Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
April, 2000

In This Issue

April Meetings Astronomy Day 2000 St. Bede's Star Party
Please WelcomeÖ Cool Web Sites Messier Marathon
For Sale Peach State Star Gaze   

April Meetings
(Note date and location change)

Because the normal first Friday meeting date falls on the weekend of the Peach State Star Gaze, and the National Astronomy Day celebration falls on April 1, these two events will serve as our April meetings in lieu of the traditional meetings.

Astronomy Day 2000

Rick Evans has done his usual outstanding job with the publicity and promotion for this, our 3rd annual celebration of National Astronomy Day at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium, in Montgomery. Rick designed a eye-catching color insert that was included in the Montgomery Advertiser on March 26th (Sunday's Paper), and an ad in the Prattville Progress on March 25th.

So far, we have commitments from the following:

Rhon Jenkins; 18-inch StarMaster
Russell Whigham; Celestron, C-11; Criterion, RV-6
Dorn Majure
Bob & Lisa Willingham; Celestron Ultima 8
Winston Blackmon; Celestron C4.5 Newtonian
Alan Cook; Meade 10" LX50 and 20x80 binoculars
Scott Thompson; 7-inch Astrophysics
Ricky Wood; 12-inch Meade LX-200
Nick Nicholson; 12-inch Meade LX-200
Mark A Kunkel; 8-inch Celestron Dobsonian
Charles Boyd; refractor
Connie Lane; 4.5-inch Jason Reflector

We are still about 5 telescopes short of the number we've had for our first two years, so if you can give us a hand -- especially if your telescope isn't among the types listed above, please let me know.

In the unlikely event of rain, we'll move into the planetarium lobby.

W.A. Gayle Planetarium
Oak Park, Montgomery
April 1st, 2000

4:00 PM: AAS members arrive at the planetarium and set up the scopes.

5:00 PM: "Telescope Clinic" for people will bring their scopes and ask questions and or advice. They could also peruse the variety of scopes set-up by your members and ask questions if they are considering buying a scope.

6:00 PM: 
a) Adjourn to the auditorium for a PowerPoint Presentation on the AAS.
b) A Planetarium Program....approximately 15-20 minutes...

6:45 PM: Adjourn to the outside telescopes for night viewing..

8:00 PM: Close up shop and go home!

As we've done in the past we'll ask that you return your vehicle to the parking lot after unloading your gear to afford space for the visitors.

St. Bede's Star Party

On March 13, Jim McLaughlin, Jack McDaniel, and your editor set up our telescopes for the students, faculty, and parents of the St. Bede's 6th grade science class. All were treated to views of Jupiter, Saturn and an 8-day old Moon. We're 3-for-3 on good weather for these school star parties. We must be doing something right. Thanks to Jim for organizing this event.

Please WelcomeÖ

Winston Blackmon of Montgomery. Winston enjoys observing galaxies, and nebulae with his Celestron C4.5, reflector. He's been at it off and on over the past five years or so now but, still considers himself a beginner. Winston writes:

"It was when I discovered that a "Shooting Star", wasn't really a "Shooting Star" that I was drawn to astronomy. He's currently single, and has four wonderful kids, two boys and two girls, all adults now.

"I graduated Sidney Lanier High School in 69' ; Alabama State University - B.S. Business Administration; Indiana Vocational Tech.- Assoc. Computer Programming."

He is currently endeavoring to be a Real Estate Investor and also work as a part time security guard. His other hobbies include music (especially the piano), computers, and trying to get physically fit. His favorite car -- a 1975 Chevy Laguna.

Winston began work with a three year tour of duty in the U.S. Marines, serving as an amtrac crew chief and in weapons. His favorite vacation was when he meet his wife (at that time) in Hawaii, for five memorable days in the middle of December. He lived in Indiana from around 1979 to 1997. Prior to that it was military travel in various places. Winston concludes:

"Most of my working career was sorting mail in one fashion or another for the U.S.P.S."

"Since 1997 I've been juggling one business endeavor after another in an attempt to find my "niche". Which, brings me up to today. Since I first took an interest in Astronomy I've always stood in awe of it's sublimeness. When it wasn't convenient for me to set up my scope, I would grab my binoculars. For a while, I would carry them in the car just so I wouldn't miss anything interesting. Anyway, I'm looking forward to a great learning experience in Astronomy."

