Volume XXX Issue 1

January / February 2004

In this issue:

1. Presidents message
2. Women of the Stars
4. Mythology of the Night Sky: Apus

5. It's Dues Time Again
6. Major Annual Meteor Showers
7. The Photo Corner
8. Meteor Observation Certificate
9. Beginner's Corner
10. BCAAS Library List
11. Upcoming Events

Pegasus is a bimonthly publication of the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society

Editor/Desktop publisher: Melody Gardner

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

President's Message

With the Holiday Season nearly complete and the New Year beginning, the BCAAS membership has elected officers for 2004. At elections held during the December Holiday Party, re-elected for another term were Treasurer, Linda Sensenig, Secretary, Barb Geigle, and President, Ron Kunkel. Newly elected to an office was Ryan Hannahoe as Vice President. Congratulations to these officers, as they now continue to serve the membership for another year. Our out-going VP is Dave Brown. I want to personally thank Dave for his many contributions during the year(s), and I know that with his talents and knowledge, he’ll continue to stay involved. I also want to personally thank all these officers and other chairs not mentioned for what they’ve done for the club during 2003.

To reminisce a bit, during 2003 we supported numerous public events, star parties and programs. Quickly coming to mind are a few special events: the Great Outdoor Expo, Earth Day, and the Berks County Science & Engineering Fair. We also had more events than prior years scheduled at the Heritage Center, including two Lunar eclipse watches and a number of Mars watches.

We had star parties at the Bernville Park, Hawk Mountain, Blue Ball Elementary, Mulberry Preschool and programs given at camps Wood Haven, Penn Laurel, Conrad Weiser and Hawk Mountain. Also, programs were given at Trinity and Saint Ignatius churches. And our highlight of the year was the celebration of our 30th Anniversary in October with Mr. John Dobson as guest.

During the year the club also obtained quite a bit of new equipment. We purchased an LCD projector now being used to enhance the offerings of our programs. We also purchased a Sunspotter telescope and two 4.5" Bushnell telescopes. Looking back on 2003, we were busy and we should all feel proud of what was accomplished.

But, so much for the 2003, now what’s in store for 2004? The BCAAS Board will have met in late December to plan our schedule for the coming year. I suspect we’ll continue to do much as prior years. We’ll present a fine array of speakers for our club meetings. We’ll continue with our special events, star parties, and programs. All the fine astronomy out-reach efforts we’ve done in the past we’ll support going forward. What I’d like to see change is to further improve the professional character of our offerings and further the involvement of more members in these efforts.

We’re beginning to see some new faces presenting programs and writing for the Pegasus. I believe if we more formally centralize our materials and make them available to other members, presumably more members will become involved in our programs. The adage, many hands make a large task small, comes to mind. And more hands should improve our ability to expand our out-reach mission. Stay tuned for 2004.

Here’s looking forward to another good year for BCAAS—Clear and Dark Skies to All.

Ron Kunkel, at or 610-488-6039

Women of the Stars

Submitted by: Michel Ramsey

Sally Ride, an all American girl! Born May 26, 1951. A trained astronaut and astronomer, her Ph.D. thesis at Stanford was on the absorption of x-rays by the interstellar medium in the direction of the Crab Nebula supernova remnant. After completing her graduate studies, she joined NASA January 16, 1978, the first of six women chosen to train to become astronauts were Shannon Lucid, Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, Margaret Rhea Seddon, Kathryn Sullivan and Anna Fisher. Both Dr. Ride and Judith Resnik helped design and create as part of their collective duties at NASA the remote manipulation system, known as the robotic arm. On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space on shuttle missions STS-7, "It was a simple feat; it took only 500 seconds to accomplish, but it had taken the collective voices of millions of women and men and untold years to achieve. Dr. Ride, who became a hero immediately on her entry into space, realized that she hadn’t come all that way without considerable help from others. ‘I think I owe a lot to the women’s movement. I think I came along, from the point of view of my career, at an excellent time because the women’s movement had already paved the way." On that day, crowd of over a half million women and men lined t he highways and beaches of Cape Canaveral to cheer her on and celebrate the crossing of a new national milestone.

