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Volume XXVI Number V

September/October 1998

Meeting Highlights

Thursday September 10

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum - Professor Loomis of Kutztown University will present Astronomical History: Part Ii Those not fortunate enough to have heard his first presentation will have the opportunity to hear a gifted lecturer educate us about the history of astronomy. Don’t miss this fascinating program.

Thursday October 8

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum - Professor Elizabeth Praton of Franklin & Marshall College will present a very timely program on galaxy distribution. The title of her lecture is At the Center of the Bullseye. A Curious illusion in Galaxy Maps. If you would like to know more about galaxy distribution throughout the universe, this is a must hear program.

Thursday October 29

Deadline: November/December 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:

Special Events and Star Watches

Saturday, September 12 - Star Watch at dusk for our members at French Creek. Check hotline for more information.

Saturday, September 19 - MEGAMEET VII at Pulpit Rock (Raindate September 26th) After several weeks of nail-biting suspense, the bridge at the base of Pulpit Rock has been fixed so MEGAMEET VII will go on as planned. The bridge has been certified safe for normal passenger vehicles, campers and vans but no large Winnebago type campers will be permitted! Please, club officers and/or newsletter editors, get the word out as quickly as you can!

The gate opens at 4p.m., Saturday afternoon on September 19th, and will remain open until 9:30 p.m. Upon arrival at the gate, you will receive your one-night-only combination to the lock. You may come and go as you please until 2 p.m. the following afternoon, Sunday, September 20th. In the event of a cloud-out or rain, the event will be postponed until the following Saturday, September 26th. If the weather looks "iffy" in your neck of the woods, a message of go or no go can be heard at 610-683-6397 after midnight on Friday.

Friday - Sunday, October 16-18 - West Virginia - Spruce Knob - George Babel will be leading the group to one of the darkest sites on the east coast. This place is an astronomer’s dream come true at night and a naturalist’s delight during the day. Camp sites are located 10 minutes from the summit. Please contact George Babel at 717-445-7954 if you would like to attend this getaway weekend.

Friday, October 23 - Heritage Center - We will be hosting a star party once again starting at dusk. We will have the moon, Jupiter and Saturn being available for viewing. We will need our scopes and observers for this event. Rain or Cloud out date is Saturday October 24.

Thursday, November. 12 - Chef Alan’s at 6:30 p.m. - B.C.A.A.S. is celebrating its 25th anniversary in style. The cost will be less than $20 which will include a three meat buffet, dessert and cash bar. Try to make your way clear to attend this hilarious event. Please contact either George Babel at 717-445-7954 or Linda Sensinig at 610-375-9062 for reservations and payment prior to Oct. 28, 1998.

Saturdays, September 5,12 & 19 - Reading Planetarium - 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. - B.C.A.A.S. will be presenting a three part course on astronomy. This course will cover all the basics needed to become an effective amateur astronomer. A small fee will be charged at the door each week. If you are a beginner or you need a tune-up don’t miss this course.

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

Super Chicken Invades Vermont’s Stellafane

The adventure, beginning as usual with the threat of rain, was totally unparalleled to the first trek north two years ago. The vehicle carefully packed with all the necessities of a diehard stargazer, left no doubt as to its capabilities to transport us onward. Vermont, in July, what a sight! Navigating through New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, only made the promise of Vermont’s greenery all the more inviting. We ventured out Thursday morning, hoping to expand on our Stellafane memories, and maybe catch an extra night of viewing the unpolluted skies. The awesome sight of the Flartness House pleasantly greeted our arrival for the three-day stay. To actually be staying within the same walls and borders once frequented by Russell Porter and Charles Lindbergh, was a bit overpowering; yet, historically warm.

As we ventured to the Stellafane sight, the wonderful memories of our first journey reminded us of the serenity we experienced. Anxiously, we returned to the homely town, Main Street bound, and waited for Friday’s call to "man your scopes". The historical lure of the surroundings of the New England countryside filled the time until the talks began at 2 p.m..

Friday began with a continental breakfast within the grand ballroom, once host to the elite caste of Vermont’s Governor Hartness. We were anxious to hit the convention grounds and search out fellow BCAAS members, in the hopes that we had not ventured here alone. We needed to share the experience of unpolluted view in the clear, crisp Vermont air with someone else who would understand the grandeur. We were not disappointed. For within earshot was that old familiar "Super Chicken" cackle and the ever-present scent of mornin’s baked beans... The three amigos were found in hot pursuit of "setting camp". Just how do you secure a canopy in a windstorm? The cure all for all of man’s tough jobs... 200 mile per hour duct tape and The Happy Hooker! Watch out for flying canopies and tornado-experienced drivers. Yes, he has seen it all... What is just one more dent... good thing that Super Chicken had stood firmly in his ground. For those of you who know Lloyd, no explanation is needed. For those of you who are not privy to the antics of Lloyd, you are better off not knowing! How many amateur astronomers/telescope builders does it take to set up camp?

