Mike Reynolds reports from ALCon 2015

Posted by Michael Bakich
on Thursday, July 23, 2015

Astronomy Contributing Editor Mike Reynolds addresses the attendees at ALCon 2015. Reynolds' talk was about the upcoming total solar eclipse August 21, 2017, but he began by memorializing two astronomers. // All photos: Mike Reynolds
The Astronomical League (AL) and Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO) held their annual meeting (the Astronomical League Convention, or ALCon) jointly July 6-11 in Las Cruces, New Mexico. The hosts were members of the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces (ASLC). The first two days were for field trips to local sites of interest; the last three were for papers, the Star-B-Que, and the closing Awards Banquet. Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto, and Walter Haas, founder of the ALPO, together formed the ASLC in 1951.

My wife, Debbie, and I took one of the tours to the White Sands Missile Range. Joe Alvarez of the ASLC did a terrific job getting us not only onto the range, but into some special places as well ... and, of course, the Visitors Center and Gift Shop. We spent a couple of hours at the NASA Sounding Rockets facility. The engineers gave us a VIP tour and detailed explanation of the NASA programs conducted at the White Sands Missile Range.

We were also able to visit the original V-2 launch site at White Sands; some marvelous history to say the least. Other tours included the Very Large Array (VLA) Radio Telescope (which we visited post-conference) and the New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo. If you have never visited this museum, you should put it on your list. It is indeed a nice facility.

The conference featured papers and talks suited to all astronomical interests, from solar system to deep sky, observational techniques to data collection, and amateur to professional astronomers. Candace Gray of New Mexico State University presented one of the most intriguing talks. Titled “The Mystery of Venus’ Aurora,” it dealt with the possibility of venusian aurora events.

Matt Will (right), the secretary-treasurer of ALPO, presents the Walter H. Haas Observer's Award to Mike Reynolds, who stood in for the actual recipient, who could not attend the meeting.
The Star-B-Que was enjoyable, from the excellent New Mexico-style barbeque to the LGM … or, rather, Little Green Women! The weather did not hold out; it seems that ALCon 2015 brought on the monsoons early! Yet a good time was had by all.

One of the many reasons to hold ALCon 2015 in Las Cruces was to honor Walter Haas. And ALPO planned to have Walter present its Peggy Haas Service Award to Don Parker for his years of service to the association as well as his leadership in planetary observing and imaging. With the passing of both Walter and Don prior to ALCon 2015, the event honored both men.

Walter’s daughter, Mary Haas Alba, did a wonderful job remembering her father at the banquet. Mary also had a number of Walter’s files and observations for us to look over, including many from early ALPO members. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Walter understood the important role he played in not only encouraging and recording many planetary observations, but for making the link between amateur and professional astronomers.

The tributes to Don Parker were also many. Don had served on the ALPO Board of Directors and was still imaging up to his passing. Many consider Don one of the finest planetary imagers of his time; he certainly designed techniques that others used successfully. And Don was such a giving individual. If you needed to know how to do a specific type of imaging, camera details, telescope performance techniques, martian data and observation — whatever — Don was always willing to share with you. Always.

So two thumbs up to Ron Kramer and the Astronomical Society of Las Cruces, who set the bar high for future events. This one had a little something for everyone — including Little Green Women!

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