Prime Focus

Tri-Valley Stargazers January 1997
This digital map of Olympus Mons, an enormous Martian mountain, was created as a joint effort of the US Geological Survey and the Viking Computer Facility. The project was undertaken through the auspices of Mars Observer Project, administered by JPL.


January general meeting
Club news notes
What's Up in January
Comet Comments
Member's questionnaire
Membership renewal

TVS presents

Who: Jim Murphy, Project Scientist
What: Martian weather and Missions
When: January 17, 1997 Conversation, 7:00 PM Business meeting, 7:30 PM
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.

Jim Murphy, project scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, will address the club on the Center's current Martian Missions, and on-going studies of the planet's weather systems.

Ames is NASA's Center of Excellence in Information Systems technologies, encompassing research in super computing, networking, numerical computing software, artificial intelligence, and human factors, as they relate to advances in aeronautics and space.

In aeronautics Ames is the agency's lead center in airspace operations systems, including air traffic control and human factors; and it is the lead center for rotorcraft technology. Ames also has major resonsibilities in the creation of design and development process tools, and in wind tunnel testing.

In space activities, Ames projects work toward a higher understanding of the effects of gravity on living things, and play a major national role in understanding the origin, evolution, and distribution of stars, planets, and life in the universe.

Winter warning
By the time you have this newsletter in your hand, January's new moon will have passed, but the advice is good all winter long. Use caution and allow plenty of time when heading to the Sky Shack during the rainy season. Mines Road experienced deep flooding and mud slides during the New Years storms, and one section is already controlling traffic by means of a stop sign at an undermined curve.

Unless you know the road very well, it is safest to plan your driving for daylight hours. In at least three places, run-off water regularly crosses Mines Road all winter. But following a series of storms like the last one, the water may become axle-deep in unexpected areas. If you are uncertain about conditions at or on the way to the Sky Shack, log on to the Web site http://www.hooked net/~tvs/ and look for information posted by other club members.

Downed trees, heards of deer and black ice during freezing weather are other hazards to expect this time of year. If you have difficulty reaching the observatory, please notify club vice president and observatory director Chuck Grant at (510) 449-1500, so that he may alert others via the Web site.

Money matters
TVS ended the year solidly solvent, with the following funds in each account:
$4,881.45 checking;
$3,099.24 CD;
$1,200.08 money market.
The certificate of deposit holds all Sky Shack key deposits.
Loaner binoculars program
Club director Dave Sworin gave TVS a very special holiday present. He donated a set of 8 X 56 Celestron Ultima binoculars to the Loaner Scope Program. Ideal for helping to introduce newcomers to astronomy - or for picking out Comet Hale-Bopp as it brightens this winter - these binocs are now a part of the collection you may rent by the month.

The Ultimas and the club's four telescopes are available at each general meeting, on the third Friday of the month at the church. Rental costs $15 per month ($5 for students under age 18), and requires a $50 deposit that will be refunded to you, undeposited, when the scope or binoculars are returned. If you share your rented gear at a school presentation or public star party, the rental fee will be waived and returned to you when the equipment is checked in at the following meeting.

President Dave Anderson (510) 661-4249

Secretary Earl Mack (510 ) 828-1414

Vice President Chuck Grant (510) 449-1500

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 http://www.hooked. net/~tvs/

Editor 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

Board Alane Alchorn, Dennis Beckley, Rich Combs, Rich Green, Russ Kirk, Dave Rodrigues, Debbie Scherrer, Al Smith, Dave Sworin, Jim Zumstein

Tri-Valley Stargazers

P.O. Box 2467 Livermore, CA 94551
Membership: 185

Club news notes for Januarary

Astrophotography project: Mars "loop" in Leo-Virgo

by Robert C. Victor and Jenny L. Pon Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University

Using a 35-mm camera with a standard lens (about 50-mm focal length), you can create an impressive set of teaching slides showing Mars' dramatic changes in brightness and its to-and-fro motion past stars in eastern Leo and western Virgo in 1997.

Mars overtakes Spica on the evening of August 3, 1997. That's because Mars will go retrograde, or westward, by 19 degrees, from February 5 until April 27, 1997.

