The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 32, Number 1January, 2000

astro chatter Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

What a fabulous time we had at Stargate during the Leonid meteor shower. We saw very few meteors but the house was full the evening of November 17. The official count was well over 1,200 visitors between five o'clock and midnight. All the telescopes set up outside the observatory were continually lined up with astronomical wanabies. Three starwalks were given, showing groups, of fifty or more, the constellations. A television hookup on the [continued]

A New Look At Cosmology
by Al Vandermarliere

The title word "look" as used here isn't new to cosmology; it's just new to me. Alan Guth's book The Inflationary Universe is the focal point of my thinking for the moment. You see, the inflationary notion had until recently seemed to me preposterous for years, leading me to [continued]

Variable Star Subgroup
by Mike Simonsen

The Warren Astronomical Society is proud to announce the creation of a new sub group - Variable Star Subgroup to be chaired by variable star fanatic Mike Simonsen.

We will be actively participating in, and encouraging the study of variable [continued]

Amateur Astronomers Can Contribute To Science
by Mike Simonsen

For most people, the pursuit of astronomy as a hobby is just a part time fun thing. Discovering a comet or supernova is just a fantasy like winning the lottery. Most amateur astronomers assume that all the science is best left to the professionals with big telescopes, satellites and billion dollar budgets. After all, what could someone with binoculars or a small telescope possibly contribute to the understanding of the complex universe [continued]

Thank You For Your Help
by Steve Greene

I would like to take a moment to express my gratitude to everyone in the club as well as others who pitched in to help and making the Warren Astronomical Society (WAS)/ Wolcott Mill Metropark Leonid Meteor Shower and Telescope Observing Session the success that it was. You should be proud to be [continued]

Logo Contest!!
by Steve Greene

As many of you know, the Stargate Observatory will be thirty years old in the year 2000. It is quite an accomplishment for a club to be able to maintain an observing site and an observatory for so long. In fact, the observatory survived a change in property ownership from the Rotary Club to the Wolcott Mill Metropark! The members of the club should be proud of these facts. Many of our members have put countless hours building [continued]

The WASP 25 Years Ago
submitted by LoriAnn Skonieczny

New Members
by Joe Van Poucker

The thing that makes the Warren Astronomical Society a great are its members. We are very happy to announce the following new members who joined during November of 1999. Please extend them a warm welcome.
  • Clifford Jones, Southfield
  • Jane Harness & Family, North Branch
  • Jeanne Wright, Berkley
  • Lee Hartwell, Sterling Heights
  • Melanie Nelson, Harrison Twp.
  • Michael Emiah & Family, Ray
  • Peter Rynshoven, St. Clair Shores
  • Scott Dulchavsky & Family, Grosse Pointe Park
WAS Anniversaries for January
  • 11 Years
    • Jeff Bondono & Family, Macomb Twp.
    • Michael L. O'Dowd, Troy
    • Robert S. Graham, Lathrup Village
  • 7 Years
    • Greg Milewski, Warren
  • 1 Year
    • Bruce Mandel & Family, Lake Orion
(Corrections should be submitted to Joe Van Poucker)

For Sale
Chris Coffey of Howell Michigan (517-548-9766) is a member of the Ford Amateur Astronomy Club. He is selling a Meade 10-inch Starfinder Equatorial telescope with a very nice set of astrophotography accessories. The scope and accessories are virtually new. He has set up a web site to view the telescope, accessories and specifications. The price includes delivery within 100 miles of Lansing, Michigan. This is a $2500+ astrophotography system for $1500 (firm). Check out the web site at: www.cac.net/radon/meadescope.htm

The Swap Shop

astro chatter Astro Chatter, continued

12.5 inch Cassagrain wowed the public with closeup views of the Moon, while the 22 inch revealed pink clouds in the Orion nebula. The party and midnight. All the telescopes set up outside the observatory were continually lined up with astronomical wanabies. Three starwalks were given, showing groups, of fifty or more, the constellations. A television hookup on the 12.5 inch Cassagrain wowed the public with closeup views of the Moon, while the 22 inch revealed pink clouds in the Orion nebula. The party was so successful that the Metropark personnel were astounded with the turnout. It was the first time that Jupiter and Saturn were seen by many visitors and jaws dropped all over the grounds. Ooohs and aaahs could be heard everywhere. Needless to say, we owe much of the party's success to the Metropark publicity team and the Leonid hype. This could become a yearly event, not for the Leonids but for other astronomical phenomenon, like comets and other meteor showers.

