The Meteor

The Newsletter of the Astronomical Society of Greenbelt

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

Editor's Notes

On Nov. 5, I will be admitted to Suburban Hospital for surgery on my aortic valve. While I have very good odds of surviving this operation, it will take me about a month to recover from it & return to activities of daily life. I don’t know how well I will be able to perform the duties of an officer during my convalescence. I will temporarily step down from my duties during the month of November. Cleton, as the secretary of the ASG, will step in.

(public domain from Wikimedia)

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 Nov. 2012










Family Science Night at the Owens Science Center  



Star Party at Northway















Planetarium show at the Owens  



Star Party at Northway



Sidewalk Astronomy in Roosevelt Center













General Meeting at the Owens 7:30


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

Star Party & Business Meeting Reports

10/1: Officers’ meeting: (Report from Martha): We've changed the date of the November officers' meeting to the second Monday (11/12). We reiterated that, due to there being 5 Thursdays in November, our meeting will be on the 29th. Thanksgiving, as always, is on the 4th Thursday (11/22).

10/6: Star Party: (Report from Doug): I showed up about 7, and Eric Zhang was there to photograph every event from opening to closing. We had 2 visitors that watched me carefully set the circles to find ε Lyrae,the Ring, and M31. We never did find the Dumbbell, but I told some stories about the Serbians that ran the YMCA camp observatory near Chicago, where they asked the sole Bosnian in the club to find the Dumbbell. After Messrs Chesnes and Whittington showed up, we gave up trying to find things in an increasingly humid sky.  We opened at 7 under clear skies, and closed at 9.

After we closed, we discussed some of the things we need to do this fall, and decided that we could have a maintenance day on Oct. 27, starting at 2.  We need to take everything out of the basement, clean and dry it, and put back whatever we decide to save.  Also, the observing floor has a lot of junk on it.  If we had more ladies helping run the observatory, I think the place would be kept better.

One of our visitors told us that we should grease the declination screw.  I got out the lithium grease, but we had folded the telescope down over the screw, so we couldn't get to it without opening up again.  We also have about 5 degrees of looseness in the declination drive, and have to use 1 of 2 marks 5 degrees apart for setting it, causing most of our setting circle problems.  We need to see if we can fix this.

We also discussed painting.  I think we could paint the flat insides of the slit flat black.

10/20: Star Party: (Report from Martha): When I got to the observatory a bit after 7 PM, it was very cloudy and no one was there. I opened up anyway and awhile later two people came, then went for dinner. They returned later. It was still cloudy, so they left, promising to return another time. Then two young women, accompanied by a girl perhaps 8 years old arrived. We chatted, while I tried to find the

Moon. It would appear, but by the time I released the clutches so I could move the scope it would be behind the clouds again. I finally did get it, they all admired the craters and left. By this time it was 8:45. I was just about ready to leave when a guy showed up with nice binoculars on a mount. Shortly thereafter three people arrived to look for meteors. One of them was really very knowledgeable and with some coaxing went into the observatory and found Albireo. He then embarked on a hunt for the Andromeda galaxy, but was thwarted by moonlight, skyglow, and some clouds moving in. Finally wrapped up a bit after 10.

10/25: General meeting: The first order of business was the determination of a quorum. Once it was determined that a quorum of the membership was at the Owens, the officers were re-elected by popular acclaim, & Craig & Cleton settled how they’d handle things while Craig would be recovering from his operation. After the re-election, Russ & Craig delivered “South Sea Skies”, a planetarium show on the constellations & navigational customs of the Pacific Islanders, which he originally presented in May before a general audience. After a Q&A session, the meeting concluded.

Orionid Maximum Seen from Northway Fields

by G.W. Gliba

On the morning of October 21st, it was nice and clear here in Greenbelt; so I decided to observe locally for an hour for a Wayne T. Hally Memorial Orionid Watch. Wayne was a well known and respected meteor observer from High Bridge, New Jersey who was a longtime contributor to the North American Meteor Network (NAMN). He recently passed away after a lengthy illness, and members of NAMN decided to honor him by dedicating their recent Orionid maximum meteor observations to him.

I saw fair Orion activity, but their brightness was less than a usual maximum I thought. Anyway under clear unobstructed skies, facing south from 4:01 AM to 5:01 AM EDT, I was able to observe 12 Orionids, three Taurids, two Leo Minorids, a couple Epsilon Geminids, and four sporadics, despite the light pollution. The average Orionid was about 2.6 magnitude, and there was only two that were of first magnitude. The nicest meteor was a nice 0 magnitude Epsilon Geminid, that had a yellow-orange color and a 4 second train, high up in the WNW at 4:40 AM.

Some observers complained that there were so few Orionids, but the trick to seeing significant numbers, besides having dark skies, is observing as late as possible. I prefer to observe meteors from the dark skies of West Virginia, but I have done a lot of meteor observing at Northway Fields over the past 33 years. Although the light pollution is getting worse at Northway Fields, as late as January 3, 2009, I saw 109 Quadrantid meteors and 19 others in only two hours from Northway Fields. Besides being well rested and having a lounge chair, the trick was being warm and observing into the twilight. The only major meteor shower this doesn't apply to is the Geminids in December.

M.39 in Cygnus, courtesy of Heidi Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF