Prime Focus

The newsletter of the Tri-Valley Stargazers March 1996.
Translated (roughly) from postscript into HTML for your browsing and downloading pleasure.
Keith Shank captured this shot of the Duck Head (NGC2359 ) through a CG11, at f/6.5, and an ST6. This image was dark-framed, flat-fielded and MED'd. Keith reports that it is just one of many int eresting Sirius/Mon. nebulae that fit nicely in CCD image sizes. (Feb. 3, 1996. AOL image)
TVS presents

What: March general meeting
When: March 22 at 7:30 pm
Who: Phil Scherrer, project scientist with the SOHO Mission
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.

The Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) Mission is now underway, following a launch last year from Cape Canaveral. A team of Stanford project scientists, including speaker Phil Scherrer, is responsible for the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) that is an integral part of the mission.

The MDI creates a read-out of solar resonances by measuring oscillations on the Sun's surface. Phil will present a program of overheads and videos explaining MDI and its contribution to the overall SOHO research project.

The Dark Site Observatory key exchange begins

Following last fall's difficulties with the lock to the observing hill gate, the board has taken action to protect our site at The Dark Site Pines. A new lock has been installed, in series with the existing one, so that all eligible members can continue to have access during the key excha nge period.

The exchange will begin March 22 at the general meeting, and will conclude at the May general meeting. On page 7 of this newsletter the TVS User Agreement for The Dark Site is printed. Please complete it and bring it with you to the March, April, or May general meeting.

If you cannot attend one of these meetings, complete the agreement and send it with your old key to:
P.O. Box 2476
Livermore, CA 94551
Al Smith will return a copy of the countersigned form and your new key.


March general meeting
Meeting schedule
Club news notes
What's Up in March
Comet Comments
Star Party Etiquette
The Dark Site User Agreement
Membership renewal

Coming soon

General meeting dates :
April 26 May 24 June 28 July 26 Augu st 23 September 27 October 25 November 22 December 20 (Please note the new date for the December general meeting.)

Open house at The Dark Site
April 20, meet at Mines Rd. at 6:00 pm

Riverside Telescope Makers Conference May 24 to 27, east of Big Bear City, CA

Key exchange

If you do not yet have an observatory key, and you want one, your User Agreement must
be accompanied by a $20 check. The $20 will be returned if you decide to relinquish your key in the future.

On page 5 of this newsletter the TVS Star Party Etiquette expectations are printed. By signing the User Agreement, you acknowledge that you have read and agree to these guidelines. You may want to remove page 5 from this newsletter and keep it with your personal observing log or in your scope carrying case.

Please note in particular the Etiquett ediscussion of white lights at The Dark Site. Some newer vehicles are equipped with white running lights that should be covered or re-lensed in red.

If you have any questions about the key exchange program, please contact membership and key coordinator Al Smith at 408/426-0913 or e-ma il: Please feel free to contact any other club officer listed below, as well.

Library load lightened

Club lir arian Bob Braddy has culled our lending materials, so that he isn't hauling 300 pounds of books, tapes, and magazines to each general meeting. Of course, the club still owns, and is willing to lend, any item in the collection.

Bob brings the best of the bunch to monthly meetings. The full list is kept in the front of the large white libr ary sign-out binder that sits with the books. If you want to use somet hing that is not at the meeting, let Bob know and he'll bring it the next time.

You may also contact him in advance regarding anything in the TVS library. If it is not already in use, he will gladly bring it for you.

AANC workshop

TVS is an AANC-member club, so Stargazers are eligible to attend the AANC Deep Sky Observing Workshop set for March 23. It will be held at the Lawrence Hall of Science, UC Berkeley. For more information check the Web at

Investing update As of the planning meeting on February 26, the TVS treasury showed $5,536.56 in checking account funds, and $3,194.23 in a money market savings account. The checking account monies do not earn interest, and the savings account was paying only about 2.33% APR. Therefore, the board voted to move $2,000 from savings and $1,000 from checking to open a short-term certificate of deposit, paying 4.35%.

