Volume XXVIII Number 3

May / June 2002

In this issue:

1. Presidents message
2. Upcoming Events
3. Linda's Lines
4. Mythology of The Night Sky - Southern Cross
5. Treasurer's Corner
6. Science Fair Results
Chasing Ikeya-Zhang

President’s message

Well, after a mild winter, it looks like Spring has arrived. Hopefully it has arrived with clearer skies. We have a very busy Spring – Summer schedule coming up. Major spring starwatches, noted program speakers, regional starwatches (Mason-Dixon), and forums (NEAF) will be conducted by neighboring clubs for your enjoyment. At NEAF hear speakers David Levy, and astronaut John Grunsfeld share their experiences with you. A bake-sale

fundraiser will be our major event in June. May will give us an opportunity to witness a rare astronomical event. Five of our solar system neighbors will line up in conjunction in the evening sky throughout the month. Dates to be particularly aware of include May 5th when Mars, Saturn and Venus form a triangle in the western sky, and May 16th when the planets are in a straight line from the horizon with the crescent Moon trailing Jupiter at the high end of the line. This will be a good opportunity to photograph a major gathering of the planets including our companion Moon (May 14-16).

Comet Ikeya-Zhang is still visible in the morning sky near Draco as it travels out of the solar system. It has put on quite a show reaching third magnitude according to some observers. I have observed it on several occasions and have obtained a few nice photographs to share with the club. We have several other comets like Utsunomiya waiting in the wings to put on their displays in the coming months. As the sky turns from winter constellations into spring and summer ones let’s hope for clear weather and I’ll…..

See you in the field,

Barry L. Shupp, Pres. BCAAS

Upcoming Events

Thursday May 9th @ 7:30pm — Monthly club meeting at the Reading Public Museum. Tonight's talk will be presented by Dr. Ruth Daley, astrophysicist - Penn State University, entitled "The Acceleration of the Universe."

Friday May 10th @ Dusk — Club Starparty (location TBD; raindate May 11th)

Friday May 17th @ Dusk — Public Observing at Kaercher Creek Park

Sat., May 18th-Sun., May 19th North Eastern Astronomy Forum

Friday, May 31st @ dusk Club Starparty (location TBD; raindate June 1st)

Thursday, June 6th @ 7pm BCAAS Board Meeting at Paul Becker’s house

Friday, June 7th-Sunday, June 9th: Mason-Dixon Star Party in York, PA.

Thursday, June 13th @ 7:30pm Monthly club meeting at the Reading Public Museum. Tonight's talk will be presented by Inge Heyer, Space Telescope Inst. Entitled "The new Hubble space telescope and an update."

Saturday, June 15th, 12-5pm Bake Sale at the Temple Wal-Mart (5th Street Highway—Raindate Sunday, June 30th)


Good luck to Ryan as he spends Summer schlepping through these United States, all in the name of promoting youth in astronomy!

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

Editor/Desktop publisher: Melody Gardner

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

Linda’s Lines


We lost a long time member of BCAAS last month. Tony usually attended the meetings with his wife, Adelaide, although he always affectionately called her "mother". He always seemed to me to be an upbeat, optimistic person; someone who could make you feel good just by talking with you. I will always remember how Tony always called me "beautiful Linda". It didn’t matter whether he was talking to me, or writing me a note with his due renewal. It was always "beautiful Linda". Quite honestly, I never thought of putting that adjective before my name (even though in Spanish, Linda means beautiful).

A few years ago he decided he would like to entertain the club at the Christmas party by singing a couple of opera arias. He wanted me to accompany him. Just prior to the Christmas party, he came down with a bad throat and we postponed his BCAAS debut until the talent show. However his throat got even worse. It turned out not to be a cold, but lung cancer. But even then, his optimism was evident when he told me that he might never sing opera again, but he could be an Irish tenor! At the end of last year when he ordered an Astronomy calendar he told me that someday when he felt strong and he could breathe better, he would come to a meeting. He died before that could happen. But it was always his goal to someday come back to BCAAS.

All of us who knew Tony Capone are going to miss him.

Mythology of the Night Sky - Southern Cross

We are again sailing the sunny, tropical South Pacific, looking up at a night sky ablaze with stars that we do not recognize. The only way we know which direction we are traveling using stellar navigation is by noticing our familiar southern constellations which are now in the north. But there is one southern constellation that is easily recognized because it really DOES look like its name - the Southern Cross.

