Volume XXVI Number 6

November/December 2000

Upcoming Highlights

November 9 - 7:30 p.m.- Reading Public Museum

Ron Kunkle will give an informative talk about past, and current astronomy software available for our computing needs. Maybe you can find that perfect gift for someone, or for yourself.

December 14 - 7:30 p.m.- Reading Public Museum

Annual Christmas party, and elections. The whole family is invited to this shindig. Food, awards, music, FUN! Hope to see you all there. Please bring covered dish.

In this issue:

1. Presidents Message
Late Calendar Orders
For Sale
Dear BCASS members:
5. A Legend Will Forever
A Layman’s Guide to Stellar Evolution
Email Directory
Mythology of the night sky - Pisces

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

Editor/Desktop publisher: Bob and Joanne Capone

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

President’s message

Well we're on the threshold of the holidays- again. Seems like the year just started. Mine hasn't been been overly enjoyable (not counting the club) - I hope yours has. We've had some successes with our programs, but many disappointments. Let's hope for better luck next year. One thing I would like to see us do is sponsor a mid-Winter starwatch for the public. There are some great Winter views(Orion) and crisp clear skies. Maybe we can work around any bad weather and have one. The Christmas party in December should be a fun time for all, and don't forget that it's your chance to present any "awards" you may have in mind for someone who has accomplished something noteworthy- good or bad. As we approach the real new Millennium, I wish you all the best for this year's end, and the new year's beginning

Barry L. Shupp, Pres. BCAAS


Even though the main Astronomy calendar order has been placed, if you have not ordered a calendar but would still like one, I can place another order. The only change is that in order for you to pay $6.50, we need a minimum of 12 calendars in our order. HOWEVER--if we order less than 12, you still get a 45% discount as opposed to the 50% discount. So, even if you are the ONLY ONE who wants a calendar, you only pay $7.00. The general public pays $12.95.

Linda Sensenig



Orion 10X70 binoculars for $150.00. These are the original hand holdable 10X70 binoculars that Orion used to sell with a full 7mm exit pupil and 5 degree fov. Unfortunately they are no longer available. They are fully multi-coated with BAK4 prisms. The binocs are in excellent shape, and have seen little use since I purchased my 16X70 Fujinons several years ago. That is the only reason I am selling them. If interested, please contact me.

Tim Siminski

Dear BCASS members:

I was asked to inform you that. The ALCon executive staff needs help for the convention to be held in Frederick, Maryland July 24th-28th 2001. We are looking for people that are willing to help out. If you help out, we will WAV registration fees. The registration fees range from 75-140 before May. Please contact me back ASAP.

Thanx Much!

