Capitol Skies - August 1998

Newsletter of the Madison Astronomical Society

In this issue

Rededication of the AKO

At the June Picnic many members saw our newly rebuilt Art Koster Observatory in its new glory and fully operational.  All are pleased that this much used building is now ready to face many more years of service. A brief rededication ceremony was held.

the AKO C-11akoplaque

Moving the power lines? Yesss!
New Door? Not quite!

Good news about the moving of the power lines that now cross directly over the viewing area of the Yanna Research Station. They will be moved. An estimate of the cost was obtained from Alliant Power Company and the MAS Observing Committee agreed to move the power lines. The cost of $2480 was donated to the MAS by Dr. Greiner.

The power company has been paid (they want the money up front) and promised to schedule the move for the near future. It is nice to think that this annoying and contentious feature at our dark site will vanish.

Not quite a new door, but the good news is that the clubhouse has a front door that looks like new. Thanks to Dick Goddard and his handy work, the front door which was rusting badly has been totally refinished. It is now such a bright white that you will be able to almost see it in the dark. Our thanks to Dick for this significant effort which took a number of hours of careful work to complete.

Notes from the YRS
by Tim Ellestad

So far a rather stormy Summer has been relatively kind the Observatory. In spite of some rather violent weather passing through, the Yanna Research Station has survived unscathed.

The clubhouse door is sporting a bright and durable new paint job thanks to club member Dick Goddard. The door was sorely in need of paint. If it went another season unattended rust would have turned our nice steel door into a doily. Dick served for many years as Director of the Md-Continent Railway Museum in North Freedom which taught him just how to get rid of nist and lay on a good paint job. Maybe we can put all that administrative experience to use as well.

Rod Helt, our resident architect accompanied me on an inspection tour of the site a few weeks ago and we turned up a few minor maintenance needs. Most are nickel-dime problems and will be attended to in the near future. The door on the 17 inch roll-off shelter needs a little work. There are a couple of small holes in the C11 dome to be plugged. The posts supporting the rails for the Greiner Telescope shelter could use some metal caps and the window trim around the air conditioner in the clubhouse needs primer and paint.

One slightly more significant job needs tending to before winter sets in, though. The stucco cladding on the north wall of the clubhouse has sunken a bit. A 1 to 2 inch gap has formed where the top of the wall meets the roof overhang, leaving an opening for weather and various creepy-crawlys. In one place a moderate chunk of stucco has broken out. Rod feels that most of the gap can be filled with rope Styrofoam insulation and caulk and covered with some additional wood trim. The broken stucco will require a little creative work with clicken wire, mortar, and pea gravel, however. A materials estimate is pending.

My last item of concern about the observatory is the most important. We have an iron clad rule for everyone using the YRS. NO FOOD LEAVINGS! If you take any food or drink to the observatory, especially into the clubhouse, take everything home with you when you leave - leftovers, crumbs, wrappers and bottles - even the odor. While no one was at fault, garbage and bottles were left behind after the club picmc. Three weeks later it had all become quite ripe, leaked out onto the floor, and established a thriving little bugville. The YRS has no trash or garbage pickup so please follow the precedent now being used by our State Parks and take home everything that you brought in.

Photos from the picnic at Yanna Research Station on June 14


Neil, Gerry and Bob

Neil, Gerry, and Bob

Dick Greiner, Tom Jacobs, Bruce Brinkerhoff and Tom Jacobs (at eyepice) checks out the new JMI focuser Tom Brissette installed on his new 11" Star Hopper while Dick Goddard, Wynn Wacker look on.
Wynn Wacker presiding over the election of new officers.
viewing sunspots through a filtered C-5

Participants looked at the sun spots, elected officers, had a great picnic lunch and a fine time overall. As usual many members brought bowls and trays of excellent food. Over thirty members and guests attended. Astronomical Gemutlichkeit was the theme of the day.

Odd Weather on Earth and Elsewhere!
by Wynn Wacker

The El Nino driven weather has been a hot topic in newscasts over the last year, with new records appearing monthly. However, unusual meteorological events have not just been confined to planet Earth. There have also been some record happenings on the planet Jupiter.

