Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
April, 2002

In this Issue

April Meetings and Events Head Elementary School Star Gaze
Astronomy Day 2002 Ogletree Elementary Star Gaze 
Prattville School Home Educators Star Gaze Member Spotlight
Telescopes, Etc. Comet Ikeya-Zhang Images
Light Pollution in the News  

April Meetings and Events

Friday, April 5, monthly AAS meeting at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University. 

April 10-13 Mid-South Star Gaze, French Camp MS

Friday/Saturday, April 12/13, April members and friends dark-sky star party, at Cliff Hill’s farm.   The Friday date being the primary date Saturday as a fall back in case of clouds on Friday. 

Tuesday, April 16, Head School Star Gaze, Montgomery  (See below)

Wednesday, April 17, cloud date for Head School

Saturday, April 20, Astronomy Day 2002, W. A. Gayle Planetarium, Montgomery (See below)

Head School Star Gaze

Principal Susan Mallett, Head Elementary School, 3950 Atlanta Highway, Montgomery,  has invited us back again this year, to give a star gaze at the school on Tuesday, April 16, with Wednesday April 17 as a back-up in case of clouds on Tuesday.  The Moon will be a nice crescent both days.  Sunset will be at 7:10 on Tuesday.  We should try to be there by 7:00 and ready to begin viewing by 7:30 CDST.  Again, it would be nice to have at least four telescopes to accommodate the typically large turn-out here.  Please let me (Russell) know if you think you’ll be able to help.

Astronomy Day 2002
Saturday, April 20
W.A. Gayle Planetarium
Rick Evans, Director

So far, getting a speaker from the Marshall Space Flight Center has not panned out.  Been strung along for 6 weeks, with maybe's, might's, could's, etc.. but still no commitments.

Hence, it's time to shift to “plan B”.  Rhon Jenkins is going to do the AAS briefing. I would like to see if anyone would like to do a Telescope presentation, explaining the differences between reflecting and  refracting and maybe show folks what to look for when thinking about buying a telescope for their children...the do's and don'ts. 

We will run the program More than Meets the Eye which illustrates what people will see if they use binoculars or a variety of telescopes (i.e. 8", 10" etc).   We'll then do a tour of the night sky, and send folks out side.  We have been toying around with the idea of having a Constellation shootout competition as well.

 This Year's Door Prizes (So Far...)

  Orion Telescopes and Binoculars 
 (1) Deluxe Medium Aluminum Accessory Case
 (1) Star Target Planisphere

Jet Propulsion Laboratory - The Space Place
 (30) Deep Space 1 "Incredible Ions" posters

Firefly Books LTD 
 (2) Astronomy Books 
Nightwatch (3rd Ed) by Terence Dickinson
Splendors of the Universe by Terence Dickinson and Jack Newton

Auburn Astronomical Society
 (1) One Year Free Membership

Kalmbach Publishing Co.
(1) Complimentary One-Year Subscription  to Astronomy magazine.

Promotional educational information
 "How to Start Right in Astronomy" pamphlets. (Sky Publishing ) "Space Place" collectible card games, variety of decals, (Jet Propulsion Laboratory )


6:00 PM  Auburn Astronomical Society Briefing.  Dr. Rhon Jenkins (auditorium) will present a briefing on the Auburn Astronomical Society, astronomy club.

6:30 PM  Tour of Telescopes  Each owner will brief about their telescope.  The advantages of  the scope's optical and mechanical design, what accessories they chose and why, and what type objects are best suited for viewing.

7:30 PM  "More Than Meets the Eye"  Planetarium program which illustrates what you can expect to see using a variety of different telescopes and binoculars.

7:45 PM  "Tour of the Night Sky"  The Spitz STP projector  in the auditorium  will be set to display the stars as seen from Montgomery Alabama on April 20th. A brief  tour of the night sky will be conducted to point out the constellations.

8:00 PM Door Prizes  Tickets will be drawn to select winners of the Door Prizes. (Must be present to win)

8:15 PM Telescopic Viewing  Guests are invited to view the night sky through the telescopes provided by the Auburn Astronomical Society.

Rick Evans 

[Editor’s Note:  I gave Rick the go-ahead on a telescope demonstrations.  We’ll have a couple of weeks to work out the details, but a format that worked well at last year’s Deep South Regional Star Gaze, was to have each telescope owner who wished to participate, talk for a few minutes about their telescope -- the advantages of the scope design,  what accessories they chose and why, etc, followed by taking questions from the group.  Rather than haul the telescopes inside, I think it would be better to have the visitors move from one telescope to the next outside.  Each telescope presentation should only take about 5 minutes, and with an average Astronomy Day showing of about a dozen telescopes, we should probably allow a minimum of one hour before the activities inside the planetarium begin.  With the large diversity of telescopes represented by our members, the visitors should have a good understanding of the hardware. 