Ryan Hannahoe

A Legend Will Forever

Change the Life of a Young Astronomer We sit on a famous breezy hill at Springfield, Vermont, the one known as Stellafane. Stellafane is the birthplace of amateur astronomy as we know it. Some readers of this article may have competed there in the Amateur Telescope Making competitions. The time of this talk is a Friday afternoon on which the clouds are calm and the wind is a cool breeze. I sit down with a man you know as David Levy, a man who has changed the lives of thousands with his inspiring talks. I quote Carl Sagan in saying, " We cannot look out into space without looking back into time." So let's listen in and find out the impossible. David's own heroes are people like Elizabeth Willianson, Clyde Tombaugh, Leslie Peltier, and the now legendary amateur astronomer Walter Scott Houston. David met Clyde Tombaugh, who became one of his best friends, when he had a childhood illness of asthma. Clyde started out as a farm boy who, at age 5, had a dream of knowing what was out there in the Universe. As children of that age, most of us think the moon is made of green cheese. But Clyde had the dream of going to the moon. Another of Levy's mentors was Elizabeth Willianson, the person who brought women into astronomy. Mr. Levy, a Canadian, met her at the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Elizabeth presented David with an assignment. She gave him a map of 300 craters on the moon, and asked him to label them from one to three hundred. This project began David's drive to start a hobby that became his life's work. Walter Scott Houston taught David, "not to tell people what you're going to do in astronomy, just go ahead and do it." David is not a professional Astronomer, but an inspiring full time writer and amateur astronomer. And he has gone ahead and become one of the most famous astronomers in the world. David thinks it's important to look at astronomy to know why you want to be active in it. Is it that you want to meet other people? Is it that you want to be involved in the political part of astronomy? Do you just want to share you knowledge with other people? All those are reasons to joining an astronomy club. So what do you think Mr. Levy does in his astronomy club? He used to be president of the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association for many years. But when he was 14, he made a difference by starting his on astronomy club, which he called the "Amateur Astronomers Association." The reason he started his own club was because the club in Montreal, Canada, where he lived, had a rule of that you couldn't join until age 16. He really enjoyed breaking the rule by starting his own club! Now lets go back in time to find out what kind of scope was David's first. Back in the 1960s you might have heard about the "Sky Scope." It's a little 3.5inch f/11 reflector. His uncle brought it to him in the Christmas of 1960. Boy what a treat that must have been, to get your first telescope. But then, there's nothing like your first telescope. After he received his telescope, he worked on a science fair project that would last a lifetime for most of us. The project he did was to display his observing log. You might think that's not much of a project unless you have 600 different observing sessions to show. It was a record. But what really got David into astronomy? He says he was riding his bike to school while in 6th grade in 1960, hit a curb, fell off, and broke his arm. His cousin gave him a book about the planets as a "get well" present, and David was hooked. Many years lager. David had still never taken a course in astronomy at college. because he learned that he couldn't be a professional. You see, as an English major, he didn't have the math. But David doesn't just look at the narrow physics part of astronomy. Instead, he looks to see how it spreads its tentacles into just about every aspect of life. During his college career, Mr. Levy took geology courses and English courses. And he discovered an amazing thing: poets throughout the ages have done amazing work writing about astronomy. So he ended up getting two degrees, a BS and a Masters, writing about both astronomy and literature. He was able to do that, and thoroughly enjoy doing it, because he has a passion for reading and poetry, as well as astronomy. It's not just poetry when a writer sits down and writes something about the night skies. Shakespeare, for example, takes the battle between Astrology and Astronomy and puts it right into its place. Shakespeare wrote some of the most famous plays written, and maybe is the most famous writer who ever lived. In his play King Lear, eclipses played a big role. "So," as David says, "astronomy isn't just for astronomers, it's for everybody. It's for poets and writers, and it's for everyone else." Furthermore, according to geology, we are probably here today because a comet collided with the earth 65 million years ago, destroying the dinosaurs. The organ of life probably comes from comets. Astronomy thus has to do with biology, and of course SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, is as much about biology as astronomy. There are other areas that involve astronomy that have nothing to do with science at all. In art, for example, great paintings like Van Gogh's "Starry Night" can be interpreted astronomically. Astronomy goes into everything. After going through college Mr. Levy discovered his favorite observing site: his back yard in Tucson, AZ, that has 7th magnitude skies. So what kind of telescopes do you think he has now? He has a 16inch, an 8-inch", a 6-inch, an 8-inch Schmidt cam-era, a 10- inch Cassegrain, an 8-inch Cass, and that first 3.5 inch refractor. He uses five others as finders. It's quite a bit, but there is an observatory to house them all that's about 12 feet wide and 32 feet long. With such a massive telescope collection, what has he discovered with them? It's been six years since he found a comet. But before that six years, he had discovered 21 comets. He also discovered a nova while he was doing research for his biography of Clyde Tombaugh. And he found out while going through his observing notes that, in fact, he had observed a nova and never reported it. Later, while working with some Harvard Observatory photographs, David was able to find his nova again, and discovered that there were 10 other outbursts of it over the years. Then, when he went ahead and started observing that field for about 6 months, he found the star in outburst again. So he then reported his results as a long series of observations. This recurring nova is now called TV Corvae, in the constellation Corvus. He says this was one of the most satisfying things that he's been involved with. What about that question that pops into all our minds, "How can I fight light pollution in my community?" David has done so by becoming a member of the IDA, or the International Dark-Sky Association. He has also written a lot about dark skies and how to save them in Sky & Telescope magazine, Including one article about the Stellafane problem. Should an astronomy club be affiliated with the Astronomical League? His club in Tucson is not affiliated. David says he has been trying to get it affiliated for years and it has not worked. There's a lot of politics involved. The best thing to do is to write to one of the officers of the League. Get information on how a club could join, then present it to the board. Say why you think this is a good idea, and that it's not that expensive. But the main thing membership in the AL gives your club is a national presence. A little club in a little city can now be a part of a national league / organization. That is the best reason for joining the Astronomical League. What has astronomy done for David? Everything! Before he got married to his wife Wendee, astronomy was his whole life. And he still finds it a very satisfying life. There is not a whole lot of time that he's not doing something related to astronomy. What in astronomy has David found fun? Just about every aspect of it, he says. He enjoys going to conventions like Stellafane. It's a way of enjoying the sky with other people. He doesn't get to enough conferences because he's so busy right now, and he has to limit it to just a couple of events a year. But David says he loves going to them. He finds it fun to observe with his telescopes and hunt for comets. How can a teenager make a difference in Astronomy today? David says teenagers have an enthusiasm that's furthered by experience. In has astronomical career, David has seen decades of both disappointment and pleasure. But most teenagers haven't yet felt the disappointments of astronomy. So they tend to be enthusiastic. As David says, when you get to be older you'll find staying up all night is more difficult. A teenager can miss a whole nights sleep What has David been doing in the last year? He has written three books, including a biography of Gene Shoemaker, his co-discovered of the comet that impacted Jupiter in 1994, a scientific book of the cosmos, and a book of last summer's eclipse. And he's done a lot of hours of comet hunting and yet made no discovery. Mr. Levy did discover a ring of stars while comet hunting. He calls them Wendee's Ring, named after his wife. But David is enjoying astronomy as much as ever. The most important thing is that he expanded the observatory that he uses. David is one of the nicest persons you will ever meet. I have the honor in saying, "Astronomy is one of the very view hobbies in which one can sit with their heroes and discuss the heavens." Mr. Levy and I sit on a committee of which the goals are to promote "Youth in Astronomy." You can see what that committee is doing on our web site at You can contact me at If you don't have a computer or email, you can contact me via telephone at (610)-926-6638.

