The Astronomy Club of Augusta met at NMR-DSO from 5-7PM for Challenge Preparation, at 7PM for a light supper of chili, veggies, chips, dip, and soft drinks, courtesy of Stan, Tedda, and Jim Price, from 7:30-11:30 to Star Gaze, practice and admire new scopes and equipment. Attendance netted 13 members, 2 guests. Everyone was very helpful, the sky was clear enough to see all we wanted, and we had a great time.

The weather was mild, mostly clear, and sunny, then dark. We put out the ACA information boards, and discussed how we would fill them in for NAN on April 20. We discussed making printouts for demonstrating basic astronomy facts and concepts, bringing duct tape, and letting Stan know if T-posts or other equipment would be needed. Stan demonstrated the Don Hostetler Solar Scope, and we were impressed to see a huge sun spot (1711)almost in the middle of the setting sun! Scope & new scope setups continued on the hill (Hay Field). Kenneth brought his new scope over during the week, and Stan and Lalit had him set up and ready to go tonight. Kenneth's new tripod impressed Pat!

We held a beginner & review session, learning the 7 Winter Hexagon stars, and the Six Constellations. We included Bettelgeuse to make Mark's "Heavenly G". We marveled at sights we barely noticed naked-eye, but became glorious wonders with a pair of binoculars, like the Pleiades and Praesepe, the beehive cluster. We confirmed the onset of spring with Corvus the Crow in the SW. Kenneth zoomed in on Jupiter and its Galilean moons, some only saw 3. Dave P. put his 14" on M1, the Crab Nebula again. Not quite as clear as last month, due to the weather, but still visible and recognizable as we get to know it better. Stan, Pat, Vic, Mike M. Mark M., all zoomed in on other Messier Objects, NCGs and other deep space wonders.

We are looking forward to National Astronomy Night on April 20!


The Astronomy Club of Augusta met on Saturday April 20, 2013 at the Ruth Patrick Science Education Center (RPSEC) at USC Aiken. Tedda welcomed 23 members and 24 guests to our meeting and program. The Astronomy Challenge was held afterwards on the lawn.

Ken introduced our speaker, Russell Romanella, NASA Director of Safety and Mission Assurance at Kennedy Space Center . He has been with NASA over 32 years and has a broad range of experience with the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station and NASA’s exploration program. Mr. Romanella presented a lively program, laced with humor, amazing facts, and countless details reflecting his many years of experience. The program covered a brief history of NASA, the current status of International Space Station, the retired Shuttle Program and plans for Human and Robotic Space Exploration.

Some highlights are:
On May 5th 1961 Alan Sheppard, aboard the Freedom 7, was the first American to “travel in space” a total duration of 15 minutes and 28 seconds. This was a direct response to the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik, which orbited the earth. Twenty days later John Kennedy raised the bar and challenged America to put a man on the moon. The sheer charisma and determination that resulted from that challenge became the Apollo Program, putting 12 people on the moon over 6 missions within a decade!
NASA’s budget grew steadily from its inception in 1958 to its peak in 1966 when it reached 4.5 % of the Federal Budget – reflecting America’s commitment to space exploration. Today its budget is $17B, merely .5 % (half of one percent) of the Federal Budget. None the less amazing work is underway and envisioned with joint international missions and private ventures.
The International Space Station (ISS) is a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. It follows the Salyut, Almaz, Skylab and Mir stations as the ninth space station to be inhabited. The ISS is a modular structure whose first component was launched in 1998. Now the largest artificial body in orbit, it can often be seen at the appropriate time with the naked eye from Earth. The ISS consists of pressurised modules, external trusses, solar arrays and other components. ISS components have been launched by American Space Shuttles as well as Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets. Budget constraints led to the merger of three space station projects with the Japanese Kibō module and Canadian robotics. In 1993 the partially built components for a Soviet/Russian space station Mir-2, the proposed American Freedom, and the proposed European Columbus merged into a single multinational program. The station orbits 100 miles above the earth and falls back 300 feet each day requiring daily re-boosts. Powered by solar energy with batteries supplying back up; temperatures range between +250 degrees to – 250 degrees. The station uses rechargeable nickel-hydrogen batteries (NiH2) for continuous power during the 35 minutes of every 90 minute orbit that it is eclipsed by the Earth. The batteries are recharged on the day side of the Earth. They have a 6.5 year lifetime (over 37,000 charge/discharge cycles) and will be regularly replaced over the anticipated 20-year life of the station.
Time lapse photography taken from the ISS included the halo of the atmosphere, lightning strikes, the northern and southern lights – the photos were truly amazing! Use this Wikipedia link for more detailed information and a 2013 schedule of planned missions to the ISS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Space_Station. Retired Space Shuttles Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavor are all at their final destinations. The presentation included a video of Endeavor’s carefully planned “road trip” from LAX to the Science Center in Los Angeles – a truly amazing feat!
The NASA Authorization Act of 2010 provides objectives for American space exploration. NASA proposes to move forward with the development of the Space Launch System (SLS), which will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment, and science experiments to Earth’s orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a backup for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station. The SLS rocket will incorporate technological investments from the Space Shuttle program and the Constellation program in order to take advantage of proven hardware and reduce development and operations costs. The first developmental flight is targeted for the end of 2017.
Spirit (and its twin, Opportunity) are six-wheeled, solar-powered robots standing 1.5 m (4.9 ft) high, 2.3 m (7.5 ft) wide and 1.6 m (5.2 ft) long and weighing 180 kg (400 lb). Six wheels on a rocker-bogie system enable mobility over rough terrain. Expected to last 90 days it has been in place for over 8 years. On March 9, 2005 (probably during the Martian night), the rover’s solar panel efficiency jumped from around 60% of what it had originally been to 93%, followed on March 10, by the sighting of dust devils. NASA scientists speculate a dust devil must have swept the solar panels clean, possibly significantly extending the duration of the mission. This also marks the first time dust devils had been spotted by either Spirit or Opportunity, easily one of the top highlights of the mission to date.
In 1982 approximately 7,000 asteroids had been identified. Today, through ground observation and space travel, over 600,000 asteroids are known with 9,000 of them being of Near Earth status. Voyager is reaching the edge of the solar system. Launched in 1977 it travels at approximately 35,000 mph. We know now that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate and of the existence of dark matter and dark energy. Hubble has identified 10,000 galaxies.

