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Volume XXV Number II

March/April 1997

Meeting Highlights

Thursday March 13

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum — Tonight we will be treated to a new planetarium show entitled Once Upon A Time. We take this word for granted and use it countless "times" everyday. Yet, what does this word really mean? Come and see the varied ways we perceive and measure time itself. (If Mark at the Planetarium can complete his editing of the brand new "timely" Comets are Coming!, we will be the very first group to view this important and up-to-the-minute show instead)

Thursday April 10

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum — We sighed when we missed him in January due to the inclement weather. Now Bruce Dietrich will finally present his 10 Easy Questions program! Bruce, our very own BCAAS member, and instructor at the Reading Area Community College, will tantalize our powers of reasoning with questions which, upon examination, aren't really that easy at all!

Thursday April 24

Deadline: May/June Pegasus

Special Events and Star Watches

Note: As you can see. our BCAAS schedule is very busy. Let's do our best to support these very special events, focused around a very special comet. This is deja vu of last year with Comet Hyakutake! The main difference is that we had lots of time this year to plan public and institutional events around the apparition of Hale-Bopp. Let's live up to our growing reputation as the Astronomers of the Hour!! - Priscilla
Monday, March 17th: Lincoln Elementary School, Pottstown. Candi & Kevin Simmons will be hosting an evening starwatch for what might be several hundred school children and their parents! Raindate is the 18th. If you can help our club with telescopes and/or binoculars, please call Candi at 610-970-5753 for directions.
Saturday, March 29th: Museum Day at the Berkshire Mall.—10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Paul Becker will be heading this event for us We need volunteers to man the BCAAS table, as well as comet photos of Hale-Bopp or Hyakutake for our Comet Display. This will be the first of three events where we will be raffling off one of our 60mm Meade refractors. The time is now to appeal to the public for interest in astronomy in general, and our club in particular. The Comet is here!
Saturday, April 5th: Astronomy Day at Boscov's! This is the big event: day two of our telescope raffle, bake sale, display table, and, if weather permits, evening viewing outside of the Mall entrance in the grassy knoll in front of the parking lot. We need everybody for this one, as it is a long day, with many different agendas. All members willing to donate baked goods (or money in lieu of baking) contact Linda Sensenig at 610-375-9062.
Sunday, April 6th: Hale-Bopp Star Watch at Dave Brown's Farm. Come join us for another delightful evening of comet watching and star gazing. A bonfire will provide warmth as well as a place to huddle and exchange stories. For those who need directions, call Dave (926-3797) or any of the veteran members.
Saturday, April 12th: Astronomy Day at the Reading Planetarium. Mike Feyers and his assistant Mark, are working diligently to finish their new state-of-the-art planetarium show called Comets are Coming! The Museum/Planetarium will be publicizing this event to the max, so we will need many members to contribute their talents and their scopes/binoculars for possibly one of the last crucial evening events which will be well-timed for Comet Hale-Bopp. This will be the third and final event for our telescope raffle, as we will be picking the winner at 9:00 p.m. in front of the Planetarium. You are asked to come to the Planetarium about one hour before dusk to help set up our "telescope garden" out front, and greet the public with answers to their questions on the comet!
Friday, May 2nd: Reading Area Community College Program. Michel Ramsey has been working very hard to coordinate this BCAAS/RAAC event! Much publicity in the form of TV, posters, flyers, and newspapers will herald our arrival at the college. We will be treated to coffee, and the red carpet by the college for bringing our scopes and expertise to the students and faculty of the school. We will have our own parking spaces, and the student building will be kept open for restroom facilities. If inclement weather prevails, BCAAS will present an indoor astronomy program, yet to be determined. You may call Michel at 926-3482 with any questions. Rain or shine, please plan to come to this important first cooperative venture with RAAC.
Saturday, May 10th: Heritage Center Star Watch, at dusk, North of Reading on Rt. 183. We had the most fulfilling event in cooperation with the Heritage Center last fall. Over 100 people excitedly expressed their interest in observing, and wished nothing other than our returning! Well, here we come! Again, we need everyone's time, talent, and telescopes for this one. Weather permitting, I think this one will be extremely well-attended, thanks in large part to the Berks County Recreation Departments efforts at advertising. Be there!

From the President

by Priscilla Andrews

Up and Ready!

You read in last issue of Pegasus of our serendipitous addition to our club artillery! Drs. Frank and Carol Szarko so generously donated a brand new in-the-box 11" Celestron Ultima Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope to us several weeks ago! In the meantime, the Gadget Guys in the club were nag(ler)ing for this and that accessory. Our board meeting culminated in the approval of the purchase of a declination motor, Telrad viewfinder, and counterweight kit, so the new telescope would be sky-worthy in time for the Great Apparition of Comet Hale-Bopp.
Paul Becker and I traveled to our friends at the Pocono Mountain Optics, in Moscow, Pa. to see what we could do without pillaging our hard-earned treasury.
Glenn Jacobs, owner and mastermind of the PMO, greeted us warmly and proceeded to offer our club discount prices under his already unbeatable catalogue prices! The deal seemed so good, that Paul and I purchased an additional Telrad mount for our 10" club scope, as well as a professional dew shield for the 11". We are up and ready!
Glenn also astounded us by donating to us two Meade 60mm refractors, one for our use at Boscov's for our Astronomy Day telescope raffle, and another for use later in the year! I would like all of you to attend our March meeting so you all may sign a letter of gratitude that we will be mailing to Glenn. We can only say thank you and promise to tell all of our observing friends of the wonderful support Pocono Mountain Optics has given our club!!

