Prime Focus

The newsletter of the Tri-Valley Stargazers February 1998.
Translated (roughly) from postscript into HTML for your browsing and downloading pleasure.
David Malin shot this image of the spiral galaxy NGC 2442 in Volans. The true color photograph reveals delicate shades of pale blue and light yellow stars. (Copyright Anglo-Australian Telescope Board, 1995.)

TVS presents

Where: Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore, 1893 N. Vasco Rd.
When: February 13, 1998 Pizza party, 7:00 PM Program begins, 7:30 PM
Who: You and your family
What: Pizza Party, Amateur Telescope Makers, TVS club forum

You are cordially invited to break with tradition at the February general meeting. The evening is planned as a combination ATM celebration and all-members club forum. TVS will provide a variety of pizzas and soft drinks, in addition to the usual cookies and coffee. ATMs can begin setting up their scopes indoors as early as 6:30 PM, and hot pizzas will arrive at 7:00 PM

Rich Combs will introduce ATM Workshop graduates and their telescopes beginning at 7:30 PM Weather permitting, viewing will be conducted following the program.

Part II of the meeting will be a club-wide discussion about improvements to the Sky Shack Observatory and our club observing site. Broader discussions about the club's assets and future plans are also planned.

If you would like to participate in this brain-storming session, but cannot attend the general meeting, your comments are still welcome. Send e-mail to: or to, and it will be read at the meeting. Bring your appetite and your ideas!

Fifth Telescope Making Workshop grinds to a (fine) finish

by Rich Combs

It may be one of TVS's best kept secrets, but the Fifth Amateur Telescope Makers Workshop is drawing to a close. In late October, ten trusting souls with a wide range of backgrounds began to grind, polish, and figure their own 6" f/8 mirrors. As if this were not enough, they then fabricated the dobsonian mounts, assembled the optical and mechanical components, and did a precision job of collimating their optical systems. A few hard workers even found a new telescope under the tree for Christmas.

The original group of ten grew to 14 over the first few weeks, until the instructor finally said, "No more!" and included a few returnees from previous workshops who gave in to aperture fever and started work on 10" or 12" mirrors. There were some major equipment upgrades to the workshop (a new stereo), and everyone pitched in to provide the hardware needed to get the job done.

Spiritual assistance was provided by Heather Nunes, who brought WARM cookies or other treats to every meeting. As of this writing, four scopes are completely done, and the second batch of mirrors has arrived. They will be assembled into their cells and aligned to the other optics in their respective tube assemblies. While the instructor was a dogmatic tyrant about the mirror making and mount assembly, the "Paint and Purty" was left to the individuals. This has produced a delightful diversity in the finished product, with each telescope reflecting its owner and maker's personality.

To give these folks an opportunity to strut their stuff, a graduation ceremony is planned at the February TVS pizza party and general meeting. The "grit pushers" are invited to bring their scopes to the meeting for ohhh's and ahhh's, and some viewing after the meeting. Please join us in congratulating these folks on a job well done.

You can also ask questions about the next workshop, which is planned for early March. The instructor also has one telescope similar to those made in the workshop for sale. (See "Stellar Seller" above.)

(and the entire TVS club) would also like to extend a special thank you to Jim and Heather Nunes for providing the space to carry on this unique event.

Rich Combs TVS ATM Workshop Coordinator.

PS. Heather, the chocolate chip cookies were my favorite!

Have you renewed yet?

Your TVS dues become delinquent on February 14, so bring your checkbook to the general meeting and brainstorming session. A membership/renewal application can be found here. (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), if you cannot attend the February meeting.

Astronomical assets

In anticipation of the all-club forum this month, you will want to know our financial standing. Club treasurer Gene Nassar reports the following as of January 10:
Checking $3,214.60
CD #1 $3,238.60
CD #2 $2,519.67
CD #3 $2,000.00

The interest rate for the CDs averages approximately 4.6%. Only about 25% of the 1997 members had renewed as of January 10, and our 1998 leases to the church and Hilda Moore had not yet been paid.

TVS investment strategy and capital improvements are always open for club discussion, and will be the focus of the second half of February's meeting.

Check your calendar
When planning your 1998 calendar, reserve the following dates for general meetings.

February 13, March 13, April 10, May 8, June 12, July 10, August 14, Sept. 11, Oct. 9, Nov. 13, Dec. 11. Beginning on March 19, monthly planning meetings will change to the Thursday following the general meeting. This will allow more board members to attend on a regular basis. Members are always invited to these events.

Planning meetings are held at Round Table Pizza, 1540 First Street, Livermore (OSH/Safeway Shopping Center). They begin at 7:00 PM, and end between 8:30 and 9:00 PM Bring about $7.00 to cover the cost of pizza and drinks. As always, please contact any board member if you have ideas you wish discussed, when you cannot attend in person.

