Volume XXVII Number 6

November / December 2001

In this issue:

1. Presidents message
Wanted - Preferably Alive
Mythology of The Night Sky - Ursa Minor
Stella Della Valley
5. East Coast Star Party
Upcoming Events
Meet BCAAS President...Barry Shupp
Astronomy Terms

President’s message


As we approach the holiday seasons, we can look back on our recent starwatch season with pride. We’ve had many successful starwatches over Summer and Fall, including the just completed Heritage Center event where we saw the International Space Station pass overhead, and Ron Kunkel gave another informative and entertaining talk to the crowd of 50 or more eager observers waiting for the clouds to dissipate. We have remaining this month a starwatch at Daniel Boone Homestead for a scout group, and a club meteorwatch scheduled for November 16th at 7:30 PM at the Middlecreek Wildlife Management Area. This will give our club an opportunity to experience a new observing site which I have been using for many years. Your newsletter editor Melody and I talked recently with the president of the Bucks-Mont astronomy club at Stella-Della Valley about the possibility of some joint activities between our two clubs. We have been asked to help staff a fundraiser in December for WHYY which will soon begin airing Jack Horkheimer episodes. This is a result of the efforts of Dan Benedict of BMAA who works for the Trenton Times which is sponsoring the Horkheimer programs. As we enter late Fall and Winter we can look forward to clearer skies free from the summertime haze, along with spectacular views of Orion, the Pleiades, and other cold weather wonders. With a bit of luck the "Christmas Comet" (Linear WM1) will brighten to naked eye visibility, and help to brighten our holiday season.

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:

Wanted (Preferably Alive)

FNE (female newsletter editor) with stars in her eyes seeks dependable, hardworking AWI (article-writing individual) to write her name in the sky.

Must enjoy romantic moonlit nights, spending time under beautiful skies and keeping the lines of communication open. If you’re looking for a fun, creative partnership that was written in the stars, you may be The One for me.

If you’re interested in sharing your knowledge of the night sky and what it has to offer on a semi-monthly basis, please write to me at or call at 610-336-4863. All entries will be edited for grammar and spelling, so don’t be shy.

Melody Gardner


Even though by now I have sent off the check to renew Astronomy and Sky and Telescope, and to order the Astronomy calendars, there still is time for latecomers. This year there is no minimum number of calendars needed to receive the full discount. I can order as few as one calendar at $6.50. As long as their supply lasts. You may also renew your subscriptions if you have not done so as yet. If you do not have a subscription to Astronomy or Sky and Telescope now and would like to begin one, you can begin a subscription at any time through BCAAS at a substantial discount.

Linda Sensenig, Treasurer

Mythology of the Night Sky - Ursa Minor

Although many ancient civilizations certainly saw these stars, we tend to get our mythology from the Greco-Roman world and it was not admitted among the constellations of the Greeks until about 600 BC when Thales, inspired by its use in Phoenicia suggested it to the Greek mariners in place of its greater neighbor, which till then had been their sailing guide. Thales is said to have formed it by utilizing the ancient wings of Draco. How Draco felt about suddenly not being able to fly was not taken into consideration by Thales.

The Arabs called these stars a fish; some thought it was the hole in which the earth’s axle found its bearing. The Persians called these stars the Date-palm Seed. One person wrote of these stars as being the leopard of Babylonia. In Egypt they were known as the Jackal of Set. The early Danes and Icelanders knew it as the Smaller Chariot, or Throne of Thor. The Finns called it the Little Bear - how about that! Someone actually AGREES that it is a small bear.

It might seem odd to you that these same stars were seen by so many people as so many things. I actually think it more odd when so many different cultures see the same object in the stars. After all, when we look at the night sky and mentally "connect the dots", we will see what is important to our culture. This is a good constellation to use as an example, because Americans look at these stars and see a small bear, however most Americans of OUR time look at these same stars and call them the Little Dipper!

Linda Sensenig

Stella Della Valley

Who ever heard of a "pizza banquet"? I thought to myself (OK, maybe I vocalized…) when I was reading the schedule of events for the annual Stella Della Valley star party. And breakfast was leftovers?!? I’ll admit that I wrinkled my nose at the very idea, but I found out that a good event does not require haute cuisine. Arriving at Camp Onas in Ottsville, we noticed a field full of all manner of observing set ups, ranging from small telescopes set up next to pup tents to one grandiose set up complete with giant telescopes, tarp, folding chairs and an awning attached to a motor home. (These guys were set to party no matter what the weather!)

