The Official Publication of the Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association, Inc


VOL XVI, NO 11m                                                   NOVEMBER 2001                                                 
Scott Petersen, Editor

©2001 BMAA, Inc

Friends and Good People.... SDV XV

- by Alan Pasicznyk

It was Monday night and the weather forecast for Friday was "iffy" at best. It called for rain Friday into Saturday and perhaps Sunday. As it turns out, however, there was only a light shower Friday night, which didn't last very long anyway. I arrived at Onas at about 3:30 and set up the tent under cloudy skies. Later that night a hole in the clouds allowed about two minutes worth of viewing the Double Cluster near Cassiopeia. But later on Bernie Kosher's homemade refractor braved the weather, and we were able to view Saturn through the thickening haze. Finally I turned in for the night, and it began to rain... for about 20 minutes!

Earlier that night Frank Schubert had remarked that he thought that it would clear up at 4 AM. Sure enough at about 5 AM Saturday morning the sky was perfectly clear. I could see M 42 naked eye and below each star in Orion's belt I could see another dim one, the dimmest below the center star. Wow!

Saturday morning I was greeted by a plethora of Danish (those things that you EAT!) in the dining hall, along with some groggy Astronomers. Bob Summerfield had set up his vast array of T-shirts, neckties, and astro-stuff as well as Hands-On Optics and a few others, including small finely machined models of telescopes.

Because of the questionable weather, turnout was rather light this year with attendance at about 70 plus. At 3 PM we all settled down to hear a rather detailed lecture on Binary Stars. It seems that a stellar system either decides to have planets, or become a multiple star system. The trapezium in M 42 was described as an unstable configuration.

After the pizza banquet, Marian Shearer led a eulogy for the victims of the World Trade Center, Pentagon and Western Pennsylvania tragedies. Several attendees expressed their personal connections to the incident.

Then it was on to awarding the numerous door prizes. Meade Instruments was very generous in donating a $200 plus value eyepiece which was won by none other than Marian Shearer. After dinner was over, people settled down into groups outside talking and inside playing Astro-Monopoly.

Would you believe that Bob Post and Linda van der Spek could do a very convincing rendition of "Leavin' On A Jet Plane"? (Bob used Marian's guitar.) In another corner of the room someone read a novel to a group of people. I finally forced myself away from all this talent because... THE SKIES HAD CLEARED!!!

Back at my 4.5 Newtonian I went through the usual routine of M 31, M 15, M 56 some granularity, the Double Cluster at both low and high power and M 45. While viewing M 31 a thought kept going through my head... "Hello, hello, is anyone out there? How are you doing? Right now we're not doing so good on this planet... Hello, hello, is anyone out there?..."

I finished up the night at Harvey Scribner's trailer, looking once again at the Double Cluster but through his 6" Astro-Physics refractor, equipped with a beam-splitter binocular viewer. Interestingly enough the view really did look 3D. I once read in Sky & Tel that this is an artifact of the two oculars being not exactly perfectly identical. This, a question for Bernie.

The clouds once again moved in and I called it a night.

I would like to personally thank all of the people who helped out with this event. Ed Radomski tirelessly doing much of the work, as well as Co-Chair Antione Pharamond (AKA "Mr. G.Q."). And, as well, all of the others, who unselfishly gave their time and effort.

All of which reminded me of something very important, that we all should not forget. Despite all the tragedy and treachery that we must all live in from day to day, we must strive to remember that there are still Good People out there, and I am both happy and proud to say that our club and hobby has a good share of them. Good People and Good Friends. Clear skies!

Alan Pasicznyk

On-Site Personnel Administrator


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- BMAA member Alan Pasicznyk provides occasional articles for the CONSTELLATION. [ -ed]





Elections of BMAA Officers for 2002 will be held at the November General Meeting.

As of this writing, the only candidates who have come forward are the current officers.

Nominations have not yet closed, and the positions are available to any club member

in good standing so additional nominees are encouraged to run for office.


This month's General Meeting is November 7, 8:00p at Peace Valley Nature Center

The next BMAA General Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 5


 BMAA MESSAGELINE - 215/579-9973



The CONSTELLATION is the official publication of the Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association, Inc, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and exists for the exchange of ideas, news, information and publicity among the BMAA membership, as well as the amateur astronomy community at large. The views expressed are not necessarily those of BMAA, but of the contributors and are edited to fit within the format and confines of the publication. Unsolicited articles relevant to astronomy are welcomed and may be submitted to the Editor.

Reprints of articles, or complete issues of the CONSTELLATION, are available by contacting the Editor at the address listed below, and portions may be reproduced without permission, provided explicit acknowledgement is made and a copy of that publication is sent to the Editor. The contents of this publication, and its format (published hard copy or electronic) are copyright ©2001 BMAA, Inc.

In an effort to transmit the CONSTELLATION electronically to the membership of BMAA, please provide a current e-dress to the Editor. Abbreviated issues are available on the web site, but complete editions will be e-mailed to members in good standing.

