Richmond Astronomical Society

March Meeting Minutes

Mar 21st, 2010 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

726th Consecutive Meeting

March 9, 2010


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

Greeting & Announcements – approximately 29 in attendance at the meeting.

Please check the link to our RAS blog:

Share table:

Several articles about the Moon and about the recent Mars approach, were available for reading.

Several eyepieces were also there for examining and also purchasing.  There was also donated telescope hardware, free to a good home.  Most was gone before I got a chance to see it.

There was an announcement about an annual public study involving dark sky measurements.  This year was from March 3-16. The following description was taken from :

GLOBE at Night is an annual 2-week campaign in March. People all over the world record the brightness of their night sky by matching its appearance toward the constellation Orion with star maps of progressively fainter stars. They submit their measurements on-line and a few weeks later, organizers release a map of light-pollution levels worldwide. Over the last four GLOBE at Night campaigns, volunteers from over 100 nations have contributed 35,000 measurements.

If you missed it, keep it in mind for next year.

Reminder:  In a recent meeting, Ottewell Astronomical Calendars were on display. RAS members can purchase the Ottewell Astronomical Calendar through a special website, , or call 800-533-5083. 

It claims the sale price of $19.95 expires on December 31, 2009, but still displays it.  Give it a try.  If not, the regular price is $26.95.

Past Events:

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the last Skywatch at the Science Museum on Friday, February 19.  The event was well attended as was the January skywatch.  At one point, there were 10 telescopes and 1 pair of binoculars, for use with the crowd of an estimated 150.  

“A great night” was had by all at a recent skywatch at Brandermill.  The estimated 40 people enjoyed the views through the telescopes.

Bill Jeffries was telling us about an extremely clear night on the Duck River about a month ago.  The rough thing about the night was a 24 degree temperature reading.


Upcoming Events:

Outreach events: On Friday, March 26th, RAS will have a skywatch at Scotchtown in Hanover County.  You may recognize Scotchtown as the Hanover County home of Patrick Henry.  It is scheduled to start at 7:30pm.  There are 2 more scheduled for later in the fall of 2010.  Contact John Raymond at if you can help.

Astronomy Day 2010 is planned for April 24 at the Science Museum.  We are looking for volunteers to help with the activities.  We are also considering alternate plans for this year’s skywatch.  There are 2 proms scheduled at SMV on the night of our Astronomy Day.  Therefore, we need to move the skywatch to a different location, or possibly a night earlier to Friday night, the 23rd.  More information will be available later.  Probable activities for that day include solar observing through telescopes, making sundials, dark sky information, CCD astro-imaging, a starlab planetarium, a scale model of the solar system, radio telescopes information, light pollution education, a meteorite exhibit, door prizes, a life-like space suit, and the ever-popular soda bottle rocket launch!

Annual dues are due and should be given to Jim Blowers.  Membership is $30.  Observatory memberships and magazine subscriptions increase the amount.

Payment can be made by PayPal at

The next RAS/SMV LiveSky and skywatch is scheduled for Friday March 19.  LiveSky starts at 6pm, while the skywatch will start shortly after sunset.  Expect a report on the blog page.

Astronomical League report ( none, due to website being down during the meeting and for the previous week.

Observatory Report

John Barnett will be hosting an open house at the RAS Ragland Observatory on March 23, starting at 8:00 PM.  The waxing gibbous moon will be visible during the early evening, and Mars is still visible but will be retreating from the close encounter with the Earth.  Saturn will also be visible.

Watch the Richastro Yahoo Group or check back at this site for weather updates on the day of the event.

Library Report was given by Virginia Eckert.  The RAS library was moved out of the RAS recently.  At this time, it is in public storage with controlled atmospheric conditions.  An effort is in progress to find a long-term location where RAS members can easily access the library contents.


We had 1 visitor – Ed Duffy, who has a nice telescope of his own.  He said he would like to learn how to use it more effectively.  So, we are encouraging Ed to bring it to a skywatch and let the rest of us help him with it.  Welcome Ed!

