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Volume XXIV Number VI

November 1996

Meeting Highlights

Thursday Nov. 14

7:30 at the Reading Planetarium. Mike Feyers and his assistant, Mark, will treat us to the acclaimed Just Imagine planetarium show. Suitable for all ages, this show is a visual jewel! We will be asked to imagine our world in an alternate reality: without a moon, with a different star as our Sun, as well as what it would be like at the beginning of Creation. We will be accepting nominations for our 1997 slate of officers. Be there!

Thursday Dec. 12th

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum. If you've missed coming to our meetings regularly this year, make this one the one not to miss! We will have our legendary Holiday Party, which will include the presentation of the ever-coveted BCAAS awards (Feel free to bring your own award—for someone else, silly.) Bring your favorite dish for our traditional Holiday smorgasbord. Elections for 1997 will be held after the political buffoonery which is inevitable on an occasion such as this! Brace yourself for whirlwind fun!

Thursday Dec. 26th

Deadline: January/February 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

November 8th, Saturday

Star Watch

Starting at 6:00 p.m., BCAAS members have been invited to join members of the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society at their dark-sky site on Pulpit Rock, north of Hamburg. Since the gate to the road leading to the summit is normally locked, all interested observers should assemble by 6:00, or make special plans with any key-bearing member of LVAAS. You may call John Dethoff at 372-0865 or Paul Becker at 929-2652 to see if they would be available after the 6:00 gate time. Remember, November is colder, but when it's clear, it's clear!

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.). Cross next road and continue to dead end at the reservoir.

December 8th, Sunday

Planet Walk Dedication-

A special invitation from Priscilla

As some of you may know, I lost my father early last year. "Ernie" as he was known to his fellow observers, was an active and very popular member of LVAAS, serving as its director in '86 and '87, and as Public Relations Director ever since. Upon his death, friends and family members contributed to a memorial fund to be used for a project in his honor. Ray Harris was instrumental in conceiving and implementing the Rev. Dr. Ernest F. Andrews Memorial Planet Walk, which is now almost a reality. It will be dedicated in Lehigh Parkway, Allentown, at 1:30 p.m. I invite all of you, as my friends, and as fellow BCAAS members to be present at this very special occasion.

The Planet Walk is a measured walking path, stretching almost a mile, in which each foot of distance represents almost one million miles in space. The starting place is, of course, the Sun, and each planet's distance from the Sun is marked by a beautiful 11" x 17" laser-etched aluminum plaque, describing the planet and illustrating its respective position in the Solar System. My friends, Ray and Mike Stump, and I have been working on these plaques for many weeks, trying to make them visually dramatic, and yet informative, so that anyone of any age will learn something about each planet, and, more importantly, consider the vastness of the universe we inhabit.

You will be invited to take the Planet Walk after the dedication ceremony which will convene at the Sun station. Although the walk is optional, there will be a beautiful "Mars cake" and a toast awaiting those who travel the 4 billion miles to Pluto! This is truly a unique and first-class project which we hope will inspire everyone to imagine the true immensity of our great universe! Come imagine with us! Call me at 610-683-6397 for directions to Lehigh Parkway in Allentown.

From the President

by: Priscilla Andrews
When I started writing this column I imagined a forum for my musings, with little articles about this astronomical fact or that. But I find that all I ever really have to say is thank you! This club, through its loyal members, has become a major happening!
Just in these last two months, we have reached out to more people, accomplished more education, established more solid foundations with first-rate community organizations, and earned more money for our treasury, than I ever thought possible in a years time.
We came to Megameet V in numbers only surpassed by LVAAS itself and proudly displayed our unity with our flag.
We "wowed" the Berks County Dept. of Parks & Recreation with our supremely successful Heritage Center night. Thanks to everyone, too many to actually list here!
We tickled Boscov's public relations department, contacted hundreds of people, and made one little boy, Jason Slick, jump with glee by winning our telescope, with our fab display-bakesale-raffle-observing day. (Thanks Linda, Clarence, Jenny, Lloyd, Paul, Dave and Carol, Dan and Amy, Barrys S. and B., Dave and Mary B., Keith and Alicia, Jean, Mike B., please forgive me if I forgot anyone!)
Not only did our "Blue Ball Six" astound the Blue Ball Elementary School and its 300 kids with sights of Jupiter and Saturn, but they, in turn, "blew us away" with an astronomical donation to our club. (Thanks, George, Bob C., Lloyd, Dan D., Barry S., and Larry)
You may have noticed a trend here…in addition to our members supporting our events in record numbers, the weather actually cooperated! Well, not 100%, but four out of five "ain't bad"! Unfortunately our luck ran out on September 26th, when it clouded just in time for the Lunar Eclipse and Dave's talk at the Museum. Naturally, the press and TV media were there for this one!
As I write this, I am preparing for the Science Alive interactive day at the Museum. Beautiful little miniature planets await any interested or curious child to arrange in order from the Sun. BCAAS certificates will go home with hopefully dozens of children this Saturday. Thanks, in advance, to Dave Drager, Lynne Vanino, and Linda and Clarence Sensenig. It is events like this which strengthen our relationship with the Museum and the Planetarium, truly the "godparents" of our club.
You may have noticed that our November schedule looks a little lighter than usual! Just come to our meeting, sit back and relax while watching the show, and enjoy a break. We have most definitely earned it!

