The Warren Astronomical Society Paper
Volume 31, Number 4April, 1999

icon Solar Eclipse Cruise 1998 Aruba
by Sandy Kunz

As our cruise ship, the Fascination, loomed into the harbor of Oranjestad, the Dutch capital of Aruba, the palm trees graciously bowed to the warm tropical winds. Oranjestad's Dutch architecture, a child's playhouse of orange, yellow and blue, would host the February 1998 solar eclipse on this West Indian island off the coast of Venezuela.

The island buzzed in eager anticipation. Numerous astronomical groups positioned themselves at various optimal sites on the island or at sea. We all nervously watched as cascades of clouds jealously skirted across [continued]

icon A Tracking Mount for Astrophotography
by Clayton Kessler

As I was planning my recent vacation in Tucson, I realized that the ability to do some astrophotography while I was there was very important to me. Unfortunately I was flying, and luggage restraints precluded carrying my Meade 8" SCT. I spent a fair amount of time researching the portable alternatives.

At first, I thought I would build a classic "Barn Door" mount. I have seen these work very well with normal and wide angle lenses. Upon reflection I thought that a more sophisticated system would be more useful in the [continued]

astro chatter Astro Chatter
by Larry Kalinowski

Mars makes its closest approach to Earth on May 1, making the month of April the best time to start observing this mysterious planet. The planet will reach 16.2 arcseconds in diameter, giving everyone a chance to see some of those dark surface markings and polar caps that we usually only see in books and past photos.

Intel, the company that produces a computer chip that every computer should have inside, really made a big splash. The PENTIUM III, the next improvement in computer chips, was designed to identify its owner when ever interrogated [continued]

icon Minutes of Meeting
by LoriAnn Skonieczny

icon 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 February of 1999. Please extend them a warm welcome.
  • Steve Begovich Orion, MI
  • Jim & Mary Moffat Rochester Hills, MI
  • Frank J. Poma Fraser, MI
1 Year Anniversaries for April
  • Bill Bernauer Southgate, MI
  • Michael J. Narlock Sterling Heights, MI
  • Steven Wasson Livonia, MI
  • Victor Singh & Family Redford, MI
2 Year Anniversary for April
  • Ellis Boal Detroit, MI

Stardust Update
NASA's Stardust spacecraft had a successful launch atop a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, on Sunday, February 7, 1999, at 4:04 p.m. EST.

This is the first U.S. mission destined for a comet and the first-ever [continued]

by Joe Van Poucker

Last month I submitted a Member's Anniversary column to the WASP. It has been brought to my attention that some off the anniversary dates are wrong. After further inspection of the Membership Database, that was handed down to me when I took over the position of treasurer this year, it appears that there is a big gap in the dates listed for when a member joined. I would like to get this updated so we have an accurate record of our memberships. I am going to try and continue posting the members anniversaries with the information I have. If you see your name in the article and know that it is wrong please contact me with the correct information. Although phone calls are not a problem I would prefer an e-mail to joevp01@aol.com or that you get with me at one of the meetings. Thanks for your cooperation.

Corrections reported to me for this Month are: Doug & Robin Bock - 26 years with club.

icon Solar Eclipse Cruise 1998 Aruba, continued

the sky, threatening to block our view of the spectacular event we had come thousands of miles to see. Those of us who chose to stay on the island took in the colorful shopping sites on Lloyd Smith Boulevard, and the white sandy beaches trimmed with palm tree walkways.

At our designated site on the beach front of Seaport Village Resort we watched intently as the moon made "first contact" with the sun at 12:38 PM. The busy sounds of the tourists and vendors dropped to a humble drone. Through my protective Mylar glasses the world became a peculiar negative of the real world: the sun floating in an inky sky as the crater-edged lunar surface crept across it like a giant jagged inkblot. Partial eclipse had begun!

We watched anxiously for the next one-and-a-half hours as the sun slipped in and out of the clouds; disappearing for twenty minutes at a time. The total eclipse of the sun, known as totality, would last for only three minutes and six seconds; if the sky didn't clear soon we could miss it entirely.

Just moments before totality, as the sun slipped behind the moon, a prismatic burst of light known as the "diamond ring" emerged to a chorus of cheers from the crowd below. Within seconds it sizzled away into brilliant beads of solar light, called Bailey's Beads, that escaped between the moon's jagged edge of craters on its horizon.

As the last bead of light melted away the sun disappeared. The corona, the normally invisible halo of light around the sun, radiated around the circumference of the black moon. We abandoned our protective glasses and camera filters with shouts of appreciation to observe the celestial union of the sun and moon amidst the whirl of camera shutters clicking. A tingling chill swept throughout the crowd as the temperature dropped ten degrees in the shadow of the sun. Time stood still as the world slowed to a dream.

Suddenly the air filled with cheers and applause as the heavenly union split apart into a blaze of Bailey's Beads, Diamond Ring and columns of warming sunlight. We watched as the world return to normal, and we silently wondered when and where the next eclipse would occur...

Europe...August 11, 1999.

