The Central Bulge

From The Editors

Jane Houston

I've been a member of the SJAA for less than a year now, since May, 1998, in fact -- according to the mailing label on my Ephemeris. I'd like to tell you how I came to be a member. I had been reading these fantastic lunar postings on AOL's Astronomy Forum by an unknown (to me) amateur astronomer who called himself Timocharis. Timocharis is a nice little crater a third of the way between Erathosthenes and Plato, and it's best seen on the the eighth day, right after the first quarter moon. Being something of a lunatic myself, I enjoyed the writings of this Timocharis, and told him so. Turns out we had some mutual acquaintences. Soon I was reading the online Ephemeris and helping David with some logistics in getting John Dobson to speak to the SJAA in 1998. You can read all about that talk and the other adventures of the day in the May 1998 Ephemeris. I joined the club that night. A great newsletter and some great folks -- that's what drew me to the SJAA.

I was delighted to see so many telscopes out before the meetings, and to see the depth of experience and number of telescopes out for the public star parties at Houge Park, and the impressive school star party agenda. But I was just as impressed with the talented writing by club members in the Ephemeris. We are lucky to have so many talented observers who take the time to write for the rest of us.

I think Mojo and I will have alot of fun co-editing the Ephemeris, and I hope our only dilemma will be to have to decide which of the many submissions to include each month. For those other newer members, like me, please consider penning an article and submitting it. It's easy and your contributions will be most welcome! My special request goes out to some of our more youthful members. I'd love to have some kids write about their astronomical adventures. Finally, I'd like to give a great big "Thank You" to David for the great job he has done pulling together such an informative newsletter for the past couple years. It's the one part of the SJAA that touches every one of us!

Morris Jones

Elsewhere in this month's issue, Akkana Peck talks about an extraordinary December Saturday night at Fremont Peak State Park. If you're like me, you're asking, "Why don't I ever get nights like that?"

The interesting thing about that remarkable evening is that very few astronomers were actually at the park with their telescopes that night. The weather for the night looked early on like it might not be worth the trip.

I've come to learn that the "lucky" observers who happen upon the really great sessions are the ones who take the trouble to go out on those marginal nights. Sometimes you can foresee great conditions, but it's difficult to predict having just the right combinations of stable air and great transparency from reading the public weather forecasts. And even then, you know the track record the professional meteorologists have forecasting Bay Area weather.

The lucky observers make opportunities by going out more often!

After the glowing reports from that legendary December evening, I found it interesting to see Fremont Peak's southwest parking lot crammed to the gills for a third-quarter moon in January. The day looked promising, with a few high cirrus that might clear. But the night itself was mostly awful, about magnitude four transparency. Sirius looked kind of like the Eskimo Nebula.

The moral of the story is: go observing more often!


I just read Dave Kriege and Richard Berry's excellent book on The Dobsonian Telescope, and one piece of advice hit me really hard. "Don't sell your old telescope," they say. "Over the years we have listened to dozens of serious observers wish they once again had their old scopes."

Back in April of 1998, when I was a much younger man, I placed an order for an Astrosystems Telekit Dobsonian. In April the estimate was for about a three-month wait for the kit. Needing the cash to buy my telescope and mirror, and not having spent a lot of time lately with my workhorse Celestron 8", I found an eager newcomer and sold my telescope.

All I'm left with now is the joy and satisfaction of having passed an excellent observing instrument into the hands of a new observer (who may or may not even be using it). Three months have since turned into eight, and my kit may be arriving any day now. How I wish I had read that piece of advice back in May!

Clear skies!

Jane Houston and Morris Jones; last updated: 1999 Jan 18 Prev Next