The club picnic was quite a success, considering the poor start to the weather. Clouds filled the sky at five thirty in the afternoon but slowly started to dissipate. By ten PM the sky started to show promise of clearing and most attendees started to set up their scopes. Bratworst and hamburgers topped the menu, along with plenty of add ons in the food and drink menu. I even had my new (old) ten inch telescope, out for a field test. It was the only 'scope with a plaid tube. Even with some clouds and haze, Mars captured the attention of all who attended. At 400x, my ten inch showed the south polar cap and some faint southern hemisphere markings. The orangeish-red glow to the planet makes observing it very unique and thoughts of alien life (past or present) are quick to enter your mind. The headcount came to around fifty, which was a good turn out for this group.
Comet Linear C/2001 A2 will make a good northern hemisphere comeback just about the end of June or the beginning of July. It's promising because that's when the comet will make its closest approach to the Earth. With all the activity that's been reported, including a triple break-up of the nucleus, this approach should be quite interesting. You'll have to get up early though, because it won't be visible until around 3:00 am in the ESE sky. It should be observably high (20 or more degrees above the horizon) and if it remains in outburst, around fourth to fifth magnitude. Try an hour earlier if you have a clear horizon. Look for more than one nucleus, as soon as you spot it in your scope. An Arizona observer (on June 25) spotted this morning visitor and has confirmed a magnitude of 4.1, with little or no tail. Hopefully, as the comet moves farther north and closer to the Earth, the tail will become more prominent because a short tail has been visibly seen by southern hemisphere observers. It's moving very fast, since its nearest the Earth at that time, so grab your ephemeris and start hunting for that moving needle in a haystack.
July offers an interesting event concerning Venus and the Moon. On the 17th of the month, the Moon will cover the disk of Venus at approximately 2:22pm (Detroit time) and finally move back into view at 3:29pm. This mid afternoon event should easily be visible, if the sky is clear and predominantly blue. The Moon should be easy to find in your scope, even though it will be washed to a silver grey. It'll be about 40 degrees right (west) of the Sun. Along the bright limb you will finally see Venus about 68% illuminated. This should be a good film or CCD opportunity.
A new program has been added to the club's library called FITSVIEWER. It allows the user to view CCD photos taken by professional astronomers, as well as many of the other popular formats like the Cookbook camera and SBIG products. You can do some enhancement of those photos like histogram (greyscale) stretching, transfer function application, contrast and brightness control too. If you're getting into viewing or creating CCD images, this program is a good place to start.
You can reach Mark Femminineo in Florida by contacting him at his home at email@example.com or at his work address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bob's magic number has now reached 82. That's right, Bob Watt has now assembled 82 telescopes for the UAW. Way to go Bob!
Observing hint.....don't let hazy, humid, summer skies deter you from observing the planets, especially Mars. Haze means no atmosphereic disturbances, which usually means a steadier atmosphere. The planet may look dimmer, but you'll see sharper details on the planets surface.
The July computer meeting, on the 26th, will be at Gary Gathen's home in Pleasant Ridge, MI. He's located at 21 Elm Park, three blocks south of I-696 and about half a block west of Woodward Ave. The August meeting will be on the 23rd. New visitors will recieve a free planetarium program at the computer meeting. All meetings occur on the fourth Thursday of the month. Exceptions will be announced at the regular WAS meetings or passed along via the Boonhill.net WAS e-mail link.