Volume XXVII Number 4

July / August 2001

In this issue:

1. Letter From the Editor
Presidents message
NorthEast Astronomy and Telescope Show
Mythology of The Night Sky - Cepheus
4. Meet BCAAS Member - Linda Sensenig
Mason-Dixon Starparty Report
Science Fair 2001

Letter From the Editor

Since I’ve taken over as editor of Pegasus, I have, unfortunately, noticed a disturbing trend. There are a few steady contributors to our newsletter, and while I love their work and don’t ever want them to stop writing, I feel everyone should try to submit something of their own at least once.

I encourage anyone with an opinion to send me a letter, an article, short story, or even just a suggestion for what they’d like to see in future newsletters. I’m at every meeting and my email address is My snail-mail is:
1704 Saratoga Court
Allentown, PA 18104
if you prefer a more traditional delivery method.

A club is only as good as its members make it, and I know there is untapped potential out there, just waiting to be uncovered. Don’t be shy—make your voice heard; share your ideas and experiences with everyone!!


President’s message

Well, after a long, cold Winter, it looks like Spring is finally here! Hopefully it has arrived with clearer skies. Our participation at Earth Day, April 22, was successful to a large degree. We had solar observing, and handed out many fliers on light pollution, and our club brochures. Sales of astronaut ice cream and glow-in-the-dark stars were brisk, too.

We have a very busy Spring – Summer schedule coming up. We will already have had Astronomy Day 2 at the Heritage Center by the time you read this. It, hopefully, was a success. Our regular Spring Heritage Center starwatch will occur on Friday May 18 th with the 19 th as a rain date. Of course, we have two good programs for May and June (see details elsewhere in this issue). Some of the other events are not directly ours but many of our members will participate: The N. E. Astronomy Forum at Suffern, N.Y. May 5-6, Cherry Springs Starwatch May 25-28, and of course the Mason-Dixon Starparty June 22- 24. And don’t forget- there are two comet Linears coming; one in June, the other in December. So let’s dust off our scopes and see if we can do some astronomy!!

Barry L. Shupp, Pres. BCAAS

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

Editor/Desktop publisher: Melody Gardner

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

NorthEast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show

Saturday and Sunday, May 5 and 6, was the popular NorthEast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show, aka NEAF. This year’s show was again held at the community college in Suffern, New York and was sponsored by the Rockland Astronomy Club. The drawing points for this show are the vendor exhibits, especially home town vendor, TeleVue Optics, who has their famous scratch and dent sale of eyepieces, and a host of well known speakers.

I and a number of fellow BCAAS members attended the show on Sunday. I was traveling with LVAAS member Lloyd Adam and we arrived about 8:30 A.M.. We registered and bought our tickets for the door prizes. The gymnasium was the actual site of the exhibits and lectures, and the gym was bustling with activity as we registered. A bit later in the morning we meet BCAAS members, Melody and Ralph Gardner and Barry Shupp who were traveling as group. In fact when we met, the Gardners were purchasing a used fully manual SLR camera for astrophotography.

There were an estimated 80 vendors marketing a wide range of new and familiar products and services from both well known, established vendors and also new enterprises. Being an LX200 owner I naturally concentrated on accessories for use with my scope. Notable among the observed accessories was an accessory tray for either a notebook PC or charts and which simply connected to the existing tripod by sliding under the tripod head. Lloyd, the every studious individual, carefully noted it’s features to make his own adaptation of this tray.

On my list of best accessories were the Taurus Technologies’ Tracker III versa port, guider. Just getting to see this well designed and very well constructed piece of hardware was thrilling. Surely this item will be on my equipment list when I want to get into astrophotography. The other and perhaps most notable accessory was in item called the MillenniumMount. This mount was class AAAA all the way. Designed and manufactured with German precision, the mount had built in digital setting circles with encoders, and motors capable of 4 degree per second slew rates and carrying capacity of 70+ pounds. In fact the designer, Herr Bernard Denkhe, said I could probably sit on the mount and it could still function with to it’s full specifications. This mount was just a marvel of engineering. Of course it couldn’t compete with the "coffee grinder" drive system of my LX200!!! It also cost more than my LX200, including all my accessories.

During the afternoon Lloyd and I attended two of the lectures, one by Dr. John Wood of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on "Astronomy with the HST", and a particularly exceptional talk by Dr. Alex Filippenko of the University of Calif.-Berkeley on the "Runaway Universe." Dr. Filippenko’s talk reminded me of the well known lecturer and physicist Richard Feinman, an exceptional lecturer, noted for explaining very difficult concepts so anyone can understand them.

