Volume XXVIII Number 2

March / April 2002

In this issue:

1. Presidents message
History and Mythology Lessons
Mythology of The Night Sky - ARA
Treasurer's Corner


President’s message

Hello everyone!

So far, so good- not much snow. If we can sneak through a few more weeks……

Well, while fairly cold at times we have not had much snow. Snow will quiet things down a bit as we observe, but can do a job on the feet if they’re not well insulated.

We’ve had many cold and clear observing nights lately from which to view Winter’s splendors- the Orion Nebula, the Pleiades, the Andromeda galaxy, as well as Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. In addition, there has appeared a new comet Ikeya-Zhang, discovered in early February. Ikeya is the same person who co-discovered Ikeya-Seki in 1965.

The comet is in the western sky in Cetus almost straight down from Mars. It’s current magnitude is about 6.5, and it’s now estimated to reach 3 rd magnitude. After a short wait for the Moon to leave the early evening sky (anyone know where the off-switch is?) we should be able to get a view of the comet. You CCD guys might be able to take a crack at it right now. Perihelion is March 18 th , after which we should get some good views in the morning sky in April. Ikeya-Zhang will be closest to Earth on April 28 th . Please see the Sky and Telescope, or Planetary Society web sites for more information on the comet. Ephemerides may be found at

Now might be the time to get out and do some astrophotography if you’re interested. The winter sky objects make good subjects as do the planets Jupiter, and Saturn. The crisp, clear skies afford unobstructed views for clearer images than in the summertime.

Don’t forget the club starparty on Friday March 8th (r.d. March 9th ) at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Visitors Center at 6 PM. Also, Dave Brown will speak at Nolde Forest Environmental Center on March 22, 2002 after the observing at 7:30 PM. Please help with the observing if you can. Please see the calendar for other observing events.

See you out in the field!

Barry L. Shupp, Pres. BCAAS

Upcoming Events

March 8th @ 6pm—Club Starparty at Middlecreek Wildlife Project (raindate: March 9th)

March 14th @ 7:30pm—BCAAS general meeting at Reading Museum

March 20th @2:16pm—Spring!!!!

March 22nd—Dave Brown @ Nolde

March 26th—Science Fair @ Albright

March 28th—BCAAS Board meeting

April 12th—Club starparty @ ?????? (raindate: April 13th)

April 15th—TAX DAY!!!! (Yikes.)

April 20th—Astronomy Day Laser Show and Observing at Planetarium

April 21st—Earth Day Celebration

Pegasus is a bimonthly publication of the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society

Editor/Desktop publisher: Melody Gardner

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

History and Mythology Lesson

John Couch Adams was the first to calculate the position of Neptune. Unfortunately, English astronomers ignored his masterful mathematics. A German astronomer, using the calculations of Frenchman Leverrier found the planet. Adams had every right to be furious. But he was a gentle Christian and refused to harbor bitterness. Fortunately, John Herschel refused to accept the injustice. He took up Adams’ claim and even brought Leverrier and Adams together, where the amiable Adams quickly won the friendship of the Frenchman who generously agreed to share credit with his English rival. When John Couch Adams died on January 21, 1892, he was generally acknowledged as the co-discoverer or Neptune.

(Information obtained from Christian History Institute’s e-mail newsletter, 1/21/02)

Mythology of the Night Sky - ARA

This month we are all taking a vacation south of the border. As our cruise ship meanders around the Caribbean in search of an eclipse, at night you can gaze up at the spectacular night sky and below the constellation Scorpius, you will find an Altar. Otherwise known as Ara (a very popular constellation for those of us who do crossword puzzles!) Ancient Romans called it Aras Centaurus, or the altar of the centaur. It was known by a number of other names in those times, but all of them imply an altar or a hearth. Now I’ve never seen this constellation, however I just bet that if you connect the dots you don’t have anything that even resembles an altar!

The ancients also used to have a lighted altar near the top of a temple’s tower which produced the effect of the tower being a lighthouse. In that vein, this constellation was also referred to as Pharus, to commemorate the Pharos Lighthouse near Alexandria.

This constellation is depicted in a very interesting way in the star catalog "Hyginus" of 1488 and 1535. This was in the days before star catalogs became a boring assembly of stars. In those days star catalogs were works of art. Hyginus depicts Ara as an altar from which flames ascend with demons on both sides. An illustrated German manuscript of the 15th century shows it as the Pit with big demons thrusting little ones into the abyss! This is possibly in reference to what Jove (Jupiter) did to the giants he defeated them in the battle with the Titans. It is written that after it was all over, "he raised this Altar, and the Form appears with Incense loaded, and adorned with stars."

Smooth sailing!

Linda Sensenig

Treasurer’s Corner


This is a reminder that your help is needed to assist in BCAAS sending out get well cards and sympathy cards as needed. If you know that another club member is in the hospital or has lost a CLOSE loved one, please let me know. This is also an appeal for nobody to feel slighted if they are not remembered with a card. Many times the sender of the cards will be unaware that the situation arose.

Linda Sensenig


All members will find the 2001 annual report attached to this newsletter. Just a few comments since you will notice we lost money in 2001 in contrast to 2000 when we actually came out ahead - not by much, but still we came out ahead. Beyond dues, our income depends on circumstances beyond our control. We do not charge for our public programs. Nor should we. How much money we take in for public programs depends on how much organizations volunteer to give us. The report shows we only received $35.00 in 2001. Since the time the report was made, we received a total of $85.00 more for programs we did in 2001. That is still less than 2000. Also, we made over $200 in the year 2000 selling eclipse glasses. We had an eclipse in 2000, we did not have one in 2001. We should not panic because we lost money in 2001, however we should be vigilant and continue to think about fund raising projects that do not cost a lot of money up front.

Linda Sensenig

To be continued

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