My name is Ron Willis and I live in Tallassee, AL. I am a 1967 Auburn Physics graduate that moved back home 25 years ago and became a businessman. I was the CEO of a small diversified company until two and a half years ago when I decided to become a consultant. I have been so busy since I started consulting that Iíve had almost no free time. I am in St. Louis, MO this week and I always seem to be out of town on your meeting dates. Iíve been interested in astronomy for years but never seriously pursued. In 1999, I progressed from binoculars, to a 60 mm refractor and bought a Celestron G8 for Christmas. Iíve added a Telerad, a Polaris scope and motor drives and have all the accessories I need to begin astrophotography. I am having real problems with the Celestron dual axis motor drives for the CG-5 mount that my telescope uses. Celestron knows nothing about the operating voltages to expect for the DC motors or the output voltages for the controller or any other technical information. Can you tell me any place that I might find technical information on the Celestron motor drives.

Thanks, Ron Willis (

Messier Marathon of 2000
Submitted by Phillip Hosey

On the evening of March 4, Tom McGowan, Tom Danei, Mark Moe, and I met at the house of a friend of Markís to make a first attempt at this yearís Messier Marathon. First, a little about the observing site. The land is owned by some friends of Mark. They have many acres, I forget exactly but itís huge. From the location that Tom and Mark picked a couple weeks before, there are no local lights visible. The horizons are nearly flat, like Hollyís field was except there are 2 trees in the NE that come up to about 10 or 15 degrees. It turned out to be the darkest site I have seen around West Georgia/East Alabama so far. Tom McGowan was already setup by the time the rest of us got there, so I had to rush a little to get caught up. As soon as the first stars were showing themselves, I knew right away this was going to be a great night. It was perfectly clear, not a cloud in the sky, but the temp was already dropping fast, I knew it was going to get cold, but just how cold I didnít find out until later...

About the scopes we used:

Tom brought his 16" home built truss dobsonian with Carl Zambuto primary. Itís a beautiful scope and the views through it are exquisite. I brought my 15" Tectron truss dobsonian with Galaxy primary. I primarily used a 22 mm Vixen Lanthanum Superwide eyepiece along with Tomís 27 mm Panoptic. We each used a combination of Tele-Vue Naglers and Panoptics to get the best views of a few choice objects throughout the night. Each of us used only a Telrad to find our targets. We had to crank up the dew heaters early as things started getting wet within 30 min of sunset.

Soon after sunset the race was on. First up on the list was M74, a low surface brightness galaxy in Pisces. M74 is one of the most difficult object to get because of itís low surface brightness and because itís so low in the sky at Messier Marathon time. Since we started early in the month, it was a bit higher in the sky and therefore easier that it will be later in the month. I started off by looking for the star Eta Piscium, the jump off point for M74. Nearby Jupiter kept distracting us as we tried to find the (relatively) faint stars of Pisces in the twilight. Once I acquired Eta Piscium, M74 was only an eyepiece field to the east and it was seen easily, although if conditions had been worse and I had a smaller aperture scope it would probably have been a different story. Tom bagged M74 just a few seconds after I did and we verified each otherís views as we would do with each subsequent object on the list. Shortly after M74, we nabbed M77, 33, 31, 32, 110, 52, and 103 which are all objects you should try to get as fast as you can before they get to low. After these we took a short break to look at a few of our favorite objects. We compared views of the Horsehead, M42/43. While Tom was showing Tom Danei and Mark a few more objects, I decided to get a head start on the marathon and nab all the winter objects. My plan was to get to a point where I had to wait for some stuff to rise giving me plenty of time for a nice relaxing break before hitting the dreaded Virgo cluster. I blew through the winter objects and got Tom to verify each as I was going. Along this segment were M76, 34, 45, 38, 36, 37, 1, 35, 78, 43, 42, 79, 41, 50, 47, 46, 93, 48, 44, 67, 95, 96, 105, 65, and 66. After doing these I took a short break and let Tom catch up with me. He had been showing Tom Danei his scope while showing off showpiece objects. The next segment we got into was all the stuff around Ursa Major, Canes Venatici, and Coma Berenices. We paused briefly on a few of the showpiece objects like M3, 51, 101, 97, 81 and 82. A little later we took a good look at M51 when it was high in the sky and it was breathtaking. Spiral structure was easy and I could even see that the spirals looked like little ropes. It was more detail than I had ever seen in this object. The site was really good, very little light from the low light domes on the SW and NE horizons. Limiting Mag was at least 6.5, which is so far the best I have found around these parts. In this segment we nabbed M81, 82, 108, 97, 40, 109, 106, 94, 63, 51, 101, 102, 3. We combed Bereniceís Hair right before taking a break and picked up 64 and 53. Also got a good look at NGC 4565 while we were in the neighborhood. Very nice galaxy that is. Bright edge on with prominent dust lane.