Astronomy Course a Stellar Success

By the time you read this, we will already have had our Boscov's class observing event at Pulpit Rock. I am sure I speak for all of our BCAAS instructors of the course, Keith Minnich, Dan Brown, George Babel, John Dethoff and myself, that we had an incredible group of eager and serious students! A full house of at least 38 students greeted us each Saturday morning throughout February, notebooks in hand and questions in mind. I will not be at all surprised if our club gains several new and enthusiastic members from our first venture in classroom astronomy!
We were astounded at the numbers of interested people, starving for instruction in how to begin learning about the night sky! Boscov's public relations director noted that we had the largest sign-up of any class in its Campus of Courses this winter!
Keith had the foresight to make up evaluation sheets which most of the students completed after the last class. Ninety-five percent of the comments were complimentary and indicative of the need for more courses in the future.
We should consider the ramifications of possibly presenting our own course on Astronomy, perhaps in fall or next winter. Thank you to all of the instructors for a job well-done!

The Astronomical League Is Celebrating Its 50th Birthday

The Golden ALCON. This celebration, an international event, is open to all members of the league.

How are we celebrating?

By reserving a Colorado Rocky Mountain convention equipped major winter ski resort (Copper Mountain) to host the 1997 Astronomical League Convention. We are taking advantage of this facilities size and getting low off season rates for 6 to 12 days (June 27,1997 through July 9, 1997).
Of course one early announcement can only skim the surface of what will be going on there. Keep tuned to the Reflector Newsletter and the Internet DAS & Astronomical League page ( for updates.

1997 Eclipses

March 8-9: Total Solar Eclipse. Totality only visible from portions of eastern Asia and the Arctic. So, bundle up and dust off your dogsled! March 23-24: Partial Lunar Eclipse. This is the best eclipse of the year from North America. The eclipse peaks at 11:39 p.m. EST March 23.

Observer's Notepad

Greetings from Deerfoot Farm, clearinghouse for all astronomical confusion east of Cleveland, Ohio !
It's been a while since I've written this column, so there are several areas to bring you up-to-date on.
Last year in Pegasus, a poem entitled Astrowidow was published, authored by my dear wife, Chris Brown. (I must write this part carefully, as not to alter movement of the frying pan held over my head.) This poem was penned as a reaction to my frequent absences from her side because of observing and for BCAAS events. Many folks enjoyed her work, and through the internet she made contact with the National Library of Poetry, and submitted Astrowidow for their amusement. Apparently, they enjoyed it as well, enough to include it in an upcoming book entitled Etches In Time, due to go to press this spring. In addition, the poem was entered in a contest held by the Library for best works of 1996, with a possible grand prize of $1,000.00!
I feel if the prize is won, that money should go to BCAAS, don't you? Ouch!! (pause while I try to remove the words Revere Ware® from my forehead)
Another family member, Daniel, my son and partner in all BCAAS crimes, is finally fully recovered from our trip to Spruce Knob, West Virginia last fall. It took till now to convince him he doesn't need a 'coon dog, and he'll be better off driving the car instead of lusting after my old pickup truck. Kids are sooo impressionable!!
Confusion continues this spring over Hale-Bopp. After showing the comet to my wife at 5 a.m. this February, when she was more interested in getting to work than seeing this recent fuzzball. She misinterpreted my description of where to find it in the sky, and she now told all her co-workers that the comet is passing through the winter triangle
I should have enrolled her in George Babel's constellation class at Boscov's. He may have learned a few things!
All kidding aside…Hale-Bopp looks great! I invite all of you reading this to the April 6 Star Watch here at the farm. We will have a great time out under the stars with super telescopes and binoculars, and a bonfire to keep warm. And…you will have a chance to see me, a man who will truly be out standing in his field!!!! Clear skies till then Dave

Mythology of the Night Sky: Canis Major

Once upon a time in Finnish mythology, there were two lovers—Zulamith the Bold and Salami the Fair. The gods gave them the job of building a beautiful bridge across the sky. Zulamith started at one end of the sky, and Salami started at the other. It would be a thousand years before they met in the middle, having then completed the Milky Way. The Finnish poet Zakris Topeliu wrote that after a thousand year separation, "they straight rushed into each other's arms and melted into one; so they became the brightest star in heaven's high arch that dwelt—Great Sirius, the mighty Sun beneath Orion's belt."

The ancient Finns were one of only a few who did not see a dog in Sirius. It's not that the constellation of Canis Major looks like a dog, but the way it is positioned in the sky behind Orion the hunter, it was only natural that the hunter needed a dog. The constellation itself is more modern. In ancient times, only Sirius was considered significant. Nobody really knows when people finally drew a constellation around this star. However, we do know that at the time of Homer, Canis Major consisted of only one star,but that one star is the brightest star in the night sky.

It is the only star that appears with absolute certainty in Egyptian records; it even has it's own hieroglyph—a dog. (you were, perhaps, expecting a cat?) The Egyptians back in 3,000 B.C. worshipped the Dog Star which rose at the time of the summer solstice and marked the time when the Nile would flood. The Romans went even farther in their worship of Sirius. Roman farmers sacrificed a fawn-colored dog to the Dog Star at three of their festivals.

Its heliacal rising, 400 years before our era, occurred when the sun entered the constellation of Leo, marking the hottest time of the year. Using the impeccable scientific reasoning that the ancient Greeks and Romans were famous for, they easily concluded that it was the Dog Star that caused the summer to be so hot. Conversely, in the winter, when Sirius shone so brightly in the night sky, it was obvious that the Dog Star was responsible for the cold of winter. Even today, we refer to the hot days of late summer as the dog days of summer (it has nothing at all to do with your dog panting for air in August!)

Linda Sensenig

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:




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