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Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association, Inc

 2001 Calendar of Events


StarWatch Chairman: Antoine Pharamond, 215/412-9291

Information Line - 215/579-9973


 2001 BMAA Officers

President - Ed Murray, 215/493-2843

Vice President - Antoine Pharamond, 215/412-9291

Treasurer - Ed Radomski, 215/822-8312

Secretary - Ken Wieland, 215/362-7228




Interesting club e-mail regarding recent Coronal Mass Ejections

Subject: An alert from spaceweather

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 17:44:46 -0500

From: Bernie Kosher <>

Hi, We are currently undergoing a strong radiation storm and minor geomagnetic activity, and the CME has not reached us yet. Perhaps there will be some activity tonight or tomorrow. Here's the alert from IMF turning south is good for us at mid latitudes, as it pushes the field lower)

AURORA WARNING: Although the fast-moving coronal mass ejection (CME) en route to Earth has not yet arrived, a moderate

geomagnetic storm is already underway. The interplanetary magnetic field near Earth has turned south and weakened our planet's defenses against solar wind gusts. This condition sets the stage for possible widespread auroras when the anticipated CME sweeps past our planet.

Subject: More info

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 18:38:59 -0500

From: Bernie Kosher <>

Apparently they expect the CME to arrive late this evening. There is already a significant 'severe' radiation alert and 'minor' geomagnetic activity. Here's the clipping:

A major solar flare occurred at 9:20 am MST (1620 UTC) on 04 November. The resulting radio blackout reached the R3 level on the NOAA scale. The flare was shortly followed by a strong solar radiation storm which has reached the S3 level on the NOAA scale and is continuing in progress at this time.

R3 radio blackouts result in widespread HF radio communication outages on the dayside of the Earth and can also degrade low frequency navigation signals.

S3 solar radiation storms can lead to single-event upsets in spacecraft electronics, noise in spacecraft imaging systems, and reduction in the efficiency of solar panels. Radiation storms also cause degraded HF radio propagation in the polar regions.

There is a good chance for a geomagnetic storm to occur in response to today's solar event, beginning around 8:00 pm MST on 05 November (0300 UTC on 06 November). The storm is expected to reach the G2 level on the NOAA scale.

G2 geomagnetic storms can lead to minor problems with electrical power systems, spacecraft operations, communications systems, and some navigational systems.

Subject: [bmaa] Aurora

Date: Mon, 5 Nov 2001 21:51:55 -0500

From: "DavStitz" <>

Aurora Right now 9:55 pm

Subject: Re: [bmaa] Aurora

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 22:14:56 -0500

From: James Moyer <>

Thanks David. Because of your timely announcement, I just saw my first BRIGHT aurora!

Subject: occurring as we speak

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 22:37:57 -0500

From: Bernie Kosher <>

Considerable green at the horizon with red and yellow rays reaching to Cass overhead. Comes and goes. Could well go on all night.

Subject: Aurora

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 23:24:19 -0500

From: Bernie Kosher <>

All my false alarms are vindicated. So there Just got a note form Baltimore. Norm Lewis, a TV weatherman from that area, says the display was just as intense there. Awesome. Hope the pics come out, and sincerely hope you guys send me some jpegs. I appreciate any effort you can make to send me scans, even if the photo is 'not so terrific' I'd like to see them. Thanks

Subject: new advisory

Date: Mon, 05 Nov 2001 23:58:25 -0500

From: Bernie Kosher <>

Have just been told the main CME is due about 1AM local.

A note from Tony White in Oklahoma......"Just FYI - we're seeing it here in Northeast Oklahoma as well. Don't have any way to image them right now, but thought you'd like to know." Ray Talipsky tells me the show was seen in Atlanta.

Thanks for all the input, and keep it coming.......

* * * * * * *

- The Forum exists for the intercommunication of club members in good standing regarding matters of club interest. [ -ed]

This dialogue is especially pertinent to Bernie Kosher's Observing article this month, starting on the following page.



Sunday Oct 21 "Aurora Borealis and observing with an 80mm f/5 Celestron"

- by Bernie Kosher

Late in the week proceeding that Sunday, there was a pair of X1.5 class flares and coronal mass ejections (CME) on the sun. The probability of aurora was fairly high, although that class of flare, while fairly powerful, is not always enough to trigger a display. That afternoon the Kp index was running in the 6 to 7 range.

Late that afternoon, while occasionally checking into and the NOAA site, the auroral oval was noticeably growing. Reports were appearing from the United Kingdom of 'northern lights' appearing up to 40 degrees altitude.

Bob Jackson and I decided we were going to give it a go and hopped into the car headed for VanSant Airport. VanSant sports a fairly decent north, albeit with some horizon lights from Allentown and Quakertown. We took along his SS80 Celestron refractor for ease of use and to check eyepiece performance on low power, wide field targets. He had acquired the typical collection of eyepieces ranging from good to not-so, and wanted to try them to separate the 'keepers' from the 'swap table' ones.

Just prior to driving off, about 7:30p, Alan P and Ed Murray called to say there were faint red glows in Ursa Major. I checked outside and the glows were visible from east Trenton. A definite good sign.

