Astronomy Day 2015

The W. A. Gayle Planetarium, in partnership with the Auburn Astronomical Society celebrated National Astronomy Day at the Planetarium in Oak Park in Montgomery, on Saturday, April 25th from 5:00 – 10:00PM CDST.  Again this year, we were stymied by the clouds.  When we arrived at 3:00PM, we could not even rule out the possibility of rain.  Just to be on the safe side, we displayed our telescopes in the planetarium lobby for the visitors to see.  Given the high humidity associated with the temperature, the air conditioning was a factor in this decision as well.  Rick treated those of us who are usually manning the telescopes to a private screening of the planetarium programs we usually have to miss.  We enjoyed “Two Pieces of Glass”  and  “Losing the Dark”.  Following these programs, we were treated to Subway sandwiches and sides by Rick and his staff.  By 7:00PM radar showed that the rain had bypassed us just to the south.  Unfortunately, the clouds would linger until 10:00PM, frustrating us and the guests with highly filtered views of the Moon and only the briefest of glimpses of Venus and Jupiter.

AAS members and friends who shared their time and telescopes for the event were:

  • Allen Screws, (on stand-by for the AAS 12.5-inch if the sky cleared)
  • John Wingard, 3.5-inch Questar
  • Ray Kunert, Takahashi Sky 90 & Meade LXD55 refractor
  • Russell Whigham, C-11 SCT
  • Frank Ward, 12-inch LightBridge
  • Joe Jackson, iOptron 106mm refractor & Meade ETX 127
  • Chad Clemens, 4.5-inch reflector
  • Binil V. Josy, 8-inch Dobsonian
  • David Blake
  • Mike Lewis
  • Michael Pastorett
  • Don & Kim Cluck, TeleVue 101, and 100mm binoculars

It was great to see members and former members who we don't get to see as often as we'd like.  Special thanks to John, Allen, Joe, Chad, David, and Mike who came from  out of town with such poor prospects of clear skies.

This year, Rick used the prizes donated by Orion Telescopes and Binoculars, to sell raffle tickets with the proceeds going to charity. 

Visitors who requested to be included on our e-mail list this year were: Bobby Kilpatrick, Sherri Richardson, Wendy Smith, Josh Trimble, Paige Towns, and Ray & Lillian Zaworski.  Among these, Josh Trimble was helpful to us as a volunteer from Booker T. Washington Magnet School doing community service.  Josh was most helpful in directing guests and relaying information.

This year’s agenda:

5:00PM:  The “Telescope Clinic” will be open for guests to bring their sick, disassembled, or otherwise malfunctioning telescopes for repair.  Auburn Astronomical Society.

5:30 PM: Presenter: Ethel Boykin: "Montgomery Botanical Gardens”. (Overview of plans for the Botanical Gardens in Oak Park)   Planetarium auditorium.

6:00 PM: Presenter: Dr. Sterner/Dr. Patton: “James Wylie Shepherd Observatory News”  Montevallo University Located 3 miles from the main campus at the University’s 150-acre Gentry Springs property, the JWSO features a state-of-the-art 20-inch PlaneWave CDK20 telescope on a Chronos HD32 Harmonic Mount.  The remote location provides ideal dark skies, far removed from city lights, and offers spectacular views of any part of the night sky.  The JWSO also features a 90 mm dedicated Coronado Solar Telescope with an integrated hydrogen-alpha filter for exceptional views of the sun, solar flares and the solar corona.

7:00 PM:  Presenters:  Rick Evans – Planetarium Director –

·         Overview of Planetarium

·         “Two Pieces of Glass” (Planetarium Program)

·         “Losing the Dark” (Planetarium Program)

·         Sky-Walk (Tour of the night sky) an overview of what the guests will see when they step outside. 

 7:32 PM :  Sunset 

8:00 PM:  Telescopic viewing with Auburn Astronomical Society:

As always, special thanks to Rick and planetarium assistants, Trish Jester, and Dana Hartsfield for hosting our group and providing drinks and subs for us. Thanks to you all!

Photos  by John Wingard and Russell Whigham