The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 32, Number 10 October, 2000

See the latest Awards Banquet Info!

WAS Emissaries Visit Ohio Astronomy Club
by Mike Simonsen

"Are you awake?" I heard Steve ask, as I rolled out of the over-soft hotel bed I'd been snoozing on.

"Yeah, I'm up. and I'm hungry". It's funny how your stomach always seems to know what time it is. Even though neither of us had brought [continued]

Ms. Victoria Cooper of Royal Oak, a member of the Warren Astronomical Society, and Mr. Gregory Burnett of Dearborn, a memeber and co-founder of the Ford Amateur Astronomy Club, are pleased to announce their engagement to be married on May 2, 2001. Ms. Cooper is presently employed as a legal secretary for Kemp, Klein, Umphrey & Endleman in Troy. Mr. Burnett is a computer systems manager with Ford Motor Company in Dearborn. The couple met when Vicki attended an astronomy class that Greg teaches in the Dearborn Adult & Community Education Program. They share a deep interest in astronomy, and are regularly in attendance at local amateur astronomy events.

astro chatter Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

There's more evidence for life on Europa, the largest moon of Jupiter. Last January, Magaret Kivelson, a space physics scientist, detected magnetometor signals that showed evidence of liquid water beneath the icy surface of [continued]

Facts versus Factions: the use and abuse of subjectivity in scientific research
by Robert A.J. Matthews, discovered by Al Vandermarliere

Click here for article

Here Ye! Here Ye!
by Daniel Kmiecik (president FAAC)

Be Ye notified, you are all cordially invited to attend the Eighth annual Island Lake Star Party to be held in your honor in the 2000th year of our Lord on the Seventh day of the Tenth month. As in the past, all astronomers [continued]

icon New Members
by Joe Van Poucker

Requesting Help
by the Lowbrow Astronomy Club

A gas station and minimart is proposed for a very sensitive dark sky area, the size being comparable to an expressway gas station - minimart complex.

Some background about the gas station proposal to be built on the corner [continued]

Low-Price, Highly Ambitious Digital Chip
by John Markoff of the NY Times (discovered by Greg Burnett gburnett@ford.com )

September 11, 2000

Suddenly the future of digital photography seems to be becoming much clearer.

Only two weeks ago, Eastman Kodak announced a chip able to capture digital images with a resolution of 4,096 by 4,096 picture elements - or pixels [continued]

Registration for Winter Star Party
by George Korody

Registration for the 17th annual Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys is currently being conducted. I have been going every year. It would be fun to have others from this area there, too. It is a great wintertime [continued]

WAS Emissaries Visit Ohio Astronomy Club, continued

an alarm clock, we were both up right on time for our meeting with the Chagrin Valley Astronomical Society. But first. dinner!

The CVAS is an amateur astronomy club in Ohio. They have an observatory about thirty-five miles east of Cleveland. It's located on private property on a site known as Indian Hill. During the warm months of the year, the CVAS holds their meetings at the observatory, followed by an observing session. We had been invited by the club's president, Bob Modic, to attend a meeting and join in the observing from their dark sky site atop Indian Hill.

I met Bob (pictured at left) through the internet. I had seen his observer initials and name listed in some of the AAVSO news flashes and had noticed his observations posted to VSNET. He seemed to be concentrating on cataclysmic variables so I took the initiative and introduced myself as a fellow AAVSO member and "CV junkie" in an email message. Bob wrote back and we started sharing notes on astronomy clubs, variable stars, equipment, weather and other things. Since Cleveland is only a four hour drive from Detroit, it was inevitable that the subject of a visit would come up at some point in our discussions. That's how Steve Greene and I eventually found ourselves napping in a Days Inn off I-90, east of Cleveland.

Even though the weather looked "iffy" at best, we both decided to bring our telescopes for the observing session. Steve was planning on a "first light" session with his newly built 18" Dobsonian, a beautiful handcrafted instrument. And when I say newly built, I mean the last screws were countersunk an hour before we left! I had been thinking about cleaning the corrector plate on my scope for some time, so this was the perfect excuse for me to take the scope and wedge out of my observatory.

The trip was uneventful and the traffic was light in spite of it being a holiday weekend. We arrived at Indian Hill around 2PM. The gate was locked so we parked the van and took a hike up the road to the top of the hill. The first half of the hike is up a slope about thirty-five feet up. There it levels off and there is room for cars to park, a pond and a clearing for observing. Another hike through the trees up a little steeper slope, and you reach the summit of Indian Hill where the roll-off roof observatory is located.

The building is much larger than our club observatory. I'd guess it is about 20' by 40'. It's divided into two rooms. One half is for storage and houses their 14" Dob on wheels which can be rolled out the door for observing. The roll-off half houses the club's 16" Newtonian (pictured at right), a monster of a scope on an impressive pier. They have an unobstructed view to the south and east and on a good night you can see sixth magnitude stars from Indian Hill.

