Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
September, 1999

Greetings Astrophiles,

In This Issue

September Meetings  August Star Party  For Sale
Filippo Salviati Stars Fell OnÖ DSRSG '99 
What's New? R Coronae Borealis Observing Reports

September Meetings

This month's meeting will be on Friday, September 3, at 8:00 PM, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the Auburn University campus. Montgomery area car-poolers should meet at my house (518 Seminole Drive). We'll head for Auburn at 7:00 PM.

Our September star party will be on Saturday, September 11, at Holley's Field from sunset to dawn.

August Star Party

An unexpected cold front passed over Holley's field on August 14, bringing with it a 10- MPH, cool, dry, breeze. Aside from the obvious benefit for the comfort of the observers, the mild breeze kept optics clear for a delightful evening of observing. Attending were: Tom McGowan, (20-inch Dob), Julie Ross, (8-inch Dob), Phillip Hosey, (8-inch SCT and 10-inch Dob), Alan Cook (10-inch SCT) along with his son Max and Susie Jensen, Alan and Christy Screws, Pauline and Jasmine Bechtold, Lance Hollon and Alicia Harper, Rich Maurer and son Kirk, and your editor. While waiting for dark, we observed the three-day-old Moon and its Earthshine. Later we found Comet Lynn at around magnitude 8. No hint of tail was seen, but it is quite a nice telescopic comet. First-timers were given a telescopic tour of the best of class of deep-sky objects in the summer sky. The highlight of the evening was the circumnavigation of the Veil Nebula with Tom's 20-inch equipped with an OIII filter. Jupiter and Saturn were just above the horizon when I left at 1:30 AM. Tom and Phillip made it an all-nighter.

For Sale

12.5-inch Orion Deep Space Explorer Dobsonian, with 2-inch JMI focuser. Equipped with optical encoders, but the digital setting circle controller does not work. $800.00 Contact David Rich at 334-283-2480 (Tallassee AL)

Observing Faint Planetaries in the Fornax Dwarf
Contributed by Filippo Salviati

[Editor's Note: I doubt if any of you have met Filippo, but you may have read of his insights into the science of astronomy. He has an extensive background in astronomy and I think you'll enjoy his inaugural submissions to Astrofiles. ]

Deep Sky observers seeking a challenge can do worse than to cruise the fainter Planetary Nebulae of the Fornax Dwarf Galaxy.

Baron Beavis Von Buttkopf from Scholoss Ratzharz has made extensive observations at Schloss Nilskor in the crystal clear air of the high Bavarian Alps using a variety of instruments and has kindly sent a selection of his observing notes, which are reproduced here with his kind permission:

TRON 96: Faint green rosette out-gassing by a suspected black hole, about 3 arcsec in diameter - easy in the 40" Schiefspiegger but a challenge in the 32" Wurlitzer - usually at mag 23, but flares occasionally to mag 17.

HOLMES 14: Legendary object - rarely visible owing to death of parent star, last seen dimly over 10 years ago.

MURRELL 27: Clear, but dim smoke ring - 2 arcsec in diameter and steady at mag 18. Down a bit and left a bit from the foreground 16th mag red giant. Best seen with averted imagination. Can be seen in 36" but only by the discoverer.

ASV 99: Highly active object, spread over a broad area, and best seen in a rich field 60".

AAT 1: The baron has searched in vain for this highly condensed object. Suspect it may be a flyspeck on a Schmidt plate.

Comet Hunting with A Telrad
Contributed by Filippo Salviati
An increasing number of amateurs are discovering the value of a humble Telrad for their comet-seeking, and it is not clear why this had not happened sooner. With its wide field of view and freedom from chromatic aberration, it has two of the most important features valued by comet hunters.

You can either hand hold the instrument, or if you prefer, go as far as, Emmanuel Snodgrass, the amateur astronomer from Dunedoo, Chile who has equatorially mounted his Telrad and fitted it with a guide-scope, a TeleVue Genesis no less!

Emmanuel was almost the co-discoverer of the brilliant comet Hyakutake, stopped only by the fact the comet was about 25 degrees below his northern horizon when found. "I prefer to hunt for the brighter comets..." said Emmanuel "....since the Telrad is optimized for comets brighter then magnitude 4, and I am certain that if any 1st magnitude comets appear over Dunedoo, I will be the first to spot them."

Emmanuel hunts comets every evening after finishing his shift as a biological control officer at the Dunedoo Waste Reclamation Depot.

[Editors Note: If you haven't figured it out already, Filippo Salviati is the pseudonym for an AAS member/contributor (with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek) who wishes to remain anonymous. We look forward to more of the lighter side of astronomy from Filippo.]

