The Warren Astronomical Society Paper

Volume 29, Number 5, May, 1997


Table of Contents


Computer Chatter

by Larry Kalinowski

Hail Hale-Bopp! If you want to call it the comet of the century, you've got my vote! It couldn't be much better placed in the sky for the casual observer. Even perihelion was magnificent. It's going to attract a lot of people to amateur astronomy. I have no doubt that telescope sales will reach a peak because of this comet.

Evidently, Bill Gates and company have realized the importance of capturing that part of the public that still hesitates to get involved with regular computers. Microsoft has purchased WebTV. The acquisition cost Microsoft 425 million dollars. Success in this venture depends on the introduction of digital television and how well it's accepted by the public. Even so, Bill and company are guaranteed some success, as today's TV sets will cease being manufactured by the year 2006.

Europa is making news because of Galileo's latest data acquisition of that moon. Three hundred foot high icebergs are evident in the photos shown by NASA. Where there's water, there could possibly be life, of some form or another. At some depth below the surface there may be enough heat to sustain it.

According to the Detroit Free Press, the Heaven's Gate cultists played amateur astronomer with a brand new LX-200 telescope about two months before heading for la-la land. However, the $3,645 telescope let them down because they could see the comet but not the space ship that was following it. So, they asked for their money back. Mike Fowler, of Oceanside's Photo And Telescope, reluctantly cancelled their charge-card order. "They didn't know much about astronomy" Mike said. They went to another astronomy store called Scope City in San Diego and bought binoculars, telling the clerk that they got a better view, of the comet, using binoculars. It's amazing how strong a belief system can be, even when the evidence against your beliefs is staring you right in the eyeball.

There's been a slight change in Microsoft's plans for Windows 97. The name's been changed to Windows 98. Why? Because it's been delayed. That's nothing new for them, they have a habit of delaying software introductions. It actually helps raise the public's anticipation for the software.

The scheduled meeting, at Stargate observatory, with Metro-park personnel proved to be quite a gathering. The skies cleared for the fourth straight day in a row, revealing a marvelous panorama of celestial wonders, for about forty members and visitors. Comet watching was at the top of everyone's list. A lot of photos were taken and the twenty-two inch Dobsonian made eyes pop. If you haven't gazed through the eyepiece of that 'scope yet, be prepared to get your socks knocked off.

I've been collecting Hale-Bopp photos off the Internet and have put 28 images on a floppy disk for sale to anyone that's interested. These images aren't listed in the clubs shareware list. See me if you'd like a copy. They're one dollar per disk to club members.

It looks as though America On Line (AOL) is making an attempt to purchase Compuserve....rumors are flying. H & R Block owns Compuserve, but has only one third the customers. AOL desperately needs more equipment to service its six million members. Just what will happen to Compuserve members after such a purchase has yet to be determined.

Congratulations to Jack Horkhiemer (The Star Hustler). He just produced his 1,000th program. Jack's show can be seen for five minutes on PBS, where his unscheduled, astronomical, wit has charmed all viewers with an interest in the sky.

The April computer meeting (may be changed to Jack Szymanski's home on short notice) will be at my home in Roseville, on Thursday the 24th and the May meeting on Thursday the 22nd. The address is 15674 Flanagan, two blocks west of Groesbeck Highway and two blocks north of Common Rd. (12 1/2 Mile Road). (810-776-9720). (Take Common Rd. west before you turn north on Callahan.) It's about eight or nine houses from the corner. Please use the side entrance. Look for the yellow porch light.


An Open Letter from Alan Hale

by Alan Hale, dated March 21, 1997
submitted to the WASP by Joe Van Poucker

I am Alan Hale, the co-discoverer of Comet Hale-Bopp which, as I'm sure you're aware, is getting a tremendous amount of media attention at this time. Like I'm sure is true for many of you, I was inspired by the scientific discoveries and events taking place during my childhood to pursue a career in science only to find, after completing the rigors of undergraduate and graduate school, that the opportunities for us to have a career in science are limited at best and are which I usually describe as "abysmal." Based upon my own experiences, and those of you with whom I have discussed this issue, my personal feeling is that, unless there are some pretty drastic changes in the way that our society approaches science and treats those of us who have devoted our lives to making some of our own contributions, there is no way that I can, with a clear conscience, encourage present-day students to pursue a career in science. It really pains me a great deal to say something like that, but I feel so strongly about this that I have publicly made this statement at almost every opportunity I have been given.

I am trying to use the media attention that is currently being focused upon me to raise awareness of this state of affairs, and perhaps start to effect those changes that will allow me to convey a more positive message to the next generation. So far, I'm sensing a certain reluctance among the media to discuss this issue, as they seem far more interested in items which I consider to be irrelevant and unimportant. But I intend to keep hammering away at this, and I'd like to believe that eventually some are going to sit up and take notice. I am also attempting to schedule meetings with some of our government leaders, to see if I can at least get some acknowledgement from Washington that this is a problem that needs to be dealt with.

My reason for writing to you is to ask your help. I know that I'm not alone in being frustrated about the current prospects for pursuing any kind of decent career within science, and I'm quite sure that many of you have "horror stories" about your searches for decent employment that are quite similar to my own. I'd like to hear them. I'd especially like to hear from those of you who are on your second or third or fourth post-doc, or who have left the field as a result of the employment situation, or who have experienced severe personal difficulties (e.g., break-up of a marriage, etc.). I realize that some of these might be painful to discuss, but I'd like to show that we are not a bunch of impersonal statistics, but that we're human beings trying to make an honest living and perhaps make a contribution or two to society while we're at it. Speaking of statistics, though, if you received any information about the numbers of applicants to some of the positions you applied to -- which was often a 3-digit number in my case -- I'd like to hear that, too.

