The Warren Astronomical Society Paper

Volume 30, Number 7, July, 1998


Table of Contents


Focus On: Bob Watt

by Ceil Brooks

Bob Watt ("like a lightbulb but not as bright") first became interested in astronomy back in 1957. He visited a friend with an extensive home library, and after some conversation, walked away from that visit with a great book on telescope making. Bob then made his way to the Detroit Astronomical Society where he was a member from 1957 to 1958. That group had an elaborate telescope-making set-up and it was there that Bob made his first telescope. Bob says that everything that could have went wrong did, but that after working one evening each week for 13 months he had a perfect 6" mirror.

Bob has made his share of telescopes since then. In 1964 Bob helped some 4th and 5th graders at Trinity Lutheran School in Warren build an 8" scope. He also helped assemble the WAS 22" telescope and describes that as an experience to remember. Bob now focuses his attention on his 8" Schmidt-Cassegrain. His love of astronomy, which began with a special interest in the sun and the planets has now expanded to deep sky objects. He has computerized his telescope and hopes to bring some high-tech toys to this year's SMURFS star party in July. Bob is also looking forward to pursuing his interest in astrophotography.

Bob has been a member of Warren Astronomical Society for about five years. He has been the club secretary since January of this year and stated that he never dreamed the role was such a learn-as-you-go job!

Bob retired about 5 and a half years ago. It is hard to believe that he ever has time to sleep given all his interests! He has a 30' x 30' organic garden where he grows kohl rabbi (what's that?) and a variety of other vegetables. His favorite vegetable to grow is the Thailand Hot Pepper plant. He has more than 35 of them in his garden and ends up giving them all away. Hard as it is to believe, Bob says that the folks that like his hot peppers the best are the workers of the nursing home where his mother-in-law resides. They also enjoy Bob's green tomatoes.

Bob is a real 'joiner' and belongs to many clubs and associations, including the Great Lakes Maritime Institute, the Kite Flyer's Association, International Watch and Clock Collectors and the Audubon Society.

Bob is married to Pat and they like to call themselves 'flower people'. They have been growing all kinds of flowers (more varieties than could be mentioned here) for years! Pat collects postcards and also teaches cake decorating. Bob has one daughter named Robin and two granddaughters, Sana who is 13 and Sarah who is 15. Bob is the proud father-in-law of Mazher who is from Pakistan and is a mechanical engineer.

Bob has a heart-of-gold and even volunteers his time to mentor second grade kids, helping them with their reading and writing. Bob says "kids and dogs like me so I can't be all bad!"


Bock's Boon Bash

by Clay Kessler

The Memorial Day Weekend was the time frame for the Northern Cross Observatory Wilderness Star Party in Boon Michigan. Host, and noted local astronomer, Doug Bock worked hard to assure a successful weekend. Many astronomers from the Warren Astronomical Society and the Ford Amateur Astronomy Club were in attendance as well as several northern Michigan observers! To say that "a great time was had by all" would be a terrible understatement. The weather was beautiful and the observing conditions were excellent. Doug's Boon Hill observing site provided plenty of room for camping and telescope setup.

It was a wonderful family weekend with many children running around having fun during the day and lots of serious astronomy going on at night. Blaine McCullough brought up the WAS 22" Dob and this was used by Marty Kunz and Pat "Comet Ace" Stonehouse to provide a look at the new comet and other "faint fuzzies" to all who cared to peek. Doug Bock had his 20" Dob and provided his "tour of the universe" to anyone who wandered by. I kept hearing people saying "Six! I count six galaxies in this field of view!" from Doug's direction. Jack Kennedy took some astrophotos this weekend using his LX200. Judging from the raw prints he got some excellent shots! Larry Vassallo brought up his new 5th wheel for camping and had an LX200 and a 10" Dob, he was also taking astrophotos. Glenn Wilkins had his new camper set up on the field near the road along with his large Dob. Tim Gillen, from Traverse City, joined us and brought his large Dob. Rich Brenz from Cadillac was out with his 10" LX200 for two nights and he kept us supplied with tools for on-site repairs! Thanks Rich! I won't forget the time I spent looking through Dave Ciali's 14" Dob observing the veil nebula with an O-III filter. This allowed us to very clearly see the smoke like wisps of the nebula structure and almost gave a 3-D effect - VERY NICE!! I also saw Pluto for the first time thanks to Dave.

Also on site was the entire extended Bock clan, Vic and Pat Singh and their extended clan, Rich and Christine Becker, new members of the FAAC and several new observers from the Cadillac area out to scope out the scopes.

