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Volume XXIV Number V

September/October 1996

Meeting Highlights

Thursday, Sept. 12

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum. Ray Harris, LVAAS member and amateur historian and photographer, will present a unique look at ancient star charts. A serious collector of authentic as well as reproduction star atlases, Ray has found a wealth of interesting information regarding the creation and publication of these amalgams of artistry and science of times long past. Learn about the "phantom" sky objects, and the mistakes that were perpetuated from century to century. A fascinating program. Note: If you come 15 minutes early, the Reading Planetarium will be open to view our photos on display in the lobby.

Thursday Oct. 10

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum. Travel with Gary Becker, Director of the Allentown School District Planetarium, and former editor of The Reflector as he chases solar eclipses from Texas to Africa! Gary's astounding photos have been published in numerous books and astronomy magazines as well as the 1994 Astronomy calendar. Hear about the plans for the February 1998 eclipse cruise that he is organizing.

Thursday Oct. 31

Deadline: November/December Pegasus

Pegasus is a bimonthly publication of the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society. Editor/Desktop Publisher: John Dethoff. Regular contributors: Priscilla Andrews, Linda Sensenig & Dave Brown. E-mail submissions may be made to:

Special Events and Star Watches

September 7, Saturday

MEGAMEET V! Gates will be open from 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Pulpit Rock Observatory between Hamburg and Lenhartsville on Old Route 22. About 10 regional amateur astronomy clubs have been invited, from Scranton to York, Harrisburg to Philadelphia. Last year we had an incredible turn out from our club. Let's do it again!
Camping is encouraged. Bring your own water. See the progress that the Lehigh Valley club has made on the astonishing 40" reflector. Four other observatories will be open. Free coffee, no admission. New members are urged to come to their first MEGAMEET and see the array of people and equipment—the best Eastern Pennsylvania has to offer. See you there. (Raindate is September 14th.)
Call (610) 683-6397 on the afternoon of the 7th for “go or no go” info if the weather looks “iffy.”


From Reading, take Rt. 61 North. About 1 mile before it would cross Rt. 22, you need to bear right (at the Ford dealership) to enter the town of Hamburg. In the center of town, (after movie theatre) go right at light onto State Street (a.k.a. old 22). Travel about 2.5 miles and take a left onto Reservoir Rd. (This is easy to miss. Look for the blue and yellow MEGA sign). Cross next road and continue to dead end at the reservoir.

September 13, Friday

The Conrad Weiser Elementary School Starwatch will begin at dusk. George Babel will need several scopes on hand for the possibility of several hundred children and parents! Our club will be receiving an honorarium for our participation, so let's “get out there”.

September 21, Saturday

Astronomy Day II will be held from noon to evening at Boscov's North, at the Reading Fairgrounds Mall. We will need bakers, and/or donations in lieu of baked goods, for the sale which will begin at noon in the lobby of Boscov's. Hopefully, by that time, we will have procured a nice, inexpensive telescope to raffle off as a fundraiser for our club. (If anyone has a reasonably new-looking smaller scope they would like to donate to the club, or sell inexpensively, contact Priscilla at 683-6397)
At dusk, we will be set up to the left of the main entrance near the garden center. We will offer the public a “telescope garden” and hopefully, great views of the Moon and Jupiter. This may well be out last major opportunity to add to our treasury this year, so please donate your time and talents to this worthwhile public relations event.

September 26, Thursday

Eclipse watch at the Reading Public Museum. The last total lunar eclipse visible from Berks County till the year 2000! The first "bite" out of the moon will begin at 9:12 eastern time and by 10:19 PM the entire moon will be in shadow. This Harvest moon should appear dark reddish at totality, and be dark enough to afford a good view of Saturn, which lies just 3 degrees below it.
Dave Brown will give a short talk on the Museum steps followed by observing the moon and Saturn. For you new members, this type of event has been done in the past with much success and huge crowds of people. Please plan to support this and the other events this fall. You will enjoy them as much as our regular members do.

October 12, Saturday

Gather about 7:30 p.m. at the Heritage Center, north of Reading off of Rt. 183. This is the second of two public starwatches planned with the Berks County Parks and Recreation Department. Bring your scopes, and pray for clear skies!

October 12-13, Saturday/Sunday

BCASS Spaghetti O's Masters Classic Invitational Field Trip !