At this point there wasnít really anything to do but take a break and wait for Virgo to get a little bit higher to be comfortable enough to hop through that mess of galaxies. We sat and drank coffee and I ate a lunch my wife packed for me while we planned our romp through Virgoís death trap. I decided to start by hopping off of 11 Comae Berenices over to M85. Tom and I worked this section together, calling out our moves like a chess game. We would each describe our eyepiece fields to confirm we were on the right galaxy. After sighting in 11 Comae Berenices with my Telrad, I might as well have just turned the thing off because you have to practically galaxy hop your way through the Virgo cluster. After nabbing M85, I jumped back to 11 Com and then down to M100. After that I used the Telrad again and sighted on 6 Com and jumped off that to get M98 and M99. I actually hopped back to M100 after this to get my bearings and then made the jump over to M88 and over to M91. Tom and I called our positions back and forth, we worked in tandem, described our views before jumping to the next object. We jumped down to M90 then M89. We located the NGC galaxy pair 4550 and 4551 and then it happened... My eyepiece was dewing up badly. I tried to warm it with my hands but it was so big and cold it would have taken all night. The temp had already gotten to just about freezing and there was no let up in the dew which would soon become frost. I decided that I was going to have to take my Telrad heater and use it on my eyepiece so I can get through the Virgo cluster. During the process of switching the heater, I accidentally moved the scope. Oh &*@#$#! I couldnít figure out where I was so I had to quickly site in on M100 and hop back to where I was. Luckily this only took just a minute or two. Tom waited for me to find my position again on NGC 4550 and 4551. From there we jumped over to M87 and then over to M84 and M86. From there we backtracked to 4550/4551 and then dropped down to M58. From there over to M59 and M60. After this we had a long hop down to M49, I had to hop on one or two stars along the way just to make sure I didnít get lost. I got so excited because we were almost at the end and I jumped ahead of Tom and went on and jumped down to M61. I described my route and Tom was soon out as well. We made it! My first trip through the dreaded Virgo cluster and I only had to start over once. After this we took a break and rewarded ourselves with a nice long look at M104, the Sombrero Galaxy. It was very nice, especially at about 200x with my 9 Nagler.

Next up was M68 and M83 in Hydra. While we were down there we decided to take a good look at Omega Centauri (NGC 5139) and the radio galaxy Centaurus A (NGC 5128) "The Hamburger Galaxy" as Tom called it. Omega Centauri was visible naked eye and looked pretty good in the scopes, but Tom has seen it from Australia and says it would make you drool to see it overhead instead of just above the horizon. After this we cruised through Hercules taking M13 and M92, then over to Serpens Caput to grab M5, (which I happen to like better than M13 personally). We breezed through Ophiuchus and Scorpius nabbing all those globulars M12, 10, 14, 9, 107, 80, 4, 19, 62, 6, 7 and 69. We had to wait a while for 50 and 75 so we just popped over to Lyra and Cygnus to get M57, 56, 29 and 39, and then to M27 in Vulpecula and M71 in Saggita. While still waiting for 50 and 75, we cruised through the summer Milky Way and grabbed M70, 8, 20, 21, 23, 24, 18, 17, 16, 26, 11, 25, 22, 28, and 55. It took a good while to find M55 and even longer for M75. Both of these globulars were difficult to find because there were only a few degrees above the horizon when we started looking for them and there was some fog/haze down at that level. We were both down on our knees and at one point actually sitting on the ground looking for them. I think that if we had not had as much aperture as we had, we might not have been able to find them in the muck. M75 was barely discernable from the background at that altitude. Tom found M15 in much the same manner, but between those trees I mentioned earlier. After 50 and 75 it was my turn to find M15. I didnít think I was going to make it because that tree was right in the exact spot where M15 was rising. I tried it anyway. Itís a good thing I had a big scope because that tree acted as an aperture mask. When I finally found the globular, it appeared to be right in the middle of the treeís trunk! My excitement at finding M15 quickly faded as I realized it was starting to get a little brighter on the eastern horizon. I knew we wouldnít be able to get M30, but we thought we had a good chance at M2 and M72, 73. We were down on our knees again, groveling in the dirt. It was 28 degrees F and frost was over everything. I tried in vain looking for M72 by lining my Telrad up in a pattern with Albali (Epsilon Aquarii) and Algedi/Dabih (Alpha and Beta Capricorni) and then panning around, but I never found it. Tom found M73 and then tried the jump for M72, but the sky glow got the best of us. We couldnít even find it even though it was still fairly dark, they were just too low in the muck. I found M73 after Tom, but I didnít count it for myself because I saw it in his scope first. We were trying so hard to find M72 that we plain forgot about M2 and by the time we remembered it was so bright we didnít even try for it. We gave up and called it a night/morning/whatever. All in all I think we did pretty good considering the time of month it was. We got 106 out of the 110 total objects. For my first ever Messier Marathon I thought it went really well and both Tom and I were really satisfied at what we were able to see. This was also a good way to break in my new scope, which performed better than I expected. Other than those last objects, the only real problem happened when my eyepiece kept dewing over while I was chin deep in galaxies in the middle of the Virgo cluster. I think I will definitely try this again, maybe around the 1st of April, that is if I am sufficiently recovered by then!


