VBAS Calendar

September 2014
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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Von Braun Astronomical Society

Astronomy Day 2014

Astronomy Day will be October 4, 2014 starting at 1:00 PM



This year's theme: Moon and Anniversaries of Sputnik, Luna 3, and SpaceShipOne/Xprize

Date Set for Saturday, October 4, 1-10 pm in Monte Sano State Park

Astronomy Day at VBASOn Saturday, October 4 from 1-10 pm, the Von Braun Astronomical Society will host its annual Astronomy Day at the VBAS facilities in Monte Sano State Park. Events will include family fun activities hosted by local science groups, planetarium shows and telescope observing (weather permitting). All activities are free and open to the public.

Outdoor hands-on activities from 1-5 pm will be offered by VBAS, as well as local science enthusiasts. In the past we have had representatives from HAL5 (National Space Society Huntsville Chapter), Sci-quest, and Lonnie Puterbaugh: Astronomy Van.

Short planetarium shows will allow guests to view the night sky indoors, while special solar telescopes outside will offer views of sunspots and solar flares. Visitors may tour both observatory facilities to hear stories about the construction and installation of the telescopes.

The Antarctic Search for Meteorites

Evening activities will kick off at 7:30 pm with a presentation indoors by our keynote speakers, Dr. Barbara Cohen and Dr. Robert Coker, who will present a program on "The Antarctic Search for Meteorites".

Starting shortly after dusk, Mark Poole from ExoAnalytic Solutions will be providing "What's Up There: A Live Exploration of Objects Orbiting Our Earth." Mr. Poole will demonstrate Space Situational Awareness technology with a 12'' motor driven telescope and the ExoAnalytic Space Operations Center (ESpOC) software. Guests will have the opportunity to request and view spacecraft and other objects in real-time.

Outdoor activities will include (TENTATIVELY): The Astronomy Channel, a mobile multimedia astronomy exhibit presented by Lonnie Puterbaugh of Nashville, TN, along with the following activities:

  • *Astrophotography
  • *Meteorites
  • *Solar Telescopes
  • *Suitcase Hybrid Rocket, Pin the Payload on International Space Station, and Make and Launch Your Own Paper Air Rocket presented by HAL5.
  • *Vacuum Jar hands on experiments
  • *Spectroscopy
  • *Astronomy Van
  • *Food Tent
  • *Telescope Workshop at 5:30 pm (Bring your telescope!)
  • *And many more

Afternoon Mini-Planetarium Show Schedule:

  • 1:30     TBA
  • 2:30     TBA
  • 3:30     TBA
  • 4:30     TBA
  • 5:30     TBA
  • 7:30 The Antarctic Search for Meteorites
  • 8:30 The Antarctic Search for Meteorites

In case of inclement weather, some activities may be modified or canceled.

Astronomy Day at VBAS is part of a nationwide series of Astronomy Day events promoted by the Astronomical League, a network of astronomy clubs throughout the United States.

The Von Braun Astronomical Society (VBAS) is an educational, scientific, nonpolitical and nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of interest in the descriptive and technical phases of astronomy and to encourage participation in observational, computational and applied phases of this and related sciences.

VBAS was founded in 1954 as the Rocket City Astronomical Association (RCAA) by Dr. Wernher von Braun and other Huntsville scientists, who envisioned a place to conduct meaningful scientific research and share astronomy with the community. The VBAS facilities include a planetarium dome constructed from Saturn V support hardware and many other unique architectural features.

If you are interested to exhibit or volunteer, please contact us!


Monthly Society Meeting

Written by Jared Cassidy

The next VBAS Monthly Society Meeting will occur Friday, Oct. 17 at 7:30 PM. Pizza at 7:00 PM!

October's Program: "You Can Almost Touch the Stars" (a live webinar)

Even if you wanted to touch a star, they’re impossibly distant. Despite these great distances, researchers have learned a great deal about quite a few stars. How? The most common method to study the stars is called spectroscopy, which is the art and science of analyzing the colorful rainbow spectrum produced by a prism-like device.

This talk, with lots of interesting examples, will show you what it’s all about and help you understand how spectroscopy is used in research. And, it will show you how to get started.

Until recently, spectroscopy was too expensive and too complicated for all but a handful of amateurs. Today, though, new tools make spectroscopy accessible to almost all of us. You no longer need a PhD, dark skies, long exposures, enormous aperture … or a big budget! With your current telescope and FITS camera (or a simple web cam or even a DSLR without a telescope) you can now easily study the stars yourself. Wouldn’t you like to detect the atmosphere on Neptune or the red shift of a quasar right from your own backyard?

Tom FieldSpeaker Bio: Tom Field of Field Tested Systems and is a Contributing Editor at Sky & Telescope. Tom’s article on spectroscopy appeared in the August 2011 issue. He’s the author of the RSpec software (www.rspec-astro.com) which received their “Hot Product 2012” award last year. Tom is a popular speaker who has spoken at many different venues, including NEAF, the NEAF Imaging Conference, PATS, the Winter Star Party, the Advanced Imaging Conference, SCAE, and others. His enthusiastic style is lively and engaging. He promises to open the door for you to this fascinating field! For questions, email Tom at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Jared Cassidy


September 2014 Planetarium Shows

Written by Administrator

Our Public Planetarium Shows Begin at 7:30 PM

Aurora Borealis by Frederic Edwin ChurchAurora - Saturdays, September, 6, 13, & 27 at 7:30 PM  

Come learn about this spectacular phenomenon created by the interaction of the solar wind from the Sun and Earth's magnetic field. Presented by: James Brelsford

Fall Skies - Saturday, September 20 at 7:30 PM

As summer begins to come to a close, it is time to take a look at what wonders the fall skies will give us. Presented by: Brenda Rogers

See you there!

Telescopes will be open after the programs.  (Weather permitting) All programs are open to the public.

Admission for Saturday Night Programs:

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 our telescopes following the planetarium program with the help of our experienced and knowledgeable observing crew.


A Brief VBAS History

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


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 that was ordered from a Berlin manufacturer. The observatory was a “hut” with a removable roof. It didn’t survive WWII but the telescope tube and wooden tripod stand did and are in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin today. 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



Youth and Adult Observing Night - Friday, November 7

Written by Administrator

On Friday evening November 7, 2014, there will be a Youth and Adult Observing Night at 7:30 P.M. CDT, a Planetarium Presentation entitled Soap Opera in the Sky will start the evening off. Both Youth and Adult observers are invited to bring their telescopes and observe afterward. We will have a view of the constellations for that evening in the Planetarium and outside the Planetarium (weather permitting). The Resident Astronomer Doug Horacek will present the program. Call Doug Horacek at 256-772-6788 for more information.


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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