Volume 34 Issue 2

Spring 2008

In this issue:

1. President's Message 5. NASA Update Page
2. Tracking Wildlife From Space  6. Schedule of Upcoming Events
3. Space Place Updates 7.  
4. Letter to the Editor 8.  

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

Editor/Desktop publisher: Melody Gardner

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

2008 Slate of Officers

President  - Dave Brown

Vice President - Bret Cadmus

Trea$urer - Linda $en$enig

Secretary/Night Sky Network  - Barb Geigle

Webmaster - Mike Bashore

Hotline - Paul Becker

Public Relations - Barry Shupp

Pegasus Editor, Etc. - Melody Gardner

President’s Message

Spring is here! Time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Be sure to save some energy from gardening and lawn work to get out on a warm evening to look at the sky.

Spring time in this hemisphere has the Milky Way galaxy we live in tilting towards the horizon, so the thinnest part of the galaxy disc is now directly overhead, allowing us to look beyond our home galaxy better and glimpse our neighboring galaxies.

Take a pair of binoculars, aim them towards the bowl of the Big Dipper in the north, and you may see some of our "neighbors", M81 and M82, are bright enough for bino's, and looking high in the southern sky about 10 pm in the constellation of Virgo will reveal many "faint fuzzies". Several HUNDRED are visible in Virgo with the right telescope.

If these elude you, come join us at a club star watch this spring or summer and we will help you find them. This part of our hobby, of "virtual" discovery, can be very exciting and enjoyable. It is many times the reason folks stay in the hobby as long as they do. Don't miss it!

If you like to interact with the public, who may have little knowledge of the sky, join us at the Heritage center on May 9th for a public event. Bring any equipment you have, and don't feel embarrassed to ask questions about using a telescope or how to find things in the sky. You will probably be surrounded by folks who know less than you do, so no question is a "dumb" question.

Dave Brown, President

Tracking Wildlife From Space
by Patrick L. Barry

It's 10 o'clock, and do you know where your Oriental Honey Buzzard is?

Tracking the whereabouts of birds and other migrating wildlife across thousands of miles of land, air, and sea is no easy feat. Yet to protect the habitats of endangered species, scientists need to know where these roving animals go during their seasonal travels.

Rather than chasing these animals around the globe, a growing number of scientists are leveraging the bird's eye view of orbiting satellites to easily monitor animals' movements anywhere in the world.

The system piggybacks on weather satellites called Polar Operational Environmental Satellites, which are operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as a European satellite called MetOp. Sensors aboard these satellites pick up signals beamed from portable transmitters on the Earth's surface, 850 kilometers below. NOAA began the project—called Argos—in cooperation with NASA and the French space agency (CNES) in 1974. At that time, scientists placed these transmitters primarily on buoys and balloons to study the oceans and atmosphere. As electronics shrank and new satellites' sensors became more sensitive, the transmitters became small and light enough by the 1990s that scientists could mount them safely on animals. Yes, even on birds like the Oriental Honey Buzzard.

"Scientists just never had the capability of doing this before," says Christopher O'Connors, Program Manager for Argos at NOAA.

Today, transmitters weigh as little as 1/20th of a pound and require a fraction of a watt of power. The satellites can detect these feeble signals in part because the transmitters broadcast at frequencies between 401 and 403 MHz, a part of the spectrum reserved for environmental uses. That way there's very little interference from other sources of radio noise.

"Argos is being used more and more for animal tracking," O’Connors says. More than 17,000 transmitters are currently being tracked by Argos, and almost 4,000 of them are on wildlife. "The animal research has been the most interesting area in terms of innovative science."

For example, researchers in Japan used Argos to track endangered Grey-faced Buzzards and Oriental Honey Buzzards for thousands of kilometers along the birds' migrations through Japan and Southeast Asia. Scientists have also mapped the movements of loggerhead sea turtles off the west coast of Africa. Other studies have documented migrations of wood storks, Malaysian elephants, porcupine caribou, right whales, and walruses, to name a few.

Argos data is available online at, so every evening, scientists can check the whereabouts of all their herds, schools, and flocks. Kids can learn about some of these endangered species and play a memory game with them at

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

The ARGOS program tracks the whereabouts of endangered migrating animals via miniature transmitters on the animals and the POES satellites in orbit.


Under Construction

Space Place Projects!

Spotlight on the "Projects"
Section of The Space Place

Easy experiments to demonstrate concepts such as atmospheric pressure, stereoscopic vision, and ionization are some of the hands-on activities in the "Projects" category on The Space Place.

There are also art projects to express the beauty of the planets—including Earth— the stars, and the galaxies. Know a child who likes to build models? How about a balloon-powered Asteroid Nanorover? Or how about hanging out in the kitchen and making (then eating) Asteroid Potatoes, El Niņo Pudding, or a Tortilla Spacecraft?

Our most popular project is the Star Finder. Star Finders are "dressed up" star maps, one for each month, that kids print, cut out, and fold into the familiar "fortune teller" shape and use to play a constellation-finding game.

All these projects and more are accompanied by short, readable explanations, with lots of colorful and compelling illustrations of the concepts modeled in the activity.

This month in astronomy!

May 10, 2008:
National Astronomy Day
Meet Michelle Thaller, enthusiastic astronomer, on Space Place Live!  - a cartoon "talk show" guest starring scientists and engineers, who talk about their work and why they love it.

May 14, 1804:
Lewis and Clark began theirjourney of exploration.
If only they had a satellite’s view of North America, it would have saved them a lot of trouble.

May 18, 1980:
Mt. St. Helens erupted, blowing off its whole top.

May 29, 1917:
John F. Kennedy was born.
It was President Kennedy who, on May 25, 1961, set the goal of putting an American on the Moon before the end of the 1960s.

New and improved
NASA Space Place features
check them out today!


Schedule of Upcoming Events






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