For Sale

FOR SALE: Meade 90mm Refractor Astronomical Telescope
PRICE: $300

Specifications of Model 90mm-EQ:

Supplied complete with 90mm (3.5") multi-coated objective lens and aluminum optical tube assembly (D = 90mm, F = 1000mm, f/11); rack-and-pinion focuser; equatorial mounting with dual worm-gear slow-motion controls; setting circles; latitude control with scale; full-length, variable-height aluminum tripod with accessory shelf; 6 x 30 mm viewfinder; diagonal mirror; MA 25mm (40X), 12mm (83X), 4mm (250X) eyepieces (0.965"); 2X Barlow; instructions.

A catalog picture of a similar scope can be found at the following URL:

This scope is about three years old, and has only been used in the field a few times since I have another scope that I use more often. It is in almost new condition and is in the original box and packaging material.

Originally, the retail price for it was $500, but I purchased it on sale for $400. Since I would like to move this quickly, I'm selling it for $300.

If you are interested, please contact me via e-mail at the following address:

Cool Web sites

Inconstant Moon: A Day by Day Guide to the Moon

New Orbit Visualization Tool
A new Orbits section has been added to JPLís Near-Earth Object home page. The highlight is a cool visualization tool. It is an interactive 3D orbit viewer written in Java, and you can view the orbit of any asteroid or comet. You can rotate the orbits around and zoom in, move around the solar system and "play" the orbits backwards and forwards like a movie. Youíll have to select an object of interest first, by either entering the asteroid/cometís name (wildcards are allowed), or making a selection from the table of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids provided.

Internet "radio" amateur astronomy program  and clicking on the "GiveMeTalk!com" banner. The program will feature monthly updates on "what's up" in the sky with Dave Batch, director of Abram's Planetarium, Michigan State University. They'll also be adding programs on topics like how to choose binoculars, and how to observe the moon.

And finally, did you notice the newAAS logo? This is the handiwork of my son's lovely and talented wife, Amy, who is a graphics designer by profession. It's based on the original design by Keith Hudson and improved from my own amateurish efforts. Thanks, Amy!

Y2K Peach State Star Gaze News Update

Registration closed. NO WALK-INS ALLOWED.

Doorprizes received now include:

From "Astronomy" magazine:
"Galaxies and the Universe; An Observing Guide from
DEEP SKY magazine," paperbound, edited by David Eicher, retail value $14.95
"Star and Galaxies; Astronomy's Guide to Observing the Cosmos," hardcover, edited by David Eicher, retail value $29.95
"Through the Eyes of Hubble; The Birth, Life and Violent Death of Stars," hardcover, by Robert Naeye, retail value $29.95
6 free subscriptions to "Astronomy" magazine, normal subscription price $39.95 per year
50 copies of "Astronomy" magazine's April 2000 issue, news stand price $4.50 each.
1 full box of "Welcome to Astronomy", a quick intro to backyard observing, choosing a telescope, deep sky observing and a closer look at the planets

JMI (Jim's Mobile Inc.):
Gift certificate for $35 off any purchase of $100 or more within next 6 months from JMI
"How to Use the Max" videotape

Planetarium Praha (Observatory and Planetarium of Prague, Czech Republic)
6 copies of the brand-new poster-size Map of the Moon with accompanying booklet
3 copies of the multi-language street and road map of Prague with astronomy-oriented highlights indicated

Edmund Scientific: 
One 21.5 mm RKE eyepiece

Jim Fly (PSSG attender): 
One CatsEye(tm) Collimation Kit

Sandy Pruss (PSSG attender): 
One wristwatch (Santa Barbara Instruments Group/SBIG)

Sky Publishing: 
One copy of SkyAtlas 2000.0 Deluxe 2nd Edition; 3 copies of the new poster-size Map of the Moon by Antonin Rukl

Orion Telescopes & Binoculars
EZ Finder Reflect Sight, retail value $34.95
DeepMap 600 Folding Star Chart, retail value $13.95

Roger W. Tuthill, Inc. : 
Certificate for one 6-inch Solar Skreen sun filter.

Jim Mullaney, astronomer:
Two autographed copies of his booklet "The Finest Deep-Sky Objects" from Sky Publishing.

Hope to see everyone at Astronomy Day,