Please let me (Russell) know if you think you’ll be able to help.]

Ogletree Elementary Star Gaze
Greg Glasscock

Thanks to all of the folks from the AAS that helped us at Ogletree Elementary in Auburn!  On Tuesday March 19th, which was our third attempt in a month, we got our star party off the ground at 6:00.  Rhon and Joyce Jenkins and Rick Allen joined me.  The turn out was very good.  The estimates I received from Ms. Herring, the principal, and a couple others put the attendance near 100. 

We made the decision to go for it at 2:00 even though it did not look too promising.  I trusted the hour by hour forecast from The Weather Channel web site and it paid off.  There were a few clouds but they were not a real problem.  More of a problem were a couple of security lights that, as Rhon said, "could be seen from space."  We were able to enjoy Jupiter, Saturn, the Moon, and the Orion Nebula.  We had 4 telescopes going and stayed busy for about an hour.  I saw 2 telescopes brought by students as well.  Since two of my children are students at Ogletree, I knew most of the people in attendance and I can say they had a very good time and I am sure we will be invited to have a repeat performance. 

I want to thank Russell Whigham for helping with the recruitment, and Rhon, Joyce, and Rick for showing up and doing such a great job with the crowd!  Also, since we had attempted two other nights I had several other people that had volunteered to come earlier but could not attend Tuesday.  Alan Cook, Eddie Kirkland, John Clifton, and Alan Akin were in that group.  This was my first school star party and I must say I enjoyed the questions and enthusiasm shown by not only the students but the parents too.  I look forward to going to other schools in the area when they call. 

Prattville Fellowship of School Home Educators Star Gaze

On March 21, 2002, at the invitation of Ms. Amy Stackhouse, AAS members Tom McGowan, John Williams and Russell Whigham along with about 75 students and teacher-parents of the Prattville Fellowship of Home Educators, met in rural Autauga county for a near perfect evening of observing the early spring sky.  For many, it was their first look through a telescope.

Several of the home schoolers brought their personal telescopes to supplement the AAS arsenal. A couple of these had questions such as "Which eyepiece should I use?" and "Where does this screw go?", that we were able to help.  We were able to assist with the assembly and set-up of their telescopes.

Temperatures dropped to  the mid-fifties by the end of the evening.  This, combined with a moderate breeze that accompanied at cold front that had swept the sky clear of clouds at midday, brought us a dark and transparent night sky. 
During the course of the evening we observed:  Venus, the Moon, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, star clusters, binary stars, Comet Ikeya-Zhang (naked-eye), and satellite passes.  See their star gaze Web page at
Select "Field Trips", "Outreach", "Prattville Fellowship of Home Educators".

Here is a letter from Mrs. Stackhouse:

Thank you a million times! I, and everyone present, was thrilled beyond words at our experience last night. The kids saw images that they see in books and they could not believe their little eyes were seeing such sights. I could not believe that in my 40 years I have never had such a view. Thank you and to Tom and John. You fellows are so knowledgeable and yet so able to bring it down to the common folk to understand and appreciate. What a true gift!

The pictures are great and I know that I'd like a copy of each for our scrapbook and I am sure some others will too. I can't get the word out until the first of the month in our newsletter, but I will let you know.  I think the Montgomery Parents can pull from the e-mail attachment for a tidbit. Is there something you'd like to mention in that brief feature?  Marty is the publisher of that magazine and a friend of mine and often helps me get home school out there in a positive light.

Again I thank you for your expertise, time and effort. We were all blessed with a super time!  We will make mention of you when we are in Washington at Spaceday 2002 at the Air and Space Museum. The kids saw some of the planets that they planned missions to enter in the contest and that was a thrill for them!

If I can ever help you, please let me know. Please forward this note to John and Tom. We are sending our drawings to "Sketch the Sky" on WSFA morning show...we will scan a copy for you.

Amy Stackhouse

Member Spotlight

Eddie Kirkland
Auburn AL   or 
16" f/4.5 Midnight Telescopes truss-tube dob; 6" f/12 Intes Mak-Cass; 4" f/5 Skywatcher refractor 
Area(s) of special interest:planets and deep sky objects

AAS:   Are you a seasoned amateur astronomer or just getting into the hobby?

EK:  I've been actively observing for a little over three years now (2002)

AAS:    What was your first experience that attracted you to astronomy?

EK:  I had 60mm refractor as an early teen and enjoyed looking at the moon, Saturn, and Jupiter

AAS:    Tell us a little about your family members; spouse? kids? siblings? significant other?

EK:  I'm married to a great lady and best friend, Liz, who lets me buy all this astro stuff without complaining; we've been married 25 years, she's a teacher; two children, Amanda, 22, also a teacher, Nathan, 18, a senior at Auburn High.

AAS:    Can you tell us a little about your formal education?

