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Volume XXVI Number VI

November/December 1998

Meeting Highlights


Thursday November 12

6:30 p.m. - The normal meeting has been replaced by our 25th Anniversary celebration. The festivities will be held at Chef Alan’s featuring food, drink and merriment.

Thursday December 10

7:30 at the Reading Public Museum - Once again we will have to suffer through our annual Christmas Party / Awards / Elections extravaganza after a brief business meeting. As customary, please bring your favorite food dish or drink with you. I extend the invitation especially to those members we rarely see. You don’t want to miss the Presidential Awards that certain individuals richly deserve to receive.

Thursday December 31

Deadline: January / February 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:

Island in the clouds

Up until two weeks before the announced date for Megameet, I had decided the title of this article would be "The Megameet that Never Was". Then, about four days before the meet, I optimistically changed it to "The Megameet that Almost Wasn't". And then, while driving to Pulpit Rock, downhearted and defeated over the not-too-inspiring forecast, I firmly concluded the title would be "Between The Rock and a Hard Place." Nothing was going to change my mind on this last one. It was a bomb from the very beginning. Just live through it and forget it as soon as possible!

It was an uphill battle from day one - getting invitations and flyers printed. Hours after I returned from the printer, I received word that the Megameet webpage had a new address! I’m looking at 200 flyers - all with the wrong address! Minutes after mailing the invitations and 17 club packets, I got Pete’s message which said we would probably have to cancel! The cat was already out of the bag.. .too late! And then, just about the time people received their invitations and flyers, the website went down and my email address, also plastered over each and every flyer, was useless! What more could go wrong? Give it a couple of months.

I didn't’t mention The Bridge yet, did I? Meanwhile, calls and emails from all over the place.. .what about the bridge? Is it on? Just take me to the river.

Well, miracles do happen, and I’ve discovered they wait until the eleventh hour to appear! The Wednesday before Megameet, 1 witnessed the signing of the final papers to allow public access to the bridge. Now all I had to worry about was the weather... the big, bad weather.. . The forecast at mid-week seemed to deteriorate by the hour. The pressure was on.. .to go or no go. Lord, you tell me! Up all night Friday.

Only one voice in the dark offered any hope... it was Adam Jones. "It’ll. be clear, I tell ya!" "What? Are you nuts?" Every forecast I could get my hands on said, "Mostly cloudy to partly cloudy early, then foggy". "Clear? Are you crazy?"

Well, Adam Jones... my hat off to you! (And shore yourselves up, those of you who looked out your window and said, "Whew! glad I didn't’t go!") About 110 intrepid astronomers and guests crossed the infamous bridge and made their way to the summit, apparently either not interested in the weather, or betting against all odds. And what a reward!

A perfectly clear night, from dusk 'til 4:30 Sunday morning! Steady seeing... great for Jupiter and Saturn, the celestial headliners of the evening. A veritable miracle! From The Rock we could see a dense shroud of thick fog covering the land as far as the horizon. We were "An Island in the Clouds". So, seven is a lucky number, after all.

Once again. LVAAS members toppled the statistics with over 50 members, followed by the Berks County club with 16 participants. For the first time we had several Rittenhouse club members, and the newly-formed Astronomical Foundation of America from York, and the York County Astronomical Society signed in each with at least two members. DVAA was represented with 10 observers, while the Bucks-Mont, Lancaster, and Chester County clubs responded with around 4 members each. Dave Mitsky from the Astronomical Society of Harrisburg saw a couple of breaks in the sky and "flew" to the rock before midnight! He’ll have a tale for clear skies they probably won’t believe when he gets home!

This is the first year I ever remember enjoying myself. The support team was so dedicated and efficient that I hardly worried a moment! Matt and Marcella Gustantino had prepared for every contingency. Special toggle-switch lighting for the portajohn, hand washing table with soap & towels, excellent party music slowly changing over to celestial observing accompaniment.

Thanks Matt & Adam for the great LVAAS History film. I was proud to be a member of LVAAS. And thanks, Ralph Schlegel, and Joe, and all the early pioneers whose back-breaking work has given us our clubhouse.

The audio-visual highlight of the evening was hearing Gary Becker’s rendition of "The Galaxy Song". We could only imagine his blushing, since it was already dark.

Another highlight was the presentation of our plaque of appreciation to Tom Noonan. Now there’s a fellow to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. Were it not for his untiring efforts, that bridge would still have a pile of dirt blocking our way! And were it not for Pete’s coordination of the water authority, township, and Tom Noonan’s proposals, we’d have had no Megameet VII at all. I think Pete would tell ya, if it weren't’t for my godawful refusal to quit.. .well, let him tell you)

Another inspiration: Kevin and Donna Casey and their kids, Kelly & Daniel. The "Gastronomical" table was a true hit! Hotdogs mit kraut, baked beans, potato salad, macaroni salad, bag snacks, doughnuts (thanks to Paul Becker), and great coffee, pleased everyone! Such a nice set up - so warm and welcoming to weary observers. I can’t thank you enough!

Thanks Ray Stump (Mike’s dad) for the chain and the first lock that didn't’t actually fall apart in years! Thanks Barry Johnson for having the observatories ready for presentation. And Tom Smith, Bob Shandor, and Bill Edwards... now there is a man who I would genuflect to (if he’d let me). This man just about single-handedly affected repairs to the bridge as proposed by the engineer. . .thanks a zillion, Bill!

Gategreeters Mike Aulenbach, Paul Becker, Karl Buesgan, Bob Capone, Pete Detterline.. .Parking staff, Barry Johnson, Mike Stump, Vince Scheetz, Howard Aubrey. What a crew!

