W. A. Gayle Planetarium
Christmas '98

AAS members Christy & Allen Screws, Rhon & Joyce Jenkins, Jack McDaniel, Scott Thompson
(behind Jack), Allen Cook, Ricky Wood, and Michael Crouse visit in the lobby of the planetarium before the show

Our December 1998 meeting was at the W.A. Gayle Planetarium , located in Oak Park, in Montogmery .  There was no admission charge for the show.  This was planetarium director, Rick Evans', way of showing his appreciation for our group’s assistance with the  Astronomy Day event at the planetarium.  As Rick wrote,  "We hope to forge a long lasting working relationship with your organization, something that should have happened years ago."   Attending were: Neal Murphree, Michael Crouse, Scott Thompson, Ricky Wood. Ron Hatherley, Rhon & Joyce Jenkins, Russell Whigham, Max and Alan Cook, Allen and Christy Screws, Tom McGowan, Julie Ross, Jim Mclaughlin and his colleague, Dr. Raghu Mukkamala, Marty and Duane Skelton, Buzz Harter and family, Jack McDaniel, Jesse Cole and family.  Apologies to others who attended that I didn't have a chance to meet.

This was another opportunity for those who lived in the Montgomery area, who find it difficult to attend the meetings in Auburn and the star parties at Holley's Field, to come out and visit with us.   All were invited to bring their families and/or guests.

The planetarium offered a sneak preview of the Christmas program that was presented to the public in December.  The program  included a “star” program entitled “'Tis the Season”.  This was a wonderful program which traced the development of many of the world’s endearing holiday customs, and how they involve lighting up the winter season—from the burning Yule log and sparkling Christmas tree lights to the lighting of the Menorah and luminaries.  The show also recounted  the historical religious and cultural rituals practiced during the time of winter solstice—not only Christian and Jewish, but also Celtic, Pagan, Nordic, Roman, Mexican and Hopi.  It also took a look at some of our more light-hearted seasonal traditions; from gift giving and kissing under the mistletoe to songs about lords a-leaping and ladies dancing; the custom of decking the halls with greenery and candles; St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and Santa Claus were included.

Naturally, there was some astronomy in ‘Tis The Season.  We saw a few Northern winter constellations, and had an explanation of why we even have Seasons by demonstrated the Earth’s tilt and orbit around the Sun. Of course, the program explored the possible astronomical explanations for a “Star over Bethlehem” in the last quarter of the show — comets, meteors, novae and super-novae, and planetary conjunctions.

There was a short intermission, followed by a Christmas Laser Light show.  This included many of our favorite holiday songs accompanied by laser lights.

Rick had a spread of holiday goodies for us to snack on before the program.  Afterward, he showed us the AAS Information Board that he and Rick Fanning put together, that included laminated reproductions of the AAS Frequently Asked Questions.

We want to thank Rick for the wonderful evening at the planetarium.  Just think how it would feel if someone asked you to go back to work on a Friday night and do it all over again.  We really did appreciate the extra effort of having the park open "after hours", the security officer present, and the extra touch of holiday refreshments.  It was the first meeting for some who live in the Montgomery area.