SUMMER, 2001

News from the Morgan County Observatory Foundation (MCOF)

Summer Skies - Coming Events:

July 18 New Moon / Dark Sky
July 19 Rocket into Reading / County Library
July 20 Star Party at Warm Springs Middle School
August 2 Ground Breaking at Greenwood School
August 11 Star Show at the Ice House
August 17 Star Party at Warm Springs Middle School
August 18 New Moon / Dark Sky.
August 25 MCOF Booth at County Fair at Widmeyer School
September 14 Star Party at Warm Springs Middle School
September 16 New Moon / Dark Sky
October 6&7 MCOF booth at the Apple Butter Festival
October 12 Star Party at Warm Springs Middle School
October 16 New Moon / Dark Sky
October 24 The Mars Odyssey arrives at Mars

More information can come from:
Kevin Boles, President MCOF (
Dave Fye, The Sky Guy (
Jim Mattson, MCOF webmaster (


The summer sky offers many sights for the amateur, among them, MARS and the Perseid Meteor Shower.
The Perseid Meteor Shower .....radiates from the constellation Perseus and peaks on Aug 11th and 12th. These meteors are sometimes called the "Tears of St Lawrence". They dart with great swiftness across the sky, and are yellow in color. They are known to be traveling in the same orbit as that of Tuttle's Comet of 1862, and they are probably associated with it. The average number of meteors in this shower is about 70 per hour.

Remember, the best time to watch a meteor shower is after midnight. To watch the Perseids, look to the northeast. You don't need a telescope or even binoculars to view a meteor shower - - just your eyes. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness, look to the Northeast, and watch the show as silently the meteors streak across the sky, radiating from a point near Pi Perseus.

The planet MARS .... still shines brightly in the southern sky, but it will dim noticeably in the next month. The EARTH passed MARS in its orbit in early June at just 42 million miles distance - - the closest that the EARTH has been to MARS since 1988.

The Summer Triangle ... has three first magnitude stars that stand out in the Summer Sky: Deneb, in the constellation Cygnus; Vega in the constellation Lyra; and Altair in the constellation Aquila. The Summer Triangle will be overhead in August.

B Cygnus a double star in the constellation known as the Northern Cross. Albireo is considered by many to be the most beautiful double star in the sky. Its contrasting colors of gold and blue are striking.

M8 in Sagittarius .... The Lagoon Nebula . . is a diffuse cluster of stars in a cloud of nebulosity. A magnificent object, very bright and extremely large, M8 will be in the Southern sky not far from MARS. It can be seen with binoculars.

M22 in Sagittarius .....A globular cluster. A bonfire of half a million suns that is 10,000 Light years away. (A light year is the distance in miles that light travels in a year at 186,000 miles PER SECOND.) Tolkien described M22 in "THE HOBBIT'. This is probably the finest globular cluster of them all. You will need a telescope to see its wonders though.

M11 in Aquila a small but extremely rich open cluster. Bristling with the light of 700 suns. The cluster measures 20 light years in diameter, and its core is very dense. If you lived on a planet at the center of this cluster you would see several hundred first magnitude stars in your sky. From Earth, a telescope is needed.

Pi Delphinus a very beautiful double star at 11 seconds of arc. Yellow and Bluish are its colors.

Kevin's Corner

Public Stargazing Party on Friday night, July 20 Morgan County Observatory Foundation will be holding a public stargazing party Friday July 20th at 8:30 PM in front of Warm Springs Middle School. These events are planned around the month's New Moon to get the best viewing conditions.

Show up early to see the new 90mm refractor that will be raffled off at the Apple Butter Festival. Bring your own telescope and get help on setting up and using it. Experts from the Foundation will be on hand with their fine telescopes to guide you through the wonders of the night sky.

