VBAS Calendar

May 2016
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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Monte Sano State Park


Von Braun Astronomical Society

Monthly Society Meeting

The next VBAS Monthly Meeting is coming up on Friday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. This month is the Annual Meeting for the election of new officers. Dr. Richard S. Miller will speak about his research on Lunar True Polar Wander. Dr. Miller will discuss the physical evidence that scientists use to determine how the rotational axis of the moon has changed over time. All are welcome to join us for conversation and free pizza before the meeting at 7 p.m.

Wandering Lunar Pole/James Keane U. of Arizona Oops, the Moon Tipped Over: Evidence of Internal Evolution From Water Ice at the Lunar Poles

The earliest dynamic and thermal history of the Moon is not well understood. The hydrogen content of deposits near the lunar poles provides insight into this history, because these deposits (which are probably composed of water ice) survive only if they remain in permanent shadow. The polar hydrogen deposits have been mapped by orbiting detectors, and their observed spatial distribution does not match the expected distribution of water ice inferred from present-day lunar temperatures. Here we show that polar hydrogen preserves evidence that the Moon tipped over and that this was caused by changing internal structure. This provides an explanation for the distribution of lunar polar hydrogen, suggests a significant fraction of the measured polar hydrogen is ancient, and is the connects the geologic and geophysical evolution of the Moon to the bombardment history of the early Solar System.


Dr. Richard S. Miller is a Professor of Physics at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has worked in a range of fields including nuclear astrophysics (space-based), very-high energy astrophysics and cosmic-rays (ground-based), and neutrino astrophysics (deep underground). He has done “real physics”, which means everything from writing software for the control state-of-the-art telescopes, to building sensitive particle detectors, to working in a mine, to fighting off elk and mountain lions from remote experiments. He received his B.S. from U.C. Irvine, M.S. from LSU, and Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire, and received a number of awards for his various contributions. Most recently his work has focused on lunar science and the development of the Moon as a platform for science.


Steve Patrick



May 2016 Planetarium Shows

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

Jupiter/Frank SchenckJourney to Jupiter - Saturdays, May 7, 14, & 28

Travel to the king of the planets and find out how this massive gas giant is different from all other planets.  Join us at the Von Braun Astronomical Society as we review what we've learned about Jupiter so far, and look ahead to the Juno spacecraft, which is scheduled to arrive at Jupiter in July. Presented by Roy Young, VBAS Planetarium Director.

Jules VerneJules Verne - Saturday, May 21

You’ve probably heard of Jules Verne, the famed science fiction writer, his works 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Journey to the Center of the Earth have been widely read and reproduced in films. But did you know that the man who predicted electric submarines and heavier than air flight years before they became a scientific reality also very accurately predicted the Apollo programs? Join us for an investigation into the scientific facts behind Jules Verne’s works; From the Earth to the Moon, and Around the Moon. Presented by Nick Uithoven.

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 .


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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