Richmond Astronomical Society

June 2013 Meeting Minutes

Jul 10th, 2013 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society
765th Consecutive Meeting
June 11, 2013


Greetings – approximately 32 in attendance at the meeting.
Jim Browder called our meeting to order in the Eureka meeting room.

Announcements / Share Table
John was cleaning house and brought in several things he wanted to get rid of. Most were give-aways, but he wanted to sell a small short wave radio and a laminated star chart.

Possible Telescope Donation
The widow of an early member of the RAS has asked that we accept a donation of some telescope equipment and a number of astronomy books which she believes to be of some value. Unfortunately the equipment and books are in Atlanta. Moving the equipment will require on-site de-installation from an observatory. Realizing that this will be a significant undertaking, if anyone is interested in traveling to Atlanta to remove the equipment and transport it and the book collection back to Richmond, please contact Jim Browder at
Although this is a considerable effort, we are attempting to accommodate the request to the extent possible as a tribute to our former member who was one of the original constructors of the Ragland Observatory. At this time the potential donor has asked to remain anonymous. Based on her description, it will likely require two people to do the work.

Library Report – none

Events and Individual Observing
Recent Events:
• SMV skywatch – weathered out, but had a few telescopes anyway. 50 attendees. After turning lights out, John R and Brian put up a scope and saw Saturn. Prashant and Chris were still around. Earlier in the evening 4 boy scouts working on their Astronomy badge, were available to help carry equipment and pass out sky maps.
• Science Pub RVA ( – Jim Browder attended a meeting of the Science Pub RVA and enjoyed it. Its local founder, Cynthia Gibbs spoke to us about the intent of the organization. It is a citizen-led organization. There is no connection to schools, clubs, or organizations, and is geared towards the non-scientist. Attendance is open to anyone. There were 23 at their 1st meeting in June 2012. They are taking the summer off and will re-start with the 1st of 10 programs, in September, 2013. She would not announce the topic of any of the programs. She said we would have to go to to find out the topics. Meetings are the 1st Tuesday of each month. It has been successful around Virginia, in places like UVA, Arlington, and NASA/Langley.

Upcoming Events:
• Battlefield District Cub Scout Twilight Camp – Wednesday, June 19, 8:30 pm-10:00 pm. The theme this year is “Rocketing Into the Next 100 Years”. If interested in helping, see Chris McCann. You can even swing by with a scope on that night. Fairfield Presbyterian Church, 6930 Cold Harbor Road, Mechanicsville. Moon and Saturn will be visible.
• Woodlake Skywatch, Saturday, June 15: Skywatch atWoodlake — please contact John Raymond at if you can bring a telescope to this event or for more information about the event.
• Science Museum of Virginia Skywatch, Friday, June 21, 7:30 PM: RAS will have its regular monthly skywatch at the Science Museum after the LiveSky planetarium show at 6:00 PM. This week’s program is “Drake’s Equation”. Please join us for the skywatch and bring a telescope if you can.
• Skywatch at Petersburg National Battlefield — Hopewell, June 23 and July 28, 8:00 PM: Please contact Ray Moody at moodya© if you can help with this event. The location is in Hopewell at Grant’s Headquarter’s at City Point, 1001 Pecan Avenue, Hopewell, VA
• Belmead on the James Skywatch, June 29, 8:00 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 Thomas Berry Educational Center is at
• ALCon 2013, July24- 27, Fernbank Science Center, Atlanta: The Astronomical League and the Atlanta Astronomy club are hosting this year’s ALCon at the Fernbank Science Center. Speakers include Charles Wood, noted lunar and planetary scientist and author, Hal McAlister, Regents’ Professor at Georgia State and Director of the Center for High Angular Resolution Astronomy and the Mount Wilson Institute and Tim Puckett, primary investigator of the Puckett World Observatory Supernova Search. More information at
• East Coast Video Astronomy Rendezvous (ECVAR), Sept. 29 — Oct. 6, Galax, VA: Video astronomers — mark your calendars for the next ECVAR event will be held at a site near Galax, VA, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near the NC line. More information is at
• “Amateur Astronomy on a Budget,” by Mike Lewis: A blog article by RAS member Mike Lewis about how to do astronomy while keeping the costs low appeared in The Chocolate Box blog at Be sure to scroll down a few screens in the blog to see Mike’s article.
• Astronomy News items: Thanks to Madhup Rathi for regularly updating our news feed with interesting astronomy and space science items. See the main Richastro web page at He will have a challenge very soon updating the webpage. He uses Google Reader, but he has discovered that it will not be around much more.
• RAS Cafe Press Shop: RAS maintains a Cafe Press shop where you can purchase RAS logo printed items at If you would like additional items added to the shop from the Cafe Press catalog please drop an e-mail to Jim Browder at
• David Medici announced that the local Hardywood Micro-brewery is interested in having a skywatch in the fall. We need to think about if any legalities will be broken and about the overall picture. Any restrictions we need to impose on them? Looking for thoughts and ideas??


Presentation: “Variable Star Measurements,” Sydney Mabry
Sydney Mabry is an 8th grader at Moody Middle School, and is an RAS member, too.
She explained her research she did for a school project. Her project: “The Effect of Time on the Variable Star TT Aql”.
This star is believed to have an extremely precise cycle, and she will try to support that belief with her work. Her independent variable is Time, and her dependant variable is the star’s magnitude. She used her own home-made telescope to make 15 trials at measuring the magnitude of TT Aql.
Sydney did not use a device to measure the magnitude. This star is invisible to the naked eye, and is surrounded by stars of similar magnitudes. After star-hopping to TT Aql, Sydney (with help from her Dad) estimated its brightness by comparing it with the known brightness of neighboring stars. She made 15 measurements in the late Fall and early winter when it was still in the night sky. She was at the mercy of the weather and clouds, causing her estimates to be made at an irregular time basis. After plotting the data and looking at the ‘folded period’ of the data, it appeared to be in a regular cycle. Their research resulted with an approximate 13.5-13.6 day cycle. The real value is 13.755 days.
To improve the study, she suggested performing more trials, have one more observer, and use a CCD camera.
Great work, Sydney!!!!!

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