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Newsletter of RAS (Richmond Astronomical Society)

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Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 W. Broad



Topic summary


April and May Meetings
by Chris McCann

    Richmond Astronomical Society

    715th Consecutive Meeting

    April 14, 2009


    Jim Browder called our meeting to order, in the IMAX Planetarium.

    Greeting & Announcements - approximately 23 in attendance at the meeting.

    First order of business: Astronomy Day will be Saturday, May 2 at the Science Museum. A listing of probable activities was reviewed for that day includes solar observing through telescopes, making sundials, dark sky information, CCD imaging, mirror grinding exhibit, the always popular soda bottle rocket launch, followed up by an evening skywatch (weather permitting).

    Share table:

    • John Raymond had eyepieces for sale. He also had a set of large binoculars and its stand for $500.
    • Tim Streagle used his laptop to display a red screensaver named Dark Adapted. DarkAdapted is an application program, free for downloading from www.darkadapted.com , "controls the amount of red, green, and blue in your screen gamma so that you may . . .preserve your dark adaptation while using your computer."
    • Jim Blowers displayed maps that had a night view of the world, showing lighted areas.
    • Someone (excuse me for missing your name) put a gift certificate/coupon for a free eye exam.

    Observing and Events

    • Thanks were given to Ray & Bill for helping with the skywatch at JEJ Moore Middle school.
    • Thanks was also given to John Raymond and Tim Streagle for their outstanding work in making the 1st Virginia Solar-Lunar Convention and Imaging Conference a big success.

    Great work guys!!

    • Remember to look at the RAS blog page at http://richastro.blogspot.com for more information.
    • Images of the conference (http://portableastronomy.com/vslc_2009.htm) were displayed on the planetarium dome.

    Astronomical League report:

    • The AL is providing "First Telescope Observation Certificates" for anyone who would like to use them to build interest and excitement at skywatches. They can be filled-in and printed, or can be printed with empty blanks (allowing manual entry of information). The information on the certificate is the name of the observer, the date, and what they saw through the telescope. Certificates can be found at http://www.astroleague.org/node/408
    • The IYA documentary named "400 Years of the Telescope" was broadcasted during mid to late April. More information on the video can be found at: http://400years.org/schedule/times_stations.php
    • The Astronomical League is trying to sponsor a 2nd Astronomy Day to honor IYA. Another day would be set in October. More information may be coming. The board will discuss the possibility of having another at the next board meeting.
    • The Galileo telescope kits that allows you to build a telescope resembling the one Galileo used are for sale for $15. The website that is accepting orders is https://www.galileoscope.org

    Observatory Report

    • John Barnett is planning on having the observatory open 1 night during the 1st quarter of the Moon, weather permitting.

    Library Report

    • Please visit the RAS library. Virginia Eckert placed a few books on display. Remember that only members may check out books.


    • We had 1 visitor, Neal Kinder, who was a very interesting person and would make a good RAS member.

    Short Talk:

    • Laura Graham spoke on the "Update of Local Dark Sky Issues". It had been over a year since she led the fight to preserve the dark sky habitat in her home county of Powhatan. Laura informed us that another person was attempting to do the same in Goochland County. The Board of Supervisors may be discussing the lighting ordinance and other changes at its May 5th meeting.
    • In this year, where many people are going green', several counties have approached her for information. Laura stated that there was a prison that changed their lighting arrangement, with more lighting going down to the ground and not up into the air. They had also changed the color of the roofs on the buildings, to reduce reflection and upwards glare.


    • After our break, Jim Blowers was our presenter of the evening. Jim's talk was named "It Comes from the Sun". He presented several sun facts, and discussed several entities that come from the sun, including the effects of the magnetic activity of sunspots, and the mystery of the sunspot cycles. He spoke about Solar Wind, Prominences, and flares, and how they affect the Earth and satellites. Another thing that is caused by the Sun's radiation is the Auroras that are seen about the North and South polar regions. The worst thing that we can experience from the sun is Coronal Mass Ejections', which can fry major transformers, and cause massive damage to most of the electrical equipment. There was even a mention of telegraph messages being delivered on detached wires.


    Richmond Astronomical Society

    716th Consecutive Meeting

    May 12, 2009


    Jim Browder called our meeting to order, in the Eureka Room.

    Greeting & Announcements - approximately 31 in attendance at the meeting.

