April 28 is the day that we get a chance to show the world just what astronomy is all about. According to Steve Greene, the Wallcott Metro park commission is going all out to invite the public to our Stargate Observatory site, rain or shine, for an all out educational adventure, with public viewing (if the weather cooperates), and astronomical displays, which include basic astronomy, variable star gazing, photography, computers and lectures indoors, utilizing the activity center. All club members are asked to participate in the endeavor, even if it's just to relieve the members at telescopes or showing the public where events will take place.
Comet Linear C/2001 A2 has surprised everyone by going into outburst starting around March 28. Until then it was an insignificant comet by amateur standards, expecting to reach tenth magnitude during perihelion passage on May 24. Because close approach to Earth doesn't occur until late June, there's a possibility the comet's gasseous eruptions might bring it to second or third magnitude by then. It's position in the sky will be far south at that time, so northern hemisphere observers may lose the chance to see it in all its glory.
I just got through reading an article that appeared in Sky And Telescope (April, pages 59 through 64) and it kind of appaled me. It's the article by Kelly Beatty and Joshua Roth. They discribe a 4.5 inch Dobsonian telescope that's available from Orion in California, for $229 dollars, as the mythical, ideal, first telescope. The article is five pages long and nearly half the article discribes the faults of the telescope. To top it off, one whole page, with how to-pictures, shows how the buyer has to modify the telescope in order to get better images. The modifications include removing the main mirror's three clips and using double sided foam tape or silicone adhesive to remount the mirror, because they produced three astigmatic distortions in the image and throwing away the secondary mirror rim holder and taping the secondary to its base instead. The original holder was also causing image distortion. The author's words were "this scope has set a new standard for the beginners telescope". Good grief. I can't believe that Sky Publishing would allow such an article to be published. It deliberately tries to convince the general public that such junk is a worthwhile buy. Is this the kind of standard the public should accept....repairing that newly purchased item right after you open the box?
On March 14, Don Lemons completed correcting his six inch mirror. After finishing polishing, he had a deep, irregular, three inch hole in the center of his mirror. With help from the mirror group, Don was able to reduce the depth, smooth the irregularities and back into a 1/20 wave, parabolic curve, without having to create a sphere first. Congratulations Don.
On May 1, Mars' diameter will have reached 14.4 arc seconds, large enough to tempt any amateur to start looking for surface markings. By June 1, everyone should have taken a long glimpse of that planet because it'll be nearly reaching it's maximum at 19.3. Mars may be a dead planet as far as life is concerned but it still offers a fascinating glimpse into planetary evolution for any sized telescope. The theme for our next Kensington GLAAC public star party (August 24 & 25) will feature this planet to the public. Unfortunatly, the planet will be nearly sixty days past closest approach (about June 21), when the image size will be much smaller. To get an idea of what you will be able to see at that time, take a look at Mars around April 21, the size should be about the same.
Bob Watt runs a telescope making group for the UAW in which members pay a set fee to get a telescope kit and instructions on how to assemble the telescope. So far Bob has helped about 70 people finish those telescopes. It would be to our advantage to offer those people a free membership to our club for one year. Why?....to capture and increase their interest in astronomy so that they'll be willing to renew their membership the following year. You know what it's like to be a beginner with a new 'scope. You look at the Moon and a couple of planets and you lose interest because you don't know enough to find the dimmer, harder to find objects. This would be an excellent chance to increase our membership, even if only a third of those people return the following year. The club's cost would be minimal. It doesn't have to include a newsletter or a League membership, just an enticement to keep their astronomical interests up with lectures and invitations to visit our observatory site, providing a chance to take advantage of their new telescopes.
Another near Earth asteroid has been discovered by the LINEAR group. On ebruary 27, the close approaching body (dubbed 2000 EC16) came closer than one million miles from Earth, about four times the distance from the Earth to the Moon. Visually, it was about eleventh magnitude, quite capable of being seen by an amateur telescope. Estimates of its size were about one kilometer (0.62 miles).
If you're looking for something different as far as astronomy on the web is concerned, surf over to www.letstalkstars.com, with David Levy. David does a radio show, with guests from the amateur, astronomical world and you can hear the show while you're browsing other portions of the web too. You can listen to the latest show or some of the past shows he's presented. The show is sponsord by Starizona, an astronomical store with all the items you might be interested in browsing about in. You can see the store's web site at www.starizona.com.
The naked eye sunspot group that showed itself during the week of March 25 was one of the largest I have ever seen. It caused northern lights to reach all the way down to the state of Nevada. The group is so large that it will probably show itself again once the Sun makes a complete rotation.
In my opinion, astronomers will soon realize that there are more planets in the universe, than stars. Planets will play a role in the makeup of dark matter, maybe even a significant role.
So far, I've read the first two Harry Potter books and I still haven't found out why the students at Hogwart's school have to study astronomy. Every student has to have a telescope as part of their curiculum, but so far, no good reason has developed for the astronomy classes. If you've read all the books in the series, let me know if Harry or his friends actually use those Wednesday night astronomy sessions for something to keep them out of trouble. Wizards have always been associated with astrology but you don't need a telescope to study astrology. In fact, you don't even need an astronomy course. If astrologers studied astronomy, they'd realize the error of their ways.
The April computer meeting, on the 26th, will be held at Frank Spisak's home. He lives east of Old VanDyke, just south of Twenty-one Mi. Rd., at 8430 Elizabethann. You can reach him at 810-731-2091 for further questions. Gary Gathen, or normal host for the meeting, will not be available for the next meeting. New visitors will recieve a free planetarium program. The May meeting should resume on the 24th, at Gary's place.
Return to WASP page Return to WAS Home page This page was created by Doug Bock, on April 30, 2001