Volume XXVIIII Issue 6

November / December 2003

In this issue:

1. Presidents message
2. Women of the Stars
4. Mythology of the Night Sky: Argo
5. The TRUE John Dobson
Door Prizes
7. Upcoming Events

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

Editor/Desktop publisher: Melody Gardner

E-Mail submissions may be made to:

President's Message

As October is quickly closing and we near the end of the year, I realize that my term as president is also coming to a close. At our November membership meeting, November 13th, a nominating committee, consisting of Paul Becker and Barry Shupp, will present a slate of officers for 2004. Further nominations from the floor will be accepted. Elections will then follow at the December ďChristmas PartyĒ meeting on December 11th. If you would like to get more involved in the operation of this fine organization, please donít hesitate to step forward. We are a society of amateurs and I encourage everyone to participate.

With last monthís successful 30th Anniversary Banquet, I need to extend a personal hearty Thank You to all the people who worked very hard putting together the 30th Anniversary Banquet. Dave Brown and Barb Geigle for making up the Power Point presentation on the clubís history. Melody Gardner , Barry Shupp and Barb Geigle for handling the decorations and AV equipment arrangements. Linda Sensenig for handling the ticket sales. Dave Brown for housing John Dobson. Dan Davidson for assisting in entertaining John Dobson. Barb Geigle and Ryan Hannahoe for their efforts as regards the fine selection of door prizes that were obtained and awarded. This was truly a team effort and I THANK YOU. [Ed. Noteómy husband Ralph (otherwise known as the club mascot) should be thanked for keeping me calm when we arrived and the table settings were MIA.]

Coming events for BCAAS need to make special mention of our program for Novemberís meeting on the 13th. Our speaker will be Dr. Terry Huntsberger from NASAís Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. He will be speaking on the Robotic Exploration of the Solar System, Past, Present and Future. We need to thank Ryan Hannahoe for scheduling this speaker, but also Keith Minnich for underwriting the cost of transporting and housing the speaker. Keith has often voiced his special interest in planetary exploration and heís willing to yearly sponsor a speaker on this topic. So a special THANK YOU to Keith for stepping forward to enable this program. I now challenge our membership to show their support by filling the auditorium for this program.

Until the next issue, clear and dark skies to all, Ron Kunkel at or 610-488-6039

Ron Kunkel, at or 610-488-6039

Women of the Stars

Submitted by: Michel Ramsey

Cecillia Payne-Gaposchkin (1900-1979) was born and educated in England. After graduating from Newnham College, Cambridge and seeking better opportunities for advanced study and employment in astronomy than were available for women in England, she moved to the United States. She was awarded a Pickering Fellowship that was established for women students by the new director of Harvard College Observatory, Mr. Harlow Shapley, and when she arrived in the United States, Cecillia was given Henrietta Leavittís old desk.

In 1925, Cecillia was the first person, male or female, to receive a Ph.D. in astronomy for her work done at the Harvard College Observatory. The observatory published her dissertation entitled "Stellar Atmospheres" which Cecillia authored at age 25 and Otto Struve described it as "the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy". (Radcliffe awarded her degree rather than Harvard due to her sex) was the first astronomy doctorate award at Harvard. Her research combined the measurements of spectral lines from the archival photographic plates at Harvard with the new theoretical predictions of how the temperature and ionization state of atoms in a starís atmosphere affect the strength of those lines (predictions published in 1920-1921). This enabled her to assign a surface temperature to each type of star in Anne J. Cannonís spectral classes. Cecillia also determined that stars, contrary to current belief at that time, were composed primarily of hydrogen, with helium the second most abundant element.

After receiving her degree, and with very few jobs available anywhere else, Cecillia continued to work at Harvard. All her research work was expected to fit in with the goals of the observatory and she continued Henrietta Leavittís work to establish a standard scale for stellar magnitudes and colors. Her research also included work on extremely large, luminous stars and several types of variable stars. (It should be noted that Cecillia was unable to continue her thesis work at Harvard because the observatory did not have the advanced spectrographic equipment that she needed). Much of her scientific work was spent studying the stellar magnitudes and distances. In 1934, she married a Russian ťmigrť astronomer Sergei Gaposchkin and collaborated their work on variable stars. Together, she and Sergei determined the light curves for over 2,000 variable stars to the 10th magnitude.