Astronomy Magazine

If anyone is interested in obtaining back issues of Astronomy magazine, Frank Delong has Astronomy issues going back over the past four years. He is willing to give any or all these issues to anyone who is interested. If you would like to obtain some of these back issues, please contact Frank at 678-8198.

Abram Sky Calendar:

We have decided not to renew our club's subscription to Abrams Sky Calendar. We originally subscribed to it so we could attach a copy to Pegasus four times a year. This has become too costly. However, this is a very inexpensive publication, and if you find it helpful, you can subscribe to it yourself. The cost is only $7.50 a year. Make the check payable to Abrams Planetarium, and mail it to: Sky Calendar, Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University, E. Lansing, MI 48824. If you are new to the club and haven't seen this calendar, one side of the calendar is a very elementary sky chart that is good for the beginner, because it doesn't show all those faint stars that you'll never see from your urban or suburban home next to your neighbor's porch light. The reverse side is the really helpful part of the publication—it is a calendar showing what you can see in the sky each day.

Chili Night on Spruce Knob

by Candi Simons

When Kevin packed the tent for the last time this summer he muttered something about not wanting to see the inside of it for quite awhile. However, I've been with Kevin since 1968 and I am not at all surprised when he changes his mind. I must admit that I was thrilled when he told me that his Mom would baby-sit the kids one weekend so that we could do something as a couple. I envisioned a cozy and romantic bed and breakfast somewhere; he was thinking Spruce Knob with the guys.
So last Saturday morning, we hustled to be at our appointed rendezvous on time. (I don't know why we worried about being late. We were going with Dave Brown.) The skies were clear, but there seemed to be lots of thin, high clouds. I was nervous, in spite of the good forecast.
The weather, continued to get worse the further south we traveled. When we turned west in Harrisonburg, the sky was blanketed. The drive was winding and picturesque, with fall colors. When we cleared the ridge before Spruce Knob, I was delighted to see blue sky to the horizon.
I don't like the drive up to Pulpit Rock. It's steep and bumpy. The drive to Spruce Knob isn't quite as steep. It makes up by having lots more switch back turns. There aren't as many big boulders sticking up in the road. Instead, there are ravenous gullies and potholes. Why I am doomed to observe in such god forsaken places? I always end up white knuckling the last miles. Since it was already very late in the afternoon, we hastily set up our tents and headed to the top. There was a frantic shuffle to set the scopes up in the failing light and to heat the pot of chili. (In light of the popularity of this pot of chili, we were later very grateful that we had forgotten our eight man tent at the mountains. Otherwise, we would have all been together in the same tent.) In the deepening twilight, we oohed and aahed as the first stars became visible.
At 7:30, I had a clearly visible Ring Nebula in the 'scope. The western sky was still glowing with light, but overhead I could see the Milky Way smeared from horizon to horizon. We all spent a period of time working over M objects with binoculars. Dave was patiently trying to explain the location of an object in the rich fields of Sagittarius, when I lamented, "Damn Dave, there are so many fuzzy patches over there, I can't begin to pick out the one you mean.'
While we puttered in the growing dark, we were also treated to several meteors. (Except for Kevin, who having trouble with his contacts and Danny who always seemed to be looking the other way.) Dave & I had to put up with the chorus of derision when we both saw one fade, only to fire back into life a moment later and continue it's streak across the sky. I would end up seeing about 20 during the course of the evening.
When Dave turned his light bucket on Jupiter, he just gasped and we all came running. It was stupendous. The swirling patterns within the bands, red spot and moons were all clearly visible. What made Dave gasp, was the shadow of a moon clearly passing over the surface of the planet. We moved on to the spectacle of Andromeda, so huge there was no hope of getting it in one field of view, either in length or width. I would find several other objects, the Little Dumbbell and Triangulum Galaxy, that I had not located before on my own. (I know at this point, you want to know where Kevin was in all of this. He was in the car blinding himself with a flashlight trying to clean his contacts.) Danny Brown was almost apoplectic when the Pleides rose and went from the Seven Sisters to more like Seventy. I spent quite a bit of time at the scope, doing the preliminary sketches for two drawings. (The Omega Nebula and the Veil). I guess I should mention that the Veil was visible easily with no filter. Dave saw the entire thing in his super binoculars. What a night. I did however, pass the test. I found Hercules in the crowded skies, to everyone's surprise. It would be over too soon.
While I was working on the second drawing, the breeze sprang up and within fifteen minutes was a chilling steady wind, that made the scopes vibrate. In fact, the wind drove me to the arms of Swiss Miss for solace. As I groped around for the cider mix, I realized that I was truly on a BCAAS outing. I kept rummaging around but all I could find was a bag of envelopes with no markings. Muttering nasty comments to myself, I finally opened the package that contained the white envelopes. What the devil was this stuff? I sniffed and realized that I had the bag with the Swiss Miss packets and the teabags. In one crystalline moment, I realized that both tea bags and Swiss Miss were printed in red and Swiss Miss were printed in red…therefore they were invisible with my red flashlight. Oh my God! Shades of the Shoemaker Levy T-shirts! While I warmed myself (No Priscilla, my feet were not cold.) in the car, Dave said he was going to do the same. Chris said something about getting his cold weather gear on. When we popped back out, twenty minutes later, everyone had disappeared. After another twenty minutes or so, we realized that everyone had fallen asleep. With the steady winds, we decided to call it a night. Kevin & I headed back to the campground.
The next morning we immortalized our trip with pictures while we ate an atrocious array of junk food. Chris ate oatmeal and junk food. Dave nursed a cup of tea and two Advil. We broke camp and did a bit of sightseeing. At the base of the mountain, we went our separate ways. Kevin & I made a brief fossil hunting trip. Dave, Dan and Chris were going to Seneca Rocks. Our journey home was pleasant and uneventful…that is if you don't count the part where Kevin tried to turn into two lanes of one way traffic at a divided highway. But, hey, I won't mention it, if you don't.

