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


VOL XVII, NO 11                                                NOVEMBER 2002                                              
Scott Petersen, Editor

©2002 BMAA, Inc

Appreciating SDV-XVI

- by Alan Pasicznyk

Try to imagine a birthday cake without the icing, an ice cream sundae without the cherry, or M-104 without a dust lane, and you would pretty much have imagined our annual star-party Stella Della Valley without door prizes! This year Meade Instrument Corp-oration was very generous in supplying us with a complete telescope and tripod for our Grand Prize. Please consider them and all the other donors listed when making your next purchase of any Astronomy related products, as they are indeed good friends of this event.

As for the star party itself, it was well attended with well over 70 people at least. [The final count was 110 attendees. -ed] Friday night was clouded out as the weather bureau had predicted, but Saturday was crisp and clear, and the predicted clouds and thunderstorm just didn't happen. The flea market and guest speakers went on as planned, and after the pizza banquet, emcee Linda van der Spek awarded the door prizes. BMAA member George Reagan, an avid observer and public starwatch volunteer, won the Meade telescope.

The skies Saturday night continued to improve all through the night, with each consecutive hour showing less light pollution and darker sky, so much so that edge on galaxy NGC 891 was visible through my four and a half inch reflector around midnight. I talked to other attendees who remarked that I had gone to bed too early..."You should've seen the sky at 4:00 AM!"

We were all greeted by a nice sunny day Sunday, so that we could dry our camping gear and pack up to go. There was, however, a

Stella Della Valley "first" for me. On Saturday night we were virtually dew free until about 12:30 AM. And it was warm enough

that all you needed that night was a flannel shirt. Sure hope it's that way next year.

And finally, on behalf of SDV co-chairs Ed Radomski, Antoine Pharamond, and Bob Black, our sincerest thanks to all the BMAA members who unselfishly gave their time and effort in running this event and making it a success...


Clear skies, Alan Pasicznyk

SDV Human (and Alien) Resources Coordinator


SDV-XVI Door Prize Donor List

The following vendors / producers of fine astronomical products have donated door prizes for this event. We ask that you consider them first when you are in the market for astronomical products and services.


B. Crist Miniatures
597 Harman Rd.
Halifax, PA 17032
1:12 scale miniature 18" Dobsonian

Bonny Lake Astro Works
20508 125th St. Ct. E
Sumner, WA 98390

$40 Gift Certificate

Hands on Optics
26437 Ridge Rd. (Route 27)
Damascus, MD 20872

1.25" Sirius Planetary Contrast filter
1.25" Sirius Contrast Enhancement Filter

Helix Mfg.
PO Box 490
Gibsonia Pa 15044

Laser collimator

High Point Scientific
442 Route 206
Montague, NJ 07827

9mm Nagler Type 6 Eyepiece

Howie Glatter
3850 Sedgwick Ave.
Bronx, NY 10463

Laser collimator

Jim's Mobile Inc.
810 Quail Street Unit E
Lakewood, CO 80215

Celestron Star Pointer

Kalmbach Publishing Co.
21027 Crossroads Circle
Waukesha, WI 53187-1612

One year subscription to Astronomy

Kendrick Astro Instruments
2920 Dundas Street W.
Toronto, ON
Canada M6P 1Y8

$100 Gift Certificate

Meade Instruments Corp.
6001 Oak Canyon
Irvine, CA 92620-4205

ETX-90EC Telescope with #497 Autostar

Orion Telescope and Binoculars
P.O. Box 1815
Santa Cruz, CA 95061

Deluxe Medium Accessories Case,
Star Target Planisphere

Questar Corporation
6204 Ingham Road
New Hope, PA 18938

Questar miniature model telescope, shirts

Sky Publishing Corp.
49 Bay State Road
Cambridge, Ma 20138-1200

Video Astronomy Observer's Guide

Software Bisque, Inc.
912 12th Street
Golden, CO 80403

The Sky Level II CD for Windows

Teeter's Telescopes
412 Maxim Road
Howell, NJ á07731

$50 Gift Certificate

Tele Vue Optics, Inc.
32 Elkay Dr.
Chester, NY 10918

20mm Plossl Eyepiece

University Optics, Inc.
P.O. Box 1205
Ann Arbor, MI 48106

Abbe Orthoscopic Eyepiece


Wednesday, November 6 at 8:00p - BMAA General Meeting at Peace Valley

Wednesday, November 20 at 8:00p - BMAA Business Meeting at Peace Valley

The next BMAA General Meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, December 4 at 8:00p


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 ©2002 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.

Submission deadline for articles is the 15th of the month prior to publication.

WYCOMBE PA 18980-0333
TEL: 215/598-8447
FAX: 215/598-8446


Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association, Inc

 2002 Calendar of Events


StarWatch Chairman: Antoine Pharamond, 215/412-9291

Information Line - 215/579-9973



Black Holes: Feeling the Ripples

Astronomers have finally confirmed something they had long suspected: there is a super-massive black hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy. The evidence? A star near the galactic center orbits something unseen at a top speed of 5000 km/s. Only a black hole 2 million times more massive than our Sun could cause the star to move so fast. (See the Oct. 17, 2002, issue of Nature for more info.)

Still, a key mystery remains. Where did the black hole come from? For that matter, where do any super-massive black holes come from? There is mounting evidence that such "monsters" lurk in the middles of most galaxies, yet their origin is unknown. Do they start out as tiny black holes that grow slowly, attracting material piecemeal from passing stars and clouds? Or are they born big, their mass increasing in large gulps when the host galaxy collides with another galaxy?

A new space telescope called LISA (short for "Laser Interferometer Space Antenna") aims to find out.

Designed by scientists at NASA and the European Space Agency, LISA doesn't detect ordinary forms of electromagnetic radiation such as light or radio waves. It senses ripples in the fabric of space-time itself - gravitational waves.

Albert Einstein first realized in 1916 that gravitational waves might exist. His equations of general relativity, which describe gravity, had solutions that reminded him of ripples on a pond. These "gravity ripples" travel at the speed of light and, ironically, do not interact much with matter. As a result, they can cross the cosmos quickly and intact.

Gravitational waves are created any time big masses spin, collide or explode. Matter crashing into a black hole, for example, would do it. So would two black holes colliding. If astronomers could monitor gravitational waves coming from a super-massive black hole, they could learn how it grows and evolves.

Unfortunately, these waves are hard to measure. If a gravitational wave traveled from the black hole at the center of our galaxy and passed through your body, it would stretch and compress you by an amount far less than the width of an atom. LISA, however, will be able to detect such tiny compressions.

LISA consists of three spacecraft flying in formation-a giant triangle 5 million km on each side. One of the spacecraft will shoot laser beams at the other two. Those two will echo the laser signal right back. By comparing the echoes to the original signal, onboard instruments can sense changes in the size of the triangle as small as 0.0000000002 meters (20 picometers).

With such sensitivity, astronomers might detect gravitational waves from all kinds of cosmic sources. The first, however, will probably be the weightiest: super-massive black holes. Will "feeling" the ripples from such objects finally solve their mystery, or lead to more questions? Only time will tell. Scientists hope to launch the LISA mission in 2011.

 * * * * * * *

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.



A membership application for Bucks-Mont Astronomical Association may be found at: