Astrofiles
Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
October, 1999






Greetings Astrophiles,

In This Issue

October Meetings  In Search of Dark Skies Emerald Mountain School Star Party
Tom Danei's PBS Series Observing Notes  New Addresses
Leonids '99  Help Wanted  Filippo Salviati 

 
 
October Meetings

This month's meeting will be on Friday, October 1, at 8:00 PM, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University. Montgomery area car-poolers are welcome to meet at my house to group up and travel over to "The Loveliest Village", but I'll be out of town for my son's wedding, therefore, unable to attend this month. Departure time should be 7:00 PM.

Several of us will be in Mississippi for the Deep South Regional Star Gaze, on the night of October 9, the star party Saturday. For those keeping closer to home, you can decide at the meeting this Friday if you want to go to Hart's Field, or the Snipes' farm or perhaps one of our suggested "new" locations. See belowÖ 
 

Dark Sky Alternatives
As we rued in the September star party reminder, we'll soon have to find a replacement for our dark-sky site, formerly know as Holley's Field -- now Hart's Field. Ideally we'd like another dark field with good horizons with easy access and centrally located between Auburn , Montgomery, and our Lake Martin members. Here are a few possible alternatives that we've received so far: From: Nick Nicholson Nck1@aol.com

Russell: You could use the CACC observatory at Harris Farm 2 miles outside Goodwater, AL if you want. I donít know if it is too far away to suit you. But it is on top of a hill, in the middle of a 40 acre pasture, with zero degree clearance above the horizon in all directions. There are a few street lights about 2 miles or so away, but they are down in the valley. If you hook a car battery to the building, you will even have lights and a bathroom with running water.

Nick 

And From: jeff schaub jschaub@voyageur.ca

I'm looking forward to getting back south and seeing all of you -- I have really enjoyed reading the newsletter, as it keeps me in touch with things. I do have access to a piece of property south of Montgomery, near Snowdon. The southern/eastern view is as good as Holley field in terms of darkness, but the northern/western view isnít so hot, as it is pretty much blanked out by the lights from Montgomery.I know that the owners will welcome us, as they are my son's in-laws !!! I have used this location many times, as I find my astronomical interests seem to coincide with my earthly ones, i.e...  to the south. If you find it difficult to locate an alternate to Holley's, we can go try this out when I get back to MGM, early in Oct. and see what you think.  In regards to the field across from Holley field, I have noticed that it is frequently populated with cows, who may not be as careful with our equipment as we are!!

At any rate, I will have time on my hands, being somewhat of an insomniac, and will redouble my efforts to find the perfect location when I arrive.

Until then, dark skies, and donít forget the insect repellent.

Jeff
 

And, speaking of the dearth of dark skies, if you haven't already heard the bad news for StellafaneÖ

Subject: [Fwd: Prison Vote is in]
STM-Secretary@home.com wrote:

To All:

The revote results are in. The prison vote has passed by a wider margin than before. 2345 For and 1535 Against. Springfield has chosen the Stateís offer to build a prison. We must respect the democratic will of the majority.

From here on we will work to obtain the best possible mitigation of the light pollution that will result from the prison. We are thankful to all those who have contributed to the Stellafane legal defense fund. It will be of enormous help in getting expert technical and legal advice. Thank you for your continued support. And special thanks to the editors and staff of Sky and Telescope for sticking by Stellafane in our toughest moments, and for helping to promote the fund.

We are also very grateful to those who signed the petition. The signatures have spanned 6 continents. There is no question that the information and comments that appeared in the petition have in many ways affected the perception of the light pollution problem. We are hopeful that all this will certainly lead to a better result for Stellafane than would have otherwise been realized. As is the case with good lighting, lower electric costs, improved aesthetics and better visibility are all welcome by-products, in addition to darker skies for astronomers.

The International Dark Sky Association is helping us to bring good ideas in lighting to the Springfield Prison project. The IDA is a wonderful organization that deserves all of our support. I encourage all groups and/or individuals to consider IDA membership for the sake of dark skies everywhere. http://www.darksky.org

We will continue to post information updates on the Stellafane Web Page as they become available.

Once again, our heartfelt thanks to our many friends who have showed concern for our problem.

Thank you for helping us.

