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March 2004

Greetings, everyone! Right now I'm sure you're all wondering "why" you've been given a link to the March issue of the M111, instead of being e.mailed a copy. Well, unfortunately for us all, our editor Andrea is currently very busy caring for Kristen, who is again scheduled for more surgery. (our prayers, love and best wishes go with you, girl...) I'm afraid I'm not as talented as she is at putting together the newsletter in a mailable format, so ya' gotta' just put up with the way I do it. We wish Kristen a speedy recovery!

Now let's rock...

In This Month's Issue...



Minutes of the February Meeting

Calendar Of Events

NASA - The SpacePlace

Seeing Stars

Minutes of the February Meeting...

Many thanks to all who attended the February RAS meeting... How wonderful it was to see it so well attended! (gosh, it was good to see you guys again...) Members in attendance were Terry McQuistion, Joe Forster, Mike Allen, Dan Everly, Tammy Plotner, Bruce Scodova, Dave Hartsel, Ken Hemmerly, John Neuman, Monty Meier and Larry "Doc" Heltzer.

And now for the news...

The Ashland Public Library program will become a reality. Right now, Mike G. is coordinating the dates for it and will post it under the topic he opened on our WRO bulletinboard. All members are asked to help.

We will have a Messier Marathon Night at the Observatory. Our first scheduled date will be March 20th with a rain date on March 27th. While the event is not directly open to the public, any member wishing to bring or invite a guest may do so. Any member inviting a guest must take the responsibility of replying to the Messier Marathon Night topic on the bulletinboard (access through and state who will be joining us so the Observatory Director has notes on who will be here. It would also be a polite move for members planning on attending that night to post as well.

March 6 will be our first "Public Night". In the past, our RAS meetings have been held on that night and we have often left the Observatory unattended in favour of more comfortable surroundings during cloudy weather. Let's just say "the times they are a'changing"... OK? From now until we vote otherwise, the Observatory will have RAS members present during Public Nights to greet our guests. I will make sure there are materials there to keep anyone entertained should they wish to visit for the evening, and any member should be responsible enough to give a tour. If the weather is good? Please keep in mind that folks would like to see through a telescope! At least one member qualified to run the 31" should be present... (And shame on ya' if you're not.) Bring your own scope, if you've a mind... And remember! These folks are our guests. ;) If it is cloudy? Like I said, there will be videos available as well as information to be passed out. At least one member should be there for a reasonable amount of time to show folks around and answer questions. Be a friend of the WRO and contibute your time...

There will be a Hidden Hollow Lite program this year!! Our dates have been approved for the third weekend of August and a link will be made to supply visitors with information. At this time, the fee will be $5 per guest per night. There will be primitive camping available in our area on a first come first serve basis. I am currently working on getting us some guest speakers at their own expense, and I appreciate any member who may know someone in the "astronomy world" to do the same. The Observatory will be open and on-line with an operator for our guests and unlimited use of the grounds for their personal telescopes. Because this is a greatly scaled down program, it will require a lot less work on our parts... But we will still need some volunteers! Again, I will posted a topic on the bulletinboard ( to keep everyone informed and seek the help we need to make this a good program. I urge all members to realize this is how we make our operating expenses and plan on volunteering some of your time.

The Black Forest Star Party was also discussed. Wouldn't it be great to do something as a group? Right now, the tentative date for Black Forest is September 10, 11 and 12. I have opened a topic on the bulletinboard just for Black Forest so we can keep each other informed as to who plans on attending, and how and when we make reservations for our group.

It was brought to the membership's attention that the Dome is still in need of maintenance. Since the bulletinboard is a viable way of soliciting for help? Please feel free to open a topic discussing how we can go about doing this and ask for volunteers. It is important to all of us to help preserve the WRO and volunteer to help in any way we can.

Membership packets are currently under construction and the proper documents assembled. Not everything can happen at once, be we are off to a good start and they will be available in the very near future.

