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Volume XXIV Number IV

July/August 1996

Meeting Highlights

Thursday July 11

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum - Dr. David Pankenier of Lehigh University will present a fascinating view of Ancient Chinese Perceptions of the Universe, as revealed through archeological digs. Through his and other's research, we will see how the ecliptic and the Cardinal points (N, S, E. W) effected the architecture, burial sites, and art of people who lived thousands of years ago. This one is definitely not to be missed. Bring your articles to be sold at our July flea market.

Saturday August 3

At Crystal Cave - A special summer outing to explore both below and above our terrestrial plane! Tour time - 5:00 p.m. Those wishing to explore the Cave should meet at 4:45 p.m. at the Inn to receive group tickets. We will receive a discount price of $4.50 for adults, and $3.00 for kids! Those wishing to come earlier can take advantage of free nature trails, the Trading Post, Museum, and play area. Miniature golf, snacks, and the great gift shop are also available. Picnic time will be 6:30 p.m. at the Barbecue Pavilion area behind the Inn. The Cave will provide free picnic tables and grill. Providing the skies are clear, Crystal Cave has permitted us to stay on the grounds after closing to set up our telescopes in the field or parking lot. Although the perimeter trees limit the amount of open sky, the location of the property permits reasonably dark skies. We can orient ourselves so that Comet Hale Bopp would be our prime target. RSVP at the July meeting or call 683-6397.

Thursday August 29

Deadline: September/October 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 (

July 13, Saturday

8:30 p.m. to ?. Star party at Dave Brown's Farm.

July 17, Wednesday

At the Leesport Farmers & Flea Market - North on Route 61, early. We will set up our "junk" stuff around 6:00 a.m. Bring any articles that you would like to donate to the July 11 general meeting, or drop them off at Paul Becker's house. You may bring them to the market yourself if you plan to come early in the morning. If the weather cooperates, this could really be fun (and profitable!)

August 9-11, Friday-Sunday


The 61st Annual Stellafane Convention will be held in Springfield, Vermont. This is the granddaddy of all star parties and considered "the Woodstock of Astronomy Conventions." It's origin is deeply rooted in the amateur telescope making movement of the 1930's and to this day has a strong emphasis on telescope making. Even though it is a long distance, every serious amateur should make this trip to "Mecca" once in his life. Send a SASE to: Stellafane, P. O. Box 50, Belmont, MA 02178 USA to get your Convention Bulletin. Send no money for registration until you receive the bulletin! Campsites and area motels fill up fast, so contact them as soon as possible. For firsthand information about the event and where to stay, talk to John Dethoff. You can also contact their web site at:

August 15, Thursday

Board Meeting. Paul Becker's house at 6:00. If you can, bring a "potluck" dish for supper. If you can't, come anyway!
We will be discussing our future, as a financial entity. We will have a financial advisor on hand to present possibilities for investment. We need you for your opinions. All are welcome.

August 17, Saturday

Dusk at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary parking lot. In the past this has proven to be a popular public event under very good skies. If you have an optical instrument, by all means bring it. Come join the public in a night under the stars.

September 7, Saturday,

The Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomy Society in cooperation with other regional astronomy clubs will be hosting it's 4th annual Megameet. The gathering will take place at Pulpit Rock - LVAAS's permanent observatory site in the Blue Mountains north of Hamburg, Pa.
Three observatory domes as well as numerous other quality instruments will be available to view the skies. Experienced amateur astronomers will be operating the telescopes, anxious to share their views into the splendors of the universe. Come join the fun!
Gates open at 4:00 p.m. Come early to see the 35-mile view from "'The Rock", hike along the Appalachian Trail, or check out sunspots. (They are supposedly increasing!)
The gate will remain open until 9:30. p.m. We are reserving a special spot for BCAAS, where we will display our flag and most certainly Dave's Big Boy for all to see!
Given clear conditions, observing can last all night. You may camp overnight at no charge. Bring your own water. Last year, our club made up a third of the attendance of 110 people from a 100 mile radius! See you there. (Raindate is September 14th.)
Call (610) 683-6397 on the afternoon of the 7th for "Go or No Go" info if the weather looks "iffy."


