December 2001
Astro Chatter
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astro chatter
Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski
Just came back from a trip to Manhattan and found it tragic and inspiring. Of course, I tried to get as close to "ground zero" as possible. This meant taking pictures about two blocks away from the building sight. There were many onlookers at those access sights, all with cameras and all with a tear in their eyes. All stood as long as they could, staring at the rubble. You could see and feel the emotion, pouring out of their eyes and hearts. There were collection sights for those that lost loved ones in the tragedy and there were momentos being sold for those who wanted something solid to help them remember. A gallery in Soho contained a thousand pictures of that tragic day, all donated by those who were there, witnessing the event. The gallery had a continuous flow of people, all transfixed at those captured moments. I didn't want to forget about the stars and astronomy during this visit but, for awhile, I couldn't help it.

My visit wasn't as depressing as the above might make you think. I did get a chance to see the new Hayden planetarium. I was able to take a few pictures of that facility and will show them at the next Macomb meeting in November, if the slides are worthwhile projecting. Just about everyone who follows planetarium development knows about the spherical shape of the new building but you really can't appreciate its size until you actually visit the sphere. Only the top half of the three story structure contains the planetarium. The bottom half has a Big Bang virtual presentation that I didn't attend. There is a curved walkway that slowly spirals around the huge ball, that kind of resembles a planetary ring. Lighted presentations of astronomical facts line the walkway and the bottom of the sphere is suspended above the main floor, giving visitors the appearence of a floating planet. On the main floor are more illuminated presentaions with scale models of the planets hanging from supports and other astronomy and space facts. The floors that give you access to the planetarium glisten with imbedded, sparkling pinpoints of light, reflecting the lighting around the suspended sphere. The projector, of course, is digital, the wave of all future planetariums. There is one difference though, it's a Zeiss projector and it appears to have an optical section as well. A combination of digital and optical projectors that rise out of the planetarium floor after all patrons are seated. Needless to say, if you go to New York, don't miss it.

December is the month for our holiday awards banquet. All members are invited to attend. So are non-members. It gives everyone a chance to say hello to older, inactive members and a chance to meet new members, as well as enjoying a great dinner and entertainment. If you like to partake of medicinal refreshment, there's some of that too. The club also has a series of raffle prizes that always make your participation worthwhile, as many past members can attest to. Usual prizes are eyepieces, Barlows, software, astronomical books and gift cetificates to popular astronomy stores, as well as, Sky and Telescope or Astronomy magazines. Our guest speaker for the evening is still being solidified, so I can't say for sure who it will be. If you have something to contribute to the raffle prize list, contact one of our officers or bring your item to the banquet. Awards are given to our most active members. The banquet takes place on the third Thursday of December (12-20), which means there will be no Macomb meeting that night. We'll all be too busy eating and drinking. The location is at the Stephenson Haus Banquet Center in Hazel Park, on the I-75 northbound service drive, just south of I-696. The cost is $20 per person, which must be paid to the club by the December Cranbrook meeting, on the 4th. No entries will be accepted at the door on banquet night.

The DOAA (Detroit Observational And Astrophotographic Association), a defunct amateur group, known widely throughout the Great Lakes Region of the Astronomical League, during the sixties and seventies, was recently revived and christened "The Knights Of The Drinking Table", at the October 20 meeting of the GRAAA, (Grand Rapids Amatuer Astronomical Association). They presented their latest triumph of astronomical art and acoustical science, The Sky Is Not Burning. The show is another masterful creation of superb sound, visual and verbal astronomy by Jack Szymanski and Gary Ross. The other group members, Some of which traveled near and far to see this presentation of their contributed slides, were there for a grand reunion. Big Jack, a founding knight, claims, with a tear in his eye, that this is to be his best and last creation. I wonder?

If you're looking for the latest info about the Leonid meteors, jump to this website....WWW.NAMNMETEORS.ORG. You'll get the scoop for this year's November predictions and a whole lot more. The predicted max for North America is an hour long window around 5:00 am, Sunday morning, on the 18th. The Moon will not interfere with the shower this year.

Another program, too big to put on a floppy disk, has been added to the WAS CD program library. It's called TUMOL. It stands for The Ultimate Messier Object List. A fancy database of Messier objects is probably the best discription. You can sort the Messier list by season, month, number, contest and seen or unseen. There are pictures of each object to let you know what you're missing, as well as all the pertinent data about each object to help you find them with your telescope. It also features a running log that you can add comemnts to, while observing. The program DEEPSKY 2000 which occupied five floppy disks previously, has now been transferred to CD-ROM. This has reduced the price from $10.00 to $4.00.

I'm not going to go into the mathematics of milleniums because those who understand already, are quite satisfied with the upcoming celebration on the next New Year's eve. The general public has already wasted a good New Year's eve with all those magnificent displays and fireworks. As a result, those parties became a celebration of the end of the millenium, not really the beginning of a new one. If you understand....join me with a tip of the champaign glass on December 31.

The November computer meeting, hasn't been decided as far as location and date is concerned, since the fourth Thursday is Thanksgiving day. An annoucement will be made at the Macomb meeting. The December meeting will be on the 27th. First time visitors will receive a free planetarium program. All meetings usually 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.


The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 33, Number 12 December, 2001