    First order of business: An announcement about Laura Graham was made. She was successful in fighting to preserve the dark sky habitat in her home county of Powhatan, and is now helping others in Goochland County. The Goochland lighting ordinance was sent by the Supervisors to the Planning Commission for them to research it. If they approve it, it will go back to the supervisors for a final decision.

    A successful Astronomy Day will held on Saturday, May 2 at the Science Museum.

    Jim thanked those members who helped with the festivities:

    Kathy Fatyga, Laura Graham, Gary Cowardin, Bill Jeffries, Dick Ryan, Joanne Baker, Jim Blowers, Phil Roberts, Neal Kinder (new member from last month), Prashant Reddy, Leslie Bochenski, and David Hagen.

    The RAS needs to thank Jim Browder, too.

    Share table:

    • Jim Blowers displayed photos that were taken on Astronomy Day. He stated that he had some videos, too, and they may be appearing on the RAS blog page:


    Check the blog page for more information on Astronomy day.

    • Jim also mentioned that there is a video on U-tube named "The Joy of Launch", showing the launching of soda bottle rockets from last year.

    Observing and Events

    • Thanks to those who helped with the skywatch at University of Richmond on April 17.
    • Thanks to Tim Streagle for his Scout Camp impromptu observing session.
    • Bill Jeffries talked about observing at Macanee (??) Woods, in eastern New Kent county.
    • David Medici is having a skywatch at Caroline County High School on Wednesday, May 27. He is expecting up to 50 students, so far.
    • SMV Skywatch & Livesky is this Friday (May 15) at the Science Museum. According to Leslie, the special topic of the Livesky is "Hubble's Greatest Hits".
    • RAS Board meeting will be at 7pm on Monday, May 18, at Extra Billy's. Come at 6pm, if you wish to eat before the meeting.
    • Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson will be the opening speaker of the 2009-2010 season for the Richmond Forum, on November 14, 2009. For more information, go to http://richmondforum.org/
    • VAAS 2009 will be on Saturday, September 12, starting at 9am at NRAO auditorium, 520 Edgemont Road in Charlottesville.
    • Brandermill has requested a skywatch. Date:TBD

    Astronomical League report:

    • The AL is reporting on the variety of activities that were held across the country on Astronomy Day. A report of RAS activities will be sent to AL.

    Observatory Report

    • John Barnett replaced the atomic clock at the observatory. He has also purchased an artificial star to use for collimation purposes. Members will be able to borrow it and use it on their personal telescopes in the future.

    Library Report

    • Please visit the RAS library. Virginia Eckert placed a few books on display, about Black Holes, Antarctic Research about the Atmosphere, Red Giants & White Dwarfs, and Descriptive Astronomy.

    Remember that only members may check out books.


    We had 2 visitors:

    • Betty Davis, who has been interested in the night sky since she was a little girl, and is also the mother-in-law to Tim Streagle
    • Jim Calpin, who was a past President of an Astronomical society in Pennsylvania

    Welcome to both of you!!

    Short Talk:

    • John Raymond gave a talk about star parties he has been to, especially the "Delmarva Star Gaze". John had interesting photos of the crowd, the daytime activities, and the night sky activities, including constellations, and lightning photos from 1 of the evenings. John said they had 3 good evenings for viewing. Also, some of his photos were taken from the bridge as he crossed the Chesapeake Bay.


    • After our break, Tim Streagle was our presenter of the evening. Tim's talk was named "Astronomy Podcasts". Being an internet surfer, Tim has found many sources of Astronomical information through iTunes. It's not just for music - it also has information through several types of media. He showed the process and each screen you would go through to get to the selections of Astronomical podcasts. Some of the selections were just audio recordings, while others were videos. He handed out a listing of both types, along with his opinion of each of the podcasts. Tim played samples for us, to show the variety of information that can be found on the internet. The Hubble and Chandra photos were great.



    • The next RAS meeting will be on Tuesday, June 9 at the SMV.
    • The next board meeting will be Monday, May 18th at Extra Billy's at 7:00 PM (arrive earlier for dinner). Meeting is open to all members.

SJ 303: International Year of Astronomy


    Designating 2009 as the Year of Astronomy in Virginia.