EK:  BS, 1976 in Forest Management from Auburn University

AAS:    Do you have any pets? What kind?; How Many?

EK:  Bailey, the beagle; Mollie, the cat

AAS:    Where do you work? If you're retired, what was your occupation?; If you're still in school, have you chosen a career?

EK:  State Lands Manager for the Alabama Forestry Commission

AAS:    Besides astronomy, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

EK:  Whitewater kayaking and canoeing; landscape gardening; reading; traveling; hiking

AAS:    What was your first or favorite car?

EK:  My first car was a 1970 Datsun 510

AAS:    What was your first or most interesting job?

EK:  My first job was unloading 50- and 100-pound bags of fertilizer from railcars for my Dad; most fun job was working for the Forest Service on the Coconino National Forest in Arizona one summer during college.

AAS:    Tell us about your favorite vacation.

EK:  In 1990 my family took a 4-week trip through Arizona, California, Oregon, and other western states.

AAS:    Have you ever lived in some other part of the U.S. or another country? Where?; When?

EK:  I grew up in a very small town in Henry County, AL; lived a couple of years in Autauga Co.; and have been living in the Auburn area since 1980.

Telescopes Etc.
Huntingdon College Telescope 
Jim Locke

I took some courses at Huntingdon College during the mid-eighties and, while there, borrowed a reflector telescope from the school to track Halley's Comet in '86.

I recently contacted one of the science professors at Huntingdon and asked about that 'scope.  He recalled seeing it stored away somewhere and, ever curious, I offered (invited myself) to drop by and help him find it.  Today during lunch I went by, met the professor face-to-face, and found not only the old reflector but also what appears to be an old refractor of, maybe, 3" or 4" size.
I'd like to see what I could do to help get those scopes back in usable condition.  He mentioned that their science building in scheduled for an overhaul and there had been discussion of putting a small observatory on the roof.

Anyone interested in looking at these telescopes?

Jim Locke

I replied:
Hello Jim,

Thanks for taking the initiative on this.  Dr. Ward Knacamus was our contact at Huntingdon and was on our e-mail list at one time.  After receiving bounces to his address, I learned that he had retired.  We never heard any more from him.  Thanks for re-establishing communication there.  If you think your guy would like to be added to our mail list, just send me his address.

I'm sure you're quite capable of making assessments on the old scopes but I'll be glad to help if you like -- just let me know when.  I'll be off from work next week if you'd like to do it then.

As to the new facility, I'll bet they can find one of the Huntingdon alumnus that would love to have his or her name on the observatory.  They could get a new 11-16 inch telescope for the same price as the dome. 

Thanks again for your efforts on this,


Free Mirror

Then,  Jeff Schutz wrote:

I have a 6 in. f8 primary mirror for a simple reflector.  It may need recoating but is otherwise fine (1/8 wave) .  I will give it away to a good home--someone who will use it to build a scope, not someone looking to resell it for their own profit. 

I answered:

Hello Jeff,

The Auburn Astronomical Society would very much appreciate your donation.  We have one 8-inch "loaner" telescope now.  The mirror could be the beginning of a good club telescope building project as well as a welcome addition to the society's assets.

Where do you live?  Could we pick it up if you live in/near Auburn or Montgomery.  Or, we'd love to have you visit us at one of our upcoming meetings to make the presentation.

Thank you,


Comet Ikeya-Zhang Images
Mark A. Brown 

 Here are a couple of photos of Comet Ikeya-Zhang that I took on the evening of March 21, 2002. 

This  was photographed using my Orion 80mm Short Tube while piggy-backed to my C8. 
It was a two- minute exposure and I used Fuji Superia 800 film. The focal length was 400mm at f/5.

This photo was taken through my C8 at prime-focus using an f/5 telecompressor. 
Exposure time was 3 minutes using the same film.

Even with the moonlit skies from a first quarter moon, the comet was still impressive sporting a 10-degree tail. I photographed the comet west of Prattville, Alabama at about 7pm. 

Best Regards,

Mark A. Brown

Light Pollution in the News

CNN has a short article about light pollution and a poll you can take.  See: 

The article title is "NPR : Morning Edition for Monday, March 25, 2002 : Dark Skies" and can be found at

From: "Richard Allen"
Subject: A satellite's eye view--awesome
This is really neat!


The image is a panoramic view of the world from the new space station. 
You can scroll East-West and North-South. Canada's population is almost 
exclusively along the U.S. border. Moving east to Europe, there is a 
high population concentration along the coast of the Med. Check out the 
development of Israel compared to the rest of the Arab countries. 
Note the Nile River, The Outback of Australia and the TransSiberian Rail 
Route. Moving east, most striking is the difference between North and 
South Korea. 
Truly unique! 
It is an absolutely awesome picture of the Earth taken from the Boeing 
built Space Station. 


Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,