The CD was deliberately kept short-term because checking account funds represent key deposits that must be returned when keys are surrendered by members.

The key exchange program,
is expected to cost less than $200 to administer.

Gene Nassar is still very interested in working with a volunteer club member who is knowledgeable about cash management and tax form filing. If you can donate such talents, please contact Gene at 510/462-5986.

Dave Anderson
(510) 661-4249

Earl Mack
(510) 828-1414

Vice President
Bob Braddy
(510) 855-0964

Gene Nassar
(510) 462-5986

Observatory Director
Chuck Grant
(510) 449-1500

Eyes on the Skie BBS
Mike Rushford
(510) 443-6146

Web Site

Alane Alchorn
(510) 455-9464
(510) 455-9466 fax

Meeting Location
Unitarian Universalist
Church in Livermore
1893 N. Vasco Rd.
3/4 mile north of I-580

Alane Alchorn
Dennis Beckley
George Cameron
Rich Combs
Chuck Grant
Rich Green
Al Smith

Tri-Valley Stargazers

PO Box 2476

Livermore, CA 94551

Membership: 122

What's Up in March by Dave Anderson

5 Tue Full Moon 1:23 AM PST.
6 Wed Jupiter (mag. -2.0) occults Nu-2 Sagittarii (mag. 4.3) for up to 89.5 minutes about 6:30 AM
7 Thu TVS telescope-making class begins. Contact Rich Combs (846-1906 or to
enroll or for information.
9 Sat East bay Astronomical Society (EAS) Anniversary Dinner, 6:00 PM (For information,
call Betty Neall 533-2394.)
11 Mon Mira (Omicron Ceti) near maximum (about mag. 3). This is the brightest long-period
(332 days) variable. At minimum, Mira is about mag. 9.
Algol at minimum 8:17 PM
12 Tue Last Quarter Moon 9:15 AM
14 Thu Jupiter 5° south of Moon. (Rise about 3 AM)
15 Fri Neptune 5°, then Uranus 6° south of Moon.
16 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: no Moon until after 3 AM .
17 Sun St. Patrick's Day.
19 Tue New Moon 2:45 AM
20 Wed Vernal Equinox 12:03 AM
Iranian New Year 1375.
22 Fri Tri-Valley Stargazers meeting 7:30 PM PST. Unitarian Universalist Church of Livermore,
1893 N. Vasco Road, Livermore. (3/4 mile north of I-580).
Venus 5° north of Moon.
23 Sat AANC Deep-Sky Observing Workshop 8:00 AM- 6:00 PM (followed by a star party).
Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley.
Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) at mag. 2.0 near Arcturus.
25 Mon TVS Planning Meeting 7:00 PM Rich Combs's, 5151 Greentree Ct., Pleasanton.
(Call 846-1906 for information or directions.)
26 Tue First Quarter Moon 5:31 PM
Comet C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake) closest to Earth (0.109 AU). Predicted mag. 0.9, moving
north at 17° /day near Alpha Draconis.
31 Sun Venus at greatest eastern elongation (46° ) in evening sky.


3 Wed Full Moon 4:07 PM PST. Total lunar eclipse visible in Europe, eastern U.S.
4 Thu First day of Passover (Pesach).
7 Sun Easter.
Daylight Saving Time begins.
10 Wed Last Quarter Moon 4:36 PM PDT.
Jupiter 5° south of Moon. (Rise about 2 AM)
Uranus (mag. 5.8) occults SAO 163583 (mag. 9.2) about 4:36 AM for up to 48 minutes.
11 Thu Neptune 5°, then Uranus 6° south of Moon.
13 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: no Moon until after 2 AM
15 Mon Venus 10° north of Aldebaran.
17 Wed New Moon 3:49 PM Partial solar eclipse visible in New Zealand.
18 Thu Asteriod (2) Pallas at opposition (mag. 8.2).
19 Fri Mercury 5° north of Moon.
20 Sat Astronomy Day.
Ganymede eclipsed by Jupiter 2:09 AM Io emerges from transit 2:22 AM Callisto's
shadow begins crossing Jupiter 3:47 AM
Moon in Hyades. Venus 9° north of Moon. (Set about 10:45 PM )
22 Tue Mercury at greatest eastern elongation (20° ). Best evening apparition of the year for
northern latitudes.

