Volume XXV Number 3

May / June 1999

Meeting Highlights


Thursday, May 13 7:30 P.M.

Reading Public Museum

If the weather forecast is looking good for the next several days, those members attending this meeting will get a chance to see our Veep (Dave Brown) in action. Following the business portion of the meeting, the group will break into small groups and get a chance to have in-depth discussions on astronomical matters.

Thursday, June 10 7:30 P.M.

Reading Public Museum

Tonight, we will have the honor of Lloyd (Cougar) Adams’ presentation on his Texas Star Party experiences. This is one of the premier star parties in the world, due to the absolutely superb skies found there. I am sure the "Cougar" will make us jealous about not being there.

We will be entering the museum auditorium using a different door this evening.


In this issue:

1. Events
Science Fair Winners
A Layman’s Guide to Stellar Evolution

4. NYAA Competition
Mythology of the night sky


E-Mail Update

Bob Capone can now be reached at Commencing May 1,1999, all submissions need to be addressed to my new carrier.Thanks

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

Editor/Desktop publisher: Bob Capone, Joanne Reigle.

E-Mail submissions may be made to:


Saturday, May 22 - 4:00 PM to ???

We will be hosting an Astronomy Day Extravaganza. We will need help, from club members, in the areas listed below. This is our only event, let’s do it up big!!

1. Solar Observing
2. Games
3. Planetarium Program
4. Presentations
5. Lunar Observing
6. Etc.!!


1999 Berks County Engineering and Science Fair BCAAS Winners

This year’s Berks County Engineering and Science Fair was, as always, an enjoyable experience, for me, as a judge for our Astronomy club. The projects continue to get better with each passing year. Each year, for the past I-don’t-know-how-many-years, I’ve been going to the fair and looking for the six best astronomy related projects at the fair. I look for directly astronomy-related projects, such as extraterrestrial planet studies, studies of the stars, including our Star, the sun, and Lunar studies. If such studies are not abundant, then, I look for experiments with Model Rocketry and NASA related subjects. This year, I found six very good astronomy-related projects. Though, I did not realize while I doing the judging, four of the projects were done by students from Muhlenberg Middle School eighth grade. Their Science teachers must have a strong interest in astronomy; otherwise, the Star Watch, in which our club participates, is having an impression on someone. This year, as in years past, we awarded each of the six winners with a Certificate of Achievement in the Science of Astronomy, a book title "Astronomy for the Fun of It" by Melenie Milton and a one year family membership in the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society. I, also, included a welcome letter and a current issue of the "Pegasus", as part of their prize. The four winners, from the eighth grade of Muhlenberg Middle School, and their projects are as follows and are in no particular order:

Paul Wolfinger’s project was titled "Mars vs Earth". His study compared the climates, ground content and atmospheres of the planets Earth and Mars. His display contained pictures and models depicting the two planets.

David Shoemaker’s project was titled "The Solar System and Us". His display included various pictures of our solar system and individual planets and models of each of the planets orbiting our Sun. He also included various amounts of data on each of the planets with their moons and included data on the Sun.

Matthew Hoelscher’s project was one of the best studies concerning astronomy that I’ve seen at the science fair in the years that I’ve been a judge. His project was titled "Orion, Master of the Winter Skies". He conducted a very in depth study of the stars and nebula contained in the constellation known as Orion. He also went into the mythology behind the figure of the hunter or god depending on which mythological origin you wish to pursue. His display included a Styrofoam model of the stars making up the constellation as well as a LiteBrite model of Orion. Matthew also used many pictures and illustrations to make up his research. We are currently trying to contact him to see if we can include his study in the future Pegasus issues, so that everyone can enjoy the research Matthew has produced.

Sallie Forrer’s project was title "Alpha Centauri: The Closest Star System" and covered a very in depth study of the star system’s members. The study went into the birth, life and death of a star. She also provided a large amount of data on the system three main members, Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B, and Proxima Centauri. Sallie included pictures and models of the stars depicting relative size, color and distances between the star of the system.

The first of two senior division winners was Matt Price of Exeter Junior High School. Matt’s project was titled "Lunar Laps - What is the Speed of the Moon’s Orbit". His experiment was conducted by taking one-hour, timed exposed pictures of the moon with a star in the photo. Then, compare the lengths of each streak in the photo. This was done on a number of photos, with the length averaged together. Hedetermined that the moon moved approximately one full moon’s diameter and used a few math formulas to calculate the speed of the moons orbit. I neglected to write down his resulting speed; so, if you are interested in knowing his results, you will have to contact him yourself.

The sixth and final winner for this year is a repeat winner from last year. Brian Lacki of Wilson Central Jr. High continued his project titled "Mapping the Radio Sky at Home". In his research, he built two radio telescopes name EARS, a 0.7 meter wide antenna and LEARN, a 1.2 meter wide antennae. In conjunction with the two antennae, he used a radio receiver and a tape recorder. In his study, he revealed that galaxy M-82 gave off a higher decibel signal than either the sun or Jupiter. Other object studied in his research included nebula Ml, Stars Cassiopeia A, Cygnus A, Perseus A, Saturn, and I believe pulsar 3C-48. To all the students who I chose or did not choose for the BCAAS award, please keep trying and studying the universe. It’s part of all of our futures;you are a part of the future of Astronomy.

Michael Bashore

BCAAS Science Fair Coordinator

A Layman’s Guide to Stellar Evolution

This article is one of an expected series dealing with stellar evolution. The articles are written by a layman and with the intent to convey that understanding to others. To the extent that some errors and omissions exist, they should be excused. In this series, I anticipate covering the formation of stars, their energy production, assemblages, and their death. For comments please contact the editor.

