aug $6.25
Sep $5.00
 Oct $3.75
Nov $2.50
Dec $1.25
On the WWW

From John Zachry:
Interesting web site on Extrasolar Planets:

Subaru sees "First-Light"!
On January 28th, 1999, the director and staff at Subaru Telescope presented First Light results for their new 8.3-meter telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii.


Astronomical League Launches New Observing Programs

The following new Astronomical League observing manuals are now available: Observe Variable Stars; The Universe Sampler, the Planetary Observing Guide; and the Asteroid Observing Club. Publication of these guides, along with the existing Messier and Herschel guides, the Meteor and Sunspotter clubs, and the binocular observing programs, means that the Astronomical League now offers a complete range of observing programs for amateur astronomers, from the beginner all the way to advanced observers. All AL Observing Manuals can be obtained from Astronomical League Sales at the following address:
Astronomical League Sales
P.O. Box 572
West Burlington, IA 52655

You can learn about the details of these programs, including pricing and ordering information, from the web page of the American Association of Amateur Astronomers. Upon completion of these programs, observers are awarded certification through the Astronomical League, and presented a beautiful lapel pin in recognition of their efforts. The names of successful observers have also been published in the REFLECTOR, the newsletter of the Astronomical League, for many years.

Most of the AL’s observing programs have been distributed free for the asking. But to obtain these programs, the AL required that interested observers make a request through the mail.

Now, the American Association of Amateur Astronomers, as a member society of the Astronomical League, is pleased to announce a new service from its Internet Web Page, We are providing the AL’s FREE Observe Programs in Adobe Acrobat Portable Document File format at no charge as a service to members of the AAAA, the Astronomical League, and the astronomical community at large.

Ed Flaspoehler, Vice-President
American Association of Amateur Astronomers


A Brief Report from the Chairman on the State of SERAL
From: Mike Benson, SERAL Chairman

Greetings. Much has occurred since the SERAL Annual Meeting in St. Augustine on October 3, 1998. At that meeting Jerry Barton officially resigned his position as SERAL Representative and Dennis Culver vacated the Chairmanship to take the Rep position. Following the resignation of Ton Ponjee as Secretary, Roger Curry of the Northeast Florida Astronomical Society was elected. That left all positions filled.

However, by the end of October, health problems resulted in Jerry’s resignation of the Chairmanship and shortly after that Dennis had to vacate the Rep position for personal reasons. That left me, as Vice-Chairman, in temporary charge. Ginny Kramer of the Mobile Astronomical Society offered to take the Representative position and Dennis said he would serve as Vice-Chairman for the next few months until we can have a new election at the 1999 Annual Meeting in October at the Mid-Atlantic Star Party. I accepted both offers with much pleasure.

At the 1999 meeting, the Chairmanship will need to be reaffirmed for the year remaining on Jerry’s term. The Vice-Chair will come up for election for a two year term. The Treasurer/New Horizons Editor will also be due for election for a two year term. The Secretary will be as is until the 2000 meeting. The Representative’s position will need to be reaffirmed for the two years remaining of the three year term.

Those interested in filling any of these positions should contact me in the next few months so that your name can go on the ballot.

Happily, there is no pressing regional business, so all these new folks are going to have a bit of time to settle into their new positions and to see if they want to stand for election in October. The biggest issue, as always, is facilitating communication between member clubs within the region, assisting potential new AL members and keeping the national Astronomical League informed of our activities

If any of the officers can be of assistance to your club, please feel free to contact us. We are here to serve the amateur astronomical needs of the region.

Clear skies. -- Mike

The Southeast Region of the Astronomical League is now online at:



From Ginny Kramer, MAS:

Barry Simon has asked me to ask those of you that have been at Deep South Regional Star Gaze if you have any suggestions on any new rules we need to put in the rules including any light rules suggestions you may have. We will be putting up a board in the middle of the field with the schedule and rules so that everyone can look at them at any time. If you have any suggestions please e-mail me with them by the end of February.



Mars Previewer

From: (MAS)
With the upcoming Mars apparition, you may be interested in this program, Mars Previewer, a freeware program, which is available from Sky Publishing at:

Just scroll down toward the bottom for information/instructions on downloading this program, which displays a graphical representation of Mars for a particular time and date. In addition to tabular data, the program presents an image of Mars with the prominent features for the current CM! Nice!



Orbital Elements for Software Packages

If you have one of the more popular planetarium programs, such as The Sky, or MegaStar, You can download the most current orbital elements for comets and asteroids at: not only eliminates the tedium of entering the data in the correct fields, but also eliminates the hassle of finding the latest OE's.

Peach State Star Gaze: April14-18

Hi Russell,

The 1999 PSSG site includes the PSSG registration form and brochure in PDF file format (separate files). The site also includes a link to Adobe Acrobat for those who don’t have it on their terminal.

Your page is a real tribute to the hard work that has gone into the PSSG and I thank you. I snail-mailed a grand total of 4,850 of this year’s brochures via 3rd class yesterday (Tuesday, 2/16).  I’ll probably cut the registrations at 225 (depending on how many campers versus bunkhouse lodgers I get; the bunkhouses never fill up, but the camping field did fill up last year).

Incidentally, this year, we’ll feature:

* Phil Harrington—go to his site for a photo of him and his PSSG topic at:
* Phil Sacco—AAC president who will speak on the mythology of the constellation names and such.
* Julius Benton—ALPO Saturn and Venus observing coordinator, whose Saturday afternoon talk will be about Saturn.

In addition, we’ll offer the usual great workshops (this time on a schedule) and include one by Richard Schmude of the ALPO who will give a workshop on How to Best Observe Mars (this will also include how to complete the ALPO Mars observing form).

Send any replies to this message to my home e-mail address:


Mid-South Star Gaze : April 14-17, 1999

Dear Russell,

I’ve been enjoying your newsletter for a while. Our web site is still in progress, but it does have info about our April Mid-South Star Gaze.  Gerrit Verschuur is our keynote speaker, Rex will be here from Rex’s Astrostuff. Scheduled talks will range from Video Astronomy, Sky Lore, Astrophotography, Collimation Techniques, and more. Registration can be done on-line. Have anyone check the website if they have questions. We have 32", 20.5", 16", and 2 C-14 scopes on site along with 2 6" refractors.

I hope some of your folks can come take part. Ginny Kramer can tell you about the site. She and Tony have been here almost every year. She will be giving a pitch for the AL programs.

James G. Hill, Director
Rainwater Observatory & Planetarium
French Camp, Mississippi
Web Site:

Astronomical Primer: Angular Distances

On the evening before the Venus-Jupiter conjunction, I had a call from someone with no background in astronomy, asking what were the two bright objects in the west "about a yard apart." Of course, using a phrase like "a yard apart" has no meaning to anything astronomical. Since the Golden Age of the Greeks, we've used angular distances to measure the distance between celestial objects. For all practical purposes, the sky can be considered to be a 2-dimensional dome. In the example cited above, it's irrelevant that Jupiter was roughly 4 times farther away from Earth than Venus when discussing their angular separation. With ideal horizons, it's is 180 degrees from east, through zenith, to west. Your fully extended index and pinky fingers at arms length will measure 15 degrees. Similarly, your fist will span 10 degrees, and 1 finger equals 1 degree. For distances smaller than 1 degree, refer to the table below that lists common objects and their angular size in minutes or seconds of arc:

Sun or Moon
M-13 (Hercules)
M-57 (Ring)
Saturn (disk only)

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,