Richmond Astronomical Society

April Meeting Minutes

Jun 8th, 2010 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

727th Consecutive Meeting

April 13, 2010


Jim Browder called our meeting to order in the Eureka room.

Greeting & Announcements – approximately 38 in attendance at the meeting.

Please check the link to our RAS blog:

Share table:

There were several items for sale, including a telescope, a few eyepieces by John Raymond, and a newly purchased telescope and stand by David Medici.

Cal had an interesting planetary chart depicting the relative positions of the planets to the sun, throughout the year.  There were a few free magazines for any interested members.  I did not get to see them, but someone brought a few photos they had taken through their telescope.

Past Events:

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the last Skywatch at the Science Museum on Friday, March 19.  The event was well attended.  There was an estimated crowd of over 150.   Observed objects included Saturn, Mars, and Orion.

Yuri’s Night at the Westover Hills Library was a success with over 200 people.  There was a great turnout with observations made of Orion, Saturn, and Mars.

Metro Richmond Science Fair at Powhatan High – Terry Barker presented cash prizes for 4 good Astronomy projects:

  1. Justin Lau, The Effect of Solar Wind Speed on the Strength of Geomagnetic Substorms.
  2. Isaac Steincamp, Celestial Motion: The Difference Between Stellar and Planetary Motion.
  3. Anisha Rohatgi, The Effect of Distance of the Light Source on the Intensity of Skyglow.
  4. Zachary and Benjamin Terner, The Effects of Coronal Mass Ejection on Muon Event Frequency at a Local High School.

Several members volunteered their adventures into their individual observing.  A few mentioned they had observed the Mercury/Venus conjunction, and others had been out to Big Meadows for some dark skies.  One member announced they had been to the Powhatan observing site and was approached by someone saying he was the one who got the site started at Powhatan.

The March 26th Skywatch at Scotchtown was rained out.  There are 2 more scheduled for later in the fall of 2010.  Contact John Raymond at if you can help.

Upcoming Events:

The next RAS/SMV LiveSky and skywatch is scheduled for Friday April 16.  LiveSky starts at 6pm, while the skywatch will start shortly after sunset.  Expect a report on the blog page.

Astronomy Day 2010 is planned for April 24 at the Science Museum.  Final plans and the corresponding personnel were announced for door prizes, greeter table, meteorite exhibit, brochures, night sky photography, International Dark Sky Society (Laura Graham), space suit demo, bottle rocket launcher, solar telescopes, radio telescope, making sundials, a starlab planetarium, a scale model of the solar system, and a 2pm presentation by Anne Verbiscer in the forum!  Due to other plans at the SMV, no skywatch will be held for this year’s Astronomy Day. 

Stargazing at FiveForks on April 24 at 8pm.

Skywatch at Woodlake on April 30 at 7:30pm. Contact John Raymond if interested in helping.

Annual dues are due and should be given to Jim Blowers.  Membership is $30.  Observatory memberships and magazine subscriptions increase the amount.

Payment can be made by PayPal at

Observatory Report

John Barnett will be hosting an open house at the RAS Ragland Observatory on April 28, starting at 8:00 PM.  The waxing gibbous moon will be visible during the early evening, and Saturn will be visible.

The property fence around the RAS observatory is expected to be completed by the Hercules Fencing company before the open house.


Library Report was given by Virginia Eckert.  The RAS library was moved out of the RAS recently.  At this time, it is in public storage with controlled atmospheric conditions.  An effort is in progress to find a long-term location where RAS members can easily access the library contents.


We had 4 visitors – Isaac Steincamp, Bill Newman, and Anne & Liam Jeffries.  Welcome everyone!

Short talk

Ted Bethune: “Pluto 2015”

Ted’s presentation briefly discussed NASA’s New Horizons mission, which is planning to swing by and observe the planet Pluto.  It was launched from Earth in January, 2006 and is expected to reach Pluto on July 14, 2015 and then continue into the Kuiper belt.  Ted explained that New Horizons is traveling faster than any other man-made object, and has passed the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn already.  I also learned that Pluto’s 2 moons have been named Nix and Hydra.  Interesting presentation.

His presentation was followed by a youtube video showing Ted being interviewed on Chinese TV. 


April’s Presentation:

Jim Blowers: “Stars in the News”

Jim discussed several stars that are very capable of becoming super-novas in the future.  His interesting presentation discussed the possible characteristics pertaining to super-novas, and how 6 well-known stars can be affected.

Almaaz: The magnitude of Almaaz has fluctuated over history and has been found to repeat its fluctuations over a 27-year cycle.  It is being eclipsed by a larger and dark object, possibly a large ring of dust. 

Betelgeuse is a red super-giant, and with a magnitude of -5.14, it is the 9th brightest star in the sky.  It has shrunk 15% in the past 15 years, but has not lost any of its brightness.  Scientists are going to keep watching it over the next few years.  If these size and brightness changes continue, scientist will expect Betelgeuse to collapse and explode into a type-II supernova.  In the future, Orion may be missing a right shoulder.

T Pyxidis is a binary system where both bodies are heavily influenced by the each other.  It is a combination of a red giant and a white dwarf, that are feeding back and forth between each other.  When the mass of the larger star passes the Chandrasekhar limit, it will super-nova.

Dschubba (Delta Scorpii) has 3 companions in its orbital system.  The rapid spinning of the systems causes bright material to be thrown off.  This material will cool to dust.  The magnitude of the system has dropped about 50%.  This continuing transfer of material will cause the system to supernova in the distant future.

V407 Cygni is another system of a red giant and a white dwarf.  Usually, it has a magnitude of 15, but it increased to a magnitude of 7 during March of 2010.  This is an example of a ‘classic nova’.

Eta Carinae (Foramen) is one of the largest binary stars which recently was in the news.  It exploded in 2004, and then retained its existence.  Later in 2006, it became a super-nova.



<<The next RAS meeting will be Tuesday, May 11th at the SMV.

<<The next board meeting will be Monday, May 17th at Extra Billy’s at 7:00 PM (arrive earlier for dinner). Meeting is open to all members.

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