February 2001

ACT, Inc. has been meeting continuously since 1937 and was incorporated in 1986. It is a nonprofit; tax deductible organization dedicated to promoting, to the public, the art of viewing and the scientific aspect of astronomy.


Astronomy Club of Tulsa Meeting


Friday, February 2, 2001 at 7:30 PM


Room M1 inside Keplinger Hall, the Science & Engineering Building at TU.

Enter the parking lot on the East Side of Keplinger Hall from

Harvard and 5th Street. This will take you directly toward the

staircase to enter the building. Room M1 is the first room on the left.


Notes from the President

John Land

This month TU professor Shawn Jackson will speak on the "Physics of Black Holes." Prof. Jackson is our hosting professor at TU who helps us arrange our meeting dates and reservations. Among his teaching endeavors are Physics, Astronomy and an occasional astrophysics class. He will share with us about " the physics of black holes and the latest efforts to "observe" them."

Black Holes have long been an intriguing topic for astronomers and recently there have been some major advances in our knowledge of them. A "Black Hole" is a region of space in which the force of gravity is so concentrated that matter or energy would have to go faster than the speed of light to escape. Since the laws of physics do not allow anything to travel faster than light all matter and energy that falls into a Black Hole can not escape. The new March 2001 Astronomy has an article discussing the role monster Black Holes containing millions of solar masses may have on the formation of Galaxies. Indeed our own Milky Way contains at least three such cosmic chasms near its core. We will all look forward to learning more about these dark voids in space at our Friday meeting. Professor Jackson will help us understand the physics of this dark mystery of space and time

Professor Jackson would like to invite the Astronomy Club of Tulsa to hear their distinguished guest speaker who will visit TU Feb. 28 and March 1, 2001.

“He is Dr. Fritz Benedict of the University of Texas McDonald Observatory. He will deliver the lectures listed below. I want to extend a special invitation to the Astronomy Club of Tulsa members to attend all three lectures in general but particularly the Shapley Lecture (Wednesday evening). Please invite your students and any one else who might like to attend these of charge!

Speaking schedule for Dr. Benedict

1. Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001. 11:00 a.m. KEP M2, "Playing Hide and Seek with the Universe" (Cosmology and hidden mass). Audience: A no-prerequisite astronomy class open to all students.

2. Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2001. Shapley Lecture. 7:00 p.m. KEP M1, "Nine Steps to Extraterrestrial Life" (astrobiology). Audience: The general public.

3. Thursday, March 1, 2001. 11:00 A.M. KEP M2, " Finding Almost Planets and Almost Finding Planets" (his own research with the HST to locate extrasolar planets). Audience: This is a technical talk aimed primarily at the students and faculty of the College of Engineering and Natural Sciences.

For those of you who have been yearning for some big name speakers, your prayers have been answered! Lets see a good representation of support from our club.

Black Holes Found at Last ! !

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - NASA is getting a lot of practice using two spacecraft to probe the secrets of astronomical objects. Last month Galileo and Cassini took a paired swipe at Jupiter. Now the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory have pulled a tag-team technique on Cygnus X-1, the first object identified as a black hole candidate, to find evidence that this object has an event horizon. This news was announced here today on the final day of the winter 2001 American Astronomical Society meeting. The defining characteristic of a black hole is its event horizon. This is the point-of-no-return which separates normal space from "The undiscover'd country from whose bourn no traveler returns". However, until now no one has ever found clear and compelling evidence of their existence.

The Chandra X-ray Telescope and the Hubble Space Telescope have been studying X-Ray novae. These consist of matter swirling around compact stars that periodically flare up in brilliance. This team measured the energy emitted by X-ray novae compact stars during their dormant periods. They have found that the core of these novae contain either neutron stars or black holes. The neutron stars have less mass and emit over 100 times more energy from the core that than the Black Holes. Now that may sound backwards but if the object in the center is truly a black hole matter AND ENERGY would get trapped by its tremendous gravity. If you want to see the full article on this topic follow the links at

Russian Mir Spacecraft about to CRASH !

Wait ! Before you all run for cover they hope to bring it down with a controlled burn on over the Pacific Ocean March 6. Mir has been suffering from the effects of almost 15 years in the harsh environment of space. They have had frequent computer troubles even despite the new computers brought by the space shuttle two years ago. The most recent woe is a sudden power failure that has crippled the gyroscopes. Giant gyroscopes are used to keep the spacecraft from tumbling in space. However thrusters are now being used to keep it stable. An unmanned supply ship was launched March 24 with additional fuel needed to power the descent. A manned mission is on standby in case the robotic mission runs into troubles. To learn more go to:

Changes at the Astroclub's website:

If you haven't been to our website at lately you will be in for a surprise. Tom McDonough, a long time club member, has taken over a club web master. Building on the excellent platform established by Dean Salmon, Tom is working to make our site easily printable and better adapted to any browser format. Check it out for yourself and pass along your suggestions to improve our site. We are also looking into getting our own web domain name that is easier to refer to new people.


