Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
July, 2000

In this Issue

July Meetings Cliff Hill Observing Site June Star Party
Comet Linear C/1999-S4 20 Year Anniversary Banquet Please Welcome…
New on the Web For Sale Potential New Observing Site

July Meetings

Regular Meeting: Our regular "first Friday" meeting will be on July 7, at 8:00PM, in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building, on the campus of Auburn University. Any Montgomery area car-poolers should meet at my house at 518 Seminole Dr. We’ll leave for Auburn at 7:00 PM.

Star Party: This month, we had the unusual circumstance of a New Moon Saturday falling on the 1st day of the month and a week before our usual "first Friday" meeting.   If we had an established dark-sky site I would have just sent out a star party announcement.  But, because we'll be trying out a new location, I thought it might be better to wait until everyone had directions and that we had permission from the land owner. Marty Skelton has found a potential new dark-sky observing site south of Auburn near the Little Texas community. The private airstrip (grass) is the property of  Mr.Cliff Hill of Auburn. This site is just a couple of miles from the Snipes' Farm and should enjoy the same dark skies…

Cliff Hill Farm Observing Site

From: Russell 
To: Rhon, I took a virtual trip to the site Marty Skelton mentioned via the SPIN-2 image.

The US80/US29 interchange is near the upper left. The power substation appears as a bright white rectangle at the intersection of Macon 69 and US 80. 

What looks to be an airstrip is at the lower left, parallel to, and just north of an east-west county road. Is that it? There's one more zoom level of the above, but I still don't see a house, unless that's it in the trees just north of the western end of the airstrip.

How about any "security" lights?


Rhon replied: Russell,

I finally met Mr. Hill and took a drive down to the site this afternoon. Yes, you have the airstrip pinpointed accurately. His house is indeed in the trees just north of the western end of the runway. The runway itself is about 1500 feet long (just a guess). As for security lights, there are some on the south side of the road. HOWEVER, I don’t think they’ll come into play if we locate towards the east end of the runway. The strip is cut down some there (sheltered by a small embankment); there are also a number of trees between us and the potential problems. I plan to go out there tomorrow (Friday) evening and get a better look. At first glance, this site has possibilities. Mr. Hill has no problems with us going out there. I’ll send another report tomorrow evening.

Your roving reporter,


Followed by the above promised report: Russell,

Joyce and I went out to Cliff Hill’s place last night. He took us all over the property on a four-wheeler so I’ve got a good idea of the layout. There are two possible viewing areas, each with positives and negatives.

      (1) the east end of the airstrip .... 
Positives: wide open with good horizons in every direction; easily accessible 

Negatives: two security lights to the south .... one sodium, one mercury vapor; HOWEVER, there is a location on the runway where neither is visible because of intervening trees. Fine for summer but we’ll have to see for winter. The runway runs parallel to a dirt road ... traffic on it is light, however. Two red lights are visible to the north, but can also be blocked if we setup right.

(2) look at the northeast corner of the rectangle bordered by the road on the west and the road/runway on the south ... BTW, the runway is 2400 feet long and he’s widening it at the east end ... the east boundary is just to the east where the runway stops. You can see an open area in this northeast section, slightly northeast of a dark patch on the photograph (it’s a small lake). This is a hilltop and is the second possible area.

Positives: no lights (I’m virtually positive of this even though I didn’t go back after it got totally dark). Trees block them in all directions ... not as wide open as the runway, but better than the Snipe’s place and maybe a little better than the old observatory place.

Negatives: relatively difficult to get to, but it can be done ..... cows and all that accompanies them .... we would have to go through a gate to get there and make sure it’s closed behind us ... Mr. Hill is willing to move them to another pasture on star party nights however. 


(1) the next star party should definitely be at Mr. Hill’s place

(2) we should set up at the east end of the runway, at least for the time being ... we can re-locate to the hilltop for following star parties if necessary, but I don’t think we’ll have to worry about it until the foliage drops. 


Directions to the Cliff Hill Farm

From Montgomery, take I-85 to exit 42 and take a right onto the US 80 connector. Proceed east on US 80 past the US 29 intersection to mile marker 182. 

Just beyond the mile marker (less than 1/2 mile) is a blinking yellow light; there is a power substation on the right at this intersection. 

Turn right (south) .... this is county road 69 but it is not marked. 

Proceed 0.7 mile to Myhand road (this one is marked), which is the first dirt road to the left. You will have just passed a water tower on the right (Little Texas is written on it). 

Proceed down the dirt road 0.3 mile. 

You will come to a gate (actually two together ... one is a cattle gate) on the left. 

Go through the gate and now the adventure begins: the strip is directly in front of you .. the viewing area is on the eastern (right) end of the strip. HOWEVER, to get there you must first go left and go down to the western end of the runway, then get on the runway and ride directly down it to the other end. 

We'll have reflector markers set out ... just follow them and you won't get lost.

From Auburn or points east: I-85 exit 51 is your best bet. Go south on US 29 (toward Tuskegee) to the US 80 intersection, then turn left (east) on US 80 for a mile or so (following all the folks who've gotten lost trying to follow these directions from Montgomery) to mile marker 182.


