Capitol Skies - June, July, August 1991
Newsletter of the Madison Astronomical Society
In this issue
- Walter Scott Houston
- Observatory Directors report
- Transit of Mercury
|Walter Scott Houston atop Sterling Hall last fall, telling what
it was like in the 30's when Wisconsin was at the forefront of
development of electronic photometry. MAS member "Scottie" originates the
regular column Deep-Sky Wonders in Sky & Telescope
|Tom Eichman, Gil Lubke, and Tom Jacobs humidly put the
finishing touches on the mud covering the new electric power line,
extended to the south pad at YRS, setting a good example for all members on a WORK DAY
From the Observatory
Tom Eichman, Observatory Director
March 1991 was a busy month at YRS. Due in part to the favorable weather,
a good deal of credit must also go to the enthusiastic new members who flocked
to the dark skies south of Brooklyn. Jim Ciha was the first neophyte to tangle
with the acronymic abundance of the likes of CFO, AKO..... (And now that the 25
cent words are dispensed with--)
There followed one star party, a multitude of mentionable members to view the
moonless magnificence. (OK, I'll stop!) Nancy Washburn, Karty Ritter and Dan Kammer
(not his first time, but almost) were hosted by Denny Fryback, Jack Buggy,
Jerry Sullivan, LeRoy Yanna and yours truly.
Among the other regulars observing this month were Allan Henn, both with and
without his camera; Paul Baker, for a quick scan of the heavens, Dave Weier and
Dave Darling, who caught the spectacular Aurora Borealis in late March.
Dave Weier brought his son Josh to team up on variable star estimates.
A notable daytime visitation is in the log, too, which chronicled the interview
of MAS President Bob Manske by George Coburn, for the Wisconsin State Journal,
with Mike and Paula Puffer and LeRoy adding "color" commentary.
April begins with an entry from Grand Junction, Colorado, when visitors joined
LeRoy for some local viewing. Dan Hines (I hope that's your signature, Dan!)
zipped in for a quiet hour of observing. The occultation by Vesta attended by
Dave W., Bob M., and myself was already headed for disappointment when we arrived
and became fog or cloud obscured by the expected moment.
After the 60th Anniversary Celebration on the 21st, the Weiers, Puffers,
Kariy R., Bob M., etc., came out to try for an observation of the newly announced
supernova in NGC 4527. just for fun, some tried finding Pluto from the maps in
Astronomy magazine. The next night, 19 Cub Scouts and dads from Pack 350, Oregon, WI,
came down for a tour of the facility and got in a round of Jupiter watching before
the cloudiness of the next several weeks settled in. Around for a break in the clouds,
and his orientation as a new member, was Brian Hahn with more interested skywatchers.
Finally May arrived in typical Wisconsin style--is it summer? Winter? SPRING?!?
Manske and Weier returned for a reassessment of the supernova and added some of their
notorious, er -- noteworthy, that is, variable star observations to the records.
On the 10th a big crowd showed up for the Coma Solis occultation, including new
members Doug Smith, Jan Best, and Tim Stanton, with the long awaited return of Neil Simmons.
And speaking of returnees, Richard Randell logged some observing time this month as well.
May came to a close all too soon, but not before the first work parties of the season.
Special thanks go to, in order of appearance, Gil Lubke, Bob Manske, Tom Jacobs,
Jim Jondrow, Jan Best, Doug Smith, Neil Simmons, & the most tolerant woman he'll
ever meet, considering the truly endless entertainment of a hot Sunday's work detail,
and lastly Tim Stanton, who has also donated an electric motor to the cause.
