The Meteor

The Newsletter of the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt

  Jan./Feb./March 2012

  1. The Meteor is the official publication of the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt, Greenbelt, MD. Articles & other contributions are welcome. 
  2. Membership in the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt is open to anyone interested in astronomy. The Astronomical Society of Greenbelt is a not-for-profit community-based organization with the goal of encouraging public interest in science & education in general, astronomy in particular. More detailed information on our club's activities & organization can be found elsewhere at our website.
  3. The editor of this newsletter, Cleton Henry, can be contacted at cleton.henry AT Unless specified otherwise, all items in this newsletter were written by the editor.

Editor's Notes

This is an abridged version of The Meteor for the first quarter of 2012. Please keep sending your comments and articles! Craig Levin is working on the newsletter again for a while.

Elected officers for 2011-2012



Email Address


Martha Gay AT


Ray Stevens

stvns.jacht AT


Cleton Henry

Cleton.Henry AT


Sue Bassett

wb3enm AT

Astronomical Events Around Greenbelt in March 2012










Planetarium show at the Owens



Star Party @Northway

7 PM


Sidewalk Astronomy at Roosevelt Center







Encore of the planetarium show at the Owens










Star Party @Northway

7 PM







Science Myth Busters Family Event at the Owens 








General Meeting at the Owens




Star Party @Northway

7 PM

Star Party & Meeting Reports

In January the weather was generally more favorable for viewing than in December, but details on all activities were not available at time of publishing. 

On Jan 28: We had a good attendance at the observatory. Several families came by and got the chance to view Venus, the Moon, and Jupiter. The clouds did their job and blocked us out for awhile. One visitor spent some time with Doug in the Observatory and left just before Jupiter came back. We closed at 10 pm because it was becoming really chilly.

Feb. 13: Officer’s meeting: Plans for the meeting on the 23rd were finalized.

Observatory: Replacement pins to hold the light rope have been obtained.

Sue: Gave Rosalie payment for generator. Send in dues to Sue!

Feb. 23: General Meeting: Our general meeting this month was a commemoration of the establishment of Greenbelt in 1937. The meeting was composed of a series of presentations about some aspect of the sciences in 1937:

  1. Ray opened with a welcome, in which he recalled his experiences with Howard Owens, the man for whom the Owens Science Center is named.
  2. Craig gave an overview of American rocketry efforts in 1937.
  3. Doug & Elizabeth put on a planetarium show highlighting the stars that are 75 light years away, so their light would’ve started on its way when Greenbelt was established.
  4. A short science film on the cosmos from 1937, including a scene reminiscent of the Eames’ “Powers of Ten”.
  5. Martha gave a talk on the discovery of neutrons & fission.
  6. Cleton talked about the building of Palomar Observatory.
  7. Sue talked about the birth of radio astronomy.
  8. Doug talked about the discovery of Hermes, the first near-Earth object.
  9. Wayne talked about the Boss Catalogue, one of the earliest modern star catalogues.
  10. Doug also talked about how Stalin’s purges affected the Soviet scientific community.

Feb. 25: Star Party: Doug’s recounting of the event:

I didn't get out to the observatory until 6.
We had a good night.  Needed a jump to close the dome.
I brought the batteries home to charge.
Brian's dob showed us the "37" cluster he couldn't find in the 14".  
It was 37 F at the time.  Someone said it changes to show the current temperature.

One slight problem.  On the last trip down the ladder, I grabbed the diversity sign
and fell a foot.
There's glass all over.  We should replace the glass with plastic.

I got the light ropes hung with new hooks.

Feb. 26: Sidewalk Astronomy: No report

A Word from the Astronomical League Correspondent

Hello! While I have stepped down from being the secretary, I intend to be active in the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt as the Astronomical League Correspondent , or ALCor, our society's representative to the Astronomical League. The Astronomical League (, or AL for short, is the organization on the national level for amateur astronomy. The AL produces a quarterly, called The Reflector, which contains articles describing its activities, major programs of its affiliates (like us), & issues of importance to the astronomical community, such as science literacy & dark sky advocacy. The AL posts a newsletter, which can be read at: The AL’s nationwide convention, ALCon, will be held in Chicago this summer.

