VBAS Calendar

April 2016
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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monte Sano State Park


Von Braun Astronomical Society

April 2016 Planetarium Shows

Written by Administrator

We Host a Public Planetarium Show Every Saturday that Begins at 7:30 PM

Earth & Moon Mosaic by Galileo Spacecraft/NASA/JPL/USGSThe Earth and the Moon - Saturdays, April 2 & 9

These Saturdays we will focus on Earth and Luna. Please join us and we believe you will learn at least one thing you didn't know about our home in the universe. This program will include several activities for children, so please bring the whole family! Presented by Gena Crook, VBAS Director of Education and Programs and Cole Buford, VBAS Student Director.

Mercury from MESSENGER's Wide Angle Camera/NASA

Mercury - Saturday, April 16

Known since ancient times, Mercury is the smallest planet and closest to the sun. We will study its history, surface, days/nights, and years. We will also try to pick out a good location for an astronaut vacation home. Presented by Tom Burleson, VBAS Director of Planning and Research.

Hubble and James Webb Space Telescopes - Saturday, April 23

The Hubble Space Telescope-one of the humanity’s most successful scientific creations will turn 26 on April 24th. For 26 years, it has been providing scientists and the public with spectacular images of deep space. Come learn about the Hubble and its successor James Webb Space Telescopes. Presented by Dr. Naveen Vetcha.

Mercury - Saturday, April 30

This year at VBAS we will be touring the solar system. For two Saturdays in April we will look at  Mercury and what we have learned about it from various spacecraft. This program will also prepare us for the Mercury transit of the sun that will occur next month. Presented by Roy Young, VBAS Planetarium Director.

Remember that if weather permits, there will be telescopes open for viewing.

Admission for Saturday Planetarium Shows:

Admission is $5 for Adults, $3 for Students, and free for children under 6, as well as VBAS members. Weather permitting, you will have the opportunity to look at some of the wonders of the universe through our telescopes following the planetarium program with the help of our experienced and knowledgeable observing crew.

For information about our Planetarium shows, as well as special group scheduling, and pricing, please contact our Planetarium Director,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or our Director of Education and Programs,  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


Monthly Society Meeting

The next VBAS Monthly Meeting will be held on Friday, April 15, at 7:30 p.m. at the VBAS Planetarium. All are welcome to join us for free pizza at 7 p.m.

This month VBAS welcomes Richard Hoover, who will tell us about his research in Astrobiology. Richard Hoover led the Astrobiology Group at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. He conducted research on microbial extremophiles, microfossils, and chemical biomarkers in Precambrian rocks and carbonaceous meteorites.

Mr. Hoover has collected meteorites and microbial extremophiles from Antarctica, and novel bacteria from glaciers and permafrost of Antarctica, Patagonia, Siberia and Alaska.

Richard Hoover is author/editor of 33 Volumes and 250 papers on Astrobiology, Extremophiles, Diatoms, Solar Physics, X-ray/EUV Optics and meteorites. Mr. Hoover’s work with the NATO Advanced Study Institute was published in the book, Perspectives in Astrobiology, in 2005.

Thank you,

Steve Patrick



A Brief VBAS History

Written by Al Reisz Sunday, 07 November 2010 20:45


In 1954 Huntsville High School student Sam Pruitt wrote a letter asking Dr. von Braun, then at Redstone Arsenal, to build an observatory for school children interested in astronomy. Von Braun didn’t hesitate in organizing his colleagues, students and others in the community to build our observatory on Monte Sano. Von Braun was our society’s first president [then known as the Rocket City Astronomical Association (RCAA)]. After his death we re-named our society in his honor. VBAS is an astronomical society for amateur and professional astronomers. VBAS is a special astronomical society in that our origins began with the citizens who fervently believed in space exploration before it began. In the early 1960s NASA scientists used the telescopes at VBAS to help select lunar landing sites for the Apollo program. VBAS history is storied with space exploration pioneers such as Oberth, von Braun, Stuhlinger, Swanson and Angele. Many of our members were involved in developing the Saturn V, the rocket that sent the Apollo astronauts to walk on and explore the Moon. Our planetarium has a shield of the Saturn V third stage fuel tank top half serving as our projection dome. VBAS is a society that provides the public with opportunities for telescopic viewing of the night sky. We have astronomy programs, star parties and astronomy related special events. Still true to our beginnings we continue to give presentations in astronomy and star tours to student and other groups. We welcome those of you with interests in exploring the stars to join us.

26 June 57 The Rocket City Astronomical Association (now the Von Braun Astronomical Society) put out the first edition of the locally edited Space Journal, a new magazine dealing with space travel and the astrosciences. The first issue was dedicated to Dr. Hermann Oberth, who is known as the

26 June 57 The Rocket City Astronomical Association (now the Von Braun Astronomical Society) put out the first edition of the locally edited Space Journal, a new magazine dealing with space travel and the astrosciences. The first issue was dedicated to Dr. Hermann Oberth, who is known as the "father of astronautics." Left to right: Dr. Hermann Oberth, Dr. Wernher von Braun, RCAA (VBAS) President, and Dr. Ernst Stuhlinger.

VBAS is the second observatory that Wernher von Braun was instrumental in building. As a student at the Lietz boys high school that he attended in Berlin, at the school’s North Sea campus on the island Spiekeroog, he influenced the school to buy a telescope and build a small observatory in 1927. He selected a reflector with a 95-mm objective lens.

Al Reisz,



M51 The "Whirlpool" Galaxy

Written by Administrator

This is one of the latest images we have taken with the Sims SBIG camera. It is of M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy located in the constellation Canes Venatici, just off the last star in the tail of the Big Dipper. The image was taken on April 12, 2013 through our 6 inch Astrophysics StarFire apochromatic refractor on an Orion Atlas mount and was made by stacking multiple exposures taken through different filters in order to achieve the color image.  The smaller object (at the bottom of M51, in this picture) is its companion galaxy, NGC 5195. Jeff Delmas, Frank Schenck, Jared Cassidy, and Doug Horacek were the observing crew that acquired the image.

M51 Color image with 6 inch StarFire Refractor


First Light of the Richard Sims SBIG Camera

Written by Administrator Saturday, 23 June 2012 12:33

The night of June 22, 2012, brought "first light" to our new digital astronomical camera, which was made possible, thanks in part, from a donation by Terri Sims in memory of her husband Richard Sims.  Our new camera is a SBIG model STF-8300M, with St-i Autoguider/Planetary Camera, and FW8 Filter Wheel.  This is a monochrome camera, which uses filters and multiple images stacked together to achieve a color image, this allows all available pixels to be used for making the image and provides better resolution than single-shot color cameras.  M57 The Ring Nebula located in the constellation Lyra

Our plan is to use this on the Swanson 21 inch telescope and other society scopes to show the wonders of the universe to the public and make contributions in astronomical research.


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