October 2002
Astro Chatter
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astro chatter
Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

Bill Beers, our club treasurer, is doing it again. This time it's called THE FIRST ANNUAL CADILLAC WEST HOLLOWEEN STAR PARTY. Participants are not required to dress up for the occasion. This is not a costume party, but a star party. It only happens to occur during the witching holiday. The star party is located about fourteen miles west of Cadillac, MI, at his cabin site. There is limited floor space available in his cabin, but plenty of space for tents and campers. AC power will be available for computers and related astronomical eqiupment. You must RSVP if you intend to come. Bill's phone number is 586-566-8376, e-mail: beezoll@aol.com. You can obtain motel accomadations at Garlets Motel, 231-862-3500; Hillside Inn, 231-8623723 or Caberfae Peaks, 231-862-3300. Hillside and Caberfae are only one mile east of his cabin. The event runs from October 31 through November 3, 2002, Thursday through Sunday.

About 500 hundred showed up for The Tenth Annual Island Lake Star Party. That's amazing, considering that the sky was completely overcast and only two or three stars could be seen during the whole evening. The highlight of the event was the raffling off of two ETX's, a seventy mm. model and a ninety mm. There were a couple dozen other prizes given away, like flashlights, starcharts and other astronomically related stuff. I left about eleven o'clock and the adjacent parking lot was still pretty full. The chances for winning one of those prizes were pretty darn good, considering that there is normally a thousand or more people there when the weather is more co-operative. I'll be there again next year, rain or shine, clutching my raffle ticket in my hot hand.

An amateur comet hunter made news recently when he discovered what is thought to be the third stage rocket of the Apollo 12 mission to the Moon. Bill Yeung, using a sixteen inch reflector and a CCD camera in California, stumbled upon this wanderer thinking it was another asteroid to chalk up in his bag of collected asteroids. Bill is the discoverer of three asteroids and one comet, which has been named after him. After reporting his discovery, it took a few days of analysis before the idea that it was a returning rocket stage that seemed to be in orbit around the Earth. The amazing thing is it wasn't meant to be in Earth orbit. The rocket was purposely fired toward the Sun in hope that it would be captured by it or fall into it. Analysis of the orbit reveals that it has made at least two trips around the Sun before being captured by the Earth. Presently, it seems to be locked in a fifty day orbit that takes it out beyond the Moon and back.

On October 7, at the Cranbrook meeting, Nancy Rowe, a longtime member of the WAS and amateur telescope builder, will talk about the Van Allan radiation belts that encircle our planet. Their danger to us and space travelers will be discussed, as well as how the belts originated. Her September talk was cancelled because of refurbishing the lower level floors at the science center. We were forced to meet in a room that couldn't handle the equipment Nancy had to give her talk, so it was postponed to October. Nancy has been quite busy doing graduate work at Wayne State. That's why we haven't seen her very much lately. It'll be good to see her back into club activities again. Norman Dillard will also be featured that evening, with a talk about planetary systems.

The Macomb meeting on October 17 will present Dave D'Onofrio and his continued discussion on CCD photography. Dave had to postpone his talk too because of equipment problems at Macomb in September. If you've been looking in the direction of electronic astrophotography and aren't sure whether to take that step, catch his third lecture. It just might push you into the CCD realm.

Looks like professional astronomers have discovered a new class of black hole. Until now, only two types were known. Supermassive black holes that are thought to be inside of galaxies or clusters of stars and black holes in double star systems or small groups of stars that are no more massive than just a few stars. Now there's evidence that a type of black hole exists that sits somewhere in between the two other types.

A minus eight Iridium satellite was visible from the Roseville area on Wednesday, September 4, at around 9:49 PM. It was traveling north to south in the eastern sky about 50 degrees above the horizon. I could see it slowly moving south before it flashed to minus eighth magnitude. If all goes well, you'll see it at one of the next meetings because I knew it was coming and had my camera all set up when it flared. This is the brightest one I've ever seen and I could swear it could cast a shadow without a Moon out. Definitly brighter than Venus, as much as fifty times brighter.

The October issue of Sky And Telescope mentions an asterism that I've never taken a look at. It's called the Toadstool. About five degrees east of the Dolphin's nose. Star hoppers can easily find it by putting Gamma Dephini in the lower part of a low power eyepiece (about 50X) and moving to the left about five degrees or by shutting off your clock drive and letting the sky drift in your telescope for about twenty minutes. See page 89 for more information.

Ceres, one of the brighter asteroids, will be easily visible throughout October, in the constellation Cetus, the whale. At the beginning of October, it shines about eighth magnitude near Theta Ceti. By the end of the month, it's 7.6, near Eta. See page 94 for a map of Ceres' transition.

Experienced observers might try their hand at spotting RS Ophiuchi, a nova that seems to repeat about every seventeen years. It has risen seven magnitudes, from about twelveth to fifth, or brighter, in 1933, 1958, 1967 and 1985. Its been seventeen years since the last outburst and another is due. You could get your name in the history books if you're the first one to spot the eruption. You can bet this star is on Mike's observing list.

Someone has the solar filter that belongs to the Stargate observatory. If you have it, please return it a soon as possible.

Here's a TV viewing tip for you. On October 29, PBS will present the life and times of Galileo. The show is supposed to highlight all the problems that he encountered with the church back in the seventeenth century. If you like astronomical history, don't miss it.

Marty Kunz, Steve Greene and Frank Spisak all reported seeing the close asteroid 2002 NY40. Their technique involved moving the telescope ahead of the present position and letting it drift through the eyepiece field. Steve said its motion was about twice as fast as the stars would move if you shut off your clock drive and watched the stars drift across your field of view.

Open house at Stargate observatory will be on October 12. If you're a new member and would like to get a chance to look through our observatory telescope, that's a good time to see it. Big Dob night will be on October 5.

Again, October is election month at MCCC. If you are interested in becoming an officer in the WAS, be sure to bring it up at the next few meetings. You can even nominate yourself on election day, October 17. The offices available are President, First Vice-president (program chairman), Second Vice-president (observatory chairman) Secretary and treasurer. As of this writing, no one has been nominated for club president, yet. Marty Kunz has spread the word that he won't be running for that seat in this election. So, here's your chance to get into our highest office.

Finally, Saturday, September 7, brought on something I haven't seen in a long time. Northern lights. Red and green were both prominent in the curtains of shimmering light that pulsed in the northern sky at Stargate that evening. Eventually the curtains reached all the way to the zenith, above our heads. A fabulous display, temporarily making us forget the reason we had our telescopes set up. Still, we would gladly relive the display again.


The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 34, Number 10 October 2002