Richmond Astronomical Society

March Meeting Minutes

Apr 8th, 2012 | By | Category: Meetings

The 749th Consecutive Meeting of the Richmond Astronomical Society (RAS)

2012 March 13


Greeting & Announcements

Astronomical League Update, John Goss, Vice President, Astronomical League

The first item was a presentation by Vice President John Goss of the Astronomical League by Skype. Among the things that he mentioned was an announcement of the Astronomical League Convention (ALCON) on the Fourth of July weekend (actually 2012 July 4-7). It will be in theChicagoarea (the Marriott Lincolnshire Resort inLincolnshire,IL) to honor 150 years of organized astronomy, which started in theChicagoarea. The conference will feature visits to Yerkes Observatory, the Fermi Lab, and Adler Planetarium.  There will be a big banquet on Saturday night. He also mentioned the Analemma Club, wherein amateur astronomers take observations of the Sun on dates throughout the year to form the analemma. He also mentioned transits of Venus and Mercury, and severalALawards.


Library Report

The library report was made; Virginia Eckert brought in several books from the RAS Library, including Other Worlds, a book from 1926 that was highly optimistic about life on other planets.


Observatory Report

Prashant Reddy (for Randy Tatum) gave an Observatory report. He thanked everyone for helping clean the Observatory of debris from the recent tree-cutting that went on there.


Events and Individual Observing

Jim Browder asked for observations. Many people reported the proximity of Venus and Jupiter in the sky, and someone reported that on Skywatch night the satellites of Jupiter looked like a double star on either side of Jupiter. Kathy Fatyga reported seeing the Venus-Jupiter conjunction and the satellites of Jupiter, but found Mercury too hard to see.


Someone reported an X5 coronal mass ejection from the Sun, but no one reported auroras here, and apparently we got through with no electronic or power problems.


Upcoming Events

Tomorrow (March 14) there will be a planetarium show at 8 at SMV. The skywatch on March 16 will feature participants from a robotics skywatch; this could cause parking problems.


Astronomy Day

Astronomy Day is coming up on April 28. Dan Salkovitz and Jim Blowers are doing the bottle rockets, and there will be other exhibitions at the ScienceMuseum.  Please let Prashant Reddy at know if you can help with Astronomy Day at the Museum.

The night skywatch will be at Belmead Plantation in PowhatanCounty, as there is a prom at the ScienceMuseum. They have good parking at Belmead, and visibility is similar to that of the Powhatan Wildlife Management Area. If you can help with the skywatch at Belmead in the evening, please let Jim Browder know at

Belmead has had a number of incarnations since 1850 as a plantation, a school and now an environmental and community center in Powhatan.  It has a dark sky with convenient parking and facilities nearby.  This location offers a great opportunity for us as an observing and public skywatch location.


More Upcoming Events

Staunton River Star Party, March 21-25: StauntonRiverState Park (Scottsburg/South Boston/Clarksville VA area):  For more information see

Prashant Reddy reported that on April 10 there will be the Staunton River Star Party somewhere in SouthsideVirginia(but notStaunton,Virginia).


New Visitor

There is one new member, Chuck DeCost, who has already paid dues.



“Asteroids:  Friend or Foe,” Betty Wilson

The program of the month was by Ken Wilson as Betty Wilson could not make it due to a cold of some sort. Ken spoke on eclipses – Chasing the Moon’s Shadow. Among the things he reported was that solar eclipses distribute like this:


35% partial

32% annular

5% annular-total

28% total


When a total eclipse happens, the temperature drops, and shadow bands may be visible – an example was shown. When such an eclipse occurs, protection is necessary, from Mylar viewers or filters, for all phases except total. Often on an eclipse cruise, the PA system of the ship will tell when it is safe to look at it without protection. Cruises are also good because a boat does not have houses, trees, hills, and the like to contend with and can sail to avoid clouds.


On average a total eclipse occurs every 375 years at a given location, and an annular eclipse every 224 years. One of the most famous eclipses occurred in -584 May 28 (May 28, 585 BC Julian); a battle between the Lydians and Medes was stopped by the sudden darkness of the Sun; afraid the Gods were angry, the two sides stopped the war; therefore, eclipses as peacemakers.


Another famous eclipse was the Einstein Eclipse of 1878 July 29. Observations of this eclipse helped verify Einstein’s special theory of relativity. Ken Wilson showed observations he made of the 2006 March 29 eclipse inAfrica.


Ken then talked about future eclipses, especially the eclipses of 2017 August 22 and the eclipse of 2024 April 8; some noted the path of totality of the latter eclipse resembles a strong cold front that frequently occurs in April and brings severe weather.


The meeting ended around 9:30 pm.


Jim Blowers for

Chris McCann, Secretary, RAS


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