Tired of trying to see past your neighbors dusk to dawn light? Sick of having your film ruined by light pollution sky fog? Fed up with your scope not performing the way it should because of lousy sky conditions? Had it with reading this paragraph?
Then get ready to pack your bags for a trip to the Promised Land for astronomers—an overnight trek to Spruce Knob, West Virginia! This is where your telescope will do everything it's supposed to do, and you can feast your eyes on the darkest skies east of the Mississippi! At a 5000 foot elevation (as high as Denver, Colorado), you have arctic tundra growth underfoot and 40 miles of visibility in all 4 directions to the nearest habitation!
Caution! This is not your cozy bed and breakfast trip! It's a 5 hour drive to Blackwater Falls, WV. Then for observing, an additional 1 hour drive up to the summit on a dirt road is required. There are no creature comforts at the site, so all amenities will need to be taken along. I've been there. Trust me, it's worth the effort.
We would leave Saturday morning, October 12, and return Sunday afternoon, October 13. Anyone interested in this adventure should contact Dave Brown at 926-3797, or E-mail to We can car pool, share equipment, whatever it takes to make it enjoyable. Call me.

October 26-27, Saturday

Discover Your Museum Days. Held from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. at the Reading Public Museum. This year we have planned an “interactive” table inside the museum. We will need two or three volunteers to interest young people in an astronomy project. So far, one idea is to have them arrange the planets in order from the Sun. This will be a fun, visual, and challenging game for children. Any other ideas and offers to help will be most welcome!

From the President

by: Priscilla Andrews

“Astonishing” and “amazing” are only two of the superlatives describing the support our events have received from our BCAAS members! I never expected eleven members to sacrifice either time, sleep, or work to be there at the Leesport Flea Market in the middle of the day of a work week!
The Hawk Mountain public starwatch attracted over 25 members with scopes and binoculars, and friends and families! All told, about 50 BCAAS affiliates arrived with bells on for our August 17th event! What a crew!
We are definitely on a roll, and I see no end in sight! Please check the up-coming events and, whether or not you think you can attend, write them in your calendar! That way, as time changes our plans, we will at least know the dates, and won't miss a great time because, “I forgot about it!” I have heard this a lot lately, and I am sure that one reason is that our Pegasus is a bi-monthly publication. By the second month, we have misplaced, or misfiled our newsletter, and can easily forget about the event we thought we'd never forget when we first read about it. Just take the next minute and mark your calendar.
Now that you are back…I'd like to take a moment and share with you some long-range thoughts on the future of our club. You might be asking lately, “Why the great momentum to increase the treasury?”
First of all, you may have noticed the quality of our programming. We have had first class speakers to whom we offer an honorarium. Some, like Dr. Lauer, decline, and donate it to our club, but many do not.
I hope you have also noticed the up-grading of Pegasus! Not only is the style sleek and visual, but our list of authors is growing by the month! As much as we enjoy receiving our new improved Pegasus, we must be reminded that it is also costing the club more in publication and mailing costs.
Also new in the last two years are the additional expenses of group insurance, donations to the Museum improvement fund, the hotline, and now the new Website. All of these expenditures are catapulting our club into many new arenas, like community relations and state-of-the-art communications. While our board at the last meeting, decided to table the issue of raising our membership dues for the present, we will, as a club, have to face the future, more determined that ever, to be willing to support our fund-raising efforts. Make this next Astronomy Day II, your personal contribution to the future of BCAAS. Bake those cookies, buy those raffle tickets, come on out and wow the public with your knowledge and love of the sky. We need your help, as much as the donations from eager and interested members of the public.
Now that I have rattled the donation bucket, may I offer a vision of the more distant future. One day maybe sooner than even I suspect, we will have an opportunity. A great opportunity, benefactor, or a county association, impressed by our efforts and eager to support the sciences, may offer us a site for an observatory, or a club house. We must be ready to seize such an opportunity! We will need materials, and specialized labor to make the dream of a BCAAS observatory possible. This is the vision I see for our club. We must be ready.
To everyone who has so loyally and selflessly participated in our fundraising events, thank you! To our new members, or members still without faces to us, please consider donating your time and talent to our events. You are missing all the fun, and we are missing you!

BCAAS Members Shine in The Reflector

Read the latest issue of The Reflector very carefully! That wonderful color photo of Comet Hyakutake on page 16 was taken by none other than our own Barry Shupp! This photo can also be seen at the Reading Planetarium's photo exhibit of our club's comet pictures if you come 15 minutes early to our September meeting!
Also published on page 11, was Priscilla's essay on the comet which appeared in our Pegasus, called Berenice's Braid! Priscilla was also mentioned in the announcement of the up-coming MEGAMEET V! By way of, Priscilla has not jumped ship from the Berks Club. She is also coordinator of the Megameet for the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society.