President Dave Anderson 510 /661-4249
Vice President
Chuck Grant (510) 449-1500
Secretary Bill Burnap (510) 449-4552
Treasurer Gene Nassar (510) 462-7843

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

Observatory Director Chuck Grant 510 449-1500
Editor Alane Alchorn 510 455-9464 fax: 510 455-9466
Librarian Chris Cody (707) 747-6550
Eyes on the Skies Mike Rushford
Website Chuck Grant
Meeting Location Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore 1893 N. Vasco Rd. 3/4 mile north of I-580

Tri-Valley Stargazers

P.O. Box 2467
Livermore, CA 94551

Membership: 215 (maybe)

Club news notes for February

Star parties

We have begun 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.

Newsletter notes
Member submissions are welcome at all times. To send a newsletter article, e-mail it to: You can attach Word 6.0 or earlier text files, as well as JPEG or GIF graphics files. Deadlines for the current publishing schedule are firm at the 15th of the preceding month.

Thank yous are due

Long-time board member Al Smith is retiring after 10+ years of TVS service. He has patiently handled membership lists and key deposits during his long tenure. Al, thank you for all you have done to keep us organized, and to maintain the observing site's security.

Marilyn Holberg and Dave Anderson recently donated titles to our lending library. Marilyn provided Planet Quest by Ken Croswell, who spoke at our October meeting. Dave donated six books for members to share. Many thanks to you both!

Solar eclipse webcast
TVS member and solar astronomer extraordinaire Mike Rushford sends this invitation to club members.

I am part of a team that will try to provide an Internet view of the total solar eclipse February 26. The event is headed by Philip Staiger who created the original website at Several observation points and websites are involved. A listing of the mirror sites can be found at If you can't make it to this Carribean eclipse, then please join us on the webcast.

More members... maybe
The club continues to grow, we think. Because so many members have not yet renewed, it is impossible to calculate our real membership count. By the next newsletter, we'll have a number to give you.

In the meantime, please help welcome the following folks who joined in January: the William and Carol Hoover Family; Frank Rogue; Jon Clark; Matthew Jennings; and the Phillip Waide Family.

Mid-winter special

It's been a bit rainy around here lately, so you probably are not getting much useful time behind an eyepiece. The loaner scopes are languishing in our store room for the same reason. Therefore, between now and April the club is offering a "Mid-winter two months for $25 special" on all loaner instruments.

If you've wanted to try an alternate scope, but felt it wasn't worth the money in the winter time, your excuse just vanished. Loaner scopes will be available at the February meeting.

A $50 good-faith deposit is still required for each scope rented. Your deposit check will be held uncashed until you return the loaner scope.

What you gonna do?
Three TVS committees currently lack leadership: two of them you already know about, and the other one is new.

We have announced this in the past, but are now reduced to begging for help. The School Star Party Coordinator position discussed in the box at the top of remains vacant. It is possible that two or three people could share this role. If you are interested in doing school star parties at any level

of commitment, call club president Dave Anderson at (510) 661-4249.

Coffee and cookies are always popular at the general meetings, but someone is needed to fill the percolator and set out the munchables. The club reimburses all expenses, and you need only arrive at 7:00 PM Again, multiple members could share this task, trading off every second or third month. Contact Alane Alchorn at (510) 455-9464 if you can help.

Finally, the board would like to propose another opportunity for club service: new member coordinator. This individual, with the help of three to five other experienced observers, will contact new members, many of whom are also new amateur astronomers. This is a chance for you to share your observing skills and techniques with others just learning the hobby. If you are interested, contact any of the club officers at the general meeting, or by phone.

Notes and news from elsewhere

Applications are available for the annual Consortium for Undergraduate Research and Education in Astronomy, to be held in Burbank August 12-25. Physics and astronomy majors with Junior or Senior standing, who are considering a career in science or teaching may apply. See the CUREA website at: faison/curea/curea.html.