From Reading, take Rt. 61 North. About 1 mile before it would cross Rt. 22, you need to bear right (at the Ford dealership) to enter the town of Hamburg. In the center of town, (after movie theatre) go right at light onto State Street (a.k.a. old 22). Travel about 2.5 miles and take left onto Reservoir Rd. (this is easy to miss). Cross next road and continue to dead end at the reservoir.

September 21, Saturday

Astronomy Day II - Starting at 12:00 at Boscov's North! Bake Sale inside lobby and our "telescope garden" outside at dusk. Maryann Chelius Smith, Vice President and Director of Public Relations from Boscov's, was thrilled with the idea of allowing us space for our bake sale and public sky viewing! She even asked if we would like to sponsor a 5 week Astronomy Course this winter at the Boscov Auditorium at Fairgrounds Mall! More on this at September meeting.

From the President

So many members have done so many things for so many events since the last Pegasus, that I have reserved this spot for all the thank yous!
For hosting a lovely evening picnic for our May board meeting, thank you Paul Becker! So much was proposed at that meeting, that I am amazed to report that most of it has already been accomplished!
We have a Website thanks to John Dethoff, and Tim and Dave Drager!
We have a Hawk Mountain Star date thanks to Tom Boussum. (Aug. 17th)
We had a successful (albeit hazy) Heritage Center event thanks to Dave Brown.
We are making our E-mail directory thanks to Linda Sensenig. (Give her your address at next meeting!)
We have a date for our Leesport Flea Market fund-raiser, thanks to Dave Brown and Tracy Greth. (July 17th)
Thanks to Lloyd Adam, Paul Becker and Linda, Clarence, and Jenny Sensenig in advance for setting up!
We have Boscov's as our new public relations site thanks to yours truly.
We have access to a great new information source, Eagle Link, thanks to Michelle Koch. She will see about getting our events on line!
R.A.C.C. has a new subscription to Sky & Telescope thanks to Michel Ramsey. We have our meetings planned through October!
Can all this be true? Can you imagine what we could accomplish if everyone would volunteer at just one event, or have one idea, or talk to just one other person about the club? This is my goal as President of your club. Please call me or write me with ideas for disseminating information, planning an event, improving meetings, or just plain having fun with astronomy. Better yet, come to our next board meeting, Thursday evening, August 15th, 6:00 p.m. at Paul Becker's house in Laureldale. It is amazing what can be accomplished when we all put our heads together!

Museum Happenings

July 10th, Wednesday

Our club's, photos of Comet Hyakutake (at least as fine as those in Sky & Telescope!) will be on display at the Reading Planetarium lobby! Photos by Karl Kuehn, Mike Bashore, Barry Shupp, John Dethoff, drawings by Candi Simmons and computer graphics by Priscilla Andrews will be professionally displayed for many tour, camp, and day school groups throughout the summer.
The regular show hours have been announced as every Wednesday night at 7:00 p.m. until September. You may see our display at that time.

July 27th & 28th

The Reading Public Museum will sponsor its annual Native American Weekend. The Planetarium will present Daughters of the Stars at 1:00 p.m. and The People at 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. on both days. (Another great time to see our photos)


Astronomy Enthusiasts

It's time for trivia! Do you know what a "corvus" is? What is the name of the cult devoted to watching Sirius, the Dog Star? If you can't answer these, it's time to tune in to "Stardate"! Stardate is a daily astronomy hotline, available on the Eagle Link. Call 376-6000, then enter code 5130. You will hear a 60-second message produced by the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Stardate covers every aspect of astronomy, from stars and planets to dark matter and the expansion of the universe. Stardate does an excellent job of presenting complex theories to the amateur stargazer. It is a well-written daily treat for those of us who love astronomy, and it's free.
Call in and enjoy ASAP!

