Richmond Astronomical Society

Happy 2011!

Jan 5th, 2011 | By | Category: Blog

Happy 2011:  I hope everyone had a great holiday season and enjoyed celebrating the arrival of 2011.  To greet the new year, we were treated with a Quadrantid meteor shower under a near-new moon. I spent about an hour or so taking in the sky and looking for meteors early this week.  I saw three good meteors but was not able to catch any on video or still images.  If anyone saw the Quadrantids or captured images, please pass along your reports.

Total lunar eclipse: A group of RAS members observed and imaged the recent winter solstice total lunar eclipse that took place late on the night of Monday, Dec. 20 through the early morning of Tuesday Dec. 21.  The eclipse began before midnight and peaked just after 3:15 AM.  Although it was quite a late (and cold) night it was a lot of fun.   Early in the evening the skies were very clear and then clouded up almost completely as the eclipse began.  Fortunately, the skies cleared well before the darkest part of the eclipse and remained reasonably clear with a few passing clouds through the peak, clouding up again before sunrise.  I took the image to the left during totality.  J. M. P Alves took a series of beautiful images and posted them on Flickr at this link.

December Eclipse - Tim Streagle

Several of us imaged the eclipse and I broadcast much of it on Ustream where a video recording is still available.  At one point, the Ustream viewer count showed over 3300 viewers, which astounded me, but demonstrates I think, that there is an appetite for coverage of astronomical events such as this and that they present an opportunity to generate interest in astronomy.  Many thanks to Tim Streagle for extending the invitation to observe with him from the Heart of Virginia Scout Reservation in Goochland.  Tim also created the beautiful composite image to the left.  The dining hall at the reservation provided creature comforts which made observing on a cold night a lot more enjoyable.

Last meeting: At the December meeting we transformed into the Richmond Gastronomical Society and focused on eating and socializing at our annual potluck dinner.  Our members did not disappoint and brought a wide selection of goodies to feast upon and the Science Museum provided a convenient gathering location.  It was all delicious.  I confess to having a soft spot in my heart for Sue Brubaker’s mini hot dogs.  Thanks to everyone for making it an enjoyable evening.

To top off the evening, we recognized with a certificate and RAS logo mug our own John Raymond for his herculean efforts associated with the outreach work he has done over many months.  We very much appreciate John’s dedication and persistence.  Unfortunately on the night of the meeting John was hard at work paying off his last telescope purchase, so we will present the certificate to him at another meeting.  We also thank the many kind RAS members who bring their telescopes and expertise to the skywatch events to support John and the RAS in our outreach efforts.

Also at the December meeting, Leslie McClammy with the National Park Service presented the club a plaque thanking the RAS for its support of outreach events at the Petersburg National Battlefield.  The plaque displays a logo used and designed by the Battlefield Park staff to highlight the skywatches hosted by the Park and recognizes the RAS contribution to the events.  Leslie offered her thanks and compliments to the RAS and we were pleased to have the Park representatives as our guests.

Son of a Biscuit: In early November, the Heart of Virginia Scout Reservation hosted a Family Stargaze.  Lots of scouts visited the observing site where astronomers from the RAS and others were camped.  Several times during the evening, we had folks come by that had not looked through a telescope before and we had the pleasure of experiencing that most wonderful “Oh wow!” moment with them when someone sees a particularly spectacular view through a telescope for the first time.  At one point, one of the scout volunteers took a look through my telescope after the kids each had a turn.  Apparently he found the view quite impressive as he backed away from the eyepiece and loudly exclaimed, “Son of a b….!” which we choose to remember as, “Son of a biscuit!”  The moment was captured in a cartoon by Bill Newman.  Thanks to Bill for doing the cartoon and passing it along.

Next meeting:  Ken Wilson will be speaking on “Skylights of 2011: Astronomical phenomena that will be happening this year.”  This is a great time of year to review what will be happening in the sky this year and to put these events on our astro calendars.

Many of you will recall that one of our youngest members, Sydney, with the assistance of her dad, Mark, has been constructing a telescope.  Well the scope is finished and now in operation.  You can see a picture of the scope and recount their updates here.  It has made an appearance at skywatches in the area and been quite a hit.  As you can see from the image, the telescope is just the right size for Sydney to use and is nicely adorned with astronomical decorations.  It was obviously a well-thought out design.  Sydney and her dad will be describing their adventure in building the telescope at our January meeting.  Please join us if you can to hear about the fun they had with their project.

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Dues: If you have not paid your dues, please send or hand deliver a check to Jim Blowers at the next meeting, our treasurer, or pay by PayPal as soon as you can.  We try to get everyone’s dues payments current around this time of year.  Dues for regular membership are $30 per year with additional options for Sky and Telescope and Astronomy discount subscriptions and for observatory use.

Name tags: If you would like an RAS name tag, please let Jim Blowers know.

Virginia Skylines: As most of you know Leslie Bochenski does a weekly audio show for the Science Museum of Virginia describing what astronomical events and objects are visible in the sky for the week.  It’s very well done and you can listen here to the latest edition about the Earth’s passage through its perihelion this week.

Best Regards and Happy 2011!

Jim Browder
Richmond Astronomical Society

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