June/July 2002 Issue
From the President's Desktop
by Greg Sellek
Well, this is my last President's Report for the newsletter. It has been a fun year, and I've learned a lot about the club and its members. With a growing membership and plenty of enthusiasm, I think this club can continue to be a great place for amateur astronomers to get together and share their hobby.
However, the future of this club depends on having a few members serve on the Board of Directors each year. We are lucky enough to have several members who return year after year to help make sure things get done. But, each year some positions must be filled, and this year is no exception. As of this writing, we have no candidates for President, Vice President and Secretary on the Board of Directors. Not only do these positions fill a vital role to our club, but they are necessary for us to remain a tax-exempt organization. Please consider running for office!
On a brighter note, things are warming up a bit outside and it seems that YRS is bustling with activity on any clear night. The other night we had five telescopes going, with people bouncing from scope to scope looking at various objects. It was a great opportunity to compare different telescopes and their advantages and disadvantages. I hope we can do more of this as the year progresses.
Don't forget about the picnic on Saturday, June 15th. We've got a whole day's worth of activities planned. In the morning, we will be having a cleanup party to do some necessary work out at YRS. Please contact Tim Ellestad if you can help out (please help if you can...) At 3pm, I will be giving a class on computerized operation of the AKO. This will include computerized operation of the telescope, dome, and time permitting, a CCD tutorial. Following that, we will have the cookout and meeting/officer elections. Finally, if the skies are clear, we will have a star party!
It has been a pleasure to serve as your President, and I hope to see you all at the picnic!
Elizabeth Brinn Foundation Donation
Through the efforts of MAS member Bill Jollie, the Madison Astronomical Society has received a generous donation from the Elizabeth Brinn Foundation of which Bill is the Vice President. This donation has been designated as a maintenance fund for our astronomical dark site, Yanna Research Station. At our May 10th meeting, a motion was made and approved to allocate this fund to provide an annual amount for YRS maintenance for at least five years.
A sincere thank you from the MAS to the Elizabeth Brinn Foundation and to Bill Jollie. This donation will go a long way in assisting the MAS in maintaining a site for the astronomy activities that we all enjoy so much.
2002 Outreach and Education Award Winner: Teacher Art Camosy
MMSD Science teacher Art Camosy is the recipient of MAS' Outreach and Education Award this year. Camosy is a veteran teacher with the Madison School District. His astronomy class, reflecting his own fascination with the history and development of the science, leads students through the evolution of our understanding of the universe, from the geocentric views of Aristotle and Ptolemy, to the heliocentric views proposed by Copernicus, and further developed by Galileo, Kepler and Newton.
Camosy is also an avid amateur astronomer and astrophotographer. He particularly enjoys having his students duplicate the observations of early astronomers by watching the planets perform their retrograde loops, and telescopically observing the moons of Jupiter and the phases of Venus.
3rd MAS Telescope Scholarship Awarded
This year's winner of the MAS Telescope Scholarship is Jessica Lord, a junior at James Madison Memorial High School.
Until next May, she will have use of one of MAS' telescopes, an 8-inch Dobsonian, several eyepieces, and star charts. Past winner A.J. Carver was on hand for the presentation at the May meeting.
MAS Picnic June 15th
Come whenever you'd like to socialize and fraternize. Meeting business (including the annual elections) will be conducted at 4:00, we'll eat at 5:00 or 5:30. Burgers, brats and buns will be provided. Please bring a dish to pass, your own drinks, silverware, plates etc.
MAS Recognizes Dr. Richard A. Greiner
by Mary Ellestad
At our May 10th meeting the Madison Astronomical Society presented Dr. Richard A. Greiner with a plaque in recognition of his many contributions and tireless effort on behalf of the MAS. This plaque will soon be permanently installed in the MAS clubhouse at Yanna Research Station.
|Life member Richard A. "Doc" Greiner shows us the plaque he has just received from MAS in gratitude for his great generosity.||MAS Treasurer Mary Ellestad presents Doc with a replica of the geographical marker that will soon be installed at YRS.