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’ Super Chicken! (and his sidekick, Fred)... Faster than a speeding meteor, sharper than a Telerad, more noticeable than Capone (with a scope!) at a MegaMeet... the experience had finally arrived. We had arrived.

Not another drop of precipitation entered the picture for the duration of the convention. Crystal clear viewing prevailed Friday night, as BCAAS members charted the sky well into the wee morning hours and chalked up another one for the books. Paul Becker had chosen a perfect spot for campout, and the area lent many a conventioneer a spot, among the many, for visiting all the different scopes. Dan’s constant revelry of unending banter, and intense search for the faint, deep-sky objects, was the norm for both viewing nights.

Saturday was competition day, and the forty or so amateur scope builders brought quite an array of home kits to the Pink House field. This was the year of recycling the attic treasures to "build a better" scope. The putty buckets took the prize in our book, only second to the bowling ball-frying pan mount. The telescope-in-a-suitcase took second prize, deservedly so. The Galileo scope shimmered in the warm Vermont sunlight as conventioneers ogled at the displays and wandered from one end to the other taking in the genius of the day. This year’s displays outdid our premiere journey to the Pink House’s glory.

Saturday evening’s gathering for the "prizes" didn’t disappoint in any manner. To the amateur, of the amateur stargazers group, the overwhelming feeling of a successful weekend surfaced. They came from near, Vermont; they ventured far, China; and some for the thirty-second time, a few for their first time. The video dedicated to a diehard gazer, succumbed to MS during the previous year, brought a lump to many throats.

Stellafane shall live on, with or without the echoes of the Super Chicken cry. And we will venture out once more next August, as we yearn for the clear sky and the call of"I have the Milky Way Galaxy in sight".

Joanne P. Reigle


Indoor Astronomy - Journal

Most amateur astronomers have heard of David Levy as the discoverer of many comets, on his own and as part of the Shoemaker-Levy team. You might have read some of his articles in Sky and Telescope. But did you know that he has written 8 books? One of these books is Skywatching and I find it to be extremely entertaining, informative and comprehensive. This book is 288 pages of instant info and Levy utilizes every inch of "space" on the page. It’s not your usual paragraph after paragraph of in depth discussion on the cosmos. Skywatching has a picture, drawing or graph on every page, with captions and side bars filled with bios and tips.

My favorite chapter is A Guide to the Sky. Sure, it has the typical sky charts, but this is a unique section detailing specific constellations. Each page has a constellation name, it’s pronunciation, and it’s meaning. Not only does it have a chart drawing of where to look in the sky, but many include a photo of what it really looks like. How many times have you searched and searched for something in the sky that looked remotely like the chart in your book? The photo could help immensely. Levy writes about the constellation’s origin and how to observe it broken into: naked eye, binoculars, and small and large telescope viewing. Let’s take the constellation, Pegasus as an example. Pegasus - The Winged Horse. Levy suggests 3 items to view.

  1. M 15, a globular cluster visible with binoculars.
  2. NGC 7331, a spiral galaxy visible with a telescope.
  3. Stephan’s Quintet, a group of galaxies visible with at least a 10 inch scope. A beautiful photo of Stephan’s Quintet appears on this page.

This book is probably hot your first choice to take in the field since it is hard bound. But if your looking for something new to view or learn a little about a constellation you’ve been viewing for years, this book should be for you.

* Great Books on The Learning Channel is discussing Galileo’s Dialogue which put science against religion by saying Earth was not the center of the universe.

September 12th - 8:00 PM and 13th - 4:00 PM.

Donna Weinsteiger

Mythology of the Night Sky - Camelopardalis

When is a camel not a camel? When it’s a giraffe! Since this constellation bears no resemblance to a camel

or to anything, for that matter it would be interesting to find out why it received this name. The story that I like best is that my Dad named it a camel because he wanted a constellation to be named after him (Mom and I call Dad the camel because when we go shopping, he carries all the packages). Camelopardalis seemed like a name that would catch on better than Clarencepardalis!

Okay, so that story isn’t very believable. My text (Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning) indicates this constellation was formed in the year 1614 and that it was supposed to represent the camel that brought Rebecca to Isaac in the Old Testament. When the camel became a giraffe is a mystery, although since the constellation is long and straggly, it at least vaguely resembles a giraffe.

The Chinese located seven asterisms within its boundaries; Hwa Kae, the State Umbrella; Luh Kea, a term in anatomy; Shang Ching, the Higher Minister; Shang Wei, the Higher Guard; Shaou Wei, the Minor Guard; Sze Foo, the Four Official Supporters of the Throne; and Yin Tih, Unostentatious Virtue. You can locate this obscure constellation in the north; it stretches from Polaris to Perseus, Auriga and Lynx. Heis counted 138 naked eye stars, although I suspect you would have to be onboard a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean to see even half of these.