When we arrived the sky was not too bad, with bits of thin strips of cirrus slowly moving by, and a deck of clouds covering the lower northwest to northeast up to an altitude of about 20 degrees. No sign of aurora. None.

Oh well. With the scope set, we found the transparency surprisingly good. So we set about testing the various eyepieces.

Fortunately, it was very pleasantly mild, about 65 degrees, so only a sweatshirt was adequate.

Around 9:00p the sky cleared dramatically, so we tried M31. At 15 power the field with a standard Plossl is over 3 degrees, and the galaxy, with some averted vision, stretched across. The companions, M32 and NGC205 (also called M110 for reasons we won't go into), were visible. M32 was fairly easy, but tiny at this power. Oddly, NGC205 was easier, doubtless because it is larger. This is a spread out galaxy, with little central condensation, and is normally considerably harder than M32. An explanation of why size makes it easier to spot faint objects will be in a future installment.

After checking out such things as NGC457 in Cass (The Owl or Totem Pole Cluster) (very nice but subdued in a small aperture), we also tried M13 (obvious but no hint of resolution) M57 (it was there but tough, as it was in the edge of the hazy area, and small at 15X). Being so clear, we tried M33. Lo and behold, it was faint but obvious. The night was much better than it seemed.

But wait! Whoa. Back up. I thought I was seeing a distant searchlight, dim through the cloud deck and just about 10 degrees above it. I was about 30 degrees west of north, Bob looked and said "There's a red glow around it. Sure enough, we had caught the beginning of a short-lived, but fairly bright, display of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.

We checked the time and made the start of the display at 10:30p. During the next 15 minutes the rays we had seen came and went, pulsating, but not moving. They would appear from apparent nothing and brighten to the point of the obvious in about 5 seconds then dim slowly. Perhaps as many as 30 or 40 different rays were seen. Toward the end of the display the red glow appeared streaky and extended from Lyra in the west to Auriga in the east, and reached the Milky Way overhead. The sudden fading at the end left us sort of just looking and saying, "Where did it go?" We stuck it out till about midnight with no further activity, and the haze was rolling in. We did get a half-decent look at M42, but it was washed out by the incoming haze and its low altitude. Jupiter was rising in the ease, so we took a quick look (it still has 4 moons) and packed up.

Certainly turned out to be worth the trip!

 Some explanations of the terms used:

Solar flare- caused by the release of energy in the magnetic fields on parts of the sun. Not necessarily associated with sunspots. Flares are seldom visible visually, but are obvious in hydrogen alpha light, as in a monochromator or narrow band filter. Flares are classed C M X in increasing intensity.

Coronal Mass Ejection- a release of particles in the corona of the sun. This can occur when there are no sunspots also. The corona of the sun in much hotter than the surface, running into the one million degree range, and the released particles are very energetic. Can cause aurora even with no solar flares.

Kp index- a measure of the flux at the earth's magnetic field. It is the interaction of the charged particles arriving at the Earth which lights up the molecules of oxygen and nitrogen high in the upper atmosphere that causes the aurora. A Kp of 6 will give us a possible low intensity show, while a Kp of 7 would be better. If the Kp gets much higher than this there is the chance of power outages due to induced current in the power lines. Also, if the intensity of the barrage if incoming particles is high enough it will fry astronauts and affect people in high polar airline flights. Radio blackouts are caused by the disturbance of the ionosphere. Some radio frequencies, especially in the lower megahertz range, rely on reflections from the ionosphere.

Auroral oval- the area over the north and south poles of the Earth where the aurora reach certain intensities. During a quiet time the oval is limited in size, reaching only the far north; during a major storm the oval will reach well into the central US.

Magnetic north- we are at 50 magnetic north, not 40 as is our geographic latitude. This is due to the Earth's North Magnetic Pole being about 14 degrees off the true pole, and well west of it. Thus, Philadelphia is more likely to see aurora than the UK, even with the UK being about 10 degrees further north.

For a fuller and better explanation, read the hyperlinks on and follow the links at the bottom to the NOAA web site

The NOAA site shows the auroral oval and has many far out links to photos, explanations and forecasts, among other things. - BK

* * * * * * *

- BMAA member Bernie Kosher provides Observing for this newsletter regularly. See related Forum, this month. [ -ed]

Bernie can be reached at


On Looking Up by Chance at the Constellations

- by Robert Frost

You'll wait a long, long time for anything much
To happen in heaven beyond the floats of cloud
And the Northern Lights that run like tingling nerves.
The sun and moon get crossed, but they never touch,
Nor strike out fire from each other nor crash out loud.
The planets seem to interfere in their curves
-But nothing ever happens, no harm is done.
We may as well go patiently on with our life,
And look elsewhere than to stars and moon and sun
For the shocks and changes we need to keep us sane.
It is true the longest drought will end in rain,
The longest peace in China will end in strife.
Still it wouldn't reward the watcher to stay awake
In hopes of seeing the calm of heaven break
On his particular time and personal sight.
That calm seems certainly safe to last to-night. 

* * * * * * *

- BMAA member Steve Bryant supplied this poem some time back and it seemed appropriate now. [ -ed]




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