All posts by ejknight


Oak Mountain is the place to be on May 16th 2009 for an evening under the stars.  Sunset will be around 7:30 and we are looking  at a half- moon so bring the lunar filters.

There is a $3.00 per person fee to get into the State Park .

Contact Ed Knight (205.223.0752) or Quentin Jones at 205.746.3278 for more information

***ASTRONOMY DAY MAY 2, 2009***

Astronomy Day for the BAS is scheduled for May 2nd 2009.

The Birmingham Astronomical Society and the McWane Science Center of Birmingham Alabama will be putting on a heck of an exhibition.

The Birmingham Astronomical Society will have telescopes and astronomical exhibits set up in the lobby.  Weather permitting, telescopes will be set up in the plaza outside.

The McWane Science Center has coordinated with NASA to provide a 1/15th scale model of both the Space Shuttle and the new Aries Rocket,  as well as an actual rock brought back from the Moon by one of the Apollo missions.

George Atchley, from Sanford University’s Christenberry Planetarium, will be doing planetarium shows in the McWane Science Center Portable Planetarium.

James Moore, our JPL ambassador, will be doing presentations on the Science Sphere in the City Gallery on the 2nd floor.




BAS Meeting Announcement

Our Monthly Meeting for April will be held at Samford University’s Christenbery
Tuesday, April 21, 2008 at 7:00 PM.

Our speaker will be Dr. Rajiv Doreswamy, deputy manager of Program Planning and
Control for Ares Projects at the Marshall Space Flight Planning and Control for
Ares Projects at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Dr. Doreswamy began his career at the Marshall Center in 1988 as a power systems
engineer on the Hubble Space Telescope and for the Orbital Maneuvering Vehicle.
Born in India and raised in Montgomery, Ala., he earned three degrees in
electrical engineering — a bachelor’s in 1986 from the University of Florida in
Gainesville; a master’s in 1988 from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala.; and a
doctorate in 1999 from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

The comprehensive Senior Executive Service candidate curriculum includes
classroom work, interagency experience, on-the-job learning, mentoring,
coaching, field experiences and Web-based learning with other agency candidates.
A core benefit of the program is access to senior White House and cabinet-level
personnel who serve as speakers and workshop leaders.

The curriculum will take 12 to 24 months to complete. Candidates must then be
certified by the Office of Personnel Management’s Qualification Review Board as
meeting the Executive Core Qualifications required for members of the Senior
Executive Service.

While participation in the Senior Executive Service Candidate Development
Program does not guarantee selection for a Senior Executive Service position, it
does certify those that sccessfully complete the program as having fulfilled the
executive-level requirements for selection.

The link below will tell you about the Ares project

Solar Minimum is a Big Event

SPOTLESS SUNS: NASA announced that the sun has plunged into the deepest solar minimum in nearly a century.  Sunspots have all but vanished and consequently the sun has become very quiet. In 2008, the sun had no spots 73% of the time, a 95-year low. In 2009, sunspots are even more scarce, with the “spotless rate” jumping to 87%.  We are currently experiencing a stretch of 25 continuous days uninterrupted by sunspots–and there’s no end in sight.


 This is a big event, but it is not unprecedented. Similarly deep solar minima were common in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, and each time the sun recovered with a fairly robust solar maximum.  That’s probably what will happen in the present case, although no one can say for sure. This is the first deep solar minimum of the Space Age, and the first one we have been able to observe using modern technology.  Is it like others of the past?  Or does this solar minimum have its own unique characteristics that we will discover for the first time as the cycle unfolds?  These questions are at the cutting edge of solar physics.


 You can monitor the progress of solar minimum with a new “Spotless Days Counter” on  Instead of counting sunspots, we’re counting no sunspots.  Daily updated totals tell you how many spotless days there have been in a row, in this year, and in the entire solar cycle.  Comparisons to historical benchmarks put it all in perspective.  Visit for data.

McWane Science Center

Whee, What a day. We had a blast today doing solar viewing at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham today. Charle, Scott Frm101ed and I were there to assist the McWane staff in celebrating Gallieo’s birthday and the International Year of Astronomy 2009.

McWane unvelled the new  pictures of M101 that they were presented by NASA today, and they are beauttiful! (see picture to right) They now have one 9 foot –  3 image picture (one picture in infrared, one in visible light and one in xray.)and and composit picture of all 3 images. These are some of the most stunning photos taken of M101 I have ever seen.

Tuesday night the BAS will be at the Samford Planetarium to assist with their unveling and we hope to see you out there. The meeting will start at 7:00PM . Come on out and join in the fun.

