Prime Focus

The newsletter of the Tri-Valley Stargazers July 1996.
Translated (roughly) from postscript into HTML for your browsing and downloading pleasure.

Annual summer barbecue
Club news notes
What's Up in July
Comet Comments
TVS Awards Program
Starman (the comic strip)
Membership application

Asteriod 243, Ida, lies in the belt between Mars and Jupiter. The Galileo fly-by detected its moon Dactyl, seen at right. Dactyl is the first natural satellite of an asteroid ever to be discovered. Ida is an S-class (stony) asteroid.
(NASA/JPL image)

TVS presents

What: Annual summer barbecue
When: July 26 at 7:00 PM
Who: You and your family
Where: Unitarian-Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.


A beautiful new addition to the TVS Loaner Telescope program is the three-inch refractor, donated by Jerome (Jerry) Howland of Livermore. Jerry is not a club member (yet...), but reached us by way of a referral from Jack Marling at Lumicon.

The refractor is an early-50s Unitron, with a rotating eyepiece holder that accepts .965 or 1.25 inch sizes. The scope is in wonderful condition, with its original boxes and a solar projector. (The solar projector will be removed and safely stored when the scope is in general loan. It will be used by specific members at club functions or public star parties.)

Many thanks to Jerry for his kind and generous donation to the club. Those of us at the June meeting very much enjoyed meeting him, and we look forward to seeing him at Sycamore Grove or other star parties.

Club member Chuck Vaughn, who presented the June program on Internet Astronomy, has made us an offer we won't refuse. He is willing to digitize negatives and slides for posting to the TVS web page. You can contact Chuck at (510) 797-8365, or on the Internet at

Thanks, Chuck, for a fine program last month, and a great on-going service to TVS.

Mike Spreitzer prints Prime Focus every month using the excellent and cooperative services of Xerox. In < addition, he has posted the newsletters from March, April, and May to the club website.

We very much appreciate the money, time, and effort Mike's work saves the club.

Speaking of money...

Updates on the state of the club treasury, through the end of June, are:
$5,003.68 - checking account
$3,032.35 - certificate of deposit
$1,187.88 - money market
The certificate of deposit includes all key deposits held for the The Dark Site Pines Sky Shack.

The Yosemite Fund thanks TVS

Club president Dave Anderson attended the formal ground breaking at Yosemite's Glacier Point last month. He presented a check of $435 on behalf of TVS and its members who donated to restore the area.

The letter acknowledging TVS's contribution is reprinted below.

June 10, 1996

Dear Dave,
We greatly appreciate the Tri-Valley stargazers' gift toward the resoration project at Glacier Point. Gifts like this, from people who know and love Yosemite, are the foundation of all our work.

As you were the one to "pass the hat around", I'm glad that you were able to see the start of the project that your club has helped to make possible.

We will keep you updated, via our newsletter Approach, on the progress at Glacier point this year. We look forward to your presence at a celebration of the new amphitheater and completed revegetation -- hopefully by next year!

Thank you again for your participation in this exciting project.

Yours sincerely,
Bernadette Powell
Annual Giving Manager


Friday, July 26, is the date for this year's annual summer barbecue. It was moved forward a month so that more members might be able to attend. Members are always encouraged to bring scopes or binoculars, but remember that the moon will be gibbous and bright, just a few days away from full.

Those of you who don't believe in observing by moonlight may want to bring your favorite astronomical gadgets to discuss with fellow members. Last year, this part of the evening engendered some lively conversation! This year, the barbecue officially opens at 7:00 pm, so you will have plenty of time to set up your scope before dinner.