Following Dr. Filippenko’s lecture the drawings for door prizes was held. By this time the Gardners and Barry had left to go, of all places, to a mall to purchase accessories for the newly purchased camera. You can imagine my surprise when the winner of the Meade ETX 125 telescope was none other than Barry Shupp, who wasn’t even present. Some people just have a knack for stepping into these things. Well, after a bit of discussion with the organizers of the event, they gave me the telescope, after I convinced them I knew Barry and was going to see him that coming Thursday. I wonder if they ever would have contacted him about his winning, had I been a bit more devious? Who knows, I might have gotten the ultimate accessory for my LX200, an ETX 125 guide scope.

Of course after the drawing, the crowd rapidly departed NEAF for points on the eastern seaboard. Lloyd and I headed for home and promptly encountered a major traffic accident involving a trash truck totally blocking the interstate from median barrier to guard rail. Luckily a quick detour and 20 minutes we were again on our way. All in all, a very informative and well run show. What did I buy? A low wattage Telrad heater and an interesting astronomy t-shirt, but I’ll definitely will attend NEAF again next year.

Submitted by Ron Kunkel

Mythology of the Night Sky - Cepheus

Considering that this constellation consists of no major, bright stars, more than one ancient culture gave that part of the sky regal honors. Bring back those thrilling days of yesteryear when Alpha Cepheid was the North Star and it was the year 21,000 BC! The prehistoric ancestors of the Hindus looked up at the night sky and called these stars "Kapi" which translates to Ape-God. If you think about what life must have been like way back prior to recorded history, it would have been a great honor to be called an Ape-God!

But let’s move forward to a more recent past when people were actually writing things down. The Chinese looked at this part of the sky and created their constellation Inner Throne of the Five Emperors. This part of the sky was still given regal importance.

The most familiar representation, however, is that of the Greeks who called these stars Cepheus. But which one? There are TWO kings named Cepheus in Greek mythology. One was the son of Aleus from Arcadia who would become king of Tegea, would father TWENTY children and would sail with Jason on the Argo. A man who fathers twenty children should certainly deserve to be memorialized in the sky. But I am convinced that it was the OTHER Cepheus that this constellation was named after - wife of Cassiopeia and father of Andromeda. The story of beautiful maiden chained to a rock with sea monster rushing toward her but who gets saved in the nick of time by handsome hero was so beloved by the Greeks that they put Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Perseus, his horse Pegasus, and even the sea monster in the sky! Why would they not also put the father there as well?

Linda Sensenig

Meet BCAAS Member…….Linda Senenig

She’s the quiet, mild-mannered lady who rattles off the current BCAAS account balance at every month’s general meeting. She’s the voice of caution when it comes to spending the club’s money, no matter how eager other members might be. But mention cosmological concepts, mythology, or subatomic physics, and Linda Sensenig doesn’t hold back. Her passion for these topics brings emotion to her voice and a light to her eyes.

Blame it on TV—two shows in particular. Back in the 1960s, Star Trek characters spoke of visiting certain stars; Linda sought out books specifying where those stars were located. This research, combined with the study of ancient medieval history and how constellations were named, gave birth to a lifelong interest in astronomy.

"Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea" sparked Linda’s curiosity about subatomic physics. After exploring the subject, she gave a talk on the internal structure of the atom at the AL National Convention in Kutztown. She will never forget when afterwards, six women attendees came up and thanked her for explaining it in terms they could understand.

A few years later, Linda wrote a paper on superstring theory and performed a "Dr. Who" skit, with fellow BCAAS member Tracie Greth as her traveling companion. She presented the program at two club meetings, then at Tracie’s church in Reading. During the lively question-and-answer period afterwards, Linda suddenly realized that her dream of being a lecturer on theoretical physics had come true.

Linda admires intelligent, talented people who have overcome adversity, like Stephen Hawkings, author of A Brief History of Time. Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease in his 20’s, he has lectured all over the world, using a synthesizer to communicate. Linda delved into his formulas and his theories on exploding black holes, and presented his ideas in a program for the club. Linda’s former minister to this day teases her about being able to understand "that book."

Linda’s participation in BCAAS goes back to 1973, when she joined as a founder. Bruce Dietrich, of the Reading Public Museum, facilitated organizing a group by advertising at the Planetarium. Frank Pentz became the first president, with Linda as vice-president. Each office had a two -year term limit at that time. After Frank served two years, Linda took over as president, then Frank for two years, then Linda two years again. As the club grew, other members became officers. Linda has been BCAAS treasurer for the past six years.

