Volume 32 Issue 4

July / August  2006

In this issue:

1.  President's Massage
2.  From Thunderstorms to Solar Storms...
3.  Night Sky Network
4.  Late Breaking News
5. Auntie Em! Auntie Em!
6. Astro League Info
6. Up Coming 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:

Slate of 2006 Club Officers

Prez—Dave Brown

Veep—Bret Cadmus

Trea$urer—Linda $en$enig

Secretary/Night Sky Network—Barb Geigle

Webslinger—Mike Bashore

Hot line—Paul Becker

PR—Barry Shupp

Pegasus et cetera—Melody

President's Message

In lieu of the President’s Message, a little information about black holes from the Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Using Chandra spectra obtained from more than 300 super massive black holes in the centers of galaxies, a team of astronomers has been able to determine the amount of iron near the black holes. The black holes were all located in the North and South Chandra Deep Fields, where the faintest and most-distant X-ray objects can be identified.

The left side of the above graphic shows portions of X-ray spectra from a subset of 50 black holes about 9 billion light years away (upper panel), and another group of 22 black holes that are about 11 billion light years away (lower panel). The peaks in the spectra are produced by X-ray emission from iron atoms, and indicate that approximately the same amount of iron was present around black holes 9 billion years and 11 billion years in the past.

Similar results corresponding to times ranging from 5 billion years to 9 billion years in the past show that the amount of iron around black holes has not changed significantly over the past 11 billion years. This implies that most of the iron in the galaxies that contain these super massive black holes was created before the Universe was about 2 billion years old, when galaxies were very young.

The distinctive X-ray spectral peaks are produced by the fluorescence of iron atoms in a doughnut-shaped torus orbiting a super massive black hole. In this process, high-energy X-rays from hot gas very near the black hole excite the iron atoms to a higher energy state, and they almost immediately return to their lower energy state with the emission of a lower-energy, fluorescent X-ray.

From Thunderstorms to Solar Storms…

by Patrick L. Barry

When severe weather occurs, there's a world of difference for people on the ground between a storm that's overhead and one that's several kilometers away. Yet current geostationary weather satellites can be as much as 3 km off in pinpointing the true locations of storms. A new generation of weather satellites will boost this accuracy by 2 to 4 times.

The first in this new installment of NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites series, called GOES-N, was launched May 24 by NASA and Boeing for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). (A new polar-orbiting weather satellite, NOAA-18, was launched May 2005.)

Along with better accuracy at pinpointing storms, GOES-N sports a raft of improvements that will enhance our ability to monitor the weather—both normal, atmospheric weather and "space weather."

"Satellites eventually wear out or get low on fuel, so we've got to launch new weather satellites every few years if we want to keep up the continuous eye on weather that NOAA has maintained for more than 30 years now," says Thomas Wrublewski, liaison officer for NOAA at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Currently, GOES-N is in a "parking" orbit at 90° west longitude over the equator. For the next 6 months it will remain there while NASA thoroughly tests all its systems.

If all goes well, it will someday replace one of the two active GOES satellites -  either the eastern satellite (75°W) or the western one (135°W), depending on the condition of those satellites at the time. Unlike all previous GOES satellites, GOES-N carries star trackers aboard to precisely determine its orientation in space. Also for the first time, the storm-tracking instruments have been mounted to an "optical bench," which is a very stable platform that resists thermal warping. These two improvements will let scientists say with 2 to 4 times greater accuracy exactly where storms are located.

Also, X-ray images of the Sun taken by GOES-N will be about twice as sharp as before. The new Solar X-ray Imager (SXI) will also automatically identify solar flares as they happen, instead of waiting for a scientist on the ground to analyze the images. Flares affect space weather, triggering geomagnetic storms that can damage communications satellites and even knock out city power grids. The improved imaging and detection of solar flares by GOES-N will allow for earlier warnings.

So for thunderstorms and solar storms alike, GOES-N will be an even sharper eye in the sky.

Find out more about GOES-N at Also, for young people, the SciJinks Weather Laboratory at now includes a printable booklet titled "How Do You Make a Weather Satellite?" Just click on Technology.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

New GOES-N satellite launches, carrying an imaging radiometer, an atmospheric sounder, and a collection of other space environment monitoring instruments.

