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Volume XXV Number I

January/February 1997

Meeting Highlights

Thursday Jan. 9th

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum — Our very own Bruce Dietrich, from the Reading Area Community College, will begin our New Year with Ten Easy Questions. Now before you think you know the answers, come and see just how and why these questions aren't so easy! We will also look ahead to the coming year, and reveal an incredible surprise (unless you continue reading the Pegasus!)

Thursday Feb.13th

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum — Do your eyes pop when you see the latest cover of Sky & Telescope magazine? Do you covet the thousands of dollars of astrophotography equipment dangled in our faces with each issue? Tonight, Larry Citro presents…Astrophotography on a Shoe-String. No need for the CCD camera, computer-tracked telescope, or your own stocked dark room! Come and find out simple, common-sense, and inexpensive ways to knock your eyes out with your own astrophotographs!

Thursday Feb. 27th

Deadline: January/February Pegasus Pegasus is a bimonthly publication of the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society. Editor/Desktop Publisher: John Dethoff. Regular contributors: Priscilla Andrews, Linda Sensenig & Dave Brown. E-mail submissions may be made to:

Special Events and Star Watches

Saturdays, February 1, 8, 15 & 22

BCAAS Offers Introduction to Astronomy Course

For four consecutive Saturday afternoons starting February 1st, at 1:30 p.m., members of BCAAS will be instructors for Campus of Courses! In cooperation with Boscov's, we will set up class at Boscov's North, at the Fairground's Mall. Any interested beginner can call Boscov's at 779-2000 to sign up for the course. We will present a series of interesting topics which include: George Babel presenting The Constellations - learn to recognize the star patterns that help us find objects like star clusters and the Milky Way. Priscilla Andrews and John Dethoff presenting Binoculars and Telescopes - learn the advantages of binoculars and how to use them, and the differences between types of telescopes. Learn how they bring the sky closer to us! Dan Brown presenting The Planets - learn about the origins and make- up of our solar system neighbors. Keith Minnich presenting Comets, Asteroids, and Meteors - learn about the "flotsam" of the universe, those odd-ball bits and pieces of rock and ice which put on celestials displays and threaten our existence when they approach our Earth. The course costs $15-$20 dollars (to be decided by Boscov's in January). Since the course needs a minimum of 8 students, we urge any of you who always wanted a beginner or refresher course to sign up now! Bring a friend!

Monday, March 17, Star Watch

Friends, Romans and fellow astronomers, lend us your scopes!

Kevin and Candi Simmons are boldly going where no one from our club has gone before. We are holding a Star Party for the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at Lincoln Elementary School in Pottstown on March 17th (Rain date: March 18th). We would appreciate "big time" any help you can provide by coming out with scopes and binoculars. Who knows, we might even give you some food. (And it won't be Spaghetti-O's.) We also will not ask anyone to give an impromptu speech, since we're going to do that the week before. You heard us right. Candi, who knows even fewer constellations than John Dethoff, is going to do the talks. Call us for information and mark your calendars. We will provide directions in the next Pegasus and at the next meeting.

Mythology of the Night Sky: Taurus

by Linda Sensenig This was one of the earliest and most noted constellations, perhaps the first established, because it marked the vernal equinox from about 4,000 to 1,700 BC, in the golden age of archaic astronomy. In all ancient zodiacs preserved for us, it began the year.

Some poets of Greek literature identify the constellation with Io, the Wanderer, who was an object of Jupiter's affections. Juno, who was also in love with Jupiter, was so jealous that she turned Io into a cow! (Gee, Dave, are you sure that all your cows are really cows?)

South American savage tribes held ideas similar to our own. It is said the Amazon Indians saw in the shape of the Hyades the head of a bull. In China, it formed part of the White Tiger, and was also known as Ta Leang (the Great Bridge).

In Egypt where people worshipped the bull-god Osiris, Taurus naturally became his sky representative. Much was made of its stars throughout all Egyptian history and religion. It was the Egyptian belief that the human race was created when the sun was in this constellation. (Is that why some of us humans are so bull-headed?)