Doc Greiner is a lifetime MAS member whose donations began with the Doc G. Observatory including construction of a roll-off building and a Meade 12" LX200 telescope. He recently donated a new Pro Dome, Digital Dome Works System and another Meade 12" LX200 which were installed in the AKO at Yanna Research Station. The full list of his donations would require an entire page of this newsletter and they have significantly improved our observing facilities at YRS. In addition, Dr. Greiner has contributed an amazing amount of his time, talent and really hard work to the refurbishment of other buildings and telescopes at YRS.
The MAS Board of Directors also presented Dr. Greiner with a duplicate of a bronze geographical marker inscribed with the longitude and latitude of YRS and the special inscription "With Appreciation to Richard A. "Doc" Greiner." The original bronze marker will be installed in the center of the observing area at YRS.
After the presentations, everyone enjoyed a special cake, ice cream and refreshments. The cake decoration included a strange new planet - we are waiting for Doc to publish his observations on the unusual purple spots.
Once again - MAS wishes to thank Dr. Greiner for extending our observing capabilities at YRS and contributing so much to amateur astronomy and to our education and research goals for years to come.
Konusmotor 90 and Konusmotor 114
by A.J. Carver
Since antiquity people have looked at the night sky with awe and wonder. The invention of the telescope gave people a new way to experience the rapture of the night sky. For many amateur astronomers it is the breathtaking ponderous feel of looking through an eyepiece that is enjoyable.
I feel a telescope should be an amateur astronomer's friend, aide, and partner. Working together, a new amateur astronomer and their telescope explore other galaxies, hunt elusive nebulae, and learn about nature. Many of us grow fond of our telescopes because of this; I feel this way about the 8" Dob that MAS awards to a Young Astronomer every year, and I hope that the 2002 winner (congratulations Jess!) develops the same bond. In my opinion many "go-to" scopes for beginners eliminate some of that bond. I was glad to be able to field test two new non-"go-to" scopes.
Mike McDowell, Ben Lizdas, and I gathered in Middleton to field test the Konusmotor 90 and Konusmotor 114. The Konusmotor 90 (a refractor) and Konusmotor 114 (a reflector) are equatorially mounted Italian telescopes. I was pleased from the beginning with these telescopes. Often inexpensive telescopes are plagued with poor Chinese to English translations, however the Konus manual had an excellent set of English instructions, and if I didn't speak English I could have chosen from one of the other seven languages. The assembly took less than 15 minutes each, so a true beginner could expect to have the telescope setup within half an hour. It is difficult to accidentally bump into a Konus telescope because of its functional yellow color. After letting the telescopes cool down outside we aligned the finders. The telescopes appeal continued to increase when I learned that two 1.25" Plossl eyepieces are included, not the common, inferior, Kellner or SMA eyepieces. Both eyepieces were sharp and had a good field of view and the 17mm had enough eye relief to use with glasses. I observed the moon near full phase, which made the included moon filter a big plus. The Konusmotor 90 had less color fringing than many price competitive refractors. The Konusmotor 114 had a very small obstruction, an improvement over other reflectors with large spider veins.
Sharing astronomy with the public is a goal toward which MAS strives. Mike, Ben, and I set the Konus telescopes up in Middleton. Throughout the evening dog walkers, joggers, bikers, and people heading home from work, stopped and joined us to observe. Mike, Ben, and I saw the emotion when, for the first time, our visitors peered into the eyepiece of the Konus telescopes and were struck with the image of Saturn's rings. The drop of their jaws and look of amazement grew when we showed them the Orion nebula. Their reaction confirmed to me that these are telescopes worth getting excited about. The tracking accuracy was great, allowing us to speak with our visitors, without worrying about the object drifting from the field of view. At the end of the evening disassembly took about five minutes and each were easily loaded into cars.
The Konusmotor 90 and 114 are great telescopes for a beginner. For those who want to start big or who have a scope and are looking for more aperture Konus also offers an 8" equatorially mounted Newtonian scope. It looks like a great setup but I haven't tested it yet. Keep visiting YRS, maybe you'll run into me when I do.
