Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
May, 2002

In this Issue

May Meetings Head School Star Gaze
Astronomy Day 2002 New Members and Friends
This ‘n That  

May Meetings

Our monthly AAS meeting will be on Friday, May 3, at 8:00 PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering building, on the campus of Auburn University.

The members and friends dark-sky star party will be on Friday/Saturday, May 10/11, at Cliff Hill’s farm.   The Friday date being the primary date Saturday as a fall back in case of clouds on Friday. 

Thomas L. Head Elementary School 

In keeping with the schools “Reach for the Stars” theme, on Tuesday, April 16, AAS members Jim McLaughlin, Tom McGowan, Jim & Diane Locke, and Russell Whigham convened at the Thomas L. Head Elementary School in Montgomery, for our annual star gaze for the students.  The first quarter Moon and all of the naked-eye planets line up single file for us to see.  Principal, Susan Mallett, had soft drinks and pizza for us.  Because the St. Bede star gaze, originally scheduled back in March had to be cancelled, principal Mallett graciously agreed to have the St. Bede students join the Head students for the evening.  The excitement and enthusiasm of the students (and parents) is more than enough compensation for our time spent. 

Susan Mallett wrote:

Subject: Star Gazing Evening 
Date: Thu, 25 Apr 2002 13:20:55 –0500


Please excuse my tardiness in relaying my thanks to you, and your partners,
for sharing your time and experience with the students at Head School.
Last week was a blur, as this week has been as well, so I am just now
having time to sit down and let you all know how much the Star Gazing
evening meant to all of us at Head.  Again, the evening was a success!!!
We had a beautiful sky, about 200 people, extra amateur telescopes via the
students, and a great learning experience for everyone!!!   I regret not
using my digital camera to share pictures with you in this message.  But,
if you will send me your home or business address, as well as the same for
your fellow astronomers, I will send you all thank you pictures, drawn by
students, and photos of each of you.  Again, thank you so very much, and
please accept my apologies for my late thank you note!      Note: my staff
is having a Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast tomorrow morning (Friday,
April 26) at 8:30, and you all are invited!!!!!

Susan Mallett

Astronomy Day 2002

On Saturday, April 20, the W.A. Gayle Planetarium and the Auburn Astronomical Society teamed up for the fifth consecutive year to celebrate National Astronomy Day in central Alabama.  The weather was good and observing with the telescopes was enjoyed by a crowd estimated at over 400 by planetarium director, Rick Evans.   Two shows were needed in the planetarium to accommodate the largest crowd we've had since our annual joint venture began back in 1998.  Thanks, as always, to Rick for the publicity generated to attract such a turn-out. 
Special thanks also, to the following AAS members, who volunteered their time, hardware, and expertise, to share the beauty of the night sky with the Astronomy Day visitors: 

· William Baugh; 120mm f/5 refractor 
· Eddie Kirkland, 16" f/4.5 Midnight Telescopes Dobsonian 
· John Clifton; Meade 203SC/LXD500 
· Alan Akin; Orion Short tube 80mm f/5 refractor 
· Rhon and Joyce Jenkins; 18-inch Starmaster Dobsonian 
· Alan Cook and Susie Jensen; 10-inch Meade SCT, LX50, 20X80 binoculars 
· Russell Whigham; Celestron C-11, Criterion RV-6 
· Gail  and Marvin Smitherman; Orion StarMax 127 Mak-Cassegrain 
· Jim and Diane Locke 8-inch Celestar Celestron SCT 

AAS member, Mark Brown was serving double duty helping Rick with the day's activities and AAS friend, David Wayne Key was there, representing the Alex City delegation.  This is the first year that Ricky Wood and Scott Thompson were not able to attend.  I'm sure they missed being there as much as we missed having them. John Williams, another Astronomy Day regular, had to cancel as well.  We're hoping they can be back with us next year. 
AAS members began arriving at about 4:00 to set up their telescopes on the lawn in front of the planetarium.   By 5:00 the visitors had already begun to assemble around the telescopes. Gail Smitherman had her scope equipped with a solar filter and wowed the early arrivals with an impressive display of sunspots. 
The evening officially began at 6:00 PM in the auditorium.  Following an introduction by Rick Evans, AAS president, Dr. Rhon Jenkins, used a Power Point presentation to introduce the visitors to the Auburn Astronomical Society.  It was at this time that Rick called Rhon, Mark Brown, and your editor to the front of the auditorium and presented each of us with a Planisphere Watch, as a token of his appreciation to us for our contributions to the day's event.  A big "Thank You" back to Rick and the rest of the planetarium staff -- not only for the watches -- but for all of the time and energy that goes into each year's highly successful joint venture. 

At 6:30, we began the Tour of Telescopes.  Each telescope owner who wished to participate, talked for a few minutes about their telescope -- the advantages of the optical and mount designs, what accessories they chose and why, etc, followed by taking questions from the group. With the large diversity of telescopes represented by our members, the visitors left with a much better understanding of the astronomical hardware.  Next, to reinforce this introduction to telescopes, we went back inside for "More Than Meets the Eye", a planetarium program which illustrates what you can expect to see using a variety of different telescopes and binoculars.