Cecillia Payne-Gaposchkin was one of the first women to try a dual career of research and raising a family. In the 1930ís marriage was O.K. and a great asset for male candidates who wanted to continue their career in teaching and obtaining observatory positions but it was deemed very detrimental for women. All female computers and professors were expected to resign their posts if they married. (The popular belief at that time was that they should resign and assist their husbands in their research and teaching).

And, to further offend that tradition back then, Cecillia not only continued her work in research but also presented a scientific paper when five months pregnant with her first child. (No wonder I like this lady so very much!) She was also the author of several texts on stellar evolution, Stars in the Making (1952), Introduction to Astronomy (1953), Galactic Novae (1957) and Stars and Clusters (1979).

Cecillia had received many awards for her work, including the first Annie J. Cannon prize in 1934. She was elected to the Royal Academy of Science before graduation from Cambridge, and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1943. The American Astronomical Society also awarded her the Henry Norris Russell prize in 1976, for her distinguished scientific research.

She never received the A.S.P.ís Bruce Medal and was turned down for numerous possible appointments. Being a woman scientist competing in an all male dominated field and then electing to remain working in her field after she married and raised a family was very detrimental. Also, she did not receive any official recognition from Harvard for many years.

Despite being one of the most brilliant astronomers of her time, she was never elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Finally, in 1956, Cecillia was made a full professor and Chair of Harvardís Astronomy Department, the first women to hold such a position that was not specifically designated for a woman.

Cecillia frequently advised young women contemplating a career in astronomy. "Do not undertake a scientific career in quest of fame or money . . . Undertake it only if nothing else will satisfy you, for nothing else is probably what you will receive". It seems that a major number of young women decided to take her challenge; as of 1992, more than 20 percent of the AAS members under 30 are female.

Cecillia Payne-Gaposchkin once remarked that she wished to be remembered not for any particular idea or discovery but for her observation, that to avoid feelings of jealousy a scientist should repeatedly ask himself whether he was thinking of the advancement of knowledge or the advancement of himself. In Cecilliaís case there was never any question!

History Committee ASP, "Astronomers of the Past" Ė 1989
Dobson, Andrea and Bracher, Katherine, "Uraniaís Heritage" 1992
Stephens, Sally, "Women in Astronomy"1992


Please join us again in the Winter Star Watching Project Ė Pleiades, (M45 Ė also known as the Seven Sisters). The Japanese call this beautiful object: the Subaru. Several of our members are planning to participate in this project already and I am looking for more members to help out. The project is to assist the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) in Japan to determine the extent of light pollution around the world.

When do we watch? During the months of February and March, the observing to start about one to one and a half hours after sunset. You will be observing the Pleiades and the Milky Way in (1) Perseus (2) Gemini (3) Monoceros. There is no limitation to how many may join in, how many may participate in any one location or how many such observations are held. No experience necessary and you do not need any special equipment, just a clear night and a small pair of binoculars. Total viewing time is about 10 minutes! Be sure that you dress warm Ė February and March are not known for warm nights. Observations are best done on a moonless night without fog or clouds or more than average amount of haze or smog. Also, you will need a good tolerance for cold weather and a good sense of humor.

I will have forms available for your use and envelopes to mail forms back at the next several club meetings or you may down load a form from the Astronomy Leagueís web site at:, and click on Astro Notes #8 Ė Winter Star Watching Project - Pleiades. Any questions please feel free to call: Michel Ramsey 610-926-3483 or e-mail:

I ask that you mail your completed forms back to me as soon as you have completed your observations. The BCAAS has been keeping track of this information from all our observers before forwarding to the Astronomical League. We are participating in a valuable research project, by keeping track of light pollution over the next few years both in our area and its far-reaching effects in populated areas around the world. As astronomers we will be studying the loss of our dark skies for observing due to encroachment of population growth, outside lighting, shopping center lighting, highway lighting and etc.

Also, for those of us who are more daring and would like to try some photography, Barry Shupp will be available to help us get set up. This is also a valuable tool for research study. By making a comparison of photographs taken over the years, scientists are able to note any expansion or the remission of light pollution in many areas.