Sincerely,

Maryann Arrien, President
The Springfield Telescope Makers, Inc.
marrien@computer.net
http://www.stellafane.com

Wayne "Waynbo" Zuhl
Secretary, Springfield Telescope Makers
STM-Secretary@home.com
Waynbo@home.com

Emerald Mountain School Star Party

On Friday, September 17, under the light of a first quarter Moon, Jack McDaniel, Robert Rock and your editor, took our telescopes to the Emerald Mountain Christian School, located between Wetumpka and Montgomery. Teresa Johnson, who teaches science to the middle grades there, called to say they were studying astronomy and asked if we could bring our telescopes to the school and give the students some hands-on astronomy. Following a picnic supper of hotdogs and fixin's, we each described our telescopes -- explaining the advantages and disadvantages of each as we waited for dark. After comparing views of the Moon through each of the telescopes, separate lines formed behind each of the telescopes as we showed them Ares (Mars) and Antares, the rival of Mars, which were ideally placed for comparison; the vivid contrasting colors of the double star, Alberieo; the open cluster M-11; the classic globular, M-13; and as many other telescopic highlights as the Moon would permit. Jack showed the kids how to find the Dippers and North Star, and a few constellations. We were fortunate to have a couple of bright satellites pass overhead, and explained to tell the difference between airplanes and satellites. As usual Moms and Dads enjoyed the show at least as much as the kids. We received a nice thank you note from Teresa. She also offered the school's property as a possible dark sky site for our club.

Tom Danei's PBS Series


Auburn Astronomical Society 
ATTN: Mr. Russell Whigham
518 Seminole Drive
Montgomery, AL 36117

Dear Mr. Whigham,

My wife and I are amateur astronomers, affiliated with the Atlanta Astronomy Club (GA) and the Auburn Astronomical Society (AL). We are also television producers, seeking to enrich the lives of others, through our work. We are in the process of proposing a quality, weekly program series, to the PBS Programming Services, of the Public Broadcasting Service, for and about amateur astronomers around the world.

The show would consist of actual visits to various astronomy clubs and events, here and abroad. We would talk with those amateur astronomers, who are engaged in interesting pursuits; from astro-photography, hair-raising star-gazing adventures and human interest stories, to their valuable contributions made to man's knowledge of the universe. Coverage of children's pursuits could become a regular program segment. Informing our viewer of the latest in the professional areas of astronomy and related fields, is of course, also important. Our mission, is to inform, entertain and encourage people, of all ages, to take an interest in our universe. From a tour of the newest observatories, on our planet, to deciding which telescope to buy, we personally believe there is a potentially vast audience, which would enjoy such a series. However, we are soliciting comments from individuals such as yourself.   We value your opinion and also any suggestions for what you might like to see, in a weekly television program of this type.

We would really like to hear from you, hopefully soon, and with your permission, perhaps include your comments with our proposal to PBS. Comments by e-mail or fax would also be welcome. If you have questions, feel free to contact us.

Thank you for your time! We wish you clear and dark skies!

Sincerely,

Tom Danei
Thomas Jean-Errol Danei, CEO, Danei Productions, Inc.
Observing Notes
Phillip Hosey & Tom McGowan

Tom McGowan and I went to Holley's field on Sunday night following the September meeting and stayed all night with no problems. When we first got there, it was cloudy, but after about 30-45 minutes it cleared off, but the transparency totally sucked. We tried to view a few of our favorite galaxies, but couldn't see them very well, so we concentrated on planetary nebulae instead. Tom had a list of challenging objects to find, so we started off on the quest.

First up was PK 80-6.1 in Cygnus, also called the "Egg Nebula". itís like a mag 12 or 12.5 and really small. The northern component showed to be larger, rounder and stood out more clearly as the southern component appeared more of a smeared streak not unlike a comet tail. It is small at only a few arc-seconds across. Best detail at 448x.. Tom found it in his 20" and then we found it in my 10". We had to really pump up the magnification in order to tell it from the stars. 