Dr. Ride flew again on STS 41-G on October 5, 1984. When Kathryn Sullivan and Sally Ride were launched together as part of the shuttle crew aboard the Challenger in what was to be two firsts for the United States. The mission was announced as one on which a woman would go into space for a second time, and also the mission during which the first trip outside an orbiting spaceship would be accomplished by a woman. The American press had a glorious time – we were going have a first again – not only put a woman back in space for a second time, but also having a woman leaving the space ship for a task called an EVA (extra vehicle activity). However, the Russians launched Svetlana Savitskaya on Soyuz T-12 on July 17, 1984 – two and a half months before the U.S. shuttle launch.

Dr. Ride was preparing for her third space mission when the Challenger 51-L exploded on January 28, 1986. Sally Ride was appointed to serve on the Presidential Commission that was to investigate the Challenger Space Shuttle accident. After that terrible accident investigation was completed Dr. Ride was assigned to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. as assistant to the NASA Administrator for long-range planning. Dr. Ride created NASA’s Office of Exploration and produced a report on the future of the space program, titled: "Leadership and America’s Future in Space", however, this report is also known informally as "the Ride Report". The report does outline NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth," among the several other projects now being undertaken or planned by NASA.

In 1987 Dr. Ride retired from NASA to return to Stanford as a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control. Two years later, she joined the University of California at San Diego faculty as the Professor of Physics. She also serves Director of the California Space Institute, an organization that funds research projects for California astronomers.

Dr. Ride has also written several books for children about space, "To Space and Back" and "Voyager: An Adventure to the Edge of the Solar System" . She became interested in space and astronomy because of all the attention that was paid to the U.S. manned space program and the "race to land humans on the Moon" while growing up. As an undergraduate at Stanford, Ride had to choose between two career fields. She could leave school and become a professional tennis player or to stay at school and become a scientist. Well, we all know that she did stay in school and become not only a scientist but also an astronaut. She is very much aware of herself as a role model for younger women and has set an outstanding example for the youth of our times to look up to and follow in her footsteps. Dr. Ride believes that women can do anything, and of course she is right!

History was not finished with Dr. Sally Ride and her contributions to the space program. The recent shuttle disaster, Columbia, on February 1, 2003, the president again called upon Dr. Ride to head the investigation team into the shuttle accident. This must have been a heart-breaking job for her; in the first accident of Challenger she lost a close friend and colleague with Judith Resnik. Now she was faced with the same tragic lost of friends and associates in this new disaster. She faced the difficulties of that task with courage, strength and dignity giving all of us a new picture of a true American hero – a woman who went to the stars and gave all of us a chance to dream of joining her there.

"Urania’s Heritage" – Astronomical Society of the Pacific 1992
Freni, Pamela – "Space for Women", Seven Locks Press 2002 &
Woodmansee, Laura "Women Astronauts" Apogee Books 2002


Please join us again in the Winter Star Watching Project – Pleiades, (M45 – also known as the Seven Sisters). The Japanese call this beautiful object: the Subaru. Several of our members are planning to participate in this project already and I am looking for more members to help out. The project is to assist the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in Japan to determine the extent of light pollution around the world.

When do we watch? During the months of February and March, the observing to start about one to one and a half hours after sunset. You will be observing the Pleiades and the Milky Way in (1) Perseus (2) Gemini (3) Monoceros. There is no limitation to how many may join in, how many may participate in any one location or how many such observations are held. No experience necessary and you do not need any special equipment, just a clear night and a small pair of binoculars. Total viewing time is about 10 minutes! Be sure that you dress warm – February and March are not known for warm nights. Observations are best done on a moonless night without fog or clouds or more than average amount of haze or smog. Also, you will need a good tolerance for cold weather and a good sense of humor.