After registering in the main hall on Saturday, we commandeered a room in the Texas Building just down the hill. My first thought? Woo-hoo! Bunk beds! Actually, they were very comfortable and I had a blast reliving some of my summer camp memories without having to hike 1/4 mile to the nearest bathroom.

Roaming around the main hall/dining area, we saw some interesting vendors and ran into Bob Summerfield, who had a neat new contraption to show off. It was a small, wooden mechanism with three mirrors designed specifically for solar observing called the SunSpotter. It allows you to observe solar flares in great detail without worrying about a filter or even a telescope. The image of the sun is captured, reflected, and re-reflected onto a simple sheet of paper and you see it all!

Later in the day, there were some interactive, open- forum type of discussions on optical oddities and how to maintain telescopes to avoid them. Duct tape and crazy glue received several honorable mentions throughout.

After the main speaker at 3pm, everyone scattered to do some solar observing and mingling before dinner at 5pm. There was a prayer by a member of the Bucks-Mont club (who also happens to be a reverend) and then the drawing for prizes. We didn’t win anything, but the numbers right before and after ours were called. Oh, well - maybe next year!

As the evening progressed, the weather was NOT cooperating. Instead of moping around or complaining, something I’d never expected happened. About three or four of the members of BMAA produced guitars from thin air and started singing every song they knew! It was fun, even though it was clouded over. It did clear for a half hour or so and some people filtered outside for a peek at the heavens, but I was having such a great time, I didn’t even get there!

It was nice to be in the company of like- minded people who seemed to think it was the friendships and not just the sky that made the event a good one. We exchanged e-mail addresses and said we hoped to do it again next year. Sunday morning breakfast actually turned out to be pastries (some of which actually made it to Museum Day in Reading - just ask Ron and Ryan!). Even if it would have been cold pizza, I wouldn’t have minded in the least.

Melody Gardner

East Coast Star Party

The weather cooperated very well for this year's semi-annual East Coast Star Party held at Hampton Lodge Campground in Coinjock, NC on October 19 & 20. Several people arrived a day early to get in an extra night of observing. The sky Thursday night was impeccable.

Most began arriving Friday afternoon, but threatening clouds to the west were on all of our minds. I was told it was completely cloudy all the way from Tidewater, VA area south to Elizabeth City, NC. By sunset, however, all clouds disappeared from the Coinjock skies. It remained cloudy in neighboring areas much of the night.

By dusk the observing field was quite crowded with attendees anticipating a great night of observing. None was disappointed; the sky was terrific. I was able to view several warhorses such as The Great Hercules Cluster (M 13), The Ring Nebula (M 57) in Lyra, The Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula (M27), The Great Andromeda Galaxy (M 31), not to mention The Veil Nebula in Cygnus. Before the introduction of nebula filters the Veil Nebula was considered a challenge for any telescope; now it has become a show object at star parties.

By mid-day Saturday more and more people arrived. After registering each began setting up telescopes. Star parties are fun and educational, and this one was no exception. I've been in this hobby for nearly 40 years and still come away learning something each and every time, whether about telescopes or observing.

Dinner was served at my trailer lot, overlooking the beautiful Currituck Sound. Dr. Robert Hitt, director of the Chesapeake Planetarium, cooked hamburgers and hot dogs. Thanks to all of you who chipped in with various food items. Drawing of the door prizes took place at 7:00 pm on the dot. This is always a highlight of the East Coast Star Party. Many lined up in anticipation of winning prizes ranging from accessories for stargazing to eyepieces. Thanks to Ken Publishing, TeleVue, Sky Publishing, Meade Instruments and all others who donated nice prizes to this year's event. Congratulations to all those who won. Kelly Proffitt walked away with a set of "The Night Sky Observers Guide" valued at $70 from Willman-Bell. Ray Moody was the winner of the grand prize, a 8.8mm Meade Ultra-Wide eyepiece valued at $300.