Mythology of the Night Sky: Argo

Winter is coming, and with winter comes those frigid, cold nights. So letís get away from it all and head south again. There is a ship in the southern skies that bears the name Argo. The ship was built by a guy named Argus for Jason, the leader of the 50 argonauts who sailed the seas looking for the golden fleece. The voyage was aided by the goddess Athena and when the voyage was over, she placed the ship in the sky (hopefully, AFTER the crew disembarked!). Not all Greeks were in agreement about this constellation. Erastosthenes (isnít he the guy who wrote "The Frogs?") believed the ship in the sky represented the first ship to sail the ocean, which happened long before Jason.

The Egyptian version of this constellation is the ark that bore Isis and Osiris over the flood. The Hindus agreed with the Egyptians except in their mythology the ark bore Isi and Iswara. However the ancient Hindus called the ship constellation Argha (the ancient Sanskrit word.). This was the ship that carried the sun, steered by Canopus (which JUST HAPPENS to be the name of itís brightest star). The Arabians called it Al Safinah, which guessed it, a ship! Seldom have I found a constellation that is interpreted the same by so many cultures.

This is a very large constellation, 75 degrees in length. Unfortunately for us, only a few of its unimportant stars can be seen from our location. You need to go south to see the entire thing.

By Linda Sensenig

The TRUE John Dobson
by Dave Brown

The week of October 13 was special for my family. The prospect of having Mr. Dobson stay with us until our anniversary banquet at first seemed daunting. I decided to research his website to gain some insight on this man of the world. Most of what I learned was completely useless. To help you understand what it is like to be around him, Iíve collected the following impressions and put them in different "categories". Hopefully, my writing will not seem too scattered, as my head has not completely healed from all the information he tried to convey to us.


He was born in China, came here as a lad of 12. It seemed reasonable that getting 6 different kinds of Rice-a-Roni for meals was a good plan. I still have them. "Rice is terrible for you! It ties up all the nutrients that you need and provides none of itís own. Long grain (wild) is worse because it is rancid, thatís why itís brown!" Apparently, if you want to live as long as him (88 years), a low sodium diet is NOT required. Ask Dan Davidson how much salt he puts on his eggs and he will cringe just remembering it. "Donít watch" said John as he PILES salt on various foods. "My body chemistry requires more salt than most people. Extra salt prevents me from having leg cramps". This coming from a chemistry major at Berkley and a well known physicist. WHO AM I TO ARGUE?


If you walk in the woods with John, you donít need to pack lunch. You learn to eat everything that you previously thought was "poisonous". Weeds, yew berries, acorns, even unknown plants. "If all these were poisonous, the birds would not be able to carry the seeds to propagate the plant, and the species would no longer exist". How painfully logical! Spock would be proud. [Ed. NoteóThere seems to be a piece of the story missing hereó go ask Dave if he knows what a pine tree is.]


If you or I had spent much of our adult life (23 years) in a monastery, we would probably not meet celebrities or become one. Not John. Across from the monastery in San Francisco lie a swimming pool. During the period of the late 60ís John and the other monks would frequent the pool, and learned from one of the young athletes there how to swim the butterfly stroke. John and this guy spent the summer perfecting their technique. Oh, did I mention, this young man was Mark Spitz, winner of 7 gold metals in the 1972 Olympic games. I also didnít know that John appeared on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson TWICE over the years. An e-mail about a speaking engagement at Stanford came to my computer during his stay, and I asked if he spoke there often. "The physics department hasnít wanted anything to do with me for 15 years, and now they want me to address their students. What does that tell you?" He is also credited with being the first "hippie". Picture John and his brother with below the shoulder hair and long beards wearing sandals. Now picture this in the summer of 1939! "NO ONE would talk to us or associate with us at all. Today, no one would even take a second glance."