KA-CHING!! Mother nature paid off against the odds, for us here in Michigan, giving us 3 clear nights out of 4. Made you kind of want to run up to a casino while our luck was holding so well! Friday night was kind of scary with the sky clouding up in the afternoon. The clouds teased us until around 11:00 and then we noticed that the stars were getting brighter. By 11:30 the sky was clear. Saturday was great all day and all night. Sunday was a different story. The clouds rolled in at mid-morning and a soft rain started to fall. This kept up, on and off, all day and through the night. Monday morning dawned still raining. This was crunch time - do you pack and go home or have faith? The clouds lingered through the morning and into the afternoon. Finally the sun broke through some holes. Two hours later the sky was clear and stayed that way all night! The "Faithful Five" that stuck it out had a wonderful night of observing.

Looking at the equipment that showed up it seems that large Dobsonian telescopes were the scope of choice for the veteran serious observers. There were 4 SCT's ( two 8" and two 10") and one equatorial Newtonian on the field with the rest big Dobs. We needed Greg Burnett, with his big refractor, and Bob Fitzgerald, with his binocular setup to round things out!

The skies were very nice getting dark at around 10:30 and staying that way until around 4:30 AM. The humidity kept the skies a little "bright" but afforded some great nebula views. I am no judge of stellar magnitude but some discussions on Saturday night put the sky at somewhere around 6th magnitude. It was plenty dark enough to see a lot of structure in the milky way. The Lagoon, the Eagle, the Swan, the double cluster and M31 were all naked eye objects, that's dark enough for me.

As usual for a star party, things got quiet in the wee morning hours. This is the time when quiet murmurs can be heard across the field and the occasional group gasp as a particularly bright meteor flashes by. This quiet intensity is what unknots the psyche and relaxes the soul. Is this a great hobby or what!!!!

Don't forget the Northern Cross Observatory Summer Solstice Star Party at the observatory site in Fenton Michigan. This will take place on June 26th to the 28th. Check Doug's Northern Cross Observatory web site for maps and additional information at http//bsd1.kode.net/~dougbock/index.html. See you there!!


Astro Chatter

by Larry Kalinowski

(Ed. note: The column name has been changed. It's because I seem to be having more astronomy news than computer news nowadays. I haven't forgotten my keyboard users. Computer news will be included whenever possible.)

The big news, from the Hubble telescope, is the possible visual detection of an extrasolar planet.... a planet in another solar system. You'd think that such a picture would be conclusive.... that there wouldn't be any doubt about whether it was a planet or not, but the photo shown, with the "planet" supposedly being ejected from a multiple star system, leaves some doubt. Mass estimates of the "planet" seem to indicate that it's about two or three times the mass of Jupiter. Since it's being ejected from the double star system, it's not in a stable orbit. Stability would help refine the calculations considerably. Could it possibly be a small star or the remnant of a star? We'll know more about it as other calculations are concluded. Spectroscopic analysis should help put the puzzle together.

Neutrinos have mass? Recent findings by a Japanese physics team have indicated that they've discovered a possible wobble in moving neutrinos. Any wobble at all indicates mass. This has implications far greater than the discovery of a possible extrasolar planet mentioned above. It could finally explain the problem of missing mass in the structure of the universe. Present theories indicate the universe should have ten times more mass than is actually measured. More mass means our universe would eventually collapse again, leading to another big bang and the development of another universe.

You can put your order in for Windows 98 at any of the chain computer stores around town. June 25 is supposed to be the sale date. Whether or not that date becomes the first day of sale is yet to be seen. Microsoft's legal problems could move that date back further.

If you thought the Palomar sky survey was something to behold, you ain't seen nuthin' yet. In 1999, astronomers will begin the Sloan sky survey. It's expected to gather images of fifty million celestial objects on CCD equipment, designed especially for astronomy and be ready for distribution to astronomers, both professional and amateur, by the year 2005. A lot depends on weather conditions and how many clear nights will be available. The CCD chip actually contains fifty-four chips, each one two inches on a side. Each CCD contains four megabytes, bringing the total to two-hundred and sixteen megabytes of data, per picture.

It appears that Neutron stars are now being classified into groups. The latest type being called a Magnetar. The surface magnetic field is one hundred times as strong as a typical neutron star. Its strong enough to cause quakes within the star which, in turn, cause large bursts of Gamma rays.

The Mars Global Surveyor may have discovered water on Mars. What appears to be an ice filled crater has been found near the equator by a Tennessee researcher. This water source would be very valuable for a Mars landing team.

