March 2002

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.


The Astronomy Club of Tulsa Club

Thomas Gates

NASA Aerospace Education Specialist from Ames Research Center in California


Friday, March 22, 2002 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

Denny Mishler

Thomas Gates, a NASA Aerospace Education Specialist from Ames Research Center in California will be our featured speaker at the March 22nd meeting. He is associated with the NASA Education Program administered by Oklahoma State University. Mr. Gates has been the chief administrative officer of the Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco and the Boeing Spacearium in Seattle. He has taught Astronomy at San Francisco State and San Jose State Universities and has even hosted a daily radio program "Stargazer" in San Francisco.

Mr. Gates will be discussing "Astronomy and Space, Then and Now." "Then" is when he got into Astronomy 30 years ago and "Now" is the state of Astronomy and Space Exploration today. Mr. Gates will also discuss the future of Astronomy and Space Exploration. Obviously, Mr. Gates is an excellent speaker who will keep us informed with a knowledgeable and entertaining presentation. This promises to be a very enjoyable meeting with refreshments at the end of the meeting (but not before please) along with a NASA goodies bag filled differently than the ones that were received at Okie-Tex.

The meeting will take place one week after the Messier Marathon that many of our members will be attending in the Lake Eufaula area. If the skies remained clear we'll hear some first hand reports of what it was like tracking down many of the 110 Messier objects. We'll also find out if a club member won the David Stine Award (named after club member David Stine) for viewing the most objects.

Some of us have been fortunate to have seen Comet Ikeya-Zhang, a 4th magnitude comet that is still brightening. It has been located low in the West after sunset. At our Club Star Party on March 9th (March 8th was cloudy), a group of about 25 club members and guests viewed the comet with instruments ranging from 100 mm binoculars to the club's 16" telescope. The comet has a bright nucleus and a fairly long but faint tail. It is now approaching the sun but it will be seen after the apparition in April's morning sky with favorable viewing in the Northern Hemisphere.



03-15-02 Fri 06:00 Metro Christian Academy (30)
03-26-02 Tue 06:00 Jenks HS Science Fiction Lit. Class (30)
03-28-02 Thu 06:00 Back Up for 03/26
03-30-02 Sat 06:00 Grace Baptist Church (30)


04-10-02 Wed 07:30 Green Country Outdoor Club
04-12-02 Fri 07:30 Club Star Party
04-13-02 Sat 07:30 Back up for 04/12
04-16-02 Tue 07:30 Back Up for 03/26
04-20-02 Sat 07:30 Cub Scouts
04-25-02 Thu 07:30 Back Up for 03/26



03-16-02 Sat Messier Marathon (at TUVA location So of Council Hill)
03-22-02 Fri 07:30 Regular Meeting w/ NASA speaker (at Keplinger Hall)
03-23-02 Sat 06:00 Public Star Party (at TCC West Campus)


04-13-02 Fri Back up for 03/16
04-17-02 Wed 07:30 Herald Elementary School (100) (at Collinsville)
04-19-02 Fri 07:30 Darnaby Elementary 5th Grade (100) (at the school)
04-25-02 Thu 07:30 Back up for 04/17
04-26-02 Fri 07:30 Regular Meeting (at Keplinger Hall)


Exciting Computer Software

Our Club has arranged for a bulk rate group purchase of the Starry Night astronomy software program. Many of you may have seen this program being used at our observatory. The prices are even better this year.

Backyard $30 Manual on CD Regular Price $50

Backyard SE $35 w/ Printed Manual Regular Price $60

Pro Version $75 Regular price $130

Go to to see the many features of these programs.

NOTE: We will only be accepting orders in February and March. Orders will be sent in April 1st so that we can get the discounts for bulk orders. You may pay at the meetings Feb 22 or Mar 22, or Contact < John Land e-mail >


Astronomy Day 2002

Saturday March 23
6:30 PM to 9:00 PM
At TCC West Campus
75O5 W 41st St.

Sponsored by the Astronomy Club of Tulsa

The Astronomy Club of Tulsa will be hosting our spring, Astronomy Day 2OO2 public telescope observing night on Saturday March 23. Several telescopes will be set up so that the public can view the Moon, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, a bright comet and a variety of celestial objects. If the weather is CLEAR, pack up your whole family - grab a jacket and join us in discovering some of the secret treasures of the night sky. Adult supervised student groups are welcome. Check our message line at 688 - 6277 if weather seems a factor.

The 2002 Mid-States Regional Convention will be hosted by the Christian Association of Stellar Explorers and will be held June 7-9, 2002 in Siloam Springs, Arkansas on the campus of John Brown University. The club's observing site at New Life Ranch will be open for evening observing sessions at the convention.

MSRAL 2002 is proud to welcome Dr. Derek Sears of the Arkansas-Oklahoma Center for Space and Planetary Sciences as our keynote speaker at dinner on Saturday. Dr. Sears will be speaking on "Hera and Andromeda: New Insights Into the Formation and Evolution of the Solar System." Dr. Sears is also a professor in the Cosmochemistry Group at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Their web site is It contains more details on the convention and registration forms. Several of our members went to the MidStates convention in 2001. Our club is hosting the convention for 2003 and this will be a great opportunity to get ideas to make our convention a success.

You can also find a link to the national Astronomical League convention in Salt Lake City on July 31 to Aug 3.