Once again, any member with an internet connection MUST REQUEST OBSERVATORY TIME VIA THE BULLETINBOARD. This is important, folks. It keeps the Observatory Director aware of when requests are being made. It keeps RAS members aware when other members are at the Observatory. It keeps FH in good relations with the RAS. Anytime you wish to access the Observatory or Observatory grounds for ANY reason... Make your request on the BB. Members failing to do so will be denied permission. Members who do not have internet access must take responsiblity for informing the Observatory Director via telephone so it can be posted to the Board. Members who have internet access, but are temporarily away from their equipment can contact any other registered member of the bulletinboard and have it posted.

We discussed furthering our willingness to submit to FH a statement declaring our name, address and telephone number to be current with the Secretary/Treasurer and to be willing to submit the proper information for a background check only if (and only if) FH deems it necessary. A lot of this is still in the planning and discussing stages, but the gist of it is we need to get everything current and submitted to both FH and the Observatory Director. It is not yet a policy of the RAS, but it was the general agreement of the members present that it is a good idea.

Other than that? All are welcome to write me if their notes or opinions on what was said differs from my own. We also discussed some things that were brought up for decision by the Board of Directors and a copy of the answers was submitted to all in attendance of the RAS February Meeting. I have been given editorial license on what news to make public or not... And I feel what was in that document is personal Club business and has no place being aired on an open forum. The decisions were made and they stand.

Submitted by: ~T

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2004 Calendar of Events


March 6 - Public Night
March 19 - Club Meeting (7:00)
March 20 - Member Observing Night


April 3 - Public Night
April 16 - Club Meeting (7:00)
April 17 - Member Observing Night


May 1 - Public Night
May 21 - Club Meeting (7:00)
May 22 - Member Observing Night
May 22 - HH Wedding Night


June 5 - Public Night
June 12 - Church Camp Begins...
June 18 - Club Meeting (7:00)
June 19 - Member Observing Night


July 2 - Church Camp ends..
July 3 - Public Night
July 3 - HH Counselor Training begins..
July 10 - Alternate Public Night
July 11 - Hidden Hollow Camp Begins
July 13 - Starry Nights Program
July 16 - Club Meeting (7:00)
July 17 - Member Observing Night
July 20 - Starry Nights Program
July 27 - Starry Nights Program


August 3 - Starry Nights Program
August 7 - Public Night
August 10 - Starry Nights Program
August 13 - Hidden Hollow Camp Ends
August 15 - Band Camp begins
August 20 - Hidden Hollow Lite begins...
August 20 - Club Meeting (7:00)
August 21 - Member Observing Night
August 21 - Band Camp ends
August 22 - Hidden Hollow Lite ends...


September 4 - Public Night
September 4 - HH Wedding Night
September 17 - Club Meeting (7:00)
September 18 - Member Observing Night
September 18 - HH Wedding Night


October 2 - Public Night
October 2 - HH Wedding Night
October 15 - Club Meeting (7:00)
October 16 - Member Observing Night
October 16 - HH Wedding Night


November 6 - Public Night
November 19 - Club Meeting (7:00)
November 20 - Member Observing Night


December 5 - Club Meeting and Christmas Party (Galion)
December 10 - Member Observing Night

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Deep Space Network 2-for-1 Sale!

By Patrick L. Barry

Call it a "buy one, get one free" sale for astronomers: Build a network of radio dishes for communicating with solar-system probes, get a world-class radio telescope with a resolution nearly as good as a telescope the size of Earth!

That's the incidental bonus that NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN) offers the astronomy community. Designed to maintain contact with distant spacecraft in spite of the Earth's rotation, the large, widely spaced dishes of the DSN are ideal for performing a form of radio astronomy called "very long baseline interferometry" (VLBI).

VLBI produces very high resolution images of the cosmos by combining the output from two or more telescopes. The result is like having a giant "virtual" telescope as large as the distance between the real dishes! Since bigger telescopes can produce higher resolution images than smaller ones, astronomers need to use dishes that are as far apart as possible. That need dovetails nicely with the DSN's design.