The biggest news is the apparent fusion of two of the three long-lived South Temperate Ovals. These white ovals, residing in the South Temperate Zone, are the longest-lived atmospheric features on Jupiter besides the Red Spot. They've been under continuous observation since they were formed in the 1940's as three thick sections of the South Temperate Belt expanded. To keep track of the ends of these thick sections, the ALPO's (Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers) Elmer J. Reese labeled them (by section) A-B, C-D, and E-F. These thick sections expanded rapidly after they were noted in 1939, until by the mid 40s the space between the ends had the appearance of large white ovals, which were then named FA, BC, and DE. The expansion of the belt sections (or shrinkage of the ovals) slowed, and by the time I started observing Jupiter in the mid 60's they appeared as distinct light ovals 12-15 degrees long roughly equally spaced in longitude around the planet. Observations by spacecraft showed that the Ovals are anticyclonic counterclockwise rotating atmosphere features akin to the Great Red Spot. T'heir circulation is driven by the atmospheric shear between the retrograding southern South Temperate Belt jetstream and the prograding northern South South Temperate Belt jetstream.

In the past, the ovals have occasionally approached each other as they drifted in longitude, but in each case the atmospheric currents at their boundaries appeared to create a repulsive effect to force them apart again. However, the Ovals have continued to shrink until in recent years they've been only about 5 degrees in length and much less conspicuous than in the past. In the last few years they've also closely approached each other. The International Jupiter Watch announced that images taken May 13th by Isao Miyazaki indicate that Ovals BC and DE had merged into a single Oval. The British Astronomical Association's John Rogers reported that the merged oval, designated BE, was at longitude 286 degrees System III on June 6th and was drifting -8 degrees in longitude per month. This is the second merger of two large anticyclonic ovals within about a year, the last being a collision between the Great Red Spot (GRS) and a white oval last year. There have been no records of such mergers in the previous century of observations.

The second big meteorological event on Jupiter is something a bit more common, a South Equatorial Belt Diistubance. The South Equatorial Belt is the usually prominent belt just north of the GRS (the southern part of the bekt appears to be deflected north around the GRS). At times, often with a period of 2-4 years (though there was a long dry spell in the 60's), the SEB will fade to some extent while the GRS is usually darker and more prominent. Then an SEB Disturbance will break out and return the belt to darkness and prominence, while the GRS fades as white clouds invade its northern boundary, sometimes causing it to be completely obscured and leaving a white Red Spot Hollow as its only mark. What is most striking is that the belt revival proceeds from one (or sometimes 2) small point in longitude. Starting as a bright white spot and dusky pillar in the middle of the SEB, bright and dark spots appear to proceed in opposite directions east and west from the origin along the northern and southern components of the belt. There is often great turbulence evident in the features of the belt as the revival progresses. Within a couple of months, the effects have encircled the planet and the belt is once again dark and prominent. Images from Don Parker taken June 6th showed a highly di SEB niid-section. The accompanying image, taken by Canadian amateur Brian Coleville on July 18th, shows a prominent SEB and a fading northern section of the GRS.

Hopefully, we will have some unusually dry and clear weather in August and September so we can follow these developments on the giant planet ourselves. I can provide ALPO sketch blanks for observing Jupiter to those who would like to try their hand, or download forms directly from the Association's websitc.