Other cultures also gave Taurus religious significance. With the Druids, it was an important object of worship. Their great religious festival, the Tauric, was held when the sun entered this constellation. Early Christians saw Taurus as the Ox that stood by the manger.

New Officers Elected

President: Priscilla Andrews
Vice Pres.: Dave Brown
Treasurer: Linda Sensenig
Secretary: Candi Haas-Simmons

From the President

by Priscilla Andrews

A Night at the Oscar's

And what a night it was! Bette Midler was not in attendance, but many illustrious members of BCAAS will remember this night as "Simply stellar!" Among the stars who received awards for great performances were: Paul Becker, Linda Sensenig, Dave Brown, Dave Drager, and the "Blueball Six", George Babel, Lloyd Adam, Barry Shupp, Bob Capone, Larry Citro, and Dan Davidson.

BCAAS officers Candi Haas-Simmons, Linda Sensenig, and Dave Brown received Presidential Awards of crystal faceted moons for their service throughout 1996.

As hoped for, members of the club created their own awards and skits in addition to the prestigious trophies created by President Priscilla Andrews. One outstanding award (the award was outstanding, not the person who received it!) was crafted by guildsman Dan Davidson. A perfect miniature Telrad viewfinder mounted on a perfect replica of the Hubble spacecraft was presented to Paul Becker. Citing the fact that the Hubble Space Telescope was recently fitted with a million-dollar version of our $40 Telrad viewfinder, Dan "roasted" Paul, a long- time advocate for conventional telescope viewfinders, because "Anything good enough for the Hubble, is certainly good enough for Paul Becker!" And the crowd went wild in agreement!

Then in the true tradition of BCAAS, where something always happens that no person of credible character will believe, Lloyd Adam and Paul Becker documented the actual landing of the fourth stage of the Mission Mars rocket, earlier believed by NASA officials to have burned through the atmosphere and landed in the ocean.

Capping off a night of quality entertainment, the party moved to the "BCAAS Bistro" (the back of the auditorium) for a delectable offering for the palate. Sundry goodies, in breathtaking array, slaked our hunger and provided the centerpiece for mingling and hobnobbing. There was only one question which could be heard among the shuffling crowds, and that was... "Why wasn't everybody there?"

Take a Walk to Pluto!

I would like to thank several members of our club who traveled to Allentown for the dedication of the Rev. Dr. Ernest F. Andrews Memorial Planet Walk on Sunday, December 8th. The sun miraculously shone on our little gathering at the Little Lehigh Parkway. Nine BCAAS members were in attendance in addition to the many LVAAS members and the family of Dr. Andrews. Also on hand were the Mayor of Allentown, the Morning Call, and TV2!

May I suggest that some beautiful Spring day, you visit the Parkway and take the walk to Pluto! It is a sobering thought to realize how absolutely small even our King of Planets is in the greater scheme of space.

Ray Harris, the main project coordinator, and I will be informing local school districts and colleges of this new educational attraction, which is free to everyone, just for the walking!

January Board Meeting

On Thursday, January 23rd, the BCAAS Advisory Board will meet at Paul Becker's house, 3529 W. Kent Rd. (turn at the Burger King on Fifth St. Highway in Muhlenberg Township). As there will be no cook out, we will not need catsup and mustard! (you had to be at the party)

We will, however, have a potluck supper, starting at 6:00. We want to discuss the year ahead, and create some sort of tentative program and event schedule. Anyone with ideas, concerns, or questions is invited to come. We encourage members to speak up and participate!

New Visual Aids!

In preparation for the Astronomy course at Boscov's, our membership at the December meeting voted to purchase a slide set of The Constellations and a large poster of the Messier objects. These visual aids will be available to any of our members who wish to use them for informative programs to schools, churches, or even your neighborhood. Anyone wishing to borrow these items can call George Babel at (717) 445-7954.

The New BCAAS 11" Club Scope

by Keith Minnich For six years, my desk has been next to Carol's. She has told everyone in our group more than a few stories about her husband, Frank, and "Frank's toys." Frank likes his toys. Frank has always liked toys. Frank's toys frequently drive Carol crazy.