After our brief unguided tour, Steve and I drove back to the freeway, checked into a room, took a short nap and enjoyed a prime rib dinner at the restaurant across from the hotel. We arrived back at Indian Hill around 7PM, just as the club members were arriving. We were greeted by the observatory chairman and given a tour of the facility. As the roll off roof was opened, a startled bat began flying around the inside of the building. Coexisting with the local wildlife is a small price to pay for an observatory far from city lights. Folding chairs were set up in a clearing next to the building and the meeting (pictured at left) was held in the open air under the setting sun.

It was interesting to note the similarities between topics of discussion at their meeting and our meetings. There were reports of the auroral display of August 12, which coincided with an active display of Perseid meteors. They talked about their recent decision to distribute their newsletter electronically to save on postage just as we did at the beginning of this year. They discussed observing targets for the month and maintenance of the club observatory. I found the discussion on choice of herbicides to kill the invading poison ivy particularly interesting. Thankfully, that is a problem we don't have!

As darkness settled in, the meeting was adjourned and we headed down the slope to the observing field to set up our scopes. There were some openings between the clouds, but the sky was very hazy and conditions on the ground were getting wetter and wetter. Fog from the pond nearby settled heavily over our position. We didn't manage to do any observing but Steve got a chance to talk with many of the CVAS members who had built and use large Dobs. I had a chance to share some variable star observing tips and stories with a few of the members. We gave up and went back to the hotel around midnight.

Even though the observing session was a bust for us, we resolved to try again some time in the near future. The Cleveland area has the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a science museum, Cleveland Botanical Gardens, a zoo and many other things to see and do, so we may take the wives next time and make a long weekend of it.

The next morning in the hotel as I awoke Steve asked. "Are you awake?"

"Yeah, and I'm hungry, too". The drive home would only take four hours, but first...breakfast!

[back to page 1]

astro chatter Astro Chatter, continued

that moon. It's indirect evidence, of course, but no one has been able to explain the signals makeup any other way. She says the ice layer could be between 0.5 and six miles thick, with the liquid water beneath, up to four miles deep. Future NASA spacecraft will be studying Europa with more advanced magnetic detectors, to verify and enhance her results.

Our software library has grown with the addition of a new program called SATELLITE TRACKER. It's another tracking program with a special twist. The program will interface to an LX200 and actually automatically track a chosen satellite. If your LX200 system can't keep up with the satellite, it will "leapfrog" to the next part of the sky to let the satellite drift through the field. This one sounds pretty good. I'd like to see it in operation myself.

Finally got to see Space Cowboys and found that the movie keeps you glued to your seat. There's a lot of tense action after the cowboys get into orbit. Before that happens, you might compare the constant griping and complaining to something that resembles "grumpy old men". It's worth everything you spend for the show, if you catch a matinee. Five stars, it's not, but I'd give it four. The ending (last minute or so) is kind of uncalled for, but I won't tell you about it. It should have stopped with Clint Eastwood and wife, gazing at the Moon. Tell me what you think after seeing it.

The September computer meeting (9-28) has been moved because Gary Gathen, our host, will be out of town. The meeting will be at my house, in Roseville, 15674 Flanagan, two blocks west of Groesbeck (M97), two blocks north of Common Road (12 1/2 mile road) starting at 8:00 pm. Look for the yellow porch light on the south side of the road, about eight or nine houses from Callahan. Call me at 810-776-9720 for further information. You can reach Gary at 248-543-3366 for further information about the October meeting. The October computer meeting will be on the 26th. Gary lives at 21 Elm Park in Pleasant Ridge. Three blocks south of I-696 and about half a block west of Woodward.

[back to page 1]

Here Ye! Here Ye!, continued

and peasants (people without observing equipment) are welcome! We thank you all for your participation in years past and it is our hope you will join us once again in Fun, Food and Stars (weather permitting of course, this is still Michigan). To all astronomers who wish to assist the peasants in their enjoyment of this fine science you may contact court Astronomer John Kmiecik at westpark@mediaone.net. Once again, thank you all Astronomers. We hope to see you at this year's event.

George Korody adds: All astronomers and general public who will be bring observing equipment to the Eighth Annual Island Lake Star Party, must arrive early while there is still parking available at the pavilion parking area. Otherwise, there will be no place to park with equipment. Additional parking is one and two miles further down the park roadway. As was done last year, a free shuttle van service will be provided between the more distant parking areas and the star party area.

[back to page 1]

New Members, continued

New Members for August 2000: W.A.S. Anniversaries for October 2000:
[back to page 1]

Requesting Help, continued

of Dexter-Pinckney Rd. and North Territorial Rd.