Always in Astronomy,

Ryan M. Hannahoe

A Layman's Guide to Stellar Evolution

This article is part of a series dealing with stellar evolution. The articles are written by a layman to convey that understanding to others. To that extent, errors and omissions should be excused. The series will cover the formation of stars, their energy produc-tion, assemblages, and their deaths. For comments, please contact the author.

Article 8, The Formation of White Dwarfs

In the prior articles we have traced the formation of a star to it's giant phase as it exhausted it's Hydrogen fuel and started fusing Helium. But the Helium fusion process for Red Giants or Supergiants is a very short lived stellar phase. In this article we will trace the evolution of a one (1) solar mass star as it exhausts it's Helium source of fusion materials and it evolves ever more rapidly. And then in the next article's, we'll track the evolution of even more massive stars as they evolve beyond their giant phases. In these latter cases, the star evolves very rapidly and ever more violently.

In a one solar mass star, like our sun, when it has exhausted it's Helium source of fusion into Carbon, the core and the entire outer envelope of the star will begin to contract due to the imbalance caused by the lack of energy out flow. The ensuing gravitational contraction and heating of the core continues until a point where the core mass is no longer compressible, but yet it is not hot enough to begin fusing the Carbon that now exists in the core. The core resists further compression because the matter has become a very high density, degenerate state, explainable only on the basis of quantum physics. The outer layers of the star fall upon this incompressible core and bounce off the core and are expelled into space. The visible effect is called a stellar nova. It is not an explosion, although it happens over a very short period of time. The star sort of pushes off it's outer layers, forming what is called a planetary nebula. Note, the term planetary nebula has nothing to do with planets. These nebula from novae can be observed as they expand at about 20 km per second, away from the dying star and eventually become too tenuous to be visible after about 50,000 years. M57 (Ring Nebula) and M27 (Dumbbell Nebula) are prime examples of young planetary nebula. The Veil nebula is an example of an older planetary nebula. The remnant core of the star, now a bare exposed core, is a very hot, very dense, small object called a White Dwarf. The White Dwarf cools slowly, and because it has no source of energy production, it very slowly radiates it's heat away into space. Because it is so small and has very little surface area, it cools very slowly over billions of years and eventually disappears from view as a Black Dwarf. White Dwarfs are thought to be very common, but they are also very difficult to detect, thus few appear in the H-R plots. Black Dwarfs are presumably only detectably via their gravitation effects.