The planet Mercury showed up quite well on Nov. 15. I got a chance to view the transit of that planet for about fifteen minutes before it got too low for my backyard, in Roseville, Michigan. I managed to set up the 6 inch Newtonian about 4:15 pm and had to wait for a few clouds to pass. Once that happened, Mercury could be seen as a very well defined black dot at about 50X, just near the solar limb. In a few minutes it moved even farther away and the entire planet was in full view. I jumped the magnification to 100X and just soaked in the view. A large group of sunspots gave the planet a lot of competition for my eye. Considering the little time I had, I felt very satisfied with the observation. It was an interesting, unusual, event to say the least.

An eclipsed star has finally shown the positive existence of an extraterrestrial planet. The star HD209458, in Pegasus has been observed being dimmed, 1.7%, every three days, by some unknown object in orbit around it. Using the eclipse time and orbital period, the objects diameter, volume, mass and density can be determined. Geoffrey Marcy and his planet hunting team at the University of California at Berkley, made the discovery. The planet is 40% less massive than Jupiter but larger in diameter.

The Moon will be eclipsed on January 20. Look for the beginning of the umbral portion of the Earth's shadow to show about 10:01 pm. EST. Mid totality is at 11:44 and the last portion of the umbral shadow leaves about 1:25 am. If the atmosphere is clear, the deep reddening of the Earth's shadow will be quite spectacular. If you can't photograph this event, at least watch it visually. All lunar eclipses are different in subtle ways. Sometimes the differences are spectacular. See the January issue of SKY AND TELESCOPE, page 112, for a map of stars that will be occulted during the eclipse. The Detroit sky is represented between the lines showing Boston and Los Angeles.

The December computer meeting will be held at Gary Gathen's home on Thursday, the 23rd. His address is 21 Elm Park. Three blocks south of the I-696 expressway and about half a block west of Woodward in Pleasant Ridge. You can reach him at 248-543-3366 for further information.

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A New Look At Cosmology, continued

think that Guth, its creator, was off the wall. For years I refused to read anything he might have said or written.

A few hours before beginning this article though, I borrowed a copy of his book just to see if maybe Guth has been misrepresented by any or all of the pop media. After all, his idea purportedly was born not in the womb of cosmology but rather that of particle physics! Amazingly cosmologists of the big bang variety, upon learning of it, were ecstatic in their acceptance of Guth's idea! Think of it: particle physics fitting in with cosmology.

Put another way what does it mean to have the science of the smallest able to fit, nay explain or at least temporarily rescue, the science of the biggest? I refer here to the fact that just a few years after cosmologists began to feel the sting of theory-not-fitting-fact, a particle physicist of all things, announces a way out of not one but a few dilemas haunting cosmologists. It's as though a microbiologist had created a theory solving not only some microbial mysteries but also ecological mysteries as well - with only one simple but verifiable assumption.

By the way, if you're not clear on this stuff, most cosmology books I've read explain what inflation is. Your local library likely has at least one such book. I have yet to meet a librarian who is not happy to find what you are looking for. Go ahead, make his/her day!

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Variable Star Subgroup, continued

stars, novae, supernovae, and active galaxies.

Activities of the subgroup will include:
  1. Sponsoring membership into the AAVSO of interested members.
  2. Assisting in setting up an observing program of appropriate stars, based on aperture and experience.
  3. Assisting in generating or obtaining finder charts and comparison charts.
  4. Mentoring new members in the techniques of variable star observation.
  5. Keeping members informed through the Internet of recent developments and discoveries.
Meetings will be held irregularly on cloudy nights near full moon. For more information contact Mike Simonsen 810-463-4681 or mikesimonsen@mindspring.com.

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Amateur Astronomers Can Contribute To Science, continued

we live in? Actually, there are many ways amateurs can collect useful data with modest or no equipment.

Aurora Borealis: When charged particles from the sun interact with the Earth's ionosphere the affects can manifest themselves in the form of strange glowing lights, rays and curtain-like phenomena commonly known as northern lights. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is interested in reports of major displays or you can post them on the web at solar.uleth.ca/www/subaurora.html.