This 81-day "backward" motion of Mars is only apparent, resulting from our faster-moving Earth slipping between the Sun and Mars in mid-March 1997 and overtaking it. Seen from Sun instead of our moving Earth, mars always goes east (left) against the stellar backdrop. As Mars goes back and forth in Leo and Virgo, it performs a few close triple conjunctions with faint unaided- eye stars. After pausing in early February, Mars, moving west, passes Beta in Virgo on March 16, 1997. After another "stationary point" in late April, Mars resumes eastward motion and passes Beta again on June 11, 1997.

Mars changes its brightness in accordance with its varying distance from Earth. In 1997, Mars increases in brilliance to match zero-magnitude Arct urus in late January, then is nearly the equal of Sirius, the brightest star, around the planet's closest approach in mid-March. Thereafter, Mars fades, matching Arcturus again in late May and Spica in late August.

Astrophotography tips Use a tripod to steady the camera, and fast film such as Ektachrome 400. Take a 20- or 30-second exposure with a wide-open fast lens such as a 50-mm, f/1.2 to 2.8. Include at least the following 11 stars: In Leo - Beta, Delta, Theta, Iota, and Sigma; in Virgo - Gamma, Delta, Beta, Eta, Nu, and Omicron. Optional is Epsilon in Virgo.

What's Up

by Dave Anderson

6 Mon Algol at minimum 9:47 PM
7 Tue Venus 5° south of Moon. (Look shortly before sunrise at 7:23 AM)
8 Wed New Moon 8:26 PM
9 Thu Young Moon less than 21 hours old at sunset (5:07 PM).
10 Fri First day of Ramad\342n.
11 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: Moon sets at 8:37 PM
12 Sun Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-81) launch scheduled 1:17 AM (Mir docking mission.)
Mercury 3° north of Venus.
13 Mon Saturn 2° south of Moon.
Asteroid 211 Isolda 8' (mag 11.7 ) from Crab Nebula (M1). (See January Astronomy , p. 70.)
15 Wed First Quarter Moon 12:02 PM
17 Fri Tri-Valley Stargazers meeting 7:30 PM Unitarian Universalist Church of Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Road, Livermore. (3/4 mile north of I-580).
18 Sat Aldebaran 0.7° south of Moon (occulted in Alaska).
20 Mon TVS Planning Meeting 7:00 PM Round Table Pizza, 1540 First St., Livermore (in Orchard Supply/Longs/Safeway shopping center).
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
23 Thu Full Moon 7:11 AM
Mercury at greatest western elongation (25 ° ) in morning sky.
26 Sun Algol at minimum 11:32 PM
28 Tue Mars 3° north of Moon.
29 Wed Algol at minimum 8:21 PM
31 Fri Last Quarter Moon 11:40 AM

4 Tue Soyuz TM-25 launch scheduled. (Russian Mir docking mission.)
6 Thu Venus 0.3° south of Jupiter. (Look shortly before sunrise at 7:07 AM PST.)
Mercury 5° south of Moon.
Comet Hale-Bopp (mag 2) (C/1995 O1) 0.5° from mag 8.3 globular cluster M71.
7 Fri New Moon 7:06 AM
Excellent weekend for observing. Moon is also at closest perigee of year (25 6,847 km) 1 PM; expect high tides
Chinese New Year (Ting-chau "the Ox", 14th year of 78th cycle) and Japanese New Year 2656.
MUSES-B launch scheduled. (Japan: 8-meter radio telescope is first satellite in VSOP (VLBI (Very Long Baseline Interferometry) Space Observatory Programme) mission.) 10 Mon Saturn 1.8° south of Moon.
Mira (Omicron Ceti) at max. brightness (about 3.4, up from about 9 over an irregular period of about 332 days).

Comet Comments

By Don Machholtz


C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)
Date R.A. (2000) Dec. El. Sky Mag.
01-07 18h51.7m +06° 18' 29° M 2.7
01-12 19h00.0m +07° 45' 31° M 2.5
01-17 19h08.9m +09° 22' 32° M 2.2
01-22 19h18.5m +11° 11' 34° M 1.9
01-27 19h29.0m +13° 13' 36° M 1.7
02-01 19h40.5m +15° 29' 38° M 1.4
02-06 19h53.4m +18° 01' 40° M 1.1

C/1996 Q1 (Tabur)
Date R.A. (2000) Dec. El. Sky Mag.
01-07 16h15.4m +12° 05' 56° M 12.2
01-12 16h16.4m +11° 13' 59° M 12.4
01-17 16h16.9m +10° 27' 62° M 12.6
01-22 16h16.9m +09° 47' 66° M 12.8
01-27 16h16.2m +09° 11' 70° M 13.0
02-01 16h14.7m +08° 39' 75° M 13.1
02-06 16h12.5m +08° 11' 80° M 13.3

