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A Grand New Holloway Comet Observatory

General NewsBack in action after a lightning strike destroyed all his original equipment in August 2006, AOAS astrophotographer Mike Holloway has upgraded his equipment and is now imaging comets, nebulae and galaxies better than ever.

A new Losmandy G-11 mount, carrying the new TeleVue NP-127is refractor tube and the SBIG camera are the new replacement components of Mike Holloway's private observatory located about 12 miles NW of Van Buren, AR.
You could only imagine how it felt if it had happened to you. Mike Holloway had to deal with a balking insurance agent, an obstinate high-end CCD imager manufacturing company, a VERY long waiting period for a replacement of his primary telescope, and the sheer frustration of watching thousands of dollars worth of fine instrumentaion turned into extremely beautiful paperweights. But, now that he's returning to full operation in his private Holloway Comet Observatory, he's finally happy once again.

Happy can be a relative term sometimes, but Mike really is happy again. Part of the reason for that is in how he had to deal with all the ins-and-outs of buying new equipment that would replace the fried refractor, mount and imager which were destroyed by a direct lightning strike on August 4, 2006. Anyone would be happy if you had the same equipment that Mike now has to work with on a regular basis.

Take the new refractor, now a TeleVue NP-127is, a 5" f/5.2 refractor that replaced the ridiculously backordered Takashi FSQ 106ED, a 4" refractor. As Mike told me on a recent visit to his observatory to grab some imaging pointers, "This thing is SOOO much better than that 4", I just can't believe it. I'm much happier with this one."

His other mount was the Losmandy G-8, which, like everything else, was totally lost to the forces of Mother Nature.
Comet C/2006 M4 Swan in this 7-image mosaic taken October 29, 2006 by Mike Holloway. This was one of Mike's first comet images after getting some of his equipment replaced. The telescope is his new TeleVue NP-127is on a Losmandy G-11 mount with an SBIG ST2000 camera.
He now has upgraded that to the Losmandy G-11, and again he's much more happy with this new mount as opposed to the G-8. "It's sturdier, smoother, and handles this new tube assembly with ease," said Mike. He feels the extra cost of the G-11 was almost cheap in comparison to the increased load capacity and greater overall compatibility with his other new components.

And then there is that expensive CCD camera from Finger Lakes Instruments that was virtually blown to bits from the energy released in the lightning strike. You'd think that after selling him one camera, the company would at the very least be willing to sell him another new identical camera for the price of the first one. Somehow, though, they didn't see it that way and Mike settled on buying a new SBIG ST-10XMEI, one of the most sensitive and sophisticated imaging CCD's in the marketplace. Yep....Mike's a happy, happy guy!

Click read more to see some deep-sky objects with ALL of Mike's new equipment in FULL use.
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Holloway Comet Observatory Struck by Lightning

General NewsYou're an amateur astronomer who has spent the last several years building up an observatory full of the finest, most exquisite set of equipment available on today's markets. You spend long hours chasing after comets, making a name for yourself for your persistence and imaging abilities, and one evening you put everything to bed and call it a night. There's a storm between this and the next time you enter your observatory, but when you do go back to it, everything is destroyed from a direct lightning strike.

On August 4, 2006, AOAS' own Mike Holloway lost his entire inventory of equipment at Holloway Comet Observatory to a direct lightning strike. While he may be down, he's not out, and we all wish him best of luck with returning to full operation as soon as possible.
Holloway Comet Observatory sits a few hundred feet away from Mike's home on AR Hwy 220 north of Van Buren near Uniontown. From the outside, you would not believe that everything inside was totally destroyed by a direct strike from a lightning bolt.

I was shocked, no pun intended, to hear last week about Mike Holloway's observatory being knocked off-line by a direct lightning strike in early August. I was asked last week by the local Farm Bureau Claims Adjuster agent John Driggers, to look at Mike's equipment and write a letter describing what I found for the official record. But what I saw when I got to Mike's home on August 23 made me absolutely sick to my stomach.