Comet Comments, March 1996


C/1995 Y1 (Hyakutake) C/1996 B1 (Szczepanski)
DATE (00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Mag DATE (00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Mag
03-18 20h43.1m +21o07' 51o M 8.8 03-18 09h55.8m +08o51' 150o E 8.4
03-23 21h03.1m +23o20' 50o M 9.0 03-23 09h43.6m +03o24' 143o E 8.6
03-28 21h21.9m +25o17' 51o M 9.2 03-28 09h34.5m -01o10' 137o E 8.9
04-02 21h39.5m +26o58' 50o M 9.4 04-02 09h28.1m -04o58' 131o E 9.2
04-07 21h55.9m +28o27' 49o M 9.6 04-07 09h23.9m -08o07' 125o E 9.5
04-12 22h11.3m +29o44' 49o M 9.9 04-12 09h21.5m -10o45' 121o E 9.8

C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake)
DAT E (00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Mag DATE (00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Mag
03-13 19h36.1m -20o56' 60o M 8.7 03-13 14h55.3m -16o25' 127o M 4.8
03-18 19h38.2m -20o36' 65o M 8.6 03-18 14h54.5m -07o54' 134o M 3.4
03-23 19h40.0m -20o15' 69o M 8.5 03-23 14h47.8m +21o10' 136o M 1.5
03-28 19h41.6m -19o54' 74o M 8.4 03-28 04h21.9m +80o21' 90o E 1.1
04-02 19h42.9m -19o33' 78o M 8.3 04-02 03h12.5m +52o31' 56o E 2.1
04-07 19h44.0m -19o11' 83o M 8.2 04-07 03h05.9m +43o44' 45o E 2.5
04-12 19h44.7m -18o48' 88o M 8.1 04-12 03h01.2m +39o14' 38o E 2.5

Orbital Elements
Object Hyakutake(95Y1) Szczenpanski Haykutake (96B2) Hale-Bopp
Peri. Dat e 1996 02 24.2909 1996 02 07.12974 1996 05 01.55295 1997 04 01.09192
Peri. Dist (AU ) 1.05456 AU 1.4507841 AU 0.2294915 AU 0.913959 AU
Arg/Peri (2000): 46.353 deg. 151.44985 deg. 130.29556 deg. 130.59470deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 195.7592 deg. 345.41073 deg. 188.15597 deg. 282.47161deg.
Incl (2000) 54.4667 deg. 52.07280 deg. 124.65024 deg. 89.42447deg.
Eccen : 1.0 1.0 1.0 0.9950751
Orbital Period: Long Period Long Period Long Period Long Period
Ref: MPC 26543 MPEC1996-C02 MPEC 1996-C03 MPC26374

by Don Machholz
Three new comets have been discovered in the
past month; one of them is expected to become a
unaided eye object in March and April. Mean while,
Comet Hale-Bopp has now reappeared in our
morning sky. It's a little brighter than expected. We
now have the luxury of having four comets visible in
binoculars. All four comets have been discovered in
the past eight months by American and Japanese
amateur astronomers.
C/1996 A1 (Jedicke): Robert and Victoria Jedicke
discovered this comet using the 36" Spacewatch
(with a CCD) from Kitt Peak on Jan. 14. The comet
was at magnitude 17 in Hydra. We now know that it
is over 5 Astronomical Units (AU) away from the sun
and over a year away from perihelion. When it
reaches perihelion in April 1997 at 2.5 AU, it will
attain eleventh magnitude.