It was unknown to the ancients by its present title since back then the four chief stars were part of Centaurus. Pliny (I don’t know if it’s the Elder or the Younger) knew this constellation as Thronos Caesaris, named to honor Augustus Caesar by some courtly astronomer. (We can do that, too! Just group together some of these unknown stars and name the constellation The Bush!)

This grouping of stars was ironically last visible on the horizon of Jersulem about the time Christ was crucified. And 3,000 years ago the entire grouping of stars was seen above the horizon of the savages living by the Baltic Sea. These stars sure do get around!

It was invented as a constellation in 1679. At least that’s the earliest official published account. It was probably referred to as a cross a couple centuries earlier, as Dante makes reference to them in some of his poetic works. It has been written about extensively by explorers.

As we view the dazzling stars in a pollution free environment, we notice that partly inside the constellation of the Southern Cross is a pearshaped dark spot where no stars can be seen. This is the famous Coalsack dark nebula. There is only ONE star visible to the naked eye in this part of the sky. We understand what it is today, however to explorers in the past, Froude described it as "the inky spot - an opening into the awful solitude of unoccupied space." A native Australian legend says that it was "the embodiment of evil in the shape of an Emu who lies in wait at the foot of a tree, represented by the stars of the Cross, for an opossum driven by his persecutions to take refuge among the branches."

Modern science has certainly taken all the imagination out of the night sky! All WE see is a patch of dark gas obscuring the stars behind it!

Linda Sensenig

Treasurer’s Corner

Fundraiser Alert!!!! Or  $$$$

BCAAS Has a Bake Sale (yikes!)

On Saturday, June 15, from noon to 5 PM (hopefully), BCAAS will have a bake sale at WalMart's superstore on the 5th Street Highway. We will set up at the entrance to the garden section and will need to supply our own tables.

To make this bake sale work, I need to have a few volunteers who will be able to help in setting up the sale, who will help sell, and who will help tear down. Let me know as soon as possible if you are willing to help.

Of course, we can't have a bake sale without baked goods! This is something most members can participate in. Let me know at the May meeting if you will bake for us. If you don't know, I will send e-mails and make phone calls. We have been offered a rain date of June 30, but at this point I am not sure if we will take a rain date or not.

Linda Sensenig

2002 Reading Berks Science and Engineering Fair

This year’s fair did not bring as many Astronomy related projects to display as past years had brought. The club may not have doing its part in relating to public as it had done in previous years. Last year we have about sixteen projects that were astronomy related. This we had a grand total of four. Although this years project selection did not include the model rocketry experiments. This year as in past the club awarded a hardbound book on astronomy entitled "Advanced SkyWatching", a certificate of recognition in the Science of Astronomy, four hours of observing time on a web based Telescope arranged by Ryan Hannahoe through the Astronomical League’s Youth in Astronomy Program, and a one year family membership in the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society. This year’s judging was done by myself, Barry Shupp, Melody Gardner and Ryan Hannahoe. Club President, Barry Shupp presented the awards to the winners at the awards ceremony that evening.

In the senior division, we found two very exciting astronomy projects. The first project entitled "How do Galaxies Measure Up?", prepared by Cate Stone of Exeter Junior High School. The study was conducted to decipher the ratio of star forming regions of a number of galaxies to the galaxy’s overall size. A number of images of galaxies were gathered from the internet and printed on sheets of paper. Measurements were then taken to determine the overall size of the galaxy. Then a measurement was taken of the dense star forming region of that same galaxy.

The second senior project was developed by James Hess of Governor Mifflin High School. His project was titled, "Do Lunar Cycles Effect Cosmic Radiation Levels?" He used a Gieger counter to record the amount of radiation received at a set time of the morning and again in the afternoon for a period from January 30, 2002 thru March 12, 2002. The measurement lasted for 22 minutes at a time. His results showed that the radiation was higher than normal during the first new moon but lower that normal during the second new moon. He concluded that more measurement would have to be taken over a longer duration of Lunar cycles.

In the Junior division we also found two astronomy related projects. The first project was created by Brian Martin of Wilson Central Junior High entitled, "Water on Mars? You Decide". Studying the geological features on the planet Mars, he set up four experiments to see if he could create those same channels on a small scale that are visible on the planet. He used a large tray filled with sand for the creator creation, mars quake and flood portions of his study. In the forth tray he built a small volcano to simulate a lava flow. Although all experiment created similar features that are visible on Mars, the flood experiment recreated the channeled out areas in the same manner visible on the planets surface.