Mike and I disassembled his equipment and removed it to his home where we examined it all carefully. The Takahashi FSQ-106 Flourite refractor tube assembly had the dust cap on it when the storm that caused the destruction came up.
The dew shield on the $3,500 refractor tube assembly shows the brunt of the strike on the dew shield rim. The charge from the bolt caused sparks and metallic fragments to be blown into the inner glass of the quadruplet lens and literally melted into the glass. The lens and entire tube assembly are trash.
The bolt apparently came through the very top of his fiberglass dome and then hit the end of the refractor perhaps 24" below the dome. The only outward evidence of the strike is a small hole in the dome's crown, about the size of your little finger.

As seen in the second image, the tube's dew shield was dented inwards, and the dust cap was dented outward and blown off by the strike. When the two were put back together, the gap between them showed damage from the intense heat from the bolt and was nearly an inch wide! To top that off, the interior of the tube assembly shows tiny BB's of molten metal welded into the glass from the electric charge passing through the aluminum tube parts. The whole assembly was sealed and there was another piece of glass at the rear.....and it, too, had the same damages and welded particles within that piece of glass. I've seen millions of tiny little BB's like I saw within this tube as a welder for more than 20 years, but I never saw them imbedded in fine glass lenses like this.

Click read more for more images and the rest of this heartbreaking story.
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AOAS to End "Stars in the Parks"

General NewsFor the past three years, AOAS has worked with the City of Ft Smith Parks Department as partners in their "Friends of the Park" program. According to the guidelines of the program, a participating partner agreed to perform some type of work or hold some public events in a regular manner in trade for free room rentals.

For our AOAS bi-monthly meetings held 6 times each year on the first Friday of even-numbered months, we agreed to hold public observing events at Carol Ann Cross Park that we called "Stars in the Parks" in exchange for our room rental fees. Our "Stars in the Parks" events seemed a perfect partnership with the Parks Department from our perspective, but regretably, these highly successful public events will come to an end after this year.

Visitors at the April 16, 2005 "Stars in the Parks" event catch a glimpse of Saturn through a large telescope. As many as 125 people attended that particular event, as at least 11 AOAS members with 8 telescopes helped share our universe with the general public for more than 3 hours.
In our first 19 years at the Creekmore Park facility, we had frequently found ourselves faced with one loud group or another on the opposite side of a partition between the Magnolia and Azalea Room. We would have a hard time hearing anything in our meeting while a room filled with screaming kid's at a child's birthday party competed with us on the other side of the partition.

We had moved our meetings to the River Parks Events Building in 2005, but earlier this year, the Parks Department asked us to move back to Creekmore Park and the problems we'd had there. Our members want to use this opportunity as an attempt to more closely associate AOAS with an educational facility, and we are currently working to finalize an agreement to meet at UA Fort Smith for the next 2 years or so.

We are working towards an eventual, long-term meeting location at the future NEW Van Buren Public Library after it's construction is finished in late 2007 or 2008. We hope to make many solid relationships with Van Buren Library, with the VB High School and with UA Fort Smith as well, which will keep us associated with education taking us far into the 21st Century.

The July 1st night of public viewing at Carol Ann Cross Park. These visitors had to stoop WAY over to catch a final quick glimpse of Saturn for the current 2006 observing season. This night saw about 35-40 visitors, with 8 AOAS members using 6 telescopes for approximately 2 hours.
The new short-term meeting location is being negotiated and will be announced officially as soon as the details are finalized.

We have also decided on "going mobile" in 2007 as we attempt to set up public observing nights in surrounding towns. We'll offer one or two public nights in the Ft Smith/Van Buren area, and a few more in outlying area towns. These public events have been too successful for us to drop them completely, but just as importantly, our members also want to continue the practice. We truly enjoy getting out to help people experience the universe our way. We're just looking for an educationally friendlier place to hold them.