This was followed by "Tour of the Night Sky".  The Spitz Space Transit Planetarium projector in the auditorium was set to display the stars as seen from Montgomery, Alabama on April 20th. A brief tour of the night sky was conducted to point out the constellations.  At 7:45 door prizes tickets were drawn. Among the prizes were:

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

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

Firefly Books LTD
 (2) Astronomy Books:  Nightwatch (3rd Ed) by Terence Dickinson and 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.
"How to Start Right in Astronomy" pamphlets. (Sky Publishing ) 
"Space Place" collectible card games, variety of decals, (Jet Propulsion Laboratory  ) 

The recipient of the complimentary Auburn Astronomical Society membership was Althea Katrina Jones, of Montgomery.  On her drawing entry form, she wrote: 

"I'm glad I came. I haven't been to the planetarium since I was a kid. I left work early to attend." 
Congratulations and welcome to the group, Althea!
Following the door prize drawings, Astronomy Day visitors returned outside to a darkened sky to begin viewing through the telescopes provided by the Auburn Astronomical Society.  We viewed the first quarter Moon and a cluster of the naked-eye the planets  Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and Venus. 
As is the case each year, we were able to assist bewildered telescope owners with their personal telescope assembly and set-up woes.  We also met Wayne Baker, of Clanton, who is seeking help with a light pollution problem, and Dale Harrison, of Auburn, with whom we recently established a correspondence.  We also met Eddie Eckerman, Science teacher at Georgia Washington Junior High School, in Montgomery. 

We may have had more but our e-mail sign-up sheets that were left on a table next to the free hand-outs, were mistakenly taken as well.  File this under lessons learned. :) 

You can see all of the pretty pictures on the Astronomy Day 2002 page.  From the AAS main menu, scroll down and “click” on:  "Field Trips / W.A. Gayle Planetarium Events / Astronomy Day 2002".

New Members and Friends

In addition to Althea, Wayne, Dale, and Eddie, we’ve made the following new contacts:

Charles E. Floyd, Jr. of Phenix City.  A few of you old-timers may recognize the name – Charles donated a 12.5-inch f/7 Cave Astrola telescope to AAS in our early years, that made out Moore’s Meadow Observatory a reality.  Welcome back to the fold, Charles.

Mary Lou Hodel, of Auburn, visited with us at our April meeting, and joined on the spot.

Everett Leonard of Phenix City, has renewed his membership for 2002.

Jim Lowe

Hello Jim,
At 09:14 PM 4/21/2002 -0500, you wrote:

From: "Jim Lowe" <> 
 Subject: Star Parties 
Date: Sun, 21 Apr 2002 21:14:46 -0500 

I am very interested in attending a few star parties in the coming months.  I've become very interested in Astronomy for the last year or so and am looking for more opportunities to evaluate the hobby and which tools I should consider purchasing.  Currently I just use small 8x50 binos at my house outside of Wetumpka (Emerald Mtn).   I believe it's reasonably dark here but I look forward to learning more from others at a better viewing site.
I appreciate your web site and any additional information you can provide to help me learn more about this subject.

Thanks for taking the time to look us up and express your interest in amateur astronomy.  I'll add your name to the e-mail list so you'll be able to keep up with what we're up to.

Our next meeting in Auburn will be on Friday, May 3 and the next star party on the weekend of May 10/11. 

I hope you'll be able to join us for these and all other future events.

Were you at our Astronomy Day event at the planetarium last Saturday?  Your name seems familiar -- have we talked before?

Hope to see you soon,


Then, in some correspondence with the webmaster of the Montgomery Genealogical Society, Julia Armstrong wrote:

… I checked out your AAS Website. I've always been interested in of these days I want to purchase a really good telescope - years ago I wanted
to purchase a CAT but I bet these days there's something a lot better. Of course, I live in
Montgomery and there's a lot of light pollution.
And I replied: 
Hello Julia,

You just missed a great chance to see a variety of our members telescopes at last Saturday's Astronomy Day at the W. A. Gayle Planetarium. 

If you'd like me to add your name to the AAS e-mail list, you could keep up with when we have our "star parties" etc.  Just say the word and I'll return the favor.


Then, Julia answered:
Actually, I'm on the planetarium email & snailmail list, so I knew about Astronomy Day and planned to go.  As it worked out, I wasn't able to attend and I was really disappointed. The people I talked to who made it said it was a lot of fun. So anyway, please add me to your email list - I would appreciate it. 


This ‘n That

Sad to See You Go

Mark Brown will be leaving us soon and relocating in Illinois, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.  Mark has already located an astronomy club up there -- our loss and their gain.  Good luck, Mark, and we hope you’ll stay in touch. 