Michelle Koch

Editor's Note:
I'd like to thank all the people contributing to Pegasus. I continue to welcome material from everyone. Submissions may be made electronically (preferred) or sent typed. No faxes please! Keep your topic pertinent to Astronomy and the club.
I have had problems with some articles being too long and requiring editing. Please keep this in mind. I prefer that text be sent with a minimum of formatting. Excessive use of headings, tabs, capitalization , etc. makes my job harder as I usually have to reformat the text to fit. I can accept most electronic file formats for IBM compatible machines. If you're not sure, call me or send it as a .txt file.
As Pegasus is growing larger, it is demanding more of my time. I appreciate your assistance.

Observer's Notepad

Mid June of each summer is always looked forward to by my son and me, for it means a trip to York, Pa for the Mason-Dixon Star Watch. A time to renew old friendships, take in the latest astro news, maybe pick up yet another piece of invaluable observing hardware (funny how no matter if we get an eyepiece or a star chart, my wife always refers to it as junk) or take in a little R&R. We can't wait to go.
The last 3 years the weather was poor for observing. Last year was, well, damp (I'm being kind). Because of Dan's and my superior intellect we determined this year would be clear and dry, making up for past disappointments.
Arriving later than expected on Friday, we found the York park full of 250+ observers, and a myriad of scopes, including a pair of 24 inch Dobsonions! We set up camp with Lloyd Adam and family in their beautiful 22 foot camper. We spent the evening socializing as it was mostly cloudy and humid with distant lightning strikes, but hey, we knew that was how it would be!
Saturday gave us a chance to see all the home built scopes, some ingenious in construction, some seemingly built by Mcgyver while being tied to a runaway freight train. Of course, I HAD to see the big Dobs! One was a brand new Tectron that would see First Light that night. It was owned by Mat Orsy, previous owner of a 20 inch, and one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet. Mat circled the field that evening with a laser collimator and dialed in all willing scopes to perfection, including yours truly.
The second scope was a club project, the Westminster Astro Society of Maryland, and was constructed around a salvaged NASA cassegrain mirror with a 5 inch central hole and being 4 inches thick!!! My 20 is only 2 inches! They sold the mirror cell that was with it for scrap metal and it tipped the scales at 604 pounds! The resulting telescope has an F6 ratio, and at that aperture becomes a towering instrument. Folks up on the ladder that night issued weather reports from that altitude, and offers of wearing a parachute abounded.
Saturday night fell, and the sky was the best that York had to offer in the past 4 years running, cool dry air, clear wall to wall. Long lines showed up at my scope, and were not disappointed with seeing M13 to it's core. The Veil stretched out forever. With a borrowed 9mm Nagler, the central star of the Ring could be seen with averted vision, and seen straight on in Mat's Tectron.
By 2 am, I relived my favorite experience, that of being under the stars in the wee hours of the morning surrounded by the wonderful chatter of hundreds of observers talking about all they were seeing. Dan had disappeared with my flashlight and I thought maybe he had turned in for the night. I was hoping he could manage the scope for a while so I could cruise the field and look through other instruments. Just then he showed up , excited about having seen NGC 4449, a planetary nebula in the 18 inch Starsplitter up the field. Darn kid was cruising like I wanted to do!!
By 3, I had seen Hale-Bopp with it's fan shaped tail in a Tele-Vue Genesis, as well as Comet Kopft. The Omega nebula was stunning, filling the field of the Nagler, but nothing was as good as old Jupiter. By that time of night, all the heat from the ground had dissipated. The sky was very transparent. We saw the Red spot as never before, showing a pink center with darker red around the perimeter, and festoons in the north equatorial belt, with 7 bands visible. All seen big as life at 375 power!
Yes indeed, June 15-16, 1996 will be remembered in our house with a smile!

