Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
July, 1999

Greetings Astrophiles,
In This Issue
July Meeting
Member News
 New on the Mail List 
PBS Apollo 11 Special
 Leonid Links
  Stellafane Threatened 
July Meeting
Because of the possible scheduling conflicts with the holiday weekend, this month's meeting will be held in conjunction with the star party on Saturday, July 10 instead of the usual first Friday meeting date. Donnie and Darlene Snipes have generously offered to host our July star party at their home in southern Lee County. Here are directions to the Snipes Farm:   If you have any problems finding the farm, call 334-724-0581. Special thanks to the Snipes' for inviting us and to AAS President, Rhon Jenkins for making the arrangements.
Member News

As they move onward and upward in their careers, we must bid fond farewells to Mark Harter, and Sandy Miarecki. Sandy is on her way to Travis AFB CA (near San Francisco) to fly the C-5. Mark and his family will be in Omaha NE. Mark writes: 

Well, this is it - we leave for Omaha on June 25! I want to thank you SO MUCH for all the help you’ve been in educating a naive rookie astronomer like me for the last couple of months. I did buy an Orion Shorty Barlow, but haven’t used it yet. The Auburn Astronomical Society was a lot of fun! I’m disappointed in the weather on Saturday nights in Alabama - never made it to a Star Party, but the Scott Thompson's observatory was excellent. Please pass on my thanks to everyone and if we ever make it back here (maybe for Air War College?) I’ll be sure to look you up again! 

Mark Harter ("Buzz")

New on the Mail List

Please join me in welcoming Pauline Bechtold of Prattville, Darlene Snipes , of Auburn and Rich Maurer . We look forward to many nights under the stars with our new friends.

Apollo 11 30th Anniversary Special on PBS

For the 30th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, NOVA tells the inside story of one of the most difficult engineering feats of all time and the amazing scientific harvest that resulted, on "To the Moon," a two-hour special airing on PBS Tuesday, July 13, 1999, 7:00 PM CDT (check local listings).

"To the Moon" is the first documentary to cover the full range of participants in the Apollo project, from the unsung scientists and engineers who promoted bold ideas about the nature of the moon and how to get there, to the young geologists who chose the landing sites and helped train the crews, to those astronauts who actually went, not once or twice, but six times, each time going to a more demanding and interesting location on the moon’s surface.

"To the Moon" also features interviews with seven of the 10 surviving moonwalkers, including Gene Cernan, commander of Apollo 17 and the last man to stand on the lunar surface.  and


Leonids on the Horizon
Forwarded by Dr. David T. King Jr.

Leonids on the Horizon: What’s in store for the 1999 Leonid meteor shower? Experts make their predictions. FULL STORY at: 

The Great Leonid Meteor Storm of 1833: This Feature Story presents a charming, first-hand account of the great meteor shower that marked the discovery of the Leonids and the birth of a new branch of astronomy. FULL STORY at

Light Pollution Threatens Stellafane

New State Prison To Be Built Near Springfield, Vermont May Seriously Threaten Area’s Night Skies...

In the northeast US, Vermont remains one of the last—if diminishing— areas with significantly dark skies from which serious (and less serious) amateur astronomers can ply their passions for sky gazing and research. However, with each new development, shopping area or, in this case, institutional structure, the blows to the magnitude limit accumulate.

It has just come to my attention that a new State Prison is to be built near Springfield, Vermont. There are many reasons for objection to such a structure, however the one which will raise many an eyebrow amongst those of us who love Vermont’s night skies, is the potential practical destruction of said skies over Stellafane.

A petition is being circulated to affect reconsideration of the project and/or its impact on the night skies. Text is as follows:

We, the undersigned, petition the State of Vermont to protect the National Historic Landmark known as Stellafane Observatory, located in Springfield Vermont, from the light encroachment that will be caused by the proposed State Prison to be located just 3 miles from Stellafane. This is a year round observatory that has been in operation for 75 years. It is also the site of the newly constructed McGregor Observatory, housing the world’s largest operating Schupmann telescope - a research grade instrument.