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icon A Tracking Mount for Astrophotography, continued

long run. There are several commercial camera tracking mounts available, and two had been reviewed in Sky and Telescope in the last year. More research!

The most highly regarded camera mount is the venerable Byers "Cam Track". This was apparently a very robust and accurate mount - and is no longer made. Judging by the cost of the "Cam track" on the used market, some of the components must be machined from solid gold! Lack of availability was the downfall for this mount. A search of Astromart showed many more requests to buy than offers to sell, and this is probably why the cost of the few available is so high!

Pocono Mountain Optics sells a camera mount that they call the "Series II German Equatorial Mount". This mount was reviewed in the March 1998 issue of Sky and Telescope. I read the review several times and came to the conclusion that the reviewer thought it was "OK" at best. The mount sells for $309.00 and does not include any kind of tripod or declination controls. The mount could not be guided and would only support 1 camera with a limitation on the lens focal length. There were no polar alignment aids built into the mount so a good polar alignment was difficult to achieve. I see, in the current adds that a quartz controlled drive is available - which brings the cost to $435.00. And a second camera adapter is available for an additional $24.95. The biggest problem with this is the lack of declination control and difficulty with polar alignment.

The next thing that came to mind is the Apogee Multi Purpose Fork Mount. This was reviewed in the January 1999 Sky and Telescope. This is a small equatorial fork mount with an RA drive and declination slow motion controls. This mount is large enough to accept a Celestron C90 or a Teleview Pronto. The mount comes with a light wooden tripod and a hole bored through the polar axis. This hole can be used to get a rough polar alignment and a drift alignment can finish the process. The RA drive includes a hand-box with variable drive rate controls and fast and slow buttons. This allows guiding in RA for astrophotos. Guide with what? The reviewer noticed that the polar bore hole was large enough for a 3/8" diameter screw. This allowed a camera tripod ball adapter to be bolted to the bottom of the RA shaft and a second camera to be mounted there. The reviewer mounted a C-90 to the fork mount and used it to guide photos of up to 25 minutes and up to 185mm focal length with a camera mounted to the ball head. The cost for this mount is $399.00 and I started to get very interested in it. The downfall on this mount is the tripod. A much heavier tripod would be needed to take accurate photos reliably.

As a result of my research, I felt that none of these mounts would satisfy my camera platform desires. I started a search for a used "Super Polaris" mount with RA and Dec motors. Unfortunately I was not able to find one in a timely manner that had a working drive system.

Time was beginning to get short and I had to make a decision. I had seen, in my cybertravels, numerous places that were selling a GEM mount made in Taiwan. This mount seemed to be everywhere from Orion Telescopes and Binoculars (the Skyview Deluxe mount) to the Europa Mount in Great Britain. Many small manufacturers were using this mount for 4", 6" and even 8" newtonians. I found, on the web, that Internet Telescope Exchange was offering their version of this GEM, the First Magnitude Model ITE EU01 Mount, with dual axis drives. I called Bill Burnett at ITE and discussed this mount with him. Unfortunately, the dual axis drives were not available, the drive manufacturer was located in the Florida Keys and heavily damaged by hurricane Georges. Bill did have a single axis drive available with a hand paddle for guiding. This I promptly ordered at a cost of $400.00.

A week later the drive hit my floor and I was very impressed when I unpacked it. The construction was robust and both RA and Dec seemed tight and precise. This mount is WAY beyond the normal, inexpensive, equatorial mount that comes with most mid priced scopes from Meade and Celestron. In size, the mount is slightly smaller than the venerable "Super Polaris" mount - maybe the size of the older Polaris. It includes worm gears on both axis and slow motion controls. A very nice feature is the polar alignment scope. The reticule shows Polaris with the proper offset and several of the stars surrounding the pole. The mount has fine adjustments in altitude and azimuth to ease the chore of polar alignment.

I quickly built a dual camera platform out of some 1/2" Lexan that I had laying around. I designed this in the shape of an elongated diamond. I included a machined dovetail bar in the center to attach a guide scope. This gave me the ability to attach my Orion "Short Tube 80" or my C-90 as a guide scope. Two cameras can be attached, one on each end. Balance is achieved in the normal way with a GEM and the counter-weight supplied was equal to the task. I really wanted to try the system out before the Tucson trip, to have a chance to work out any bugs. Unfortunately, Michigan weather being what it is there were no clear nights available for this.

This system is fairly compact but I did not want to carry this for the entire trip so I shipped the mount UPS to my folks' place in Tucson a week prior to my leaving. This worked very well as the mount arrived 5 minutes after I did and I saved my back to haul around golf clubs! A couple of days after my arrival I gave the system "first light" at the TAAA Empire Ranch dark site 30 miles from Tucson. The results were pretty good. The polar alignment scope, and the alt / az fine adjustments, allowed me to get a decent polar alignment quickly - but I had trouble finding the additional stars shown in the reticule. This resulted in some declination drift visible in the guide scope. If I were not quite so lazy, I would have done a drift alignment - but I am much too lazy for that. The Declination drift showed up as guiding error in the 200mm shots and to a lesser extent in the 135mm shots. A good drift alignment would have minimized this. Even better would have been a declination motor. A simple bump to the dec. axis once in a while would have made the use of 300mm and 400mm lenses possible. RA guiding was great. The motor adjusted well and held speed nicely. The Orion Short Tube is a 400mm focal length scope and my 9mm guiding eyepiece gives a 44x magnification. I did not notice any great amount of periodic error in the drive gears with this magnification.