Editor’s Note

In the interest of saving money, it has been suggested that we e-mail Pegasus to those who are wired to the internet and do not feel they need to receive a hard copy. I have some reservations about this since it is easy to forget to check Pegasus. It is nice to have the “real thing” available as a reminder and to show to friends. Please let me know how you feel about this so we can get a consensus.
Be sure to check our web site at: We now offer an electronic version of Pegasus, general news about the club, and a membership list. The most recent addition is an area to display astronomy related pictures. If you have photos that you would like displayed and need them digitized, let me know. I will scan them for you. John Dethoff

Our Summer Vacation

by Candie Simmons

Last year, when an inheritance and vacation bonus came into conjunction (how do you like that astronomical jargon?), we decided to do another one of our legendary cross country trips. When we entered the planning stages, we faced a problem. We could either take the kids and camping gear or we could take the Oddessy. After a lot of budget juggling we ordered a Starsplitter Compact 10" scope, especially for the trip. When we first set up the scope, the images looked awful. We tried everything, including having the secondary replaced. After several grindingly depressing observing runs, we got the Big Dob out for comparison. Turns out that our backyard observing site was causing most of the problems.
On June 18th, our kids finally finished school and we shoved the last item in the car. We knew that there would be no chance to observe until we reached Yellowstone, our first camping spot. I was drooling in anticipation. It was perhaps as well that we packed the scope at the bottom of the load, because we never saw the sun until the second day we were in Yellowstone.
The first clear night, Kevin and I waited with eager anticipation for the velvet black of our first dark skies…and we waited…and waited …and…zzzzzzzz ! It was 11:00. I was asleep in my lawn chair, leaking blood from mosquito holes and I could still read my watch by available light. What was going on? It's altitude, gang. When you're way up above 8000 feet, not only do you develop altitude sickness, but it doesn't get dark until late, too late.
For a number of reasons, we never saw dark skies in Yellowstone. We had lots of partly cloudy nights. We were exhausted from doing full days of walking and sightseeing. We were battling altitude sickness and interrupted nights. (Those fitful nights were not filled with passion, as some of you gutter brains are thinking.) It came mostly from fear about vague noises that just may have been a bear right outside the thin walls of our tent. We moved on to the coast, and hopes of nighttime splendor.
The northern coast of California is gorgeous. It is also the home of the California coastal redwoods. Nestled into a grove of these exquisite giants was Jedidiah Smith State Park, our next stop. It is really difficult to identify stars for observing when all you can see is one through the screen of trees. We were still exhausted at night and the ubiquitous nightly fog put a damper on such plans.
In Yosemite we finally cracked the scope out and did some serious observing. Well, I mean as serious as Kevin & I are capable of being. The first two nights, we were restricted pretty much by the surrounding trees, in the campground. We could see what was at zenith, but oh Lordy! the things we saw. For us, the 10" Starsplitter is a step down in size from our 13" Oddessy. I simply was not prepared for the difference the dark skies made. M13 was one of our first objects. This was no fuzzy patch. Instead, M13 developed a distinct 3 dimension appearance, resolving itself into a jewel like ball of stars. (Pretty neat, since that's what it is.) Dust lanes in the Milky Way were velvet black. I even picked out sections of the Veil Nebula with no filter.
The final night of our stay, we resolved to fight exhaustion and head to a site we had found earlier in the day. It was an amply sized "scenic vista" pull off on the road to Tuolumne Meadows. The distinct advantage was that, because we had the car right next to us, the kids could sleep in the car, while we observed. They were so tired, the only thing they could do was feebly fight on the 40 minute drive to the site. In spite of some light pollution from the inland valleys to the west, the night was amazing. Our best views were looking south and west. The far horizon was still tinged with a vestige of sunset when we pulled in, but as we set up, the dark folded in, only to discover that we too had fallen prey to "Dave Brown Syndrome". The sky filled with so many stars that…we couldn’t find the constellations! The Milky Way looked like a luminous veil and the "Mother's Milk" of Indian religion became clear. The most stunning aspect was that in the transparent and steady skies nothing twinkled. Every star remained a pinpoint speck of light, still and unwavering. This was what we came for. We could not stay long. I was so exhausted and sunburned from a day walking in the high meadows that I couldn't do a single drawing. I do not know how I made it back through the sobriety checkpoint without the police questioning the veracity of my statement that I hadn't had a drink in the last 2 years, let alone 2 hours.
As we traveled down the Pacific coast, we hit increasingly more light pollution and the incessant nightly fogs. Our final night of observing came at El Capitan State Beach, north of Santa Barbara. There, I had a spectacular view out over the ocean. I did my first and only astronomical drawing of the Lagoon Nebula, We managed to find Comet Hale Bopp. We even saw a fair number of meteors sprinkling the sky.
The final leg of our trip took us through fog, light pollution, and a cloudy desert and midwest. We did no observing. We did hope to make one final astronomical stop. We spent a grinding day mineral hunting and viewing petroglyphs in the desert, but we were spending the night in Soccoro, New Mexico, touted as the "home" of the Very Large Array. We found tourist literature and looked for directions, hoping to visit the next morning before we began the final drive of our trip.
For us, our vacation was a once in a lifetime (actually this is the third time we've done a cross country trip, but who's counting?) opportunity. We were so overwhelmed by the amount of things to see and do. What we saw was fused into our memories of a trip that was wonderful and unforgettable. Best of all, it was done under dark skies.