As usual, the club will provide an excellent selection of grilled meats, prepared by Rich and Barbara Green. TVS also supplies all your utensils, condiments, and cold soft drinks. Bring a side dish or dessert, to feed eight, according to the first letter of your last name as below:

A - Q Side dish

R - Z Dessert n

General meeting dates:

August 23 September 27
October 25 Novovember 22
December 20

Star Parties:

July 19-21 Camp Shelly Dusk South Lake Tahoe Public star party and viewing

August 10 Sycamore Grove 8:00 pm Livermore "Meteors and comets"

August 30 - Sep. 2 Glacier Point Dusk Yosemite Public star party and viewing

Sep. 21 Sycamore Grove 8:00 pm Livermore "Planets and the solar system"

Dave Anderson
(510) 661-4249

Earl Mack
(510) 828-1414

Vice President
Bob Braddy
(510) 855-0964

Gene Nassar
(510) 462-7843

Observatory Director
Chuck Grant
(510) 449-1500

Eyes on the Sk y 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

PO Box 2476
Livermore, CA 94551

Membership: 158

What's Up in July by Dave Anderson

15 Mon New Moon 9:15 AM
17 Wed Venus at greatest brilliance (mag. -4.5).
18 Thu Neptune at opposition (mag. 7.9).
19 Fri Star Party at Camp Shelly, Lake Tahoe.
20 Sat Star Party at Camp Shelly, Lake Tahoe.
Io transits Jupiter 11:11 PM to 1:27 AM; shadow transits 11:36 to 1:52 AM
21 Sun Europa transits Jupiter 10:43 PM to 1:30 AM; shadow transits 11:34 PM to 2:22 AM
Io reappears from eclipse 11:03 PM (AM=22nd).
23 Tue First Quarter Moon 10:49 AM
Yezdezred (Persian Zoroastrian) New Year 128 6.
24 Wed Uranus at opposition (mag. 5.7).
26 Fri Tri-Valley Stargazers meeting 7:30 PM PDT. Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore,
1893 N. Vasco Road, Livermore. (3/ 4 mile north of I-580 ).
28 Sun Jupiter 5° south of Moon.
Moon occults Rho-1 Sagittarii (mag. 4.0) : disappearance at dark limb 10:25 PM
Io occulted, then eclipsed, by Jupiter 10:07 PM to 12:57 AM
Europa transits 12:29 AM to 3:45 AM (AM=29th).
Zoroastrian New Year 2386.
29 Mon TVS Planning Meeting 7:00 PM Circle Wing, 184 Airway Blvd., Livermore.
Neptune 4°, later Uranus 5° south of Moon.
30 Tue Full Moon 3:35 AM Moon at closest perigee (35 6,948 km) of year at midnight. Expect large tides.


1 Thu Mercury 0.5° north of Regulus. (Look shortly after sunset.)
Ganymede transits Jupiter 9:09 PM to 12:16 AM; shadow transits 11:52 PM to 3:03 AM (AM=2nd).
3 Sat Saturn 3° south of Moon.
5 Mon Last Quarter Moon 10:25 PM PDT.
Io transits Jupiter 9:10 to 11:25 PM, followed by shadow 9:55 to 12:11 AM
Comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp) (mag. 5.7) near Tau Ophiuchi,
between globular clusters NGC6517 (mag. 10.3) and NGC6539 (mag. 9.6)
6 Tue Io reappears from eclipse by Jupiter 9:21 PM
Callisto reappears from ooccultation 10:03 PM Europa occulted 10:05 PM
8 Thu Aldebaran 1° south of Moon; occulted in Arct ic.
9 Fri Venus 1.2° north of Moon. (Ri se about 2:30 AM)
10 Sat FPOA/AANC Star-B-Que (potluck picnic & star party) 5:00 PM
Fremont Peak State Park (south of Gilroy). RSVP (40 8) 623-2465.
Star Party at Sycamore Grove Park (Livermore Park Distri ct) 8:00 PM
(Wetmore Rd. entrance near Holmes St.).
Excellent weekend for observing:no Moon until about 3 AM
Mars 6° north of Moon.
11 Sun Long-period (40 7 d) variable Chi Cygni near maximum (about mag. 5.2).
12 Mon Perseid meteor shower peaks about 5 AM
Io occulted, then eclipsed, by Jupiter 1:39 to 4:47 AM
14 Wed New Moon 12:34 AM
15 Thu White Mountain Star Party. (Grandview campground tonight).
Europa's shadow transits Jupiter 8:36 to 11:24 PM; satellite transit ends 9:32.
16 Fri White Mountain Star Party. (Barcroft High-Altitude Research Facility).
Mercury 0.3° north of Moon; occulted in South America.
17 Sat White Mountain Star Party.