All in all I am very pleased with this setup. I do plan to add a declination motor, which will allow more accurate guiding. I used the mount on three different nights and took about 70 astrophotos with it using two cameras simultaneously. All but a few (kick the tripod dummy!) came out very well and this gives me a wealth of negatives to scan and print. This will make a nice addition to my astrophotography arsenal and I will get a lot of use from it!

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astro chatter Astro Chatter, continued

by an outside source. That fact riled a lot of people claiming invasion of privacy. The feature can be turned off by the owner. There's even a move to get Intel to stop the sale of the chip. Besides the I.D. feature, Intel claims its processor will double the computer processing speed, compared to the older Pentium II chips with the same Mhz rating. There are also improvements in 3D graphical speed, as well as new video and sound capabilities with the Internet.

Just for fun, I ran the planetarium program SKYGLOBE to the month of May in the year 2000. The planetary groupings that present themselves during the first two weeks are quite amazing. Unfortunately, those groupings are all very near the Sun and make visual observing a little difficult. Its easy to see what the astrologers are all excited about. There is also a very tight grouping of Venus, Jupiter and Saturn that will be pretty interesting to see in your telescope on May 18. All three objects will be within 1.6 degrees of each other.

It looks like Pluto will remain in its present status. The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has decided to keep it a full fledged planet. As of last February 12, Pluto has returned to being the farthest planet from the Sun, removing that temporary position from Neptune.

The WAS computer program library has been updated with six new programs: IRIDFLAR, JUPSAT, KOMSOFT, EYEPIECE L.E., H-R CALC and VIEWPRINT. IRIDFLAR will calculate the trajectory of those new Iridium satellites and print out predictions for those extremely bright reflections caused by the antennas. JUPSAT is a new Jupiter satellite position calculator with graphics. EYEPIECE L.E. calculates telescope parameters for different eyepieces. KOMSOFT is a comet orbit calculator that determines when and where a new or old comet will be in the sky. H-R CALC is an H-R diagram teacher that shows a graphic relationship between mass, absolute magnitude and spectral classification. You can enter your own star anywhere on the H-R diagram and all those relationships will be shown and explained. VIEWPRINT is another picture viewer that handles many types of files and movies. The last program we had for viewing pictures (SVGA) was removed from the library. Check the program list I usually bring with me to the meetings. Extra copies of the list will be available at future meetings.

The March computer meeting will be held at Gary Gathen's home on Thursday, the 25th. 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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Stardust Update, continued

spacecraft sent to collect extraterrestrial material from outside the orbit of the Moon and return the sample back to Earth.

Stardust is on a path that will deliver it to Comet Wild-2 (pronounced "Vilt-2") on January 2, 2004. The spacecraft will gather particles of the nucleus of the comet. In addition the spacecraft will attempt to gather samples from a stream of interstellar dust that flows through the solar system. The particles will be captured in a glass foam called Aerogel. The samples will be enclosed in a clamshell-like capsule that will be dropped off for reentry in the Earth's atmosphere in January 2006. Equipped with parachutes, the capsule will float to a pre-selected spot in the Utah desert, where it will be picked-up and delivered to scientists for analysis. Additionally, photographs and dust analysis will be performed during the fly-by of the spacecraft.

The comet travels a path from just outside Jupiter's orbit to just inside the orbit of Mars. Due to the fact that Wild-2 originated from the Oort cloud, which extends beyond the orbit of Pluto, the Stardust mission will bring back matter from the deepest recesses of our solar system. The Stardust spacecraft will sweep through the comet's coma (the ball of gas surrounding the nucleus of the comet) at 136,000 miles per hour. NASA will use the Aerogel "catcher's mitt" to catch particles coming off of the comet.

The 'grains of sand" sized particles will hit the Aerogel with an extremely high velocity. The impact is so powerful that any other substance other than Aerogel would either vaporize the particles on impact or they would become so distorted that scientists would not be able to study them.

When the particles hit the Aerogel they will drill through the material, gradually slowing down, creating furrows that scientists will use to track the paths of the particles.

Aerogel is the lightest solid known; only three times the density of air. It can protect virtually anything from heat or cold. A block the size of a human weighs less than a pound yet could support a small car.

For more information check out the following websites: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/ or http://science.nasa.gov/

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icon Minutes of Meeting

Cranbrook, February 1, 1999

Macomb, February 18, 1999

Cranbrook, March 1, 1999

by Bob Watt
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This page was created by Jeff Bondono, and last changed on March 9, 1999.