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Volume XXVI Number II

March/April 1998

Meeting Highlights

Thursday March 12

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum - We are very fortunate to have two brave adventurers in our club that have forgone all creature comforts in pursuit of the total solar eclipse. Paul Becker will be showing photos of the eclipse and other heavenly bodies. Priscilla Andrews reports on the adversities found on a cruise ship and the effects of alcohol on star gazing.

Thursday April 9

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum - We have been invited to see the latest and greatest information gained from the missions to Mars. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then we should be overwhelmed before the presentation has ended.


Note: A few good men or women are needed: Beginning with the May meeting, a new format will be utilized. Curious? If you possess a certain expertise in astronomical subjects, let George know.

Thursday April 30

Deadline: May/June Pegasus

Pegasus is a bimonthly publication of the Berks County Amateur Astronomical Society. Editor/Desktop Publisher: John Dethoff. Regular contributors: Priscilla Andrews, George Babel, Linda Sensenig and Donna Weinsteiger. E-mail submissions may be made to: John Dethoff

Special Events and Star Watches


Monday, March 23 Lincoln Elementary School, Pottstown. Candi & Kevin Simmons will be hosting an evening starwatch for what might be several hundred school children and their parents! If you can help our club with telescopes and/or binoculars, please call Candi at 610-970-5753 for directions.

Wednesday, April 1 Reading Area Community College Program. 7:00 - 9:30 p.m. Michel Ramsey has been working very hard to coordinate this BCAAS/RACC 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 hope to 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 926-3483 with any questions. Rain or shine, please plan to come to this important second cooperative venture with RACC. This is a fun time for all.

Friday, May 29 Heritage Center Star Watch 8:00 p.m. (or dusk), north of Reading on Rt. 183. Rain date is Saturday, May 30. The last time this event was held, over 100 people excitedly expressed their interest in observing, and anxiously wait our return! 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!

Friday, June 19 to Sunday June 21 Mason-Dixon Star Party - at the Spring Valley County Park in York. For more information contact Jeri Jones, York County Parks, 400 Mundis Race Rd., York, PA 17402, (717-840-7226), or visit their website at:

Friday, July 24 & Saturday, July 25 Stellafane - The 63rd Annual Stellafane Convention will be held in Springfield, Vermont. Mark your calendar now and make your plans early. More information will appear in future issues or check out their web site at:

Note: Check the hotline for upcoming club star parties that have yet to be announced.

Announcing a New Observer’s Program

Due to the interest in a beginners program, the following outline of subjects are being included in our May start up.

Equipment (types) Star hopping

Set up Observing techniques

Collimation (optics) Eyepieces and filters

Site selection Deep sky objects (M, NGC)

Constellation identification Star charts

George will need the assistance of some veteran observers to help in instructing and hands on work shops. The site election and meeting dates are open for discussion with all interested parties. Please contact George Babel if you plan to attend.

Indoor Astronomy - Space Station

When was the first component of Mir launched? What was the name given to the project, in 1988, that NASA spent 8 years and $8 billion, but hadn't fully completed or launched into orbit? What actor wrote a letter to Congress in 1995 requesting full funding for NASA's programs? These are just some of the questions answered in Island In The Sky, Building the International Space Station by Piers Bizony. For now, these answers can be found at the end of this article.

If you've always wanted to know the steps taken to designing and building the International Space Station and the billions of dollars spent on the development of prior programs, you should find this book very interesting. Well-know people like Wernher von Braun, Daniel Goldin and Yuri Koptev are mentioned, while revealing many inner workings of NASA and the Russian Space Agency (RSA). Until I read this book I never fully understood the huge endeavor of conceiving, promoting, funding and finally building the International Space Station. Questions emerge — Who would be able to use it? For what purpose? How about comfort and safety? The crew aboard Skylab (program ended in 1974) became frustrated with the general layout of this station. Equipment and lockers were mounted on floors, ceilings and walls, causing the crew to lose their sense of up and down. Showers took hours instead of minutes, because water droplets had to be hunted down and mopped up before they could seep into any electrical equipment. Thankfully, NASA and the RSA had the time and the funding to test many "failed" designs.

Problems arise with marking the control panels. If this is to be international, then markings must be universal. British switches "switch" on and off, while American switches "turn". American custom of "up" for "on" is not universally recognized. Many "bugs" had to be worked out before a final design was possible.

The space program is moving forward quickly. It's difficult to keep up with all the new programs and future projects. "Today, more people go into space every year than during the entire 1960s, at the supposed "height" of the Space Age." This simple statistic from the book makes one realize the profound impact of another 30 years.

Answers to the above three questions: 1. 1986, 2. Freedom, 3. Tom Hanks.

*Spacelink Space Station: Keep up-to-date with NASA's Space Station site at -

*SkyTour: A great 2 hour program aired several times throughout the year on WHYY 90.9FM. Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer from the Franklin Institute, and Neil Tickner are live and outdoors, pointing out objects and discussing them. Next program is coming in March so keep an ear out for it. Go outside with your binoculars or scope and your radio and search the heavens with them.

Donna Weinsteiger

Mythology of the Night Sky - Leo

Since March either comes in, or goes out, as a lion, this is a good month to write about the constellation Leo. It is believed that the ancient Egyptians named this grouping of stars after the lion because during the month when the Sun was in this constellation, the lions of the desert left their home for the banks of the Nile, where they could find relief from the heat. It was also believed by the ancient physicians that when the Sun was in Leo, medicine was poison and even taking a bath was harmful! (Since the Sun is in Leo during the midsummer, perhaps the summer heat caused their medicinal herbs to go bad. No matter how bizarre these old fold sayings seem, I suspect they are all based on something people actually observed happening.)

Leo was the tribal sign of Judah, allotted to him by his father Jacob in the book of Genesis. It is suggested that this association was from the fact that Leo was the birth sign of Judah. And in case you are now wondering what ancient Ninevah thought of Leo, let me assure you that Ninevite cylinders show Leo in fatal conflict with a bull, typifying the victory of light over darkness. (I have not, however, been able to determine whether Leo was the light or the darkness).

Throughout antiquity, the animal and the constellation always have been identified with the sun and it now appears on the royal arms of England. During the 12th century, it was the only animal shown on Anglo-Norman shields.

Leo, the constellation, is one of the constellations that if you "connect the dots", actually looks like its name. It is an easy constellation for beginners to identify, marked by a first magnitude star, Regulus.

Linda Sensenig  




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