Richmond Astronomical Society

November 2014 Meeting Minutes

Nov 16th, 2014 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

782st Consecutive Meeting

November 11, 2014


Greetings – approximately 30 in attendance at the meeting.

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


Sad news to announce:

Jim Petty: Long-time member and supporter of RAS, passed away after a brief illness on October 16 in Savannah, Georgia where he had family. Jim was 84. He was an avid astronomer and gave of his time and energy to our club. When he became less active in astronomy, he donated his telescope to us and we use it today for educational outreach events.

Jim’s obituary appeared in the Richmond Times Dispatch.


Announcements / Share Table:

Imaging Fame for Dwight Talley: Get your autographs while they are still free! An excellent image of the recent solar eclipse captured by RAS member Dwight Talley was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A copy of it is on display on the share table. Congratulations Dwight!


Board of Directors Slate of Nominees and Election: David Medici

Thanks to the 2014 Board for their work over the past year. And thanks, in advance, to those who are serving are board members for 2015.

Election results for 2015 board: Jim Browder, Jim Blowers, Chris McCann, John Raymond, Ken Wilson, Betty Wilson, Dave Medici, Bill Newman, Gary Cowardin, Ted Bethune, Michael Pitchford, and Matthew Roy.


Dues are coming due: RAS dues for next year are due by the end of 2014. If you are a new member and joined after July 1, you dues will count toward next year, but otherwise, please pay your dues payment to our treasurer, Jim Blowers, by mail, in person at a meeting or by PayPal at Dues are $30 per year. We make every effort to keep our costs to a minimum — funds go to support our outreach efforts, club gatherings, observatory, science fair awards and astronomical league dues. Thanks very much for all of the great support from our members and friends!


Events and Individual Observing:

  • RAS member observing – Madhu viewed the full moon and 10 asteroids on Halloween; Randy took great photos at the observatory of the sun with large sunspots
  • Science Museum
  • Solar eclipse – several photos of the eclipse are on display on the share table, and on the viewing screen.
  • East Coast Star Party – Ray reported that about 40 people attended; air was dry and observing was good on Thursday; heavy dew on Friday; light dew on Saturday; Kent took a great photo of the solar eclipse
  • Staunton River Star Party – RAS hosted an energy workshop; 3 vendors were there with their astronomical equipment for sale; Jim Browder took a walk-through video of the site and a selfie of him and the eclipse; all night viewing and food/drinks; great star party


Welcome Visitors:

  • Rolf Nordlie


RAS Board of Directors Meeting, November 17, 7:00 PM: The RAS Board of Directors will meet at Extra Billy’s Restaurant on West Broad Street. Dinner reservations will be made for 6:00 PM. Both 2014 and 2015 board members should plan to attend. Election of 2015 officers will occur.


Science Museum of Virginia skywatch, November 21: The November skywatch is canceled due to a conflicting event at the Museum.


RAS Monthly Meeting, Tuesday, December 9, 7:30 PM: The next meeting of the Richmond Astronomical Society will be on Tuesday, December 9 at the Science Museum of Virginia. In December we have our potluck eating meeting”. Please join us and bring a dish to share. (let Jim Browder know at what dish you plan to bring.)

For those that cannot attend the meeting in person, we will stream video at


Skywatch at Belmead, Saturday, December 13, 7:00 PM: RAS and Francis Emma Inc. will host a skywatch and a talk at Belmead on the James in Powhatan. We will reconstruct what the night sky looked like 2000 years ago and speculate together on what the Christmas star might have been. 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.

The entrance to Belmead is located at 5004 Cartersville Road, Powhatan, VA. A map showing the entrance location is here: Once you enter Belmead follow signs to the mansion. Belmead is a beautiful dark sky location.




Presentation: “Mars Orbiter Mission”, Madhup Rathi

Madhu presented a lot of very interesting information about MOM (Mars Orbiter Mission). MOM is the 1st attempt for India to launch and successfully place a satellite into Mars orbit. In fact, India is the only country to be successful with their first Mars mission. It was much cheaper than the recent MAVEN mission for the US. MAVEN weighs 2454 kg and cost $671 million, while MOM weighs 1350 kg and only cost $73 million. Neither MAVEN nor MOM had a lander as part of its plans. MOM was lunched from the eastern coast of India.

One of the concepts that help minimize the cost was MOM took 6 increasing orbits around the Earth to create a slingshot trajectory to go to Mars. MAVEN was launched towards Mars after 1 orbit. This used more fuel than MOM did. MOM’s rocket was created with 4 stages with alternating solid and liquid fuel stages.

MOM had 5 payloads to be utilized for research after entering Mars orbit including a photometer, methane sensor, atmospheric analyzer, color camera, and a thermal infrared image spectrometer.

Expected challenges in this mission involved effects of radiation, thermal changes in outer space and in the Martian shadow, propulsion system, overall power system, spacecraft health, and communications. Depending upon where Earth and Mars are in their orbits, roundtrip communications will take between 12 and 42 minutes.

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has a very short but successful history. ISRO launched its 1st satellite in April, 1975, while its 1st orbital satellite was launched in May, 1992. As of 10/16/2014, 75 satellites have been launched.

India’s astronomical history dates back to the Vedic Astronomy, approximately 1500 BC. Its original study was based on the astrological aspect.

It is believed that the day of Brahma or the God of creation was approximately 4.32 billions years ago.

There are claims that the concept of trigonometry were developed by Indian astronomers in the 5th century. Also at that time, the sidereal day was calculated to be 23 hours, 56 minutes, and 4.1 seconds. The actual value is 23:56:4.091.





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