Beyond even the accomplishments of these dedicated folks are the efforts of LeRoy Yanna,
who still tends to all the unsung jobs of grass cutting and checking up on the site while
the rest of us are dreaming of a clear night's visit. All of you make MAS richer by your
generosity (though Joe Keyes will still give me grief when I turn in the bill for our site
improvements.) Thanks, all. See you at the eyepiece. Tom
Saturday, June 15, the MAS Annual Picnic will happen at our viewing site,
the Yanna Research Center. Members, your spouses or significant others,
and your kids will begin gathering at YO
1:00 pm, with our annual meeting at 4:00 pm,
As for the food, MAS provides the meat and buns for a small fee with all of us
bringing salads, or desserts to share
July 12 - Friday
At M&I Bank, Jamestown. Directors meet at 7.00 pm. Members meet at 7.30 pm.
Program at 8:00 - Reports from the observing committees.
August 9 - Friday
Schedule the same as above for July.
June 14, Friday at YRS
July 12, Friday at YRS
July 13, Saturday at American Players Theater, Spring Green.
August 9, Friday at YRS
August 10, Saturday at YRS
September 6, Friday at YRS
September 7, Westgate 8.30 pm.
THE VESTA OCCULTATION - JANUARY 1991
by Bob Manske
On the evening of the 3rd of January, when the asteroid 4 Vesta occulted a
star near the Aries - Cetus border, we observed the one clear weather
occultation of the ten we had scheduled through May.
The star, SAO 93228, at visual magnitude 7.39 was almost exactly as bright
as Vesta, magnitude 7.37. This meant that instead of the ideal situation we
would see two rather bright objects, one of which would slowly approach the other,
perhaps merge with it, cause it to dim slightly, about 0.7 magnitude at most,
and then separate again.
We also weren't certain whether we were on the eclipse track or not. The
International Occultation Timing Association (IOTA), released two different charts,
one showing the 550 kilometer wide shadow of Vesta falling well to the east of us,
the other putting it directly over us. The issue seemed resolved a few days before
the event when IOTA pronounced that the track was well to the east of us.
I decided to observe the event anyway, because Vesta, one of the largest and most
massive asteroids, is more likely than most to have satellites or co-orbitals.
Dave Weier, Allan Henn, and myself showed up at YRS on a rather chilly evening to
observe the event. The sky was deep black and clear, five degrees F. with 10 mph winds.
Dave took the C-11 and began observing at 0012 UT on January 4th. I used the 16 inch
Cassegrain beginning at 0008:24.
At 0019:45 I could still see space between the two objects, but clearly they were much
closer than they had been eleven minutes before. Allan relieved me at 0020 and reported
half a minute later that he couldn't see any separation. At the same time Dave reported
that they formed one elongated object, and at 0023 that the objects had merged.
This was quite surprising since we believed we were well west of the eclipse path.
But more surprises were yet to come.
At 0029:37 Allan reported that the star seemed to have dimmed slightly about 10 seconds earlier.
It was very difficult to tell. It seemed to remain the same until he finished observing at 0039:39.
Less than half a minute after Allan thought he saw the star dim, Dave saw it disappear!
This was completely unexpected. He reported it at 00-30-03-.7, but estimated that due to his
surprise it had happened somewhere 0.7 and 1.2 seconds earlier. The star reappeared at
0030:05.7 but seemed somewhat dimmer than before. He reported that it regained normal
brightness at 0030:28.
As it turned out, the predicted time of closest approach, as observed from southern Wisconsin,
was about 0030!
We cannot explain why the star disappeared. Allan was observing about 30 yards away and
saw no such event, although he did see it dim at about the same time. Allan had a larger
telescope and so could see fainter, but the star was so bright that it should have remained
visible in the 11 inch. I was observing sky conditions at this time and reported it absolutely clear.
Another club member, Gil Lubcke, observing from Middleton between 0025:45 and 0037:00, saw no
indication of an occultation. Both Gil and Dave are veteran observers.
Later Dave discovered that IOTA had issued a last minute pronouncement that put YRS and Middleton
just at the western edge of Vesta's shadow. According to this, YRS should have been just inside
the shadow path.
Gerry Samolyk of the Milwaukee Astronomical Society told me he had traveled to Door County to observe
the event, to get as close to the centerline as possible. He observed no dimming or disappearance.
