Rappahannock Astronomy Club

Minutes, Jaunuary 14 2009 meeting

In attendance:

  • Jim Baker
  • Barton Billard
  • Jenna Carter
  • Brenda Conway
  • Maria Damico
  • Mark Devito
  • Joe Francis
  • Sherry Francis
  • Leigh Gettier
  • Tom Harmon
  • Michael Masters
  • Jon Neasham
  • Tim Plunkett

Vice President Michael Masters opened the meeting shortly after 7 p.m with introductions around the room.  Two visitors joined us, Brenda Conway and Maria Damico.

Treasurer's Report

Treasurer Tim Plunkett presented his report.  Eight members have paid dues for 2009 so far.


Mike changed the order of the meeting on behalf of the visitors and introduced the program by Leigh on beginning astronomy before the rest of the business meeting.  Leigh talked about “many paths up the mountain” of learning astronomy, discussed several topics, and passed around a number of items that could help the beginner:

§         Planispheres to help learn and locate what is up in the sky

§         Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines with charts that can be similarly used

§         Red flashlights

§         Binoculars (useful as grab-and-go devices) to allow the user to see more.  In some cases, they can be more appropriate than telescopes

§         Stabilization device such as a monopod for the binoculars

§         Star charts and atlases

§         A notebook or other item for sketching what you see—his was a notebook with circles drawn in for outlines

§         A number of books, including Terence Dickinson & Alan Dyer’s The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, Guy Consolmagno and Dan M. Davis’ Turn Left at Orion, and Bret Watson’s Bright Telescope Objects

§         Guides available on the Internet such as the Astronomical League website and the Sierra College pronunciation guide

§         Catalogs from vendors such as Orion and Edmund Scientific

Finally he presented some information about choosing telescopes, which was supplemented by Mike, who showed the club compilation of resources for choosing telescopes.

Star Party Reports

Old Business

Flyers—Mike reported that Scott delivered a set of Club flyers to Ritz Camera on December 14.

2008 year-end report—The year-end report was recently circulated for comments on the Club mailing lists and has now been sent out with the Treasurer’s report as a final version.

Borders events—The club has planned Borders events for Friday, April 3, and Saturday, May 2.  Mike said that Myron agreed to make contact with Borders.

DVD series from Astronomy magazine—After reviewing the disc from the DVD series on the universe that Glenn brought to the December meeting , Scott has recommended Club purchase of the series.  Action is deferred until Glenn or Scott can provide the exact title and price information.

Gallileoscope purchase pre-registration—The International Year of Astronomy (IYA) Gallileoscope purchase sign-up is now available, and Tim has registered the Club’s interest in being notified when it is available for purchase.  Mark reported that orders will be taken for groups of a dozen, so the club will need to reopen the decision to purchase that was based on the assumption of purchasing one telescope.  Providing one or two telescopes to schools in connection with Club outreach events was mentioned as a possible use of additional Gallileoscopes.

News from International Year of Astronomy 2009—Mark reported that Rappahannock Astronomy Club is now listed on the US thread of the IYA 2009 website, in the list of local programs.  He recommends the “365 Days of Astronomy” podcasts, which feature a different topic every day, discussed by volunteers from amateur to professional astronomers.

Discussion of alternative dark sky sites—The topic was deferred because Glenn was unable to attend.  However, Mike was able to get more information on Pinnacle Research Station, which was a previous suggestion.  He has found a contact, but learned its research purpose requires limited access that makes use for a Club star party problematical.  The effort may still be worthwhile because Mike was able to learn that the Park Service has hired a new ecologist who is interested in a dark sky study.  Mike will be able to contact him in the near future.

Help session—The subject of conducting a telescope help session was next on the agenda.  Mike suggests it is best to combine with a star party date, probably at Caledon.  The May and/or June dates appear suitable.

Club library status—Mike is working on getting a list and suggested adding some newer beginner’s books like the ones that Leigh showed in his talk.  Leigh was appointed to start a list of additional books for the club to consider, to be passed around for suggestions and comments.

Club loaner status—Tom volunteered to make a CD of software for the club Meade CCD.

New Business

Mike requested volunteers to support the events at Caledon (need an SCT represented for the astronomy program) January 17, and Motts Run January 24.

Mike reported that Glenn has been developing a Scout Merit Badge package to assist club members.

Mike has been working on an outline members can use to discuss getting started in astronomy at outreach events.  Adding some beginner’s books to the Club library and purchasing a few star charts and moon maps could make good show-and-tell items available to use at outreach events.

Jim Baker proposed permanently adopting the format that puts the program early in the meeting.

Mark made three suggestions. He proposed that the Club consider moving its RAC_GROUP from Yahoo to Google.  He suggested establishing a more regular social event like dinners before meetings for interested members.  He also suggested the club consider a group trip to the site of the National Radio Obesrvatory in West Virginia.  Joe mentioned that it could be combined with the summer star party in West Virginia.

News and Events

Tom talked about plans at Meade to introduce a 14-inch Advanced Coma-Free telescope and other possible changes in its product line.  Brenda mentioned that NASA has created a Facebook group that is fun for Facebook fans who like astronomy or space exploration. 

Next Meeting

The next meeting is scheduled for February 11, 2009, 7:00 p.m., at Central Rappahannock Regional Library Headquarters, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Submitted by Bart Billard, Secretary