I will have forms available for your use and envelopes to mail forms back at the next several club meetings or you may down load a form from the Astronomy League’s web site at:, and click on Astro Notes #8 – Winter Star Watching Project - Pleiades. Any questions please feel free to call: Michel Ramsey 610-926-3483 or e-mail:

I ask that you mail your completed forms back to me as soon as you have completed your observations. The BCAAS has been keeping track of this information from all our observers before forwarding to the Astronomical League. We are participating in a valuable research project, by keeping track of light pollution over the next few years both in our area and its far-reaching effects in populated areas around the world. As astronomers we will be studying the loss of our dark skies for observing due to encroachment of population growth, outside lighting, shopping center lighting, highway lighting and etc.

Also, for those of us who are more daring and would like to try some photography, Barry Shupp will be available to help us get set up. This is also a valuable tool for research study. By making a comparison of photographs taken over the years, scientists are able to note any expansion or the remission of light pollution in many areas.

Mythology of the Night Sky: Apus

As I look out the window and see the snow falling, I am thinking this is a really good time to head south of the border again to view the splendor of the southern skies - specifically, the little-known constellation of Apus. I suspect, however, that if we lived in Tahiti instead of Pennsylvania, we would be very familiar with Apus, the Bird of Paradise. It was in the Papuan Islands that the bird-like nature of this constellation developed, although its name Apus comes from the Greek word meaning "without feet", referring to the Greek swallow.

Gosh! Must I travel all the way to Greece to see a legless bird? Maybe not. The poet Keats in his poem "Eve of Saint Mark" refers to "legless birds of paradise." In early star publications of the West, this bird has been translated as a black martin and a swift. (As long as people are translating this bird, let me list this bird in MY star atlas as Apus the Sea Gull.). The Chinese have called this constellation E Po, meaning Little Bird or Wonder Bird.

Apus lies below the Southern Cross, only 13 degrees away from the southern pole, which unfortunately has no South Star to mark it. This makes it even more appropriate to call Apus the Bird of Paradise. While some southern constellations are at least partly visible to Americans who live in southern Florida, unfortunately this bird is so far south that it is invisible to us at all times.

By Linda Sensenig

It’s dues time again!

If you have not already renewed your membership, there is a brightly colored notice attached to this newsletter advising you how much you owe. If you joined during the year 2003, these dues are pro-rated to bring your due date to January. If you receive a notice but think you already paid your 2004 dues, please let me know.

The nasty little late charge is still around, so you need to have your dues paid by the end of January to avoid the $2.50 late charge.

Linda Sensenig (Newly-Re-elected Treasurer)


Date Time Shower Direction Speed No. Per Hour
Jan 3 5am Bootids Northeast Medium 25 to 100
Apr 22 4am Lyrids Northeast Medium 5 to 15
May 4 4am Eta Aquarids East Fast 5 to 25
Jul 29 3am Delta Aquarids South Medium 5 to 20
Aug 12 4am Perseids Northeast Fast 50 to 100
Oct 21 5am Orionids South Fast 10 to 20
Nov 18 5am Leonids East Fast 50 to 100
Dec 14 1am Geminids Zenith Medium 50 to 100
Dec 22 5am Ursids North Medium 5 to 15

*(these are approximate dates and times)

Date: The date of maximum activity. Shower Members ma y be seen for several days before and after this date, but at a significantly lower number per hour.

Time: Although shower members may be seen at any time after midnight, the stated time is when the shower will be the most active.

Shower: Named for the constellation or star within a constellation from which the meteors appear to originate.

Direction: The direction in which the meteors appear to originate. Shower members may appear at any location in the sky, but their paths will trace back to one general area of the sky called the radiant. The zenith lies directly overhead.

Speed: Fast meteors usually appear as streaks of light while at slower speeds the actual meteoroid is visible.

Number per hour: The usual number of shower members seen by a single observer per hour. Rates will depend on the individual observer and conditions.

