Richmond Astronomical Society

February 2013 Meeting Minutes

Mar 20th, 2013 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

761st Consecutive Meeting

February 12, 2013



Greetings – approximately 32 in attendance at the meeting.

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


Announcements / Share Table

  • Annual dues are due: This is the time of year when we ask our members to make sure their dues are paid for the upcoming year. Dues are $30 per year for regular membership, $10 additional for observatory operators. You can give your dues payment to our Treasurer, Jim Blowers, in person at a meeting or you can pay online with PayPal or by mail. Information on PayPal and mail payments is on the RAS web site under the “Membership/Dues Payment” link.
  • Jim Blowers has astronomical maps to show path of Comet PanStarrs
  • Books for Betty’s talk
  • John Barnett brought in a new Orion dobsonian telescope that he recently got a good deal on.  Facts: f’4, 100 mm lens diameter, approx 100x power, needs a Ploussel eyepiece.  Through it he saw the Moon and a “glorious Pleiades”.
  • JohnR is selling a rotating round table, large enough to hold a dob.  By using a 12volt battery, it can be used to handle an hour of tracking.
  • Prashant brought in a Photographic Moon Atlas, containing many amateur photos..
  • Madhu stated that someone in Providence Forge is selling a 12-inch Meade LX90 (make an offer)


 Library Report:

Virginia is starting to do inventory at the library.  Everything is great at the RAC where the library is.

The books she brought in for perusal and checking out:

  • How to Identify the Stars (1909)
  • Ancient Life (1991)
  • PBS Documentary:  Seeing in the Dark (2002)
  • Future of Space Time, by S. Hawkins
  • Sleepwatcher
  • Galaxies
  • Space Shots, with an introduction by Michael Collins
  • The Elegant Universe


Events and Individual Observing

Prashant had several members over to his house.

Madhu had to brag about his new equipment to take photos


Recent Events:

  • ScienceMuseum skywatch – good turnout, several telescopes, partly cloudy.  Saw great views of Orion, Jupiter, and the Moon
  • Girl Scout skywatch – small, but very enthusiastic group


Upcoming Events:

Science Museum Skywatch: CANCELLED – Due to a conflicting event, the February 15 skywatch at the ScienceMuseum has been cancelled. However, the LiveSky planetarium show will still be held as usual at 6:00 PM on Friday, February 15. The subject will be light pollution.

A suggestion was made for swapping the skywatch and the LiveSky starting times during cold weather (and earlier dark skies).  The suggestion will be considered, but not probably to occur.

Belmead on the James Skywatch, Saturday, February 16, 7:00 PM: Skywatch at Belmead on the James / Thomas Berry Educational Center, Powhatan. RAS will deploy astronomers and telescopes for the event and there will be an indoor introductory session prior to the observing session. This is an easily accessible dark sky location with plenty of parking adjacent to the observing site. Please contact Jim Browder at if you can help with this event. More info about Belmead and the ThomasBerryEducationalCenter is at this address:

Petersburg National Battlefield Skywatch, Saturday, February 16, 6:00 PM: Skywatch at Petersburg National Battlefield — please contact Ray Moody at if you can bring a telescope to this event or for information about the event.

RAS Board Meeting, February 18, 7:00 PM, Extra Billy’s Restaurant: Meeting of the RAS Board of Directors. Reservations will be at 6:00 PM for those that wish to eat before the meeting.

Metro Richmond Science Fair, March 23, HanoverHigh School, Mechanicsville: RAS usually provides judging support along with an astronomy/space science award. Please let Jim Browder know if you are interested in supporting this event at president©

Staunton River Star Party, March 7-10: Hosted by the Chapel Hill Astronomy Club at Staunton River State Park, near Scottsburg and Clarksville, Virginia. More info on the star party at this address: !

Jim Browder and John Raymond are planning to attend.



Welcome to Jim Willett and Ron Snead (past RAS member)





Presentation: “Australia and Astronomy,” Betty Wilson


Betty Wilson and her husband, Ken, took a long trip to Australia last November – you’ll find out the real reason for the trip in a few minutes.  At the beginning, she showed how Australia was about the same size as the US.  It is the driest and the flattest continent on the Earth, with over 400 indigenous cultures only found in Australia.  She briefly talked about Aborigines and Australian mythology – for example, the ‘Emu in the Sky’ constellation. One of the interesting mythological beliefs involved the Sun being female and carrying her torch, while the Moon was male.  The Moon was a fat lazy man (full moon), and was killed piece-by-piece by his wife until he died (new moon).  Immediately afterwards, he grew fat again until he was another full moon.  Like in the US, Pleiades was known as the 7 sisters.  Ancient cave drawings were visual proof that the people had an awareness of eclipses and other astronomical events. 

Along with ship astronomer, Charles Green, Englishman James Cooke set sail to see the Venus transit in 1769 in Tahiti.  He also observed the transit of Mercury on the same voyage.  Even though these events actually occurred, and he observed them, it was all a cover-up.  Cooke was really on a secret mission to find a southern continent.  He began his exploration at Botany Bay, and mapped Australia, naming a lot of land and bays.

Astronomical items can be found on several flags, including the Southern Cross constellation, which is everywhere in name and drawings.  The Aboriginal flag has the Sun on it.

There are class 1 dark skies in the Outback (paralleling the skies only in Peru and Antarctica).  The climate is similar to Virginia.  And there are very reactive discussion groups online.

But Betty and Ken didn’t go there for the history lesson.  They were in Australia for the total solar eclipse in November, 2012.  Their travels took them through Melbourne, Alice Springs, and Ayers Rock.  The later 2 locations have extremely dark skies.  They actually observed the eclipse in the water off of Cairns and GreenIsland (remember the astronomer on Cooke’s ship).   Reports had 60,000 people coming to Australia for the eclipse. 

We saw photos that Ken had taken of the Large Magellanic Cloud, and the eclipse.  There photos from the 2 minutes of totality, displaying the corona, followed by photos of the diamond ring effect.  And of course, the photos of the clouds that nearly ruined the day.

The next 3 total eclipse:

  Nov 3 2013 – actually a hybrid eclipse

  March 20, 2015, off of the Iceland coast

  August 21, 2017 – in the US.  Closest to us is in Tennessee and South Carolina.  Best location is Kansas and Missouri.



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