Comet Kudo-Fujikawa, C/2002 X5, kind of snuck up on us back in December. At the end of December the predictions for brightness were to be in the zero magnitude range around perihelion on January 29. Now the prediction has changed. Estimates, based on recent observations, are now in the +1.6 magnitude area. This is still quite bright, however, the comets position during perihelion will be very close to the Sun, so observing will be dangerous at that time. If you can, try observing during the later part of January, before perihelion, It'll be a morning object, with the head probably below the horizon, but should still be quite a site if the tail shows above the horizon. Since the comet is moving due south in the sky, southern hemisphere observers will get the best show, espcially during February when the tail will continue growing as it rounds the Sun. Closest approach to the Sun is about 0.1 AU which could possibly cause the comet to split into more than one piece. If so, there will be a lot of attention given to this celestial visitor.
The 3-D, stereo presentation I made at the Macomb Meeting during January seemed to please all that attended. Personally, I was afraid that the stereo effect might be poor due to the large audience of approximately thirty or more people, because projecting a larger image for the whole room means a drop in light intensity on the screen, which reduces the red and blue intensities. The pictures I used were stills of the planet Mars surface and craters on the Moon. There will be another stereo presentation in the future, with motion pictures but that's all the information I can give you at the moment.
Some of the awards that were announced at the December banquet were passed out at the Macommb meeting. Louis (Louie the librarian) Namee got his award and Dave D'Onofrio got his E. John Searal's award that night too.
A new Deep Sky subgroup chairman was appointed during the meeting. Joe Van Poucker has agreed to handle the job. The job not only envolves chairing any meetings that are called up but providing the latest information on deep sky objects by giving a short talk at our regular monthly meetings every month. Marty Kunz, our president and Solar subgroup chairman, is calling all subgroup chairmen to give a five minute presentation at each Macomb meeting, so that all members present will get the latest news about all meetings and news concerning their groups.
Don Lemmons, one of the lucky lottery winners during the Awards Banquet, has donated his winnings to the club. He won the 10mm Plossl eyepiece. Since he already owns one, the club gladly accepts his donation, with many thanks. The eyepiece will be used at the observatory and possibly in the telescope rental program run by the club.
According to Steve Greene, our observatory chairman, the rental program is going strong, with the most popular telescope being the eight inch Schmidt Cass.
The presentation for February's Cranbrook meeting will involve the planetarium. That's on Monday, the 3rd of the month. If you haven't seen the new projector in action, that's the time to take advantage of a free demonstration.
Macomb's presentation on February 20 will be by Steve Uitti. It will envolve planning your observations via the Internet. Most of us usually just move our telescope out into the backyard or driveway whenever we feel like observing. There is a better way to attack the night sky and that's using some form of plan to observe with. Steve will be talking about such a plan and how to go about creating it. He's titled the talk WWW.PLANOBSERVING.ORG.
I Finally decided to go the Dobsonian way with my telescope. Actually, I'm scrubbing the German equatorial mount that I have my ten inch Newtonian mounted on and I'm putting the optics into one of Steve Greene's Meridian Box Dobsonians. The mass of the equatorial mount finally did me in. Since I don't have a permanent resting place for my one hundred pound mount and since I've resigned myself to observing rather than photography, the Dobsonian solves all my problems. It's a fast setup and it's a compact F4.5 so it fits into my car without any problems. Total weight will probably be half of my present setup, so my back will finally get the relief it needs when going into the field. No more worrying about polar alighnment, hurting my knees on the counter weights and keeping track of all those equatorial parts when you have to disassemble and pack up the scope in the dark. Just thinking about not having to do those things, makes my back feel better. I'm a star hopper, by choice, so I don't need setting circles or a goto system to find an object in the sky. You know what they say, half the joy of getting to a destination is the journey.
The Earth seems to have a rather strange neighbor in almost the same orbit. It's the newly discovered asteroid 2002 AA29. Every 95 years the asteroid and the Earth change relative positions, with the Earth forcing the small body (200 feet in diameter) to move ahead or behind the Earth everytime the two come close to each other. Orbit studies by Paul Chodas, a Jet Propulsion Lab engineer, show that in about six hundred years, the Earth will force the asteroid to make a complete orbit around the Earth and then make it a small Moon, continually circling the Earth for about forty years. It will then break away to continue its "cat and mouse" game with the Earth, as it is now doing. The end result seems to be a repeat of this orbit dance, well into the unknown future.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to see the Veen Observatory in Grand Rapids (actually, Lowell, MI) during the middle of January. You've seen pictures of this observatory, I'm sure. It has two domes, one on each side of the main building, the east dome holding a fourteen inch Celestron, with all the electronic accessaries you could want to take CCD photographs. The west dome contains a sixteen inch Meade with goto capabilities. Both instruments will make your mouth water if you're the astronomical type. I didn't get a chance to look through either one, since it was the middle of the day, but I left the building very slowly because I thought I felt the building pulling me, trying to attract me back in for a stay throughout the night. The observatory is the result of many years of concentrated effort by the Grand Rapids Astronomical Asscociation.
Meade Instrument Co. surprised us by shipping a super wide angle, 14mm eyepiece, after our awards banquet was celebrated in December. Not being able to award this eyepiece or raffle it in 2002, the club must decide how to handle its distribution. All kinds of advice was given to our president, including holding it for the 2003 banquet. Advice from both the Cranbrook and Macomb groups indicate that the club should hold a special raffle during the year, with proceeds going to the club. The raffle would collect names and phone numbers so that there could only be one winner. Ticket sales would also be spread out over a period of one or two months so that all members would get a chance to participate. There wouldn't be any limit on the number of tickets you could buy and you wouldn't have to be at the drawing to win.