Beautiful cedar trees shielding the area from campground lights and wind surround the rather small observing field. Perhaps this star party should be renamed, The Intimate Star Party. It was quite crowded with telescopes and people. I can't remember seeing such variations in instruments in such a confined area. Kelly Proffitt brought along his new 20" Obsession, and Henry Evans came from Maryland with his Tectron 20" f/5 telescope. Other large Dobsonian telescopes were Ted Forte's 18" f/4.5 Obsession, Ray Moody's 14.5" solid-tube Dobsonian and my 25" f/5. Dobs didn't completely dominate the field though. Bill Dickinson brought his beautifully restored 8" f/4.5 equatorial Newtonian, Charles Allewelt was observing with his high-definition 10" Newtonian and many varied instruments of every description were sprinkled over the observing site.

Of particular interest was Bruce Bodner's Takahashi apocromat refractor, several Schmidt-Cassegrains, as well as other commercial Dobsonians. There were several homemade telescopes, too. Tony Mascola's Dobsonian with skateboard wheel bearings is intriguing, to be sure. Maryland observer Doug Norton brought along his vintage orange Celestron 8. I was delighted to see both Portsmouth and Virginia Beach campuses of Tidewater Community Campus students attend. I noticed one young man taking notes in complete darkness. Oh, how I envy those young eyes. I can't even read in the light without reading glasses. Members from the schools scattered about, trying to look through as many telescopes as possible. Even campers from the campground showed up to enjoy the views.

With clear, dark skies I decided to try viewing a few lesser-know planetary nebulae such as The Blinking Planetary in Cygnus (NGC 6826), The Blue Snowball in Pegasus (NGC 7662), the Helix Nebula in Aquarius (NGC 7293) and The Saturn Nebula in Aquarius (NGC 7009) and The Cat's Eye Nebula in Draco (NGC 6543). Eve ryone seemed to share his or her favorite objects with others. I had intended to look for G 1, a globular cluster within the And romeda galaxy, but completely forgot to do so.

As the night went on I walked around the field and enjoyed many fine views through the telescopes. One of the most rewarding views I have ever had was of Jupiter through Dick Moncure's off-the-shelf Orion 10" Dobsonian. The image defied I was viewing it with only 10" of aperture. It was the best I've ever seen it. As Jupiter rose about the cedars the time was advancing onward. By 3:00am most had turned in for the night so I decided to do the same.

Sunday morning most people packed up the telescopes and headed home. Henry Evans from Maryland, Ray Moody, and Charles Allewelt convinced me to stay another night. Oh my goodness, this would be my 5th observing night in a row, and worse yet it would be Charles' 6th night, all without any appreciable sleep. Once again, clear skies prevailed. Was it worth it? You bet; we saw an aurora in the area of the Little Dipper from 10:25 - 10:35 pm. It first appeared as a greenish glow, and then turned pinkish/red. It was quite a sight; I haven't seen an aurora in years. Most of us were too exhausted to do much serious observing, but just seeing the aurora made it all worthwhile. Sunday night was the clearest night of the weekend but the seeing was quite poor, not nearly as sharp and crisp as either Friday or Saturday night.

It was a terrific star party. I for one got great enjoyment out of the entire East Coast Star Party. I'd like to thank each and every one who attended and made this perhaps the most successful one yet. The next party scheduled will either be a Messier Marathon near a new moon weekend in March or I may hold off until warmer weather in May. Watch for further announcement.

Kent Blackwell

Upcoming BCAAS Events

Thursday, November 8th - General Meeting: 7:30pm (sharp!) at the Reading Museum
Program: Member's Night

Saturday, November 10th - Starwatch: Dusk at Daniel Boone Homestead

Friday, November 16th - Starwatch: 7:30pm at Middlecreek Wildlife Preserve Visitor’s Center

Thursday, November 22th - Happy Thanksgiving

Thursday, December 13th - Christmas Party: 7:30pm, at the Reading Museum

Meet BCAAS President…Barry Shupp

Q. Where are you originally from?

A. I’ve lived in the Denver, PA area all my life. Soon after graduating from college, I bought a 15-room, circa 1900 house on Main Street and I’ve been there for the past 21 years. The oldest of seven children, I’ve lived alone since my father passed away two years ago. Five miles from my house is the Middlecreek Wildlife Preserve, with dark skies that are perfect for astrophotography. I’ve taken my best comet pictures there, of Halley, Hyakutake, and Hale-Bopp.