Priority List Objects become a priority at YRS
by Greg Sellek
The Spaceguard System keeps a list of asteroids that most urgently need observation in what they call the Priority List. These are all Near Earth Objects, and most are new discoveries. It's important to get as much data on the orbits of these asteroids as soon as possible so that they will not become 'lost'. With the recent equipment and software upgrades at YRS, the Minor Planet group has started tracking down these objects.
Currently we are able to track objects reliably down to 18th magnitude. On good nights, we have even gotten down to 19th magnitude. While a majority of priority list objects are dimmer than 19th magnitude, there are usually plenty for us to search for in a given night. With the list changes daily, you never know what you might be hunting!
Asteroid 61 Danae's movement is clearly visible in these two images taken an hour apart. Images by Greg Sellek, YRS. Similar photo pairs reveal valuable information about MPC "priority objects."
Using a script, we construct an automated observing run to capture these objects. The script takes only a minute to create, and once fed into the telescope control program, it runs all by itself! For each object, the program automatically selects a guide star and sends guiding corrections to the telescope every second. This allows us to take five minute exposures with pinpoint stars. After the program has imaged each object once, it starts the whole sequence again until there are three images of each object. These images can then be 'blinked' to determine which star (the asteroid) has moved in respect to the background stars.
We're always taking volunteers to help with the project. Even if you don't want to learn to use the computerized telescope, you can still help us reduce the data. Feel free to contact me if you're interested! Greg's contact info is on page 2. đed.
You can read more about the Spaceguard System and the Minor Planet Center at:
Desktop astronomy software for Windows and Macintosh
SkyChart III is a Windows 9x/Macintosh sky simulation CD from Southern Stars Systems (www.southernstars. com) that I purchased from a store at a clearance price of $15. As promised, it delivers a number of features for charting objects in the sky, but it also lacks some features you would expect in more expensive astronomy software. If desired you can load the entire program and its 18.8 million-object database onto your hard disk to run without inserting the CD.
Unless you live in a limited list of large cities provided, you will need to add your own location, with latitude and longitude, to the list and use it as the default "here." Once that's done you will see on your screen a display of the current sky assuming the PC's system time is correct.
There are many view options to choose from. You can set the degrees in the field of view (90 degrees or less works best), the direction or object to center on, and the type of projection (such as Mercator). You can decide whether to display stars, planets, deep sky objects, constellations, the horizon, and grid lines such as right ascension and declination. You can also decide the limiting faint magnitude you want to display for both stars and nebulae. You can zoom in or out of a section of sky by hitting Page Up/Page Down.
Sky Chart III has a useful "red screen" display option for outdoor nighttime use. It also has a telescope control feature which I was not able to test. I tried the Print option unsuccessfully on my printer; I may have been doing something wrong here.
A very useful feature was SkyChart III's ability to simulate changes in time. You can set the date and time to any moment you choose, and you can step through intervals of any length to watch the sky change. I used this to simulate the changing patterns of the five naked-eye planets in the western sky this spring, as well as other patterns. You can change your location to another planet, such as Mars, to see how the solar system looks from a different perspective, or even to another star, to see the constellations lose their familiar shape.
If you click on any object on the screen you get a small panel of information on that object. This appeared to be generally reliable; however SkyChart III displayed incorrect magnitudes for Mercury, Saturn, and Alpha Centauri. Another small drawback was that it won't provide the current sidereal time.
As something of a "bare-bones" sky simulator, Sky Chart III doesn't display or predict eclipses or lunar occultations; nor does it have links to photographs of the planets or deep-sky objects. For these features one would have to look at a more comprehensive software package. However as an introductory program I feel it was well worth the price I paid. (Reviewed by John Quigley)
The Great Atlas of the Stars
by Serge Brunier, photography by Akira Fujii
There must be quite a risk associated with using the adjective "great" in the title of a book when actually describing the book itself. Serge Brunier probably decided he was safe in doing so when Akira Fujii signed on as the photographer for this beautiful constellation atlas. In addition to the breathtaking wide-field shots of Fujii, the book contains numerous images by other amateur and professional astrophotographers. It is the images of Fujii that steal the show, however, along with the expert editorial judgment of Brunier, that make this book unquestionably great.