Linda doesn’t hesitate when asked her favorite BCAAS memory. It was in March of 1986. Halley’s Comet was supposed to rise at 4:30 AM, and the club had advertised a star party to be held at the Daniel Boone Homestead. BCAAS had a 10-inch telescope, and Linda had brought hers along, in case someone wanted to use it.

With a wind chill factor of 8 below zero, the club expected about one or two dozen hardy souls to show up. There were 200 people! One observer was using Linda’s scope to show people the comet, until he suddenly complained, "We can’t see anything in your scope." Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that someone’s contact lens had frozen onto the eyepiece! (Linda relates with a smile that no one ever came forward to claim the contact.)

The public’s general lack of knowledge concerning star watching has produced some entertaining moments. One evening a star watch was scheduled at the homestead, but it rained. The planetarium received an angry phone call, and a woman’s voice demanded to know why no one was there. "But lady, it’s raining!" was the response. She replied indignantly, "Well, I don’t mind getting wet."

Over the years, Linda has contributed to the growth of BCAAS, while working in medical records at Caron Foundation, and serving as lay speaker, teacher, choir member, and substitute organist and pianist for her church. Yet she remains humble about the part she’s played. She feels the club is like a family. "We’re a friendly bunch," she tells new members. Although she’s never been an active observer, she says she has felt accepted and welcomed from the very beginning.

Active observer or not, Linda possesses a keen hunger for scientific knowledge, and a desire to share what she knows with others. Her enthusiasm about astronomy inspires an awe of the heavens as much as any skyward -pointed telescope. It’s not just what she says—it’s the stars in her eyes.

Kathy Matisko

Mason-Dixon Starparty Report

Looking out my front door on last Friday afternoon, I took in the sheeting, torrential rain and the lightning striking within a mile from my house. The Weather Channel was predicting thunder and lightning storms for three straight days. Did I mention there was a possibility of hail? My all-weather gear was packed, my tent was at the ready, and I had taken a half day, all in the name of astronomy. What was I thinking?!?

Discussing the practicality of setting up metal tent p oles in an open field in the middle of a lightning storm, all members of my traveling party agreed that perhaps waiting until morning was a better plan. Rising the next morning, we found the sky to be gray and ominous; still, we pressed on. (Besides, they already had our money!)

The drive to York was punctuated by small showers and a few, fleeting rays of sunshine. Upon arrival, we immediately set about putting up the tent, awning and tarp, during which it rained in the manner of the proverbial 40 days and 40 nights. Upon completion of this arduous task requiring all three of us, it immediately cleared and didn’t rain another drop all weekend.
* heavy sigh*

The speakers’ topics varied but had a seemingly common theme: CCD photography and astrophotography were very big this year, with emphasis on both technical precision and plain old having fun. Our own Ryan Hannahoe gave his Youth in Astronomy presentation which he’ll be repeating at ALCON next month in Frederick, MD. A get-well card for Jack Horkheimer was passed around for signatures of the brave (?) souls who made it to Mason-Dixon this year.

Saturday night found us gathered around the pavilion once again. Before the main speaker, there were awards for the photo contest and door prize and raffle drawings. Our own President took 1st place with a time-elapsed photo of an eclipse. (And, no, he didn’t win anything in the raffle!) Next, we heard a brilliant talk on near-Earth objects and the impact (literally!) that they could have on our planet. While the speaker was knowledgeable, full of personality and captured everyone’s attention, he just couldn’t compete with Mother Nature. Those of use in the nosebleed section (that is to say, standing outside the pavilion) were awestruck by a simple trick of light. A rainbow appeared overhead, not in the blue sky, but in the clouds that drifted past. It would appear and disappear in wisps, only once showing a full spectrum of color.

After the talks concluded for the evening, the sky had cleared nicely and everyone trekked back to their tents/campers/ SUV’s to break out their observing equipment. Ron was present (as always) with his impressive laptop/go-to setup and a new battery with a converter. Someone had brought a filter that cut through what little clouds there were, and though he claimed it wasn’t infrared, the view was green. The dark sky was well worth the distance we traveled to see it.

3:15 am rolled around, and as I extracted myself from a warm bed, I was reminded that I was about to see Comet Linear A-2 it its best and brightest ever. At 3rd or 4th magnitude, it was visible slightly below and to the right of Pegasus. Well, it was supposed to be, anyway. So, for an hour, I looked...and looked...and looked. We checked and re-checked the star chart, wondering aloud why our fuzzy comet was a no-show. Though perplexed, we did enjoy seeing a half-dozen meteors streak through the night sky, the sheer multitude of stars, and, finally, the sunrise.

To explain our mysterious invisible comet, one of us went back and checked their data and came across something fundamental. It was discovered that "someone" can’t tell their perihelion from a hole in the ground with a road map and a seeing-eye dog! Altering the figures slightly, the true location of the comet was shown to be below the horizon until far past sunrise, making observation nearly impossible on that particular date. Again, *heavy sigh*.