I brought up this subject of course, living on a farm all my life, and his knowledge of chemistry has led to "encounters" with natural food enthusiasts over the years. "Chemicals are in everything we eat and drink, whether we put them there or not. Just because itís "natural" doesnít mean itís safe. Look at botulism, the most deadly chemical known to man. Perfectly naturalÖ." Itís that kind of logic and reasoning that has given him his reputation. Over the course of my 6 days with him, it became apparent that he recognizes all the small, insignificant things that most of us miss, takes a moment to understand what and why it exists, and for doing so enjoys life immensely. He is presently writing a book on his passion, physics, and read some chapters to us in the evenings. It is a collection of most of his theories and ideas in the form of a novel, the idea being to make those theories more understandable to us dummies. He left us a copy of the manuscript, and if you want to try a challenging read, contact me and you can borrow it (if you sign over your first born as collateral) We wish John all the best in his remaining years as he tirelessly teaches his "message" of the true understanding of the universe around us.

Door Prizes

Our 30th Anniversary Banquet is behind us and it went off without a hitch Ė almost!! I have figured out why the video clips wouldnít display, so you will get a chance to see them at the Christmas Party. Other than that, I think everyone had a good time. I personally want to thank Matt and Marcella Gustantino for the sound system and music.

We received some wonderful door prizes from numerous vendors. Everyone went home with a prize! I have listed the prizes and winners below. Please support these vendors whenever possible. For those of you who werenít able to attend, you missed a great evening. Clear skies to all,

Barb Geigle

Astronomical Soc. of the Pacific RealSky North & South: The Digitized Sky Survey Ryan Hannahoe
Barnes & Noble Book Store

Summer Stargazing by Terrence Dickinson

Keith Minnich
Best Buy

Galileoís Planetarium & Science Scope

Dan Davidson
Borderís Book Store  Observerís Sky Atlas By E. Karkoschka Sylvia Bukovsky
Cambridge University Press  David Levyís Guide to the Night Sky Keith Duda
Carrís Astro Accessories Messier Observation Book,
General Observation Book,
Messier Pocket Guide,
Messier Listing Card
Gary Kline
Robert Weiss
Cindy Kunkel
Rick Carpenter
Cutler Camera Meade 8x42 Binocular Bill Dahlenburg
Danís Camera City Picture Frame, Coupons, clip Joanna Kline
David Chandler Company Large Planisphere
Atlas for Small Telescopes & Binoculars
Mrs. Bret Cadmus
Melody Gardner
Hardin Optical Co. 6" Deep Space Hunter Dob Dave Brown
High Point Scientific Tele Vue 32mm Plossl Barry Shupp
ITE Astronomy $25 Gift Certificates Kevin Simmons
Priscilla Andrews
Clarence Sensenig
Jimís Mobile Inc. Celestron Star Pointer Bob Bukovsky
Orion Telescopes & Binoculars SteadyPix SLR Camera Mount
Star Target Planisphere
Michel Ramsey
Ron Kunkel
Ryan Hannahoe    DVDís - Voyage to the Unknown Candy Simmons
Bill Eyrich
Scope City $25 Gift Certificates Marcella Gustantino
Cheryl Hannahoe
Sky Publishing Corporation Celestial Wonders Calendar Linda Sensenig
Daniel Brown
Software Bisque The Sky Student Edition
The Sky Level III Version 5
Barb Geigle
Robert Ramsey
Starry Night Software Starry Night Enthusiast Paul Becker
Spaceshots The Galaxies Poster
Galileo at Jupiter Poster
The Planets Poster
The Stars Poster
The Solar System Poster
Kathryn Weiss
Karen Duda
Lora Beth Harbaugh
Ginny Eyrich
Bret Cadmus
Steven S. Tuma Deepsky 2003 Program Ralph Gardner
Tranquility Posters Earthrise Posters Michael Turco
Amy Davidson
Matt Gustantino

Upcoming BCAAS Events

Just a thought! Rather than mourn the extinction of the stars, let us celebrate and always remember how brightly they burned!

Thursday, November 13th @ 7:30pm ó BCAAS meeting; Terry Huntsberger

Thursday, November 27th ó HAPPY TURKEY DAY!!!!!

Thursday, December 11th @ 7:30pmóBCAAS Christmas Party (mind the mistletoe)

Wednesday, December 24th ó Last day to hit the mall before Christmas! (Procrastinators!)

Thursday, December 25th ó MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Wednesday, December 31st ó New Yearís Eve!

Thursday, January 1st ó HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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