Comet Comments, July 1996


C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)
DATE (00 UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag
07-16 18h33.3m -10° 24' 160° E 6.0
07-21 18h26.0m -09° 55' 154° E 5.9
07-26 18h18.9m -09° 26' 149° E 5.8
07-31 18h12.0m -08° 59' 142° E 5.7
08-05 18h05.5m -08° 32' 136° E 5.7
08-10 17h59.4m -08° 07' 130° E 5.6

22P/ Kopff
DATE (00 UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag
07-16 19h23.2m -20° 04' 175 ° E 7.0
07-21 19h23.8m -20° 45' 171 ° E 7.1
07-26 19h24.8m -21° 25' 166 ° E 7.2
07-31 19h26.2m -22° 03' 162 ° E 7.3
08-05 19h28.2m -22° 36' 157 ° E 7.4
08-10 19h30.8m -23° 05' 153 ° E 7.6

by Don Machholz

Comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1) is now visible to the unaided eye- at least to some eyes. The rest of us will have to be content with binocular views of the comet for awhile longer. This comet will likely be a unaided-eye object for more than a year, the Northern Hemisphere will see it through mid-May, 1997. This affords an opportunity to conduct an experiment, and to set a personal record: for how long you can follow the comet without optical aid. In 1985-6 Halley's Comet was seen for about seven months, and early in the last century the Great Comet of 1811 was a unaided-eye object for about nine months. Simply record the first night you view Comet Hale-Bopp with the unaided eye, and, sometime next May, your last unaided-eye viewing. The comet is presently 3.2 AU from us and 4.1 AU from the sun.

Meanwhile Periodic Comet Kopff is visible in the same part of the sky, but you'll need a pair of binoculars or a small telescope in order to see it. Other comets that we have been watching have now faded or moved south.

Orbital Elements
Object Hale-Bopp Kopff
Peri. Date 1997 04 01.14561 1996 07 02.19980
Peri. Dist (AU) 0.9140971 AU 1.5795617 AU
Arg/Peri (2000): 130.59227 deg. 162.83487 deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 282.47087 deg. 120.91329 deg.
Incl (2000) 089.42807 deg. 004.72143 deg.
Eccen: 0.9950784 0.5440739
Orbital Period: 3000 yrs. 6.45 yrs.
Ref: MPC 26879 (3-26) MPC 22032 (1991)

Some Summertime Deep-Sky Objects by Dave Anderson

M5 One of the best globular clusters, in Serpens (Caput).
M13 The Great Hercules Cluster! Look for the mag. 12 galaxy NGC 6207 in the same field.
M92 Another fine globular cluster in Hercules, often overlooked.
M4 & M80 Two globular clusters near Antares in Scorpius.
M6 & M7 Two fine open clusters near the stinger of Scorpius.
M22 Another great globular cluster, in Sagittarius.
M8, M20 & M17 The Lagoon, Trifid, and Swan Nebulae in Sagittarius!
M11 The Wild Duck Cluster in Scutum! Perhaps the richest of all open clusters.
M57 The Ring Nebula, a famous planetary nebula in Lyra.
M27 The Dumbbell Nebula, a superb planetary in Vulpecula!
NGC6960/92/95 The Veil Nebula in Cygnus. A large supernova remnant. (Try an OIII filter).

