Richmond Astronomical Society

April Meeting Minutes

Jun 13th, 2011 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

739th Consecutive Meeting

April 12, 2011


David Medici called our meeting to order in the Eureka room.

Greeting & Announcements – approximately 26 in attendance at the meeting.

Share Table

A few photos taken through telescopes.  Star maps.

Library Report (Virginia Eckert):

No issues and no theme tonight.  She brought in 5 books: 2 books about the Sun; Pictorial of Planets; Stars; and a book about Venus (very old collector’s book).

Recent Events:

  • SMV Skywatch – Sky had spotty clouds. There was a “fairly modest turnout” to view through telescopes.
  • City Point Skywatch (Petersburg National Battlefield) – very good turnout; Tim Streagle, Ray Moody, and Tom K saw and displayed Orion, a few planets, and the moon.  A reporter spoke with Tim for about 2 hours, good enough for 1 quote.

Individual observing:

  • Several members looked at Orion and the moon.  Tim had a few sessions at the scout camp, and a good turnout during the new moon.
  • Betty Wilson made 3 presentations to students at Springfield Park Elementary.  Each session was for 200 students (600 total) and lasted about 40-50 minutes.

Upcoming Events:

  • Bryan Park Skywatch, April 14: Please contact John Raymond at if you can help out.   Bring your telescopes early to set up.
  • Science Museum Skywatch, April 15: Please add your name to the sign-up sheet if you can bring a scope.  More information at  No LiveSky presentation this evening (Planetarium has been down since October).  There will be Science on a Sphere at 6pm and 7pm, “Weather on Planets” (35-40 minutes) will be scheduled during the summer vacation.
  • Skywatch at City Point, April 23: Public observing session at the City Point Unit of Petersburg National Battlefield.  Please let Jim Browder (at know if you can help out by bringing a scope and your expertise.  More information about the Park’s Skywatch program and the City Point location is available at: and
  • Forestry Center in New Kent County, April 29, 6pm. See Bill Jeffries if you are interested.
  • Scotchtown Skywatch, May 6, 8:00 PM, 16120 Chiswell Lane, Beaverdam, VA 23015.  Please contact John Raymond at if you can bring a scope.
  • Astronomy Day, May 7, 12 noon – 4pm, SMV, (no Skywatch this year), RAS club table, IDA booth (dark sky information), make and take sundials, solar observing through telescopes, CCD astro-imaging, a scale model of the solar system, radio telescopes information, light pollution education, a meteorite exhibit, door prizes, a life-like space suit, and the ever-popular soda bottle rocket launch!

Visitors:  We had 3 new visitors:  David Faraone, Les Keniston, and David Feagans.

Short Talk:

“RavenCon Recap” by Prashant Reddy

RAS was represented by at least 5 members at this science fiction festival held annually in Richmond.  RAS was supporting the astronomical science track of the conference.  Terry Barker explained the art of satellite observing by using  JimBrowder, Prashant, and Dave Walton participated in an open discussion.  John Raymond had a telescope on display.  There were many dressed in StarTrek alien costumes.  There were also several writers and book sellers.

— Break —

April’s Presentation:

“Will the Sky Be Clear Tonight?” by Jim Blowers

A major enemy of astronomers is clouds.  Jim mentioned several websites that others use to predict cloud cover and weather.  His preferred site is  He proceeded to show several photos of different cloud patterns that are strong indicators of weather to come.  Jim grouped many of the cloud characteristics by altitude.

  • The cirrus, cirrostratus, and cirrocumulus clouds are high altitude, and are usually viewed as whispy, possibly interfering with observing.  These cause halos and sundogs.
  • Altocumulus and altostratus are middle altitude clouds.  They look like flocks of sheep.  Sun shines through it, but it is very diffused.  Stars cannot be seen through them.  These clouds are good predictors of no rain.
  • The low altitude cumulus clouds are usually billowy puffs, and are usually gone by night.
  • Stratocumulus and stratus are the “bad clouds” that are opaque, overcast, “dreary day clouds”, and usually mean rainy weather. 
  • Nimbostratus and cumulonimbus are the thunderhead clouds, full of lightning and severe weather.

There are quality controls that are used to describe the level of clear viewing:

  • Seeing: level of twinkling
  • Transparencies: for example, good clear dark skies are usually in winter, while bad hazy night are usually found in the summer.  Haze appears to steady planetary viewing, but degrades galaxy viewing.
  • Clouds are more likely as you look closer to the horizon, due to an increase of atmosphere that you need to look through.

There are 6 reliable computer models used by astronomers to make short and long-term predictions (example – “Clear Sky Chart” by A. Danko, and the “Weather Underground”).

  • US has 3: GFS (Global Forecasting System), NAM (North American Mesoscale), NOGAPS (Navy Operational Global Atmospheric Prediction? System?)
  • Canada has 1: GEM
  • Europe has 2: ECMWF and UKMET




The next RAS meeting will be Tuesday, May 10th at the SMV.

The next board meeting will be Monday, May 16, 2011 at Extra Billy’s at 7:00 PM (arrive earlier for dinner). Meeting is open to all members.

Check out the web site at

Virginia Skylines: Be sure to check out the latest version of Virginia Skylines on our web site.  Virginia Skylines is a weekly podcast written by Leslie Bochenski, astronomy educator with the Science Museum and Thomas Jefferson High School.

RAS Café Press store.  Please take a look at the online store where you can purchase items embossed with the RAS label. The site can be found at .

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