August is meteor month. The Perseids are back again and the Moon is going to co-operate almost as well as it can. With first quarter on the fifteenth of the month, the night and morning of the twelfth and thirteenth will only have a five day old Moon, early in the evening, providing dark skies for the midnight hour. With promises of twenty to thirty meteors per hour under country skies, it'll be a great photo opportunity too. The meteor peak is supposedly around 6 pm on the twelfth but since the shower runs for a good, strong twelve hours, the midnight hour wont be disappointing.
Riyad Matti will be the next speaker at Cranbrook on Monday, August 5. He's been an amateur astronomer ever since highschool days and is a great believer of refractor type telescopes. Riyad heads our planetary, special interest group. He's dabbled in astrophotography and will probably have some of his shots displayed at the meeting. If your interest lies in general observing, telescope construction and photography, don't miss his talk.
Mike Simonsen, a past president and avid variable star observer, in fact, the leading observer in the state of Michigan, will be our speaker at Macomb County Community College on August 15. Mike will be talking about Gamma Ray Bursters, those recently discovered objects that have puzzled astronomers concerning their origin.
During the last Cranbrook meeting, questions were asked about getting a Messier certificate from the League. Since we are not part of the League anymore, members that want to obtain those awards must join the League as a seperate "member at large". However, I don't advise joining until you are near the minimum of seventy recorded objects required for the basic award. There are certain requirements for the way you keep your recorded observations. If you are interested in the League and what it has to offer, you can link to the League site by visiting Boonhill.net. By the way, one of the requiements is you must starhop to those Messier objects yourself, with no help from others or your go-to telescope. That's right....you gotta run manually. There are over 1,000 Messier award winners and they won't think very highly of you if all you have to do is press buttons on your telescope. You will also have to send your recorded observations to the League's Messier recorder for verification. So check those League requirements carefully.
The SMURFS star party only had ten people attending this year but the sky was clear on three nights of the party, making the short stay a grand event. Warm days and cool evenings added to the fun. Blaine McCullaugh described the skies as fabulous and marveled at the sight of Andromeda's dark dust lanes.
Our new observatory director is Steve Greene. He's replacing Fred Judd, who had to drop his directorship. You can reach Steve by calling 586-598-1199 or e-mailing him at email@example.com. According to Steve, the new Dob shed at the observatory is about 98% finished. All that's left is some trim along the roof. The 22 inch 'scope stores neatly in the shed with the truss tube assembly pointing straight up. A wood ramp facilitates the process of removing the 'scope and puting it back. A wheeled dolly is now being considered for making removal from the shed easier. Without a dolly or carridge of some kind, it still takes more than one person to move the 'scope in and out of the shed. Besides being in charge of the observatory, Steve also handles the rental of our other club owned telescopes, for those who want to try different types of telescopes to see how they perform. A fifty dollar deposite is required to use any of our 'scopes for one month. The deposite is returned when the telescope is returned.
Coming up in September is the Tenth Annual Island Lake Star Party. I'm bringing it up in the August newsletter because I feel this one day star party, sponsored by the Ford Amateur Astronomy Group, deserves all the publicity that it can get. Rain or shine, you deserve to be there for the festivities. Many clubs participate, including the WAS, so you won't feel alone in the field of fifty or more telescopes that usually fill the viewing site. There's plenty of presentations and demo's about observing and equipment. Vendors are there with special discounts on equipment for your telescope and there are usually plenty of books and star charts available for your inspection. There are door prizes for lucky visitors and gifts and certificates are awarded to youngsters participating in the observing list competition. That's Saturday, September 14, at The Island Lake State Recreation Area in Brighton Michigan. You'll need a state park vehicle permit for that day, available at the entrance gate, which cost $4.00
A series of programs have been added to the computer in the observatory at Stargate. The names are: Astronomy Exposure Guide, Binary, Constellation Guide, Jupsat, Moon Manager, Satellites Of Saturn, Skyglobe and Messier Observer's Guide. All are going to help telescope users find their way around the sky, except Binary and Exposure guide. Binary is a demo program that shows the mechanics of an eclipsing binary system and the light curve it produces. You can change the orbit characteristics to see how the light curve changes. Exposure guide gives the proper exposure for common sky objects. At the present time the Messier Guide only has the first fifty objects shown and listed. It will be updated to 110 objects soon.
August 17 is the scheduled date for the Stargate monthly open house. That's two days after the MCCC meeting and two days after the first quarter Moon. There may be a special Stargate meeting for the August Perseid shower. It'll be discussed at the Cranbrook meeting.