Don't forget the WAS club picnic to be held starting Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21. Overnight accommodations will be available for those who just have to catch a couple of winks during the twilight hours. There will be food and drinks for all. If you have a dish to bring, please do. We had a swap table last year and plan to have another. So if you have any items to swap or sell, bring them along. Please don't forget to bring a repellant for those pesky mosquitoes, and kids, bring a glass jar to catch fireflies.

The June computer meeting will be at Gary Gathen's home, on Thursday the 25th. The July meeting on the 23rd, as well as the rest of the fourth Thursday meetings through, and including, October. All new visitors will receive a free Windows planetarium program. Gary lives in Pleasant Ridge, at 21 Elm Park, three blocks south of I-696 and a half block west of Woodward Ave. His number is 248-543-3366.

I'm still looking for someone to take my place as Computer Group chairman. If you're interested, give me a phone call at 810-776-9720.


Confessions of an Amateur Astronomer

by Steve Greene

We had recently moved into our new home in Macomb Township and were relaxing on the patio at the back of the house. It was a beautiful Summer evening. The warm breeze felt like silk flowing over my face. My wife, Nancy, and I listened to the sounds of the day drift off as the clock in the house struck eleven o'clock. The heavens abounded with stars and one in particular stood out. In my inquisitive way I wondered about that particular star, one that I had seen for some time in the summer night sky. Nancy asked me if it was possible to know what star that very one was. I remembered that a friend of ours had loaded an astronomy software program on our computer, I told her that I will be right back as I stepped into the house. It took me some time to understand how to use the program but within a few short minutes the answer was at hand. To my amazement the star that shone so brightly outside was not a star at all but was Jupiter. I discovered Jupiter!

Discovered! Well... I was excited! I did not realize that Jupiter would be so prominent. My lack of understanding that a planet in our solar system would show itself so clearly was only the first of my 'Discoveries.' It would only take a week to be able to point out the other planets that shine brightly in the night sky and by the next weekend, the neighbors thought that I was an astronomer. You've heard of being 'King for a day'; I was 'astronomer for the week.' I was embarrassed. How could I be considered an astronomer if with all my might, I could only point out the 'Big Dipper' the 'North Star' the 'Moon' and a handful of planets?

I latched onto a term that allowed me to sleep at night. That term was one that as insignificant as it may seem, is so significant that millions of people in hundreds of countries are defined by it. People with one day's worth of astronomy to the learned folks with decades of experience. That one term is 'Amateur.' It doesn't mean that you are less of an astronomer than the next person, it means something different, much more than that. Being an amateur astronomer means that you belong to this big, no, enormous club where others share your interests, share your quest for knowledge, know how amazed you are when you find something in the sea of shining points of light because they too were excited to find those same objects.

You are in good company when you are an amateur astronomer. I started out by using the computer program that I had. I went to the library and over the course of six months, had checked out every book on telescopes at least once and some two and three times. I now have quite a collection of books and equipment, most of which I asked for at Christmas time or my birthday. I also have had many experiences, listening to the presentations at the Cranbrook and Macomb meetings and observing at Stargate. I am glad I joined the club.

Most astronomy in Michigan is done at home. There are books to read, video tapes from the library to check out, programs on 'Nova' and 'The Learning Channel (TLC)' provide countless hours of opportunity to learn about astronomy. The internet is full of sites that provide up to the minute news in the field of astronomy. Don't forget the WAS club meetings where presentations are given on everything from the sun to making a telescope.

The bottom line is to be involved! Each of our members has some knowledge about some aspect of astronomy that others would love to hear about. Share an experience, or the latest book you read or video you saw. Join the group at Stargate, you may see nighttime objects you have never seen before.

It has been two years since I was sitting on the patio with Nancy. I have enjoyed many weekend evenings that quickly moved on into the wee hours of the morning at Stargate Observatory. I have 'Discovered' many of the constellations and to date, twenty five Messier Objects. Several of our members have been regulars at Stargate, enduring the bitter cold of January and February and now fighting off the summertime bugs but... they come prepared and say to me "I'll be back." Last week a few of our new members joined in the viewing of the nighttime splendors. It is always enjoyable to help others find the amazing objects that can be viewed with the telescope. I hope that other new members, other 'Amateur Astronomers', will decide to make the time to go and see the wonders of the sky.


Announcement

by Jeff Bondono

Jeff Bondono and Ceil Brooks (now Bondono) are happy to announce that they tied the knot on May 26th in the elopement capital of the midwest, Toledo, Ohio. Jeff and Ceil will be living in Shelby Township. Look for Ceil at upcoming club meetings and events. You'll recognize her by her sparkling smile and the guy with the ponytail by her side.


Minutes of Meetings

by Bob Watt

Macomb, May 21, 1998




Cranbrook, June 4, 1998


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