Many prizes donated by local businesses and individuals will be raffled off this evening and there will be door prizes for kids who attend. Refreshments will be served. Memberships in the Foundation will be sold. Information will be on hand about the observatory project here in Morgan County and how you can help support efforts to build a public observatory to house the 16" Cassegrain telescope donated from the US Naval Academy. Repairs to the telescope are complete. Architectural drawings for the facility are being finalized.

The June star party was held on Saturday (after a rain on Friday). Mars was brilliant in the west and will still be visible just after sunset. The crescent moon, double stars and M13, a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules were some of the objects seen that night.

The Observatory Foundation will be working with teachers from our county schools on astronomy educational opportunities in science through funding from a WV State Education First planning grant written by the Foundation and awarded to Morgan County Schools. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Morgan County Observatory will be held at Greenwood school on Thursday August 2nd, beginning at 6:30PM. The public is welcome to attend. Informational displays and speakers will be on hand along with the media to record this historic event. Construction of the Observatory should be completed this Fall.

A Star Show will be provided at the Ice House on Saturday, August 11 at 8PM after the concert in the park. Please use the entrance facing Warm Springs Run. The Foundation would like to thank the following new or returning members and corporate donators for their generous support: Tonya Pell, Loretta Brown, Bill Lands, Kathy & Ansel Gere, Duke & Doris Shepard, Sue Unger, Alison Carter & Sandy Bienen, and Seely Furniture. Come out and enjoy the dark skies of Morgan County while learning more about astronomy and the stars. In the event of rain or mostly overcast skies, our monthly Friday Star Parties will be rescheduled for Saturday night. For more information or directions, call Kevin Boles at 258-1013 or email at


The dark night sky of Morgan County helps us enjoy an experience that Nature has always provided - - the true beauty of a star-lit sky in a dark sky background that brings wonder and awe about the universe around us.

People in Berkeley Springs and Morgan County see thousands of stars never seen in big cities where light pollution dominates the scene. So much stray light radiates from cities at night that stars can't compete. Light pollution is clear in the photograph at . The photo shows intense light loss from the East Coast (New York, Philadelphia and Washington), but a beautiful patch of black sky west of Washington is the home of the Morgan County Observatory.

In cities, the night sky is 25 to 50 times brighter than the natural background. Without some visual aid, people in the city see only about ten stars that are more brilliant than magnitude 2 ( Polaris, the Big Dipper, Cassiopeia, and the three in Orion's' belt).

The apparent brightness of a star decreases inversely and exponentially with its listed magnitude, with magnitude 1 stars being a hundred times brighter than magnitude 6. (See more at ). Better sky conditions in the suburbs provide a contrast that lets you see magnitude 4 stars. There you can see three stars in the Little Dipper's bowl and six of the Seven Sisters (Pleiades; M45), which are brighter than 4.4.

Really good sky conditions let you see the faintest of the four stars of the Little Dipper bowl (magnitude 5) and stars of the Andromeda Galaxy (M31). When you can see eight of the Seven Sisters, you're seeing dim stars of magnitude 5.4. Also, with good eyesight, you may see that the Alcor/Mizar pair in the Big Dipper's handle has four more stars extending out from it with magnitudes around 5.6.

Excellent sky conditions give a steady view of the globular cluster M13 in Hercules (magnitude 5.9) plus a lot of magnitude 6 stars around Orion's belt, as well as The Eagle Nebula (M16) and the Omega Nebula (M17). When you look up and see 11 to 14 of the "Seven Sisters" (Pleiades), you have superb sky conditions to see 6,000 stars brighter than magnitude 6.

For a truly awesome experience, bring out your binoculars and see 50,000 stars brighter than magnitude 9. It's a completely different way to know your world! That's what a good night in Morgan County can help you see.

Senior Moments

Four-leaf Clovers and Five-star Lines When I was little, I spent hours looking for four-leaf clovers, but I never found any. Some years ago, my wife gave me binoculars for my birthday, and I discovered how many stars were in the Morgan County sky. I looked for four stars in a row, but I never found any. I did find five in a row. Excited, I wrote this poem to share this find with my grandchildren - - as I do now with you. Can you find "Bill's Bird"? Do you think you can find a four-star line that I never saw? Let me know what you find.