I have a fair amateur knowledge of the night sky, but while browsing the Great Atlas, I feel as though I am seeing these constellations for the first time. The layout is so elegant and simple that it tends to hide how thoroughly well-thought-out it really is.
Each two-page spread is made up of three basic elements. 1) On the right is a beautiful 10.5 x 14 inch wide-field constellation shot by the legendary Japanese astrophotographer Fujii. 2) On the left facing page is the constellation name, season for best observing, some history, a schematic showing the major landmarks, and three close-up detail photos of interesting stars or other objects in the vicinity, with brief descriptions. 3) Finally, there is a clear overlay for the wide-field shot with circles and labels, as well as constellation lines. The book is spiral-bound so the whole affair lays perfectly flat on your table top for easy access.
The package creates an irresistible presentation that makes for easy inspection and close examination.
Many of the constellations (e.g., Virgo, Scorpius), have an additional page with an enlargement of the Fujii photo of the previous page, highlighting a particularly interesting region of the photo. The enlargements are primarily the photographs of David Malin (Anglo-Australian Observatory) with higher magnification, though many readers will recognize the work of others as well. Besides Fujii, the astrophotography of such well known amateurs as Jerry Lodriguss, John Gleason, and Bill and Sally Fletcher are also represented. Additionally, professional images from the European Southern Observatory, the National Optical Astronomical Observatories, and the Space Telescope Science Institute are used as well.
The selection of objects highlighted on the left page-panel is a mix of some standard deep sky objects (e.g, M13) and exotic variable, double, or otherwise interesting stars. Most of these objects are easy targets for amateur scopes, but there are a few exotic ones thrown in for good measure (e.g, the "pistol star" in Sagittarius).
The text information included is a perfect complement to the photography. The brief descriptions of the constellations, deep sky objects and stars provides just enough information and visual stimulation that leaves me wanting more. I was prompted in several cases to pull additional references off the shelf and read about several interesting red giant stars, and also added several telescopic double stars to the "must see" list for my next observing session.
I have a few very small quibbles: the Big Dipper is treated as a constellation, some star names are spelled with unusual variants, and throughout, the Greek letter "zeta" is spelled "dzeta." These quibbles are relatively small though, given a book of this value and stature.
Perhaps the best way to explain my feelings about this book is to say it is the visual equivalent to the three-volume Celestial Handbook. What Robert Burnham did with poetry and mythology, Brunier and Fujii do with photography.
All the above verbiage notwithstanding, I simply cannot express to you how beautiful this book really is. It is not expensive ($34.97 at Amazon.com). Buy it. Now. (Reviewed by John Rummel)
News from YRS
by Tim Ellestad
Spring Is Now Official! YRS Barricade Removed
These somewhat late Spring-like conditions seem to be finally trustworthy. The elegant new YRS barricade that prohibited vehicles from driving on the observatory lawn during soft conditions has been disassembled and stored for the season. I'm thanking all members for taking extra care to not damage our barricade by driving into it in the dark.
If we get some excess rain please use discretion about driving on the grass in soft and wet turf conditions.
17.5 Inch Dob Back In Service
The Walter Scott Houston Memorial Observatory - our 17.5 inch Dobsonian - is again available for observing. As approved last year, the mirrors have been re-silvered bringing the old scope back to like-new brightness. Actually it should be "brighter-than-new" since the mirrors are now coated with Diamond Brite instead of the original Beral aluminum coatings. H. L. Clausing, Inc., the firm providing the coating service, indicates that Beral coating reflects 91% of the light while Diamond Brite reflects 98%. With both mirrors now in Diamond Brite total light throughput should be 96% as opposed to only about 83% with the old coatings. While Diamond Brite costs about 25% more that Beral, it is advertised to be notably more durable. The increased service life will be a real plus point for MAS.