Linda Sensenig

Renewal Time Is Here!

This is the time of the year when most of you who subscribe to Astronomy or Sky & Telescope through the club’s discount program will need to renew your subscription. Sky Publishing has advised me that they do not plan to increase the cost of Sky & Telescope; it will remain at $27.00. Kalmbach Publishing could not tell me what the 1999 subscription rate will be for Astronomy, so I will do as I did last year. Just give me $24.00, and if the subscription rate goes up after you pay me, you can pay me the difference later.

For those of you who are not familiar with this astronomical perk - these magazines are available at a substantial discount to members of astronomy clubs. If you have a subscription that is not up for renewal, you can wait until you receive your renewal notice. If you would like to begin a subscription for either of these publications, this would be a good time to start. In order to get the discount, the subscription must be paid with a club check, so you need to send your money to me; checks need to be payable to BCAAS. I will send the money to the publishers after the October meeting.

I received the following information via e-mail regarding a new AstroDeepSky Field Guide. I thought some of you might be interested in obtaining one. This contains a database of over 1100 viewable deep sky objects that is divided into Field Guides appropriate for the time of year. The author has personally viewed most of the objects and has separated each months’ offering so that amateur astronomers of differing levels of eyepiece experience or different types of viewing sites will have useful viewing lists. Each Guide is updated monthly and is formatted to be printed out.

If you are interested, you should visit the following web-site:

Another viewing guide that is now available can be found in the magazine section of book stores and newsstands. Sky & Telescope has publishing a magazine called Sky Watching ‘99. This sells for $5.00 and contains sky maps and sky watching tips for every month from September ‘98 through December ‘99. This publication would be handy for long range viewing plans.


WARNING: The following story contains graphic descriptions of bizarre behavior that may be offensive to anyone new to this hobby. Do NOT try these things at home unless you are trained professional. Aliases are used in this story to protect the precious little integrity these members still have left.

I was recently invited to go to a new spot for observing by one of our members. Always one interested in a dark sky place to set up, this one sounded promising... close by, easy access, permission by the owners for use, and flat horizon.

The member who asked me to meet him in Centerport that night, hereafter referred to as "The Chef’, told me it was just a short drive from there towards Bernville that we would find this model airplane field where he said several other BCAAS members would join us. Sure enough, I beheld a glass smooth field at the top of a flat hill with a view of 15 miles to Reading greeted me upon arrival, with little if any sky glow to speak of (As a point of reference, this is as good as this story gets things run amuck from here till the end.)

However, sky glow was not the problem tonight. I forgot to mention that it was full moon, so I just tagged along my binos. Didn’t seem to affect the others though, they brought all the heavy duty gear as if it were a moonless night.

The Chef was first to get set up, and the moon was his first target. He got his alias because the Meade scope he uses is fully motorized, and slewing from target to target mimics various kitchen appliances.

While he was busy burning the retinas of his eyes, "The Godfather" had other ideas. Deciding to test the clarity of the night air, he noticed off towards Reading some bright pulsing lights, and by pointing his home built 8 inch in that direction excitedly called everyone over to watch fireworks erupting at Muhlenberg Community days, 12 miles distant. Paul remarked, (that’s his real name, he has no integrity left so I see little need to spare him now), "I live in Muhlenberg and I drove all the way up here to see the fireworks!" (See what I mean? Case closed.)

Just down from Paul’s chariot, well known by some members from past episodes, was parked a new chariot owned by "I, Claudius". He was also looking at La Luna, but with a twist. Surmising that the cool, unusually dry air would support high magnification, told me he would crank up the mag on a strange dark line that I noticed on the Moon. Testing, and then disregarding all the laws of optics and physics he summoned all the Barlow lenses available in the group and proceeded to stack them atop each other until the 10 inch Schmit-Cass was working at 3000 power! That’s not a misprint! The Barlows were so long that the normal viewing position under any condition for that scope was reduced from sitting in a chair to standing on it! Features on the moon were resolved at that power, but reducing it to a more sane 1496 X (Did I say sane?) showed sharp resolution!!

It is important to note that at no time did I participate in any of this erratic behavior. I was merely an innocent bystander. I felt it important to warn other members so they know what to do when trapped in such a position. Pack up your gear, be as pleasant as you can as to not provoke any further zany antics (as I always do), and leave.

Clear Skies to you Dave Brown


Astronomy Calendars

This year, you again have an opportunity to order a spectacular Astronomy wall calendar at a huge discount. The calendar sells for $12.95, however if we order 10 or more, you can order one for $6.00! I won t be sending the money in until the beginning of November, before the November meeting. We usually have them to distribute at the November meeting. To order a calendar, you need to pay me. Again, they need a club check for the order to give us the discount.





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