Auburn Astronomical Society E-Newsletter
October, 2007

In this Issue

October Events Upcoming Events
Please Welcome… Magazine Subscriptions
Space News Conecuh National Forest
Regional Star Parties Cool Links

October Events

This month’s meeting will be on Friday, October 5, at 8:00PM in room 215 of the Aerospace Engineering Building.  This will be another “ball game” weekend, so parking may again be a problem.   We’re not sure if the parking lot behind the Aerospace building will be open or not.  Plan “B” might be down Wright Street off West Magnolia.  Riders from the Montgomery area are welcome to meet at the home of Russell Whigham, 518 Seminole Dr., and carpool over to Auburn.  Plan to be ready to leave for Auburn at 7:00PM. 

Our dark-sky star party this month, will be on Saturday, October 13, at Cliff Hill’s farm, or Conecuh National Forest Dark Sky Observing Site (see below), clouds permitting of course. 

Upcoming Events

Please Welcome…

Dale Roberts, of Auburn, is our newest member.  Dale attended the September meeting and brought his 70mm refractor to the September star party.  Welcome to the group, Dale.

Magazine Subscriptions

AAS discount subscriptions/renewals to Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazine are due in October and November.  We need 5 subsctiptions to qualify for each magazine.  Sky & Telescope discount rate is $ 32.95 (Regular $ 42.95), and  Astronomy magazine is $34.00 for AAS members (Regular $ 42.95).  Subscriptions for to both will be $66.95.

Make checks payable to Auburn Astronomical Society. Only members of Auburn Astronomical Society are entitled to club subscription rates. If you are unable to attend our October meeting, mail checks to: 

Auburn Astronomical Society 
c/o John B. Zachry 
501 Summerfield Road 
West Point, GA 31833
Space News
John Zachry
  • Japan's Kaguya spacecraft will go into Lunar Orbit October 3 at 4:01 p.m. CDT.
  • Sputnick I - 50th Anniversary Oct. 4
  • Soyug TMA - 11 Expedition 16 to International Space Station with crew of 3 on October 10.
  • Japan's Kaguya spacecraft will begin science observations Oct. 21 at 5:27 a.m. CDT.
  • Space Shuttle Discovery to International Space Station on Oct. 23. Will carry Node 2.
  • New launch date for China's Lunar Orbiter "Chang" Oct. 26



    Conecuh National Forest Dark Sky Site
    John Tatarchuk

    I spent  two recent Saturdays going to the Conecuh National Forest.  September 15, was one of the darkest nights, if not the darkest, I have EVER seen there.  M33 looked like M31 from like a magnitude 4.5 to 5 site, and was easy to hold in adverted vision.  Not only was the Gegenshein visible, but the zodiacal band was visible stretching from the Gegenshein all along the ecliptic, disappearing into the winter Milky Way.  Taras Wertelecki from the Mobile Astronomical Society was with me, and he clearly saw it as well.  In his words, "It looks sorta like the Milky Way, only fainter".  I'd have to add that it was quite a bit thinner than the Milky way, maybe 5-10 degrees wide.  It was truly incredible to look up and see the plane of our solar system etched across the sky!  I had never seen the zodiacal band so clearly, not even from the mountains of West Texas at 6000'.    People really need to experience this site, it's truly amazing.

    I went down to the extremely dark Conecuh National Forest Saturday 9/8 and Saturday 9/15.  Using Google Earth, I have at last located a large field where multiple observers can set up! 

    On 9/8, I had some high cirrus clouds to contend with till about 10:30.  However, once they cleared out, the sky was spectacular.  M33 was a clear naked eye object, and M31 stretched for about 2 degrees naked eye.  The Milky Way was extremely bright, and had a very powdery, peppered look to it.  The Gegenshein was visible in northeastish Aquarius.

    This was the first time I had gotten to do any serious deep sky observing since April.  I seemed a little rusty at first, but soon got into stride.  Objects like the North America Nebula, Veil Nebula, and later, Horsehead Nebula were spectacular through the 18", but the real meat of this observing session was the Abell galaxy clusters.  I observed five different extremely obscure Abell galaxy clusters, including one at a distance of 1.9 billion light years.  Towards dawn, Venus startled me with its brightness, casting shadows.