Please e-mail your stories to me at ahale@nmsu.edu, with a subject line of "horror stories" or something like that. Please let me know if you would prefer to remain anonymous when I share these stories with the press and the government. Also, please pass this message on to any of your friends and colleagues who might be interested in sharing their stories with me, and keep in mind that I would like to receive stories from as many scientific disciplines as possible. (Because of the amount of e-mail traffic I'm receiving these days, along with everything else that's going on, I probably won't be able to acknowledge each message individually.)

Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you. Perhaps, with the opportunity we have before us right now, we have the chance to make a difference.

Sincerely,
Alan Hale


14th Annual Summer Solstice Star Party

See the official page at Doug's site
Where: Northern Cross Observatories
When: June 6-8, 1997
Cost: $3.00 per person or $5.00 per family
Rules: Camping is allowed, but you must pack in/out everything. There are Motels nearby (5 miles) that you can make reservations at. NCO is located near Fenton, MI. We will also have speakers on Saturday afternoon. There is a call for papers for those who wish to participate. Please send an abstract to the addresses below by May 1, 1997.
Activities that are planned as of now

Masterpieces Messier Missed

by Jeff Bondono

NGC 4216 at 12h16m +13d09m

NGC 4216 is catalogued as a 10th magnitude 8'x2' Sb spiral galaxy. I first saw it with my 8" Newtonian from near Selfridge Air Force Base during May of 1986. I apparently didn't see much because I only noted that it was a small round glow.

An attempt from my Utica backyard in June of 1986 was unsuccessful, but March of 1987 from that same site showed me a 5'x2' sliver of light with a bright nucleus.

Much darker skies at my Imlay City observing site during May of 1990 showed me what I called a first-class galaxy. With direct vision, the galaxy again appeared as a 5'x2' glow with a bright nucleus. Averted vision added fainter outskirts and I could imagine this galaxy as a textbook nearly-edge-on spiral.

An April 1992 observation at the same site with the same scope added only that the core was 1.5'x1'.

During 1993-4 I built my 14.5" dobsonian scope, and my first observation of NGC 4216 with that scope came again at Imlay City, during March of 1995. The extra aperture expanded NGC 4216 into an 8'x2' spindle running about north-south with a very bright nonstellar core offset toward the northwest from center. The galaxy's halo did not grow wider around the nucleus; instead the halo appeared to be a flat brushstroke of pale light in the sky with nearly-parallel edges, with the core superimposed. The halo seemed more sharply cutoff on the eastern edge than on the western edge. There appeared to be an extremely faint glow just east of the sharply-cutoff eastern edge, and I thought I might have seen a dust lane with glow beyond, but I noted this observation as very unsure. Later I read other people's observing notes and found this to be a real feature. This lane shows very well in the picture on page 92 of April 1996's Sky and Telescope and here. I noted no superimposed stars or stars very close to galaxy, so I apparently didn't see the star just off the eastern edge of the galaxy. This seems odd.

Observations during 1995 and 1996 added that the core of the galaxy is elongated in the same position angle as the main body, that within that core a very slightly brighter stellar occasionally shows during moments of the steadiest seeing, and that the faint glow of the halo appears on both the eastern and the western sides of the core, so the galaxy can't be truly edge-on.


On the Lighter Side

submitted by Al Vandermarliere

The beguiling ideas about science quoted here were gleaned from essays, exams, and class room discussions. Most were from 5th and 6th graders. They illustrate Mark Twain's contention that the 'most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.' Question: What is one horsepower? Answer: One horsepower is the amount of energy it takes to drag a horse 500 feet in one second. You can listen to thunder after lightning and tell how close you came to getting hit. If you don't hear it you got hit, so never mind. Talc is found on rocks and on babies.

Third Huron County Star Party

Make plans now to attend the Third Huron County Star Party on May 1,2 and 3, 1997 at Duggan's Family Campground located at the tip of Michigan's Thumb. The camp ground, on M-25, 8 miles west of Port Austin, is privately owned and will be made ready for dark observing. It has clean restrooms, hot showers, playground, 2 dumping stations and much more. Activities nearby include: Canoe Rentals, Horseback riding, Golf, Restaurants, and Museums. All in a very scenic backdrop with Lake Huron 500 ft. to the North. Choose a "rustic site" with no electricity and large open views of the sky or a site with electricity in the more wooded area. All areas suited for observing will have electricity available for your observing needs. You will be responsible for providing your own extension cord and power strips.

If you have further questions, feel free to contact Barry Craig at (810)-547-1299 or direct your campground questions to Diana at Duggan's Campground (517)738-5160. This event will be held rain or shine for your camping and observing pleasure.

P.S. The campout has moved because Justin's Campground has closed.


For Sale

Celestron, Celestar 8
Complete, including 25mm eye piece, boxes, manuals, hard case. Like new, 1 year old. Excellent condition.
$750.00
Contact Mike Affeldt
313-891-5229, after 5 p.m.


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This page was created by Jeff Bondono, and last changed on April 15, 1997.