C/1996 B1 (Szcezepanski): Edward Szcezepanski
was photographing M 101 on the evening of Jan. 27
from the Houston Astronomical Society in southern
Texas. It was his last exposure of the night. After a
couple of hours of sleep, he awoke and developed
his film. Upon close examination he noticed a fuzzy
patch near M 101. Confirming that it wasn't on an
earlier film, and learning that it wasn't a known
comet, he called the Smithsonian Astrophysical
Observatory. On the following night confirmation
came from several quarters. The magnitude was
about 8.6. Comet Szczepanski was closest to the
sun on Feb. 7 at 1.45 AU. Over the next few weeks
it will be heading south through Leo, passing near
Regulus in mid-March. It is closest to us in early
March at 0.54 AU.

TVS Star Party Etiquette

Amateur astronomy is fun whether you're doing unaided eye viewing, hunting for comets, deep sky observing,
or delving into the intricacies of astrophotography. We want to ensure the most enjoyment for all our members.
New (and experienced!) viewers at our star parties are asked to observe the following guidelines. We hope thes e
guidelines make everyone's viewing more enjoyable.

Pay $3 per car at entry for each visit to The Dark Site. Put this money into the slotted box mounted on the post located to
the south of the owner's house.

Be sure to bring adequate food, water, and clothing. It's always hotter/colder than you anticipate, and it's a long way back
to town. Facilities at the Sky Shack are primitive (no water, out-house). Bring your own toilet paper.

Lock the gate when entering or exiting the observing hill. Leave the Mines Rd. gate and combination lock in the same
condition as you found them.

No white lights! Be they headlights, flashlights, vehicle running lights, vehicle interior lights, flash cameras, or
whatever, white lights shou ld be used only in emergencies. Arrive early (before dark) so you don't have to use
your headlights at the site. Use the minimum light necessary to see, if you arrive late.

Always assume someone is taking a time-exposure photograph. Walk up the hill and check before you drive up. Turn off,
remove, or cover your vehicle's interior lights. All flashlights should have a red filter and be of low intensity.

Parking: If you plan to stay all night, park away from the exit. If you are leaving early, park near the exit, and park so
that you will not have to back up. (Backup lights are white!) If you must leave, please ask if anyone is taking a
photograph. Wait until the exposure is finished before you leave.

Always ask before you use or move any one else's equipment; including club equipment.

No loud noises: This includes loud music, loud conversations, etc. Most observers are there to soothe their nerves,
not to rattle them!

Open fires are prohibited at The Dark Site all year long. Barbecues, hibachis, etc. are not allowed to due to the lack of
water to quench them.

No smoking in the observatory or near telescope s. Smoke damages the optics. If you must smoke, do it only in you
vehicle and keep cigarette butts in the ashtray.

Litter : If you brought it with you, take it with you. Leave the site a little cleaner than when you got there.

No alcoholic beverages are permitted on the observing hill.

Please remember that these guidelines pertain during any TVS use - open hous es, star parties, or private
observing sess ions. Our continued ability to lease the site is dependent on your adherence to those guidelines
protecting the club and the land owner. Tha nk you for your help in upholding them.



First the apologies... At the
March 13, 1995 planning meeting
patron members Ricky and Ana
Marsh and John Hiskes were
approved as patron members.
We apologize to them for not
publishing their acceptance as
patrons in a timely fashion.
Thanks to them and all the patron
members who go the extra mile
to support the club!

Current new membership
acknowledgements go to Greg C.
Herlein, for his patron
participation; and to new
members Vernon and Meridith
Wallace. If your name should
have been published here, and
was not, please contact Alane.

Open house set for
The Dark Site

The spring observing season
begins in earnest on Saturday,
April 20 with an open house at
The Dark Site. The club's 17.5-
inch scope will be available for
members who are not patrons on
that evening.

Some members have
requested a return to the more
formal schedule of observing
evenings at the Sky Shack, the
club's observatory building at the
top of The Dark Site. An effort will
be made to accommodate
general members, without
compromising prime
astrophotography evenings that
would be preferred by patron

Vice president Bob Braddy is
organizing additional observing
evenings for June, August, and
September. Talk with him about
your ideas and expecta tions.