And so, we ask everyone to watch your local town newspapers and if we come to your town next year, come out and enjoy the view with us. Let us share with you our little neighborhood of the Milky Way galaxy, and maybe even a few neighboring galaxies.

We'll also help all those folks who want to learn how to get the most out of a small telescope, and we offer regularly held summer classes in the "Basics of Astronomy" as well. We just may be setting up an event in your hometown and we hope to see you there!

Thanks everyone.....please come out and visit with us soon!


Bob Moody

President, AOAS

Caretaker, Coleman Observatory

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ArkLaTex Star Party - 2006

General NewsThe Red River Astronomy Club will host their Second Annual ArkLaTex Star Party beginning Sept. 21 - 24, 2006 near Nashville, Arkansas. Of course, the main attraction is the dark sky. This years presentations will include a Mission Specialist (name to be announced by AAS), a Cosmochemist, a presentation on the mysterious lights of Gurdon, Arkansas and a workshop on image processing by a panel of experts.

Rex's Astro Stuff will have a wide variety of accessories available for sale. We offer free camping, observing field power for laptops and scopes, a shower, T-shirts, swap meet, bottomless coffee pot, cocoa and snacks plus our now famous ArkLaTex give-away. Thris's BBQ will have a catering trailer on site. What has become the hallmark of the star party is the relaxed and friendly atmosphere. 4 days / 3 nights.

For details / registration: http://www.rrac.org
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AOAS Education Director's Road Sign Report

General News6/27/06

AFTER turning west from Ark Hwy 59 and Old Uniontown Road, this is the first of our Coleman Observatory signs that potential visitors will see at the intersection of Old Uniontown and Pine Hollow Rd..
I met with the Crawford County 911 sign crew yesterday in the morning. Thanks to them we put up 3 of the four Coleman Observatory road signs directing folks to our observing facility. The road crew was very helpful in meeting our needs for placing these signs where we wanted them. I am working with them on trying to get the fourth sign put up at State Hwy 59 & Old Union Town Rd. We cannot put anything up in the state right-of-way. Hopefully, we will be able to get special permission to place this on some private property where it may be easily seen on Hwy 59.

Another special thanks to the Crawford County 911 sign crew!

Chuck Larson

Click "read more" to see the other two installed signs.....
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No More Missed Visits

General News
Dr. Chuck Larson, AOAS Education Director, holds one of the four 8"-by-36" signs that will soon be mounted on county street signs on the way to Coleman Observatory.
AOAS Education Director, Dr. Chuck Larson, recently took the initiative to arrange with Crawford County Judge Jerry Williams to have permanent signs mounted on county intersections helping to direct visitors to Coleman Observatory. By the end of June, there will be signs for Coleman Observatory at every major intersection from 59 Hwy to Wildwood Rd., all because Chuck took the initiative to get it done.

For the last three years, I've been painting and re-painting signs to place at some of the intersections on the way to Coleman Observatory to help our visitors get here as easily as possible. Some of those signs have survived, and some have been destroyed and then re-displayed as soon as I could get to it.

But last week, Chuck Larson called me up with a real shocker.....he'd decided to ask his friend, Crawford County Judge Jerry Williams, if he would allow the placement of signs on county roads to direct visitors out to Coleman Observatory from Van Buren. To Chuck's surprise, Judge Williams not only agreed to the request, but offered up the metal signs themselves, AND a crew to install them.

Chuck then went to PAC Printing in Van Buren and asked about having lettering professionally placed on the metal signs. The signs themselves were metal and painted in a midnight blue color. The printer worked with Chuck to determine how best to create an attractive sign that would last a long time. They decided on using a contrasting yellow color to outline the letters. But instead of using yellow letters on the blue signs, they fabricated a yellow mask with the letters cut out of the yellow mask giving the impression of blue letters and a blue border being placed on a yellow background. An unusual and unique combination that gives a dramatic effect.