To maintain continuous contact with deep space missions, the DSN has tracking stations placed in California, Spain, and Australia. These locations are roughly equally spaced around the Earth, each about 120 degrees of longitude from the others-that way at least one dish can always communicate with a probe regardless of Earth's rotation. That also means, though, that the straight-line distance between any two of the stations is roughly 85 percent of Earth's diameter-or about 6,700 miles. That's almost as far apart as land-based telescopes can be.

"We often collaborate with other VLBI groups around the world, combining our dishes with theirs to produce even better images," says Michael J. Klein, manager of the DSN Science Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Since our 70-meter dish in Canberra, Australia, is the largest dish in the southern hemisphere, adding that dish in particular makes a huge difference in the quality of a VLBI observation."

Even though only about 1 percent of the DSN's schedule is typically spared from probe-tracking duty and scheduled for radio astronomy, it manages to make some important contributions to radio astronomy. For example, the DSN is currently helping image the expanding remnant of supernova 1987A, and Dr. Lincoln Greenhill of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory is using the DSN dishes to explore a new way to measure the distances and velocities of galaxies.
And all this comes as a "bonus" from the dishes of the DSN. 

To introduce kids to multi-wavelength astronomy, NASA's website for kids, The Space Place, has just added the interactive demo, "Cosmic Colors," at .


This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

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Welcome to the March edition of "Seeing Stars"! Are we all tired of the winter weather yet? Well, thanks to the cold, snow and ice, wind and rain many of us have found ourselves to be "armchair astronomers" in the evenings. If you, too, are looking for something new to do on the web, why not check out Patrick's Intergalatical Mystery Tour! Thanks to a tip from Mike G., you will find enough things on these pages to keep you "in tune" with Space! Enjoy... (and hang tough... because the stars of summer have returned to our morning skies!!)

Now let's head on out into the Cosmos, and see what we can find for YOU in the month of March!!


There are a few minor meteor showers this month that may produce random and predicted activity. The Corona-Australids peach on March 16, and are active from the 14th - 18th. Although the southern hemisphere is favoured, it may produce randoms at a rate of 5 to 7 per hour. March 22 signifies the Camelopardalids, which have no definate peak but are the slowest recorded meteors at 7 kpm. Also on March 22 is the "March Geminids" - Discovered in 1973 and confirmed in 1975. They appear as slow meteors and generally produce up to 40 per hour. (yeah! this one will be a "no moon" show!) Try your hand this month at "radio meteor listening"! Good luck....


Although none of us are really looking forward to those cold Ohio winters, the weather can produced some very exciting atmospheric phenomena like the "Sun Pillar" pictured on the left. (clicking on it will take you to the full size image by Stan Richards.) These awe-inspiring pillars are often visitors to our area at sunset, (and sunrise as well!) when the tiny ice crystals are lit from below... I caught several in February, such as this one seen from my backyard...

You can also see this phenomena frequently around streetlights or distant security lights. They are there... Please look for them!


Also another interesting apparition that occurs more frequently during this time of year, the "sun dog" happens during those hazy, cold days. The picture on the left is a beautiful example! (click on the image to see the full size photo by Bob Fosbury.) These mock rainbows, and sometimes dual Sun appearances are all part of atmospheric phenomena and can be further studied by visitng Atmospheric Optics. Por amour du ciel!!


How about something a bit different? Then why not try your hand at chasing a bright asteroid this month? Asteroid Ceres, at magnitude 6.9 should be an easy challenge for the backyard telescope as it moves through the constellation of northern Gemini this month. Give it a go! It's not far from Saturn. Tired of chasing Ceres? Then let's go for another in Gemini.... Hebe. At magnitude 9.1, Hebe will present more of a challenge. Still not enough? The let's have a go at Pallas in Cetus. It's magnitude 9.3 is still within range of most scopes. A bit harder? Then go for tiny Irene in northern Taurus. At magnitude 10.7 this should present a challenge even the best of us can't resist!! For very accurate locator charts, go to Heaven's Above and enter your area. Best of luck! (image courtesy of NASA)

The Moon

There will be three chances in the month of March to spot this month's lunar challenge. Schroeter's Valley is a thin, bright feature which accompanies bright Crater, Aristarchus. It will be visible on the 3rd, 16th and 17th. Need a clue as to what to look for? Try this...

