Prime Focus

Tri-Valley Stargazers Combined Edition December 1997 / January 1998
The Antennae Galaxies, also known as NGC4038/4039, are located 63 million light years away in the constellation Corvus. The cores of these colliding galaxies are linked by dark dust lanes, and an overlap region of chaotic dust swirls between the two galaxies. The black upper left corner represents lost data. (Credit : Brad Whitmore, Hubble Space Telescope (WFPC2) and NASA)


December/January meetings
Club news notes
What's Up
Comet Comments
Stellar Seller
Blinking LED marker
Membership survey

TVS presents

December general meeting

Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.
What: Holiday potluck
When: December 19, dinner 7:00 PM, program at 8:00 PM
Who: You and your guests

Once again, it is solstice time and we are celebrating with a potluck. TVS will provide soft drinks, coffee, tea, tableware, and paper products. Please bring your culinary contribution according to the chart below. The first letter of your last name determines your fare at our feast. Plan to feed 10 hungry fellow club members.

A through K Main dish (entree)
L through O Vegetable side dish
P, Q, R Rice or potato side dish
S through Z Dessert

January general meeting

What: Variable star observing
When: January 9, 1998 Conversation, 7:00 PM Program begins, 7:30 PM
Who: David Sworin

Patron Member Dave Sworin will share his experience in variable star observing at our January 9 meeting.

Dave began observing variable stars in September 1994. Since then he has made about 3,000 variable star estimates, and has submitted them to AAVSO for inclusion in its data base.

He will focus on the observational aspects of variable star observing by demonstrating techniques for making an accurate estimate of a star's brightness. He notes that in the process, we will discover a great deal about our own eyes.

The presentation will cover many of the practical aspects of variable star observing such as useful charts, stars to observe, and organizations helpful to the amateur astronomer interested in variables. In addition, Dave will discuss the role of visual observing with small telescopes in a light-polluted, computer-dominated, Space Age when orbiting telescopes with CCD cameras can collect millions of highly accurate observations.

Read me first...

This special double collector's edition of Prime Focus is the result of our general meeting night moving to the second Friday of each month, as of January 1998. We will continue to meet at the church, and will follow our new format, featuring the speaker first and the businesss meeting second.

Keep this combined edition until you receive your February newsletter. January's information is included in this issue. (In addition to What's Up, Comet Comments will be presented with handouts at the January general meeting.) The newsletter deadline now becomes the 15th of the preceding month.

When planning your calendar for next year, please reserve the following dates for general meetings.

January 9
February 13
March 13
April 10
May 8
June 12
July 10
August 14
September 11
October 9
Nov. 13
Dec. 11

Club News Notes

Time to renew

Your TVS dues are payable any time during the next 90 days. On page 10, the membership /renewal application bears the good news that dues have not increased this year.

Subscriptions to Sky & Telescope and Astronomy are again available at discounted club subscription rates. S&T has jumped its rate slightly, to $27 per year; Astronomy remains at $24 annually. Magazine subscriptions (or renewals) are mailed the day after the February general meeting, so they are slightly offset from the January to December TVS membership year.

Renewals and subscriptions may be mailed to our post office box (see below), or you may bring a completed form and check to any general meeting between now and February.

Making the most of our money

Club treasurer Gene Nassar has finished acquiring the certificates of deposit that allow our funds to earn an improved rate of return. Our basic checking fund is an "Easy Select" account at U.S. Bank. The money market fund has been closed, and the proceeds moved into checking.

Checking $3,117.34
CD #1 $3,212.00
CD #2 $2,500.00
CD #3 $2,000.00

The checking account is free of all fees and charges, provided we maintain a minimum balance of $3,000.

As announced in the October Prime Focus, the Dark Sky Site task force is compiling its recommend-ations for long-term club expend-itures and purchases. The CDs mature at staggered times, so that our assets can earn high interest until they are needed.

If you have suggestions for club improvements to the Sky Shack, or you would like the board to consider other club equipment or supplies, contact one of the board members or officers listed below. Most of them will attend the potluck, so feel free to speak personally with any of them.

Star parties

We expect to receive requests from teachers for star parties, and Rich Green, the 1997 school star party chair, is in need of help. He has created an e-mail list of members interested in assisting at star parties, but needs help organizing this group for 1998.

If you are interested in taking the lead on school star parties, contact Rich Green at (510) 449-2190 or call club president Dave Anderson at (510) 661-4249.