See details at National Convention of the Astronomical League, University of Utah

ALCon 2002
P.O. Box 9574
Salt Lake City, UT 84109-9574


By David Stine


Comet Ikeya-Zhang continues to brighten and amaze viewers as it graces its way across the heavens. At the time of this writing, 3/12/02, the comet was being reported at Mg. 3.7 and very easy to locate with the naked eye. Denny Mishler reported it to have a very bright nucleus and a 5-degree tail. Many have reported the bluish ion tail to be over 10 degrees. KC Lobrecht has observed the comet several evenings and reports it to be very lovely. A San Diego observer reports despite light pollution, the Zodiacal light, and a thin layer of clouds, this comet was eye-popping in binoculars and spectacular through a large refractor. An observer from Poland reports the comet to be the best since Hale-Bopp. Most observers report its bluish cast, which stands out and makes it easy to distinguish among the stars. Pictures of the comet show a highly complicated tail of spiked streaks emanating from the nucleus. The tail is really just now starting to develop. It will become harder to locate by the time you get this article, as it is drawing closer to the Sun, but the best may be yet to come for Tulsa observers. What can we expect?

March 21 - 28

The moon and being so close to the horizon will prevent any good observations in the evening during this time. The comet will be low in the west-northwest just after sunset.

March 29 - April 4

The comet now will be visible in the morning sky also and this will be the best time for us. It will start out very low to the northeast horizon in morning twilight. The comet will pass due north of the Sun on April 4, where it will be easily visible in both the evening and morning skies. Look for it about 12 degrees above the northwestern horizon an hour after sundown and in the northeast an hour before sunrise. During this time the Moon will be causing some interference for morning viewing but the evening hours should provide the best views. The comet should still be close to its peak brightness and heading away from the Sun toward Earth. On the evening of March 30, the comet will pass less than two-tenths of a degree from the second magnitude star Mirach, in the constellation of Andromeda. Then on April 4 the comet passes within two degrees of the Great Andromeda Galaxy. Both should fit in a low power eyepiece or binocular field.

The latter part of April may be the best for us as it will be slowly passing through Cassieopeia and Draco and will be high in a dark sky.

This is one comet you do not want to miss. Just think you are looking at an object that last visited earth in 1661 and will not be seen again until it makes its way back in 2343.

So get out and view this wanderer from deep space anytime the weather permits and let me know what you think of this visitor.

That's it from my corner this month.


Cloudy Sky Astronomy:

by John Land

April showers bring May flowers, pollen and a lot of bees. If clouds or allergies are keeping you indoors, here are some books I recommend for reading.

Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel 1999 ISBN 0-8027-1343-2

This book is based on a series of letters written to Galileo by his oldest daughter, Marie Celeste. Marie and her sister were nuns in a cloistered convent. As a nine year old girl she must have shared with her father those first vision of the hidden universe through his marvelous telescopes. I recall many nights with my own oldest daughter counting meteors and peaking a faint wisps of Comet Halley. The book contains a treasure trove of personal insights into the brilliant mind of Galileo and chronicles his campaign to tear down the walls of Aristotelian philosophy and pseudo science. Numerous reproductions of Galileo's drawings from his own observations illustrate the book. You also see the warm personal interaction of daughter preparing favorite foods and candies to be delivered along with personal notes encouraging her aging father to care for his health. You'll need to stack a couple of extra logs near the fireplace because you'll not want to put this book aside.

Longitude by Dava Sobel 1995 ISBN 0-8027-1312-2

In our day of GPS satellites that can virtually pinpoint our every step on the earth's surface, it's hard to believe that the bold explorers of the past had only the vaguest notion of their position as they conquered earth's vast oceans. Almost any school child can determine their latitude by measuring the altitude of Polaris or the shadow of the noonday sun. However longitude was another matter all together. How do you measure your position east or west while the planet itself spins at breakneck speed? The great fleets of Spanish Galleons found the new world by catching a westerly wind and sailing off into the sunset. They tried to gage the ship's speed by casting a rope into the sea and counting the knots as the rope reeled out behind the ship. They stayed their course sailing along a given latitude in hopes they would someday come upon their destination. For many a ship the shoreline would appear suddenly in the dead of night or the midst of a storm running it aground or sending it to the bottom. The loss of four ships and 2000 of Her Majesties finest sailors prompted the English parliament in 1714 to offer a prize of 20,000 to the person who could accurately fix a ship's longitude at sea. In the quest for this grand prize you'll met some famous names in astronomy such as Edmund Halley and the egotistic John Flamsteed. You'll also meet a humble clock maker , John Harrison, as he almost single handedly conquers the illusive forth dimension of time.

Parallax - The race to measure the cosmos by Alan W. Hirshfeld 2001 ISBN 0-7167-37111-6

This is my latest acquisition to my fireside collection having been left in my Christmas stocking. Although I haven't finished reading this book, I have already been intrigued by insights into the lives and thoughts of the ancients as they strove to understand the wanderings of the planets. I laughed at the eccentric Archimedes running through the streets naked from his bath crying "Eureka!" as he discovers how to solve the mystery of the King's crown. The book's forward promises kidnappings, swordplay bitter rivalry and boy plucked from a collapsed building to become one the foremost makers of telescopes and scientific instruments. Do you know who invented the "German Equatorial Mount" that have so masterfully tracked the stars for the last two centuries? Even though Kepler and Newton had firmly established the motion of the earth on a scientific basis, measuring the distance to the stars remained an almost insurmountable task for another 250 years. The mathematical among us will want to grab a calculator or dust off an old slide rule to share in this mastery of the universe.

Club Memberships


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For questions contact John Land< John Land e-mail >

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2002 Calendar of events

at TU
Mar 22
Apr 12 Apr 26
May 10 May 24


Astronomy Club of Tulsa, 918.688.MARS

President: Dennis Mishler

Vice President: Teresa Kincannon

Treasurer: Nick Pottorf

Assistant Treasurer: John Land

Secretary:Aaron Coyner

RMCC Observatory Manager: Gerry Andries

Observing Chairman: David Stine

Web Master: Tom McDonough

New Membership: Dennis Mishler