Article I


Stars are the most prominent feature in the night and daytime skies. The end states of individual stars provide many interesting and observable objects, including variable stars, nova and nebulae, to name a few. Their assemblages produce other classes of objects, namely various types of clusters, and galaxies. In fact, we owe our very existence to a specific star, and even our bodies are composed of the by-products of prior stars. Thus understanding the formation and evolution of stars is fundamental to an understanding our physical existence.

When stars are viewed in the night sky, besides their relative position, the two most obvious properties are brightness and color. We shall start with these three properties as the beginning of our understanding. In this issue we’ll look at brightness, since it is the more obvious of stellar properties. Then in future issues, we’ll discuss stellar distances and then their colors. From an understanding of these properties, particularly brightness and color we can discern much about the types brightness and color.

Stellar Brightness (Magnitude)

The brightness of an individual star is determined by it’s distance from us, it’s energy output, and any modifying effects of the intervening medium between us and the star. Brightness is a layman’s term and in astronomy it’s called stellar magnitude. A star thus has an intrinsic or real brightness, called absolute magnitude, and an apparent brightness, called apparent magnitude. Note, the details of the magnitude scale for measuring stellar brightness will be the subject of a later article. For this discussion we’ll simply use an arbitrary dimensionless unit for brightness and distance.

The apparent magnitude of a star or the brightness of any object varies with distance of the object from the observer. An object of real brightness of 1 at a distance of 1 will therefore have an apparent brightness of 1. That same object viewed at a distance of 2, will have an apparent brightness of 1/4 of it’s real brightness, e.g. 1/(2x2)=1/4. This is an example of an inverse square law relationship and many things in nature exhibit this relationship. Thus an object at a distance of 3 would have an apparent brightness of 1/9 of it’s real brightness, 1/(3x3)=1/9.

Using this fundamental principle, one can determine the real brightness of an object if one knows the distance to the object. Note, we can readily measure the apparent brightness of the object. This simple calculation of real brightness is valid if one assumes that there are no effects such as dust absorption in the medium between us and the star. Absorption would cause the star to appear dimmer than expected based on distance alone. Similarly, there can be lensing or magnification effects which cause the apparent brightness to be higher than expect based on distance alone. But, to a first order the real brightness of any star can be determined if one knows the distance.

In next article in this series will discuss how to determine stellar distance so the real brightness of the star can be determined..

Ron Kunkel

NYAA competition

(National Young Astronomer Award)

Here are the final results from this year’s NYAA competition. I know this year was a little tough because the competition was intense. Thanks for all your great work! The following news will be published in the May issue of the Reflector, and is being sent as a press release to several other publications.

Respectfully, Bob Gent

This year, the competition was intense, and one of our judges reported "They are all winners!" Dozens of high school students, from across the United States, vied for the Astronomical League’s National Young Astronomer Award. The top six finalists’ award applications were submitted to our panel of national judges, all noted astronomers. For this year’s award, the judges were Dr. Frank Bash, Director of the McDonald Observatory, Dr. David Hans Hough, professor at Trinity University, and Dr. Robert Stencel, professor at the University of Denver.

Here are the results for 1999:

1st Place: Elizabeth Fernandez

2nd Place: Rigel Woida-Obrien

3rd Place: Tracy Lea Klayton

4th Place: Sloane Wiktorowicz

5th Place: Joshua R. Neubert

6th Place: Meredith Kratzer

We are now accepting applications for the 2000 National Young Astronomer Award and the

Horkheimer Award. The NYAA entry deadline is January 31, 2000, and the Horkheimer Award

deadline is March 31, 2000. For additional information or an application, contact Bob Gent, 325

Cloudes Mill Drive, Alexandria, Virginia 22304-3080, E-mail:, (703) 751-6805.

Ryan M Hannahoe


The Great Bear of the North is one of the first constellations beginners turn their attention to. One reason is because it is circumpolar, meaning it is always visible above the horizon for anybody living in the northern hemisphere. Another reason is because within the boundaries of this constellation lies the Big Dipper. Although the group has many titles and mythical associations, it has almost everywhere been known as a bear.

The fact that the bear never dips below the horizon cause the fancy of poets for centuries. Back in the 14th Century, the medeival English poet Chaucer wrote:

"Ne the sterre y-ecleped the Bere that enclyneth his ravisshinge courses abouten the soverein height of the worlde, ne the same sterre Ursa nis never-mo wasshen in the depe westrene see, ne coveiteth nat to deyen his flaumbe in the see of the occian, al-thogh he see other sterres yplounged in the see." (I know it looks weird, but this is medeival English and this is how people talked back then.)

While ALMOST every ancient civilization saw a bear in these stars, not EVERYONE did. In fact, the Arabs have a very chilling story about these stars that also involves Polaris. The constellation is called Na’ash, and the stars are the children of Na’ash who was murdered by Jadi, the polestar. They nightly wait near him in their thirst for vengeance. Among the daughters of Na’ash is Mizar, holding in her arms her newforn infant, little Alcor.

The people of India also saw seven women in these stars. They were known as Saptar Shayar, the Seven Anchorites of the pious woman Al Suha (Alcor), all raised by Dharma (and also, presumably, Greg) to the sky as fixed stars.

Speaking of India, let’s see what the American Indians thought of these stars. Oddly enough, even though the stars themselves in no way resemble the bear, they also saw a bear in these stars. However, they refused to accept the "long tail" that the Europeans put on this bear in order to include more stars. The "tail" stars to the Indians was a Hunter and his Two Dogs, in pursuit of the Bear, and the star Alcor was the pot in which they intended to cook him!

Linda Sensenig

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