Prime Focus

The newsletter of the Tri-Valley Stargazers October 1996.
Translated (roughly) from postscript into HTML for your browsing and downloading pleasure.
The Andromeda Galaxy, M31, is visible to the unaided eye from many East Bay locations. First described by the Persian astronomerAl-Sufi, it has been noted in the literature since at least 905 AD. Edwin Hubble identified the first Cepheid variable in Andromeda in 1923. This shot was captured by Texas amatuer Jason Ware, through a six inch refractor. (AOL image)


October general meeting
Club news notes
What's Up in October
Comet Comments
Fall deep-sky objects
Starman the comic strip
Membership application

TVS presents

What: October general meeting
When: October 25 : Conversation, 7 pm; Business meeting, 7:30 PM
Who: Speaker to be announced
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.

Join us this month for an historical tour of local public observatories. Chabot Science Center breaks ground on the 18th for its new observatory and public information facility. Lick Observatory remains a Bay Area focus for astronomical research, despite increasing light pollution all around it.

At deadline time, the board was still assembling a program to update you on the latest research and public astronomy programs eminating from these two observatories. October's program will be devoted to news from both of them.

You are invited to start the meeting at 7 pm by sharing your latest observing news and notes with fellow members. The business portion of the program begins at 7:30, as usual.

Thank you, Rich & Barbara

Rich and Barbara Green spent the better part of a weekend preparing our new storage area at the church. They swept, sprayed, and organized so that our portable equipment can be accessible from a central location.

The library, public star party equiment, and unrented loaner scopes now have a convenient home rather than being scattered in five or six garages. Club officers can access these assets, so contact one of them if you have a need.

Rebublicans, Democrats, and Stargazers

In keeping with the political tone set by the Presidential debates, TVS invites you to throw your own hat into the ring for club office. Yes, it's that time again. Soon the nominating committee will call, asking for your help in selecting a 1997 leadership team. Just say yes!

Nominations are open

At the October general meeting, floor nominations will be taken for all club offices and directorates. Self-nomination is also welcome. Please reference the box below for a list of TVS offices that must be filled each year. We will also be looking for someone willing to organize speakers for future meetings; and someone who is able to coordinate school star parties.

Jim McIntire has graciously assumed management for the Sycamore Grove Park star parties, and we thank him for doing so. School star parties still require an organizer.

Once the nominating committee is formed, members will be contacted about open board positions. If you are interested, attend the October general meeting, or call President Dave Anderson, (510) 661-4249.

Club News Notes

Your dues at work

Account balances as of the last board meeting were as follows :
Checking account $4657.37
Money market $1193.97
CD account $3065.80
The CD holds key deposits posted for the The Dark Site Sky Shack.

More on money

Since we're on the subject of your dues, you would probably like to know that the board will outline the 1997 budget at the next planning meeting. Programs, scope enhancements, library additions, and public star parties are a few of the items up for consid eration.

You are welcome to attend any planning meeting in person, or you may contact an officer or board member to make your views known. The October general meeting is also a great place for open questions about club money management.

Library update

Librarian Chris Cody has taken to his new task with enormous enthusiasm. He presented plans to upgrade our library collection for which the board appropriated $300. He will be publishing a comprehensive survey to determine future acquisitions.

Chris's plans also include acknowledging donations via the Web page, and constructing a moveable bookcase to roll between the storage room and the church.

Seeing double?

Or triple? Or more? If so, perhaps you have an office-quality photocopier that you or your employer could donate to TVS. Our existing machine is no longer repairable, and a comparable new model is far beyond our budget.

Remember that TVS is a 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt organization that can provide a donation letter in exchange for the copier. The church is willing to provide space and power in return for shared ownership and upkeep, just like our present arrangement.

The copier would be used to prepare general meeting handouts and star party information. Contact anyone listed in the box below if you have a line on a possible donation.

SkyVector donated by Larry L. Shaw

Club member Larry L. Shaw has donated an older model Lumicon SkyVector for use in the loaner scope program. Thank you, Larry! It will be added to Conrad's telescope, once the proper encoders have been located and affixed. We'll let you know when these improvements are complete. and you can contact Chuck Grant to rent the enhanced scope.