The final student to take home our award was Justin Abodalo of St. Ingnatious Loyola. This project was named, "Gravity: Speed or Distance?" This project was a little difficult for me to understand, but that’s nothing new for my intellect. The purpose of the project was to determine what had a larger effect on gravity, the distance an object is from the gravity source or the escape velocity of the object from the gravity source. The results showed that both speed and size have an effect on the attraction or lack of attraction between the two objects.

If I may make one observation and the two may not be linked at all, but it is my observation that number of students interested in doing Astronomy related projects is directly proportional to the amount of interaction our club and our speaking club members have with the schools and the public throughout the preceding year. It may also be related to amount of Astronomy rela ted news events that occur throughout the previous year. Years with comets and solar eclipses tend to bring interest to our hobby as well as these events tend to get our club out and about more often. Until next year, here’s hoping it’s Astronomy filled year for our club.

Michael Bashore
BCAAS Chairman for the 2002 Berks County Science and Engineering Fair

Chasing Ikeya – Zhang by Barry L. Shupp

Most of you know me as one of the club’s astro-photographers. I have talked on the subject at meetings and public events. Usually the process goes fairly well - this is not always the case, however. I have made several attempts to observe and photograph Ikeya-Zhang. I had been out once or twice in the evening shooting a mix of print and slide film with limited success. The comet is not as bright as Hale-Bopp or Hyakutake (whose discoverer recently passed away), and I have fought the first quarter Moonlight, and thin clouds in my photo attempts. Several of my early shots showed a short tail. I wanted a better shot than what I had and that is the story that follows.

I was looking forward to the dates of April 3rd - 4th for several weeks. This was when the comet was nearest the Andromeda galaxy near Pegasus. The day was perfectly clear with not a cloud in the sky. I anticipated clear skies and good views down to the horizon. As evening approached, several small clouds had developed but these would probably dissipate after the warming rays of the Sun were below the horizon. Most did. The whole sky was clear except the area in the West where the comet resided. Even Venus was prominent near the horizon not too far East of the comet. But a big, black, boisterous, Beelzebub-like cloud (talk about astro-alliteration!) planted itself smack dab over the scene to be photographed! …and stayed there.

I had gone to my favorite local dark site at Middle Creek where I would have a good view of the western sky. The area is usually deserted that time of year but as I approached I saw many cars there and the lights were on in the visitors center. Obviously they had some kind of meeting going on but I figured I could work around it by shielding my camera from the lights shining out the windows - until the parking lot lights started to come on!! Then I knew I had to scramble for another location away from those lights. I hopped in the car and drove a short distance to another parking area where there were no lights or activities.

As I stood there observing the cloud (and despising it) I began to go over in my mind what I would need as far as equipment if the hideous intruder did go away. Suddenly I realized I had made a serious mistake - I had forgotten my camera bag containing my electronic cable release/lock for my camera. I knew I didn’t have the time to run home for it and get back in time if it did clear off, so I devised methods of holding the shutter open without the cable release. None would have been very satisfactory, and the cloud was still there. I decided that my best option was to drive home, get my cable, and then find a relatively dark site outside of town where I might be able to get some kind of acceptable view of the comet. I settled down in a small roadside park with a creek running through it outside of town having a good view to the West. There were cars passing by behind me at regular intervals so I knew I’d have to watch out for their headlights by shielding the camera with my body. The view to the West was fairly good, but that cloud had now compressed itself along the horizon eating up the Andromeda galaxy while giving the comet at least a few minutes of time to show itself off.

I was able to get a few shots of the comet timing the exposures to fall in between passing cars. Before too long though, the comet also had sunk down into the mire that was once the cloud and the photo event was over. I packed up my equipment, and slowly inched my way out onto the roadway heading home to await my next photo opportunity. I hoped that I might be able to shoot the scene the next night or morning, but cloudy weather took away any chance I had of doing that, too. I would have to wait for another time. The following weekend I was having dinner with some friends at Doc Hollidays near Lancaster and upon exiting to go to the car, we looked up to see bright Venus in the sky and right next to it in the area of the comet was a big, black cloud, seeming almost like the previous one was following us around with its’ ominous presence.

In the weeks since these events I have been able to get out in the morning to photograph Ikeya-Zhang with some fairly good results. I showed two of my photos at the April meeting and hope to have a few more for you at the June meeting. If you should attempt to shoot the comet yourself, I hope that the weather is kind to you as you endeavor to get the "perfect" shot.


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