Mythology of the Night Sky - Pleiades

by Linda Sensenig
The Pleiades are among the most noted objects in the history, poetry and mythology of the heavens. All literature contains frequent allusions to them. They have also been referred to as "Narrow Cloudy Train of Female Stars" (to differentiate them from all those Male Stars), "The Starry Seven", and "Old Atlas' Children." Most sources have located the Pleiades on the shoulder of Taurus the Bull, however they have also been placed on the hind quarter, on the back and on the neck. The Arabians and Jews put them on the rump of Aries, while the Hindu astronomers placed the Pleiades where the Hyades are now placed. Pliny was even supposed to have made a distinct constellation out of them.
These stars seem to be among the first stars mentioned in astronomical literature, appearing in Chinese annals of 2357 BC. The Hindus pictured these stars as a flame typical of Agni, the god of fire. They held a great star-festival called Dibali (Feast of Lamps) in the pleiad month. In the 5th Century BC, Euripedes mentioned them with the star Altair as nocturnal timekeepers. The Finns and Lithuanians likened them to a sieve with holes, and the Russians called them Baba (Old Wife).
In Greece, temples were oriented to the Pleiades, including the famous Parthenon. Many ancient civilizations began their year during the month of their rising. The Teutonic nations have a very unique legend associated with Christ. It says that once, when passing by a baker's shop, and attracted by the odor of newly baked bread, Christ asked for a loaf; but being refused by the baker, was secretly supplied by the wife and six daughters. As a reward, they were placed in the sky as the Seven Stars while the baker became a cuckoo!
You can see the Pleiades rising in the east during the month of November.

For Sale

If anyone is interested in purchasing a used (excellent condition) Astroscan 4 1/4 in. reflector price $225, or a pair of Orion 14x70 binoculars at same price, Please contact:
Tim Siminski 670-1849 nights 478-6761 days, email

Welcome New Members
Lee DiVeterano & Family
Melissa K. Ache & Family
Gale Zorian
Evan Zervanos





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