At this point I had had enough of looking for obscure stuff that takes forever to find and I started to go back to my list, but since it was mostly galaxies, I finished it really quick (I didnít attempt to find any.) Next we viewed Humason 1-2, also known as PK 86-8.1, located in Cygnus. Hu 1-2 is virtually stellar until I bumped the power to 224x.At 448x it started to show itself somewhat like M-76 but much, much smaller.  It is a mere 8.3 arcseconds across.  I attempted Merrill 2-2 (PK 100-8.1) in Lacerta but my efforts were in vain. Eyestrain stopped my efforts, not to mention itís size of less than 5-arcseconds. He started to look for another, I donít remember the name, but when he saw that it was only 5" in size he said screw this and decided to look at easy stuff. After Tom had had enough and lay down to take a nap in his car, I decided to look at Jupiter. To my surprise, Europaís shadow was nearly 1/3 of the way across the disc and the moon itself was only about 30-45 minutes away from beginning to pass in front of the planet. As an added bonus, the GRS was also beginning to transit. I watched this spectacle at magnifications varying from 150x to over 500x. My best view was with Tomís 9mm Nagler and Big Barlow in my 10" at 316x, the seeing was about a 9/10, very steady. I could see all kinds of detail in the bands, many festoons around the GRS. I watched as Europa passed in front of the disc and I could still see it against the background of Jupiter! I occasionally switched over to Saturn and was treated to very nice views. The Cassini division was so big you could drive a truck through it and I managed to briefly catch a glimpse of the Encke division, it appeared as a very thin black line right near the outer edge of the "A" ring. The Crepe ring was very easy, it appeared as a grayish brown color on the very inside of the ring system. The shadow of the planet on the rings created the 3D affect we love so much. As Saturn approaches Opposition, this will get smaller and disappear, then reappear after opposition on the other side. Viewing these two gas giants is going to be very nice this fall. I can't begin to describe the difference in planetary detail visible in the 10" dob vs. the 8" SCT.

Phillip

New Addresses

Phillip Hosey has his terrific CCD images at his new Web page address: http://www.mindspring.com/~jphosey/index.html . We've also been "Mooned" by Jim Chesnutt http://www.chesnutt.net/moon/moon.htm with his afocal digital images of Luna through his C-8.

Please join me in welcoming Dawn L. Gordon, gordond@dot.state.al.usand John E. Peters jepeters@mindspring.com both of Montgomery to the mailing list. We look forward to seeing both of them at or meetings and star parties. As usual, thanks to Rick Evans and the staff at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium for the referrals.
 
 

Forecast Calls for Exciting Meteor Shower
By John Shibley
http://www.space.com/science/astronomy/leonids.html

Scientists are beginning to understand a November meteor shower called the Leonids.

You might recall them as last fallís much-anticipated meteor storm. Early in 1998, the showerís parent comet, Temple-Tuttle, swept through Earthís neighborhood with a fresh batch of dust, as it does every 33 years.

Shortly after the cometís previous visit, in 1966, western North Americans were treated to a 20-minute storm of 144,000 meteors per hour. Memories of the downpour sent satellite operators running for cover (Hubble even closed its telescope door) and sky enthusiasts dashing for clear skies.

As it turned out, the Ď98 Leonids didnít storm. Not only that, meteor activity peaked 16 hours before predictions, yielding a paltry 260 meteors per hour for observers in Europe.

So why the fizzle? David Asher of Irelandís Armagh Observatory and Rob McNaught of the Australian National Observatory have an answer. They say Earth plowed through cometary dust twisted into a braid by gravitational effects within our solar system. Their modeling accounts for gravityís wildcard and predicts not only what this yearís Leonids will do, but also when they will do it . . . to within five minutes.

The forecast? McNaught and Asher say 1999 and 2000 will produce exceptional showers, in the range of 1,200 meteors an hour.

This yearís peak will be on November 17 at 9:08 p.m. EST, which will favor early-morning viewers in Europe and the Middle East. Morning is the best time to see meteors because it is Earthís morning hemisphere that dives headlong into dust along our planetís orbital path around the Sun.

North American meteor-watchers can expect 20 meteors an hour on the mornings of November 17 and 18.

The 2000 Leonids will sport a similar climb and falloff, with observers in Asia having front row seats. But storm warnings could be posted for 2001 and 2002, when rates could climb to 35,000 and 25,000 meteors an hour, respectively. Watchers in the Eastern Hemisphere are favored for those potentially spectacular views as well.

