September 2002

ACT, Inc. has been meeting continuously since 1937 and was incorporated in 1986. It is a nonprofit; tax deductible organization dedicated to promoting, to the public, the art of viewing and the scientific aspect of astronomy.


The Astronomy Club of Tulsa Club


Friday, 20 September 2002 at 7:30 PM


Room M1 inside Keplinger Hall, the Science & Engineering Building at TU. Enter the parking lot on the East Side of Keplinger Hall from Harvard and 5th Street. This will take you directly toward the staircase to enter the building. Room M1 is the first room on the left.

President’s Message

Denny Mishler

September started with a bang when upwards of 100 members, visitors and guests turned out for our Club Star Party on September 6th. I was out of town and couldn't attend the largest monthly Club Star Party that anyone can remember (outside of the Leonid Meteor invasion in 98 or 99), but I heard that we had a large enthusiastic group with lots of new faces. Some of you even stayed past 3am. On Friday October 4th (rain date Oct. 5th) we will hold our next Club Star Party. This will conflict with those attending the Okie-Tex Star Party at the end of Oklahoma's Panhandle; however Star Parties at this time of year are usually ideal. Summer's haze is usually gone and temperatures are almost always ideal. Clear skies should bring out another big crowd with viewing prospects even better.

Our September meeting on the 20th will have three very interesting presentations of research being conducted by Students from the University of Tulsa. First up will be Justin Mitchell and Aaron Coyner from the University's Zero Gravity Granular Dynamics Team. The other members of the team are Matt Olson, Rebecca Ragar, Whitney Marshall, Jeremy Cain, Adrienne McVey and Ian Zedalis. The team is conducting weightless granular clustering experiments aboard a NASA KC-135 cargo plane and investigating the potential application of granular dynamics to asteroid formation and other astronomical events.

Next will be Michelle Stevenson, a graduate of Jenks and a TU Engineering Physics Major. Michelle is studying micrometeorites that are washed down to the Earth's surface during heavy rains. The sediments that could be of extraterrestrial origin are collected using neodymium magnets. They are then analyzed using a scanning electron microscope. Michelle plans to obtain a Doctorates Degree in Astrophysics and would like to become a NASA Astronaut or Spacecraft Designer. She has achieved numerous Academic Honors and Awards and it will be a pleasure to hear from a young person who has such lofty goals.

Ian Zedalis is a TU Physics Major and a graduate of Holland Hall where he was awarded the Service to Community award for volunteer work with his School and the Community. Ian as previously mentioned is a member of the Granular Dynamics Team. He has participated in research to locate Martian craters that are possible candidates for the origin of the famous Allen Hills Martian Meteorite. Ian has attended NASA's Astrobiology conferences in 2000 and 2002. He will discuss the new and developing field of Astrobiology.

Once again, we will have refreshments following the meeting so please feel free to bring your favorite cookie or treat. And don't miss this chance to learn from bright young minds about Asteroid Formation, Meteorites, Life in Space, and Neodymium Magnets.

The Year In Space

Each year at this time we take orders for the beautiful The Year in Space desk calendars. The 52 spectacular pictures and info alone are worth the price, even if you have no need for the calendar. The retail price is $14.95, but with the club discount, the price will be $9.00. You can see a preview of the 2003 issue on . Gerry Andries will be taking orders at the Sept 20th meeting. If you cannot make it to the meeting, you may email Gerry at < Gerry Andries e-mail >, or call him at 369-3320 before Sept 30th.



Astronomy Club of Tulsa member and former club President, KC Lobrecht, has earned several Astronomical League observing awards. A few of these awards have been scanned into the computer and posted on the web. You can see some of those awards at:

Congratulations KC.


Schedule of Events


Please note the events away from the observatory that we will need people to bring scopes. PLEASE CALL or email me if you can help with these. If you do not own a scope but would still like to help, let me know. The club can usually provide scopes for you to operate provided you warn us in advance.

The Holland Hall School event at Camp Wahshahshe on Sept 20th is near the Woolaroc Park south of Bartlesville. I will get exact directions and instructions later for those who express an interest in helping with this event.

Tentatively scheduled dates below are bracketed with question marks. The number of persons expected is in parenthesis.



09-13-02 Fri 07:00 GS Troop 428 (20)

09-14-02 Sat 07:00 Back up for 09/13

09-15-02 Sun 07:00 Fellowship (30)

09-21-02 Sat 07:00 BS Troop 716 (15)

09-22-02 Sun 07:00 Back up for 09/15

09-27-02 Fri 06:45 CS Pack 239 (20)


02-03-03 Mon 06:15 BA Home School (30)




09-19-02 Thu 07:00 Back up for 09/12

09-20-02 Fri 07:30 Regular meeting (at TU Chapman Hall)

09-26-02 Thu 06:45 Holland Hall School @ Camp Wahshahshe -- NEED VOLUNTEERS


10-01-02 to 10-05-02 Okie Tex Star Party (At Camp Billy Joe, Black Mesa, OK)

10-18-02 Fri 07:30 Regular meeting (at TU Chapman Hall)


11-11-02 Mon 06:00 BA High S @Spring Creek Elem

11-13-02 Wed 06:00 Hoover Elem @Hoover School


MidStates Astronomical League Convention

Our club will be hosting the MidStates Astronomical League convention next summer in June. Lots of planning needs to take place so that we can have our publicity ready by early 2003. If you are willing to share your ideas, time and talents there will be plenty for you to do. We need meal planning, registration forms, mail outs, Door Prizes, signs and parking, nametags, T-shirts and much more. Basically we have a firm date June 20 to 22, 2003 and a place to meet at TU. The rest needs to get rolling. Aaron Coyner has a working web page and the other clubs in the region are already asking for information.

