Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
In this Issue
ATTENTION: Meeting date change! The Mars Gaze event in Montgomery served as our September meeting. There will be no meeting in the Aerospace Engineering building on the traditional first Friday of September. Our next meeting there will be on Friday October 3, in room 215.
Our September Star Party will be on Saturday, September 27, at Cliff Hill’s farm. Usually our first good cold front makes its way through Alabama right around the fall equinox. If the weather cooperates, we may be able to sneak in an extra star party the weekend before on Saturday, September 20. Keep one eye on the Weather Channel and the other on your mail for the latest information.
On Saturday, August 30th, the Auburn Astronomical Society, and the W.A. Gayle Planetarium on Montgomery, co hosted "MARS GAZE 2003".
By 6:00PM, when we arrived to set up the telescopes, the queue for the 7:00PM showing of the movie "War of the Worlds" in the planetarium, filled the lobby and extended out the sidewalk. The turn-out was such that planetarium director, Rick Evans, determined that two showings of the movie would be required to accommodate everyone. The planetarium seats 235. Ten extra chairs were brought in for the second showing (which was also SRO). Rick estimated that at least another 100 came only to have a look through the telescopes, or could not get in to see the movie, giving us at total attendance of close to six hundred!
Prior to each showing of the movie, Rick, in a tribute to the Auburn Astronomical Society, gave a Power Point presentation to the visitors. Rick had artfully choreographed the strains of Alabama's “On This Side of the Moon” with composite images of members of the society set in astronomy related scenes. We've asked Rick to send us a copy to show at a future AAS meeting. Outstanding piece of work, Rick. Thanks!
Other groups hosting similar events during the week of Mars’ closest approach had reported being overwhelmed by larger than expected crowds. Rick did his usual great job of getting the word out about this to the local media. Channel 12 (WSFA) (Rich Thomas) did a live remote broadcast at the planetarium on the Tuesday night before our event, on both the 5:00 and 6:00 news. Rick reported that the planetarium was inundated with phone calls from the time the broadcasts were aired up until the show began Saturday. Promotions were also run on WVAS radio and on WAKA, Channel 8.
"Based on the calls, I would anticipate one of the largest groups we have ever had out here." Rick predicted.
Because of Mars' low altitude at the beginning of the evening, we had to set up the telescopes farther back toward the park perimeter road than we have for our Astronomy Day events -- around the area where "Neptune" and "Pluto" are on the model solar system sidewalk. We would be looking over Jackson Hospital at Mars rise. The weather forecast called for a 50% chance of afternoon thunder showers. As threatening clouds came and went, Rick was bringing us the latest radar images of storms in the area.
Those attending the first showing of the movie poured out of the planetarium a few minutes before 9:00PM. As they lined up 10 to 15 deep at each of the telescopes we had them look at some of the brighter objects in the area of sky that we could see such as Albireo -- the beautiful gold and blue double star, as all waited patiently for Mars to "get out of the hospital".
As skies darkened, the air cooled, dissipating what remained of the clouds. Brilliant Mars made its grand entrance right on cue. Once it had cleared the lower layers of our atmosphere, the image was steady and sharp at 350 power. Many of the visitors were able to make out the subtle surface features in the Sinus Sabaeus, and Sinus Meridiani regions. The south polar cap was easy for everyone. Most visitors took turns at each of the telescopes.
The dreaded Earth clouds nor the global Martian dust storms ever materialized. We had a wonderful evening that ranks up there with our 1984 annular solar eclipse, the Halley Watch in 1986, comet Hale-Bopp, and the 2001 Leonid storm. As the crowd diminished we started to pack up our scopes. We finally left at midnight with the satisfaction of knowing we had given many visitors a memory that will last a lifetime.
Thanks again for all your help, I think it was a tremendous event and I have received a lot of positive feedback from it.
I wanted to thank you for Saturday night. I brought my son and one of his friends, they had a blast. A couple of the men from the Astronomical Society really took a lot of time talking with me, explaining a lot of stuff about the telescopes (my son wants a better one and I had no idea what to look for). They really went out of their way to be helpful and were very patient with my "inexperienceness", if that's a word. Feel free to forward this to them so they will know how much I appreciate them. Well, anyway, just wanted to send you an extra thanks for everything you've done, once again, you are very appreciated.And
Thanks for the email and the opportunity to see this amazing event. Pass the word along the those who allowed us to use their telescopes to get a better view of the Mars Opposition.Special thanks to the following, some who made special trips here for this event from many miles, who gave of their time and telescopes for the event:
And finally, to Rick Evans, without whom this would not have happened, our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude for this wonderful partnership that we have with forged between the W.A. Gayle Planetarium and the Auburn Astronomical Society.
[This account along with photos of the event are
on the AAS Web page.
It was mostly clear on August 31, so I headed out for a night of observing at Cliff's Hill for the first time since July 2. It wasn't the clearest of nights, with high cirrus floating past occasionally, and many more clouds hugging the horizon, but it was worth it! I logged two new Abells and a few non-abell PNe's, saw some fairly bright galaxies in southern Aquarius and viewed Mars. I also treated Mark, my friend from high school, to a view of Mars and some bright DSOs like M8 and M17. By about 1:30, I felt like I had been run over by a truck, so I packed up and left, rather early for me. Missed you guys! Oh, and I found a much darker sky site south of Auburn, but I will have to talk to you about that.
TNSP 2003 Speakers & Topics
Rod Mollise, Care and Feeding of a Cat(adioptric)
The Deep South Regional Star Gaze 2003 will be October 22-26. The main speaker at the DSRSG this year is Philip Harrington, author of:
The following was sent to us by David T. King, Jr. via Larry Owsley
AUBURN -- Astronaut Jim Voss, a veteran of five
space flights, has been named associate dean for external affairs in Auburn
University's Samuel Ginn College of Engineering.
"At the same time, we are thrilled that he will
be joining us as we position the Ginn College of Engineering to seek out
new levels of teaching, research and outreach. As one of our most distinguished
graduates, we look to his ability to share Auburn's story with a wide variety
of audiences, and continue the role that he has always played as an ambassador
of Auburn University."
Voss was commissioned as a second lieutenant in
the Army and earned a master's degree in aerospace engineering from the
University of Colorado in 1974, under the Army Graduate Fellowship Program.
After completing the Naval Test Pilot School and the Armed Forces Staff College, Voss was assigned to the Army Aviation Engineering Flight Activity as a flight test engineer and research and development coordinator. He was involved in several major flight test projects before being assigned to NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1984.
As a vehicle integration test engineer for the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Voss supported shuttle and
payload testing at the Kennedy Space Center for shuttle flights. Selected
as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1987, he completed a one-year training
and evaluation program that qualified him for assignment as a mission specialist
on shuttle flights.
He was the back-up crew member for two missions to the Russian space station Mir, during which time he lived and trained for two years at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia. During 2001 he lived and worked aboard the International Space Station as a member of the Expedition 2 crew.
Voss has logged 201 days in space, including four space walks totaling 22 hours and 35 minutes of extravehicular time. Most recently he was a management astronaut working in the Space Station Program Mission Integration and Operations Office as a deputy for flight operations.
"Jim has served as an integral part of the astronaut and human space flight program for more than 18 years," NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said of Voss. "His contributions to human space flight are numerous, but even more important, his professionalism and demeanor have served as positive examples for the astronaut corps. His efforts have helped make the International Space Station a success. He will be a valuable and wonderful addition to the Auburn University faculty. Jim will serve as a true inspiration for the next generation of explorers and scientists."
Hope to see everyone at the star party,