NOTE: All meteor showers are best seen from a location free of light pollution with no moon in the sky.

*please check "Sky and Telescope" or "Astronomy" magazines for exact times and dates


This is a picture of m35 in Gemini and a small cluster adjacent to it ngc 2158 which I took with my 4" Televue Genesis sdf. It's one of my favorite sights in the winter sky.

Larry Citro

Meteor Observation Certificate


The basic observer information such as date, time, location, and observing conditions are all recorded at the top of the form. Use a new form for each observing session.

· Date and time: Show the year first, then month and day. Show the time zone you are reporting (EST, CDT, UT, etc).

· Location: Longitude, latitude and elevation of your site in meters or feet.

· Limiting Magnitude: The limiting magnitude of the sky determined by the faintest star an observer can see.

· Percent Cloudy: obstructions to your field of view caused by clouds, buildings, trees, etc. This should be recorded at the start of each session and any time a change takes place.

· Direction Altitude: Record the direction you are facing and how high the center of your field of view lies above the horizon. (Directly overhead would be 90 degrees and halfway would be 45 degrees). Example: NE (45)

· Breaks: record the time in which your attention is not focused on the sky for any reason.

· Comments: record any other information about the observing conditions that might be useful. Meteor Data area: information about each meteor seen is recorded in this area. The time and magnitude should be the minimum shown for every meteor you see.

· Time: The appearance time of the meteor to the nearest minute, listed in the same time standard as used in the observer data on the top of the form.

· Mag: The brightness of each meteor to the nearest whole magnitude. Compare to stars of known brightness.

· Type: The shower membership of the meteor, or leave type blank if it was a sporadic.

· Color: any definite observed color of the meteor.

· Speed: Show the velocity of the meteor as slow, medium, or fast, or show the numeric range of 1-5 where 5 is the swiftest.

· Train: Enter the length of time that any persistent train is visible after the meteor has vanished. (Most trains last only a second or less). Experienced observers measure train length to the tenth of a second.

· Remarks: List any other information you feel is important concerning the meteor.

Each observer should keep his or her own data on the report form contained in the A.L.P.O. Guide. You will need a minimum of six hours observing one or more meteor showers. Observing sessions should be at least an hour long to have any scientific value. To receive credit for the Astronomical League’s Meteor Club, send a copy of the report forms to the Astronomical League Observing Awards Coordinator: Scott Kranz, 106 N. Darrowby Dr., Raymore, MO 64083-9181. Phone #(816) 331-5796, e-mail

This information was listed in part as a courtesy to any interested members of BCAAS. You may look at the entire publication at - under Observing Clubs, Meteor Club.

Take advantage of the many opportunities that are offered to you through the Astronomical League resources. You will have a two-fold purpose; the most important is becoming a more informed and accurate observer. The second is not only enjoying the beauty of the night sky but also helping to solve the mysteries of heavens.

The Beginner's Corner

Navigating Around The Nighttime Sky

written by Eric Knight

As a beginner in astronomy, do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the knowledge of long time astronomy club members? May I suggest a quick way to begin to catch up in the area of navigating around the nighttime sky? First, set that shiny new telescope aside, if you can handle such a heretical request, and take some time to get familiar with the nighttime sky.

We have a marvelous system of constellations bequeathed to us by our predecessors, which makes it easy to navigate around the nighttime sky. By using a small number of those constellations as reference points, you can quickly find any other constellation visible in the nighttime sky.

Since all of the constellations rotate around Polaris, the North Star, that is the natural point to start. You remember Polaris? It’s the star right under the metal grommet on your star and planet locator. If you find and learn the constellations that immediately ring in Polaris, you can use them to locate farther out constellations by following an imaginary line from Polaris through the constellation near to Polaris and on to the constellation you seek.