If we plan it well, they will come! Contact < John Land e-mail > if you are willing to help.

Magazine Subscriptions

You can get substantial discounts for Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazine by ordering thorough the Astronomy Club. If your magazines are coming up for renewal, try to save the mailing label or renewal form you get in the mail.

Sky & Telescope is $30/yr, and Astronomy is $29 for 1 year, or $55 for 2 years. Astronomy magazine is requesting that renewals from Sept 02 to Feb 03 be sent in by Sept 30, 2002

Order your 2003 Calendar

Twelve Stunning Astronomy images from the 2003 Astronomy Calendar Regular $12 with a bulk order through the club we can get them for $8 each ! and NO Shipping if you pick them up at a meeting. They will make a great Christmas gift. Plan to get your order in by Nov 1. Please plan to pay at time of order.

Club Membership

Adults $25 and Students $15 per year. Most of our club members will need to get their club dues in by December 2002. You can check your mailing label to see when your club dues expire. Avoid the cash crunch at Christmas time and renew early.

Summer Star Parties

We’ve had some great groups of people and guests at our summer star parties. Sept 6 we had from 70 to 80 people present sharing views of the night sky. If you’ve brought guests to our summer events be sure to send their Email address or street address to John Land so we can get them on our mailing list.

John Land
Membership Chairman
< John Land e-mail >

David's Astro Corner


By David Stine

A very unusual and strange object was recently detected on September 3rd. It has caused allot of speculation as just exactly what it is. Bill Yeung discovered the object on images taken with a 0.45-meter telescope in Benson, Arizona. At first it was thought to be a comet or asteroid, but within a few days it was determined that it was orbiting the Earth, yes that's right the Earth, not the Sun. As Duncan Steel, an astronomer and asteroid expert at the University of Salford stated, "This is bizarre, I don't know of anyone having suggested an asteroid in orbit around the Earth before." The object has been designated J002E3 which is an asteroid designation however an asteroid normally orbits the Sun not the Earth. It circles the Earth every 49.5 days. The size is uncertain. If it is rock, the light reflected from it would put it in the 50 meters across range, however if it does turn out to be an old rocket body it could be only 10-20 meters in length. Now comes the real mystery. Why hasn't it been picked up before now? Its bright enough 16th MG. to be picked up by large backyard telescopes, and would have been picked up a long time ago. So if it isn't some manmade space junk then it would have to be a very new piece of rock/asteroid that Earth just now captured. Nasa researchers have guessed that it was captured by Earths gravitational field similar to how Jupiter acquired its harem of moons. The theory is that is was captured sometime in the April/May period when it strayed to a spot where the Suns and Earths gravitational tug canceled each other. There still is a chance that it will turn out to be a lost rocket casing, but if it should turn out to be a new moon it will be declared S/2002E1. The S stands for satellite, the E1 for the first satellite of Earth discovered in 2002. As this exciting story continues to unfold, in the next few weeks we may find out that Earth now has another moon, or it may turn out to be just an old spent off rocket casing. Then again, maybe we are being watched from a satellite from another galaxy, just kidding. Watch for updates.

A storms a brewing and we are only a couple of months away. This storm doesn’t produce lighting and wind but when it comes, its like nothing you have ever seen before. The Leonid's are just around the corner and from all indications they could once more put on an awesome show. Comparing all of the Leonid predictions for the 2001 storm, most astronomers agree that everyone was right about some things of the shower and wrong about others, however Esko Lyytinen was considered the most accurate overall. If we take his predictions for 2002, this is what we can expect. There will be three peaks; the first will come at 10:03P.m. CST. On the night of the 18th of November from the 1767 stream. This is to peak at 3500 meteors per hour for a period of 106 minutes. For Tulsa we might be able to catch some Earth grazers but not much more from this trial. Then at 12:36A.m. CST November 19, the Earth will pass through the 1833 trail with a peak of 160/hr. Then the 1866 trail, which will be our best bet, comes at 4:40a.m. and lasts for 122 minutes. Again this is only Esko's prediction and I will have a complete Leonid Storm 2002 story in next month’s newsletter. Start planning now for the big event. Most people are saying that the best place to be will be the hills of North Carolina, but if the weather is good, Tulsa should be in a good area for an awesome event. Keep your fingers crossed.

That's it from my corner this month.