Frank Dempsey of Ajax, Ontario, just east of Toronto, saw the star disappear at 0029:311 He says, on
page 10 of "Astronomy', June 1991, that "37 seconds later the star reappeared to its former
brightness over 1 or 2 seconds". The time for his location is about right. A line drawn between
Madison and Toronto, about 600 km., is nearly perpendicular to the eclipse path. Dempsey had clouds,
however, and might have had one roll over at that time. He would not have necessarily noticed the
cloud while busily watching the star in his telescope. It's happened to me often enough.
But then again, it might be a real disappearance. It's interesting that if both disappearances
signify an actual occulting body, that they happened on opposite sides of Vesta, while at least
one observer closer to the centerline observed no dimming at all.
MAS SCHEDULE FOR JUNE - DECEMBER, 1991
All times are local. Lunar graze assembly points will be
announced with the go/no go message.
Fr 14: Star party at YRS
Sa 15: Picnic at YRS at 1:00 PM, annual meeting at 4:00 PM
Sa 15: Occultation of AGK3+20 2387 by asteroid 25 Phocaea. Go/no go will be given at the
picnic. Assemble at 3:00 AM on the 16th.
Th 11: Solar eclipse. Observe in La Paz, Yucatan, Hawaii.
Fr 12: Monthly meeting at the bank. Star party at YRS.
Sa 13: Star party at American Player's Theater, Spring Green Wi., 8:00 PM
Fr 9: Monthly meeting at the bank. Star party at YRS Sa 10: Star party at YRS.
Fr 6: StarpartyatYRS
Sa 7: Westgate expo and public viewing. 10 AM to 10 PM.
Fr 13: Monthly meeting at the bank.
Sa 14: Occultation of PPM 120260 by asteroid 505 Cava. Go/no go at 9:00 PM, assemble at
YRS at 3:00 AM on the 15th We are on the predicted centerline.
Th 26: Occultation of PPM 68338 by asteroid 1005 Arago. Go/no go at 9:00 PM, assemble at
YRS at 00:45 AM on the 27th.
Su 29: lunar graze of SAO 77750. Go/no go at 9:00 PM. Assemble near Cottage Grove? at 3:45 AM on the 30th.
Fr 4: Star party at YRS.
Sa 5: Star party at YRS.
Fr 11: Monthly meeting at the bank.
Fr 4: Monthly meeting at the bank. Star party at YRS.
Sa 9: Star party at YRS.
Su 24: lunar graze of SAO 79391. Go/no go at 9:00 PM. Assemble near Waunakee? at 3:30 AM
on the 25th.
Tu 3: Occultation of FAC 135430 by asteraid 51 Nemausa. Go/no go at 6:00 PM. Assemble at
YRS at 8:30 PM.
Fr 6: Star party at YRS. Sa 7: Star party at YRS.
Fr 13: Christmas party and star party at YRS.
Sa 14: lunar graze of SAO 128487. Go/no go at 7:00 PM. Assemble near Rio? at 9:00 PM.
Fr 20: Occultation of PPM 122700 by asteroid 287 Nephthys. Go/no go at 9:00 PM. Assemble
at YRS at 11:30 PM.
MAS FINANCIAL POSITION
Joe Keyes, Treasurer, would like to discuss fund-raising ideas with any members having good ideas.
Like selling photos of black holes. Or putting parking meters at YRS?
Total Lunar Eclipse, January 20, 2000
Thursday evening, January 20th, most of the western hemisphere will be treated to its
first total lunar eclipse since
Janet Best & Douglass Smith
Thomas E. Brisette
William & Nancy Curley
Robert G. Ferwerda
Brian R. Hahn
Patrick J. Higgins
Mitchell K. Kite
Neil A. Simmons
Community Awareness Committee Report
By Paula Puffer
I would like to express my appreciation for the MAS's acknowledgement of my coordination
of our 60th Anniversary Celebration. My appreciation would not be complete without
giving special thanks to all who gave of their time and energy to help. Without them,
the event would not have been successful. I do not want to embarrass myself by trying
to name individuals, because I am sure I would forget someone. I especially want to
thank those who presented the modules for the public: Jane Breun, Karl Bethke,
Tom Eichman, John Fischer and Ralph Zebell, Bob Manske and Dave Weier, and Jeff Peronto.