Election Results

At the November general meeting, elections were held for the 1998 officers and directors. Most of the names will look very familiar to you, as all of the officers ran unopposed for their positions. We thank Dave Sworin for his past participation as a board member. Due to academ ic committments, he is unable to serve on the board again this year.

Members are always invited to attend the monthly planning meetings. They are held the Monday following a general meeting, at Round Table Pizza, 1540 First Street, Livermore (in the OSH/ Safeway shopping center). Planning meetings begin at 7:00 PM, when the first pizza hits the table.

The 1998 officers and directors are: President Dave Anderson
Vice President Chuck Grant
Secretary Bill Burnap
Treasurer Gene Nassar
Directors Alane Alchorn
Dennis Beckley Rich Combs Rich Green Kathleen Kelley Russ Kirk Dave Rodrigues Debbie Scherrer Al Smith Jim Zumstein

We keep growing
Another six new members joined TVS last month. Be sure to say hello to them at the holiday potluck: Lawrence Brown, Janice Girven, Ron Kreps, Monica Mitchell, and the Paul Ward Family.

This puts our 1997 membership total at a club record of more than 215.

Library links
Club librarian Chris Cody demonstrated the online card catalogue at the last general meeting. It is now possible to search the collection via the library web page.

The Millenium Star Atlas arrived over
Thanksgiving weekend. Chris says it measures up to the excellent reviews it has received (as well as its hype from Sky Publishing).The Atlas is printed in three hard-bound volumes, arranged by right ascension.

Atlas volumes can be checked out for one month, with a refundable $50 deposit required. Due to the expected popularity of the Atlas, TVS reserves the right to assess a late charge to any member who is not punctual in returning the books at the end of the one month loan period.

In the event many members wish to borrow a volume, a lottery will be held at the holiday potluck to establish the borrowing order. Once again, the entire club thanks the generous and anonymous donor who presented this gift to us.

John Alfonso also deserves the accolades of every club member. He has enriched our library collection by more than 25 books. Thank you, John. We deeply appreciate your gift of this collection.

Star party thanks

Park star party chair Jim McIntire received the following letter from the Livermore Area Recreation & Park District following our Camp Shelly star party.

Dear Jim, I wanted to drop you a line to thank you and all of the Tri-Valley Stargazers

for the wonderful presentations you made up at Camp Shelly this summer.

Every campground visitor I talked to that weekend was full of praise for the efforts of your group to make a mysterious world seem just a little bi t closer to our own earthbound lives.

Your slide presentations and your generosity in allowing our campers to use you telescopes really gave then an "up close and personal" look at the heavens.

Our goal at the campground is to provide families and visitors with an enriching camping and recreational experience. Your efforts really made a difference to a great number of people up at Camp Shelly this year, and we hope to see you folks up at the campground next summer.

Once again, thanks to all of the Tri-Valley Stargazers and their families for all of your efforts, and best wishes for the new year.

Pat Sotelo Park Ranger

Schilling Elementary School in Newark also sends its appreciation for the star party TVS held there last month. Dave Rodrigues and Dave Anderson helped the youngsters and their families learn their way around the evening sky. Thanks, guys!

Blinking LED marker
you can build

Club member Jim Brown demonstrated his hand-crafted blinking LED marker at the November general meeting. It is a handy tool for marking the legs of your scope tripod.

We have reprinted Jim's handout with construction details. Burger King will sure love us!

What's Up?