June Star Party

Scott Thompson, Ricky Wood, John Clifton, Rich Brideau, Dave Burnett and your editor, met at the Russell Amphitheater on Saturday June 3. Apparently too much optical fire power for a sultry summer night -- the evening began with complete overcast skies. Patience prevailed however, and by 10:00PM we were able to pick off some of the early summer globulars and later even a few galaxies. 

Because of the clouds, it was difficult to make an accurate assessment of the observing conditions at the amphitheater. There was some missed communications with the Russell Lands Security people who were supposed to unlock the gate, but Scott found an alternate entrance. The lights used for amphitheater performances are easily turned off. Having the restrooms open, for our visits, would be a distinct advantage over some of our more primitive sites. We’ll give this place another try another time. Thanks again to Scott Thompson for making the arrangements.

Comet 1999 S4 LINEAR

Comet 1999 S4 LINEAR (named after Lincoln Laboratory Near Earth Asteroid Research, an automated program that images regions of the night sky looking for asteroids and comets) may reach anywhere between magnitudes 3 and 5 or 6 around July 19-25.

You may have to stay up past your usual bedtime (after Moonset) but it may be the only easy comet we'll have for a while.

Anniversary Banquet

The twentieth anniversary of the Auburn Astronomical Society will be celebrated with a banquet on Saturday, September 9, 2000 at 8:30 PM at the Good Ol' Boys restaurant on Sandhill Road, south of Auburn. Fare includes steak, fish and salad bar. Our after dinner speaker will be Dr. David T. King Jr. and Lucille Petruny , speaking on "The New Discoveries at Wetumpka Impact Crater.' 

Please Welcome… Jacob Sloan of Montgomery. Dave Burnett of Montgomery who owns a 8-inch f/6 Meade Dob. Mark Pratt

New on the Web 

Astronomy Day 2000 A report on this year's event at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium

Members I've finally updated the AAS membership list for 2000. If you've paid your dues for this year, be sure your name is listed. If not, let me know.

Satellite Tracking Software for Meade LX200 Telescopes

For Sale

Meade 1.25-inch Ultra-Wide 8.8mm             $100.00
Meade 1.25-inch Ultra-Wide 14mm              $175.00
University Optics 2-inch WideScan 32mm     $150.00

Contact David Rich at 334-283-2480 (Tallassee AL)

Potential New Observing Site

Last month we were welcoming Rich Brideau to the mail list.  He and his friend and observing companion, Dave Burnett have taken an active role in helping us locate the perfect dark-sky site.  Here's the correspondence from Rich on this possible new location:

From: " Rich Brideau"

Russell --

Just a quick note to let you know Dave (Burnett) and I really enjoyed last months star party. Since then we have been looking for the best dark sky regions around Montgomery. Last night we traveled down to a co-workers 140-acre ranch in Sandy Ridge.

It’s about 25-35 miles south of Montgomery, which places its light pollution in the northern sky, and far enough away that the dome was quite small. Practically the entire drive down there, no street lights after getting south of Montgomery, and no town centers within 15 miles of the ranch. We had virtually no light pollution whatsoever to the south, east and west! The sky was spectacular! The area we set up was the center of an opening that had some elevation and was far away enough from the treeline that for the most part we had wide open viewing. For about an hour, excited and viewing non-stop, we were looking in and around Scorpius for while, staying away from the "misty cloud cover" to the east... when after an hour, Dave noticed the clouds we were avoiding were not moving very fast at all... I put the binocs up to them and almost fell down! Incredible! The Milky Way—loaded with objects, studded with countless stars everywhere you looked! We stayed for about 5 hours, keeping pretty active the whole time; in leaving, I think we both knew we’d found perhaps the best skies in proximity to Montgomery.  We’re planning to go down again in 2 weeks.

Anyway, we’d like to invite you or someone else from the club to join us for the next trip to Sandy Ridge. I know this would be a longer haul for the Auburn folks, but we’re thinking when one of you see the sky there, that you may find worth the extra time. The owners a great guy—and has never looked through a scope before. He’s committed to joining us the next time we go. I haven’t mentioned any star party intentions to him at this time—as we’d need someone from the club make an opinion on the location first. Who knows... one step at a time!

Rich Brideau

Again from Rich Russell—

Dave & I discussed springing the question of a party on Frank, however we both in agreement that we shouldn’t push it too far too fast.  Certainly we could have 2 people for the next one.  We’re guessing that meeting you folks would disarm any notions of misconduct he might anticipate.  And quite frankly, that if he had the pleasure of meeting you coupled with his very first introduction to the sky, he’d probably get very excited about it.  If, in the course of casual discussion that we mention that the club is always looking for locations, he may make the offer—the idea would be his own.  Ideally, thinking long term, if we take small steps we may be setting the foundation for another permanent site for the club!

[Next] weekend  looks like a ¼ moon rising early evening... so we may be in a holding pattern until next month.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed!


Thanks for your work on this Rich and Dave!

 Hope to see everyone at the meeting,