Image at the right: CCD image of Jupiter
(South at top ) taken 7/18/98 8:34 UT.
Red Spot is just right of centerline.

jupiter.bmp (104758 bytes)

Deep Sky Notebook
by Tom Brissette

Ah, late summer is finally here! This period, especially September, is my favorite observing time. The weather is usually good, the nights are at last getting longer, most of the summer milky way is still high up in the sky, and a couple of hours later, the first fall constellations are crossing the meridian. Stay up even later, and the Pleiades pop up above the eastern horizon. Winter is not too far away.... Also this year, Jupiter joins Saturn as an autumn planet. If you have been watching the two, you'll have noticed that Jupiter is catching up to Saturn. In a few years, they will have a rather grand conjunction; unfortunately, we will not be able to see it, as it will happen on the other side of the sun. Uranus and Neptune are in the same region as the other two giants, so this a great opportunity to do your own mini "grand tour" of the outer gas giants. A final note: As I write this, it is a few days before I leave for the 5th Nebraska Star Party. I can't wait to see what my 11" Dob can do under those skies (there had better be some good nights this time! ).


gx: galaxy en: emission nebula vs: variable star ds: double star
oc: open cluster rn: reflection nebula pn: planetary nebula snr: supernova remnant
gc: globular cluster

ep: eyepiece sb: surface brightness av: averted vision mag: magnitude
con: concentrated st nuc: stellar nucleus mod: moderately irr: irregular

(+) : Visible in 8x50 finder;
(E) : Easy, plainly visible in 8" scope at low power;
(H) : Hard, either not visible at all in 8" scope, or barely visible at high power;
(C) : Challenge! Not visible at all in 11"-12" scope; use the big ones

Object name, Constellation---Rating---RA/Dec----Uranometria chart #

pn NGC 6826 Cyg (E)
19h 44m +50deg 31' 55
8" f/6
Can't believe I forgot this in the last issue: the 11" f/4.5 Blinking Planetery Nebula, probably my most favorite object. It is a great demo of the difference between direct and averted vision. The nebula itself is a small, rather bright round patch--use higher power. It is dominated however by the central star, which is very bright, so bright in fact that when you stare directly at the nebula (don't move your eye a bit), the nebula disappears, leaving only the star. Move your eye around just a bit, and poof! the nebula reappears. Repeat the process several times, and you can make the nebula "blink", a most bizarre effect. It works better in smaller scopes; with larger ones, the nebula takes much longer to disappear.
pn PK 64+5.1 Cyg (E)
19h 34m +30deg 31' 11.8
11" f/4.5
Don't let the PK designation scare you; this one is actually rather easy to see. 23mm ep shows it as a mag 10 star at the SW end of a 3-star line ext NE-SW. 4.8mm ep shows it as a near-stellar tiny disk, bright blue-white, no halo.
gc M55 Sgr (E)
19h 39m -30deg 57' 37.9
8" f/6
10.5mm ep shows large, mod faint loose ball of stars, no central concentration. Some brighter stars scattered across cluster and in a few ragged outlier chains; body is mostly resolved faint stars with some haze.
gc M70 Sgr (E)
18h 43m -32deg 17' 37.8
8" f.6
Not very bright, but still easy to see. 12.5mm ep shows small, faint unresolved granular halo with small bright core.
pn NGC 6818 Sgr (E)
19h 43m -14deg 09' 29.7
8 8" f/6
Fairly bright, but not intensely so; distinctly non-stellar at low power. 10.5mm ep shows a compact round patch, even brightness and texture, no annularity seen, sharp-edged.
gx NGC 6822 Sgr (H)
19h 44m -14deg 48' 29.7
8" f/6
One of the Milky Way's satellite galaxies, this is a large and extremely low SB object. 23mm ep doesn't show it definitely; AV shows an indefinite, very faint glow elong. N-S.
pn NGC 6891 Del (E)
20h 15m +12deg 42' 20.8
8" f/6
Appears as a bright star at low power. 4.8mm ep shows a tiny round featureless disk, with a brighter spot in the middle; thin faint diffuse edge.
pn NGC 7009 Aqr (E)
21h 04m -11deg 21' 30.0
8" f/6
I had the Ghost of Jupiter before, now here's the Saturn Nebula. Big and bright, though a bit smaller than M57. 7.5mm ep shows a fat oval disk, elong E-W, with a possible faint edge ring. The seeing didn't allow the ansae to be visible.
pn NGC 6803 Aql (E)
19h 31m +10deg 03' 20.7
8" f/6
Appears as a mag 11.5 star even with 4.8mm ep; poor seeing hindered observation. 5" diameter, may show disk with larger scope and good seeing. 16" f/19: Seeing was again poor, but a very tiny disk was possibly seen in 22mm ep.
pn NGC 6804 Aql (E)
19h 31m +09deg 13' 20.7
8" f/6
Large faint patch but still visible in 23mm ep. 10.5mm ep shows an M57-sized disk, but fainter, more diffuse. Irr round, diffuse edge, mostly even brightness. mag 12.5 star on NE edge.
gc M72 Aqr (E)
20h 53m -12deg 32' 29.9
8" f/6
10.5mm ep shows a small, mod faint, diffuse, faintly granular glow; very weakly defined core. 16" f/19: 40mm ep shows a large, weak core partly resolved; few outliers in halo.
oc M73 Aqr (E)
20h 58m -12deg 38' 29.9
8" f/6
One of Messier's mistakes; 10.5mm ep shows shows a tight Y-shape of four stars; one bright reddish, other three fant.
gc M71 Sge (+)
19h 53m +18deg 46' 16.2
11" f/4.5
Faintly visible in finder; 10.5mm ep shows a compact, well-resolved ball of fainter stars. Some short outlier chains extend to E, plus a few scattered ones on N and SW give an elongated appearance. W side is sharply defined.
oc M11 Sct (+)
18h 51m -06deg 16' 29.5
16" f/19
The famous Wild Duck cluster, observed with the 16" and 45mm ep. Awesome cluster, extremely rich and dense, but not too large. Main body a short rectangle shape, elong N-S; dark lane E-W divides it in half. Extensions of dark lane, one to S on W end, others to N, divide body into 3 large clumps plus some smaller ones. Clumps are dense with stars, fully resolved, with even distribution. Bright orange star on SE corner clump. Dense outlier chains spread out in all directions, especially N and S, with many dark areas splitting the chains. E-W dark lane on S side divides chain from body. Cluster has an almost globular-like shape. 9