by Dave Anderson
What's up for December 1997
1 Mon Mercury 7° south of Moon.
Io transits Jupiter 6:39 to 8:56 PM; shadow transits 7:50 PM PST.
2 Tue Mars 5° south of Moon.
3 Wed Venus 7° south of Moon. (Neptune and Uranus nearby.)
4 Thu Jupiter 3° south of Moon.
Io reappears from eclipse by Jupiter 7:16 PM
Space Shuttle Endeavour (STS-88) launch scheduled. (First International Space Station assembly mission.)
5 Fri Ganymede reappears from occultation by Jupiter 7:45 PM, eclipsed 8:54 PM
6 Sat First Quarter Moon 10:09 PM
Europa occulted by Jupiter 6:42 PM
7 Sun End of Galileo's primary mission.
8 Mon Saturn occulted by Moon 11:19 PM to 12:14 AM on the 9th.
9 Tue Asteroid 23 Thalia (mag 9.2) at opposition.
11 Thu Venus at greatest brilliance (mag -4.7).
Io occulted by Jupiter 5:46 PM
12 Fri Aldebaran occulted by Moon 7:53 to 9:05 PM
Soyuz TM-26 launch scheduled. (Russian Mir docking mission.)
Io transits Jupiter until 5:25 PM; shadow transits until 6:31 PM
Ganymede occulted 8:24 PM
13 Sat Full Moon 6:37 PM
Geminid meteor shower peaks about 10 PM
Callisto transits Jupiter 8:00 PM
15 Mon TVS planning meeting 7:00 PM Round Table Pizza, 1540 First St., Livermore.
Europa transits Jupiter until 6:35 PM; shadow transits 5:54 to 8:44 PM
16 Tue Algol at minimum 11:37 PM Eclipsing binary drops from mag. 2.1 to 3.4 in about 5 hours. (Period is 2.867315 days). Compare Alpha Persei (mag. 1.79), Gamma Andromedae (2.2 6) and Delta Persei (3.01 ).
Ganymede's shadow transits Jupiter until 6:45 PM
17 Wed Delta Cephei at maximum 8:22 PM Variable rises to mag. 3.5 from 4.4 in about 1.5 days. (Period is 5.366341 days). Compare Zeta Cephei (mag. 3.35) and Epsilon Cephei (mag. 4.2).
18 Thu Io occulted by Jupiter 7:46 PM
19 Fri Tri-Valley Stargazers general meeting 7:30 PM Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore,
Io transits Jupiter until 7:26 PM; shadow transits 6:10 to 8:27 PM
Algol at minimum 8:26 PM
21 Sun Winter solstice 12:07 PM
Last Quarter Moon 1:43 PM
Venus 1.1° north of Mars.
22 Mon Europa transits Jupiter 6:30 PM
23 Tue Ganymede transits Jupiter until 6:47 PM; shadow transits 7:10 PM
24 Wed Hanukkah.
Europa reappears from eclipse by Jupiter's shadow 6:30 PM
26 Fri Io transits Jupiter 7:09 PM; shadow transits 8:06 PM
27 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: No Moon until 5:12 AM
Io reappears from eclipse by Jupiter 7:31 PM
29 Mon New Moon 8:56 AM
30 Tue Venus 1.3° south of Moon.
Ganymede transits Jupiter 7:33 PM
31 Wed New Year's Eve and first day of Ramadan.

Comet Comments

by Don Machholtz


C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)
Date (00UT) R.A. (2000) Dec El Sky Mag
12-03 07h25.5m -60° 46' 91° M 7.3
12-08 07h14.9m -61° 52' 91° M 7.4
12-13 07h03.3m -62° 46' 92° M 7.5
12-18 06h50.9m -63° 29' 92° M 7.6
12-23 06h38.1m -64° 00' 92° M 7.6
12-28 06h25.1m -64° 19' 92° E 7.7
01-02 06h12.3m -64° 26' 92° E 7.8
01-07 06h00.1m -64° 23' 92° E 7.9
01-12 05h48.6m -64° 09' 92° E 8.0

C/1997 J2 (Meunier-Dupouy)
Date (00UT) R.A. (2000) Dec El Sky Mag
12-03 18h09.4m +47° 22' 73° E 11.7
12-08 18h22.8m +46° 11' 71° E 11.7
12-13 18h35.9m +45° 01' 70° E 11.6
12-18 18h48.6m +43° 53' 69° E 11.6
12-23 19h00.9m +42° 47' 67° E 11.6
12-28 19h12.9m +41° 43' 66° E 11.6
01-02 19h24.4m +40° 42' 64° E 11.6
01-07 19h35.6m +39° 45' 62° E 11.6
01-12 19h46.4m +38° 51' 61° E 11.6

C/1997 T1 (Utsunomiya)
Date (00UT)R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
12-03 18h46.7m +13° 22' 48° E 10.5
12-08 18h46.6m +11° 19' 43° E 10.6
12-13 18h46.8m +09° 30' 39° E 10.6
12-18 18h47.1m +07° 54' 35° E 10.7
12-23 18h47.5m +06° 27' 32° E 10.8
12-28 18h48.0m +05° 09' 29° E 10.9
01-02 18h48.5m +03° 58' 27° M 11.0
01-07 18h49.0m +02° 52' 26° M 11.1
01-12 18h49.4m +01° 52' 26° M 11.2

