History of the Twin City Amateur Astronomers
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Travels and Recognitions: 2007-2010
Not to be outdone by eclipse chasers Barb and Roy Ostberg, Sharon MacDonald, and Carl
Wenning, and other astronomical travelers such as the Memken/Rogers family who also travelled
the globe during vacations to see astronomical sites, plenty of the other club’s members
undertook astronomical travel during 2007 and 2008. During 2007 Duane Yockey traveled to
Iceland with a Sky & Telescope tour group to view auroras, but saw little more than clouds, snow
and ice. Even if the sky were clear, it was unlikely that the group would have seen anything.
Unbeknownst to the group, the sun had just begun to enter into an extended sunspot minimum
that didn’t start to acquiesce until late 2009.
Carl and Duane went to Moorhead, MN, to attend NCRAL 2007 meeting on March 18-19 to
confirm the offer of the TCAA to host the 2010 meeting. Carl was greatly surprised to win the
2007 NCRAL Service Award announced at the business meeting. The TCAA Board of Directors
had nominated him to receive the 2006 prize, be it went to a more worthy recipient. Carl was
shocked when his name was announced as he was not aware that remaining nominations were
rolled over into the next year. Carl received a nice plaque in recognition of his efforts with the
TCAA, with the Challenger Learning Center, and his work through the ISU Planetarium.
Dan Miller, John Werner, and Michael Rogers took a group of Millikin University students to
New Mexico from May 22-29, 2007, to conduct observations of truly dark night skies. Always
excited to travel to new places, see new things, and acquire the latest bit of observing and
photographic equipment, Dan was honored with membership in the G. Weldon Schuette Society
of Outstanding Amateur Astronomers during the 2008 Annual Meeting.
Claudio Pérez Matzan, chairman of the Physics Department at Universidad Metropolitana de
Ciencias de la Educación in Santiago, Chile, visited the SGO along with Carl on June 30th.
Claudio had befriended Carl in 2006 when Carl traveled to Chile doing consulting work for the
Chilean Academy of Sciences.
Lee Green visited McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis, TX, during August 2007. John
Werner traveled to Australia October 14-26 on a business trip, but took time out to observe the
constellations when he could. Not to be entirely outdone, several of our members attend the
DAAC Jamboree just north of Decatur on October 6. Other members merely gazed at the stars to
do their “travel” to far away places during this time. With monthly members-only observing
sessions (MOOS) and monthly public observing sessions (POS), the core membership was fully
engaged. In addition, the club was involved in yet another adult education course at SGNC during
January, and presented an Astronomy Day event at Barnes & Noble booksellers during spring.
During the winter and spring of 2007, Carl, the club’s historian, again saw the “handwriting
on the wall.”82 It was announced at this time that long-time club member Lenore Trainor was
suffering from cancer. She had not been seen for a number of years, but was among the club’s
great observers and astronomical travelers the decade before. Family life was taking more and
more of her time when cancer struck. Knowing that the loss of such members also meant the loss
of club history, Carl started “Profiles in Amateur Astronomy” with the June 2007 issue of The
OBSERVER. It was his effort to chronicle the history of the club in terms of individual members.
Unfortunately, Lenore passed away August 3 before she was able to respond to his questions.
During the summer of 2007 John Werner started to construct a personal observatory on a
farmstead just south of Streator, IL. It was outfitted with a 9.25-inch GoTo telescope and included
a number of cameras for astronomical imaging. Just around this time members began to acquire
more and better astrophotographic equipment. By this time Lee Green had acquired a C14 SCT
along with an SBIG-10 astro camera. Images of successes appeared from time to time thereafter
in The OBSERVER.
The club took advantage of several opportunities during 2007 to develop resources and
abilities. Of particular note, under the leadership of Lee Green and Dan Miller the club applied
for and received membership in the NASA Night Sky Network. The program provided
complementary kits dealing with astronomical topics for used in education/public outreach.
Thanks to dedicated efforts by these two leaders, the club was able to acquire all available kits
within two years due to the frequency of education/public outreach offerings.
During the summer of 2007 and continuing into 2008, the Board of Directors developed a 5-
year plan for the TCAA addressing four identified goals: (1) improving membership services, (2)
improving club identity and presence, (3) expanding the club’s web site with additional features,
and (4) improving fund raising.