In clockwise order, the constellations immediately around Polaris are: Cassiopeia, Camelopardalis, Ursa Major (which contains the Big Dipper with its pointer to Polaris), Draco and Cepheus. Ursa Minor, or the Little Dipper, which has Polaris as the end of its handle, can also be used as a reference pointer. Memorize them, and learn to recognize them in the nighttime sky. Then you will be ready to use them to find other constellations in the nighttime sky.

Let’s say you want to find the constellations that contain the stars that make up the Summer Triangle. From Polaris, you navigate on a line between Cepheus and Draco's coil to Cygnus, also known as the Northern Cross. Cygnus is the first constellation on that line beyond Cepheus and Draco. The large star in Cygnus is Deneb, one corner of the Summer Triangle. Next, between Cepheus and Draco's coil again, past Cygnus, Vulpecula and Sagitta, to Aquila. The large star in Aquila is Altair, the next corner of the Summer Triangle. And, finally, from Polaris through Draco's coil to Lyra. The large star in Lyra is Vega, the last corner of the Summer Triangle. If you remember the directions, you can always find these constellations and stars, as long as they are visible in the nighttime sky.

Each time you find a star using this method, write it down in your notebook. I keep a table log of each constellation I find using this method. I record the constellation's name, directions from Polaris, story (mythology) of the constellation, and when/where I observed it. After using my log a few times to find the constellation, I have it memorized and don't need to look it up in my log table anymore.

This, of course, is not a substitute for a star chart; in fact, you need a star chart to locate a constellation the first time. But it is a quick way of finding your way around the nighttime sky once you know the directions to the constellations.

Other popular methods of finding objects in the sky are right ascension, azimuth/declination, and using star charts or star and planet locators. And there is the ever popular: find a constellation you recognize, and use it to orient yourself and find other, nearby constellations. Some amateur astronomers have memorized where the constellations are each season. That’s a little easier than you might think, and I’ll cover that and the other popular methods in a future Beginner’s Corner article.

Once you know your way around the nighttime sky, you will find you are a step closer to catching up with the long time members of your astronomy club.

Library List
We’ve added to our library recently!

- Nightwatch—A Practical Guide to Viewing the Universe

- Sky and Earth—A Child’s First Library of Learning

- The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy

- Burnham’s Celestial Handbook, Volumes 1-3

- Back issues of:

*Sky and Telescope, ‘74-’79

*Astronomy, ‘77-’79

*Modern Astronomy, ‘73-’75

*Science News, ‘’87-’88

- Booklets regarding:



- Pamphlets from Goddard:

*Anatomy of the Sun

*Beyond the Solar System

* NEW to the BCAAS Library *

- 2 CD sets of John Dobson’s talks at the Heritage Center and our 30th Anniversary Banquet

- Chandler’s Sky Atlas for Small Telescopes and Binoculars

- The New Cosmology by Harold W. G. Allen

- VHS video The Universe, narrated by William Shatner

- The International Halley Watch Atlas of Large-Scale Phenomena

- DeepSky 2003 CD-ROM, Volumes 1 & 2

Librarian’s Note

To borrow from or donate to the library, please drop me a line at or give me a call at 610-336-4863. Suggestions for additions to the library are always welcome, too. Thanks and happy reading!

- Melody

Upcoming BCAAS Events

Thursday, January 8th @ 7:30pm—BCAAS meeting

Monday, January 19th — Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Thursday, February 12th @ 7:30pm—BCAAS meeting

Saturday, February 14th — St. Valentine’s Day!! (Hint, hint!)


Friday, March 19th — Pottstown School District Honors Program Starwatch

- Contact Kevin or Candi Simmons at 610-970-5753

- Raindate: Friday, March 26th; location TBA.

Sunday, April 25th — Earth Day Celebration — Reading Park

- Fun for all ages!

- Bring a scope, bring a friend—see you there!

- Thousands of people make a great public outreach event!

Wild intelligence abhors any narrow world; and the world of women must stay narrow, or the woman is an outlaw. — A. Dworkin


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