History of the Twin City Amateur Astronomers
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Education/Public Outreach and Service: 2005-2006
From 1999 through 2003 Carl Wenning worked closely with the Prairie Aviation Museum to
assist with the development of its proposed Challenger Learning Center. He was named a
“champion” in this cause, and took on a number of important leadership roles. Asked to commit
to “just a few meetings,” Carl stayed on board long enough to write and secure the CLC charter
for central Illinois during October 2001, assisted with fund raising from 2001-2003, and was
present for the Center’s opening in December 2003. Just a bit more than a year later, in 2005, the
TCAA started off with a “bash” at the CLC with a January 29 mission. Continuing to assist with
the growth of the CLC at Prairie Aviation Museum, later in 2005 TCAA members Carl Wenning
and Shaukat Goderya were awarded a $50,000 NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute grant to
help develop two national curricula for the 50 or so simulators across the USA, Canada, and
Great Britain. This effort ultimately would lead Rebecca and Carl Wenning to having dinner with
Grace Corrigan, mother of Challenger 51-L astronaut Christa McAuliffe, on Friday, February 24,
Figure 49: TCAA members on a Challenger Learning Center Mission, January 29, 2005
The year 2005 was a fresh start in many other ways for the TCAA. During the February
Annual Meeting, The club conferred membership in the G. Schuette Society of Outstanding
Amateur Astronomers upon William Carney. When the award was presented, it was rightly noted
that this recognition was long overdue. No member in the TCAA had been named to the Schuette
Society since 1997 – eight years. Upon conferring the award, President Lyle Rich noted how
William had held several offices, how he had contributed “ceaselessly and tirelessly” to the
membership through its numerous education and public outreach activities, and how he had won
numerous Astronomical League observing awards such as the Messier, Lunar, Binocular Messier,
and Urban awards.
On April 25, 2005, David Levy of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 fame met with club members at
SGNC to do some observing; unfortunately, the sky was overcast. Still the membership in
attendance benefited from an evening of discussion. The day before and the day after David
presented talks at ISU’s Bone Student Center and Milner Library respectively. Several club
members were in attendance at these events as well. Just two days before David’s visit with the
membership, Duane Yockey traveled to the NCRAL 2005 convention in Sturgeon Bay, WI, an
event that would before long have significant “consequences” for the TCAA.
During the spring and summer of 2005, the club was happily moving along providing
education/public outreach efforts. President Lyle V. Rich – a member from the earliest years of
the club had only recently returned to town78 after many years of government and Navy work –
died quite unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. Vice president Kalyanaraman (Kal) Kumar
– a temporary employee of State Farm Insurance Company from Chenai, India – became
president. Under Kal’s leadership, the club smoothly continued its efforts.
With the ISU Planetarium having been opened on September 1, 1964, the planetarium
projector was in dire need of repairs. When Carl Wenning had been planetarium director, he got
the College of Arts & Sciences to commit $30,000 to the projector’s refurbishment shortly after
the disappearance of Halley’s Comet in 1986. Still, this was not enough. In 2005, with Tom
Willmitch as Planetarium Director, the TCAA took the lead in conducting fundraising campaign
for ISU Planetarium that consisted of a direct mail campaign and a raffle. An Intes 6-inch f/10
Maksutov telescope OTA from Russia (list price $1,799) was donated anonymously to the
planetarium during early solicitation efforts, and this was used as a basis for the raffle. By the
time the raffle was held on September 3, the club had raised $2,935 on behalf of the planetarium.
Club member Neale Lemkuhl was the winner.