Judge Williams had also told Chuck that he would direct the 911 personnel to install the signs at all the major intersections where they needed to be. By next week (June 26-30) we will see the signs in place and I can't wait! These signs look so good, and they draw the eyes to them, and we should never again have to wonder about whether someone is having trouble finding us way out here on Wildwood Rd. I hope all AOAS members will thank Dr. Larson for taking this initiative. It's a really great thing that he's done here, and we'll be grateful to him for as long as these fabulous signs last, and beyond.

Thanks, Chuck....'ya did (REAL) good!

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David C. Grosvold Honored with 3rd Place in Astronomical League 2006 Webmaster Award

General News
AOAS' own David C. Grosvold, 3rd Place winner of the Astronomical League's Webmaster of the Year Award!
We are pleased to announce that AOAS webmaster Dave Grosvold has been selected by the Astronomical League as the 3rd Place winner of the 2006 Webmaster of the Year Award! Please join us in congratulating Dave on this prestigious award by sending your best wishes to him at webmaster@aoas.org!

Websites and their webmasters are one of the most important aspects of today's modern and active astronomy clubs and organizations. A well-done website has the ability to make its visitors sit up and take extra special notice by the way it is presented and maintained, and must also be easy to navigate through. We're all so proud of our AOAS website and of David Grosvold for his dedication and insight that has now been recognized as the 3rd Place winner for the 2006 Webmaster of the Year Award.

Dave began work on our website long before the majority of the members of AOAS were even aware that he was doing so. We had discussed needing a new website based on how our original website looked from the late 1990's. In over 3 years of operation, our old "geocities" site had garnered a mere 3300 (roughly) visits, although I did see a couple of notes left by folks from other countries in the visitors section. That made me somewhat proud to think that a person from Belgium would take the time to leave a short note congratulating us on how that website looked and for the info it contained. That was when I first realized the world-wide reach that the Internet provides.

Now, it seems funny to think back on that original site and compare it with what we have now. When Dave launched our new website on June 17-18, 2003, I was so excited when I first saw it. It looked great, had lots of potential for growth, and most importantly to me, it had the ability to allow ANYONE to contribute stories and articles to it for posting. It took into account that many folks might not have the ability to write html code, yet whatever was submitted would automatically show up as a polished and attractive submission. We welcomed (and still DO welcome) submissions from anyone, anywhere, on topics of interest to amateur astronomers everywhere.

Click read more for more information
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Mt. Magazine Grand Re-Opening.

General News
Jon Stone (green shirt) and Dale Hall (blue cap)attending to their telescopes for public viewing of the Sun at Mt Magazine State Park, May 20, 2006. CAAS member Wade Van Arsdale kneels to view the Sun. Photo by Bob Moody.
On Saturday, May 20, amateur astronomers from around the state of Arkansas gathered at Mt Magazine State Park to help with a portion of the activities for the Grand Re-Opening of the facility. Astronomers from Arkansas Oklahoma Astronomical Society joined others from Central Arkansas Astronomical Society, the Red River Astronomy Club, and even a few members of the Astronomy Club of Tulsa, and the Oklahoma City Astronomy Club to share the views of the Sun with the public. While there was only a short line of small spots near the Sun's leading limb, everyone was able to see them safely with 5 or 6 properly filtered telescopes.

NEVER attempt to view the Sun with ANY optical device unless proper SAFE solar filters are used. Instant, permanent eye damage may result!

Bob Moody, president of AOAS, gave a 45 minute long presentation on the Sun to an audience of about 18 people. Bob used images from the SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) website as well as a CD-ROM which is available FREE from the website to explain several solar phenomena. Topics were Coronal Mass Ejections (CME's), the Sun in different wavelengths of light, and the physical properties of sunspots. Everyone moved outside for the solar observing between 2:00 and 3:00pm.

Most of the amateur astronomers broke down round 3 o’clock and moved just down the road to the Horse Camp area to set up for the nighttime viewing that night. Even the public was invited to visit the area that evening until 10:00 to share the view with them. Currently the Horse Camp site doesn't have electrical outlets, but the Park plans to add them in the future. All amateur astronomers are encouraged to let the Park know that they are amateurs whenever you visit the park so that the Rangers will know just how many astronomers visit the park to observe. The more numbers of visiting astronomers there are, the more likely they'll make improvements in an astronomy-friendly way.