Observatory News

Extremely poor road conditions to observatory. Due to the extreme weather conditions this winter travel to the observatory is almost impossible. Both KC Lobrecht and a Scoutmaster in a four wheel drive vehicle report the dirt roads on 241st St in impassible condition. If you plan a trip to the observatory please contact Gerry Andries Phone or KC Lobrecht before attempting a trip. We hope to have a report on current conditions at our meeting. We have a few events scheduled in advance.

Contact - Gerry Andries - Phone < Gerry Andries e-mail >

The following is the current schedule of star parties and public groups. All events are at the RMCC unless noted otherwise:

23rd Fri 18:00 Club Star Party
24th Sat 18:00 Back up for 23rd
3rd Sat 18:00 Bixby Brassfield Elementry
5th Mon   Collinsville HS (At Collinsville)
9th Fri 18:00 Riverfield Country School
12th Mon   Collinsville HS (At Collinsville)
24th Sat   Messier Marathon at TUVA
??     Home School (Karen)
6th Fri 18:00 Back up for 3-9
??     Doug Science Academy


Observing Manuals Available

You can get started in astronomy with one to the Astronomical League Observing Projects. We have a few the "Universe Sampler" booklets to get you started learning the night sky. We also have a few of the "Messier Observer's" and "Herschel I " manuals for the more advanced or ambitious observers. Plus a list of the features to be observed to earn your Lunar Certificate. For a look at these and other programs, check out the Astronomical League. Contact John Land


Looking for a way to keep up with current sky events?

The web site has lots of information available including a free monthly Sky Map from Griffith Observatory.

February has three bright planets for viewing. In the Southwest Venus outshines all others as the blazing "evening star" At moderate telescope powers you will note that Venus does not appear round like other planets. Instead it displays phases like the moon. Galileo first observed this in 1610 and used it to prove that the sun must be the center of motion for the planets. High above in the south, the brightest object is Jupiter. It lies in the center of an arc of three bright stars. To the right of Jupiter is the yellowish planet Saturn. Below and left of Jupiter is Aldebaran, the brightest star in the constellation of Taurus. Even a small telescope will reveal Jupiter's four brightest moons. To see Saturn's rings well you need a magnification of 80 to 100 power but they can be observed as low as 30 to 40 power.


The club welcomes our new members:

David Hyman and his son Teddy are new to Astronomy and are anxious to try out their new Meade ETX Telescope. The family became interested in our club when we held a star party at the Montessori Undercraft School last year. David is a Lawyer and also teaches at TU. Jim Powell learned of ACT from his friend Denny Bates. He purchased an 8" Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain about a year ago after renewing his long time interest in Astronomy. Jim works for the Williams Co. as a specialist in Radio RF Telecommunications and is an OU grad in Electrical Engineering and has an MBA. Scott Schad and his son have a telescope we would all like to look through: a 6" Celestron refractor. They also have a C-90 spotting scope for portability. Scott who is also renewing a long time interest in Astronomy is a Geologist in the Petroleum Industry and a graduate of TU. Wayne Sparks attended our Leonid Meteor Shower get-together at the observatory last November. Wayne is an OU graduate in Mathematics and works as a Computer Systems Analyst at Boeing.

< Dennis Mishler e-mail >, New Member Coordinator



"A Christmas Comet for the New Millennium"

By David Stine

Linear has bagged another comet. So what, that's an every day occurrence. The difference in this Linear Comet from others is that by Christmas day we may be able to walk outside and see it with our naked eyes. C/2000 WM1(Linear) was discovered on December 20, 2000 at 17.5 MG. Presently it is over 5AU from the Sun and Earth. We should be able to see it by telescope in late July or early August of this year in the morning sky. The comet will brighten rapidly and race south. By December it is predicted to be 4th or 5th Mg. with a glowing wide tail which should be a pretty sight for Christmas in a dark rural sky. This will be the best time for Northern Hemisphere observers. The comet will continue South and reach peak brightness of 4th Mg. or better in mid-January 2002, but at that time will primarily be a Southern Hemisphere object. The comet will give us one more look as it moves back northward giving both Northern and Southern Hemisphere observers a chance to watch it fade. It reaches perihelion on January 22.8, 2002 at a distance of 0.55AU. As we all know comets are very unpredictable as we witnessed with last summers Linear. There is always the chance that it will fizzle as it is still too early to really pin down its brightness, but I will keep you updated on the progress of this comet in future issues.

