The Meteor

The Newsletter of the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt

  May 2013

  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, Craig Levin, can be contacted at clevin AT Unless specified otherwise, all items in this newsletter were written by the editor.

Editor's Notes

It is with regret that I must report the loss of a good astronomer & a good friend: Doug Love. Doug was one of the founders of the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt (at the time, the Greenbelt Astronomy Club). He was also the club’s observatory director.

Your editor is embarking on an adventure: Moving! Elizabeth & I spent 17 years in our old place. It is time for us to make a change. We are moving to the Hyattsville Arts District. Our official move-in date is May 17. The lease at Belcrest Road will be over on Memorial Day. We’ll be busy through much of the month. Please bear with us.

Elected officers for 2012-2013



Email Address


Martha Gay

martylou AT


Ray Stevens

stvns.jacht AT


Cleton Henry

Cleton.Henry AT


Sue Bassett

wb3enm AT

Astronomical Events Around Greenbelt in May 2013











Family Science Night at the Owens Science Center

6 PM


Star Party at Northway Field

8:45 PM







Planetarium Show at the Owens Science Center

7 PM









Star Party at Northway Field

9 PM













General meeting at the Owens 7:30 PM


For other astronomical events in the DC area, see: Astronomy in DC

Star Party & Business Meeting Reports

4/1: Officers’ Meeting: 

Will we meet next time in Owens T3? Elizabeth will check this out. Martha will reserve room 114 at the GCC if it doesn’t appear to fit our needs. No. 114 is also reserved for our summer meetings. [Note: The general meeting took place in the planetarium after all.-ed.]

Should we do something special over the summer? Perhaps a daytime lead-in to a sidewalk astron. night. Solar observation w/solar cookies? Cratering activities with flour or some other materials?

Further activities this spring & summer-2 star parties this month & 2 this May. As Martha will be out of town in May & Doug’s in the hospital in a terrible state, we will be calling in aid from NCA & the GAC.

4/13: Star Party [from Cleton’s report]:

The evening turned out to be not so bad after all. There were a few clouds and a crescent moon.

Actually, we had quite a few visitors and a couple regulars. There were about 13 persons including 5 children. I opened the observatory and most persons wanted to see Jupiter. Jupiter was there and we identified 3 moons - although a few persons thought they saw 4 moons. Then the focus shifted to the [M]oon as it was quickly slipping below the trees. We were able to view the moon for a short while and then it was gone.

I decided to to close about 9:50 pm as some folks were leaving; then one of the kids declared that Saturn had just risen in the east and wanted to see it thru the scope. By this time, the scope was closed and the slit was back in place, so I weakly promised to let them view it next time.

In all the excitement, I forgot to get the visitors to sign the book. The batteries worked and seemed to have been fully charged. I left the site about 10:15 pm.

4/25: General Meeting:

Tim Livengood-GSFC/UMCP


Breathe in the Air: Surface-Atmosphere interactions on Mars & the Moon

Mars: CO2 infrared spectroscopy-is the isotopic ratio on Mars the same as Earth’s? Seems to be, but shouldn’t be. The heavier isotopes “freeze out” at night & are “steamed out” during the day, so the atmospheric ratios depend on when you look as well as where. Livengood’s team is using an Earthbound telescope (HIPWAC in HI) & is angling for some rover time.

Moon: Using an instrument on LRO looking for hydrogen (mostly H2O). Moon has hydrated minerals or minerals incorporating hydroxyl radicals. Mostly seen at terminator, so it’s fixed in space as the Moon spins beneath it. Looks like we can see about a yard underground.

Cosmic rays bounce neutrons out of the soil, Water can be detected when the avg. kinetic energy of the neutrons appears to drop, provided it’s distributed in the right way. Permanently shadowed regions at south pole have a certain amount, but it seems that the water molecules are moving.

EPOXI picked up a sign of hydroxyl in the IR spectrum. You can use this feature to do a coarse map of the water abundance-only useful in daylight. Neutrons can give you an all day perspective. Mare have few medium speed neutrons, but plenty of high energy neutrons, due to their iron content-iron nuclei are prone to spitting out neutrons because of their density.

Again, a day cycle where neutrons are abundant during the afternoon but rare at dawn-not driest at noon itself-could be a result of underground water percolating out & migrating toward the dawn terminator. The layer of ice is about a fifth of a mm thick. The original idea that it was clumps in the south pole may or may not be the case, but you could gather a thin amount of water for a lunar base using a special plate.

Origin of water unknown-could be outgassing, could be result of solar wind, could be remains of comets.

ASG Loses its Founding Member & Earth Friend

by G.W. Gliba

There is so much good that Doug Love did for the ASG, the City of Greenbelt, and society in general it is hard to mention it all. He was the founder or co-founder of several civic organizations in Greenbelt, and was an officer, and leader in them all. It many ways he was always involved with helping to increase peoples' appreciation of Nature, and the quest for world peace. He was a devout Christian, but he always saw the search for the divine in other religions by others as being good because they were just seekers of the truth. Whenever he got a chance he would show a child or adult the value, and beauty of the natural world, be it a tree, flower, geologically formation, or starry sky.  The world is a better place because he lived, and we were all lucky he was part of our community.