Night Sky Network Announcement

Night Sky Network Teleconference July 27th: "Searching for Habitable New Worlds and for Life in the Universe"

Join the Night Sky Network and award winning scientist Dr. Geoff Marcy for a teleconference sure to open up a world of possibilities.

Dr. Geoff Marcy is one of the "heavy-hitter" scientists of the astronomy community with several awards under his belt: The Shaw Prize (2005), Discover Magazine: Space Scientist of the Year (2003), NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement (2003), California Scientist of the Year (2000) to name only a few. Perhaps his greatest distinction is the fact that he and his team have discovered more than half of all the extrasolar planets discovered so far!

This is your opportunity to participate in a teleconference with one of the most knowledgeable and accomplished scientists in the field of astronomy and physics today.

Teleconference: "Searching for Habitable New Worlds and for Life in the Universe" by Dr. Geoff Marcy

Thursday, July 27th, 9:00 pm Eastern

Toll-free conference call line: 1-877-917-1549. Call anytime after 5:45 pm the evening of the telecon. An operator will answer and:

- You will be asked for the passcode: NIGHT SKY NETWORK
- You might be asked for the call leader: MICHAEL GREENE
- You will be asked to give your NAME and the CLUB you belong to, and number of people listening with you.

If you have any questions or want additional information regarding the Night Sky Network, please contact Barb Geigle at

Late Breaking News, E-mails, and Other Cool Stuff!!!!


Jack Troeger, who is a member-at-large of the Astronomical League, runs an organization called Dark Sky Initiative. According to his website, this organization seeks to educate, motivate and activate for darker skies. If you would like to know more about what this organization does, their website is


It is time to start thinking about purchasing the 2007 Astronomy wall calendar. This year the price has gone up just a bit - it is now $6.50. I can show you at the meeting what the pictures are for 2007. These make excellent Christmas gifts for friends and family. I want to send our preliminary order off near the end of September. It’s nice to have your payment at the time of the order, however as in other years, if this is not possible, just let me know how many calendars you want and I’ll order them. You can pay me later. This discount is open to anyone who is a member of BCAAS.

- Linda Sensenig

The scene might have been considered serene if it weren't for the tornado. Last June in Kansas, storm chaser Eric Nguyen photographed this budding twister in a different light -- the light of a rainbow. Pictured above, a white tornado cloud descends from a dark storm cloud. The Sun, peeking through a clear patch of sky to the left, illuminates some buildings in the foreground. Sunlight reflects off raindrops to form a rainbow. By coincidence, the tornado appears to end right over therainbow. Streaks in the image are hail being swept about by the high swirling winds. Over 1,000 tornadoes, the most violent type of storm known, occur on Earth every year, many in tornado alley. If you see a tornado while driving, do not try to outrun it -- park your car safely, go to a storm cellar, or crouch under steps in a basement.

To all Astronomical League club Presidents, ALCors, and Newsletter Editors:

Below is a brief message highlighting an important source of information about the Astronomical League - Please feel free to include it in your next club newsletter!

John Jardine Goss—Astronomical League, Secretary

How can I learn more about the Astronomical League?

Amateur astronomers from across the country benefit from perusing the many pages of the Astronomical League's website,

Naturally, this is the place to go if you're looking for information about upcoming events and League news. But there is so much more...

Want to learn all about one of the great League observing programs?

Go to

Do you know of a worthy candidate for one of the many League awards?

Look at

Are you interested in buying a particular book about our fascinating hobby?

Then go to

There is even something to help your club function better.


Make the most of your Astronomical League membership! To find out more about what the Astronomical League offers you, why not log on to today?


Thursday July 13 - 7:30pm — Monthly club meeting at the Reading Planetarium. Tonight's program will be announced

Friday August 4 - 6:00pm — Public Star Watch at the Berks Heritage Center. We will be viewing the night sky through binoculars and telescopes. Members of the public can bring their own scopes to have club members help them use their scope or they can view the galactic objects through the club scopes and members' scopes. Rain/cloud out date for this event is Saturday August 5th, same time.

" will occasionally stumble over the truth, but usually manages to pick himself up, walk over or around it, and carry on." — Winston Churchill


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