    Agreed to by the Senate, February 4, 2009

    Agreed to by the House of Delegates, February 20, 2009

    WHEREAS, astronomy, one of the oldest basic sciences, has contributed and still contributes fundamentally to the development of other sciences and applications in a wide range of fields; and

    WHEREAS, astronomical observations have profound implications for the development of science, philosophy, culture, and the general conception of the universe; and

    WHEREAS, each society has developed its own legends, myths, and traditions concerning the sky, the planets, and the stars, which have helped form the cultural heritage of its people; and

    WHEREAS, the year 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of the first time the telescope was used by the great scientist Galileo to view the heavens; and

    WHEREAS, the United Nations has declared the year 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy, holding opening ceremonies and exhibits at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Headquarters in Paris; and

    WHEREAS, the first astronomical observatory in the United States was established in Virginia in 1823 by Thomas Jefferson; and

    WHEREAS, the Commonwealth is host to two National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) facilities, and cutting edge astronomical research is conducted by NASA and other Virginia astronomers; and

    WHEREAS, Virginia has numerous astronomy associations, planetariums, and observatories, where amateur and professional astronomers alike may study, monitor, and explore the heavens; and

    WHEREAS, during the 2009 celebration of astronomy, all Virginians are encouraged to enjoy, preserve, and appreciate the beautiful natural resource of the Commonwealth's clear, dark, night skies, as well as to visit and support public observatories, planetariums, and astronomy exhibits; now, therefore, be it

    RESOLVED by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, That the General Assembly designate 2009 as the Year of Astronomy in Virginia; and, be it

    RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate post the designation of 2009 as the Year of Astronomy in Virginia on the General Assembly's website.


Loaner scopes for members
by John Barnett

    A loaner telescopes is available:

    The huge 13.1", f/4.5 dobsonian reflector that excels in dark skies searching for the dim fuzzies like nebulae, comets and globular clusters. It is about 30 yrs old, mirrors were aluminized several yrs ago. The design is close to the original John Dobson type, with a breech-loaded thin mirror and requires careful assembly and recollimation. It comes with a glide platform that can be used to roll the heavy scope ( about 130 lbs altogether) out of a garage or shed on flat surfaces. In a roll-out situation, the scope would not need heavy lifting or reassembly for each use.

    Also there are two other telescopes that are currently on loan to members. Let me know and I'll put you on the waiting list.

    Call or email me and I'll arrange for demonstration, delivery, and a little paperwork.

    Good seeing!John Barnett, RAS Observatory Director


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Dues Renewal Form

Your RAS 2009 membership subscription is now due. Please furnish the following information to the treasurer. You can also pay via PayPal on our web site. If paying by check, make it out to RAS, and send to:

Jim Blowers
4514 Foxwood Rd.
Chester, VA 23831-8011

Name: ________________________________________________

Address: ______________________________________________


Phone: _______________ (h) _________________ (w)

Email: _____________________________________________


Regular membership



Observatory membership



Astronomy renewal 



Sky & Tel renewal 





Contact information

All meetings are the second Monday of the month, at the Science Museum of Virginia, 2500 W. Broad St. For more information, contact Jim Browder president@richastro.org. or Chris McCann secretary@richastro.org.

Master calendar

Annual events and monthly presentation slots.

Presenter: Leslie Bochenski
Effective Ways to Teach Astronomy

Feb: Presentation: Jim Browder, The "Astrometry.net Project"
Short Talk: Ted Bethune, "International Space Station in Orbit"

Board meeting, Feb. 16, 2008
Appoint Astronomy Day committee
Appoint VAAS committee (when it's our year)

Aug: Board meeting
Appoint nominating committee
Appoint picnic committee
Announce picnic date

Mar: Presentation: Jim Browder, "Review of Comet Lulin Observations"
Short Talks: John Raymond (Virginia Solar/Lunar Convention and Imaging Conference); Ted Bethune (Education and Outreach Efforts)

Sep. Announce nominating committee members

Apr: Presentation: Jim Blowers, "It Comes From the Sun"
Short talks: Laura Graham: an update on Dark Skies;
Slides from this past weekend's star party

Oct: Announce board nominees

May: Presentation: Tim Streagle, "Astronomy Podcasts"
Board meeting

Nov: Board meeting (elect officers)
Elect board

Jun: Presentation: "The Southern Sky" by John Barnett
Dec: Announce new officers
VA Corp. Comm. renewal due
Program: Holiday Party

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