NASA now thinks the mystery object is a spent off rocket booster from Apollo 12. Nothing is definite, but the odds are heavily in favor of the rocket booster being the object. Also if the object turned out to be a new moon it would actually be Earths 3rd Moon. I bet you were unaware of Earths 2nd Moon. It is called Cruithne, also known as asteroid 3753 or 1986(the year it was discovered) TO. This moon takes about a year to circle the Earth.

NASA is also planning to launch the Space Shuttle between November 10-20. What a birds eye view of the Leonid Storm. Wouldn’t you like to be on that mission.

Newly found object could be leftover Apollo rocket stage

Posted: September 12, 2002


An analysis of the orbital motion of the newly discovered object J002E3 indicates that it could be a leftover Saturn V third stage from one of the Apollo missions, most likely the Apollo 12 mission, launched on November 14, 1969.

The new object was discovered on September 3 by Bill Yeung, who noted that it was moving quite rapidly. Initial orbit computations by the Minor Planet Center indicated that the object was only about twice as far away as the Moon, and was actually in orbit about our planet. This fact, combined with the rather faint intrinsic magnitude, immediately led astronomers to suspect that the object is actually a spacecraft or rocket body, not an asteroid. But the object could not be associated with any recent launch.

J002E3 is currently observable at magnitude 16.5; it is easily detectable in asteroid surveys, and even bright enough to be seen by many amateur astronomers. If it is a leftover piece from an old launch, why was it not discovered until last week? A backwards analysis of the orbital motion provides the answer: the object was apparently captured by the Earth from heliocentric orbit in April of this year. The capture occurred when the object passed near the Earth's L1 Lagrange point, a location where the gravity of the Earth and Sun approximately cancel. This point serves as "portal" between the regions of space controlled by the Earth and Sun. J002E3 is the first known case of an object being captured by the Earth, although Jupiter has been known to capture comets via the same mechanism. (For example, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which collided with Jupiter in 1994, had been captured by Jupiter decades earlier.)

Analysis of J002E3's pre-capture orbit about the Sun shows that the object was always inside the Earth's orbit, and that it may have come within the Earth's vicinity in the early 1970s or late 1960s. Many of the test cases in our analysis in fact passed through the L1 portal, back into Earth orbit (going backwards in time) during the early 1970s. In other words, this object was very likely orbiting the Earth during this period before escaping into the heliocentric orbit from which it was captured in 2002. It seems quite likely that this object is one of the Apollo Saturn S-IVB third stages which flew by the Moon during this era (Apollos 8 through 12). The brightness of J002E3 seems to match the expected brightness of an S-IVB stage. Further circumstantial evidence suggests that this object is in fact the Apollo 12 stage, which was left in a very distant Earth orbit after it passed by the Moon on November 18, 1969. This spent rocket body was last seen in an Earth orbit with a period of 43 days, not much different from J002E3's current orbit.

The future motion of J002E3 is also very interesting. A similar orbital analysis which takes into account the current orbit uncertainties shows that the object has a surprisingly large 20 percent chance of impacting the Moon in 2003. Such a lunar impact would not be unprecedented: NASA intentionally impacted five Apollo S-IVB stages on the Moon from 1970 through 1972 (Apollos 13 through 17), as an experiment to study the interior structure of the Moon. Looking further into the future is problematic, due to the chaotic nature of J002E3's orbit, but our current analysis shows the object to have about a 3 percent chance of impacting the Earth within the next 10 years. This should not be of concern to the public. Apollo stages have impacted the Earth before, in the 1960s, and the larger Skylab re-entered in the 1970s. (The even larger Mir Space Station was intentionally impacted into the Pacific Ocean in March 2001.)

Additional positional observations of this object are being received daily, and our knowledge and modeling of its orbit continues to improve. The collision probabilities mentioned above will change as we are able to make more precise predictions.

Animations showing how J002E3 was captured into its current chaotic orbit around the Earth are available on the Near-Earth Object Program website:


2002 Calendar of events

When Where
20 September Meeting at TU
4 October Star Party - RMCC
18 October Meeting at TU
1 November Star Party - RMCC
15 November Business Meeting
6 December Star Party - RMCC
13 December Meeting at TU


Club Memberships


Astronomy Club of Tulsa Membership Application / Renewal Form

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also includes 10% discount on most Sky & Tel products

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* Magazine rates may change / prices available with membership only.

Please bring this application along with a check for the total amount made out to the Astronomy Club of Tulsa to the next meeting or mail the payment and application to:

Astronomy Club of Tulsa / 25209 E. 62nd St / Broken Arrow, OK 74014

For questions contact John Land

How did you hear of the Astronomy Club of Tulsa? ___________________________________________________________

How long have you been interested or active in astronomy? ___________

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Astronomy Club of Tulsa, 918.688.MARS

President: Dennis Mishler

Vice President: Teresa Kincannon

Treasurer: Nick Pottorf

Assistant Treasurer: John Land

Secretary:Aaron Coyner

RMCC Observatory Manager: Gerry Andries

Observing Chairman: David Stine

Web Master: Tom McDonough

New Membership: Dennis Mishler

Newsletter: Richie Shroff