103 P/Hartley 2
Date (00UT)R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
12-03 21h18.1m -09° 29' 68° E 8.2
12-08 21h38.2m -09° 25' 68° E 8.1
12-13 21h59.4m -09° 14' 68° E 8.0
12-18 22h21.7m -08° 56' 68° E 7.9
12-23 22h45.1m -08° 31' 68° E 7.8
12-28 23h09.4m -07° 58' 69° E 7.8
01-02 23h34.5m -07° 17' 70° E 7.9
01-07 00h00.2m -06° 29' 71° E 7.9
01-12 00h26.2m -05° 33' 72° E 8.0

55P/ Tempel-Tuttle
Date (00UT)R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
12-03 12h31.4m +15° 16' 71° M 16.7
12-08 12h33.6m +16° 23' 76° M 16.1
12-13 12h35.6m +17° 53' 81° M 15.5
12-18 12h37.1m +19° 57' 86° M 14.8
12-23 12h38.0m +22° 51' 92° M 14.0
12-28 12h37.9m +27° 03' 98° M 13.2
01-02 12h35.9m +33° 30' 105° M 12.3
01-07 12h29.5m +43° 59' 113° M 11.4
01-12 12h06.3m +61° 34' 19° M 10.4

One faint comet has recently been discovered. It was found by Jeff Larson using the Spacewatch equipment at Kitt Peak. It is not expected to become bright. Meanwhile the SOHO satellite picked up two more sungrazer comets falling into the sun.

Several comets are visible to us these nights. Comet Hale-Bopp is quite far south, many Northern Hemisphere observers have had their last view of this great comet. Comet Meunier-Dupouy remains in the north. Periodic Comet Hartley 2 crosses the Milky Way in the evening sky while the beautiful Comet Utsunomiya passes further north. Periodic Comet Temple-Tuttle, responsible for the Leonid Meteor Shower each November, returns after a 33-year absence. Its brightness curve may not be as steep as shown in the ephemerides below.

COMET HUNTING NOTES: Since January 1975, 48 different individuals have visually discovered comets that now carry their names. What countries do they live in? Twenty-three are in Japan, nine reside in the USA, with four in Australia. Other countries represented are the old USSR, Canada, England, South Africa, Philippines, Italy, New Zealand and Norway. Most discovery events occurred in Japan (33), followed by the USA (30) and Australia (19).

Orbital Elements

Object Hale-Bopp Meunier-Dupouy Hartley 2
Peri. Date: 1997 04 01.1370 1998 03 10.4365 1997 12 22.0242
Peri. Dist (AU): 0.914008 AU 3.051015 AU 1.031725 AU
Arg/Peri (2000): 130.5787 deg. 122.6755 deg. 180.7240 deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 282.4653 deg. 148.8429 deg. 219.9547 deg.
Incl (2000): 089.4268 deg. 091.2731 deg. 013.6191 deg.
Eccen: 0.995085 1.000760 0.700391
Orbital Period: ~2500 years Long Period 6.39 years
Ref: MPC30738 MPC30738 MPC29880
Epoch: 1997 1201 8 1998 03 08 1997 12 18
Absol. Mag/"n": -1.0/4.0 4.0/4.0 8.0/6.0

Object Tempel-Tuttle Utsunomiya
Peri. Date: 1998 02 28.1034 1997 12 10.0570
Peri. Dist (AU): 0.976639 AU 1.359850 AU
Arg/Peri (2000): 172.4930 deg. 095.8952 deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 235.2568 deg. 053.7059 deg.
Incl (2000): 162.4861 deg. 127.9898 deg.
Eccen: 0.905507 1.0
Orbital Period: 33.23 years Long Period
Ref: MPC30244 MPC30738
Epoch: 1997 12 18 1997 10 10
Absol. Mag/"n": 10.0/10.0 7.8/4.0


Editor's note: The December 1997 installment of Starman is the last in the series composed by astronomical cartoonist Jay Ryan. You can continue to enjoy Jay's work in a strip called SkyWise, published in Sky & Telescope . We thank Jay for his generous donation of this humorous and instructional series of illustrations. A collection of his work has been published as an astronomy comic book named Cycles. Orders may be placed at this web site.