I can't do Carol's stories justice, but she has told many a tale about Frank's toys. One of these stories dealt with their receiving a phone call from a stunned dutchy postal worker at the Oley Post Office informing them that there was an entire frozen pig waiting for immediate pickup (the pig unfortunately did not fit in their oven). Another story involved a "super deluxe" apple cider press which they used once and which generated cider at "only" $35 per gallon. Yet another story (about which I'm less clear and I've never fully understood) dealt with baby pheasants and a special pan to bake them in (that pan also did not fit in their oven).

The most recent tale began ten months ago in February, when Frank decided that it would be both interesting and educational to own a telescope. A survey of the literature revealed that the Celestron Ultima 11 (an 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain) was, according to the magazine ad, the largest "portable" telescope currently available. This was the starter scope for Frank.

After it arrived at his house, Frank and Carol began to question the scope's portability. Maybe it was portable for Hulk Hogan, but not for Frank and Carol. Just getting the scope out of the box was a major challenge, not to mention trying to assemble the scope and actually moving the scope into their cornfield. Neither of these two things ever occurred. Instead, "Frank's toy" sat in the middle of Carol's kitchen month after month after month. Carol did not find this too amusing. As with Frank's other toys, Carol tried to convince him to get rid of this "toy" or return it to Orion Telescopes. Frank said no. Frank thought that maybe he could have a small observatory built on their farm to house the scope. Carol said no.

In mid-December, Carol finally convinced Frank to at least move the scope into another room. The scope was moved into the corner of the room where Carol usually sets up her Christmas putz. This was also not a good location for the scope. Since the scope still had not been assembled after nearly a year, Carol finally convinced Frank just before Christmas to get rid of the scope.

Carol and Frank are both very generous people, and since Carol knows that I'm a member of BCAAS and that we give public star parties on a regular basis, Carol offered to donate the unused telescope to BCAAS as long as we provided the scope with a good home. After speaking with Priscilla, we decided that this would be fantastic.

If we wanted the scope before mid-March, we had a one week window during which we needed to pick up the scope. Otherwise, a large bed sheet which was decorated as a mountain was to be thrown over the scope and the scope would become an integral part of Carol's Christmas putz for several months. Paul Becker, the BCAAS "man of many traits" (and the guy with the big cool van), followed the lengthy directions over the back-roads of Oley to Carol's house (without even once getting lost or ending up in New Jersey) and picked up the scope. Paul is now busy assembling the club's scope.

We're all very grateful to Carol and Frank for their incredible generosity. Thanks to them, our club now has a brand new, beautiful, Celestron 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope which will definitely "have a good home" and be used at our public star parties by everyone. Hopefully, Frank and Carol will be able to make it to some of our future meetings and star parties to both learn how to use the telescope and to see the many spectacles in the sky. If Frank starts coming to our club's activities, maybe we can ask him to bring along some roast pig or baked pheasant to our club's picnic in August.

Thank you very, very much, Carol and Frank.

Leonid Meteor Report

By Paul Becker In case any of you were out the night of November 16-17th, hoping to see the Great Leonid Meteor Storm, like I was, here are the results that I recorded. Obviously, there was no great storm this year, but the first one I saw seemed hopeful. For about six seconds, this brilliant meteor turned red and green, and outshone Venus! It left a trail lasting several more seconds. Wow, I thought, this could be it! (Or else a piece of wreckage from the Mission Mars rocket)

Then from 10:30 p.m. until 1 o'clock in the morning, only 15 more meteors crossed the sky at Pulpit Rock. From 1 to 2 o'clock, I counted 16. From 2 to 3 o'clock, the apparent peak, I logged 20 meteors, very quick and mostly bright green. In the last half-hour of my watch, 3 to 3:30 a.m., 12 more meteors flashed across the sky.

Since I traced the meteor's path backwards to find the "radiant" (the point from which the meteors originated), I found that 32 additional meteors were not Leonids, at all, but random "sporadic" meteors. My figures matched very closely the predicted numbers in Sky & Telescope, which are slightly higher than last year's reports, but not even close to the hoped-for "Storm of the Century." The last great Leonid storm happened in 1966, with hundreds of meteors per hour at its peak!




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