by Rex Parker, PhD, Director
Astro Auction – success! Members browsing the equipment on display at the Washington Crossing Park pavilion on Oct 18 could hardly believe the great prices and values offered! From 3”, 4”, and 6” refractors to 6”, 8”, and 10” reflectors, several good equatorial mounts and a variety of eyepieces. Almost all the items were sold and taken home. Through Astromart.com, we sold the classic red 6” Edmund Newtonian the next day – the buyer was thrilled and grateful. The only items remaining now are a few eyepieces and books which will be available at upcoming regular meetings. As result, we gained a lot of space at the Observatory where all the items were stored. I’d like to extend a big thank you to all AAAP’ers who participated in the auction, and especially thank Jim Poinsett for storing some of the equipment at his house for almost a year, and Gene Ramsey for running the eyepiece auction at the event. In all, the club Treasury gained over $2800 and put some excellent astro equipment into members’ hands.
Tour of USNO and Smithsonian Air and Space, Washington. Fourteen intrepid AAAP members and spouses travelled to Washington D.C. on November 2 for a special tour of the US Naval Observatory. Located not far from DuPont Circle, the USNO has a long history of serving the Navy and the nation’s astrometry needs (http://www.usno.navy.mil/USNO). Their mission is to determine the positions of celestial bodies, the motions of the earth, and precise time. USNO provides the astronomical and timing data required by the Navy, Air Force, and other parts of the DoD for navigation, precise positioning, and command, control and communications. They also make these data available to other government agencies and to the public — the essential basis for the GPS we’ve come to depend upon in our daily lives.
Among several telescopes on the premises are two Clark f/15 refractors, a 26-in and a 12-in (photo below) from the 1860s. The night was clear, so the 26” was in use and off-limits to us, but we did get to observe the double star Albireo through the 12”. We toured the main building (Richard Morris Hunt architect), which includes a circular library containing perhaps the most complete collection of astronomical titles anywhere in the US. On display were some valuable and very rare books including a 1500’s printing of Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (“On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”) and Newton’s 1700’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (“Principia”).
Earlier in the day some of us visited the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. That’s a picture of Ira and me next to the business end of an Apollo Saturn-V rocket! I’d like to thank Ira for arranging the USNO tour, on behalf of all who went on this fascinating field trip to Washington D.C.
Next Meeting at Peyton Hall (7:30 pm, Nov 10). Our tradition of interesting and inspiring speaker presentations continues this month with a talk by Paul Halpern. He is Professor of Physics at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and author of the book Einstein’s Dice and Schrodinger’s Cat. Check out the announcement by Program Chair Ira Polans here for more information.