The AL also has observing clubs, such as the binoculars Messier club. These clubs have ranks, usually based on the number of objects one observed or number of events in which one participated. These clubs are a way to become a skilled observer. I can help you get in touch with the people who run the observing clubs & I will help you reach the clubs’ milestones.

I also act as our representative in the regional AL meeting. Our region is the Mid-East region, covering NY, NJ, DE, MD, DC, VA, & WV. The regional meetings allow the clubs to share lessons learned & plan joint conventions & star parties.

By Mr AG - Ali Gurbuz, Principal of Chesapeake Math & IT Academy Charter School

Chesapeake Math & IT Academy Public Charter School (CMIT)* is organizing an annual science and

engineering fair on March 10, 2012. CMIT is a brand new school and was modeled after its sister school

Chesapeake Science Point (CSP) in Anne Arundel County. Since its start-up in 2005, hundreds of CSP

students have won numerous prizes, many of which are at national level, along with a few international

accomplishments. A CSP 9th grader was recognized by President Obama on October 18, 2010 for his

accomplishment at a global competition and this summer another CSP student became a finalist in the

2011 Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge for students in fifth through eight grades. In

an effort to have similar and even better accomplishments, CMIT is providing STEM Fair opportunity to

its students.

This year, CMIT will have the 1st Annual Science Fair at University of Maryland, College Park. We are

grateful to the University of Maryland, who is serving as a sponsor, by allowing us to use their location

at a reduced to free cost. We will be greatly honored to have you as a category judge at this event.

Judges are kindly asked to arrive at the facility at 7:30am and judging will continue until 12:30pm.

Lunch will be served to judges at 12:30pm and the award ceremony will take place between 2:00pm and

3:30pm for all students.

To confirm your attendance or to obtain additional information, please contact me at 301-350-6052 or

sciencefair AT I hope you will be able to join us as we provoke young minds into

thinking critically and provocatively about science. If you decide to attend, please return the attached

form at your convenience.

B&A Trail Planet Walk: April 14, 2012

Dr. James Lochner, the organizer of the annual B&A Trail Planet Walk, is looking for docents along the trail who can talk about the 8 major planets & other targets of interest. If you’d like to help science literacy in Anne Arundel County, please contact him at: james.c.lochner AT

Elizabeth & I have participated in the walk for several years now, & it’s always been fun.

Great Moon & Venus Conjunction, and Starry Skies 

by G.W. Gliba

On Saturday February 25/26, Lynne and I went up to our cabin at Mountain Meadows, West Virginia to do some stargazing. Our main target was the lovely predicted conjunction of the Moon and Venus, which provided an opportunity to see Venus in the daytime with the naked-eye, as the Moon was only 4 degrees away. It was partly cloudy, and windy and cold, but we were able to see it and the Moon just before the sunset. When it finally cleared up it was actually easy to see.  Both Lynne and I had no trouble seeing it naked-eye.

We were both a bit anxious when we first got there on late Saturday afternoon, as it was snowing pretty hard. However, it was a beautiful snow flurry, that blew and fell from north to south, as we looking out our back, eastern facing, sliding glass door windows from the warm cabin, after I got a good fire going in the fireplace. The Venus-Moon pair made a nice isosceles triangle with the mightly planet Jupiter, about 20 degrees away. It was also nice in the 12x63 binoculars, but the best view was with the naked-eye. When it got dark it was still partly cloudy and windy; so I had to observe the stars through the few available sucker holes. Later, after 2:15 am EDT it cleared up completely, and I was able to do some formal meteor observing.

While star gazing through sucker holes when it got dark, when I was sweeping with the 12x63 binoculars I  was able to observe M42, the Orion Nebula, which was as large as the Moon, and showed a hint of red and green color. I also saw M43, and the open star clusters M36, M37, M35, M44, M67, M41, and M93 along the Winter Milky Way, While looking at M41 just below Sirius, there was a nice 7th magnitude blue-white telescopic meteor seen that began and ended in the field, below and left of M41, which traveled about 1/2 a degree before burning up. It was the first meteor seen by me that night, and my first meteor of the New Year. It may not sound impressive, but it had the same appearance as a nice 2nd magnitude meteor would to the eyes alone.