Meteor over Georgia/Alabama?
Kathy Scruggs, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
August 24, 1999

The rumbling that rattled the bones of people in western Georgia and eastern Alabama the night of Aug. 2 was not aliens, the space shuttle, or a supersonic aircraft flying overhead. Nor, apparently, was it an explosion above or below the ground.

"We have determined that it was a meteor--end of discussion," Pamela Swanson, spokeswoman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, said Monday.

An Alabama schoolteacher called authorities to say that she saw the meteorite (sic) and felt its rumblings, said John Bankhead, spokesman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Yet that explanation has not completely satisfied Gene Greneker, principal scientist at Georgia Tech, who indicated there was not enough evidence to rule out man-made blasts.

"It was not the earth slipping and sliding," he said. "We should have seen that with . . . seismic monitoring equipment."

[Editor's Sarcastic Note: The radio report I heard on this, speculated that the meteor was member of the Perseid meteor shower. HmmmÖ I doubt if this would have been reported if the writer had stayed up all night counting all of the Perseids on one hand. If you have any questions related to astronomy, just refer them to the GBI or GEMA--"end of discussion". ]

17th Annual Deep South Regional Stargaze
Submitted by Barry Simon

On October 6-10, we will be holding the 17th Annual Deep South Regional Stargaze. Named one of 19 premier star parties by ASTRONOMY magazine. ASTRONOMY is sponsoring us this year and will be at the stargaze.  I have just finished redoing our overview. You can download it and a registration form at is well ahead of previous years at this point.

Programs at the DSRSG are scheduled between 1 and 4 PM on Friday and again late Saturday morning and early Saturday PM.  The 3 PM Friday program will be "The Influence of the Internet on Amateur Astronomy". This will be a panel discussion conducted by our experts on the Internet - the various webmasters from different clubs and/or those that really utilize the Internet for amateur astronomy.   The programs between 1 PM and 3 PM are 1/2 hour slots. I need volunteers for programs. I also still have the am slot on Saturday open. Please think about what you or others in your club can do, and get in touch with me.

What's New?

Astronomy Day, 1999: I gave up waiting to get other photos of our Astronomy Day event (including the ones in my own camera), so I went ahead and put up a page using photos taken by Herb Traywick. Check it out under our "Field Trips"/"Astronomy Day 1999". If you'd like to see photos of Herb, and the two Ricks at the Gayle Planetarium, follow the link from the Astronomy Day '99 page to the planetarium's Web page. While still under construction, planetarium director/Webmaster, Rick Evans, has greatly expanded the site, including a tip 'o the hat and a link to AAS.

To the visitors to the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Montgomery, looking for the "Astronomy" section -- it's not gone -- just relocated. It's now located in gondola 24. You can't miss it if you have to empty out that second Starbucks café latte; it's on the right just before the entrance to the restrooms. Considering that the Astronomy section started out as a double gondola and has atrophied to two shelves of one gondola, I hope the next move isn't around the corner and down the toilet. Alas, this is no conspiracy on the part of the bookstore, but a testament to the lack of sales of the genre. The New-Age/Astrology section is doing just fine. L

The Museum of Fine Arts, located in the Blount Cultural Park near the Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery, is exhibiting Laquita Thompson's prints and watercolors from her portfolio "Celestial Happenings". The works include depictions of the 1910 apparition of Halley's Comet; Mrs. Hewlett Hodges resting on her sofa in Sylacauga just as the meteorite crashes through the ceiling of her home, making her the only know case of a person being struck by a meteorite; cows watching a UFO near Demopolis; and the 1833 Leonid Meteor Storm, that it's rumored to have given the inspiration for the song "Stars Fell on Alabama". The exibition will run through through October 17.  Admission is free.

AAVSO Alert Notice 262
Fading Of 1544+28a R Coronae Borealis

We have been informed by our observers that R Coronae Borealis, the prototype of the R CrB stars, is fading. R CrB, which is approximately visual magnitude 6.0 at maximum, is reported to be at approximate magnitude 11.4 as of August 24 UT. Observations of R CrB reported to the AAVSO since July 15th indicate that this star began to fade in late July.

The last fading of this star occurred in August 1998 - March 1999, during which R CrB faded to visual magnitude 8.4, brightened to magnitude 7.2, faded once again to magnitude 9.6, and then recovered.

Fadings of R CrB are unpredictable both in duration and in the magnitude to which the star may fade. Please monitor R CrB closely and report your observations of this interesting star to AAVSO Headquarters.

