June, the month of weeds. You've heard the old saying, April showers bring may flowers, May flowers bring June weeds. It also brings the WAS annual picnic. Bring something to eat and you're automatically allowed to participate. Set up your telescope or binoculars in those weeds next to the Stargate observatory and I can guarantee you'll be amoung friends. You can chase satellites, meteors and Messier objects to your hearts content. Don't forget to blink that red LED flashlight four or five times in the fading twilight so some of those flying, yellow-green critters will land right on your flashlight, allowing you to brag to your offspring about how you fooled mother nature. Food, friends and stars. It's a combination you won't be able to forget. That's on Saturday, June 8. Get there in the middle of the afternoon and pick your favorite viewing site. Bring a tent or a camper if you want to stay all night. We'll do our best to shut off all the surrounding lights in the camp, to bring those stars down closer to Earth. Food will be served about 4:00pm.
During the May, Cranbrook meeting, Doug and Robin Bock were awarded honorable, lifetime, membership awards. Both have been in club activities for as long as I can remember, almost with the start of the WAS, in the early seventies. Both have sponsored star parties at their residence for decades, as well as Doug's observing site near Cadillac, Michigan. In the mid nineties Doug took over publishing the club newspaper on his well known amateur astronomer's website at Boonhill.net, a site that has astronomers from all over Michigan posting news and views about their clubs and activities. The awards are well deserved. Congratulations Doug and Robin.
The Kensington, ASTRONOMY ON THE BEACH, star party went off without a hitch last month. The weather cut down attendance quite a bit because we were hit with lows and clouds, however the speakers portion of the event was well attended. The main speaker was Dr. Mario Mateo, from the U of M astronomy department, who talked about rare, astronomical events, a presentation using PowerPoint, showing rare alighnments such as groupings, conjunctions, transits, eclipses, supernovae and modern phenomenon such as the breakup of comet Shoemaker-Levy and the Einstein ring and cross. Other talks, by members of other Michigan astronomy clubs included astronomy equipment, a comet making demo, light polution, and basic astronomy. The Friday session finally had a break in the clouds after sunset, providing an opportunity for the public to finally look through our twenty-two inch Dobsonian telescope at Jupiter, Venus and the Moon.
Dick Gala will be the featured speaker for the June 3 meeting at Cranbrook. Dick recently went on a trip to Hawaii and one of his stops was the Mauna Kea observatories, principally the Keck telescope. If you'd like to see some of the slides he has taken of the observatories and the islands, be sure to attend this meeting.
Speaking of Mauna Kea, a late night news report said Jupiter now has thirty-nine moons. Eleven more satellites were discovered by the Hawaiian observatories. Discovery credit goes to David Jewitt and grad student Scott Shepard of the University of Hawaii.
On June 20, at the Macomb meeting, Bob Watt will talk about his recently built 12.5 inch, truss, Dobsonian telescope. He plans to show how easy it is to assemble his 'scope by actually assembling it in front of the group that night. If you want to see how easily portable this 12.5 in.'scope is, don't miss this demonstration.
Some time ago, during a meeting at MCCC, someone asked how far away a comet could be discovered before it reached the closest point in its orbit around the Sun. I remembered that Hale-Bopp was about eighteen months away from perihelion when discovered and felt that was certainly one of the farthest, if not the farthest comet, discovered. Well, along comes a comet called NEAT C/2001 Q4, with an estimated perihelion around May, 2004. Discovered in September of 2001, at a distance of ten AU, this one could qualify as being the farthest, with a thirty-two month wait for closest approach. As you might expect, being discovered so far away, it could mean its close approach (calculated to be about one AU from the Sun) might mean another naked eye comet for us amateurs to observe. So far the orbit parameters are preliminary, with a two week error a present possibility. More about this comet when better information is available.
Bill Beers reported that about twenty-two people attended his Spring Cadillac West Star Party. Friday night turned out to be the best night for viewing, with an estimated 5.8 magnitude sky. Saturday featured a barbeque dinner. The skies turned grey Saturday and most began leaving by the end of the day. Bill says he plans to have another party again next year.
The SMURFS star party dates have been revealed. July 11, 12, and 13 are the tentative dates, however, attendance will be by invitation only. If you are considering attending this event, contact Bob Watt to put your name on the invitation list. There's no gaurantee you'll be invited but your chances are good, at the present time. Porta Johns and electricity are expected to be available at the site but there won't be any trash recepticles available, so you'll be expected to take your trash back home with you. Don't forget to bring some trash bags if you attend.
Steve Greene gave an excellent talk about collimating your Newtonian telescope during the May, Macomb meeting. He revealed some tricks that help make alignment more precise and even talked about aligning Schmidt-Cass telescopes too.
On Saturday, May 4, Camp Rotary and Stargate Observatory was bombarded with hundreds of scouts and all decided to take a peek thru the telescopes available from club members that volunteered that night. All the bright planets were showing under a fourth magnitude sky. The entire sky was clear and comet Ikeya-Zhang made a grand appearance. The comet was about thirty degrees above the north-eastern horizon, near the head of Draco, the dragon, just after twilight ended. At about fifth magnitude, it climbs higher in the sky during the night, reaching almost overhead by the time morning twilight approaches, making observations quite easy. One amusing incident occured when one of the public onlookers, an elderly woman, looked into Fred Judd's telescope and remarked "where are you hiding the picture?" Such is the level of public knowledge about telescopes.
It looks as though the Dob shed for our twenty-two inch telescope will be finished in time to be used at the club's June 8 picnic. Thanks to the efforts of Bill Beers, Dennis Schmaizel, Steve Greene, Blaine McCullough, Bob Watt, Mark Kedzier, Scott Ferguson and Joe Van Poucker. As of June 1, the building was standing with four walls and a shingled roof, with the double doors and siding almost finished.
For those of you who haven't recieved my e-mail address chage memo, please address all future e-mail for me to firstname.lastname@example.org. The old address, email@example.com won't be available much longer. Those of you that used to have an @home address are requested to tell the club secretary your new address.
Do you dream of owning a large telescope? You can have a sixteen inch Dobsonian peering into the universe by checking out the latest SWAPSHOP ad and calling 810-765-3915.