Astronomy Day 2002
On Saturday, April 20, the W.A.
Gayle Planetarium and the Auburn Astronomical Society teamed up for
the fifth consecutive year to celebrate National Astronomy Day in central
Alabama. The weather was good and observing with the telescopes was
enjoyed by a crowd estimated at over 400 by planetarium director, Rick
Evans. Two shows were needed in the planetarium to accommodate
the largest crowd we've had since our annual joint venture began back in
1998. Thanks, as always, to Rick for the publicity generated to attract
such a turn-out.
Special thanks also, to the following AAS members, who volunteered their
time, hardware, and expertise, to share the beauty of the night sky with
the Astronomy Day visitors:
First row: Russell Whigham, Alan Cook, William Baugh, Gail Smitherman,
Second row: Joyce and Rhon Jenkins, Marvin Smitherman, Diane
and Jim Locke, John Clifton, Eddie Kirkland
AAS member, Mark Brown was serving double duty helping Rick with
the day's activities and AAS friend, David Wayne Key was there,
representing the Alex City delegation. This is the first year that
Wood and Scott Thompson were not able to attend. I'm sure
they missed being there as much as we missed having them. John Williams,
another Astronomy Day regular, had to cancel as well. We're hoping
they can be back with us next year.
William Baugh; 120mm f/5 refractor
Eddie Kirkland, 16" f/4.5 Midnight Telescopes Dobsonian
John Clifton; Meade 203SC/LXD500
Alan Akin; Orion Short tube 80mm f/5 refractor
Rhon and Joyce Jenkins; 18-inch Starmaster Dobsonian
Alan Cook and Susie Jensen; 10-inch Meade SCT, LX50, 20X80 binoculars
Russell Whigham; Celestron C-11, Criterion RV-6
Gail and Marvin Smitherman; Orion StarMax 127 Mak-Cassegrain
Jim and Diane Locke 8-inch Celestar Celestron SCT
(Above) William Baugh gives a sneak preview of the Moon as the
crisp Spring shadows lengthen.
(Right) Alan Akin shares in the pleasure of a young man's first look
through a "real telescope".
appreciation to us for our contributions to the day's event. A big
"Thank You" back to Rick and the rest of the planetarium staff -- not only
for the watches -- but for all of the time and energy that goes into each
year's highly successful joint venture.
|AAS members began arriving at about 4:00 to set up their
telescopes on the lawn in front of the planetarium.
By 5:00 the visitors had already begun to assemble around the telescopes.
Smitherman had her scope equipped with a solar filter and wowed the
early arrivals with an impressive display of sunspots.
The evening officially began at 6:00 PM in the auditorium. Following
an introduction by Rick Evans, AAS president, Dr. Rhon Jenkins,
used a Power Point presentation to introduce the visitors to the Auburn
It was at this time that Rick called Rhon, Mark Brown, and your editor
to the front of the auditorium and presented each of us with a Planisphere
Watch, as a token of his
At 6:30, we began the Tour of Telescopes. Each telescope owner
who wished to participate, talked for a few minutes about their
||telescope -- the advantages of the optical and mount designs,
what accessories they chose and why, etc, followed by taking questions
from the group. With the large diversity of telescopes represented by our
members, the visitors left with a much better understanding of the astronomical
hardware. Next, to reinforce this introduction to telescopes, we
went back inside for "More Than Meets the Eye", a planetarium program which
illustrates what you can expect to see using a variety of different telescopes
and binoculars. This was followed by "Tour of the Night Sky".
The Spitz Space Transit Planetarium projector in the auditorium was set
to display the stars as seen from Montgomery, Alabama on April 20th. A
brief tour of the night sky was conducted to point out the constellations.
At 7:45 Door Prizes Tickets were drawn. Among the prizes were:
The recipient of the complimentary Auburn Astronomical Society membership
was Althea Katrina Jones, of Montgomery. On her drawing entry
form, she wrote:
"I'm glad I came. I haven't been to the planetarium since I
was a kid. I left work early to attend."
Congratulations and welcome to the group, Althea!
Following the door prize drawings, Astronomy Day visitors returned outside
to a darkened sky to begin viewing through the telescopes provided by the
Auburn Astronomical Society. We viewed the first quarter Moon and
a cluster of the naked-eye the planets Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and
As is the case each year, we were able to assist bewildered telescope
owners with their personal telescope assembly and set-up woes. We
also met Wayne Baker, of Clanton, who is seeking help with a light
pollution problem, and Dale Harrison, of Auburn, with whom we recently
established a correspondence.