Of course, the Moon offers many wonderful opportunites for viewing and you can pick up some fine pointers from visiting Inconstant Moon. For those of you with a video camera? It's a nice challenge to try imaging craters, and I'm always interested in seeing your work! ("Lunation" image courtesy of NASA.)


Saturn has long past opposition, but this will be one of the finest times to observe. Watch the tilt of the rings, as well as the Cassinni and Encke divisions. Just check out what member Mike Allen did! (click for full size image.)

This presents a fine opportunity for both sketching and photography and Saturn's many moon are often visible to most backyard telescopes! (photo on left by ~T... click for full size image.)


Jupiter is back on the earlier evening scene and it's producing some very fine details! Like Saturn, the planet Jupiter presents some fine opportunities for sketching as well as observing and photographing. Check your monthly edition of Sky and Telescope for transits and eclipses of the galiean moons and well as the appearance of the Great Red Spot. Even the most modest instrument will reveal Jupiter's equatorial bands and dance of the moons! Now in the constellation of Leo, Jupiter will soon be back on the early evening scene. (Jupiter photo by Mike Allen - click for full size image.)


You asked for 'em? You got 'em. The HOT comet for this month is C/2002 LINEAR T7. Already in small scope range at around magnitude 6, this comet should be within range of most modest binoculars. T7 begins its' tour at the beginning of this month cruising west through Pegasus. Try aiming your binoculars at the southern-most star in the "Great Square" and drop west. Comet LINEAR T7 will appear as a round "fuzzy" to binoculars and scopes of all sizes will be able to pick out the coma and depending on sky conditions, the ion tail. Happy Hunting! And stay tuned, kiddies... Cuz' the comet fun is just beginning!! (LINEAR photo by Neil Mumford)


The ISS, the Hubble, the Shuttle, and even just iridium sattelite flares are also fun astronomy related things to do! The ISS makes a bright pass every evening from March 3rd through March 12th during the early evening hours. Click on the image to your right to take you to Heaven's Above for times and location charts. No telescope is necessary for this kind of activity, and simply watching one of these events is very inspiring.


Our ever-active and ever-changing nearest "star" continues to be a fascinating target during the sunspot phase, using either safe solar projection methods or safe solar filtering techniques. The image to the right is real time and clicking on it will give you an image very close to what be seen through a telescope proper equipped for solar viewing. (if there is no image? hey! it's cloudy or dark... ;) For example, we had a wonderful sunspot just this last month! Check out AR564...

For more information go to "SpaceWeather" where you will find current sunspot numbers and aurora alerts. (daily image from Big Bear Solar Observatory)

We are now moving into a good time of the year to spot auroral activity, please keep watch!


Guess what? Mars, Saturn and Jupiter aren't the only planets still visible! Riding high and bright on the western horizon during the month , Venus is also back on the scene. Outshing everything in the sky, lovely Venus is fun to watch as she changes her phases. By mid-month, Mercury will also join Venus giving us the opportunity to view all five planets along the ecliptic in the early evening. What a wonderful opportunity for both unaided-eye and scope viewing! Best of luck...

As always, there will be lots of exciting things in the months to come... like more meteor showers and comets! And, of course, there are transits and occultations, as well as asteroids and eclipses to keep us busy! And I'm here to help keep you informed... If you have any questions on how and when to view any of these activites, please feel free to contact me and I'll be happy to help in any way I can.

But, for now, let's get out some star charts and pour us another cup of coffee, because I'd rather be galaxy hoppin' and it's....


Wishing you clear skies and Light Speed...


"Hello? Hello? Hello? Is there anybody out there? Just nod if you can hear me.... Is there anyone at home?"

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