Richmond Astronomical Society

February 2014 Meeting Minutes

Mar 11th, 2014 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

773rd Consecutive Meeting

February 11, 2014


Greetings – approximately 33 in attendance at the meeting.

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


Announcements / Share Table


Library Report—Virginia Eckert


Events and Individual Observing — RAS members


Recent Events: Science Museum, RAS Ragland Observatory open house


Astrophotolinks: RAS member and master astro-imager Madhup Rathi has created a new website for other imagers — The website is an online library of web content related to astrophotography, arranged by aspects of the imaging hobby and contains wealth of information. Please visit, share and provide feedback so Madhup can enhance the content.


Survey of Women in Amateur Astronomy: Karen Jennings, Vice President of the Astronomy Foundation, is conducting a survey of women in amateur astronomy. Please pass along to any women amateur astronomers you know at any level of expertise or involvement:


Survey of Amateur Astronomers: Tim Spuck with the Oil Region Astronomical Observatory has asked our members to complete a survey to assess general awareness among astronomers of major observatory facilities. The survey takes about 3-5 minutes and is available at the link below. Tim asks that we pass it along to other astronomy enthusiasts:


Upcoming Events:


Note: John Raymond’s list of 2014 astro events is posted on the web site under the “RAS Update” tab.


RAS Board of Directors meeting, February 17, 7:00 PM: The RAS Board of Directors will meet at Extra Billy’s restaurant on Broad Street at 7:00 PM. Reservations will be made for 6:00 PM for those that wish to eat dinner. RAS Board meetings are open and any member who wishes to participate in the meetings is welcome to attend. You do not need to be a board member to participate.


Science Museum of Virginia Skywatch, Friday, February 21, 6:30 PM: RAS will have its regular monthly skywatch at the Science Museum starting at 6:30 PM. Please join us and bring a telescope if you can. It will begin to get dark shortly before 6:00, so please feel free to set up before sunset if you like.


Science Pub RVA, TBD: Look for the next Science Pub RVA event announcement on their website at Science Pub RVA is planning to host a session on citizen science. If you have a suggestion for any citizen science contributions that might be of general interest to the Science Pub participants, please pass them along to


Thomas Jefferson High School Skywatch, Tuesday, March 18, 6:30 – 8:30 PM: Thomas Jefferson high school is having an astronomy night in conjunction with a PTSA meeting and RAS has been asked to help with a skywatch. The event will likely be well- attended; please join us and bring a scope if you can. Thomas Jefferson is located at 4100 West Grace St. in Richmond; Google map to the school at this link: Please send a message to if you can help with this event.


Skywatch at Caroline Middle School, Wednesday, April 2: RAS has received an invitation to assist with a skywatch at Caroline Middle School in Caroline County. If you are interested in helping with this skywatch, please contact Jim Browder at


  • Scott Dicken
  • Arzo Hamidi


Short Talk: “Contributions of African-American Astronauts to Space Exploration,” Ted Bethune




Presentation: History of the Indoor Universe,” Ken Wilson

Ken presented the advantages of having an “indoor universe”, although the real thing is so much better.  Long ago, before technology, the outdoor sky was important for a variety of reasons.  For examples, it was used as an abode of the Gods, used for time keeping and for calendar purposes, cultural repository, and used for navigation.


Why/when is an indoor universe better than an outdoor universe?

  • Clouds block viewing
  • Daylight prevents viewing of everything but Sun and moon
  • Light pollution obscures night time viewing, especially around cities
  • Cold weather keeps many people inside
  • Insects can be a nuisance
  • No time control – if you miss it, it may not happen again
  • Fixed location – many things occur at other places.


Indoor universes are not affected by any of these issues.  It can display many more stars and planets than you normally see.  It can re-display an event repeatedly.  It can show daily and annual motion at an accelerated rate.  Events can be shown as if you were at other locations on the Earth or in space.  It’s a great way to show planetary (retrograde) motion from the past and even into the future.


Ken mentioned the use of globes and orreries for educational purposes.  Globes to display the sky and orreries to demonstrate planetary locations in the solar system.  The oldest of these are the Farnese Atlas and the Antikythera Device.  An interesting indoor universe to display the night sky was the Atwood Sphere, created in 1913.  It was a device where a person could walk into a small room-type object and be surrounded by the night sky.  The Atwood Sphere was refurbished in Chicago by Paul Knappenberger, former director of the Science Museum of Virginia.


Many places had projectors that displayed the night sky on the ceiling, and could change the view to accommodate an observer for any date, time, or location.  Several designs of projectors were presented, with much attention given to those named after Carl Zeiss.  Zeiss was the major person who designed and enhanced the projectors used in many of the observatories/planetariums around the world.  Zeiss projectors could quickly change the display, as if you were traveling through space and time.  The first Zeiss II projector was at the Adler Planetarium in 1930.  The cost of these projectors has increased from $135,000 in 1938 to over $2.2 million in 2013.


Besides teaching the public, indoor universes were beneficial in teaching navigation to astronauts.

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