Very few observatories in the United States have been granted National Historic "Landmark" status. As of 1989 the total Astronomical National Historic Landmarks numbered 18. Stellafane is one of 3 National Historic Landmarks located in the State of Vermont. It is the only one of those three that is an astronomical observatory as well as the site of the largest and oldest gathering of amateur astronomers in the entire United States, possibly the world. The attendance numbers over 2000 persons each year. It a cultural phenomenon and has also been a proving ground of many of the advances in astronomical instrumentation in use today.

Please prevent damage to the dark skies over the National Historic Landmark known as Stellafane by any means possible. This is important to countless amateur and professional astronomers across the world.

Full story and petition follows at this web site:  Take action accordingly. And feel free to distribute this item, as you see fit   And, From the STM President:
The Prison Crisis at Stellafane

Tuesday night at the Town meeting in Springfield, Vermont several members of the Springfield Telescope Makers spoke on behalf of the endangered Stellafane Observatory, site of the world famous Porter Turret Observatory and the Stellafane Conventions which have been held over the last 75 years.

The townspeople listened with interest and sympathy to the concerns of the Stellafane organizers, who maintain that the proposed prison would still do severe harm to the night sky at a distance of just several miles. Holding streams of e-mail sent by the astronomical community around the world, I read various excerpts from the writings of Stellafane attendees who have patronized the surrounding businesses in Springfield and the rest of Vermont. The distant origins of some of the e-mail gave particular credence to our case, as well as their notability as scientific institutions. In particular, horror stories of other observatories being impaired by distances of 20 or 30 miles pointed up the problem at hand of a prison in the neighborhood of 4 miles from Breezy Hill.

The State Engineer, Jim Richardson, was aghast at the e-mail he received and admitted that he didn’t know what Stellafane was, so he looked it up. He seemed to be quite relieved that it was actually 4 miles instead of 3. He also seemed to think that since Breezy Hill was higher in elevation, that simple geometrical difference would make it all no problem.

We maintain that this makes not enough difference at all. It is TOO CLOSE. I was particularly amazed at how little is understood about the character of diffuse light in the moisture rich air of Vermont. There are still no plans of the facility or how the lights would be arranged. The Town is expected to vote on the prison with that little information.

The following day (June 23) two local papers (The Rutland Herald and The Eagle Times) carried front page stories about our members perspectives of how the prison would harm the Stellafane Convention, and the resultant loss to the tourist economy by the decreased attendance. It is universally agreed that the dark skies of Stellafane have and are essential to the operation of the convention, which has been the proving ground for astronomical instrumentation and amateur astronomy techniques since it was started in 1926. Estimates of the tourist impact of the Stellafane conventioneers and their families were received with very little surprise. The townspeople seemed well aware of how hard it is to get a hotel within 30 miles of Stellafane when it is near the time of the convention.

The e-mail PETITION and letter writing campaigns at have brought the concerns of Stellafane to the forefront with the most incredible speed and intensity imaginable. My perception is that the Town has thankfully become aware of the seriousness of our problem. As they weigh the negative effect to us along with their many other varied issues and concerns, it is hoped that the Town of Springfield will choose its heritage and future to be preserved by protecting Stellafane from the unwitting damage that will be caused by those Vermont State agencies that never noticed they had a revered National Historic Landmark and Observatory right there in Vermont where they want to build this prison.

Additional press coverage is expected in Friday’s Springfield Reporter, Sunday’s Eagle Times and also National news coverage in the New York Times in both the Saturday and Monday editions. NBC affiliate WNNE Channel 31 in White River Junction, VT did a video news spot on Stellafane’s problem that was aired on local news at 6 and 11pm on June 22nd. The associated press and several radio stations throughout the region are giving air time to the story as well.

The petition to Governor Howard Dean of Vermont has been and is still the key feature of this awareness raising exercise. The participation of hundreds of people in the astronomical community in both writing and disseminating the news story has given us a dearly held hope that the people of Town of Springfield will decide to make the prison go away with the power of their vote on Tuesday, June 29th.

We, like the stars, await the verdict.

Maryann Arrien
Springfield Telescope Makers

And, From the Secretary: As of 9pm on Thursday the petition is up to 452 "signatures". But, we still need more!!! Please visit to add your name. Also, please forward the petition info to EVERYONE you know!!!

Thanks for all the support!
Wayne "Waynbo" Zuhl
Secretary, Springfield Telescope Makers


Don't forget the meeting time change.

Hope to see everyone at the star party,