SJAA Ephemeris December 2005 | SJAA Home | Contents | Previous | Next

December General Meeting

Milky Way Yurt Exhibit and Holiday Celebration

David Smith


Our December 17 general meeting exhibitor is Dr. Irwin Sobel. If you have done digital image processing, you may be acquainted with the Sobel edge detection operator, which Irwin devised. Irwin was enthused when he first saw Axel Mellinger's Milky Way Panorama on the net. (See ) Irwin thought that the panorama needed to be seen properly, in the round. So he contacted Axel, and received the whole unreduced data set, with permission to make a large display. He printed it on one continuous transparency, 3 feet wide by 24 feet long, backed it with a white diffusing sheet, and built it into the wall of a yurt. (A yurt is a cylindrical tent used by Mongolian nomads.) The ceiling and skirt are fairly light tight. When you enter and close up the entrance slit with Velcro, you see the Milky Way glowing all around you. About five people at a time may enter the yurt.

Also on display will be Irwin's original prototype, a light box backlighting a 4.5 inch by three foot wide Milky Way transparency. Posters on easels describe how Axel produced the images and spliced them together. Irwin will also speak on how the yurt came to be.

Just this year, Axel Mellinger's photos have been published as a star atlas in English! The book is called the "New Atlas of the Stars" put out by Firefly press. The SJAA will be putting a group order in for the Atlas. If you are interested in purchasing a copy, please email Mike Koop ( by December 5th with your order. The cost should be in the $35 - $40 range and will be available for pick up at the meeting.

As we are waiting our turn in the Milky Way Exhibit, we will be ringing in the holiday season with a Dessert Potluck. Bring your favorite dessert or appetizer to share. Last year we had many tasty "potluck" contributions. Contributions of food or drink are appreciated but not necessary. No alcohol, please.

We will again be running the "white elephant" gift drawing. To participate, please anonymously wrap (no name tag) an astronomical item of small value and/or large humor and bring it along. It can be a used item you no longer want, an inexpensive new item, and can be either useful or funny. We'll do the exchange as a "draw or steal" lottery, which is always great fun.

Happy Holidays to All!


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