VBAS Calendar

April 2014
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NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Von Braun Astronomical Society

Biergarten at the USS&RC - Thursday, April 24

VBAS will be partnering with the USS&RC for Biergarten Thursday under the Saturn V on April 24 from 4:30-7:30 PM. All VBAS members, friends, and their families are invited to enjoy authentic German cuisine crafted by the USS&RC’s renowned chef, David Oreskovich. Come learn some secrets of the Saturn V and enjoy the festive atmosphere with imported and domestic beers and delicious wines from the German region. VBAS will receive 10% of all food sales.

In conjunction with the German Biergarten, the USS&RC will also hold two free presentations. At 5:30 PM on April 24, Jim Odom will give a Pass the Torch lecture highlighting his work on the Hubble Space Telescope followed by an open discussion. Odom was Hubble Project Manager at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center during the telescope’s final development phase. Following Jim Odom’s presentation, TEDxHuntsville will present a related TED Talk at 6:30 PM.


April 2014 Planetarium Shows

Our Public Planetarium Shows Begin at 7:30 PM

Eclipses and Shadows - Saturdays, April 5, & 12 at 7:30 PM  

Lunar eclipses and solar eclipses, do you know why they happen?  A lunar eclipse will be visible in our area on April 15th this year.  This planetarium program will help you enjoy it to the fullest.  We will also talk about some other very interesting types of eclipses and shadows.  Bring the whole family for a fun and educational evening. Presented by: Gena Crook

The Calendar - Saturday, April 19 at 7:30 PM  

Who decides the date for Easter?  Why is it so different every year?  These questions and others concerning our calendar are the topic for this Saturday planetarium show. Presented by: Roy Young

Spring Skies - Saturday, April 26 at 7:30 PM  

This planetarium program will show you the spring constellations and talk about the myths behind them. Presented by: Beth Bero

See you there!

Telescopes will be open after the programs.  (Weather permitting) All programs are open to the public.

Admission for Saturday Night Programs:

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 our telescopes following the planetarium program with the help of our experienced and knowledgeable observing crew.


March is Membership Renewal Month

It is now April and membership dues are past due! Please send in your dues if you have not already done so.

It is March and that means it is time for VBAS members to renew their Society dues. The renewal rates are:

  • Regular: $24
  • Family: $36
  • Student: $12
  • Life: $500

Please print out an application/renewal form along with your check, and send it to our mailing address:

Von Braun Astronomical Society

Attention: Membership Secretary
P.O. Box 1142
Huntsville, AL  35807

Dues may be be paid in person at our monthly Society meeting (preferred) or at a planetarium show by cash, check, or credit card.  We hope to soon accept credit card payments via the website, but until then we can only accept them at the planetarium.

Please send in your dues payment by the end of March to ensure you remain a member of the Society, as well as continue receiving the Astronomical League's quarterly magazine, The Reflector.


Messier Marathon - May 2

Written by Administrator

We will have our annual Messier Marathon event at VBAS on Friday, May 2. The goal of a Messier Marathon is to observe as many of the 110 Messier objects as possible in one evening. VBAS members are encouraged to set up telescopes on the observing field. It is a great opportunity to look through a variety of different telescopes. The event will start around 7:00 PM and run until everyone gets too tired to continue. **Please be considerate with any white light in the area after it gets dark, including cars (both headlights and interior lights), flashlights, and cellphones, otherwise you may receive a shout from someone in the dark to turn off your light.


Monthly Society Meeting

Written by Naveen Vetcha

The next VBAS Monthly Society Meeting will occur Friday, May 16 at 7:30 PM. Pizza at 7:00 PM!

Topic: Astrophotography in 500 Words or Less!

The talk will cover the basic concepts of data collection, processing and examples of speaker's own work.

Speaker Bio

Fred Hermann was born in the "Atomic City" (Oak Ridge Tennessee) and a few years later moved to the "Rocket City" (Huntsville, Alabama). He received his early education in the US and Europe and later returned to Huntsville to complete his education at UAH. He retired after thirty years of service at the NASA MSFC, as a scientist/engineer. During his career at NASA, he had worked on a variety of NASA programs including the Spacelab and International Space Station. He had published a variety of scientific papers and holds a patent for a "Hanging Drop" Protein Crystal Growth apparatus now currently flying on the ISS. Some of his memorable experiences were at the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator where he trained Shuttle astronauts for various missions including the Hubble deployment and repair missions, Ease/Access and the Shuttle "Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) mission. During this training, he had worked with many of the Shuttle astronauts including Ronald McNair just months before he met his premature death in the Challenger disaster in 1986. His interest in astrophotography began with a modest LX-200 telescope in the early 1990's. These astrophotography interests eventually evolved into the fully automated Owl Mountain Observatory.

Naveen Vetcha


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


A Brief VBAS History

Written by Al Reisz Sunday, 07 November 2010 20:45


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 that was ordered from a Berlin manufacturer. The observatory was a “hut” with a removable roof. It didn’t survive WWII but the telescope tube and wooden tripod stand did and are in the Deutsches Technikmuseum in Berlin today. 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



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