AAVSO "a", "b", "c", "d", and "e" scale standard charts for R CrB have been posted on our ftp site; see below for details. Those needing paper copies of these charts should contact AAVSO Headquarters.

Electronic copies of the charts mentioned in this Alert Notice are available through our web site at the following address: . The charts may also be obtained directly from our FTP site:

Observing Reports
Dustin Smith

Date: 7/25/99-7/26/99

Time: 11:20pm-12:45am
Weather: Mostly clear, hazy clouds in some parts of the sky. Nearly full moon hanging around in the southern sky.
Limiting Mag: 3.0 (moon present) Seeing: 7/10 Transparency: 8/10
Equipment: Orion 8" DSE Dobsonian, Sky Atlas 2000.0

While sitting in front of my computer tonight, I peeked out the window to see if they skies were clear enough to warrant dragging out my 8" Dob. While there were some hazy clouds to the west, the sky was mostly clear. So, I went outside, setup, and swung the tube over to the moon. I spent about 20 minutes going over the terminator, using powers of 36x, 48x, 96x, and 240x. Atmospheric turbulence was easily visible at magnifications higher than about 75x.

After viewing the moon for a while, I started getting ready to come back inside....but the skies looked so clear....even though the nearly-full moon was hanging around. Since I had nothing else better to do, I went inside and grabbed Sky Atlas 2000.0, and decided to take a look at some of the "showpiece" objects I had never seen with my Dob. I started in Perseus, and found the Double Cluster for the first time. Iíve seen many pictures of it, but the view through the eyepiece was so much better. The moon blocked out most of the dim stars of course, but the view was still respectable. My next target was M31, the Andromeda Galaxy in the constellation...well...Andromeda. I found this large object very easily, but was very disappointed with the view. Keep in mind I have a Jason Ware photo of this galaxy in my room, so I guess I was expecting waaaayyyy too much. All I saw was a smudge of yellow/white light.

My scope is still sitting on the driveway, I plan to get a look at Jupiter & Saturn a few hours from now (~4:30am). Iíll post a second report if I feel the views are good enough to brag about :-)

Date: 7/26/99
Time: 3:30am-4:10am
Weather: Clear, light wind. The moon is now close to the horizon
Limiting Mag: 5.0
Seeing: 7/10
Transparency: 8/10
Equipment: Orion 8" DSE Dobsonian

After working on my web pages for about an hour this morning, I headed outside at 3:30am to take a look at Jupiter & Saturn before sunrise. Since my sister (17 years old) was still awake, I asked her if she wanted to see the planets before I bring the telescope back in. She said yes, so we walked out onto our driveway and pointed the scope at Saturn. Using a 26mm Sirius Plossl coupled with an Ultima 2X Barlow, she saw Saturn for the first time. Iím going to assume she was very impressed, because she uttered a few swear words after looking into the eyepiece. :-)

Moving on to Jupiter...normally this planet shows lots of detail, but he just didnít want to cooperate this morning. Only 3 or 4 cloud belts were visible, with the two equatorial belts being the most prominent. Also, only 3 moons were visible, so I assume the fourth is behind Jupiter at this time.

Next we took a look at M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. I have a 16x20 print of this galaxy on my bedroom wall (purchased from Jason Ware), so my sister knows what it looks like (at least on film anyway). She really likes the print, but as I expected, she wasnít at all impressed by the object as seen through a telescope. I explained that the picture looks so much better because it was a very long time exposure, which allowed the details to "build up" on the film. By now she was getting sleepy, so she went back inside to go to bed. I stayed out for a few more minutes, long enough to get another peek at the Double Cluster and the Pleiades. The Double Cluster is now my favorite object to view, especially when the moon isnít up. Both the Double Cluster and M31 are visible naked-eye from my driveway, which makes locating them very easy. At around 4:15am I packed up my stuff and came back inside.

Dustin Smith
Waterloo, AL USA
The Heavens: Astronomy on the Net
Orion 8" Deep Space Explorer Online Review

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,



Here's the inside joke on Filippo

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World-Systems by Galileo Galilei

This work, published in Florence in 1632, was Galileo's scientific and literary masterpiece. In it he discussed the relative merits of the Ptolemaic and Copernican
systems by means of three interlocutors: Filippo Salviati (a committed Florentine Copernican), Giovanfrancesco Sagredo (an open-minded Venetian, initially neutral
with respect to the theories) and the Aristotelian Simplicio (a defender of the Ptolemaic theory). The author imagines that the three speakers discuss the heliocentric
system over four days. The work was written in Italian in order to increase its circulation and was condemned along with Galileo himself for the principles which it