It is hard to define "success." In terms of memberships, we gained a number of new members.
In terms of finances, between the raffle, sales of the Beginners' pamphlets and donations,
we returned nearly $140 to the treasury. The one unmeasured term of success is the number
of people we reached toward our goal of educating the public about Astronomy. It is here
that I feel we were successful. Many people attended the functions and "talked astronomy"
with the MAS members. I think we did increase the awareness of the MAS.
After talking with so many people, I have a sense that there is an interest in learning
about astronomy and especially in looking through telescopes. The weather was not friendly
again, but we were able to have some views on Saturday. I think the Committee should pursue
opportunities to have viewings for the public and would like to work on options for doing so.
I am glad the major events are over. We do have another Westgate Fair on Sept 7. The Fair
should run in a formula fashion and take less work; however we still need membership help
to make it successful. More information will follow in the next months.
One of my greatest frustrations was in dealing with the media. There are different
definitions of the word "newsworthy," but in the end, gentle perseverance led to good coverage.
Letters of appreciation have been sent to donors and to the media who helped us. I hope
that this will lay the groundwork for further contacts for future publicity.
CAC's First Year
The end of the first year of the Community Awareness Committee's activities is approaching.
In the beginning, criteria were set to assess whether or not the actions taken were successful.
Those criteria included increased awareness of the MAS and increased contacts with the public.
There was definitely an increase in media coverage, especially in relation to the 60th
Anniversary Celebration. We reached numbers of people. The Friday night activity for kids
had about 70 in the first group--for younger kids and parents-- and somewhat less in the second group.
Between 30 and 40 people, primarily adults, attended the Sunday modules.
The Fair is harder to assess, but there was a steady traffic flow through the exhibits.
We had announcements in newspapers, and on radio and television; we had major coverage in the
Wisconsin State Journal and on two TV newscasters. According to Ma Bell, there were over 350
outgoing calls from my number alone, and probably 75% were related to the activities or
talking with people about the activities.
Another of the criteria was an increase in membership due to the Fair. Although we set the
lofty goal of 10 new members per Fair and did not meet that goal, there were seven new
memberships after the Anniversary Celebration, five of which are directly due to the activities.
On the basis of criteria alone, I think the Committee has been an asset to MAS.
I feel it is appropriate for those who are in the CAC to decide whether they
will stay on for another year. I hope they will and I also hope that other
MAS members interested in coming aboard will do so.
I would again like to thank all who were involved. Without your help there
would have been no 60th Anniversary Celebration.
Raffle Tickets, Anyone? A 16" x 20" print of Jeff Peronto's astrophoto of the
Orion Nebula will be raffled at the June 15 Picnic, with everyone there having a
chance to buy in for $1.00 a ticket. If you can't be at the picnic but would like
to buy tickets, just call the Puffers.
Beginners' Pamphlets. A pair of pamphlets from Sky and Telescope--"Backyard Astronomy"
and "Binoculars and Telescopes for Skygazers"--are available at YRS for $1.00 per set.
They are full of information on getting started, so would be helpful to novices.
Remember to recommend the set to YRS visitors.
Members Visit Home of Astronomy Magazine
By Paul Baker
Our 60th anniversary celebration and national astronomy day activities are long over,
but on March 8, they were still in the planning stage as Paula and Mike Puffer and I
toured Kalmbach Publishing in Waukesha, home of Astronomy magazine. We had gone to
pick up complimentary samples of Kalmbach publications to give away during our April celebration.
As Astronomy magazine staffer Alan Dyer led us around the large publishing house,
we learned that Kalmbach produces books and magazines relating not only to astronomy
but also to model railroading and crafts.