Comet C/1999 T1 (McNaught-Hartley) continues to put on a nice show in the ENE in the morning before dawn moving through the constellation of Hercules in early February. It is somewhere between 7th and 8th Mg. depending on whom you listen to with a small fan shaped tail. On Feb. 5 it will pass near Beta Hercules rising in the ENE at 1a.m. and climbing to a decent elevation for viewing by 4a.m.

By the 15th it will pass near Epsilon Hercules, and by the 20th will be halfway between Epsilon and Pi Hercules. This one will have to do us comet lovers for now until Linear becomes visible in July. Below are coordinates for Comet C/1999 T1 for February in five-day increments.

Feb. 5 16h 33.95min +18 deg 34.3sec., Feb 10 16h 47.58 +23 deg 34.7, Feb 15 17h 00.99 +28 deg 29.2, Feb 20 17h 14.13 +33 deg 13.5, Feb 25 17h 26.91 +37 deg 43.8, Mar. 2 17h 39.24 +41 deg 57.7

There has been a call for people to make visual sightings of the International Space Station and report the stations apparent magnitude to Sky Publishing. This is your chance to have a significant input and do real astronomy for research. What is needed is your report with the following information:

  • Your name and location

  • Date and local time of the observation

  • Time after sundown(or before sunrise) of the observation in minutes

  • Direction of ISS track across the sky(beginning to end)

  • Maximum altitude attained by ISS above the horizon in degrees

  • Apparent brightness at pass's midpoint (estimate to nearest half Mg.)

  • Apparent maximum brightness (to half magnitude and where along track

  • Describe any unusual phenomena (flashes, etc,)

Send your report by e-mail to: or if no e-mail send report to Kelly Beatty, Executive Editor, Sky and Telescope Magazine, 49 Bay State Rd., Cambridge MA 02138. What they are trying to do is determine how bright the ISS appears to ground based observers since adding the new panels. ISS has been well placed for Tulsa viewers the last couple of weeks. For sighting predictions there are several website locations however my favorite is Other sites include: and or I also e-mail people a weekly update of passes over Tulsa. You can receive this by e-mailing me a < David Stine e-mail >.

One last important discovery before I close. Recently scientists were able to slow the speed of light to a dead stop then resume its speed. Scientist were able to stop a beam of light after it entered a specially designed gas chamber. The experiment has been hailed as a landmark that could pave the way for faster computers and totally secure communications. To stop light the researchers cooled a gas of magnetically trapped sodium atoms to within a few millionths of a degree of absolute zero(-273 deg C). This would normally be opaque to light, but by illuminating it with a laser called a coupling beam, it can be made transparent, allowing another laser pulse to pass through it. If the coupling laser is turned off while the probe laser is inside the gas cloud, the probe pulse stops dead in its tracks. When the coupling beam is turned back on, the probe pulse emerges intact just as if it had been waiting to resume its journey. This is an amazing accomplishment and will have far reaches in producing much faster quantum computers and quantum communications could never be eavesdropped according to Dr. Phillips Atomic Physicist.

One more one last thing, start planning for the annual Messier Marathon hosted by the TUVA Astronomy Club and Ron and Maura. This is when you can view all Messier objects from dusk to dawn. The location is about a 45 min. drive from Tulsa in a very dark sky and the date is March 24. I will have more on this in next months Astro Corner. That's it from my astro corner this month.


Time to pay your Club DUES. Memberships are $25 per year regular or $15 per year student. You must be actively enrolled in High School or College to qualify for student rate. As a member you will continue to receive our club newsletter and opportunities to participate with us in our activities. You will also receive a free subscription to the Astronomical League's Reflector newsletter and discounts on League materials. Discounts are also available for subscriptions to the two leading Astronomy periodicals. Sky and Telescope is $30 /yr and Astronomy magazine is $29. Don't miss out on the great stories for 2001.  Send your checks to our treasure Nick Pottorf at 3832 S Victor, Tulsa OK 74105.

Astronomy Club Shirts: Aaron Coyner has designed some nice looking astronomy club shirts with our club logo and name embroidered on the front. They are short-sleeved Polo Type collared shirts in a 60/40 blend. He is taking orders for them at $17.00 each.  Contact him at 918.259.8757.   


Astronomy Club of Tulsa, 918.688.MARS

President: John Land

Vice President: Dennis Mishler

Secretary: Teresa Kincannon

Treasurer: Nick Pottorf

RMCC Observatory Manager: Gerry Andries

Observing Chairman: David Stine

Web Master: Tom McDonough

New Membership: Dennis Mishler

Librarian: Ed Reinhart

Education Coordinator: Scott Parker