Tri-Valley Stargazers
Awards Program

To encourage you to observe the universe first-hand, Tri-Valley Stargazers offers awards for certain accomplishments in amateur astronomy. At this time, awards are available for completion of the following programs:

The Messier Objects
Observe all 110 Messier Objects. We use the list adopted by the Astronomical League for its award. In particular, M40 = Winnecke 4 (a double star), M47 = NGC2422, M48 = NGC2548, M73 = NGC6994, M91 = NGC4548, M102 = NGC5866, M104 = NGC4594, M105 = NGC3379, M106 = NGC4258, M107 = NGC6171, M108 = NGC3556, M109 = NGC3992, M110 = NGC205. A form is available for recording your observations, but you do not have to use it.. For each object, you should record the date, time, location, some indication of sky quality (transparency matters more than turbulence; you might want to estimate the limi ting magnitude, or just use descriptions like "good," "excellent," etc.), the instrument (and eyepiece) used, and some notes or sketches. Since one of the reasons for observing these objects is to learn your way around the sky, digital setting circles are not allowed.

The Messier Objects with Binoculars
Observe 50 or more of the Messier Objects with binoculars. Recording requirements are the same as f or the regular Messier award. The 42 easiest objects are considered to be: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 31, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 50, 52, 55, 67, 92, 93, and 103. The next 18 toughest are probably: 14, 19, 28, 30, 33, 40, 49, 53, 62, 63, 64, 78, 79, 80, 81, 82, 83, 94.

The Herschel 400
Observe the 400 deep-sky objects selected by the Ancient City Astronomy Club of St. Augustine, Florida, from the thousands catalogued by Sir William Herschel. This list includes some Messier and other notable objects, as well as a large number of more difficult targets. Observing and recording requirements are the same as for the Messier award. A form and a list of the objects are available.

The Solar System
A list of activities is available. Points are awarded for each completed activity. You must earn 250 points for this award. You must keep a log, including date, time, location and instrument used for each observation, as well as descriptions and/or sketches (the latter are encouraged for many of the activities).

The Solar System with Binoculars
The requirements are those of the previous award, except that only 150 points are needed.

David Anderson is the current Awards Coordinator. He can provide you with observing forms, as well as lists of objects on paper or in computer- readable form. Copies of the forms are also available in the TVS library for you to reproduce and use. (Please do not write on the library copies.) When you have finished a project, give a copy of your observing notes to the Awards Coordinator. You will receive a certificate honoring your achievement at the next general meeting of the Tri-Valley Stargazers.

Award Programs of Other Organizations
The Astronomical Association of Northern California (AANC) offers a Messier Certificate. (TVS is a member of the AANC.) You need to register your intent to pursue the project with:
R. Dennis Tye, AANC Messier Club Representative,
2960 21st Ave.,
San Francisco, CA 94132.

All observations must be made within two years of registration.

The Astronomical Lea gue offers certificates for the Messier Objects, Binocular Messier Objects, and the Herschel 400. TVS is not a member of the AL, but the Eastbay Astronomical Society (EAS) is, so by joining the EAS you can apply for the AL awards. Their address is:
Eastbay Astronomical Society, Inc.
4917 Mountain Boulevard
Oakland, CA 94619.

Solar System Awards Program

Binocular Program: Earn at least 150 points.
Telescope Program: Earn at least 250 points.