Historical Episode
contributed by Bob Manske

[I have transcribed and lightly edited the following passages from a composition book which contains minutes of the Madison Astronomical Society. More passages will follow in future editions of the Capitol Skies. Many thanks are due to Dave Weier who gave me this book. I present them to you with only a few comments for perspective.]

1936 October Meeting.October 15
The first meeting of the Madison Astronomical Society for the year 1936-37 was held in Washburn Observatory.

The following officers were elected:
Mr. Binney: unanimously re-elected President
Dr. Augeson: Vice President
Mrs. Roth: Secretary
Mr. English: Director to replace Dr. Augeson the retiring Director

Dr. Supernaw proposed that the Nov. meeting be called the annual dinner meeting and that as a token of appreciation of the assistance Dr. Stebbins and Dr. Huffer have given the society, they and their wives be invited as guests. Motion was carried.

Mr. Nerdlinger offered the use of the Madison Club and was appointed to arrange for the dinner.
Dr. Supernaw suggested that this year the Board of Directors plan more simple subjects for the programs and Mr. Baird proposed local talent instead of "high power" talent from outside.

Mr. Huffer moved that the society thank Dr. Supernaw for the work he had done for it during the summer. Motion carried.

Mr. Binney said that the society needed more newspaper publicity and Miss Berner was appointed to have charge of it.
Mr. Huffer gave a short review of a paper on "Refraction Nebulae" by Drs. Struve and Elvey which he had heard at the Cambridge astronomical meeting and showed several beautiful slides.
Meeting adjourned  E.H. Roth, Secretary
The regular December (sic) meeting of the Madison Astronomical Society was in the form of a dinner at the Madison Club on November 19, 1936. Twenty - five members were present. Mr Lookabill spoke expressing to Drs. Stebbins and Huffer appreciation for the help they have constantly given the society. Mr. Huffer spoke briefly, and Dr. Stebbins told of some of the outstanding figures, past and present, in the astronomical world .
H. Roth, sec.