Mythology of the Sky: Ophiuchus

by Linda Sensenig

This large constellation stretches from just east of the head of Hercules to Scorpio, partly in the Milky Way, divided nearly equally by the celestial equator. Although always shown with the Serpent, the catalogues have its stars entirely distinct from the latter.
Ophiuchus, the “serpent holder”, is generally identified with Aesculapius, whom King James I described as “a mediciner made after a god”, with whose worship serpents were always associated as symbols of prudence, renovation, wisdom, and the power of discovering healing herbs. Educated by his father, Apollo, Aesculapius was the earliest in his profession and the shilys surgeon of the Argo. When the famous voyage was over, he became so skilled in practice that he even restored the dead to life.
But several such successful operations and numerous remarkable cures led Pluto (who, as god of the underworld, was none too happy about the souls in his domain returning to the and of the living) to induce Jupiter to strike Aesculapius with a thunderbolt and put him among the constellations.
Much superstition is associated with the stars in Ophiucus. Pliny said that these stars were dangerous to mankind, occasioning much mortality by poisoning. Milton compared Satan to the burning comet that “fires” this constellation—a comparison suggested by the fact that so many comets throughout history have appeared here. Comets in 1495, 1523, 1537, 1569 and 1996 have appeared in this constellation…yes, I said 1996. In September, Comet Hale-Bopp will be in Ophiucus. Perhaps these ancients were on to something!
In addition to all the comets, in 123 AD the second nova of which we have reliable record appeared in Ophiucus. At least three other novae have appeared here: in 1230, 1604 and 1848.
So, keep looking up at Ophlucus! You never know what you might find!

Magazine Renewal

It's that time of year again when Astronomy and Sky & Telescope are due for renewal. If you subscribe to S&T through the club discount, you will be receiving a renewal notice in the mail. Please give that notice to the treasurer along with your check for $27.00.
Astronomy magazine usually sends us a listing of those who subscribe through the club. I was told that there will probably not be an increase in the subscription price —it should remain at $20. I have not received the list as yet. If your subscription is through the club discount, give me a check for $20.00. If the subscription does go up, I can collect the balance later.
This year, all renewal money must be paid to the treasurer before your renewal is processed.
Note to new members: if you are currently receiving Astronomy or S&T, consider renewing at this time through the club. You will receive a major discount. New subscribers are also welcome.
Astronomy wall calendars are now available for ordering. The cost is $6.00 and needs to be paid at the time you order. Give your order to the treasurer by the October meeting.

Flea Market Fundraiser

A big "thank you" to all who helped make our flea market a success. Our president was amazed by how many members were at Leesport, sacrificing sleep or actually taking off from work in order to stand under the hot sun to make money for the club. Our success has given the word "junk" a new meaning!
It didn't start out to be a successful day—we had been assured that we had a reserved spot with tables. In fact, I spent 45 minutes walking back and forth trying to find our reserved spot, I never bothered checking out the numerous stands on the hill because these were first-come-first-serve spots without tables. Surely we couldn’t be there—we had a reservation. Finally, in desperation, I headed for the office where I was informed that there must have been a mix-up, because we were on the hill.
Fortunately, Paul, who hauled all our goodies to Leesport in his van after working all night, was already there. He, along with Lloyd (Guardian of the money box), Dave (who at that time I was thinking of as “Dead Man Walking“ because he was the one who assured us we had a reservation), and Dan had done an excellent job of unloading and displaying all our goodies on the ground. Dad decided to drive back home again and bring a few of our tables so we could display everything better.
In addition to my parents (Clarence and Jennie), our sales force consisted of Lloyd, Betty Perry, Karl Kuehn, Barry Buchert, and Priscilla. Our sales force has to be of top-notch quality, because shortly after noon, Priscilla closed the stand. We made $100 on what was basically small items that nobody wanted. And, because Priscilla was able to convince some of the dealers that it would be to their advantage to buy all the goodies we had left over, we were able to pack up the tables and make a clean getaway!
And, from those of us who had to sit or stand under the hot sun selling this stuff—a big thanks to Lloyd for his tent!!

Just a reminder to those who like classical music—The Reading Symphony Orchestra will include “The Planets” in their concert on Saturday, October 26, at 8:00 p.m. If you are interested in attending, you can contact the Ticket Center.




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