Short talk

John Raymond: “Review of the Winter Star Party”

(Most of the following was taken from Jim Browder’s entry on the blog page)

During the February meeting, John gave us a live report by telephone from Florida on the Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys, hosted by the Southern Cross Astronomical Society in Miami.  It was tough listening to John’s description of the weather in the Keys as we were enduring the unusually snowy weather for this area.  During the March meeting, he presented photos taken of day and night time observing and activities, including a sign to prove the existence of the “Seven Mile Bridge”.  Combining his reports from both meetings, John passed along the following review of the event:

Good things about the star party:

  • I got to see Crux, Eta Carinae, Alpha and Beta Centauri for the first time.
  • I got my Televue hat signed by Al Nagler.
  • I was camped near Tom Peters of Discmounts. He helped me fine tune the balance on mine. He also has the same scope so we had a lot to discuss.
  • The JMI binos were outright awesome. Easy to use, no problems merging images. The bad part : for collimation a hex tool is needed.  JMI makes dobs, why not have spring-loaded thumbscrews for collimation? I told Jim Burr my concerns. Im interested in selling my dob and getting the 10″ JMI.
  • I also met Rob Royce of Royce Optical. He tested the mirror in my 8″ f/20 and assured me the optics were good.
  • Gayle Rigsbee of Charlotte came up to me and told me about the 8″. He made the tube and rings.
  • Sergio of the SCAS showed me the Radio Marti blimp that broadcasts into Cuba.
  • The Mike Lockwood 14″ f /2.5. Awesome!!!!
  • The AP and TEC refractors. Excellent Mars. I saw the Running Man nebulosity in the TEC 140. I cant see it in my 18″ from home.
  • There was an old dude with a homemade dob next to Lockwood. Excellent construction – I forgot the name.
  • The Dutch optical engineer was there. I had him evaluate my binos. He also showed me his 25 year-old 80mm binos he completely overhauled. No aberrations detectable at all. It took him six months but well worth the time. He tests imported binos for the Dutch telescope vendor.
  • I watched Howie Glatter make and install a cable sling for a 20″ dob.
  • Meeting a lot of nice people.

Bad things:

  • That was the longest, most boring drive I’ve ever been on.
  • The wind, cold, and rain.
  • The men’s shower all the way at the other end of the site. The long line in the morning.
  • The confusion over the camping sites.



March’s Presentation:

Betty Wilson: “What’s Up This Year?”

Betty took time to combine information from several resources to present us with a listing of notable upcoming events.  Her list of events included Planetary Highlights, Conjuctions, Sun Spot information, Lunar Occultations, comets, meteor showers, major NASA launches, and major star parties.  Some of the interesting facts from the handout:

Mercury reaches max brightness at -1.0 magnitude by March 30, while Venus has max magnitude at -4.3 in mid-August.  Jupiter is at closest approach to Earth on Sept 21.  More info on that later.  Jupiter officially has 62 moons, while Saturn is a close second with 61 named satellites. 

There are several planetary conjunctions – 1 in June and many after July.  I’m sure we will hear more about these at that part of the year.

The Sun is starting to have visible sunspots again, but we are in a relatively low activity period.

Total Sun eclipse on July 11, but not here.  Total Lunar eclipse on Tuesday, December 21 which is visible in North America.

Expect Comet Hartley2 to become visible in late October – early November.

Final Space Shuttle launches are planned (at the earliest) for April 5, May 14, July 29, and Sept 16.

The listing of the major star parties have been added to the blog.

Many of the items listed on Betty’s handout will be mentioned by RAS as the time draws near.  This is a very informative and useful list that we can use to plan our 2010 activities.

Good work, Betty!!

February’s presentation:

Ken Wilson presented highlights of the recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society in January of this year.  Since the meeting was in Washington, DC and close to this area, Ken took advantage of the opportunity to attend the meeting.  Ken discussed highlights of recent research and educational efforts presented by astronomers, which included some discussion of outreach work associated with the 2009 International Year of Astronomy.  Ken covered some of the hot topics discussed at the meeting and gave us a flavor of what it was like to be there.  Thanks to Ken for sharing his experience with us.



<<The next RAS meeting will be Tuesday, April 13th at the SMV.

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