The annual SJAA/Bay Area auction is scheduled for April 4. The swap meet starts at noon, and the auction begins at 4:00 PM

Comet Comments

by Don Machholtz

C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp)
Date (00 UT) R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
02-01 05h13.7m -62° 03' 89° E 8.4
02-06 05h07.9m -61° 19' 89° E 8.5
02-11 05h03.3m -60° 33' 88° E 8.5
02-16 04h59.8m -59° 45' 87° E 8.6
02-21 04h57.3m -58° 57' 86° E 8.7
02-26 04h55.6m -58° 08' 85° E 8.8
03-03 04h54.7m -57° 20' 84° E 8.9

C/1997 J2 (Meunier-Dupouy) 02-01 20h26.1m +35° 49 54° M 11.6
Date (00 UT) R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
02-06 20h35.1m +35° 12' 52° M 11.6
02-11 20h43.9m +34° 38' 50° M 11.6
02-16 20h52.3m +34° 08' 49° M 11.6
02-21 21h00.3m +33° 41' 48° M 11.6
02-26 21h08.1m +33° 17' 47° M 11.7
03-03 21h15.5m +32° 56 46° M 11.7

103 P/Hartley 2
Date (00 UT) R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
02-01 02h09.0m -01° 01' 78° E 8.8
02-06 02h33.3m +00° 11' 79° E 9.1
02-11 02h56.7m +01° 21' 80° E 9.3
02-16 03h19.1m +02° 28' 81° E 9.6
02-21 03h40.6m +03° 32' 82° E 9.9
02-26 04h01.0m +04° 30' 82° E 10.2
03-03 04h20.5m +05° 24' 82° E 10.5

Date (00 UT) R.A. (2000)DecElSkyMag
02-01 01h21.4m +30° 10' 79° E 9.8
02-06 01h18.1m +23° 00' 70° E 10.0
02-11 01h16.3m +18° 13' 63° E 10.1
02-16 01h15.1m +14° 47' 56° E 10.2
02-21 01h14.3m +12° 12' 50° E 10.3
02-26 01h13.7m +10° 09' 44° E 10.5
03-03 01h13.2m +08° 27' 38° E 10.7

No new comets have been discovered lately, but there are still plenty of old comets to go around! The year 1997 will probably be remembered as the Year of Comet Hale-Bopp. Meanwhile, amateurs visually discovered three new comets, and the SOHO satellite, while imaging the solar vicinity, found more than two dozen comets crashing into the Sun.

Each issue of Comet Comments (CC) can be found at This website also contains the previous issue of Comet Comments and updates on my comet hunting program. Here newsletter editors can retrieve CC if their copy gets lost in the e-mail. I now have a second website, you can find it at At this location, you can find comet positions for several months at a time, and a portion of what I write as Comets Recorder for the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers.

Comet Hale-Bopp, as seen from Earth, continues to move northward and toward the sun in the evening sky. Those living in the southern portions of the United States have a final chance to observe it. Comet Meunier-Dupouy travels though our morning sky. Periodic Comet Hartley 2 and Periodic Comet Temple-Tutle (disappearing fast!) remain in our evening sky.

COMET HUNTING NOTES: Of the last 100 visual comet discoveries, 23 were made by amateurs using refractor telescopes. The smallest was Genichi Araki's 3" scope to find Comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock. Toshio Haneda used a 3.3" refractor to find his comet and three other instruments were from 4.8' to 5.2' in diameter. The remaining 18 refractors were 6" in size, and William Bradfield has found 12 comets since 1975 (and two before) with his 6" telescope.

Object: Hale-Bopp Meunier-Dupouy
Peri. Date: 1997 04 01.1347 1998 03 10.4365
Peri. Dist (AU): 0.914008 AU 3.051015 AU
Arg/Peri (2000): 130.5787 deg. 122.6755 deg.
Asc. Node (2000): 282.4653 deg. 148.8429 deg.
Incl (2000): 089.4268 deg. 091.2731 deg.
Eccen: 0.995085 1.000760
Orbital Period: ~2500 years Long Period
Ref: MPC30738 MPC30738
Epoch: 1997 12 18 1998 03 08
Absol. Mag/"n": -1.0/4.0 4.0/4.0

Stellar Seller

For Sale 6" f/8 reflector telescope. Mirror custom made by Rich Combs. Dobsonian mount, reflex finder, 25 mm and 10 mm Lumicon Plossel eyepieces, 1.25 " rack and pinion focuser. A complete, portable, quality scope, carefully collimated, that will provide years of enjoyment. Normally $425, $400 to TVS members. Contact Rich Combs, 510 846-1906

For Sale
Meade 12" LX 200 f/10, 304 8mm 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 64,350 object data base accessible through keypad hand controller, portable battery pack (CFM 12-volt). Asking $3,800 OBO. Call Walt at (510) 881-4861.
Call for papers The annual International Amateur-Professional Photoelectric Photometry meeting will be held at Mile High Lake Arrowhead Resort, May 20-22, just prior to the Riverside Telescope Makers Conference in Big Bear, CA. Astronomers interested in presenting a paper on photometry or CCD imaging are invited to contact Lee Snyder at
MacLean Observatory,
P.O. Box 3964,
Incline Village, NV 89450;

Tri-Valley Stargazers Membership/Renewal Application
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