While the steadily increasing cost of silvering mirrors, especially large ones, is a serious consideration for the Society, volunteer time and effort to accomplish tasks such as this has also become precious. The Society expresses a well-deserved thank-you to Neil Robinson for his expeditious handling of this task. In addition to removing and re-installing the mirrors, Neil donated safe transportation for the mirrors, driving them to and from the H. L. Clausing plant in Skokie, IL. (In spite of some bum maps and the lousy Illinois exit signs, the seasoned pilot navigated via GPS directly to Clausing's doorstep.) Commercial "safe shipping" for a package this large and delicate would have added considerably to the total cost.
Now, we're eager to hear what you "faint fuzzy" hunters think about the new performance!
New Equipment Updates
On June 15th MAS holds the annual meeting and picnic at YRS. At 3 PM we will be conducting update classes on the operation of the newly installed automated dome on the AKO as well as the new controls on the 16 inch telescope in the KMO. The picnic is a fun event and I encourage all to attend.
Any observing members that can't attend please call me about getting instruction on the new installations. Any observing members that haven't had orientation, please contact me (I'm sorry if I've slipped on this - the last month has been very hectic). Observing member orientation is a requirement of our by-laws and observing members who have not had the orientation session may not use the MAS telescopes or clubhouse without the operational assistance of an observing member who has had the orientation session. This is also a potential insurance issue for MAS.
As always, YRS needs painting done. I know, I know, this isn't astronomy or even intellectually challenging. But the place will rot away without it. The jobs aren't big or complicated or high in the air - just some roller work, trim painting (well, this should be done at least in a tidy fashion), and some deck staining. MAS will GENEROUSLY provide equipment and materials. Please GENEROUSLY provide your much needed time. We need this badly. Call me ('Tim Ellestad - Observatory Director, 233-3305) with questions and offers.
June 10 Partial solar eclipse begins at about 7:30 pm Madison time, sun sets partially eclipsed June 11 7:00 pm, Space Place guest speaker: Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, UW-Madison Astronomy Dept. Topic is Dr. Hoffman's research on circumstellar disks. 1605 S. Park St. June 15 Picnic (see front page for details). Note: the picnic replaces the monthly MAS meeting for June. June 25 7:00 pm, Space Place guest speaker: Wynn Wacker will be a guest Eyes on the Skies speaker with the title "On A Clear Night You Can See 2 Million Years: Learning To Love The Night Sky." 1605 S. Park St. July 9 7:00 pm, Space Place guest speaker: Dr. Matt Lazzara speaking about Project Icecube. 1605 S. Park St. July 12 MAS monthly meeting 7:00 pm board meeting, 7:30 main presentation: Wynn Wacker will give a talk entitled: "To Sagan and Beyond: The Debate Over A Plurality of Worlds." 1605 S. Park St. July 23 7:00 pm, Space Place: Eyes on the Skies w/ Jim Lattis. 1605 S. Park St. Oct. 11/12 Moon over Monona Terrace, more information to follow. Reserve these dates on your calendars
Surprising Solstice Facts
by John Rummel
The summer solstice is most commonly celebrated by those of us living north of the equator as the first day of summer. The more sophisticated observer is probably aware that the day has an astronomical definition that relates to the sun. But it comes as a surprise to many that the summer solstice is really not a day at all, but a point in time. The instant of the summer solstice is defined as that moment when the sun reaches its northernmost declination for the year. We usually simplify this to say that it's the day when the sun reaches its highest elevation at noon. A stick stuck in the ground would cast the shortest shadow of the year at noon on the summer solstice.
If the Earth was not tilted, then the sun would reach the same elevation every day of the year at any given location on Earth. At the equator, it would be directly overhead at noon every day. The Earth is tilted though, at about 23 1/2 degrees. So for part of the year, the northern hemisphere of the planet is tilted toward the sun, and for the other half, the southern hemisphere is. It is the tilt that gives us the seasons, summer when our hemisphere is tilted toward the sun, winter when it's tilted away.
This year the summer solstice will occur on June 21 at exactly 8:24 am (Madison time). Since the sun will reach its highest point that day, June 21st will be the longest day of the year. The sun is above the horizon for 15 hours and 22 minutes, and below for only 8 hours and 38 minutes.