As the year drew to a close, an interesting feature started showing up in The OBSERVER that
would also have long-term consequences for the club. During 2005, AL observing club updates
started making a regular appearance in the newsletter. Messier, Herschel 400, Asteroid, and
Comet reports were made on behalf of William Carney, Jean Memken, Michael Rogers, and
Brian Barling. Before long, this small set of notifications would propel the membership on to
making significant advances in observing. Despite those things clambering for the attention of
amateur astronomers, several members of the TCAA continued to observe the heavens in the old
fashion way – they viewed it! During the period from 1995-2005, TCAAers were bedazzled by
the observing prowess of William Carney (asteroids and comets), Sandra McNamara (Herschel
400 observing project using non-automated methods), and Rebecca Wenning (provisional
Messier certificate completed at 11 years of age).79
Starting in 2006, Carl Wenning and Duane Yockey renewed efforts teaching adult education
at SGNC. This first course resulted in an overflow registration and a new member by the name of
Dave Osenga. Joining the club later that year were Ginnie Underwood and Gail Nelson who also
attended the winter adult education course at SGNC. Joining on his own at this time was Lee
Never to be outdone traveling, on March 29, 2006, Roy and Barb Ostberg, Sharon
MacDonald, and Carl Wenning80 observed yet another total eclipse of this sun, but this time
aboard ship in the Mediterranean Sea just northeast of Crete. In addition to traveling through
Athens, they visited the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea, and twice traveled to Turkey – ancient
Ephesus by ship and Istanbul by air.
During April, eight TCAAers attended the NCRAL 2006 meeting in Appleton, WI. In doing
so they were following the lead of Duane Yockey who had attended the year before, and noted
the pleasure of doing so. Following his lead, seven club members joined him for this event – Dan
Miller, Carl Wenning, as well as Michael Rogers and Jean Memken along with their three
children. In discussions at that meeting, the TCAA leadership put forth an offer to host NCRAL
2010 in recognition of the club’s 50th anniversary.
Dan Miller, working with the Challenger Learning Center, helped to organize Family Science
Day in cooperation with CLC’s Janet Moore on September 24, 2006.81 Numerous club members
participated in this event, with displays inside and outside the ballroom at the Bone Student
Center on the ISU campus. Michael Rogers put up a computer display, Carl Wenning a telescope
optics display. Dan set up a telescope for viewing the sun, as well as a new TCAA display stand.
Dave Osenga took responsibility for staffing the TCAA display.
Figure 50: Family Science Day in cooperation with the Challenger Learning Center
Starting with the September 2006 issue of The OBSERVER, a new feature – Observers’ Log
Book – was started to document the many observations of club members beyond those directly
associated with Astronomical League observing programs. Among the first items noted was an
August Perseid meteor shower observing program at Weldon Springs SRA at Clinton, now an
annual tradition. Carl worked carefully with Park Interpreter Carol Thompson to present this
event. Springing from this event was a new member, Marty Morris, a 4th grade school teacher in
Clinton, IL. The club would subsequently present annual spring or autumn observing sessions at
Weldon Springs that consisted of a presentation, constellation study, and telescopic viewing.
Annual meetings during this time brought back some old memories and presented new ideas.
A member from the very earliest days of the club, David B. Williams, spoke about variables
during his 2005 presentation, and Dr. Roger Phillips, Director of the McDonnell Center for the
Space Sciences in Saint Louis, spoke about the MESSENGER mission to Mercury in 2006.
Travels and Recognitions: 2007 - 2009
78 Past members have returned in various ways over the years, especially by attending Annual Meetings. Included in
this listing are Judy Walker Nonie; Sue Remsburg (ended up working for NASA), Barry Beaman (ended up
becoming president of the Astronomical League and variable star observer in Rockford, IL), David B. Williams
(notable AAVSO member and twice president from Whitestown, IN), Taylor Cisco (City Colleges of Chicago –
District Office, Program Compliance Officer), Lyle Rich (US Navy and government work), Bill Blunk (high school
physics teacher who retired in 2005 after working for many years in Joliet, IL), and Warren Light (worked in
79 See Appendix 8 for a complete listing of Astronomical League observing and NASA Service award recipients.
80 Agnes Wenning, Carl’s mother, also traveled along as she did back in 1994 to see the total solar eclipse from Potosí,
81 Janet was hired into the position of Lead Flight Director in 2003 with the opening of the Center. She had worked
previously in the ISU Planetarium during her four undergraduate years. Besides presenting more than one hundred
programs yearly, Janet almost single-handedly opened the Planetarium’s gift shop – exhibiting precisely those sort of
skills needed in her new teaching and administrative positions at the CLC.