A Red Dwarf star (less than 0.4 solar mass) never evolves into the intermediate phase Red Giant because the star has a fully convective structure and all it's Hydrogen is mixed into the core and converted to Helium. When it's Hydrogen fuel is finally exhausted the whole star contracts into a small hot White Dwarf of degenerate matter, thus bypassing the Red Giant stage. It also likely does not produce a planetary nebula. And of course, the White Dwarf then cools ever so slowly until it finally disappears from view as a Black Dwarf.

The formation of White Dwarfs is the evolution path for marginally sub-solar mass to a few solar mass stars after they have exhausted their sources of fusion, either Hydrogen or Helium. The evolution of stars more massive than the Sun beyond their Helium fusing phase (Red Giant or Supergiant) is very different from that of solar mass stars. These stars violently selfdestruct as we'll see in the next article in this series.

Ron Kunkle


Priscilla Andrews
Mike Aulenbach
Mike Bashore
Tom Boussum
Dave & Brown
Dan Brown
Barry Buchert
Robert Bukovsky
Bob Capone
Rick Carpenter
Larry Citro
David Cocozza
Dan Davidson
John Dethoff
Bruce Dietrich
Bill Faust
Ryan Hannahoe
Eric Knight
Michelle Koch
Jim Kramer
Ron Kunkel
Erroll Lapham
Kathy Matisko
Keith Minnich
Josh Mitchell
Jeffrey Nemeroff
Alexandra Niculce
Bob Page
Mark Painter
Betty Perry
Jason Poirier
Gene Salvatore
Terry Sarangoulis
Linda Sensenig
Barry Shupp
Mike Stump
Tim Siminski
Kevin & Candi Simmons
John Stutzman
Ed Swier
Scott Ulmer
Lee Zelley
Gale Zorian


This constellation, mythologically speaking, harbors a secret. Whenever you see it pictured, you see a single fish. Whenever you see its zodiac symbol, you see a fish. Imagine my surprise as I read about Pisces in "Star Names, Their Lore and Meaning" by Richard Hinkley Allen (my textbook for all my articles) and discovered there are TWO little fishes swimming across the night sky! They are widely separated in the sky, the northeastern one lying just south of Beta Andromedae, headed towards it, and the southeastern one east from and headed towards Aquarius and Pegasus. And, buried somewhere in this constellation in a comparatively starless region where it will be hard to find, is the First Point of Aries which, due to precession is no longer in Aries but in Pisces. This First Point of Aries is the astrological way of saying the vernal equinox which makes Pisces the first of the zodiacal constellations in our era. Therefore, the Fishes are called the Leaders of the Celestial Host.

In ancient Egypt and Greece, this constellation came to be associated with calamity. The northern Fish has sometimes been considered the representation of the sea creature sent to devour Andromeda, since it is located much closer to Andromeda in the sky than Cetus. Some Egyptians were said to have abstained from eating sea-fish out of dread, and when they would express anything odious in their writings, the used a fish in their hieroglyphics. Pliny (I don’t know if it was the Elder or the Younger) wrote that a comet appearing in Pisces foretold of religious strife.

However, somewhere along the line, this constellation’s reputation might have improved, because as early as the 1830s a planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in Pisces was being considered as the "Star of Bethlehem" that led the Magi to the Christ child. They certainly would not have traveled hundreds of miles over desert sands to seek the birth of a king who would change the destiny of the world because of a sign that appeared in a constellation that foretold doom and calamity!

Pisces really is a constellation of surprises and contrasts. There are no really bright stars to mark it’s location in the sky, however with the weather getting colder and the night sky getting darker, it should be visible in fall and early winter.

Linda Sensenig

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