ASG Logo The Astronomical Society of Greenwich link to The Bruce Museum
The Bruce Museum, Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT 06830 (203) 869-6786, Ext. 338

Astronomical Society of Greenwich info


Astronomical Society of Greenwich

Bruce Museum of Arts & Science
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT 06830
(203) 869-6786, Ext. 338

March 2000

Monthly Meeting

Wednesday, March 1 - Bruce Museum ? 7:30 PM

Telescope Workshop

Bring your scopes and we'll help you figure out how to use them. Or, demonstrate your scope for others. This will be an informal, hands-on presentation ? come and bring a friend!

Bowman Observatory Public Nights
(Weather Permitting)

March 14 & 28 ? 7-9 PM
April 11 & 25 ? 8-10 PM
May 9 & 23 ? 8:30-10:30 PM

Lunacy March

Moon Face and Stars Image

2 - Moon in conjunction with Neptune

3 - Moon in conjunction with Venus and Uranus

6 - New moon

8 - Moon in conjunction with Mars

9 - Moon in conjunction with Jupiter

10 - Moon in conjunction with Saturn

13 - First quarter moon

14 - Moon is at perigee (229,617 miles from Earth)

19 - Full moon - "Worm Moon"

27 - Last quarter Moon is at apogee (251,138 miles from Earth)

30 - Moon in conjunction with Neptune

31 - Moon in conjunction with Uranus

News of the Worlds

Mercury is at inferior conjunction (passing in front of the Sun) on March 1, joining Venus in the morning sky on the 14th. Unfortunately, they will be low, making viewing challenging. Mercury reaches its greatest elongation (28° west of the Sun) on the 28th.

Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn start the month spread out across the evening sky, with the crescent Moon passing the whole array between the 7th and 11th (see above). They end up only 9° apart on the 31st. On that evening, Mars sets at about 8:25, followed by Jupiter at 8:35 and Saturn around 9:00 PM.

Vernal Equinox occurs March 20 at 2:35 AM EST.

News Notes

· Our February meeting was well-attended in spite of messy weather. Among the audience for Rick Bria's demonstration of computer astrophotography were a number of Boy Scouts and their parents.

· Astronomy Day was a great success with almost 200 people attending, with the Starlab Planetarium filled to capacity for six half-hour shows. Assisted by Bruce Museum education staff members Robin Garr and Blythin Leggett, kids made Constellation Tubes in the workshop. For the Lecture Gallery, Anne Burns brought posters, books, and magazines. Linda Ross showed some of her small paintings of constellations, which were much admired by visitors. Rick Bria and his two daughters, Amanda and Regina, displayed a small refractor telescope as well as the computer from the observatory with his photographs of the planets. ASG members Ken Greenberg, Charlie Adams, and Paul and Mary Mitchell were also in evidence. Apologies if I've forgotten anyone; it was crowded.)

Visitors were also encouraged to visit the Museum's exhibitions on time, which contain many items of astronomical interest. (If you haven't seen it yet, don't delay ? The Art of Time closes March 19, and Marking Time April 2.)

· Walter and Cynthia Slack e-mailed from Tahiti (obviously, they had a good excuse for missing Astronomy Day). They saw the Southern Cross but hadn't yet spotted the Magellanic Clouds which were washed out by the full Moon. They also report that the Man in the Moon is upside down!

· We note with sadness the passing - in late January, after a long illness - of Ken Garrity, a longtime member of the ASG who was instrumental in starting the club as well as refurbishing and reopening the Bowman Observatory. Ken also volunteered at the Bruce Museum where he demonstrated and explained the Marine Touch Tank to many visitors of all ages.

Astronomical Digest, continued

Last month's report on the Old Farmer's Almanac article on the millennium drew a comment from member Frank Morehouse: "If the Venerable Bede had inserted a year Zero between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., 1 B.C. would be two years before Christ. Absolute nonsense. The confusion over when the new Millennium really starts is caused by greedy merchants who can't wait 1000 years to sell their trinkets."

Since this is probably the first "letter to the editor" we've ever had, I obtained Frank's permission to publish it and make an editorial reply.

Regarding the merchants and their trinkets: I agree, especially since they only would have had to wait one year until the real millennium. (Even greedy merchants might be forgiven for not wanting to wait a thousand years to sell their inventory.)

Personally, I think all the hoopla about the year 2000 can be attributed to the "rollover factor" ? the fact that all four digits changed for the first time in a thousand years. There's nothing really wrong with getting excited about this ? if you keep your car long enough, it's a big event when all those nines turn into zeros!

Regarding Year Zero: I believe a case can be made for inserting a Year Zero between B.C. and A.D. On the day you're born you are considered to be zero years of age ? yet you've already existed in utero for the previous nine months. According to Luke's Gospel, Jesus' conception was as important an event as his birth (in fact, March 25, the feast of the Annunciation, was celebrated as New Year's Day in some European countries during the Middle Ages). So it would have been logical to have Zero A.D. as the year of gestation, with 1 A.D. beginning the day after his birth and ending on his first birthday.

However, since Venerable Bede used the Roman system of numbers, which had no zero - Arabic numerals didn't come into use in Europe until several centuries later - he really can't be faulted for not using it.

If anyone has any further thoughts on this, he/she is cordially invited to contribute to the debate ? and I will provide photocopies of the original article at our next meeting to anyone who's interested in reading it.

Finally, to reiterate what I said a few issues back, there's always room for improvement in this Newsletter, and all readers are cordially invited to contribute to it and make it better!

--Anne Burns