Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
February, 2000

In This Issue
February Meetings New Observing Site Member News
 Astronomy Day 2000 Texas Skies Filippo Salviati J
PSSG 2K Update for ETX Autostar Celestar 8 Page
Free Eyepiece Calculator World to End -- Again  
February Meetings

The February meeting of the Auburn Astronomical Society will be on Friday, February 4, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building on the campus of Auburn University. Montgomery area car-poolers should meet at my house (518 Seminole Drive). We'll head for Auburn at 7:00 PM.

The February star party will be the following Saturday, February 5 at the Tuskegee National Forest SiteÖ 

New Observing Site

Jack McDaniel has found a potential new observing site for the society. Our plans are to pursue this possibility in discussions with the Forest Service. My impressions of the new site were somewhat better than I had anticipated. The horizons could use some improvement, ( if negotiations with the Forest Service are successful this will not be a problem) but it was surprisingly dark. There was no problem with Moton Field, neither with the beacon nor landing lights. For Tuskegee to be so near, there was only a slight sky glow from that direction. A preliminary check of the sky with Phillipís 10-inch seemed quite good. 

The field (marked in red on the map) runs roughly east-west. 


  • The most direct route to the site for most, will be to take I-85 to Exit 42, the Wire Road exit. 
  • Head south for just a few yards, then turn right onto Macon County Highway 53 South. 
  • If you pass Beckís Turf Farm #2 on your left, youíre on the right road. 
  • When you reach the 3-way stop, proceed straight across. 
  • Turn left just before the pavement ends onto the dirt road. 
  • Proceed to the top of the hill. 
  • Overflow parking space is on the leftóthe observing field on the right. 
  • The roads in the Tuskegee National Forest (orange in the map) are dirt roads. 
Member News

Wedding Bells 
When you've seen that "far-away" look in Tom McGowan's eyes recently, it wasn't just because he was thinking about that cluster of galaxies that he had seen in his 20-inch -- he's had a direct hit to the heart from Cupid's bow. As we've come to expect from Tom, he made his "announcement" in his typically understated way, by asking about a "family rate" for membership dues. The lucky lady is Julie Ross, Tom's observing companion at most of our star parties. Best wishes to you both, Tom and Julie.

New Telescope Owner's Clinic 
Jack McDaniel hosted a one-man telescope buyers guide and user's seminar in Wetumpka last month. Jack reported a good turn-out. Obviously, his found an information vacuum in this area and done his part to help correct it. Thanks Jack!

Astronomy Day 2000

Rick Evans, Director of the W. A. Gayle Planetarium wrote to remind us:

>We do need to start looking at Astronomy Day and start working and publicizing that event.
And I replied:

I've just received my 2000 calendar. It shows National Astronomy Day on Saturday April 8. That's gonna be a problem. The Peach State Star Gaze is also that weekend and a substantial number of us will be there.

May 13 would seem the next best choice, but both Jupiter and Saturn will be in conjunction that week. 

Backing up to March 11 looks better. Jupiter and Saturn will be about half way up in the western sky with Mars just below. A 5-day old Moon will bringing up the rear. Sunset looks about 5:45. We should start star gazing by 6:00.

I'm afraid that last year's effort was a bit of overkill. I'm afraid that we succeeded in boring the pants off of a bunch of folks who just wanted to look through the telescopes.

Texas Skies
Submitted by Tom McGowan

Iíd like to share my trip to Ft. Davis, Texas with you. Back in November of 1999, I met with Tom Czarnecki and his wonderful wife, Lucy, for a week of observing and relaxing. I met Tom and Lucy from our recent trip to Australia. They live in Ft. Worth and own a nice piece of land in the mountains 13 miles due south of McDonald observatory in Ft. Davis. The site is about 5600 feet in elevation with the southern horizon completely unobstructed to the horizon somewhere in Mexico.

Tom has a 20-inch f/4.0 dobsonian on a equatorial platform tracker, which works great. Just when you think you have most everything you need for observing....

I brought my recently completed 16-inch dob. I had yet to really observe with this scope and figured there was no better place to test it out. And that was what I planned to do-test it to itís limit. The weeks before the trip, I compiled an extensive list of objects and printed up the accompanying field charts with Mega-star. Most of the objects are quite challenging-thatís where the superb seeing of Ft. Davis helps.

We arrived to beautiful weather and the forecast for the remainder of the week was to only improve! We spent the day getting everything set-up and waited for darkness to come. The sky was great. Low humidity (in the teens %) with temperatures in the low 40ís. Tom is into planetaries very much so and planned on hunting down some of the lesser known ones. I had a lot of very small, faint galaxies that I planned on at first.

