Prime Focus

The newsletter of the Tri-Valley Stargazers November 1996.
Translated (roughly) from postscript into HTML for your browsing and downloading pleasure.
This Hubble Space Telescope Image reveals what appears to be star clusters merging to form galaxies. Shot by the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2, these objects are some 11 billion light years from earth. They are concentrated into an area approximately 2 million light years across. See the September 5, 1996 edition of Nature for more information about this region.
Photo credit : HST/Arizona State University.

November general meeting
Club news notes
What's Up in November
Election Update
Comet Comments
Member's Questionnaire
This month'sStarman cartoon
Membership application

TVS presents

Who: Dr. Jill C. Tarter, SETI Project Phoenix Director
What: Speaking at the TVS November general meeting
When: November 22: Conversation, 7 pm; Business meeting, 7:30 PM
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.

Dr. Tarter will address TVS on the status of Project Phoenix, a research mission with the goal of finding evidence of intelligence elsewhere in the universe. Jill Tarter holds a Ph.D. in astrophysics from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been honored with two NASA Public Service Medals, and holds a Lifetime Achievement Award from Women in Aerospace.

Project Phoenix has undertaken a systematic search for radio signals from planets surrounding approximately 1,000 nearby Sun-like stars. The SETI Institute assumed responsibility for Project Phoenix when NASA's budget for the ten-year mission was cut. The initial phase ran from November 1993 through June 1995. During that period, SETI readied all of the instrumentation from the terminated NASA program, and spent five months observing the Southern Sky using the Parkes 64-meter radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. Approximately 100 stars were scrutinized during this initial run.

The Phoenix receiving equipment returned to California in the latter half of 1995. It underwent performance and reliability upgrades that allow it to observe with far less operator assistance. In September 1996 the system moved to the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in West Virginia. There is will observe with the 140 foot telescope.

By early 1998 operations are slated for the world's largest antenna, the 1,000 foot Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. Arecibo's updates provide greater sensitivity and cover a broad region of the microwave window at 1.2 to 3.0 GHz.

The Arecibo observations, which will span more than five years, and target more than 1,000 Sun-like stars, represent the core program of Project Phoenix.

Join TVS in welcoming Dr. Tarter to the General Meeting, and feel free to ask questions regarding Project Phoenix, its private funding, or the SETI Institute. As always, non-members and your guests are invited also.

Club News Notes

Hello, good-bye...

Four new members joined TVS last month: Richard Leiser, William Bernap, and Bill and Carol Hoover. Introduce yourself to them at the November meeting, and help them get acquianted with the rest of us.

Great news for Bob Braddy is sad news for TVS. Our active and dedicated vice-president accepted a terrific overseas posting, and will be receiving his newsletter in London. Now we need a volunteer who can step into Bob's role as chair of the school programs committee. Many thanks to Jim McIntire for filling the parks program role.

It's that time again

Here it is November and you will notice that the annual renewal questionnaire is included in this issue. That must mean that dues are due again.

Membership in TVS runs a calendar year, ending on December 31. So, you may renew at the November or December General Meeting, or you can send your completed questionnaire and check to the TVS post office box as shown below.

On the subject of your dues, here's the latest from treasurer Gene Nassar:
Checking account $4626.89
Money market $1196.05
CD account $3078.02
The CD represents key deposits for the The Dark Site Sky Shack.

Of money and meetings

At the next planning meeting, the board will review the tentative budget for 1997, and will make preliminary allocations for purchasing a television and VCR that can be used at General Meetings and Star Parties.

In an attempt to lure you to the planning meetings, they will be held at Round Table Pizza 1540 First Street in Livermore. We will use the small meeting room at the back. Meetings begin at 7 pm, and typically end by 9:15. Cost for your share of the pizza and soft drinks is $7 per person.

Future planning meeting dates are set for November 25 and December 16. No need to RSVP, just show up if you like.

Holiday happenings

Please remember that the December General Meeting will be a holiday potluck on Friday, December 20. This is one week earlier than our meeting would normally fall.

The front page of next month's newsletter will have a potluck list telling you what to bring. As always, your club will provide an excellent selection of meats, condiments, soft drinks, and the utensils. Your family and friends are invited to join us.

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, fax: (510) 455-9466,
Meeting Location Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore 1893 N. Vasco Rd. 3/4 mile north of I-580
Board Members
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: 183

What's up in November and December

November 16 Sat Venus 4° north of Spica.
Leonid shower observations at Holler Observatory, Tom and Inge Rice's home on Mines Road. Multiple camera recording and human observation to be incorporated into a meteor-study program. Reach Tom at (408) 897-3157 or tomrice@net for more information.
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
25 Mon TVS Planning Meeting 7:00 PM Round Table Pizza, 1540 First St., Livermore (in Orchard Supply/Safeway/Longs shopping center).
Aldebaran 0.9° south of Moon; occulted in Alaska.
28 Thu Thanksgiving Day.
December 1 Sun AANC Meeting 1:00 PM Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley.
2 Mon Last Quarter Moon 9:06 PM PST.
3 Tue Mars 4° north of Moon. (Rise about midnight.)
6 Fri Hanukkah.
7 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: no Moon until 5 AM and earliest sunset of the year.
Near-Earth asteroid 4179 Toutatis at maximum brightness (11.9). (See December Sky & Telescope , p. 76-77, and Astronomy, p. 96-97.)
8 Sun Venus 2° south of Moon. (Rise before 5 AM)
10 Tue New Moon 8:56 AM
11 Wed Mercury 7° south of Moon.
12 Tue Jupiter 5° south of Moon. Later Neptune 4°, then Uranus 5° south of Moon.
13 Fri Geminid meteor shower peaks about 3 PM
Moon grazes t Capricorni (mag. 5.3 triple) about 7 PM north of Bay Area.
14 Sat Good weekend for observing: no Moon after 10 PM
Algol at minimum 11:13 PM
15 Sun Mercury at greatest eastern elongation (20° ) in evening sky. Poor apparition for northern latitudes.
16 Mon TVS Planning Meeting 7:00 PM Round Table Pizza, 1540 First St., Livermore (in Orchard Supply/Safeway/Longs shopping center).
17 Tue First Quarter Moon 1:31 AM
Saturn 3° south of Moon.