Bill's Bird

One night we were out, Norberta and I,
Looking for Perseids in August's dark sky,
And as we looked up, we saw only two
Close enough to bum (as shooting stars do).
The rest of the lights way up in the air
Were stars --far away, but yet always there!

Stars are like friends that we see now and then,
Linked to times past --and remembered again.
One set that I like is small with no name
(Like most of us living a life with no fame).
It's there when I look up in the night air,
A friend --far away, but yet always there!

I hope that "Bill's Bird" is a thing that we'll share
As we all move through space, us here and you there.
In front of the "Swan" it moves through the sky,
Not exactly in front, but a little awry ,
Mid-way on line Vega-Altair.
It's up --far away, but yet always there.

Cassiopia leans over her couch just to see
What it is that the Swan has chased over me.
Five stars in a line with three more below
Make it look like a bird (a bit fat, you know).
A woodpecker? --coot? --I guess, to be fair
A duck! --far away, but yet always there!

That night as we sat on the East of our porch
And thought of you (plus your cousins, of course)
And of birthdays and Christmas and many days more,
I offered to you (as to your Dad years before)
Memories to hold --from people who care,
Who are ---far away, but yet always there!


Families looking for internet access to see the MCOF website, or others listed below, should know that the Computer Cafe is open from 1:30 to 5:00PM weekdays through the summer. Also, there are computers for use at the Morgan County Library.

You can find more links at our links page.

What's up in Morgan County On Thursday July 19th at 1:00PM

Dave Fye and Kevin Boles talked to the kids at the MC Public Library's Rocket into Reading summer program. You can find lots of good reading upstairs in the sections numbered from 500 to 600. That's where books on cosmology, the universe, solar system, astronomy, math, and physics are waiting for you to come browse through them. Why not visit and find some new things to think about this summer? The books are just waiting there for you to find them!

Another public Star Party is set for Friday evening, July 20th at 8:30PM in front of the Middle School. The lawn by the parking lot is big and smooth, and there is room for all who want to come. Members can help by bringing their telescopes, snacks, and renewing their memberships for the year if they have not already: $20/individual or $35/family. Your donations have been used to repair the telescope and fund Foundation efforts toward an observatory and astronomy education for all.

The Groundbreaking Ceremony for the Morgan County Observatory will be held on Thursday August 2nd 6:30 PM at Greenwood elementary school about 10 miles south of Berkeley Springs on Route 13. Parking is limited so carpooling is encouraged. Members are asked to bring a snack to share. This is a major event for star-minded folks in Morgan County!

A Star Show will be provided at the Ice House on Saturday, August 11 at 8PM after the concert in the park. Come on over to the Ice House at 8PM and see some of the telescopes and binoculars that we use at our regular public Star Parties. At 8:30PM, Dave Fye, the Sky Guy, will show projections of the thousands of stars in the night sky over Morgan County and point out the major sights to see in the Summer sky. A quick introduction to star magnitudes will help visitors learn what is so good about Morgan County's dark sky for viewing stars never seen from the city. Special attention will be for helping people plan to see the fantastic Perseid meteorite showers that come in mid- August every year. The dark sky during the New Moon makes viewing Perseids optimal this year. There will be time for questions and answers in this first-time ever star show for Berkeley Springs. It can be a night to remember! Plan to enter the Ice House at the entrance facing Warm Springs Run and the County Library.

There will be a MCOF booth at the Apple Butter Festival on October 6&7. Kevin welcomes more volunteers. We'll be looking for more new members. Tell your friends about it! You can see more about the festival at In July, you can see the Orion 90 mm refractor telescope on display at John Shoemaker's store, Spare Time Hobby & Crafts, and in August, it will be displayed at the Citizens' National Bank.

Funds are desperately needed to continue our MCOF Observatory programs. All donations of all sizes are very much appreciated.

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