46P/ Wirtanen
Date R.A. (2000) Dec. El. Sky Mag.
01-07 22h57.4m -16° 02' 53° E 12.2
01-12 23h09.8m -14° 19' 52° E 12.0
01-17 23h22.6m -12° 30' 50° E 11.8
01-22 23h35.9m -10° 34' 49° E 11.6
01-27 23h49.7m -08° 33' 48° E 11.4
02-01 00h03.9m -06° 26' 47° E 11.2
02-06 00h18.7m -04° 13' 46° E 11.1

81P/ Wild 2
Date R.A. (2000) Dec. El. Sky Mag.
01-07 08h17.4m +17° 18' 164° M 11.4
01-12 08h14.3m +17° 38' 170° M 11.2
01-17 08h10.6m +18° 01' 176° M 11.0
01-22 08h06.5m +18° 27' 177° E 10.9
01-27 08h02.3m +18° 54' 172° E 10.8
02-01 07h58.2m +19° 22' 166° E 10.6
02-06 07h54.3m +19° 49' 159° E 10.5

Comet Hale-Bopp passes north of the sun and into the morning sky on Dec. 31. Observers with a low eastern horizon should be able to pick it up again by the third week of January.

In the past few weeks stories of "mysterious" objects in the vicinity of the comet have circulated. The most popular - a Saturn- like Object (SLO) imaged on Nov. 14 by an amateur astronomer - turned out to be nothing other than an 8.5-magnitude star. Other similar objects that I've seen on Internet images appear to be out-of-focus images of bright stars. In all respects, Comet Hale-Bopp is behaving as an average comet. It is bigger than perhaps any comet we have seen, but its variable brightness, tails, and jets are normal. If anything mysterious truly appears, you will find it reported in the mainstream press, and in most cases be able to go outside and see it yourself through your telescope.

Mean while, Comet Tabur dims in our morning sky. Its magnitude has been unpredictable lately. Periodic Comet Wirtanen is returning. The Hubble Space Telescope imaged it in August 1996 and "measured" the nucleus' diameter to be 1.16 km. Finally, Periodic Comet Wild 2 should be visible for several months.

Orbital Elements

Object Hale-Bopp Tabur P/Wirtanen P/Wild 2
Peri. Date 1997 04 01.13453 1996 11 03.52688 1997 03 14.14299 1997 05 06.62789
Peri. Dist (AU) 0.9141030 0.8398272
1.0637469 1.5826156
Arg/Peri (2000): 130.59083° 57.40724° 356.34322° 41.77000°
Asc. Node (2000): 282.47069° 31.40177° 82.20387° 136.15458°
Incl (2000) 89.42936° 73.35813° 11.72255° 3.24276°
Eccen: 0.9950969 0.9989006 0.6567490 0.5402220
Orbital Period: ~4700 years Long period 5.46 years 6.39 years
Ref: MPC 28052 MPC 28052 MPC 27080 MPC 28272
Epoch: 1997 03 13 1996 11 13 1997 03 13 1997 04 22

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?
____<1 year ____1-3 years ____3-5 years ____over 5 years

How often do you attend the monthly meetings?
Almost always____ About half the time____ Occasionally____ Never____

How often do you go to The Dark Site?
Several times a month_____ Once a month_____ Every 2-3 months____ 1-3 times a year______ Never______

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

_____Monthly meetings/speakers
_____Star parties at The Dark Site
_____Public star parties
_____Field trips to Yosemite, White Mtns, etc.
_____Using the 30" telescope at Fremont Peak
_____Telescope making
_____CCD imaging
_____Astrophotography (film)
_____Deep-sky observing (faint objects)
_____School programs/presentations
_____Computer programs, Internet, bulletin boards

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
Does your computer have a modem?___Yes ___No
Have you ever logged on to the TVS Bulletin Board?____Yes ____No
Do you have access to the Internet?_____Yes _____No
e-mail? _____Yes _____No

Have you visited the TVS web page? _____Yes _____No

Do you use your computer for astronomy related purposes?_____Yes_____No
If so, what?_________________________________________

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? ____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? ____________________________________________________


Tri-Valley Stargazers Membership/Renewal Application
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