VBAS Calendar

April 2017
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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monte Sano State Park


Von Braun Astronomical Society

April 2017 Planetarium Shows

We Host a Public Planetarium Show Every Saturday in the Wernher von Braun Planetarium that Begins at 7:30 PM

Zodiac/NASAConstellations of the Zodiac - Saturdays, April 1 & 29 at 7:30 PM

As the Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun our night sky constantly changes. The ancient peoples knew this because they studied the sky night after night and watched it change. They also observed that the planets and the sun stay tightly bound to a great circle in the sky -- we call it the ecliptic. This planetarium program will help you understand how this works and give you an appreciation for the mechanics of the heavens. Presented by Gena Crook, VBAS Director of Education and Programs.

The Calendar - Saturday, April 8 at 7:30 PM Pope Gregory XIII

Why does Easter fall on a different date each year? Join us at the Von Braun Planetarium to discover the relationship between the Full Moon, the Vernal Equinox, and the date of Easter and how our calendar has changed over the years to reflect our better understanding of the Earth’s motion around the Sun. Presented by Roy Young, VBAS Planetarium Director.

Are You Ready for the Great 2017 Eclipse? - Saturday, April 15 at 7:30 PM

Total Solar Eclipse/NASA

On August 21, 2017, there will be a solar eclipse visible across most of the continental United States. Schools in the past have kept students indoors to avoid the possibility of the them looking at the sun. VBAS wants to encourage the schools and the public to get out and experience this wonder.

The purpose of this presentation is to prepare everyone. Presented by Gena Crook, VBAS Director of Education and Programs, and will answer the following questions:

How to safely view the eclipse? Why eclipses occur? Where will the shadow fall? What could the weather be like? What will the eclipse be like in Huntsville?

This presentation will not be a dry lecture format but will include audience participation in explaining many parts of the eclipse. Plus the presenter will share some fun ways to view the eclipse.

During this year, VBAS will be offering this presentation to local schools as a teacher workshop.

Hubble Space Telescope/NASAThe Hubble Space Telescope - Saturday, April 22 at 7:30 PM

The Hubble Space Telescope-one of the humanity's most successful scientific creations will turn 27 on April 24th. For 27 years, it has been providing scientists and the public with spectacular images of most distant stars and galaxies as well as planets in our solar system. Come learn about Hubble Space Telescope and its amazing discoveries. Presented by Dr. Naveen Vetcha, VBAS Past-President and Outreach Coordinator.

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

If you have your own telescope, feel free to set it up after the show. If you need some assistance with setting up or operation your telescope, our ever helpful observing crew will try to help you  so that you can better enjoy the night sky.

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 .


Messier Marathon #2 - Friday, April 28

Written by Administrator

Our Resident Astronomer, Doug Horcek, has planned a Messier Marathon on the VBAS observing field. This a fun event with focus on trying to locate as many of the objects in Charles Messier's famous catalog of 110 deep sky objects. The Messier objects are among the brightest deep sky objects, so even with a meager telescope one has a decent chance of spotting many of the objects. This is also a great opportunity to get to look through many different telescopes. Set up of telescopes will start around 5:00 PM with observing to follow once it begins to get dark.

Backup day for clouds/rain is May 26.


Monthly Society Meeting

The next VBAS Monthly Meeting is Friday, April 21 at 7:30 PM. Join us for pizza at 7:00 PM.

Our speaker for this month's meeting will be Dr. Jessica Gaskin of the NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center Astronomy Group and the title of her presentation is:

The Lynx X-ray Mission Concept: The 2030 Challenge


Lynx is the next great X-ray observatory. Following on the heels of the Great Chandra X-ray Observatory (http://chandra.harvard.edu/), Lynx will have orders of magnitude improvement in sensitivity and will bring unprecedented spectroscopic capability to the table. Lynx will allow astronomers to gain a fundamental understanding of the formation and evolution of galaxies, the creation and local interactions of the first black holes (black hole seeds), the evolution of the cosmic structure, and the stars that make up our universe. Lynx is currently in its concept phase and will be one of a few mission concepts presented to the 2020 Astrophysics Decadal Survey Committee for prioritization. The Lynx concept development is led by the NASA HQ appointed Lynx Science and Technology Definition Team (STDT) who is tasked with developing a comprehensive science case and mission concept, with a launch in the 2030s. The Lynx STDT is supported by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center Study Office in partnership with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.


Dr. Gaskin currently works in the NASA MSFC Astronomy Group and is the HQ-appointed Study-Scientist for the Lynx (formerly X-Ray Surveyor) Large Mission Concept Study. Dr. Gaskin is responsible for supporting the concept development and acts as an interface between the community, HQ, Program Office, and the STDT. The majority of Dr. Gaskin’s career, over a decade, has been in the design, development, and implementation of instrumentation for high-energy astrophysics for both large- and small-scale payloads. She is currently PI for the High Energy Replicated Optics to Explore the Sun (HEROES) payload and for the development of a miniaturized scanning electron microscope for Mars. Dr. Gaskin is Associate Editor for the Journal of Astronomical Instrumentation (JAI), World Scientific, and a member of NASA Balloon Working Group to advise HQ on the program. She actively participates on NASA review panels and enjoys supporting NASA-community service efforts. In addition, Dr. Gaskin enjoys mentoring students of every age. She has overseen numerous NASA Academy and Robotics Academy students, mentored an Undergraduate Research Instrument Program (USIP) team, and has volunteered her time as Science Olympiad and Science Fair judge. Dr. Gaskin is and has been advisor to multiple Ph.D. students and has spoken at middle schools and to large groups of students, often with a focus on women in STEM fields.

Tom Burleson, Jr.



Tennessee Spring Star Party 2017 - May 26-28

Written by Administrator Wednesday, 22 March 2017 09:40

The Astronomy in the Parks Society, Cumberland Astronomical Society, Dyer Observatory and Fall Creek Falls State Park will be hosting the Tennessee Spring Star Party 2017 on May 26-28 at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Pikeville, Tennessee.

As in the past, TSSP 2017 is free to attend and registration is not required. All are welcome to attend and are responsible for their food and lodging. Fall Creek Falls is offering a star party package for those wishing to stay at the inn. Campsites are also available.

Call 1-800-250-8610 for reservations. Ask for the star party package for rooms at the inn.

There will be all night observing Friday and Saturday night on the observing field (observers are permitted to nap in their vehicles, but camping on the observing field is not permitted). There will be a hospitality/warming tent on the observing field with warm beverages and snacks provided.

There will be public viewing Friday and Saturday nights, 7:00-10:00pm

During the day on Saturday there will be free programs offered in the Cascade Room.

There will be vendors set up in the lobby at the inn as well as a swap table.




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,


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