[The following two passages go together. The first contains the secretary's notes, taken during the course of the September, 1938 meeting. The second contains the report as actually presented to the MAS]

1938 September Meeting September 8 at Washburn Obs.  18 present.
Pres. with help of some older members to select committee to set up a panel of officers. [The President appointed a commission] of 3 to draw up a tentative constitution to be submitted at the next meeting. [He] then appointed Dr. Huffer, Porterfield, Mr. Hackler, and Ketchum.

Meeting night changed from 3rd Thursday to 2nd Wednesday of the month. Williams Bay on Oct 12 - motion carried.
Dr. Huffer unanimously elected Secretary.
Mr. Binney also expressed thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Huffer for the open house party at the observatory last month.

Special reorganization meeting, September 8, 1938, 18 present Meeting was called to order by Mr. Binney in the library of the Washburn Observatory. Treasurer's report showed a balance of $10.56.

A motion was carried that the President appoint a committee of 3 to rewrite to the Constitution: Messrs. Hackler, Ketchum, Portefield, and [the] Secretary. The same committee was also instructed to prepare a slate of officers to submit at a future meeting. The meeting nights were changed from the 3rd Thursday to the 2nd Wednesday of each month. It was decided to arrange, if possible, a dinner meeting in Williams Bay with a speaker from Yerkes Observatory, for the October meeting. Mr. Huffer was unanimously elected secretary. Mr. Binney also expressed thanks to Dr. and Mrs. Huffer for the open house at the observatory last month. The meeting continued with an announcement of the discovery of new satellites of Jupiter and a short history of the Woodman Astronomical Library.

The meeting adjourned about 9:30.

[The satellites referred to are Jupiter X Lysithea and Jupiter XI Carme, 18th magnitude objects found by Nicholson who had a long career. He is listed as the discoverer of Jupiter IX Sinope, in 1914 and also of Jupiter XII Ananke in 1951. MAS did meet at Yerkes in October, 1938. Note the presence of a famous man.]

1938 October meeting. Oct 14th at Williams Bay.
This meeting was a dinner meeting at the Ferndale Inn in Williams Bay. The society had as its guests Dr. and Mrs. Otto Struve, of the Yerkes Observatory. 52 members and guests were served.

After dinner all went over to the Yerkes Observatory where several members of the staff showed Jupiter and Saturn through the 40 inch telescope. Some time was also spent looking at and through the 2-foot reflector. The evening was partly cloudy with mild temperature.

1938 November meeting. Nov. 9 at Washburn Observatory. 20 present.
Meeting called to order at 7:35 by the President.
Report of the committee on the constitution. Some changes were approved, said changes to be placed in the revised constitution.

The following slate of officers was nominated by the committee:
President: Mr. Wm. Binney
Vice-Pres: Mrs. Ethel Porter
Secretary: C. M. Huffer
Treasurer: H.H. Hackler
Directors: P.K. Baird
Dr. C.W. Augeson
Dr. J.S. Supernaw

By unanimous vote the slate was declared elected.

Motion made and unanimously carried that the secretary be instructed to write Dr. Struve a letter of thanks for the hospitality of the observatory at the October meeting.

Voted to print cards of membership.

A talk by Mr. Frank Granus [spelling ?] about a trip to Mt. Wilson was enjoyed by all. This was followed by informal discussion conducted by Professor Stebbins about the 200-inch telescope and progress in photography. Plans were made for observing Leonid meteors. Also possible trip to Chicago.

Adjourned about 9:30.

[In 1938, the largest telescope in the world was the 100 inch (2.5 meter) Hooker telescope at Mt. Wilson near Los Angeles. First light passed through this telescope in November 1917. George Ellery Hale, erstwhile Directory of Yerkes Observatory, built the 100 inch assisted by a donation from John D. Hooker of Los Angeles. In 1938 Hale was planning the 200 inch (5 meter) telescope which later graced Mt . Palomar, much later. Unfortunately, Hale died in 1939, The 200 inch did not go into service until ten years later.

Back to Capitol Skies Main Page

Back to Madison Astronomical Society's Main Page