by: Dave Brown

Mythology Of The Night Sky: Scorpio

Scorpio was the reputed slayer of the Giant (Orion), exalted to the skies and now rising from the horizon as Orion, still in fear of the Scorpion, sinks below it. Of course, the Scorpion itself is in danger from the arrows shot by Sagittarius. Seems like the night sky is all full of tales of violent deeds—its like reading the newspaper.
For some centuries before the Christian era, it was the largest of the zodiac figures. At that time, Scorpio also included the stars that are now in the constellation Libra. In fact, in ancient times, the zodiac only consisted of six constellations, of which Scorpio was the largest.
Since the names of the constellations come from human imagination, not every society saw a scorpion in this particular arrangement of stars. In early China, this constellation was an important part of the figure of the mighty but gentle Azure Dragon of the East and of spring. Later, it became the residence of the heavenly Blue Emperor. By the time of Confucius, it was called Ta Who, the Great Fire, a primeval name for its star Antares; and Shing Kung, a Divine Temple, was applied to the stars in the tail. The ancient Hebrews saw it as the Eagle. The early Christians attempted to Christianize the names of the constellations, so instead of the pagan Scorpio, they called the constellation the Apostle Bartholomew, then changed it to the Cardinal's Hat. While some societies did have creative names for this grouping of stars, its amazing how many ancient civilizations agreed that they saw a scorpion in this path of the sky. Our mythology comes from ancient Greece. However a scorpion was also seen by the Arabians, the Persians, the Akkadians and the Indians. (India Indians, not Native American Indians.) My own personal feeling is that Scorpio is one of the few constellations that actually resembles its name.

by: Linda Sensenig

Fundraiser: Flea Market

We want your stuff! On Wednesday, July 17, the B.C.A.A.S. will have a flea market stand at the Leesport Market. What will we be selling? Anything that you have around your house that you no longer want. In order for this flea market to be successful, we need your help.
We need things to sell. This is not an astronomy-only flea market. We need old books, puzzles, glassware, arts and craft supplies, in fact, anything you want to get rid of. Please bring your things to the July meeting so Paul Becker can take everything to his house. If you want to price your things, feel free. If not, they can be priced later. If you want to contribute, but cannot make the July meeting, call Paul Becker at 929-2652.
We need bags - paper and/or plastic. The more, the better. When customers buy , we want to bag their purchases. Again, bring a supply of bags to the July meeting.
Would you like to actually work at the flea market? We'll be starting between 6-6:30 a.m. and we'll be there until it gets too hot. We don't yet know what our location will be. Hopefully at the July meeting Dave Brown will have that information for us. Do not contribute anything to the flea market that you want returned.

Computer Virus

There is a computer virus that is being sent across the Internet. If you receive an e-mail message with the subject line "Good Times", do not read the message. Delete it immediately. It has a virus that rewrites your hard drive, obliterating anything on it. The FCC released a warning last Wednesday concerning this virus. No program needs to be exchanged in order to infect the computer, as this one can be spread through the existing e-mail systems of the Internet. Once a computer is infected, one of several things can happen. If the computer contains a hard drive—it will most likely be destroyed. If the program is not stopped, the computer's processor will be placed in an nth-complexity infinite binary loop, which can severely damage the processor if left running that way too long.
Most novice computer users will not realize what is happening until it is far too late. Luckily there is one sure means of detecting this virus. It always travels to new computers the same way in a text e-mail, titled "Good Times". Avoiding infection is easy once the file has been received simply by not reading it. The act of loading the file into the mail server's ASCII buffer causes the virus to initialize and execute. The program is highly intelligent—it will send copies of itself to everyone whose e-mail address is contained in a receive-mail file or a send-mail file.