Q. What is your educational background?

A. I graduated from Penn State in 1972 with a B.S. in Astronomy. I spent my first year at the Berks campus; then finished the remaining three years at State College. In my senior year, I questioned whether I wanted to continue in astronomy. At that time, a masters or Ph.D. was needed for research. I could have gotten a stipend at Swarthmore, but started doubting whether I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. I helped organize the first Earth Day at Penn State, and my interests took a turn. Penn State had just started an environmental/pollution control masters program. It was a limited access program, and I didn’t have quite all the chemistry and education credits required. I waited more than two years to get in and, having become gainfully employed by that time, I dropped the idea of continuing my education. Sometimes I regret that I didn’t get a graduate degree in astronomy, although I still consider environmental issues to be very important.

Q. What is your professional background?

A. Soon after graduation, I was hired by a company in Denver named Kalas, where my brother worked. Kalas manufactures electrical wires for cars and household appliances, and pump cable for well pumps. President Paul Witwer, another Penn State grad, helped me get into the quality control lab in a job that involved chemical testing of lubricants. Unfortunately, because of slow demand, no major orders came in the first four months of this year. As a result, in April, in a major reorganization of the company, I was laid off after 28 years with the company. I got a severance package and unemployment for six months, which will run out this month, so I’m presently looking for another job.

Q. Do you have any hobbies besides astronomy?

A. I’ve always enjoyed photography, especially of nature. Several of my photos won a contest run by Photographers Forum magazine, and were published in their Best of Photography issue. In high school, I took pictures of star trails. Later, I did weddings for friends and family members as a freelancer. About six years ago, $2,000 worth of camera equipment, pictures, and film were stolen out of my car on the parking lot of Park City Mall. I’ve replaced some of it but not all.

Q. What precipitated your interest in astronomy?

A. I’ve been interested in astronomy almost all my life. I remember camping out in the yard under the stars with friends from grade school. The father of my best friend Harry was the night watchman at the F&M Hat Factory in Denver, and Harry and I would climb out the second story window and sit on the first story roof. We used Harry’s telescope to see Saturn from the back of the building, where there was very little light pollution. Then in junior high, my parents helped me buy a three-inch Edmund Scientific reflector. It doesn’t have an equatorial mount. In fact, it’s just a cardboard tube with a wooden tripod, but to me it was great and I still have it. About a year before I joined BCAAS, I bought a Celestron eight-inch Ultima 8, which is what I now use.

Q. When and why did you join BCAAS?

A. I’ve been a member of BCAAS for about ten years, and I’ve been president for two years. I served for twelve years on the Denver Fair Committee, which was very time-consuming. Five years ago, I decided to shift my focus to BCAAS and started running for president. Another astronomy club in my area had problems with an elite clique that tried to run things, but here at BCAAS, people seem to work together well.

Q. Whom do you consider to be inspiring figures in the field of astronomy?

A. One of my heroes is a Nobel-prizewinning German physicist named Hans Bethe who developed the theory of stellar energy generation, i.e., he figured out how stars shine. This is especially intriguing to me because in school, I studied about stellar evolution and stellar atmosphere. Another person I admire is Al Nagler, who founded Teleview. He designed optics for training missions for NASA, then retired and designed eyepieces, which are now considered some of the best. I met Nagler at the Stella-Della Valley Star Party in Doylestown about eight years ago, when he gave a talk on how to use eyepieces correctly. Nagler was at this year’s Northeast Astronomy and Telescope Show in Suffern, NY, where I got my picture taken with him.

Q. What advice would you give to someone considering joining BCAAS?

A. I would tell them this: If you’re not sure you’re interested, go to meetings and talk to people in the club, or go with someone to a star watch. You’ll probably be hooked.

--Kathy Matisko

Astronomy Terms You’ve Never Heard Of…..Applied to Real Life

1. CROCHET. A sudden deviation in the sunlit geomagnetic field associated with large solar flare X-ray emission OR Your Grandma’s sweaters.

2. GRADUAL COMMENCEMENT. The commencement of a geomagnetic storm that has no welldefined onset. OR How our meetings usually start.

3. MICROWAVE BURST. A radiowave signal associated with optical and/or X-ray flares. OR What happens when you try to heat cream cheese without first removing it from the fo il wrapper.

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