Help Wanted
From: David T. King, Jr.kingdat@mail.auburn.edu

My fiancée Lucille Petruny has recently moved to Auburn to take a position as an Instructor at AU. She has studied Astronomy for some time at Connecticut universities and is a very knowledgeable amateur astronomer. In the moving process, all of her telescopes (built with John Dobson) were damaged in various ways. In particular, a 10 inch Dobsonian has been damaged by being mishandled such that its mirror has dropped off the mounting inside the tube. She needs to get this scope functioning again shortly as she is going to use it to give a telescope lesson and viewing session to school children at Camp ASCCA on October 11-12. Is someone in the AAS knowledgeable enough and willing to render assistance in repairing and calibrating this scope for her? If so, please call her at 334 821-8960. Any assistance or suggestions you have would be appreciated. You can reply this e-mail address for the time being, as her computer is not hooked up yet. THANKS!

David T. King, Jr., Professor, Dept. of Geology 
Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849-5305 
USA VOICE 334 844-4882, -4282 FAX 334 844-4486
 
 

Filippo Salviati's Tales from the Light Side 
J
Alien Abduction At Peach State ?

Kentucky amateur Ollie Jacobs has revealed a hitherto untold story from the 1999 Peach State Star Party.  It seems that, after enjoying a full rack of BBQ ribs on Saturday afternoon, Ollie retired to his tent to write a review on the 151 White Lightning bourbon he had purchased in the hills of Tennessee from an undisclosed still. Ollie is patron of the Glasgow Bourbon Appreciation Club and had been sent by its members for this worthy task. He clearly recalls having consumed a " half-a-jug " and stepping out of his tent into the night to answer the call of nature. And then nothing until he opened his eyes, and saw, by dim flickering light, a metallic shell above him. Dark, curiously out of focus figures moved about him, some inspecting him by ruby red light. He must have been held by some powerful force field, as, unable to move, he could make no resistance.

Becoming unconscious again, he awoke after dawn with a bruise to the back of his head, and his brain feeling like it had been probed by alien devices. Ollie, who is currently writing his autobiography, suspects he may have been taken through time and space to another dimension, to which the "gate" is still open:"...  Each time I have me a nice long taste of me bourbon, the "gate" opens again for me...", he states.

In Memorandum: Harry Janos
It is with great sorrow to announce the passing of amateur Harry Janos.  Harry came from his native Hungary to Arizona in 1960, and as a young man of 25, settled in the rough, tough mining town in Why. Harry was introduce to astronomy in 1962 by his neighbor Clint Blackwell.  Having been shown through a 6-in Newtonian telescope, Harry was hooked, started a subscription to Sky & Telescope, and read every book in the Mechanics Institute Library.  His first telescope was a 60mm refractor, but Harry aspired to bigger things and set about building the biggest telescope known to amateurs.

Carefully cutting out a section of rock containing spar/conichalcite of little color or commercial value, Harry cut a 20-in disc, and making his own version of a hindle machine, started grinding with six grades of finely sieved desert sand, aided by an early edition of Texerou. He built his own Foucault tester, searched a car wrecking yard at Orrillo until he found a wing mirror from a 1961 Vanguard Utility which was almost an optical flat, and after several months of hard work, finishing with star testing, had a fully functional set of optics for a 20-in f/6. Polishing was done using tar laps on those winter nights when the temperature was just right to get the correct hardness, the polishing agent being finely ground bull-dust from beside the local movie theater. In this pre-Dobson era, Harry opted for a mount using a mirror cell welded out of light rail track ( from abandoned mines ) and set in a surplus council concrete mixer from which Harry had carefully chipped the hardened concrete. The skeleton tube was finely crafted out of California redwood, and an elaborate gear train, which included two Limited Slip Differentials, seven gearboxes, and various pieces of three mountain bikes completed the drive mechanism.  Mr. Janos silvered the optics himself using silver nitrate. The dry, non-polluted desert air is so clean that thirty years later, the surface remains untarnished.  His eyepieces and finder came from three pairs of binoculars in various states of disrepair.

Since its inauguration, Harry had used the scope every clear night.  He observed all the Messier objects and all the NGC objects visible from his latitude.  Harry had discovered 9 comets, but unfortunately the mail is so slow from Why that the credit has gone to others with quicker means of communication.  He was fond of planetary nebulae, and was of the opinion that his scope showed many more than appeared in the catalogues.  Harry was last working through the extended catalog of lesser Murrell objects, and had hoped to see one some night.

Harry, may the stars fill your heaven.

J









Until we meet again, Clear Skies,

Russell