People often assume that the longest day also brings us the earliest sunrise and latest sunset of the year. Surprisingly, this is not the case. This unusual circumstance is due to the fact that the Earth's orbit around the sun is not a perfect circle, but an ellipse. As a result of this noncircular orbit, the Earth is moving a bit faster in the winter (when it's closest to the sun) and a bit slower in the summer (when it's most distant). This doesn't affect the total length of the day, but it does cause the times of sunrise and sunset to vary a bit throughout the year. The size of the effect is also dependent on your location on the planet Earth.
This year, the earliest sunrise (as seen from Madison) will be on June 15th at about 5:17 am, and the latest sunset will be on June 28th at about 8:41 pm.
Incidentally, the idea that the Earth travels at variable speed as it orbits the sun is also surprising to some. You can do the calculation yourself. Grab any calendar and count off the days between the equinoxes. It takes 186 days for the Earth to travel from the Vernal Equinox (in March) to the Autumnal Equinox (in September). But it takes a week less, only 179 days, to make the return trip from the Autumnal to the next Vernal Equinox. The Earth truly does travel faster during our cold winter months.
Even though the solstice occurs in late June, it is well known that the hottest temperatures of the summer do not occur until July or August. Why is this? If the hemisphere receives the most direct and longest sunlight in June, why do the dog days not occur until much later? The effect is called the "lag of the seasons" and can be attributed to the tremendous capacity of our atmosphere and oceans to store heat. It takes a long time to warm up the hemisphere - or to cool it down - and thus our climate lags well behind the astronomical season markers.
LASIK for Astronomers
by Greg Sellek
I'd worn glass or contacts since I was 12 and never really cared for it. I hated the fact that I was always taking them off and putting them back on, trying to get the best view through an eyepiece. Then there was the task of trying to point the binoculars, remove the glasses, and then still find what I was looking for. Contacts were no better. By the time it was dark my eyes were so dry from wearing them that it was hard to enjoy the view.
So, for years I watched the progression of techniques (and prices) of eye surgery. Then finally this last summer, I came upon a deal I couldn't refuse. For the low low price of only $1000, I too could have LASIK surgery. With only a few days left in the 'sale,' I set about trying to gather as much information as I could about the procedure and its effects on normal and night vision. There were plenty of horror stories and plenty of successes as well, but in the end I decided it was worth a shot.
A week after the painless (although somewhat unnerving) procedure, I could see 20/20 and 20/15 out of my left and right eyes, respectively. It was a wonderful change to be able to see the stars without glasses. The only negative aspect of the procedure was the slight 'starburst' effect around bright objects. This occurred mostly in streetlights and headlights, but it was visible around the brighter stars as well. But, this faded significantly during the three months following the surgery. While the effect is not completely gone six months later, it is barely noticeable, and then only around very bright lights. My dark-adapted vision seems to be about the same as before.
Now all my eyepieces seem so much easier to use, and I don't have to worry about foggy glasses. I was also reminded of the benefits of being free from glasses while we were camping at Wildcat Mountain State Park in October. The weather was cold, and clouds had rolled in early in the evening. However, I was reluctantly awakened by the call of nature at 2am, and crawled out of my tent to see the most gorgeous star-filled sky. It took me a moment to realize that I didn't have to put on any freezing cold, wet, and foggy glasses, nor shove my finger with a contact into a half-open eye. It was a great feeling to just wake up and see!
Overall it has been a pleasant change for me. While I personally have benefited from it, I would certainly suggest that anyone considering this procedure do some research. It's not for everyone, and does carry some risk. But for me, it was well worth it.
Another Blast from the Past
Looking back, 1967
by Eric W. Thiede
The following is an excerpt from STAR TRAILS, the newsletter of the now-defunct Junior Astronomical Society of Madison, Wisconsin. It dates from September 1967 and contains a chilling reminder of how things have changed in our area in the last 35 years..