Mr. Romanella left us with a clear picture that the space program has much work ahead, it is in extremely capable hands, and that there is much hope and excitement for the future. We thank Mr. Romanella for a wonderful evening and Ken and Tedda for making the arrangements – great evening!

Afterwards we feasted on hot dogs, snacks and beverages (thank you Stan, Vic, and Gary).

Around 8pm we made our way out to the lawn where we had information boards and telescopes set up for observation. Among them were Lalit with a Celestron CG-5, Stan with a Genesis 100mm 4” refractor, David with a Celestron 14” SC, John and Dan with a 6” Meade, Charles with a Meade LX 200, and Mike with a Garrett optical GT70/90 Binocular Telescope. Skies were somewhat hazy, the mood was bright, and the lighting created some glare.

Club members manned a variety of stations for the Basic Astronomy Skill Challenge. Many helped set up the information boards, tables and chairs. Stan led the Challenge, getting stations and masters in place, focusing scopes, teaching at stations, and helping as needed. James taught the order of planets and asteroids with our papier mache wonders. Elisabeth oriented us to NESW. Kenneth taught the 8 phases of the moon. Dot & Mike M. taught the seven Winter Hexagon stars, while Jerome, Lee and John R. did the Winter Hexagon Constellations. John W. & Dan taught telescope parts. Cathy helped there, wherever needed, and was a big help both before and during the program. We were very proud of Michael, who learned and taught many bright stars. Mike B. and Ray and Lalit used posters and scopes to distinguish the 4 Galilean moons of Jupiter. Lisa registered all participants, and taught station #12, while David P. focused on them. Charles talked about the asteroid belt. Dave and Kolbe discussed Responsible Lighting, told about Bill's sailing club experience, and passed out brochures. Vic pointed out satellites, and used the refractor scope. Ron B. awarded prizes. Joan registered meeting participants, and helped Ron with prizes. Tedda passed out info, and helped as needed.

As the sky grew darker families made their way from station to station to learn about and observe the stars, planets, constellations and asterisms of the spring sky. As they completed each station their tickets were marked and those with the most check marks received prizes. Handouts were also provided for future reference at home. Most notable were the very young children (early elementary school age) that had a good handle on the basics and were sincerely interested in learning more. Hopefully we met some future astronauts that evening! As usual, by 10 pm we were packing up, having enjoyed a very interesting and fun evening.

We handled two pieces of club business at the meeting. Mark Moffatt and Vic Hardy presented the Nominating slate of officers for 20013-14: President: Tedda Howard, VP Programs: Kenneth Beard, VP Observing: Stan Howard, Secretary: Dot Valentine, Treasurer: John White. All have agreed to serve. No other nominations were made at the meeting, but can be made before the election on May 17.
We also signed cards for Brittney, HS graduation, Michael H. and Steve, get better/get well cards.

Respectfully submitted,
Dot Valentine

DAV Open House
May 26 Sunday 4:00PM -May 27 Monday, at Deerlick Astronomy Village
RSVP by May 23 at http://www.deerlickgroup.com . Please bring an appetizer for 6-8.
If you would like to caravan/carpool with the ACA, please email Tedda.
(Most of us will probably only stay to late evening.)

Michael H. would like to sell his: IOptron 114mm Reflector 9 & 25 mm , GPS, tripod, hard & soft shell case. Please email Stan for more information.