We looked at some Messier objects and some NGCís while we waited for total darkness. Then it was time for Ďseriousí observing. My first object was a little galaxy called UGC 11428 located only a ½-degree from M 56 in Lyra. I star-hopped to the area with help of the chart but didnít see anything. I kept scanning around, still nothing. I was about to give up when a little glow caught my attention. I carefully studied the area-there it was a small, round soft blur that noted as very tough. Alright, I thought, this is going to be challenging --for me as well as the telescope. Next up was Delphinus. My list included 4 galaxies, 2 planetaries and 2 globular clusters. Among the galaxies, NGC 6928, 6927+6930 made a tough little trio especially 6927 being a mag. 14.5 galaxy, 6930 is an edge-on that appears as a thin streak of light (13.1mag).

NGC 6956 is a extended oval glow, fairly tough at 13.2 with two UGC galaxies seen nearby(smaller + tougher).The planetary NGC 6905 at 45" across was pretty set in a nice field of stars. My list is rather extensive so Iíll list objects that were significant for one reason or another.

IC 5146   Dif.Neb The ĎCocoon Nebí Found UHC filter best
NGC 6888 Crescent Neb Large, arc (crescent), best w/OIII
NGC 40 Planetary Small circle w/faint filamentous hood (used OIII)
IC 5148/50  Planetary In Grus, very nice , similar to ĎRing Nebí
NGC 7410 Galaxy In Grus, Very nice, like a small M 31
NGC 7582 Galaxy In Grus, Awesome! Three edge-on galaxies in field!
Hickson 91 Galaxy group NGC 7214, MCG-05-52, MCG-05-52-36, MCG-05-52-39, MCG-05-52-33 make this group. Even though these were low in the sky, I was able to see all the MCGís as faint smudges. Not all impressive to see.
M 2 Globular Spectacular!!! Beautiful glitter of stars!
NGC 7184  Gal. group Four NGCís and one MCG galaxies seen, with 7184, 7180, 7186 appearing as edge-on. The MCG was like a brush of a faint glow. Faint stuff!
Cederblad 211  Dif.Neb Surrounds R Aquarii. Circle of nebulousity especially w/averted  Vision not unlike dew on the eyepiece.
Hickson 90 NGC 7172, 7173, 7174, 7176 the brighter members With MCG-05-52-14, MAC 2201 + 2202, and ESO 466 all being tough and small.
Jones 1  Planetary Tom told me about this one. Nice! Large, not a complete circle. Best w/OIII or UHC. Barely detectable without a filter. In Pegasus.
NGC 55 Galaxy  Wonderful!!! especially after chasing the faint stuff. This galaxy is long, extends way out H-II region(IC 1537) seen easily.
NGC 253 Galaxy Another stunning view! Mottling seen easily all within
NGC 247 Galaxy Very large, oval-teardrop shape, nucleus off-center.
NGC 288 Globular Good size, resolves into lots of chains and tendrils of stars.
NGC 1360 Planetary Very nice! Egg-shaped with bright central star.
NGC 1365  Galaxy Great galaxy in rich galaxy area (Fornax Cluster). The arms extend out at 90-degrees.
NGC 1049  Globular Located in Fornax Dwarf Galaxy, small roundish clump first time ever  seeing this object.
NGC 1097  Galaxy Somewhat tilted edge-on. Nice.
NGC 891  Galaxy Quite awesome! Incredible view of dust lane bisecting galaxy. Best view ever?
NGC 3172 Galaxy Soft ghost of a glow, round-oval (14.9 mag).Nearby, extremely tough glow of MCG+15-01-010 (15.5 mag.)
NGC 147 Galaxy Large, very soft glow-low surface brightness.
NGC 185 Galaxy Easier than 147, brighter nucleus.
NGC 278 Galaxy  Small, round, brighter middle(somewhat like a planetary)
IC 10 Galaxy  Low surface brightness! A glow.
IC 1848  O. C. w/Neb. Star cluster o.k. w/soft glow surrounding area. Best seen w/UHC filter.
NGC 1421  Galaxy Nice edge-on in Eridanus.
NGC 1332 Galaxy Faint edge-on but another 5 galaxies nearby.
ESO 359-29  Galaxy Faint , small, circular w/NGC 1532+1531 in same field.
IC 2118 Nebulousity "WITCH HEAD NEB." Patches of nebulousity seen with some difficulty. Covers such a large area.
NGC 1535 Planetary 18" in size, somewhat round outer shell, small bright inner area-not unlike the "ESKIMO NEB"
NGC 1514 Planetary Structure in shell seen though faint with bright central Star. Best with O III filter.
Abell 21 Planetary MEDUSA NEB. Very large (600" in size) incomplete circle. This is a faint Low Surface Brightness object.
Abell 61 Planetary Tough! Soft, round, solid-filled .Had to use averted vision
NGC 1491 Nebulousity "CALIFORNIA NEBULA" Absolute best view ever of this notoriously difficult object. Plainly visible as a very large, broad glow over three field-of-views long using low power(35mm/H-beta filter, UHC also works well).