The developer came to the first meeting at Dexter Township Hall with a proposal to develop a gas station, minimart, car wash and fast food restaurant on the above described corner. He did not own the property at the time. He was met with major opposition to this project by the Township residents and many others. He eventually purchased the property, the Township Planning Commission said NO to his proposal, he came back with modifications to his proposal, the Planning Commission still said NO. The developer came back with a new scaled down version of the proposal to only a gas station and minimart. The most recent meeting resulted in a postponement to Sept 26 for the final vote. I am short of time, so I have greatly condensed the above description. This site is next to wetlands and the Huron River. Its been about two years since the developer first proposed his complex of structures.

I am searching for all Legislation at the County level, State level and National level that can be used to oppose this development. Legislation about water pollution, light pollution, general nuisance laws etc.

Probably our best argument is the potential pollution to the Huron River and therefore the potential pollution to the water supply of all the downstream communities.

Any and all help to oppose this developer is greatly appreciated, such as searching for legislation, writing letters to the Planning commission, appeal letters to the developer, or even incomplete text would be helpful.

I think there is a good chance the Planning Commission will again turn it down, all of the past arguments are still valid,--- but--- there are two new Commissioners on the panel.. The developer is planning to file a lawsuit if the above takes place. If the Township is adequately represented, I believe the township will win, but we need to do everything we can think of to insure the victory over the developer.

[back to page 1]

Low-Price, Highly Ambitious Digital Chip, continued

- per square inch. That, by some measures, is about twice the resolution of 35-millimeter film.

Today, a company founded by one of Silicon Valley's pioneer chip designers, will announce an image-sensing chip capable of the same resolution as the Kodak chip, but made using a technique that could be much less expensive.

Executives of the company, Foveon, said they had given a prototype camera based on their chip to a photographer in Los Angeles, Greg Gorman, who had used it to make a portrait of a cowboy. In that image, no pixels, or dots, were visible to the eye, even with the photograph blown up to a size of 8 feet by 4 feet.

Already, digital cameras being sold on the consumer market for less than $1,000 are rivaling 35-millimeter film cameras. Digital images of the clarity achieved with Foveon chip could begin to challenge even the much more expensive 4-by-5 film cameras made by companies like Hasselblad that are used by professional photographers for portraiture, advertising and fashion.

"We're headed to flat-out replace the film camera," said Carver Mead, the founder of Foveon, which is based in Santa Clara, Calif. Mr. Mead, a pioneer of the chip industry, became a Silicon Valley legend in the 1970's by helping develop techniques that for the first time enabled chip engineers to create circuits containing tens of thousands of transistors. Industry analysts say that the new technologies could affect much more than still cameras. High-resolution images, if produced in quantities that made the new generation of image-sensing chips cost only several dollars apiece, could become a staple of cellular telephones and other hand- held devices and might bring the cost of a consumer video camera below $100.

And the contest is not only between film and digital sensors, but between two kinds of chip-making techniques. Foveon's planned announcement, coming on the heels of Kodak's, suggests a sharpening battle between the two competing manufacturing technologies at the heart of a billion- dollar market for digital photographic sensors.

The Foveon chip is based on a low- cost semiconductor industry technology known as Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor, or CMOS (pronounced SEE-moss). The Kodak chip's sensor is based on a more expensive manufacturing technology known as Charged Coupled Device, or C.C.D. imaging.

C.C.D.'s now dominate the digital- imaging industry, but compared with CMOS devices, they require production and assembly of several chips and related components to combine the sensing and computing tasks that can be performed by a single CMOS chip.

Both companies' achievements have startled industry experts because the new devices move far beyond the current industry standards for CMOS and for C.C.D. cameras, which until now have been able to achieve resolutions of 6 million pixels a square inch. The Foveon and Kodak sensors can pack 16.8 million pixels into a square inch.

"If you asked someone if this was achievable in either technology two weeks ago, they would have said it was impossible," said Michael Berger, an industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan, a market research firm in San Antonio.

The Foveon announcement is seen as a personal triumph for Mr. Mead, 66, who is regarded by many executives and engineers as the father of the modern semiconductor industry.

"Carver has tapped into something enormous," said Alexis Gerard, president of Future Image Inc., a digital-imaging research and consulting firm in San Mateo, Calif. "When digital imaging and the telecommunications infrastructure converge, they will enable a shift from a text-based communication model to an image-based model."

Throughout his career Mr. Mead has explored the idea of duplicating the human senses, including vision and hearing, by using silicon-based chip technologies. Several years ago, his earlier work led to the development of a smaller and more effective hearing aid now sold by Sonic Innovations of Salt Lake City.

