Richmond Astronomical Society

October Meeting Minutes

Nov 12th, 2012 | By | Category: Meetings

RichmondAstronomical Society

757th Consecutive Meeting

October 9, 2012



Greetings – approximately 26 in attendance at the meeting.

Jim Browder called our meeting to order in the 1st floor meeting room.


Announcements / Share Table

  • VAAS images – several photos of activities at 2012 VAAS were presented to the meeting attendees. There are a few videos on youtube.
  • A Meade starfinder 8-inch dob was donated to RAS.
  • Two cards are on the table for members to sign.  Card #1 is to Jim Petty to say ‘Hello’, and card #2 is to Charlotte Talley, who recently lost her husband.
  • Scientific Astrophotography: Local astronomer, accomplished astrophotographer and president of the Rappahannock Astronomical Society, Jerry Hubbell, has authored a book called, “Scientific Astrophotography: How Amateurs Can Generate and Use Professional Imaging Data.” The book can be pre-ordered from The book has received a number of great reviews.
  • Stargazing at the Powhatan Wildlife Management Area: One of our members was recently stargazing at the Powhatan Wildlife Management Area and was asked for his use permit by a law enforcement officer. Fortunately our member had his permit handy. We are certainly glad to see that the Wildlife Management Area is being patrolled, but this serves as a reminder that a permit is now required to use the area. A permit can be purchased online annually for $25 at the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries web site (  [Someone asked if the group could buy one for the club rather than an individual.  No answer yet.]
  • RAS dues are due.  See Jim Blowers.


Library Report

Virginiadid not have a report, but sent word that all is OK at our library.


Events and Individual Observing

Recent Events:

  • VAAS 2012 – huge success; approximately 50 attendees;
  • SMV skywatch – good night; 8-10 scopes; food trucks were busy
  • Scotchtown – small group, about 10 attendees; Betty and Ken Wilson, and Allen Noah were there
  • Gandy Elementary – well attended by elementary students, parents, and teachers;  back and forth between cloudy and clear skies;  heavily covered by RAS – JohnR, AllenN, WayneB, WilliamJ.


Upcoming Events:

  • East Coast Star Party, October 11-13,Coinjock,NC: Please contact Kent Blackwell at for more information.  Casual, informal, camping, near the ocean.
  • Staunton River Star Party, October 11-16: Star party hosted by the Chapel Hill Astronomy and Observing Society (CHAOS) atStauntonRiverState ParknearScottsburg,VA.See for more information. – Registration is closed.
  • Mid-Atlantic Star Party, October 15-21: MASP is located in the “Dark Park” area east of Robbins, NC, about halfway between Raleigh and Charlotte and halfway between Winston-Salem and Fayetteville; more info at http:/lmasp.usl.  CANCELLED!!
  • Skywatch at the Science Museum of Virginia, October 19, 7:00 PM: Skywatch at the Museum after the Museum’s LiveSky planetarium show. Please join us and bring your telescope if you can — we expect a fairly sizable crowd since a group of food trucks is expected to be deployed at the Museum through the start of the skywatch.  LiveSky topic is “Rock & Roll from Outer Space”
  • Petersburg National Battlefield Skywatch, October 20, 6:00 PM: Please contact Ray Moody at if you can help with this event.
  • Brandermill Skywatch, October 27, 7:00 PM: Please contact John Raymond at if you can help with this event.  Hank and JohnR expect to be there.
  • Belmead on the James Skywatch, October 27, 7:00 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 ThomasBerryEducationalCenteris at
  • NRAO Jansky Lecture, Friday, November 2, 7:00 PM: The 47th Annual Jansky Lecture sponsored by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory will be on Friday, November 2, 2012 at 7:00 P.M. in Gilmer Hall – Room 130 at UVA. The speaker is Mark Reid, Senior Astronomer at the HarvardSmithsonianCenterfor Astrophysics. The title of his lecture is “Measuring the Cosmos — Pioneering Work in Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI).” His subject is very timely as the Very Long Baseline Array is threatened with defunding and the subject is understandable to a wide range of astronomers and enthusiasts. More
    information is at:  This is a very good speaker!
  • RAS meeting, November 13, 7:30 PM: Please join us if you can. A number of us also gather before the meeting at Arby’s across the street from the Museum about 6:00 PM.
  • No skywatch in November.



Visitor Welcome:

  • Fernando A Pascal (son)
  • Fernando A Pascal (father)

Fernando, the son, is a sophomore at Clover Hill High.  He is interested in starting an Astronomy club and studying astrophysics in his future.  His ask for help and advice produced a large amount of interest from several of our members.


2013 RAS Board of Directors

Jim briefly explained the duties of the RAS board of directors and announced the candidates for the 2013 board.  If anyone is interested in being a board member, please see Jim Blowers or anyone on the selection committee.   Candidates were formally announced and will be voted on in November.  The candidates are are the same as the 2012 board except Tim Streagle has been replaced by John Raymond.




Major Presentation:

“Serendipitous Discoveries by Famous Astronomers,” Bill Newman

Bill Newman discussed a 1959 book named The Sleepwalkers: A History of Man’s Changing Vision of the Universe by Arthur Koestler.  It looked at the historical progress of astronomical discoveries from a different point of view.

The book started by discussing the beliefs and struggles of earlier scientists like Thales of Miletus, Plato, Aristotle, and Ptolemy. Many beliefs of these scientists were questioned for truth.  Later in history, Nicolas Copernicus was a canon at Frauenberg Cathedral and tried to restore Ptolemy’s belief back to center stage even after Ptolemy lost popularity of scientists.

Twenty years after Copernicus died, Tycho Brahe expressed his beliefs.  Brahe was a flashy and wealthy guy that had a high profile life, and he tried to pull together the best of Ptolemy with the best of Copernicus.  Brahe measured the parallax between the Sun and Mars in an attempt to prove Earth is the center of the solar system.  His work had meticulous accuracy, measuring with in 3 minutes of arc.  He invented a compass-based item that that could help measure elevation and right ascension.  Brahe also wished to create a star catalog, and hired Johanes Kepler to help him publish the book.  Kepler was interested in Mars and wanted to use Tycho Brahe’s measurement to for calculating planetary orbit.  Kepler struggled with orbital shapes and speeds until he put his measurements into ratios.  This led to Kepler’s (2nd) law of motion for planetary motion.

Another name from the past, Galileo Galilei, studied with telescopes to aid observation.  His study of the Jovial moons, objects’ momentum, and gravitational acceleration, led him to be an expert at ballistics.

Isaac Newton (who was born the year Galilei died) tried to take the romance of out astronomy and convert it to a study of all mathematical formulas.  His attempt was to take the smaller detailed pieces and shape them into a smooth idea.

This book showed how many of the astronomical discoveries were inconsistently based upon either past work or work created from a fresh start.  Scientists have been at their best when they allowed themselves to behave as “sleepwalkers”.



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

The next board meeting will be Monday, November 19th at Extra Billy’s at 7:00 PM (arrive earlier for dinner). Meeting is open to all members.


Check out the web site at

RAS Café Press store.  Please take a look at the online store where you can purchase items embossed with the RAS label. The site can be found at .


Comments are closed.