    I went back down to the Conecuh National Forest on 9/15.  This time I met up with Taras from the Mobile Astronomical Society, who brought along his 10" Discovery dob and 4.5" RFT.  We set up in a fairly large, dirt field with pretty decent horizons that I had found in Google Earth images.  The sky proved very dark that night.  Not only was the Gegenshein visible, but around 1-2AM I noticed that the even fainter zodiacal band was visible!  The zodiacal band is a band of light along the ecliptic that is caused by sunlight being scattered by interplanetary dust.  Unlike the zodiacal light, it is visible at any time during the night, and it is also MUCH, MUCH fainter.  Pointing out the zodiacal band to Taras, he saw it too, saying "it looks sorta like the Milky Way".  Yea maybe, but 20 times fainter and only about 10 degrees wide!  It was incredible to look up and literally see the plane of the solar system etched across the sky!

    Anyway, the night proved to be one of the darkest I have ever seen at the Conecuh National Forest.  Overhead, it appeared to be just as dark as West Texas.  Unfortunately, I left my front light baffle at home, and had to construct one on-site out of some sticks, duck tape, and some black cloth.  After I finished this, I got some great views.  I spent the time hunting Abell planetary nebulae, more extremely obscure Abell Galaxy Clusters (I spotted 2-3 galaxies in one that is 2.5 billion light years away!!!), and I even tracked down the supernova remnant Cassiopeia 
    A.   Taras and I stayed all night till dawn.  I started packing up when I noticed that the morning light had made it no longer possible to see the Horsehead Nebula without a filter.

    Anyway, Tom McGowan and I plan to head down to the Conecuh National Forest on Saturday, Oct. 13, weather willing.  Anyone is welcome to join.

    I've been searching for the perfect Alabama dark sky site for years.  While I still haven't yet discovered the perfect site, I've come very close.

    Tom McGowan and I first scouted out the dark skies of the Conecuh National Forest back in May 2005.  We set up on the side of a road, about 14 miles east of Brewton, Alabama (as the crow flies).  When the summer Milky Way reached meridian that night, we knew we had something special.  Since then I have scouted out two even darker sites closer to the heart of the forest.

    The skies at the Conecuh National Forest are very dark- excluding the horizons which have some light pollution hugging them, it's nearly impossible to tell you're not in West Texas.  The faint and elusive Gegenshein is visible every night, and on a good night, the incredibly faint zodiacal band (not to be confused with the immensely brighter zodiacal light) is visible too.  M33 is about to easy to see naked eye as M31 from a magnitude 4.5 or 5 site.  The Milky Way is incredible.

    The Conecuh National Forest is located in extreme south Alabama, east of the town of Brewton, Alabama, and southwest of Andalusia and Opp.  According to the light pollution maps, it's located in a Bortle Scale 2 zone.  While there are wide swaths of Bortle Scale 2 areas in southwest and south-central Alabama, the Conecuh National Forest is the only Bortle Scale 2 area that I have found that is located on public lands. 

    Maps and directions are on the Conecuh National Forest Dark Site Web page.

    Fall Regional Star Parties

    The Atlanta Astronomy Club presents the 14th Peach State Star Gaze, a week long event from October 7 through October 14.   The PSSG will be held for the first time at the Deerlick Astronomy Village
    Registration form and other downloads.

    25th Annual Deep South Regional Stargaze Camp Ruth Lee – November 6th through November 11th, 2007.

Cool Links

Scott Thompson’s latest images with his Canon 40D DSLR are at:

Google City Lights

Look under "Google Earth's" Layers/Featured Content/NASA/Earth City Lights/Earth City Lights/Earth City Lights.  Check the box to activate.  Clicking on the lowest level "NASA logo/Earth City Lights" (just to the right of the check box), will bring up the overlay transparency slide.  This is just too cool!

Hoping to see everyone at the meeting,