Materials for each issue of Astronomy are prepared months in advance. As we toured
the editorial and art departments March 8 we saw page proofs for the May issue ready
to be mailed to the printer in Kentucky.
Astronomy's reference library
collects the kinds of books and periodicals you might expect, and dozens of bound files
containing photos that have been submitted by readers over the years. Many of the photos
are used--if not right away, months or years later, to illustrate related stories.
Each Messier object has its own photo binder, as do the sun, the moon and planets.
As we walked along the corridors, we passed telescopes and tripods, some that have
been tested and others that await testing. Dyer pointed out that one especially
long hallway had been converted into a makeshift test chamber, with a light source
at one end and a telescope at the other. Many of the scopes tested are bought for that
purpose, some are donated. As often as possible, Astronomy purchases products anonymously,
so as not to signal to the manufacturers that they are about to be audited by experts.
The editorial offices of Richard Berry, Rhoda Sherwood, Robert Burnham, Alan Dyer,
David Eicher and the crew cluster at one end of a wing of the
building and overlook a tranquil residential section of Waukesha.
Have you ever noticed that Astronomy's cover art doesn't change radically from issue to issue?
There's a good reason for this. The magazine's art director knows from experience what
kind of cover art sells the most issues --- it has been studied rigorously.
Pinned to a wall is more than a year's worth of cover art. Pasted to each cover is the
number of newsstand copies sold and what percentage of that month's sales that represents.
For any given issue, anywhere from 45% to 55% of the copies sent to newsstands are sold.
Because one percentage point difference means $1,000 in sales, Richard Berry later explained,
a lot of thought goes into what art to use for each cover.
Most of the magazine's internal page layout is done on Macintosh computers with a variety
of software systems, such as Adobe Photoshop and Design Studio. The CCD images you
occasionally see printed are sent to the editorial offices on diskette.
Page layout people then call up a CCD image on the screen, and behold: a finely detailed
image of jupiter emerges.
The artist can then tweak brightness and contrast to make the best printed image.
Kalmbach's cavernous warehouse is three or four stories tall with floor-to-ceiling shelves
for back issues of Astronomy, Telescope Making, Odyssey, and for videotapes, calendars,
posters, and all the other items Kalmbach produces.
Two studio photographers do much of Kaimbach's work, including some of the photos of telescopes
and other equipment that Astronomy tests and writes up.
Each month, several thousand copies are sold on newsstands, in addition to the 165,000 subscription sales.
by Bob Manske
The title of this article is not a self evaluation, it's a wish for good weather.
Elsewhere in this issue you will find a calendar of MAS events for July - December 1991.
I have received the lunar graze predictions from IOTA, so the schedule is now complete.
From time to time I receive invitations from Gerry Samolyk of the Milwaukee Astronomical Society
to participate in their lunar graze observations as well. Let me know if you're interested in
attending these. If you don't have a telescope, let me know: Milwaukee can provide one.
If you have not done occultations or grazes before, we will train you. They are easy and quite intuitive.
The MAS is heading toward completing the "year one" tasks (see the "Capitol Skies" Sep-Nov 1990
Newsletter of the Madison Astronomical Society issue for the five year plan).
We will begin implementation of "year two" in June. We will be reviewing our progress and plans at the picnic
We will be emphasizing the observing committees more strongly in the coming year.
All of the after-meeting programs this summer, including the picnic, will feature reports
by observing committee chairs and, weather permitting, clinics out in the bank parking lot.
Editor - Jim Jondrow
Contributing Editor - Paul Ba I ker
Production Manager - Marj Jondrow
Circulation Manager - Jane Breun,
MAS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
President - Bob Manske
Vice-President - Dennis Fryback
Co-secretarles - Paula and Mike Puffer
Treasurer - Joe Keyes
Observatory Director - Tom Eichman
Board Members - Tom Jacobs & Dave Weier
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