Club History
BAC is a member of the Astronomical League
1970's

During this decade, the Astronomy Club organized two expeditions in order to view total solar eclipses.

The first was in 1970 when totality passed along the east coast of the US.  Quite a few club members travelled to Charleston, South Carolina for the occasion.

The second eclipse expedition was longer-- this eclipse was visible from Prince Edward Island, Canada!

Also, several new members joined the club-- Howard Snow, Ken Childress, Edward Burke III, David Jacobs, Mike Chesman, George Fleenor, Ron Crockett, Mike Blair, Mike Spicer, Tom Barr, Tom Rutherford,  David Cortner, Ted Stryk, Jessee Ray Oliver, and Phil Maiden.
1980's

Although many of the high school age members had departed (most had gone off to college and so on) the club continued to thrive.

In 1989 the club helped, along with King College, to sponsor a talk by Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto.

1990's
2000's

In 2006, Dr. Owen Gingrich, of Harvard University, visits King College, speaking about his search for all known copies of Copernicus' book On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres.  His purpose was to determine who had read it.
The history of the Bristol Astronomy Club is closely intertwined with the history of the astronomy program at King College-- you cannot talk about one without discussing the other.
1950's
Astronomy began at King College in 1949 with the arrival of Dr. Edward Burke. Soon after his arrival, in 1952, two students, B. L. Harless and W. W. Roland finished the construction of a 6-inch telescope whose mirror had been ground and polished, by King faculty member A. C. Adams,prior to Burke's arrival.

In addition, the King students also ground a mirror for this telescope-- both mirrors were used at times. It should be noted that no outside funds were used. Everything was constructed by student volunteers with available materials.

Once a useable telescope had been constructed, Dr. Burke began inviting the public to come to the College on clear nights to look through it.  In 1957, a bright comet, Arrend-Roland, appeared in the skies over Bristol and a great many people came out to King in order to view it. Also in that year, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory started trying to set up a network of satellite observing stations, known as Project Moonwatch.

These were to monitor the positions of the earth-orbiting satellites which were to be launched as part of the International
Geophysical Year (IGY).
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Burke and the local amateur astronomers were very interested in being a part of the Smithsonian's program and in the process of setting up the Moonwatch station, the Bristol Astronomy Club came to be born.

The club began meeting at the College and utilized the 6-inch telescope which had already been constructed. King College had already provided for the mounting and for the housing of this telescope. A site on the southern edge of the campus was selected for construction of an observatory with the Moonwatch station to be located just to the west of the telescope dome.

In early 1958, the Smithsonian encouraged its Moonwatch stations to practice in preparation for the upcoming satellite launches. Satellite observations had to be made just after dusk or just before dawn-- the observer would be in darkness, but the satellite would still be in sunlight high overhead and so easily seen against the dark sky. The astronomy club members would man the station after sundown and King College students and faculty would man it before sunrise. The group planned to be ready for the first satellite launch in 1959.

As the Bristol Astronomy Club began to function, Ward Carter was selected as its first president. Other members were Nat Lowe, Joe Godsey, Bill and Anne Chambers, Gene Gilfillen, Milton Abercrombie, Lynn Bryngelson, and from the faculty of King College, Dr. B. A. Barrington, Dr. Roy H. Bailey, and Dr. Ed Burke.

The Soviet launch of Sputnik I in November, 1958 took everyone by surprise. The Moonwatch team was ready to go, however, and attempted to make observations. Unfortunately, the satellite was too small and thus too faint for the small telescopes of the King College station to detect. It was tracked by amateur radio astronomers, though. Sputnik II was soon launched-- it was larger and brighter and was detected by the observers at King. The King Moonwatch station was only the third station in the US to report a position for satellite.


Click here to add text.
1960's

As the club continued to meet at King, the college received a grant from the National Science Foundation for the construction and housing of a 12.5-inch Newtonian reflector to be used for photoelectric photometry. Click here to add text. Construction of the telescope was begun by two of the astronomy club members-- Joe Godsey, who ground and polished the mirror, and Nat Lowe, who constructed the mount in his machine shop. Some of the work was also done by Don Pippin.

The observatory itself consisted of two parts-- a one-story brick building containing a classroom, a control room, a Ed Burke and Don Pippin next to the completed telescope. The rectangular object at the front of the telescope is the photometer.

By this time, the club was growing and had added several new members-- Joe Stover, George Kelley, Dick Brown, Dr.
Waverly Green, Paul Bauer, who served as president for several years, Frank Spangler, Mike Goins, Warren Camper,
Frank Biggs, Roger Ball and Richard McQueen. After the telescope was constructed and the observatory built, the Astronomy Club began to meet in its library room. library and a small kitchen. In addition, to house the telescope, a roll-off shelter was constructed just behind the main building.

After the telescope was constructed and the observatory built, the Astronomy Club began to meet in its library room.library and a small kitchen. In addition, to house the telescope, a roll-off shelter was constructed just behind the main building. The completed observatory The telescope in its shelter The telescope shelter rolled away-- this picture is somewhat later than the one at left In September of 1965, the observatory (along with Dr. Burke).was featured on the cover of Sky & Telescope
magazine. A very imformative article appeared inside

By this time, the club was growing and had added several new members-- Joe Stover, George Kelley, Dick Brown, Dr. Waverly Green, Paul Bauer, who served as president for several years, Frank Spangler, Mike Goins, Warren Camper, Frank Biggs, Roger Ball and Richard McQueen..

Late in 1969, three members of the club appeared on a local tele-vision station (WCYB) as contestants on "Club Quiz." The three members were Jim Brown, Wade Tate, and Mrs. Carol Heitt. After remaining on the show for a total of four weeks, the members received $85 in prize money (not a small sum in those days). The money was be used to help in the construction of a trailer-mounted 10-inch telescope that the club was in the process of contructing.