PERSUES GALAXY CLUSTER Tom called me over to look in his 20"-scope. It was filled with over a dozen faint smudges. And when I moved the scope around, more come into the field of view. After noting the location, I went to my scope and aimed it to the area. When I looked in, there they were, about 3 dozen galaxies in about a degree and a half area .Tom came over to check it out. After looking a while, he went back to his scope , looked a bit, then exclaimed, "Theyíre identical". A nice complement to the mirror maker, Carl Zambuto. Well, I certainly got my fill of observing that week. I was more than pleased with the performance of my telescope. I had many first this observing trip. First time I had seen any MCG, ESO, MAC, CGCG galaxies along with other fine objects. One object I failed to see was the dust-obscured galaxy, MAFFEI 1in Cassiopeia. I tried on three different nights, had the exact field and everything. Even had a black cloth draped over my head ... just couldnít nudge it out of hiding. But, as Iíve learned in this hobby, thereís always next time. Oh, did I tell you I left Texas and went to Arizona. Yep. Two nights later I was observing from over 8000í on Mt Graham, you know the one with the endangered squirrels. Thatís another observing story....

Tom McGowan

New Product for 2000
Filippo Salviati J

Hey everyone,

I spent the holidays visiting an old friend. He has informed me of a new product you may want to be on the lookout for. First there were the Naglers, then the Panoptics. Recently, The Radian line came out ,followed by the 31 Nagler, Type-4.

But soon to be released is the VIAGRANT line of eyepieces from TeleVue. By using special "space-age" technology developed in the medical field, these eyepieces will allow the image to dilate the blood vessels in and around the pupil and the eye in general thus allowing the viewer total pleasure at will. These eyepieces allow for "erect images" as well. The VIAGRANT line will surely keep you and your scope "up" all night.

From Ken Poshedly

This is to let you know that, as an attendee of last yearís Peach State Star Gaze or as one who has taken the time to e-mail me, I am notifying you that you DONíT have to wait for this yearís snail-mail PSSG brochure (though, if I have your address, you will get one anyway).

Instead, you may download your Y2K PSSG brochure and registration forms from the Atlanta Astronomy Club website at:

The brochure and registration form are in pdf file format, so if youíll need Adobe Acrobat Reader to read and print them out.

If you donít have Acrobat Reader, the AAC website has an icon you should click on that takes you to the Adobe website. Once there, scroll to the bottom of that page, click once more on the "Get Acrobat Reader" icon and follow the instructions to download your own FREE copy of this handy little utility. Then return to the AAC website to download our PSSG materials for your review.

More and more files are being produced in pdf format, which stands for "portable document file"; thus, files created on a MacIntosh and uploaded to the Internet can be downloaded and used by anybody else with any kind of computer as long as it has Acrobat Reader.

If you have any questions, either e-mail me at:  or phone me at 770-979-9842 (after 7 p.m. Eastern Time)

v2.0e Update for ETX Autostar 

Meade has continued their "tradition" of updating the software for the Autostar for the ETX and DS family of telescopes.

On 1/14/00 they released version 2.0e, claiming "better accuracy". It also provides for downloading multiple "Tours" (such as a Messier Marathon) It's available at

Celestar 8 Page
From: Les Blalock via

Iíve cobbled together a web page devoted to the Celestar 8 (and specifically the Deluxe model). Itís primarily directed to new users/owners but contains some general tips and modifications that may be of interest to others.

Thereís a lot of good information floating around out there but it seems pretty scattered so I thought Iíd try to document stuff Iíve run across in one place. Iím sure thereís still more Iíve not run across yet so if you see something missing you think new users/owners of the Celestar 8 might find helpful, please feel free to let me know.

Yes, the Unofficial Celestron page at is a great site but it tends to be directed more the older C8.

Clear skies,
Celestar 8 Page

Free Eyepiece Calculator
From: "Mark Peterman" via

I have made a spreadsheet available on my web site that I created for calculating various telescope/eyepiece combinations. You will need Excel97 or greater to open the file called tec.xls (39K).

By entering your scope info (up to three different scopes can be set up) you can use it to calculate various performance specs for up to twelve different eyepieces per scope. I have used this as an easy reference when comparing eyepieces "on paper".

Anyway, I thought some of you might find this utility useful. The Eyepiece Calculator is free and can be found by going to my web site and following the link to the Observing Tools page.


My Home Page: The Star Hopper

World to End -- Again

On the evening of May 15, 2002, the planets Mercury, Saturn, Mars, Venus, the crescent moon, and Jupiter will all be together in the evening sky. John Mosley of the Griffith Observatory, has produced a planetarium script to counter the paranoia and hysteria that accompanies these events. As a defense against the next "Urban Legend", that I predict will dwarf the recent "Largest & Brighest Moon" hype. See the script of Cosmic Catastrophe  sent to me by Rick Evans.

Hope to see everyone at the meeting,