In addition to the revelation that Wynn was evidently a more diligent observer of Perseid meteors than I, there is in the following a rather frightening demonstration of the explosive growth of population (and light pollution) since 1967. Our old Oscar Mayer Observatory (OMO) still stands in the City (formerly the unincorporated township) of Fitchburg about 2 miles south of the Beltline and only 5 miles southwest of the Capitol Square. Our present site at YRS is nearly 20 miles south of the Square, that is, 4 times further out. Wynn mentions being able to see the North America Nebula with the unaided eye from OMO. Can that be done in 2002 from YRS? I'd be interested in hearing from anyone who cares to give it a try. It might require eyes as young as ours were then to accomplish this (AJ, are you up to it?). To the astrophotographers in the MAS I issue the following challenge: at OMO on Aug. 28, 1967 I was able to take an exposure of 90 minutes (2:50-4:20 UT) at f/3.5 on ASA 160 Ektachrome that showed the North America Nebula with almost no background fog. Could the equivalent be done from YRS these days? Unfortunately, ASA 160 Ektachrome is no longer manufactured, but with the currently available ASA 100 or 200 Ektachrome and variations of f-stops and/or exposure times an attempt at duplication might be made. Just center that 50 to 55mm lens on Deneb, and listen to the bittersweet music of the reciprocity failing as you guide away. I'd love to be able to compare my 35-year-old slide from OMO to a modern one from YRS. This could constitute an interesting record of the state of light pollution in our area over the years.
The 1967 Perseid Meteor Shower
by Wynn Wacker
Quite a few people showed up at the Oscar Mayer Observatory on the night of August 11-12 to see the annual Perseid shower. The night was very clear and, unfortunately, very cold. The moon set early, leaving a dark clear sky that was perfect for meteor watching. The good part of the shower wouldn't start until after 1 a.m. CDT, so we passed the time looking at Saturn with the 10-inch or marvelling at the image quality of the Questar brought out by Ed Schief or just plain staring at the amazing clarity of the sky. The Milky Way was a magnificent sight, especially in the region of Sagittarius, and all the dark rifts stood out clearly. The Andromeda Nebula was easily visible, as was the double cluster in Perseus. Even the North American Nebula in Cygnus could be made out. About the time your eyes adjusted to the dark enough to let you see all these wonders, however, you were frozen stiff and ready to go in and warm up. Fortunately, cake and hot chocolate was being served, and the popcorn was only slightly burnt. About one o'clock everyone began drifting out of the observatory to watch meteors. The concrete platform was covered with lawn chairs, and the astrograph mounting chugged away under the load of two cameras. Other cameras were pointed upward and had their shutters open to catch star trails and, hopefully, meteor trails. Most of the people began drifting away after about an hour of the cold, but a few die-hards stuck through the whole chilly night. Bill Feiereisen and Mark Taylor made an hour meteor count lasting from 2:10 to 3:10. Result: Bill - 48, Mark - 45. Eric Thiede and I made a series of 15 minute counts:
Time Eric Wynn 1:15-1:30 CDT 5 12 1:45-2:00 CDT 10 19 2:35-2:50 CDT 10 19 3:00-3:15 CDT 8 15
We got a preview of the autumn and winter stars in the early morning skies. We watched the Pleiades rise and "glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid." Orion and Gemini were rising when the first faint light of dawn appeared in the northeast. The stars grew dim as the colors of dawn rose higher and higher 'til, at last, the sun poked its bright face above the horizon and illuminated the mist filling the low areas of the surrounding country side. With the rising sun casting unfamiliar morning shadows on the landscape, we packed up and headed home for a good day's sleep.
Celestar 8 (C-8) with: wedge-pod, 1.25" diagonal, 32mm Celestron Nexstar Plossl, vibration suppression pads, JMI motodec, hand controller, dew shield, skylight filter/dust seal, and telrad.
Purchased new, this setup would cost roughly $1,400 plus tax. It's a great scope for visual or photographic observing and will be difficult to part with. It is in excellent condition. It has been well-cared for and is definitely worth $1,000 but I would entertain any serious offer. Please contact me if interested at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MAS warmly welcomes the following new members since the last newsletter: Mark Hanson, Steven Patterson, Mark Langenfeld, Bernard Friedrichsen, Dick Wieboldt and Larry Eide. Welcome aboard all!
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