As we packed up on Sunday morning, I could see why Mason-Dixon continues every year. Grass roots observing plus beautiful dark skies and genuine people makes for a true learning experience. It’s an experience I’d highly recommend to beginners and seasoned astronomers alike, as there are participants from all age ranges and levels of expertise to talk to. No matter who you are, there’ll be someone there to connect with and to learn from.

Melody Gardner


The Results are In: 2001 Reading/Berks Science and Engineering Fair

As in past years, this year was no different. There were mo re displays by the participants, better projects and more projects that were astronomy related. Although, this year, there were only two astronomy related projects in the senior division. Thus, one of the three awards that were to go to a senior division winner was given to the junior division. And, even with four awards available to the junior division winners, There were more astronomy related projects that I thought deserved one of our awards.

This year I was assisted by Ryan Hannahoe, a BCAAS club member and Schuylkill Valley High School Student. This was Ryan's first year at judging the projects for our club and he seemed to be having a grand time walking through the displays and chatting with the other judges at the fair. Well, enough about the judges.

The BCAAS prize list this year included a "One Year Family Membership to our Club", a "Certificate of Achievement in Astronomy" mounted on a plaque and the Book "Advanced Skywatching : The Backyard Astronomer's Guide to Star-hopping and Exploring the Universe (Nature Company Guide) by Robert Burnham, Alan Dyer, Robert A. Garfinkle, Martin George, Jeff, David". The Awards were presented by Club President, Barry Shupp at the awards presentations that evening at the Albright Chapel.

This year's senior division winners are as follow;

Kenneth Kohler of Exeter Junior High, "The Sun and Its Mysterious Spots and Cycles". His project consisted of photographs of the sun taken on Mondays and Thursdays from November 27, 2000 through January 21, 2001. Then he did a comparison against NASA's sunspot numbers posted on the Internet to see the difference in the numbers. As would be ex-pected the number of spots counted by NASA’s equipment far out numbered Kenneth’s count, but that was to be expected. He also had some photos of the Christmas Day partial solar eclipse.

Christie Konkol of Exeter Junior High, "Violet, Blue and Green What Can Be Seen". Her project consisted of a visual study of the planet Venus using various color filters to determine what cloud features and details could be seen using these different colors. She did her study for two weeks from Christmas through January and concluded that there was no optimum color filter for detecting subtle details in the cloud tops of Venus.

This Year's Junior Division winners are as follow;

Christina Miller of Cabrini Academy, "Does the Phase of the Moon Effect Our Weather Condition". Her project consisted of charting the daily temperatures and wind chill factors from July through December and comparing them to the phases of the moon. Her conclusion was that there is no correlation between the moon phases and the Weather. I thought to myself as I was reviewing this experiment, there should be a study of how our global climate is effected by the sun's phase cycle. Which if I was interested enough, it probably is being studied and there are probably results on the Internet, but I digress.

Joseph Good of Muhlenberg Middle School, "Armageddon – Not If, But When". His project studied how asteroids could have killed the dinosaurs. He researched how different size asteroids could damage our Earth. He then explored ways the scientist could either deflect or destroy a potential Earth killer asteroid.

Kalee Olson also of Muhlenberg Middle School displayed an exc ellent and neatly done presentation of her project called "The Night Sky – More Than What Meets the Eye". Her project consisted of a study of the Constellations by mapping each one out and explaining some of the mythology behind them. Her display also contained a black paper scroll on which where drawn the constellations. By turning the scroll from one side to the next, you could view each constellation as it passed by.

Thomas Trudel also of Muhlenberg Middle School, "Meteors and Comets: Are We In Danger?". His project explored the possibility of being hit by a comet or asteroid. His conclusion was that it is not likely in the near future but maybe in 1000-5000 years. It is good to be optimistic. When I see that each year a near earth passing object has been seen only as it has pasted us bye, I’m hopeful that we can actually see the one that may be heading our way.

Those where the projects that won our awards for this year’s Science fair but there was one additional project that deserves mention and we ran out of awards to give this person an award. I did not get his or her name since he or she was not one of our winners. The Project was titled "The Planet Neptune". The display was neatly done and contained a study of the planet’s atmosphere, size, orbit and make-up. The person constructed a scale model of the planet with colorings to match the pictures seen from our space probes. I hope this persons, if they may read this article, gives it another try next year and adds more to the study of the Large Gas Planet we know as Neptune.

Until next year.
Michael Bashore
BCAAS Science Fair Coordinator

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