Sun Follow the motion and evolution of one or more sunspots for at least five days.* (B) 20
Mercury Locate during a morning or evening apparition. 5
Observe gibbous and crescent phases.* (T) 20
Venus Locate in daylight. 10
Observe gibbous and crescent phases.* (T) 15
Moon Track rising and/or setting times and phases throughout a lunar cycle. 15
Locate a very young or old Moon (wi thin 24 hours of New). 5
Observe and identify several interesting features (craters, mountain ranges, rilles, etc.).* (B) 20
Mars Track the planet's motion on a star chart during both prograde and retrograde phases. 10
Observe the polar cap(s).* (T) 15
Observe and identify other markings.* (T) 15
Observe seasonal changes and/or storms.* (T) 20
Asteroids Locate, identify, and trace the motion of at least one. (B) 15
Observe and time a stellar occultation. (T) 20
Jupiter Locate in daylight. 15
Observe and identify the Galilean satellites. (B) 5
Observe and time an eclipse, occultation, or transit of a Galilean satellite. (T) 10
Observe and identify the major belts and zones.* (T) 10
Observe and identify other surface features.* (T) 10
Saturn Observe therings and (possibly) surface features.* (T) 10
Observe and identify Titan, Rhea, and Iapetus. (T) 10
Observe and identify 3 to 5 other satellites. (T) 15
Uranus Locate. (B) 5
Observe Titania and/or Oberon. (T) 15
Neptune Locate. (B) 10
Observe Triton. (T) 15
Pluto Locate (Sketch the star field on two different nights). (T) 20
Comets Track the motion of at least one on a star chart. (B?) 10
Observe the coma, tail and other features of at least one.* (B?) 10
Meteor Record a shower for at least six hours. 15
Special Events Observe an eclipse, transit, comet collision, etc. (B or T?) 20
* Sketch recommended.
B=binoculars needed. T=telescope needed

Club news notes for July

For your information...

The following two items are published without endorsement by the club. They are provided as a service to club members who may find them useful.

Steve Smith, an amateur observer in Cleveland, OH, operates the Comet Rapid Announcement Service with an ephemeris position table and finder chart for new bright comets. CRAS is published in conjunction with The Shallow Sky Bulletin and has news of newly-discovered and -recovered comets.

For more information on the exact services Steve Smith provides, and their costs, write to him at
P.O. Box 110282
Cleveland, OH 44111-0282.

The second item of potential interest comes from Joe Goetz of Reedley, CA.

Joe offers for sale his Celestron SP 102 refractor, a four-inch German equatorial on a Super Polaris mount. He is also including a 6 X 30 finder scope and a Celestron 26mm eyepiece.

Either a sale ($985) or trade will work for Joe. The trade scope would be a good quality altazimuth 60 or 80mm refractor, or a 6-8 inch Dobsonian. He is looking for a good starter scope that he can use with his grandchildren. Joe's phone number is (209) 591-5721.

(Editor's note: Please let me know if items like these are helpful, or an annoyance. We often receive such unsolicited material at the P.O. Box.)


TVS membership now stands at 158 stallwart observers. A belated welcome goes to Axel Mellinger, who joined this spring. A more timely greeting is sent to Kathleen Kelley, who joined at the June general meeting. Please make it a point to introduce yourself to these new members at the barbecue, if you have not already met them.

Sky Shack notes

The key exchance is complete, and locks have been changed, on the hill to the observing site. If you still need to swap a key, contact Al Smith at (408) 462-0813 or electronically:

Watch the web site for future postings on who is planning to use the club scope. Some members have expressed an interest in sharing rides to the site. Others simply would like to know that they'll have some company on an observing run.

Seeing double?

So, you haven't heard much about the TVS Binocular Telescope program lately? Don't feel left out; progress has been slow thus far. Chuck Grant, binocular scope coordinator, would like to change all that.

The twin Coulter mirrors are ready to reside in matching tubes, and Chuck needs some help to make that happen. If a binocular scope piques your interest, reach Chuck at (510) 449-1500 (yes, that really is his home phone number), or via Internet at:

Dark sky dilemma

The folks at Lawrence Hall of Science are requesting your help in making their skies darker during observing programs. It seems that some of the UC facility users don't quite understand what full parking lot lights do to damage night vision.

To limit the lighting at LHS Saturday night programs, write to:
Barbara Ando
Laurence Hall of Science
UC Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-5200.
Or, you
may send her an e-mail at

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