During this interval, Lee and Carl attended the Illinois Dark Skies Star Party at Jim Edgar –
Panther Creek State Park northwest of Springfield in 2007. At that time they observed under
“magnitude 6” skies. Carl and Duane would do this during 2008, but the views of the sky were
more “usual and ordinary” – not atypical for views obtained at SGNC.
Annual meetings during this time were held in Turner Hall’s room 104 at ISU under the
leadership of Jean Memken who was faculty advisor to the Catering Club. The Annual Meeting
banquet speaker in 2007 was Dr. Casey Watson from Millikin University who spoke about
cosmology. In 2008, three of the club’s photographers – Lee Green, Daniel Miller, and John
Werner – spoke about processes for successfully photographing the night sky.
Included among the many objects successfully photographed were a number of faint but
interesting comets at this time. During 2007, Comet Holmes literally “exploded” onto the scene.
On October 23, it brightened nearly a million times within a few hours; it was easily observed
even under city skies with the use of binoculars. During 2009, TCAAers tracked a green comet,
Comet Lulin. William Carney was having a heyday at this time observing and recording many
comets using the telescope at SGO. Most of these comets were faint such as comets LINEAR and
NEAT, but William was fortunate enough to have observed Comet McNaught, a hard-to-see
comet from the northern hemisphere and the brightest during the past 40 years.
Like years before, the core membership was strongly committed to amateur astronomy,
including education/public outreach. Members also took time out for a bit of fun. On January 19,
2008, sixteen members traveled to Peoria to see the new Carl Zeiss planetarium projector.
Planetarium director Sheldon Schaefer gave an hour-long presentation. Lee Green initiated a
series of public talks at the Bloomington Public Library known as Starlight Nights:
Conversations with Amateur Astronomers. Several club members participated in these small
monthly events. The TCAA moved its Adult Education program from SGNC to Heartland
Community College. Carl Wenning took the lead, first presenting during the months of January in
2008 and 2009. Lee Green took the lead for yet another series in January 2010. During February
2008 Dan Miller, John Werner, Lee Green, and others presented programming at State Farm
Insurance Company (Millennium Girls). On the 20th of that month, the club hosted a “frigid”
viewing session at Fairview Park for a total lunar eclipse.
Figure 51: TCAAers visit the renewed planetarium at Lakeview Museum in Peoria
Club members continued to travel for astronomical trips during 2008. During February Carl
and Duane traveled to Santiago, Chile, to visit with Claudio Pérez Matzan who had visited with
Carl during 2007. Claudio made arrangements for Duane and Carl to observe from El Ingenio in
the Andes Mountains to the southeast of Santiago. Claudio later drove them to Combarbalá where
they were the first official visitors at Observatorio Cruz del Sur – a new tourist observatory for
amateur astronomers where they had two nights of access to a new 16-inch Meade telescope.
While in Chile they both completed the Southern Sky Binocular Award and most of the
observations required for the Southern Sky Telescopic Award. Several additional required
observations of objects very low in the southern sky were complete upon their return to Illinois.
From May 31-June 8, 2008, Dan Miller and John Werner traveled with a group of students
from Millikin University to Machu Pichu in Peru. Just two months before, John completed
construction of his personal observatory, Farm View Observatory. On July 26 several club
members travel to the observatory near Pontiac, IL, for a tour and an evening of observing. The
next month, August, Carl Wenning completed a series of observations of Jupiter and its moon
Ganymede. He was able – with a series of only eight observations – to determine the mass of
Jupiter to within 2.9% of its accepted value. The process was chronicled in a series of two articles
Carl wrote for the club newsletter. He also began a series of monthly reflections filled with
heartfelt advice based on his life’s experiences in a series known as StarGeezer. The columns
appeared alongside a series of stylized drawings of the StarGeezer created by club member Terry
During the latter part of 2008 Lee Green arranged for more public programs – in addition to
the monthly MOOS and POS at SGNC – at Bloomington Public Library. The series was titled,
Classroom for Kids. Another activity in which the club found itself involved was Autumn Fest –
a celebration of autumn at SGNC – which featured daytime solar viewing and, thanks to a
recommendation by William Carney, viewing of Venus. At this event, one of the club’s earliest
members stopped by for a peek – Warren Light. It was later noted by the club’s historian that
Warren’s contributions of books initiated the TCAA library.
