Richmond Astronomical Society

February 2015 Meeting Minutes

Apr 13th, 2015 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society
785th Consecutive Meeting
February 10, 2015

Greetings – approximately 46 in attendance at the meeting.
Jim Browder called our meeting to order in the Eureka meeting room

Announcements / Share Table
• John Raymond selling lenses and eyepieces. He also passed around an Amateur Astronomy magazine.
• Betty and Ken Wilson are giving away an assortment of Virginia Space posters.
• Madhu is trying to sell a used 8” reflector telescope in fair condition.

Library Report:
Virginia brought in a large assortment of books from the library:
• The Amateur’s Guide to the Messier Objects by William J. Busler (1967)
• Finder Charts of the Messier Objects by Brent Watson (1993)
• The Nature of Light and Colour in the Open Air (Mirages, Haloes, shadows, double rainbows, …) by M. Minnaert (1954)
• The Short History of Astronomy From Earliest Times through the 19th Century by Arthur Berry (1961, republication from original work done in 1898 by John Murray)
• Evolution of Stars and Galaxies by Walter Baade (1975)
• Galaxies by Harlow Shapley (1943)
• 100 Billion Suns – The Birth, Life, and Death of the Stars by Rudolf Kippenhaln (1983)
• Stars and Galaxies by David J. Eicher (1992)

Welcome Visitors:
• Dahlgren Vaughan
• Tom Muse
• Tom Hall

Events and Individual Observing:
• RAS member observing: several sightings of Comet Lovejoy. Ray Moody observed a good view of the comet’s tail. Several others mentioned seeing Venus, Mars, and Jupiter.
• Science Museum skywatch: too cold

Upcoming Events
RAS Board of Directors Meeting, February 16, 7:00 PM: RAS Board of Directors Meeting at Extra Billy’s Restaurant on West Broad Street. Dinner reservations at 6:00 PM; meeting begins at 7:00 PM.

Science Museum Skywatch, Friday, February 20, 7:00 PM: Our regular monthly skywatch at the Science Museum is scheduled to start at 7:00 PM on the 20th, but we might want to have some astronomers set up closer to dusk. If those of us who will be helping out with the skywatch can be at the Museum closer to dusk it would be helpful since there may be visitors at that time.

Skywatch at Petersburg Battlefield March 7, 6:30 PM: Skywatch at Petersburg Battlefield National Park. Eastern Front visitor center. Contact John Raymond for more information at

RAS Monthly Meeting, Tuesday, March 10, 7:30 PM: The next meeting of the Richmond Astronomical Society will be on Tuesday, March 10, 7:30 PM at the Science Museum of Virginia. Please join us for the meeting and, if you can, for dinner at Arby’s, across the street from the Museum about 6:00 PM.
For those that cannot attend the meeting in person, we will stream video of the meeting, internet bandwidth permitting, at the following link:

Skywatch at Belmead, March 14, 7:00 PM: RAS and Francis Emma Inc. will host a skywatch and a talk at Belmead on the James in Powhatan. We will hear about the famous Messier objects cataloged by Charles Messier which represent some of the most spectacular deep sky objects visible in the night sky. Astronomers and visitors are welcome to set up their telescopes in the paved area near the mansion and observe as long as they like, but no telescope is required, just an interest in the night sky. Those that wish to observe all night may wish to attempt a “Messier Marathon” to observe as many Messier objects as possible.

The entrance to Belmead is located at 5004 CarterslIe Road, Powhatan, VA. A Google Map showing the location is at this link: https://goo.gI/maps/llnF3.
Once you enter Belmead, follow signs to the mansion. Indoor session starts at 7:00 PM: RAS volunteer astronomers are invited to join a light supper at 5:00pm at the mansion.

Staunton River Star Party, March 19-22: Registration is now open! Thanks to all the good support, the Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society is able to continue to hold the SRSP twice a year. They look forward to having astronomers join them between March 19th and 22nd this year at Staunton River State Park near Scottsburg, VA. As before, the spring version of the star party is a lower-key affair just three nights, but this year the Richmond Astronomical Society is holding a day of informal talks during the spring star party. Check out the SRSP web site ( for more information and look under “Schedule” link to see the list of talks.

Ken showed us an advertisement for a cruise to see the next solar eclipse, that had 3 big errors in it.


Presentation: “Exoplanet Detection.” Emily Wroblewski
Emily Wroblewski is a sophomore at the Math & Science school at Clover Hill and has researched and developed an extremely involved astronomy project. Its title is “Detecting an Exoplanet by Measuring a Star’s Change in Magnitude Due to a Transit”

Emily explained her research by starting with the fact that there are approximately 400 existing exoplanets where only 60 of them have transits across a star’s surface. The actual numbers were 311 non-transits, 16 FTE (faint transits) and 46 BTE (bright transits).
She got a lot of advice and help from a book named “Exoplanet Observing For Amateurs” by Bruce Gary. She selected HAT-P-54 in Gemini as her star of study. It is a 3.5 magnitude star that is 432-454 light years away from Earth. One of the biggest problems observing and measuring the light intensity from the star was due to the light polluted skies in her area. Therefore, her research was performed on selected clear nights when a planetary transit across the star was expected. She used a CCD camera with an effective temperature of -30 C, and FocusMax software to measure the brightness of 20 reference stars along with 226 images taken of the light from HAT-P-54.
Her results formed a wave similar to a single sine wave. That definitely displayed that there was a change in light intensity due to the transit.
Based on size, expected gravitational and atmospheric pressure, the planet in transit across the star was expected to not be habitable.
Emily shared her data with a university that gave her some assistance, and her data cam within 10% of their professional measurements. WOW!
Emily will be making the same presentation at the Metro Richmond Science Fair on March 14. Good luck!

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