Meade AR5 Thoughts……

I have been asked before “Why did you buy a 5 Inch refractor?” I choose the Meade AR-5 for many reasons.

lxd75First was its price range. It’s hard to go wrong when you can get a 5in refractor, mount and tripod for under $1000.00

The next reason was aperture. 127mm (5”) is nice go between from the typical 102mm (4”) and rather large 152mm (6”). It should do well on various DSO’s , planets and split most doubles rather nicely.

The final reason, and most important to me, was focal length. For me, there’s something almost “majestic” about a long focal length refractor.

Now we get to the good stuff. Since I’ve had this scope for a while now, all I can say is the more I use it, the more I love it. Star tests reveal beautiful concentric rings in & out of focus. And I must add, for an achromat, it has surprising little false color even on the moon! I actually saw M101, M51, NCG7331, & M33 in one evening with this scope in magnitude 5 skies.

The optics in this particular scope are excellent! CA is almost non existent. The other night, looking at the edge of the moon @ 176X, there was a faint, and I mean faint, yellow tint around it, but nothing like I’ve seen described in previous reviews. Alberio is nothing short of breath taking. The red-orange and the blue-white contrast is simply gorgeous.

Stars are tack sharp and I get a nice concentric airy disk when I bump up the power on them. DSO’s are nothing short of amazing. M13 is resolved @ 85X with nice array of grainy stars on black sky. I was surprised when I viewed M57 through it though. The contrast this scope yielded on the nebulosity was extraordinary. The same for M8 & M16.

Now for some bad things. Construction of the OTA isn’t too bad. However, I have noticed that one of  the shims in the front lens has come loose and is now in the FOV, but it isn’t noticeable when viewing (yet!). Another annoyance is the focuser. Should you ever buy one of the tubes you might think about doing like I did and that is disassembling the focuser and cleaning it to get rid of the glue like grease that they put on the units in the factory in China. Either that or purchase a Moonlite focuser (which is on my upgrade list) that will improve focusing a great deal. That and you need to get rid of the stock diagonal that come with the OT it’s fairly much the cheapest thing Meade could package with the system. Get yourself a good 99% dielectric diagonal from a company like Williams Optics. And if you can find it get yourself a pier extension this will keep you from some back pain when you are viewing at zenith!

Overall this is a great scope that should give the average user many a long and happy viewing session.


Winking Demons

In the constellation Perseus there is a moderately bright star called Algol. It is remarkable in that every 68.75 hours its light dims rather suddenly for several hours before returning just as quickly to its former brightness. This change in brightness is sufficiently large to be apparent even to the naked eye. Very careful observation also indicates a small dip in light output halfway in between the large dips, and detailed inspection of the spectrum indicates that Algol is a spectroscopic binary. ( Additional evidence indicates that Algol is actually a triple star system, but two of the stars are very close together. It is these two stars that concern us here.)
Algol is called the Winking Demon Star because of its light variation and because Perseus is according to mythology holding the severed head of the Gorgon or demon.
A blue spectral class B8 star with a diameter of 3 solar diameters and red-yellow spectral class K2 star of about 3.5 solar diameters are in very close orbit around each other (See the earlier discussion of spectral classes). The orientation of the orbits is such that a large percentage of each star is eclipsed during the primary and secondary eclipses. The blue star (because it is hotter) emits more light from each square centimeter of its surface than the yellow-red star, so the primary eclipses occur when the blue B8 star is occulted by the K2 star.

ISS Tool Bag

Hi all-
As we all know on of the ISS astronauts lost a tool bag during a space walk earlier this month. There are now 10 day predictions on when you can see it on Heavens-above .com

Here are the current predictions:

ISS tool bag – Visible Passes

Search period start:     00:00 Saturday, 29 November, 2008
Search period end:     00:00 Tuesday, 9 December, 2008
Local time zone:     Central Standard Time (UTC – 6:00)
Orbit:     348 x 353 km, 51.6° (Epoch Nov 26)

Date Mag    Starts         Max. altitude    Ends         Alt.    Az.      Time          Alt.    Az. 
6 Dec    7.1    17:44:37    10    NNW   17:46:38    23     NNE    17:46:38    23      NNE
7 Dec    5.9    18:09:23    10    NW     18:11:56     66    WNW    18:11:56    66     WNW
8 Dec    6.8    16:59:37    10    NNW   17:02:07    25     NE        17:04:36    10     E
8 Dec    8.5    18:35:09    10    W        18:37:13    18     SW        18:37:43    17     SW

So, in theory, we should be able to see the ISS tool bag(faintly) from Oak Mountain this coming weekend!
Any one up to a challenge?