from the Astronomical League

by Linda Sensenig

When Astronomy Finds You

by K. J. Kuehn

It's a similar, familiar ritual I share with many amateur astronomers. Every so often I pack my 80mm Celestron into the trunk of my rusting Nissan and throw the camera case and custom eyepiece carrier (converted toolbox) onto the back seat. Next, I grab my box of other astro-paraphernalia (stuff I never use but helps convince other amateurs I must be serious about this hobby) and head out into the fading twilight in search of an experience of the "astronomical" kind. The road often leads to a favorite dark site, a local star party, or one of "them thar events to ed-u-cate the public" about the splendors of the universe. Such is my life as an amateur astronomer. But these are the times I go out to discover and find astronomy. There are, however, those other times, those times when astronomy finds me! It can happen anywhere and anytime. It usually happens when my astronomy frame of mind is tucked neatly and quietly away into a mental closet, mirroring the physical state of my telescope at home, awaiting the next moonless night and star bright sky.
Take, for example, (…and you had to know a story was coming) the time I was working 2nd shift at a small machine shop. There I was, busy working away, running my machine, checking dimensions and tolerances, the usual machine shop stuff, when the guy at the next machine comes over and starts telling me that the windshield of his car got chipped by a stone today.
"Were you driving behind a truck?" I asked, encouraging this idle conversation to help pass the time. "No", he explained. "I was just sitting in my car in the parking lot, listening to the radio, eating my lunch, when BAMMM!, this stone falls out of the sky, hits my windshield and rolls out onto the hood of the car." "Wow," I said, "fell out of the sky? Hmmm…" Instantly, my astronomy brain cells began paying attention. I spent the next few moments commiserating with my co-worker's confused state of mind ("that's really weird…you were just sitting in the parking lot…very strange indeed") and then we started discussing possibilities that could, in some ordinary way, explain the stone's origin. (neighborhood kids throwing rocks, an industrial smoke stack spewing out debris, etc.) But try as we might, it didn't take long to realize that, because of the location of the shop, none of our explanations seemed likely.
"So," I continued, trying not to let my enthusiasm for this seemingly mundane event show through, "what did this stone look like?" "Well," he said, "it kind of looked like a rounded cinder of some sort, about as big as a dime in diameter, and it was pretty heavy for it's size too." My astro-brain neurons began jumping around in an increasingly excited state. "Do you still have the stone?" I asked. "No. I threw it over into the parking lot gravel." he replied. "NOOOOOOOoooooooo........ (echo), (echo), (echo)." My lamenting was too obvious. "What's wrong!? What did I do!?" he asked, alarmed by my pained reaction. As I donned my sackcloth and prepared the ashes, I told him what I had been thinking. I told him that perhaps he had thrown away a meteorite, a stone from the depths of our solar system, a rock with perhaps trillions of miles to its credit, a unique piece of the universe that had traveled all this distance, through the eons of time, endured a fiery, blazing collision with earth's atmosphere and then had fortuitously landed on the hood of his car! "Oh," he said, and with a shrug he turned to resume his work as if nothing unusual or interesting had happened.
At the end of the shift, we went out to the parking lot and I made him show me the area where he thought the stone might have landed after he had tossed it away. As the rest of the workers left for home, I locked up the shop and headed out into the nighttime parking lot with flashlight in hand. For the next hour and a half I groveled around in the gravel, on hands and knees, looking for that stone. (Do you think Carl Sagan has stories like this? You know, "…and there I was, on my way into the Kitt Peak Observatory when I tripped, hit my head on the liquid nitrogen tank and fell into the mud and all of a sudden I realized that relativity and quantum mechanics were really the same solution to …") Anyway, despite all my efforts that night, and subsequent efforts the next few days, I never did find that stone. (…sigh…)
And so ends one small story about astronomy when you least expect it. Oh! And then there was the night our propane heater ran out of fuel…and the time I was taking out the garbage after the blizzard…and that e-mail at work about the Perseid meteor shower that led me to the girl of my dreams! Hmmm…I bet there's another newsletter article in here somewhere.




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