Complex chips first became feasible in the 1970's after Mr. Mead, at the time a professor at the California Institute of Technology, teamed up with a Xerox computer scientist named Lynn Conway to invent a technique for placing thousands of transistors on a chip - a technique known as Very Large Scale Integrated Circuit, or VLSI design.

Today, CMOS-based manufacturing - which is used to carry out VLSI design - is employed by virtually all microprocessor and memory makers. As a result, it has become extremely cost-efficient and can yield circuitry with more transistors and lower power requirements than most competing technologies.

Yet despite their promise, CMOS- based sensors have until now had just a tiny impact on the overall market for digital imaging because they have been unable to achieve the resolution and clarity of C.C.D. sensors. The global market in 1999 for C.C.D. sensors was $959 million, compared with only $14.2 million for CMOS sensors, according to Frost & Sullivan.

But even before Foveon's latest achievement, CMOS was gaining ground. Not only have companies including Kodak and Polaroid begun to offer inexpensive, low-resolution CMOS-based cameras, but telecommunications giants like Nokia of Finland and NTT DoCoMo of Japan are planning to include inexpensive CMOS sensors in millions of their next-generation cellular phones.

Foveon's contribution has been to improve the quality of CMOS images by continuing to put more computer processing power behind the task of capturing the digital image. The new 16.8 million pixel device has seven active transistors for each pixel. The benefits include less interference, better focusing and more precise exposure times. "When the pixels get smarter," Mr. Mead said, "that translates into better image quality."

Foveon's principal investor and the company's technology partner is National Semiconductor, a big Silicon Valley chip maker. National Semiconductor's manufacturing plant in Santa Clara is capable of etching chip circuitry only 0.18 micron wide - a microscopic fineness that few other chip makers can equal. By contrast, most current low-cost CMOS sensors are made with circuitry of 0.35 or 0.5 microns, which allows for millions fewer transistors per chip.

National Semiconductor executives said the company was planning to take the technology that Foveon had developed for the priciest reaches of the professional photography market and make it economical enough for some new consumer electronics.

"National's interest is not in thousands of cameras a year but in hundreds of millions of cameras a year," said Brian L. Halla, the company's president and chief executive. "We could make the world's highest-resolution throwaway digital camera and sell it for the price of a similar Kodak system."

Foveon officials said they would demonstrate the new 16.8 million pixel sensor for the first time today. The sensor, which for now captures images in black and white, has almost 70 million transistors - or about two and a half times the number of transistors used by a Pentium III microprocessor chip for computers. Foveon says it expects the new sensor to be on the market within a year.

Currently, Foveon sells a high-end camera using an earlier version of its sensor that has a resolution of 2048 x 2048 pixels, or 4.19 million in all. That camera uses three separate sensors and a prism array to separate color information. But Mr. Halla said the company was also working on a technique that would permit a single chip to capture precise color information.

Despite the advances now being made, Mr. Mead acknowledged that digital-image sensors are still a long way from matching the skills of the human eye.

An eye is movable, which enables it to scan various parts of an image and then allow the brain to compose a single, larger image. The eye is also remarkably diverse: elements that have high resolution are clustered at the center of the field of vision, while sensing elements that function well at low light levels are around the periphery of the eye, giving human vision a great flexibility of range in varying light conditions that no artificial imaging system can yet match.

Mr. Mead said that because of fundamental size limits in the wavelengths of light, it is unlikely that future digital sensors will gain much additional resolution. Instead, shrinking semiconductor circuit sizes will make it possible for companies like Foveon to add more and more intelligence to their digital-imaging systems, perhaps simulating more of the image-enhancement functions of the human brain.

[back to page 1]

Registration for Winter Star Party, continued

get-away. It takes place from February 19 through February 25, 2001 (6 nights) and is the first major star party of the new millennium. I have registration forms or they can be obtained from Fred Heinrich at heinrich@atlantic.net or phone (904) 362-5995. Registration forms must be completed and returned no later than 10-16-00. The cost is $75 per person with extra costs for camping on-site or RV/trailer space. Site space limits attendance to about 600 people. Acceptance is by a combination of invitation and lottery. Most people are accepted.

The actual site is on West Summerland Key. It is a reasonably dark site with a little light pollution from Key West 35 miles to the west and Marathon Key 15 miles to the northeast, and there is a hint of light pollution from Havana, Cuba 90 miles to the south. The Southern Cross (Crux) is just above the ocean horizon and due south about 4:00 AM. Omega Centauri is fantastic.

More information is available from the Southern Cross Astronomical Society (SCAS) in Miami, who put on the star party. Their WEB site is at: www.scas.org Please let me [George Korody] know if you decide to go.

[back to page 1]

Return to WASP page Return to WAS Home page

This page was created by Jeff Bondono September 2000,

and modified by Doug Bock on

February 18, 2001.