Stellar Seller

For Sale: Meade 12" LX 200 f/1 0, 3048 mm Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Only two years old and in excellent condition, with: carrying case, 2" 32mm Erfle wide-angle eyepiece, metal field tripod, Telrad finder and 64,35 0 object data base accessible through keypad hand controller, portable battery pack (CFM 12-volt). Asking $3,800 OBO. Call Walt at (510) 881-4861.

What's Up in January

January 1 Thu New Year's Day. Jupiter 3° south of Moon.
3 Sat Quadrantid meteor shower peaks around 9 AM PST. Mira (Omicron Ceti) at maximum
brightness (about 3.4, up from about 9 over an irregular period of about 332 days). 4 Sun Earth at peri helion (nearest to Sun: 0.983 AU = 147,09 9,000 km).
5 Mon First Quarter Moon 6:18 AM Saturn 0.2° north of Moon (occulted in southeast Asia).
Lunar Prospector launch scheduled 5:32 PM 6 Tue Mercury at greatest western elongation (23° ) in morning sky.
8 Thu Algol at minimum 10:10 PM Eclips ing bi nary drops from mag. 2.1 to 3.4 in about 5 hours.
(Period is 2.867 315 days). Compare Alpha Persei (mag. 1.79 ), Gamma Andromedae (2.2 6) and Delta Persei (3.0 1). 9 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). Aldebaran 0.4° south of Moon (occulted in Asia). 11 Sun Algol at minimum 7:00 PM
12 Mon TVS planning meeting 7:00 PM Round Table Pizza, 154 0 First St., Livermore (in Orchard
Supply/Longs/Safeway shopping center). Full Moon 9:24 AM 14 Wed Space Shutt le Endeavour (STS-89) launch scheduled 9:57 PM (Mir docking mission.)
16 Fri Venus at inferior conjunction (5° 49' north of Sun). Asteroid 2421 Nininger (mag. 15.9 ) occults
SAO 77237 (mag. 7.1, RA 5h32 m27.5s, Dec +26° 58'53") 8:07 PM for 4 seconds. 17 Sat Comet 55P/Temple-Tuttle (approx. mag. 9.5) closest to Earth (0.357 AU).
19 Mon Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
20 Tue Last Quarter Moon 11:40 AM Mars 0.2° south of Jupiter.
23 Fri Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft swings by Earth for gravity assist 2:24 AM.
24 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: no Moon until about 4 AM
26 Mon Venus 3° north of Moon.
27 Tue New Moon 10:01 PM
28 Wed Algol at minimum 11:55 PM Chinese New Year (Wu-yin "the Tiger", 15th year of 78th cycle),
and Japanese New Year 2656. 29 Thu Jupiter and Mars 2° south of Moon.
31 Sat Excellent weekend for observing: No Moon after 9:30 PM Algol at minimum 8:45 PM
February 1 Sun Saturn 0.6° north of Moon (occulted in South America).
3 Tue First Quarter Moon 2:53 PM PST.
5 Thu Aldebaran 0.2° south of Moon (occulted in Eurasi a).
10 Tue Galileo flyby of Europa.
11 Wed Full Moon 2:23 AM

Some Winter Deep-Sky Objects

NGC869 & 884 The Double Cluster in Perseus. Great in binoculars or telescope.
M1 The Crab Nebula, the remnant of the supernova of 1054 A.D.
NGC7789 A faint but very rich open cluster in Cassiopeia.
M45 The Pleiades in Taurus. Best in binoculars.
M37 Best of Auriga's open clusters.
M42 & M43 The Orion Nebula, a magnifi cent object.
M35 & NGC2158 Beautiful open cluster in Gemini with a rich, more dis tant neighbor.
NGC2392 Eski mo Nebula, a pretty planetary in Gemini.
M46 & NGC2438 Rich open cluster in Puppis with a planetary nebula.
NGC2237 & 224 4 Bright but huge Rosette Nebula in Monoceros and associ ated cluster.

President Dave Anderson (510) 661-4249
Secretary Bill Burnap (510) 449-4552
Vice President Chuck Grant (510) 449-1500
Treasurer Gene Nassar (510) 462-7843
Observatory Director Chuck Grant (510) 449-1500
Librarian Chris Cody (707) 747-6550
Eyes on the Skies Mike Rushford
Web Site
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
Membership: 215 +

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

Tri-Valley Stargazers

P.O. Box 2467
Livermore, CA 94551

Tri-Valley Stargazers Membership/Renewal Application

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