Megameet VII the year of hurdles, hoopla, and eleventh-hour drama... and only the second one in seven with an enduring clear sky. I can’t help but think it happened because I wore my lucky pearl-and-crystal earrings (and had the best darn support team a gal could ever hope for!)

Priscilla Andrews


Mythology of the Night Sky - Andromeda

This constellation is a throw-back to that silent movie era where the fair maiden was tied to the railroad track with the train fast approaching and our hero rescues her just in the nick of time. Andromeda was an Ethiopian princess, daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, who was chained to a rock by the sea, exposed to the sea monster, as punishment for her mother’s boast that she was more beautiful than the Nereids. (Hint: If the Nereids should ask you who is the fairest in the land, you might want to consider saying they are!)

Scholars feel the story of the chained maiden might even go farther back than the classical Greek period, for they feel this story bears some resemblance to the ancient Babylonian creation myth - which I’m sure you’re all familiar with - about Marduk and the dragan Tiamat. People even up to the Roman era took this story so seriously that the Roman historian Josephus writes that this event happened on the coast of Joppa and that you could still see the marks of her chains and the sea monster on that seashore!

The Arabians who know about Western mythology were forbidden by the Koran from drawing the human figure, so they instead called this constellation the Seal.

Some people have, however, connected the dots in a different manner, and see in Andromeda a cross or, even more noticeably, a dipper(connect Beta and Gamma to the Square in Pegasus for a really BIG dipper).

Andromeda is best known to modern star gazers for the faint hazy smudge that is visible to those who live outside the light pollution of Reading. When modern astronomers studied this smudge, the smudge was revealed to be another galaxy like the Milky Way that lies 2,000,000 light years from the Earth!

Linda Sensenig

Spruce Knob, WV Report

After a 13 month hiatus, I finally returned to the mountain for some much needed photon therapy. This time I found myself in good company with Tim Siminski, Mike Bashore and "Grand Master Camper" Ron Kunkel. We were able to camp and keep our equipment set up on the 40 very private acres of Prof Hoffmaster. Now to the good part. How good was it? The first evening was spectacular and cold. The transparency of the sky was good enough to see the Milky Way extend from Sagittarius in the west all the way across the sky to the north of Orion in the east. Try seeing that from our skies! The air was turbulent enough to hamper viewing fine planetary detail, but Tim and I settled for what we got. The deep sky views were fabulous no matter what instrument was employed. Tim also made an impression on a certain lady that kept us company. Her name is Cleo. It sure is nice to have a German Shepherd as a friend.

Tim left for home Friday afternoon, only to be replaced by the dynamic duo (Mike and Ron). Once we returned to the camp site, Ron demonstrated his very advanced skills in tent setup and cooking steaks within 20 minutes flat! Needless to say, I was impressed. Although the transparency was not as good on Friday night, we still had a good evening of viewing. We were entertained by a large pack of howling, yipping and barking coyotes around 1:00 A.M. I used the vast majority of my time to attempt some astrophotography and was fortunate to bag some photo trophies from the Knob.

Saturday evening was cloudy enough to make us pack our gear up early. Before we did that, we were rewarded with stunning planetary observing due to the fairly calm air overhead. All in all, it was a very satisfying weekend. Hopefully, more of you can make this pilgrimage with me next year.

George Babel

Astronomy 101

Winter observing when dressed properly is extremely rewarding. I’ll. be setting the date, place and time in the near future. Please join me for an educational observing session!

George Babel

Indoor Astronomy - The John Glenn Obsession

Every now and then it’s good to obsess over something. One day it may be a chocolate obsession. You search out new candy bars you haven’t tried yet and when you eat EVERY last piece you can FIND....well maybe some things should be kept under control. But now it’s time to obsess over John Glenn. This is much healthier than chocolate and less fattening! Glenn is everywhere. He’s in the newspaper. One of October’s Parade sections had an excellent article. He’s on TV. The Discovery Channel, PBS and even A&E’s biography all ran shows about Glenn and the space program. We are truly obsessing over John Glenn and we’re enjoying it. This seems to be just what NASA needs. Most of the public has lost interest with NASA. But now, with the first American to orbit the earth returning to space, it’s the talk of the country.

So where do we go from here? If you haven’t had your fill of this hero yet, there are many books and videos to fill the void. John Glenn: A Space Biography (Countdown to Space) by Barbara Kramer (1998) is a new book I thought looked interesting. If you want to get to know John Glenn the politician there are two books to check out. The

Presidential Odyssey of John Glenn by Richard F. Fenno Jr. (1990) and Michael D. Cole’s book - John Glenn. Astronaut and Senator (People to Know) (1993). The story of Friendship 7 is on a video entitled Friendship 7 & the John Glenn Story by the man himself, John Glenn (1989) and in book form by Michael D. Cole, Friendship 7: First American in Orbit (Countdown to Space) (1995). Discovery Channel has their video - God Speed John Glenn (1998) for sale.

By taking the time to obsess over something or someone for a time, we can learn a thing or two. Just keeping up with the news of this legendary shuttle mission is en lightening. John Glenn, because of his age, gives hope to many and demands respect of the large percentage of Americans over the age of 65. Years ago it would have been unheard of for a man in his 70s to be part of a NASA crew. When Glenn made his first orbital flight over 30 years ago he probably would have thought the same thing. But times have changed and people are living longer, healthier lives. Age is experience and for John Glenn, age is confidence.

Donna Weinsteiger




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