I knew Doug for over 30 years. When I moved to Maryland from Ohio in 1979, I became his friend early on in the early 80s. I didn't drive, but he was always glad to take me camping to several places in Maryland, including Rattlesnake Hill, near Cunningham Falls State Park. Originally, we wanted to go camping at the park but it was closed for the season as it was November 17th. Instead of aborting our camping trip, he asked a local farmer near the park if we could camp on his land by just going right up to his house and asking him if we could camp on his land to watch the stars. The farmer was nice and directed us to Rattlesnake Hill, where we spent the next two days and nights. While there, Doug encouraged me to watch for the Leonid Meteor Shower because I told him I was a meteor observer years ago when I was younger. He said that he too observed meteors when younger, but said we should do it still because it is important for amateurs to contribute their observations. Although we only saw a few Leonid meteors, I credit Doug with helping to get me back into visual meteor watching.

Doug took me camping to observe the stars at other places, like the Mason-Dixon Star Party in York, Pennsylvania, and the Stellafane Convention in Springfield, Vermont. He was always generous with helping by loaning his camping equipment, or sharing a camp meal he prepared. He was always willing to share. He did a lot of camping, and volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America, being a scout leader for 30 years. He often camped at the national Jamboree, where he would teach constellation recognition. He loved the natural world and was always a leader and teacher. He was a active Spelunker in his younger days, and was able to explorer many caves and new rooms never before seen. He got his MA degree in Geology, doing his thesis on the Geology of Caves and Caverns. He was also able to get several scientific articles published about his explorations.

In 1992, while a member of the Goddard Astronomy Club, when he worked at the NASA/GSFC, after a meeting, we decided that it was time to start an astronomy club in Greenbelt. We knew there was a need for another club so other that non-Goddard people could join another astronomy club. Also, because we were tired of saying no to local people who would often asked if they could join the GAC. So, in December 1992 Doug arranged and planned the first meeting of the Greenbelt Astronomy Club, which later became the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt, at the Greenbelt Public Library. Although I was fairly active being an officer for several years, I eventually became less involved, but Doug stayed active until of late when he couldn't. He not only was an active member the whole time, but an officer, and the first Director of the City of Greenbelt Observatory. Before the observatory was dedicated in 2009, for the International Year of Astronomy, he came to most ASG public star parties with his 6-inch F/8 newtonian reflector, that had a mirror that he ground by hand at the Adler Planetarium when he was a younger man living near Chicago many years before.

Doug was always interested in Geology, Astronomy, Theology, Politics, and Nature. He maintained his sense of wonder for Nature that most people naturally have as children, but loose when they become adults. He was always enthusiastic about astronomy. Just last month, after receiving his poor diagnosis about his medical condition, I asked him if he wanted to see Comet PanSTARRS and he became excited at the prospect of seeing it. I told him it may be a difficult to get to location with his walker, but that didn't stop him. He came anyway with the help of his good friend and fellow amateur naturalist Ray Stevens. When we got there, I pointed out where to look and handed him the binoculars. I watched him as he searched and he had a look of disappointment on his face because he initially didn't see it. A short time later he spotted it. I knew by his facial expression, which changed quickly. He had a big smile on his face, which said it all. For that moment, the sense of wonder had taken over his consciousness again and he was one with Nature. We will always miss him dearly, and are better Earthlings because we were lucky to know him.

Comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS, Summer Milky Way, and Lyrid Bolide

by G.W. Gliba

Lynne and I finally saw comet C/2011 L4 PanSTARRS together again on the morning of April 21st from our cabin at Mountain Meadows in Mathias, West Virginia. It was between alpha and beta Cassiopeia. It showed us a nice fan tail that was about 5 arcminutes long with our 25x100 binoculars. Later I was able to see it with 12X63 binoculars and with the naked-eye when the transparency reached LM=6.6 after moonset. The comet was about 6th magnitude. At that time fine structure was also seen in the Summer Milky Way, which was a grand spectacle. Several satellites and meteors were also seen in the early morning hours between scattered hazy periods.

I was able to get in two hours of formal meteor observing from just before moonset until after the beginning of astronomical twilight, from 3:18 to 5:18 am EDT. In that time I was able to see 31 meteors. The transparency varied from 5.5 to 6.6 limiting magnitude, but the average was LM=6.3 for that time period. There were several satellites seen the 2nd hour, including several flashers and Iridium flares. The Lyrid meteors were fairly active and 9 were seen, including a fabulous -5 Lyrid fireball with a yellow-blue-green color that fragmented and left a 22 second persistent train! It ended just a few degrees North of the 'Water Jar' in Aquarius. After fragmentation, the many pieces covered an area about the size of 1/4 of the moon (15 arcminutes). However, other than this exceptional fireball, the average brightness for the 8 other Lyrid meteors seen was only 3.0 magnitude. Also seen were a few other minor meteor shower meteors, including 6 Antihelions, 3 Nu Cygnids, and 1 Sigma Leonid. There were 12 sporadic meteors also seen with an average brightness of 3.5 magnitude.

The next night I was clouded out while back in Greenbelt, Maryland for the Lyrid maximum, but from southern Maryland top Maryland meteor observer Richard Taibi was able to observe from 3:49 to 5:15 am EDT (1 hour & 26 minutes). In that time period, from Bel Alton, Maryland, with an average of LM=4.9 due to haze and light pollution, he still was able to see 6 Lyrids. He saw three with negative magnitudes; -3, -2, and -1 respectively, along with 7 sporadics. So, despite the less than ideal conditions, which made him miss the fainter Lyrids, he saw more bright Lyrids than I did. Even though I saw that barn burner of a fireball, the rest of mine were rather faint. So, it pays to go out during the maximum even if you aren't on a mountaintop in West Virginia.

A Hubble picture of the Ring Nebula, courtesy of Great Images in NASA