President Dave Anderson (510) 661-4249

Secretary Earl Mack (510 ) 828-1414

Vice President Bob Braddy (510) 855-0964

Treasurer Gene Nassar (510) 462-7843

Observatory Director Chuck Grant (510) 449-1500

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

Web Site

Editor Alane Alchorn (510) 455-9464 (51 ) 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

P.O. Box 2467
Livermore, CA 94551
Membership: 179

What's Up in October

by Dave Anderson
October 1996
18 Fri Groundbreaking for new Chabot Observatory and Science Center, 10:00 AM
. Jupiter 6° south of Moon. Io shadow transit of Jupiter begins 8:01 PM Satellite transit ends 8:19 PM
19 Sat Astronomy Day II.
. Star Party at Sycamore Grove Park (Livermore Park District) 8:00 PM (Wetmore Rd. entrance near Holmes St.).
. Mars in M44 (Praesepe). Look before dawn.
. First Quarter Moon 11:09 AM
. Neptune 5°, then Uranus 6° south of Moon.
. Ganymede's shadow transits Jupiter beginning 7:54 PM
20 Sun Asteroid 4197 (19 82 TA) passes within 0.1 AU of Earth. See October Sky & Telescope, p. 68.
21 Mon Io occulted by Jupiter 8:28 PM
22 Tue Io shadow transit of Jupiter begins 7:04 PM Satellite transit ends 8:05 PM
24 Thu United Nations Day.
. Saturn 3° south of Moon.
25 Fri Tri-Valley Stargazers meeting 7:30 PM PDT. Unitarian Universalist Church of Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Road, Livermore. (3/4 mile north of I-580).
26 Sat Full Moon ("Hunters' Moon") 7:11 AM
27 Sun Daylight Saving Time ends.
. AANC Meeting 1:00 PM Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley.
. Europa reappears from eclipse by Jupiter 7:37 PM PST.
28 Mon TVS Planning Meeting 7:00 PM Location TBD.
. Mars 1.2° north of Regulus.
.Aldebaran 0.9° south of Moon; occulted in Alaska.
29 Tue Io transits Jupiter beginning 6:49 PM; shadow transit begins 7:59 PM
. Callisto eclipsed 7:29 PM
31 Thu Halloween.
November 1996
1 Fri Algol at minimum 10:59 PM PST.
. Moon occults Lambda Geminorum (mag. 3.7): reappearance at dark limb 1:58 AM
2 Sat Last Quarter Moon 11:50 PM Good weekend for observing.
4 Mon Moon occults Omicron Leonis (mag. 3.8): reappearance at dark limb 12:54 AM
5 Tue Election Day.
. Mars 5° north of Moon. (Rise about 12:40 AM)
8 Fri Venus 1.4° north of Moon. (Rise about 3:45 AM)
10 Sun New Moon 8:16 PM Excellent weekend for observing.
11 Mon Veterans' Day.
14 Thu Jupiter 5° south of Moon.
15 Fri Neptune 4°, then Uranus 5° south of Moon.
16 Sat Venus 4° north of Spica.
17 Sun Leonid meteor shower peaks about 6 AM
. First Quarter Moon 5:09 PM
20 Wed Saturn 3° south of Moon.
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).
24 Sun Full Moon 8:10 PM
. Algol at minimum 9:30 PM

Comet Comments

By Don Macholz


C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000)DEC El. Sky Mag
10-19 17h33.5m -04° 04' 59° E 4.7
10-24 17h35.6m -03° 47' 55° E 4.6
10-29 17h38.1m -03° 29' 51° E 4.5
11-03 17h41.0m -03° 09' 48° E 4.4
11-08 17h44.3m -02° 47' 44° E 4.3

C/1996 Q1 (Tabur)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000)DEC El. Sky Mag
10-14 11h35.3m +55° 55' 68° M 5.5
10-19 13h12.2m +52° 44' 63° M 5.7
10-24 14h10.0m +47° 32' 59° E 5.9
10-29 14h44.2m +42° 34' 57° E 6.2
11-03 15h05.8m +38° 16' 54° E 6.4
11-08 15h20.6m +34° 35' 52° E 6.7

C/1996 N1 (Brewington)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000)DEC El. Sky Mag
10-19 19h44.6m +54° 36' 99° E 12.0
10-24 20h14.9m +52° 33' 102 ° E 12.2
10-29 20h42.2m +50° 15' 105 ° E 12.5
11-03 21h06.5m +47° 48' 107 ° E 12.7
11-08 21h28.2m +45° 18' 108 ° E 13.0

C/1996 E1 (NEAT)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000)DEC El. Sky Mag
10-19 19h49.2m +28° 08' 98° E 11.3
10-24 19h57.0m +22° 48' 95° E 11.5
10-29 20h04.3m +18° 11' 92° E 11.8
11-03 20h11.2m +14° 12' 88° E 12.0
11-08 20h17.7m +10° 48' 85° E 12.3