Meteors: Streams of meteoroids orbit the sun and in most cases are the remnants of comets or asteroids. Since we know the orbits of these objects, more or less, we can predict when the Earth will pass through these streams and cause a meteor shower. Observations and timings of meteor events can help to refine our knowledge of these orbits.

Meteor observing in groups can be fun as well as useful in collecting scientific data. All you really need are your eyes and a comfortable chair, although not too comfortable or you may fall asleep! With a number of observers set up to cover different sections of the sky, more meteors can be counted and recorded than a single observer can manage. Observers can be trained to recognize the magnitude (apparent brightness), speed, radiant (the point in the sky where the shower emanates) and note any unusual behavior or color. Reports can then be sent to the International Meteor Organization by mail (IMO / 161 Vance St. / Chula Vista, CA 91910-4828) or to lunro.imo.usa@prodigy.net.

Solar Eclipses: Many of the finest images of solar eclipses are captured by the amateur observers who chase them all over the planet. A large telescope is not necessary to observe the sun, and with today's video equipment the entire event can be recorded with striking results. Exceptional quality images can even be sold and published in magazines and books!

Sunspot Counts: There is much we don't know about our nearest star, the sun, it's magnetic fields, atmosphere, and its interaction with and effects on the Earth. Considering the fact that we are approaching the maximum in the 11-year solar cycle, now is a great time to get started observing sunspots. There will be lots to see! With a small telescope and a proper solar filter, reports of the number of sunspots and groups of spots visible each day can be submitted to the AAVSO Solar Division. These reports are used to compute the American Relative Sunspot Numbers. For more information on reporting procedures contact the Solar Division Chairperson, Joseph Lawrence through the AAVSO or at lawrence@ipfw.edu.

Planets: ALPO, The Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers has observing programs for Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, minor bodies, comets, meteors, the sun, moon, eclipses and transits. If you can't find something interesting and rewarding to do with these people sell your telescope. Contact them by mail (ALPO / 12911 Lerida St. / Coral Gables, FL 33156) or visit their website at lpl.arizona.edu/~rhill/alpo/.

Occultations: An occultation is basically the same thing as an eclipse, just on a smaller scale. Frequently, more often than you might think, the moon, a planet or an asteroid will pass in front of a star and block it's light from our point of view. By observing and timing asteroid occultations we can help to determine the size and rotation of an asteroid, whether or not it has an undiscovered companion, and define it's orbit. The paths of asteroid occultations across the Earth are only known to a certain degree of accuracy, depending on how well we know the orbit of the asteroid, so observers within even 100 miles of the predicted path have a chance of observing a particular occultation. Even negative observations have value in determining where the path did not cross and help to define an asteroid's orbit. IOTA, the International Occultation Timing Association is always interested in accurately timed observations of occultations. You can contact the director, David Dunham by mail (IOTA / Joan and David Dunham / 7006 Megan Lane / Greenbelt, MD 20770) or at dunham@erols.com.

Variable Stars: Of all the activities an amateur astronomer can pursue, variable star observing is the best chance for contributing useful scientific data. There are over 28,000 known variable stars and another 14,000 suspected variables. Professionals don't have the time or resources to monitor thousands of these stars so the work is left primarily in the hands of skilled amateur observers. No matter what size instrument you have, from binoculars to telescopes, there are variables that you can observe. I must warn you however; this can become an obsession. For more information contact the American Association of Variable Star Observers by mail (AAVSO / 25 birch St. / Cambridge, MA 02138) or visit their website at www.aavso.org .

Novae and Supernovae: While discovering novae and supernovae is fast becoming the domain of professionals monitoring the Milky Way and thousands of distant galaxies with automated telescopes, many are still discovered by amateurs. In fact, Nova Her 1991 was discovered by an English amateur, George Alcock, with 10x50 binoculars, through a glass window in early morning twilight!

When one is discovered, observations and magnitude estimates are reported to the AAVSO in the same way as variable star observations are reported. Due to clouds or other demands on telescope time by professionals you may be the only one in the world who observes the sudden brightening, or hump, in a typical nova's descending light curve. These opportunities are not as rare as you might expect. This year I have personally observed two supernovae in distant galaxies and followed a newly discovered nova in Aquila fade from magnitude 9.5 to 14.8 before it became too faint for me to pick up.

