If you didn't make it to the awards banquet, you missed quite a show. First let me wish you a happy holiday and a fine new year. Thanks to Ed Starback and Ken Bertin, we did get a chance to see the December 4 eclipse of the Sun. It was the Australian view by Mr. Starback that prevailed. Ken said the African view was 99% clouded out, so we saw the disappointed faces of his group as the Moon's shadow moved across the landscape. Ken did show us a panarama of past eclipses and a brief view of those nebulous shadow bands that a lot of people talk about but never get a chance to see.
After some spirits and dinner, which was attended by about fifty people, special awards were presented to Louis Namee, Paul Strong, Brian Klaus and Doug Bock. A super special award was presented to Marty Kunz, a set of solar eclipse binoculars and observing hat, given for his dedicated leadership of the society, over the past year and a half. The award was presented by Bill Beers, on behalf of the society.
The Astronomer Of The Year award went to Norman Dillard, for his growing drive to understand and talk about the universe. The E. John Searals award for continued dedication to our hobby went to Dave D'Onofrio for his continual dedication to educating our group about the intracacies of CCD photography and his devotion to education through public star parties.
There were numerous raffle prizes, some donated by society members. The most significant being a super fine Newtonian eyepiece focuser donated by Dennis Schmalzel, a red dot finder, an eyepiece case, a ten millimeter Plossl eyepiece, a set of two inch eyepiece filters, a globe of the Moon, a celestial globe and numerous books like Turn Right At Orion, The Third Edition Of Starware, Exploring The Sky With Binoculars, The Big Bang and The Video Astronomy Book. Seven wonderful centerpieces were also raffled. Needless to say, I wish you were there for this fine occasion.
The first scheduled meeting for 2003, at Cranbrook, on January 6, will feature Nancy Rowe, the quiet, well mannered woman that occasionally throws in her valuable opinion at our meetings. A graduate of Wayne State University, she will talk about those radiation belts that circle the Earth, called the Van Allen belts. Their effect on astronauts and space travel will be discussed and perhaps, she may give us some insight on how or why they developed.
If all goes as planned, I hope to have a 3-D demonstration at the January MCCC meeting, on the 23rd of the month. I'll talk about stereo pictures and how to capture and project them with slide projectors. With a little luck, everyone will get the chance to view some pictures and learn how to create stereo shots with any type of camera. Don't miss it.
The first scheduled meeting of Steve's telescope workshop had about six people gathered for a discussion on how to improve the portability of the 22 inch telescope. It was mainly a design quarum discussing the kind of methods to use for moving the scope in and out of the new shed by only one person. So far, large, removable, pneumatic wheels are proposed, with two of them being steerable. The wheels are removed during observing and put back on to move the scope into the shed. The new carridge design isn't finalized yet, but soon will be. The clamping blocks, that hold the truss tubes in position, are being replaced because nearly all of them have cracked from overtightening. The new blocks are supposed to take care of the problem and should be installed by the end of December or thereabouts.
As of December 17, four pneumatic tires were mounted to the main box on the 22 inch scope, two of which are steerable. They're easily removed for observing. It took some welding and a lot of drilling, thanks to the tenacity of Dennis Schmalzel, Steve Greene and Don Lemmons. Frank Spisak helped assemble the tire mountings and Bob Watt will put the finish on the carridge to keep it from rusting.
Thanks to the wallets of Ken and Betty Wilson, a group of WAS old timers had a grand time at Michele's restraunt on Van Dyke, in Warren MI, not too long ago. Other old timers attending were Jerry Alyea, Diane (Bargeil) Ingrao, Jeff Stanek, myself and my wife, Joann. Jerry was his same witty self and Ken and Betty were a sight for sore eyes. I hadn't seen Diane in about twenty or so years, so I was surprised that she looked as though she had aged the least in the group. But then again, she was pretty young when I first met her, so she hasn't had the chance to grow old yet.
Only about eleven people showed up at the December Cranbrook meeting. The sudden snow storm during the day managed to make most people stay at home that night. Just as you might expect, the sky opened up to produce great observing after the meeting. Even the wind died down, creating a crisp, snow covered wonderland on the Cranbrook grounds. A picture perfect evening.
Doug Bock did a grand job of explaining his remote access telescope setup at the December Cranbrook meeting. He managed to eliminate the wiring problem between his home and his rolloff roof observatory by using a radio setup as part of his network, which talks to a laptop computer in the observatory. Not every aspect of his setup is remotely operated. He still has to roll back the roof, turn on the laptop, telescope and camera and take a dark frame for the evening. After that, the picture taking sequence is automated by his software, in the house, so he can sit back and drink coffee or go to bed. He also must close the observatory too, so it's not as automated as you think. Doug plans to take numerous galactic pictures to search for supernovae, asteroids and comets. He says he likes "pretty pictures" of the deep sky objects but he's really in it for data collection. We may have an electronic Mike Simonsen in the making.
Jupiter's GRS (Great Red Spot) must be acting up again. Observers seemed to notice a darkening of the spot lately. It's getting more orangeish according to some. If that's the case, you can bet ALPO will be geting more reports about it and you'll see more about it in the amateur magazines. CCD users will have yet another reason to capture it in their cameras.
By the way, that tape recorder, on the Gallileo Jupiter probe has been coerced into working again by NASA folk. The probe is still going to be shut down and destroyed around January 15, but it is going down in glory and will contribute more pictures before it goes to space probe heaven.
All in all, 2002 proved to be a typical observing year. I would have liked to see another great comet pass by, since that is my favorite observing niche, but I can't have everything to keep me satisfied. So as the new year moves toward us, think clear skies and more naked eye comets.