96P/Machholz 1 Too close to the sun for observation
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000)DEC El. Sky Mag
10-24 14h34.5m -02° 27' 14° E 8.4
10-26 14h49.6m -03° 23' 15° E 9.3
10-28 15h03.0m -04° 18' 16° E 10.0
10-30 15h15.1m -05° 12' 16° E 10.7
11-01 15h26.2m -06° 03' 17° E 11.2
11-03 15h36.4m -06° 52' 17° E 11.7
11-05 15h45.9m -07° 37' 18° E 12.2

Comet Hale-Bopp, brightening as expected, has been displaying a "J "-shaped tail nearly a degree long. It passes near the globular cluster M 14 during the last week of October. Comet NEAT and Comet Brewington remain in the evening sky, both are slowly fading in brightness. I've also included an ephemeris for Periodic Comet Machholz 1, which passes closer to the sun than any other periodic comet. It will be a diff icult object in twilight, but may also be brighter than suggested here. Periodic Comet Kopff has faded from view.

A new comet was visually discovered on August 19 by Vello Tabur of Wanniassa, of the Australian Capital Territory. The comet was very diffuse, magnitude 11, and near the constellation Orion in the morning southern sky. Comet Tabur may reach unaided-eye visibility in the morning sky in October. Its orbit is similar to that of Comet Liller, discovered in 1988. Apparently the two comets were one in the past, they take 2900 years to orbit the sun.

A new comet was discovered on Sept. 7 by Carl Hergenrother on plates exposed by Timothy Spahr of the University of Arizona. No orbit has been determined and it

is presently known as simply Comet 1996 R1. The 12th magnitude object was found near the Andromeda Galaxy and moving westward at about two degrees per day.

The NEAT program, mentioned here last month, discovered an object that appears asteroid-like (stellar), but is in a comet-like orbit. Known as 1996 PW, it takes 690 0 years to orbit the sun, and was at perihelion this Aug. 8 at 2.5 AU. At its most distant point it is 360 AU away. It is not expected to get brighter than magnitude 16.

On the flip side of that story, in early August, Eric Elst reported the discovery of a comet on photos taken in mid-July by Guido Pizarro. This object shows a tail, but no coma, and it is in an asteroid-type orbit between Mars and Jupiter, taking 5.6 years to circle the sun. In 1979 it was announced to be an asteroid (1979 OW7), but now that it shows cometary activity, it is renamed Comet P/19 96 N2 (Elst-Pizarro). It remains near magnitude 17.

Finally, I surpassed 6,000 hours of visual comet hunting last month. I began in January 1975. I still enjoy it.

Orbital Elements

Object Hale-Bopp Brewington NEAT
Peri. Date 1997 03 31.86770 1996 08 03.42395 1996 07 27.36189
Peri. Dist (AU) 0.91707030.92581470 1.3585919
Arg/Peri (2000): 130.40061 deg. 043.96932 deg. 81.12936 deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 282.4 6983 deg. 234.90202 deg. 149.84329 deg.
Incl (2000) 089.38442 deg. 052.14766 deg. 114.47220 deg.
Eccen: 0.99674010 1.004799 1.0005638
Orbital Period: 4700 yrs. Long period. Long period.
Ref: MPC 26879 (7-96) MPC 27690 MPC 27428

Some Fall Deep-Sky Objects

by Dave Anderson

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).
NGC7000 The North America Nebula near Deneb. Fine in binoculars under dark skies.
M15 Rich, compact globular cluster in Pegasus.
NGC7009 The Saturn Nebula, a bright planetary nebula in Aquarius.
NGC7293 The Helix Nebula, a large planetary nebula, also in Aq uarius.
NGC7331 A large, bright spiral galaxy in Pegasus. Stephan's Quintet is nearby.
M31, M32, M110 The Andromeda Galaxy (and companions)! Marvelous with any instrument, even unaided eye.
NGC7662 Blue Snowball planetary nebula in Andromeda, a bright annulus.
NGC891 Faint but striking edge-on spiral galaxy in Andromeda.
M33 Large, bright (mag. 5.7), but quite diffuse galaxy in Triangulum.
NGC253 Large, bright galaxy in Sculptor.
NGC869 & 884 The Double Cluster in Perseus. Great in binoculars or telescope.
NGC7789 Very rich but faint open cluster in Cassiopeia.
M45 The Pleiades in Taurus. Best in binoculars.
M1 The Crab Nebula in Taurus, the remnant of the supernova of 105 4 A.D.
M37 Best of Auriga's open clusters.

TVS Membership Application
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