Election Update: Secretary needed

The slate of candidates for the 1997 TVS board is nearly in place. Bob Braddy's relocation to Great Britain has made this year's recruiting process just a little more challenging than usual. Fortunately, both Dave Anderson and Gene Nassar have agreed to run for re-election as President and Treasurer, respectively. Chuck Grant has indicated a willingness to run for Vice-President (if no one else is interested).

The critical need at this time is to find a nominee for the position of secretary. As a corporation in the state of California, we are required by law to fill the positions of President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Our bylaws require us to fill the position of Vice-President. The board secretary's primary responsibility is to take notes at Planning Meetings and write them up as minutes for the next meeting. If you, or anyone you know, would be interested in taking on this job in the coming year, please contact board president Dave Anderson as soon as possible. (510) 661-4249 or

The folks who have agreed to serve in the at-large board positions include: Alane Alchorn, Dennis Beckley, Rich Combs, Jim Zumstein, Dave Sworin, Russ Kirk and Debbie Scherer.

Comet Comments


C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag
11 18 17h52.0m -02° 00' 38° E 4.5
11 23 17h56.4m -01° 31' 35° E 4.4
11 28 18h01.1m -00° 58' 33° E 4.2
12 03 18h06.2m -00° 22' 31° E 4.1
12 08 18h11.6m -00° 18' 29° E 3.9
12 13 18h17.3m -01° 03' 28° E 3.7

C/1996 Q1 (Tabur)
DATE(00UT) R.A. (2000) DEC El. Sky Mag
11 18 15h39.4m +28° 22' 48° E 7.3
11 23 15h45.8m +25° 52' 46° M 7.6
11 28 15h51.2m +23° 37' 45° M 8.0
12 03 15h55.9m +21° 36' 45° M 8.3
12 08 15h59.9m +19° 47' 45° M 8.6

By Don Machholz

Two unaided-eye comets are visible in our skies this month. In the evening sky Comet Hale-Bopp is doing well after dimming a bit during early September. This was followed by a substantial increase in brightness and a different appearance later in the month. This should be no surprise, as comets are expected to do the unexpected. Its tail is several degrees long. Meanwhile, Comet Tabur will be visible in both the north-western sky in the evening and the north-eastern sky in the morning for several weeks. Periodic Comet Machholtz 1, discovered ten years ago, will be difficult in the evening sky.

Orbital Elements

Object Hale-Bopp Tabur Machholz 1
Peri. Date 1997 03 31.86770 1996 11 03.50419 1996 10 15.06962
Peri. Dist 0.9170703 AU 0.84001480 AU 0.1247178 AU
Arg/Peri (2000): 130.40061 deg. 057.37495 deg. 014.58608 deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 282.46983 deg. 031.41231 deg. 094.53200 deg
Incl (2000) 089.38442 deg. 073.36167 deg. 60.07415 deg.
Eccen: 0.99674010 1.0 0.9586366
Orbital Period: 4700 yrs. Long period 5.24 years.
Ref: MPC 26879 (7-96) MPC 27882 MPC 22033

Member's Questionnaire

This is the eighth year that a questionnaire will be used to improve the quality of the club programs and activities. The details of your response will be kept confidential. Summary results will be published in the April Issue of Prime Focus. Please answer all questions that apply. Attach an extra sheet of paper if necessary.

How did you learn about the club?_________________
Why did you join?_____________ ____________ _______
Are we meeting your expectations ?____Yes_____No

How long have you been interested in astronomy? __________years.

How long have you been a member?

How often do you attend the monthly meetings?
How often do you go to The Dark Site?

Rate the following activities for their importance to you (1=very important, 5=no interest)

What kind of instrument do you use most for observing?
What program topics would you like us to cover at the meetings?
Do you have a computer? ____Yes ____No
Type:_____Macintosh _____IBM or Clone _____ other
Does your computer have a modem?___Yes ___No
Have you ever logged on to the TVS Bulletin Board?____Yes ____No
Do you use your computer for astronomy related purposes?_____Yes_____No
If so, what?_________________________________________
Do you have access to the Internet?_____Yes _____No
e-mail? _____Yes _____No
Have you visited the TVS web page? _____Yes _____No

Have you ever borrowed books from the TVS library? ____Yes ____No
> Books you would like us to have:
Are you interested in helping with a school program (setting up your telescope at a school and helping students look through it)? ____Yes ____No

How is the newsletter format?____________________
How is the newsletter content ?___________________
Are there any activities that you would like us to provide?

Can you suggest any improvements to the club?
____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________

The November 1996 Starman cartoon
The Tri-Valley Stargazers Membership Application

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