LVAAS - THE LEHIGH VALLEY AMATEUR ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY: Promoting, Facilitating and Teaching Astronomy Since 1957

Welcome to LVAAS, Anonymous
Wednesday, November 13 2019 @ 04:08 am EST

General Meeting Notice

 LVAAS General Meeting

SCROLL DOWN for info on transit of Mercury, Nov. 11

Sunday, November 10 at 7 p.m.

South Mountain HQ -- 620 B East Rock Road, Allentown, PA 18103

Steve Conard

"Occultation Timing with the IOTA"

Measuring the size and shape of small solar system bodies using occultation timing has received increased attention recently due to the outstanding success of the pro-am team that measured 2014MU69 “Ultima Thule” prior to the New Horizons encounter. Future NASA and JAXA missions, such as Lucy and DESTINY+, are currently using the technique to determine the properties of their future encounter objects. The recent increased success of this technique can be directly attributed to the ESA Gaia astrometry mission.

These measurements can easily be made by moderately skilled amateurs, who occasionally make exciting discoveries and regularly are credited in scientific papers. The International Occultation Timing Association, IOTA, is the leading amateur group for coordination of these observations. Steve Conard, a long-time IOTA member, will describe the techniques used to make these measurements and show some of the equipment used. He will also show results of past measurements.



Steve Conard has been an amateur astronomer since 1971. His teenage enthusiasm for telescope building led to a 35+ year career building space optical instrumentation for the Johns Hopkins University. Steve currently resides in central Maryland, and serves as the director of the Roelke Observatory at Bear Branch Nature Center in Westminster, Maryland.

Occultation Timing Links

 Occultation Timing Links

These are from Steve Conard's presentation at out Nov. 10, 2019 General Meeting. *

Book: "chasing the Shadow: The IOTA Occultation Observer's Manual" (free download from *)

Contact: Steve Conard (steve dot conard at comcast dot net) ("I'm happy to help you get started")

Transit of Mercury

Transit of Mercury on November 11

Next Monday, Novermber 11, the planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun, beginning at about 7:30 a.m. and lasting until just after 1 p.m. This will not happen again until 2032!

LVAAS has arranged for a viewing opportunity at the Da Vinci Science Center, outside the main building on the east side (which is to the left as you come in the main entrance from the parking lot.) We are planning to have members there with solar telescopes for the entire event. Stop by and take a look, and then check out the fascinating exhibits that Da Vinci Science Center has to offer!

The weather forecast is "partially sunny." We will be there, to take advantage of the sunny parts!

2006 transit of Mercury

NASA photo from the 2006 Transit of Mercury.

High Altitude Balloon


 Is That Saturn?

It seemed too bright, and too early for Saturn to be so clearly visible! Once it was brought into focus by Chris Kiely in LVAAS' 12" Newtonian Reflector, it turned out to be a very beautiful high-altitude balloon, hanging in the sky like a Christmas tree ornament, a rare special treat for visitors to our Star Party on Saturday, October 5.

A later search on flightradar24 indicated that it was most likely HBAL024, an experimental balloon for providing Internet service belonging to Loon LLC, formerly a Google X project. It was launched from Winnemucca, NV on Wednesday afternoon, and drifting at 16 kts at an altitude of 67,800 ft. over Plymouth Meeting, PA, easily visible from our South Mountain HQ.

This shaky, almost-focused photo was taken by Rich Hogg's smartphone held up to the eyepiece. The image shown is how it would look to the naked eye; in the telescope it was turned upside-down.

LVAAS South Mountain HQ Construction Video

 The Construction of LVAAS HQ

YouTube video!

This fascinating 33-minute film has a history that is almost as long and convoluted as LVAAS itself, and its colorful facilities and people. Originally shot on black and white film by Walter W. Leight, it was later transferred to videotape by Dan's Camera City, and narrated by Paul Shenkle, Bill McHugh, and George Maurer. From there it found its way (in 3 versions) onto a DVD possessed by LVAAS Programs Director and club historian, Sandra Mesics. Now, we have taken the longest, unedited version (the one without any music) and uploaded it to Youtube, which has enhanced it to make it more enjoyable than ever.

Featuring many of the founding personalities of LVAAS, this film reveals the very bones of our organization as well as our headquarters building. Enjoy a rarely-seen view into the beginnings of LVAAS!


—    LVAAS    —

THE LEHIGH VALLEY AMATEUR ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY -- 620B East Rock Road -- Allentown, PA 18103 -- 610-797-3476 --


Founded in 1957, the Lehigh Valley Amateur Astronomical Society (LVAAS) is one of the oldest continuously-operating amateur astronomy organizations in the U.S. The mission of LVAAS is to promote the study of Astronomy and to maintain a meeting space, observatories, and a planetarium.

LVAAS operates two astronomy sites: The South Mountain site in Salisbury Township is the headquarters of the Society. It has a planetarium with a Spitz A3P projector, a 21 foot dome, meeting space, the Red Shift store, library, workshop space, and three observatories. The Pulpit Rock site near Hamburg is LVAAS's members-only dark sky site. At 1600 feet above sea level, the site features five observatories and a pad for member's scopes.

Members who receive training on the scopes may obtain keys to the observatories. LVAAS also maintains a rental "fleet" of telescopes that members may rent at low cost. Members also receive access to The Observer, our online newsletter, as well as reduced subscription prices to Sky and Telescope and Astronomy Magazine. If you want to learn more about astronomy and LVAAS, please join us at our next public star party.


South Mountain Clear Sky Chart  image

Pulpit Rock Clear Sky Chart         image

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