Mt Magazine State Park now has a new, state-of-the-art Lodge with 61 rooms for rent overlooking the Petit Jean River Valley to the south, along with an ultra-modern presentation area with multimedia projectors and high-speed Internet connections available for lectures. In addition, there are 13 individual cabins for rent with from 1 to 3 bedrooms available, and more cabins are planned for the future. There are also several hiking trails available from as little as 1 mile long and up to 34 miles in length. Hang gliders also enjoy an area set aside specifically for them to take to the skies safely, too.

We would like to thank the Mt Magazine Park Interpreter, Don Simons, for his help with the activities that day which made the entire day a great success.
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Mt Magazine and Amateur Astronomy

General NewsArkansas' highest point is Mt. Magazine at an altitude above sea level of 2,753 feet. With a new multi-million dollar lodge and cabins set to open (hopefully) on May 1st, and their Grand Re-Opening for the public on May 20th, amateur astronomers are working with the Park Rangers there to help make the park more astronomy-friendly for all! Visit their Mt Magazine website here for more information.

Arkansas' premier state park and lodge will open to the public on May 1st and the re-opening on May 20th. This image is from the front yard of Cabin 13 (soon to be re-numbered 14) This was a three-bedroom cabin where two or three amateurs might stay to share the costs.
It's a popular misconception, but you hear it all the time...."Mt Magazine is the highest point between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians". While there are several specific points on a map that are slightly higher between America's two major mountain ranges, Mt. Magazine is unique. It's the highest point in AR, its surrounded by natural beauty, and it's accessible to amateur astronomers who want a great observing site.

On February 16th, AOAS Education Director Dr. Chuck Larson and myself attended a meeting with Wade Van Arsdale of the Little Rock area. Wade is a member of the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society (CAAS) and serves the club on their board. We met to discuss how Mt Magazine might better be suited to cater to amateur astronomers. The meeting was very good and we heard some encouraging words from the Park Interpreter about how some upcoming improvements at the park might indeed be helpful to amateur astronomers. Their Park Interpreter, Don Simons, took us all around for a guided tour of the entire park specifically to talk about how amateur astronomy could be better enjoyed at the park. He also made the suggestion that we might want to attend their Grand Re-Opening set for May 20th. I suggested that we might use some telescopes to do a little solar observing right in front of the Visitor's Center that day and he liked the idea.
From left to right, Dr. Chuck Larson, Bob Moody, and Wade Van Arsdale.

The President of CAAS, Stacy Edwards, has started a YahooGroup! page to help all Arkansas amateur astronomers meet and discuss all things astronomical. This is an excellent idea, and I hope that if you are an amateur astronomer wanting to see more cooperation happen right here at home, then you should definitely join this group yourself. I've met some other amateurs in our immediate area, but there might be a couple of hundred or more in the entire state and we all can use this YahooGroups! site to organize some cooperative events here close to home. That'd be a good way to begin planning some type of state-wide effort at holding a large star party somewhere in the state. An alternative to that might be to help any events that are already planned to become bigger and better. The ArkLaTex star party at Nashville, AR would be one example. It wouldn't be beyond what several clubs could do together to host something that's 2-4 days in length and with numerous speakers and a large number of vendors. These are the types of things that can be accomplished with the new Arkansas_Astronomy YahooGroups! web page, and even more over time.

Click read more for more images and the rest of this story.

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Green Bank Star Quest III

General NewsI received an e-mail From Devin Matlick of the NRAO at Green Bank West Virginia recently. The e-mail announced the upcoming Green Bank Star Quest III event, whic is a three-day event combining Radio and Visual Astronomy. This sounds very exciting and could be one of the better choices this year. Check out the details in our Events Calendar!

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