VBAS Calendar

June 2016
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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monte Sano State Park


Von Braun Astronomical Society

June 2016 Planetarium Shows

We Host a Public Planetarium Show Every Saturday that Begins at 7:30 PM

Sir Isaac Newton/Sir Godfrey KnellerGravity- Saturday, June 4

From apples falling to holding the solar system and galaxy together, gravity is a powerful force within the universe. Andy Wilson will make this "heavy" subject a little easier to understand.

Mars - Saturdays, June 11, 18, & 25 Mars/Frank Schenck

Find out about the red planet Mars, which can now positioned relatively close to Earth, so that you can glimpse major features like the polar ice caps with a telescope. Unlike the giant planets, Jupiter and Saturn, which can be easily observed with a telescope for a number of months each year, Mars only gets close enough to Earth to be observed with a telescope for a few weeks, every two years. Join us at the Von Braun Astronomical Society as we review the fascinating history of Mars observation, and why at one time we believed that there possibly had been intelligent life on Mars. Presented by Frank Schenck, VBAS Director of Facilities.

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

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 .


Monthly Society Meeting

The next VBAS Monthly Meeting is coming up on Friday, June 17 at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to join us for conversation and free pizza before the meeting at 7 p.m.

Dr. Tyson Littenberg

This month VBAS welcomes Dr. Tyson Littenberg to tell us about the recent gravitational wave discovery and the dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy. The twin Advanced LIGO (aLIGO) gravitational-wave observatories embarked on their first observing campaign from September 18, 2015 to January 12, 2016. The aLIGO detectors achieved significantly improved sensitivity over previous generations of the instruments, dramatically increasing the surveyed volume of the gravitational Universe.  In February the LIGO and Virgo Scientific Collaborations announced the discovery of the binary black hole merger GW150914.  Dr. Littenberg will provide an overview of the gravitational wave discovery, place it in context with our understanding of fundamental physics and astrophysics, and discuss the near-future of ground based gravitational wave observations as we continue analyzing the data and prepare for the next observing runs at higher sensitivity.

Dr. Tyson Littenberg is a research scientist at the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) and the Center for Space Plasma and Aeronomic Research at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.  Dr. Littenberg is a member of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) Scientific Collaboration and serves as the principal investigator for the UAH LIGO Group.  LIGO recently made headlines with the first detection of gravitational waves, ripples in the space-time continuum predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.  Dr. Littenberg’s research is focused on gravitational physics and developing Bayesian inference methods for solving big data challenges in astrophysics.

Steve Patrick



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,



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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