As hard as I try to dissuade them from leaving, and despite my repeated attempts of sabotaging his relocation, Tom and Julie McGowan’s move to clear black skies of northern Arizona seems imminent.  There’ll be a huge hole left when Tom leaves… well actually, a 20-inch hole, a couple of 16-inch holes, a 12-inch hole and an 8-inch hole.  ;-)  Seriously,  Tom has been a huge asset to AAS in the few years he’s been with us.  But, who knows – now that all of the Realtors in Elmore County are now aware that Tom’s house was built over and Indian burial ground, and the Postmaster at his prospective job knows that Tom was caught matriculating when he was in Boston, will keep him here. ;-)  Good Luck Tom! 

Updated “Who R We” Pages

Everyone who has submitted their thumb nail bios to the “Who R We” pages and was at Astronomy Day, has an updated photo now.  My, my!  What a handsome group!

Astro- Vacation
From: "Scott Thompson" 

I have some good news to brag about. For my 40th birthday my wife is taking me on the Sky and Telescope's, Cactus, Craters and Canyons Vacation. I am soooo looking forward to vacation! If you have not seen the advertisement in S&T we will get to go to some neat places. Kitt Peak, Lowell Observatory,  Barringer Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater National Monument, Bio Dome where we stay one night, University of Arizona Optics Lab, Starizona Astronomy Store, and the outdoor stuff like Sedona "Red Rock Country", Grand Canyon, and a ecological national desert park. The dude Stewart Goldman, editor of S&T, will be our guide. 
I will take a bunch of pictures and of course have a report for the meeting. 


Superstring Link
From: "John B. Zachry" <> 

Russell -
If you or anybody interested:

Interesting. - John

Planets Cluster

Several planets are assembling toward a rare alignment later this month, when five of them will crowd into a patch of sky small enough that all will be visible in a single glance. The setup will provide a planet-watching opportunity that won't be repeated for a century.

Look to the west just after sunset.  Full info....

Atlanta Astronomy Expo 2002 

From: Art Russell <>
Subject: Atlanta Astronomy Expo 2002  3-5 May, 2002

During the first weekend of May, the Atlanta Astronomy Club in conjunction
with Agnes Scott college are having an astronomy extravaganza!  Activities
begin on Friday and go through Sunday - and you won't want to miss any of
the action!  The governor is again proclaiming "Astronomy Day in Georgia"
and the proclamation is being presented by the governor's office during this

The activities start at 9:00 a.m. on Friday 3 May at the Bradley Observatory
on the Agnes Scott campus and conclude at 4:00 p.m.  During this time the
professional astronomers of Georgia will present their current research.
Limited seating is available for this, so please contact Tom Crowley if you
are interested in attending.  The cost for this meeting is $10.00 per

On Friday evening, we begin at 6:00 p.m. at Evans Hall for a social and
dinner begins at 7:00.  The featured speaker is a person who probably needs
no introduction - Carolyn Shoemaker!   Carolyn is very excited about
speaking to both the professional astronomers and the Atlanta Astronomy club
members.  The cost for the dinner is $20.00.

On Saturday continuing at Evans Hall, the general admission doors open at
8:00 a.m.  We are pleased to announce the speakers and all the activities
this year and hope to see everyone come out for this event.  Carolyn
Shoemaker will be making another presentation for the expo!  Last year Chris
Butler wowed the audience and this year he is presenting "Our Little Corner
of the Galaxy."  Our own Michael Covington has his "twins" coming out and
will be speaking on these as well as signing his books.  They are entitled
"How to Use a Computerized Telescope" and "Celestial Objects for Modern
Telescopes."   There will be other speakers to be confirmed, planetarium
shows and telescopes set up for solar viewing (weather permitting).
Refreshments will be provided for a nominal price during the event.  The
price for the day is $10.00 per person attending.

On Sunday at the Bradley observatory beginning at 11:00 a.m. there will be a
"hands on" telescope program that is free to all.  So, whether you are a
neophyte or advanced, bring your scopes and come out for this event.

Folks, last year those of us who attended had a great time.  The
presentations were great; there were awesome deals provided by vendors on
astronomy related items, the planetarium shows were a hit, and many people
in the community had a chance to experience what we in our club are very
excited about.  This year we expect a large turnout - many of the
professional astronomers will be staying in order to attend and especially
with all the talk about comets now, this will be an even larger draw with
Ms. Shoemaker being our keynote.  Let's show the public what our club can
do, so please come out for as many of these events as you can!

For more details, please contact either Tom Crowley 404.233.6886
( or Carol Abernathy (770) 736-7623

David Levy at the 20th Annual Deep South Regional Stargaze 

As this year will mark the 20th anniversary of the Deep South 
Regional Stargaze, we will have an internationally known guest 
speaker this year.  Our speaker is none other than David H. Levy, co-
discoverer of comet Shoemaker-Levy as well as a host of other comets, 
prolific author and biographer as well as Science Editor of "Parade" 
magazine.  David's cv goes on and on, but we will stop here.

The working title of David Levy's talk is "This side of the Moon, 
This side of New Orleans, Reminisces of a star gazer".  The talk is 
scheduled for Friday afternoon, November 1st at 3 PM.

Barry Simon

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,