Later, I was able to see the Pleiades and the Merope Nebula, and the Hyades in Taurus, as well as the  lovely Double Cluster & Stock 2, complete with the beautiful chain of stars connecting them. I also swept the Milky Way over to the constellation Cassiopiea, where I got a fine view of M103 with the 12x63 binoculars. While in this region, I dropped down to the north, where below the bowl of the Little Dipper, I was able to see Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd shining as a 7th magnitude fuzzball sporting a 5 arcminute head, short .25 degree ion tail, and a much shorter fan-shaped dust tail. I also looked at the comet with the 3-inch F/12.5 Zhumell refractor, but the view was better with the 12x63s.


It finally cleared up completely, so I was able to meteor observe from 2:28 to 4:28 am EST. I was able to see 29 meteors during this time, mostly sporadics, but five from the Antihelion Source, and a few meteors from a suspect radiant in Scorpius, and the Bootid Coronae Borialid Complex. The brightest meteor was of -1 magnitude and yellow, from the Anthelion area seen at 3:45 am EST, but the prettiest meteor was a lovely 0 magnitude, short trailed, yellow-orange sporadic that left a 3 second train, coming from Scorpius at 3:38 am EST. It was pretty cold, with the windchill near 0 degrees, and no critters were heard, but seeing those two meteors, along with an Iridium flare and a couple other satellites, and the starry sky made it worthwhile despite the cold.

Go Green, Light Pollution and Stargazing – What?

by Cleton Henry

For some go green enthusiasts, the focus tends to be on preserving the environment through an ever growing variety of earth-friendly practices. We are familiar with some of these such as self-sustainable solar energy and its related energy saving devices, wind power, hydro power, organic farming and the many other eco-friendly money savers.

But what about light pollution? Could this be a green solutions project? And what really is light pollution?

While Wikipedia defines this as excessive or obtrusive artificial light, I rather like the definition by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) –“ Any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste”. And there it is - energy waste makes it an excellent candidate for our go green solutions approach.

But where does stargazing come in?

Well, wherever there is light pollution or excessive artificial light, it obscures or blocks the stars in the night sky and interferes with astronomical observatories in the affected area. For those of us who like astronomy or who simply want to stargaze, this is a real problem. Don’t get me wrong; I am all for light and more light; I appreciate the need for security and so I say, let there be light. But, we need to find ways to preserve some areas free from light pollution so that we can better conduct dark sky research, learn, observe the heavenly bodies and see to further our understanding of this universe to which that we currently have access. Who knows? Maybe we will see the aliens before they get here. But seriously!!

Astronomy is very sensitive to light pollution. Put another way, stargazers viewing the night sky from the lighted city environs will have much less favorable experience than those persons who have dark skies.

What can we do about light pollution?

Politics and philosophy aside, we need to take some action.

Some folks argue that light pollution could be reduced by using light more efficiently –doing more with less. The challenge is not all people are the same way by light. One man’s pollution is another man’s illumination.

Some solutions to the problem of light pollution are simple and readily available.

  1. Unshielded streetlights can be replaced with fully-shielded, low-pressure sodium lights — which are the most energy efficient source of light currently available.
  2. Use lower wattage light bulbs.
  1. Replace some outside lights with motion sensor lights that only turn on when they're triggered. Don't use any lights when you don't specifically need them.
  2. Proper aiming of the lights is a sound way to decrease light pollution.
  3. Encourage your neighbors to take the same steps you did.
  4. Lobby with your local governing authorities to take some action. This also saves money since light pollution is a major contributor to high-cost, low-efficiency operations.
  5. Do whatever you can to cut back on light use, especially as night starts to fall.
  6. Use dimmer switches to help reduce the light output where appropriate.
  7. For late-night activities – bathroom or refrigerator - consider installing a red nightlight.
  8. Make sure your bedroom is dark enough. You will save money and get better rest.

This go green solutions list is not exhaustive. As you think about it you will find other things to add. Let’s go green and reduce light pollution for our night skies.