The next year – 2009 – was the International Year of Astronomy. Classroom for Kids was
held on the fourth Saturday of each month throughout the year from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. with the
November/December programs being combined into a single event due to the holidays. Programs
almost always included a PowerPoint presentation along with hands-on, minds-on activities. The
turn out was usually small with typically 5 or fewer kids and 2-3 adults in attendance.
In recognition of IYA 2009, several club members wrote regular columns in The OBSERVER.
Carl Wenning wrote a multipart series The Life and Times of Galileo; Lee Green continued his
Constellation of the Month series, and Bobby Arn wrote a series about astronomical imaging.
Tony Cellini, having returned to the club after a several-year hiatus, regularly showed his handy
work through several short articles. Carl also wrote a series titled Optimizing Views of Deep
Space Objects. Astronomical imaging successes by Bobby Arn, Lee Green, William Carney, and
Tony Cellini were notable, and many of their images graced the pages of The OBSERVER. For
the first time in many years, TCAAers began to more broadly provide contributions to the
newsletter and on the club’s listserv. Duane Yockey, Lee, and Carl attended the one-man play
Galileo at IWU during the autumn. This was a continuation of the historical emphasis during the
2009 IYA. Also continuing this theme was 2009 Annual Meeting speaker Dr. Linda French from
IWU who spoke to the club about the work of John Goodricke.
In compliance with the club’s 5-year plan, during February 2009 the club’s treasury reached
the $5,000 goal set to backup the efforts of the NCRAL 2010 conference. On October 23, Lee
Green and Carl Wenning met Space Shuttle astronaut Scott Altman in Pekin in an effort to
highlight the TCAA’s desire to have him speak at the NCRAL conference. Efforts were
undertaken in 2009 to finally develop a professional looking club logo. Earlier versions83 had
either been drawn by hand or created with word processing software. Over the summer of 2009,
the first professional version of the TCAA logo was developed through the efforts of Dave
Osenga who had a friend, Emily Henard, who did the final production. By late autumn, John
Werner found a supplier, dk designs of Downs, IL, to provide polo shirts with the embroidered
Figure 52: Lee Green with NASA astronaut Scott Altman
Several club members traveled to NCRAL 2008 in Port Arthur, Wisconsin, and to NCRAL
2009 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to further develop an understanding of what it means to host a
regional convention. During the summer of 2009, travels continued. Lee Green traveled to
Arizona to visit Lowell Observatory and to Chicago to attend an astronomical imaging workshop
during June. During November, Daniel Miller and John Werner traveled to Kansas to view the
Leonid meteor shower, having changed their observing position from Indiana, in order to find
clear skies. While they did find clear skies, the “meteor storm” they had hoped to observe did not
materialize. Unfortunately, some of club members’ trips at this time were one-way. Michael
Rogers and Jean Memken moved to Missouri in July to begin new careers in teaching.
In order to promote NCRAL 2010, several TCAAers traveled to various events across Illinois
to spread the word during 2009. John Werner gave a short address at Astrofest during September.
Bobby Arn, Dan Miller, Duane Yockey, and Carl Wenning gave presentations at the Illinois Dark
Skies Star Party during October. Lee Green attended the DAAC Astrojam to promote the meeting
during September and Carl did the same by attending the November CUAS meeting.
The club’s Meade LX200 telescope housed in Sugar Grove Observatory finally failed during
April of 2009. The telescope continued to do its “China dance” (as property manager William
Carney called it), and got to the point that it was no longer economically feasible to repair.
During 2008 the telescope had been sent out again for repairs with Meade informing the TCAA
that it would no longer service this instrument under the terms of previously renewed service
contracts. It was agreed that following NCRAL, if the club were in a proper financial standing,
that part of the treasury would be used to purchase a replacement telescope. During the summer
of 2009, the Board of Directors agreed on the need for a new observatory, but decided to delay
any significant efforts until after the NCRAL 2010 meeting when the club’s financial status
would be clearer.84
The number of Astronomical League observing awards conferred during this time period was
exceptional. Between 2007 and the Annual Meeting of 2010, eighteen AL awards were either
earned or awarded, not counting the various levels such as provisional or honorary, and silver or
The Semi-centennial Year: 2010
82 See Daniel 5:1–31
83 See Appendix 9 for the three official logos of the TCAA over the years.
84 Past TCAA President Bob Finnigan graciously donated his 1973 vintage C14 telescope to the TCAA in August 2010
to fill the telescopic void.