Yosemite Fund

TVS had pledged up to $200 in
matching funds to pair with
members' donations to the
Glacier Point Restoration
Yosemite Fund. In fact, members
donated $225 toward the effort to
esta blish an improved observing
facility at Glacier Point.

The club and its members will,
therefore, give a total of $425 to
this project. The board hopes to
make the presentation a public
event at the Yosemite Fund's San
Francisco headquarters in the
near future.

Project ASTRO recruiting

Prefer red placement application
deadline for amat eur astronomers
interested in Project ASTRO is
April 22. For details call Crystelle
Egan at the ASP office,

C/1996 B2 (Hyakutake): Yuji Hyakutake
discovered his second comet in five weeks on the
morning of Jan. 30. He was using the same
25x150 binoculars, and this comet was found
about three degrees away from the discovery
location of his other find. An early orbit suggest that
the comet is approaching the Earth and will pass 10
million miles from us in late March. This passage
will take place outside and above our orbit, so the
comet will be seen against the dark background of
the northern polar region. Its magnitude will
be about 1, and it should appear at least a
half-degree in size. Through April it should dim
slightly as it moves away from us and continues
toward the sun. It slips into our evening sky and
heads sout hward brightening through the last half of
April. By April 27 it wil l be low in our WNW sky

after sunset and magnitude 1.5. The tail, and it
will probably have one at that distance from the
sun, ought to be rather interesting.

You or your astronomy club may consider a
public star party to show your neighbors this
comet. Astronomy Day is April 20, the moon will
be three days past New, and Comet Hyakutake
shou ld be about second magnitude near RA 2h
50m, +34 degrees. Your neighbors may ask: "Is
this that Comet Hale-Bopp that I have been
hearing about ?". And you can say, "No, that will
be by next year at this time... same part of the sky,
and even brighter than this comet." After late April
we will lose Comet Hyakutake as it moves south
of the sun and is seen much better from the Southern Hemisphere.

Universe '96

The Astronomical Society of the Pacific's annual meeting will be June 21-26 in Santa Clara.

User Agreement for The Dark Site

The Tri-Valley Stargazers Astronomy club leases a hilltop from the owner of The Dark Site for astronomical viewing and ast rophotography. This site is available to all dues-paying club members. A key and a photocopy of this signed agreement will be returned to each user upon acceptance of his or her application.

In exchange for the opportunity to use this site I agree to:

Pay a refundable deposit of $20 for use of a key to the observing hill gate. The key is the property of the < Tri-Valley Stargazers As tronomy Club, is not transferable and may not be duplicated. Deposit will be forfeited if membership dues are delinquent more than 6 months.

Pay $3 per car at entry for each visit to The Dark Site. I will put this money into the slotted box mounted on the post located to the south of the owner's house.

Leave the observing hill gate closed and locked, and leave the Mines Rd. and all other gates at The Dark Site in the same condition as I found them.

Conduct myself with proper etiquette so as to respect the rights of other users at the site.

Accompany any guests I bring, and be fully responsible for their actions while at the observing site.

Relinquish the key if I do not renew my yearly membership in the Tri-Valley Stargazers Astronomy club,
or upon demand by a Club Officer.

By my signature below I show that I have read and understood the above conditions. I understand the failure to
comply with any of these conditions may result in revocation of my privileges.

Signature__________ ____________ ____________ ____________ __________ Date________ ____________ __________ ______

Print Name______ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________

Address_ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ________

___________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ ______

Phone______ ____________ ____________ ____________ ____________ _____

Make checks paya ble to: Tri-Valley Stargazers, and bring to the March, April or May 1996 general meeting;

or send to: Tri-Valley Stargazers
P. O. Box 2476
Livermore, CA 94551.
Mines Rd. Combination Number_____________________
Key Number__________________________________________
Date Issued___________________________

Tri-Valley Stargazers Astronomy Club

Prime Focus

Tri-Valley Stargazers Newsletter
P.O. Box 2476
Livermore, CA 94551

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