Comets: Everyone who buys a telescope secretly dreams of discovering a comet and having their name associated with it for all time. The main requirements for discovering comets are patience, perseverance and a thorough knowledge of the sky. It is surprising how many comets are discovered while observers were actually looking at or for other things in the sky.

The discovery of a comet, however, is not the only useful contribution an amateur can make. Visual observations of comets and magnitude estimates are archived by the International Comet Quarterly. You can mail them (ICQ / 60 Garden St. / Cambridge, MA 02138) or visit their website at cfa-www.harvard.edu/icq/icq.html.

If you ever get bored looking at the same Messier or NGC objects every time you go out to observe there are thousands of other things you can do. The main thing is you have to take the telescope or binoculars out of the closet and get out there and do it.

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Thank You For Your Help, continued

a member of WAS, each of you handled the event with professionalism and efficiency.

The officers of WAS were expecting about three to four hundred people, the official count stands at twelve hundred and fifty five. The public showed up to what was to become one of the best starparties that the club has ever had. We had over twenty telescopes and binoculars set up for viewing, the video camera on the telescope in the observatory providing a 'live' video close-up of the moon. The constellation walks were a smashing success, many people satisfied their curiosity about the star formations they see in the night sky. The most remarkable event, no one seemed to care that the meteor shower was weaker than expected.

The following people participated representing our club (in alphabetical order): Jeff Bass, Ken Bertin, Duane Birrell, Doug Bock, Dave Ciali, Danny Cross, Dave D'Onofrio, Lou Faix, Scott Ferguson, Elaine Fishoff, Gary Gathen, Rick Gossett, Stephen & Nancy Greene, Mr. & Mrs. Bob Johnson , Fred & Jamie Judd, Larry & Joanne Kalinowski, Marilyn Knak, Tom MacLaney, Riyad & Reem Matti, Blaine, Mary Lou & Sandy McCullough, Chris Mehling, Lou Namee, Diane Nieman, Gary Repella, Mike Simonsen, LoriAnn Skonieczny, Michael Schroeder, Frank Spisak, Bob Watt, and Robert Zinke.

The following people participated representing Wolcott Mills Metropark: Bill Thomas, Tom Hunt, Jeff Kane, George Sutton and George Ruhana.

I would like to declare that the public would not have known about our program if it were not for the contacts that Denise Mogos made with the press. I was overwhelmed when I saw that we had front page coverage in Tuesday's Free Press, front page of Tuesday's Detroit News 'Features' section, front page of Thursday's Macomb Daily. The event was covered by channel 50 news at the starparty, by radio coverage from a telephone interview with Blaine McCullough, in 'Yak's Corner' in the Free Press and a couple of other articles in various newspapers. Her 'press release' spurred endless calls to the Metropark about the event, the public responded!

The Warren Astronomical Society will be holding a star party sometime in late Spring or early Summer 2000. I'm confident that we can work together to create another successful program.

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Logo Contest!!, continued

the observatory, building the telescope, maintaining the observatory and refurbishing the telescope. Therefore, the officers of the club are announcing a contest.

The contest is to design a "logo" to commemorate "Stargate - Thirty Years." The logo can be multi-colored and of any design that you can think of, limit of two entries per membership. Please put your name on the 'back' of the entry for identification. The logo will be used for 'souvenirs' that the club may create for sale to club members or to the public at future starparties. The contest will run during the month of January and all entries must be received by February 1, 2000. The winner will receive a one year paid membership to WAS, you must be a member to enter. Mike Simonsen is the club 2nd V.P. in charge of the observatory. Mail entries to Mike Simonsen, 46394 Roanne Dr., Macomb Twp., MI 48042 or to Warren Astronomical Society, P.O. Box 1505, Warren, MI 48090-1505, Attn: M. Simonsen. The winner will be selected at the WAS Macomb Meeting in February, 2000 by a vote of the members who are present. You do not need to be present to win.

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The Swap Shop, continued

This is a new column for those who are interested in buying, trading or selling items. Call 810-776-9720 if you want to put an item for sale or trade in this section of the WASP. The ad will run for six months. The month and year the ad will be removed, is also shown.
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This page was created by Jeff Bondono, and last changed on December 8, 1999.