Richmond Astronomical Society

September 2014 Meeting Minutes

Nov 11th, 2014 | By | Category: Meetings

Richmond Astronomical Society

780th Consecutive Meeting

September 9, 2014


Greetings – approximately 30 in attendance at the meeting.

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


Announcements / Share Table:

  • Board of Directors nominating committee was introduced and its mission over the next 2 months was discussed.       Anybody interested in being on the Board, please contact Dave Medici.
  • RAS membership dues are due. Annual membership is $30. Observatory personnel fees are an additional $10.       Magazine subscriptions are $32.95 for Sky&Telescope, and $34 for Astronomy.
  • John Blowers had solar eclipse photos to display and discuss during his talk.
  • Henry Nebel brought in Supermoon photos from the New York Times.
  • Leslie is selling an eyepiece for half-price.       It was sold quick.
  • Madhup has a nice big scope for sale.


Library Report: Virginia Eckert


Events and Individual Observing:

RAS member observing:

  • Steve W saw the Trifid and the Lagoon Nebula
  • Jim Browder saw sunspots and Comet Jacques
  • Dwight Talley took photos of the Bubble Nebula and Cocoon nebula
  • John Raymond was observing in his backyard, but it was too hot to stay out
  • Jim Browder and Madhup viewed M12 together.
  • Science Museum: only lasted 30 minutes due to clouds
  • September 9 “supermoon”


Scouting Astronomy Merit Badge Opportunities: Three Richmond area troops, one in April in Jamaica, VA. Merit badge requirements at: .aspx. Please contact Jim Browder at if you are interested in helping out.


RAS Monthly Meeting, Tuesday, October 14, 7:30 PM: The next meeting of the Richmond Astronomical Society will be on Tuesday, October 14, 7:30 PM at the Science Museum of Virginia. Please join us for the meeting to hear about some recent news items and, if you can, for dinner at Arby’s across the street from the Museum about 6:00 PM.

Science Museum of Virginia, September 19, 7:30 PM: RAS will have its regular monthly skywatch at the Science Museum starting at 7:30 PM after the Museum’s planetarium show, Science After Dark: Space Movie Monsters, which starts at 6:30 PM. The Museum will also be open from 5:00 to 9:00 PM evening live science activities. You can explore three floors of interactive exhibits and see a special presentation of 2001:

A Space Odyssey in The Dome at 8:30 pm. More information is at: Please join us and bring a telescope for the skywatch if you can.

Powhatan State Park, Saturday, September 13, 7:00 PM (NOTE CORRECTED DATE): Powhatan State Park will be hosting a public skywatch in the equestrian parking area. RAS will be supplying astronomers. Please join us and bring a telescope if you can. Contact John Raymond at if you can help with this event. Rain/cloud date is September 20.

VAAS 2014, September 27 (tentative — date may be adjusted): The Norfolk Astronomical Society will be hosting this year’s meeting of the Virginia Association of Astronomical Societies. More information at:

ECVAR 2014, September 20-27, Galax, VA: The East Coast Video Astronomy Rendezvous will be held at the Cool Breeze Campground in Galax, VA. As the name suggests, the star party is focused on video astronomy. A number of the attendees broadcast live telescope video at Information on the star party is at:

NOVAC Annual Star Gaze, September 27, C. M. Crockett Park: The 31st annual NOVAC Star Gaze will be held on Saturday, September27 from 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM at C. M. Crockett Park in Fauquier County. More information at:

Camp Phoenix, September 27, 6:00 PM: The Camp Phoenix project for adult cancer survivors will be held at Camp Hanover and RAS has been asked to have a skywatch for guests. Please contact Jim Browder at if you can help. We need 1-2 astronomers.

RAS Fall Picnic and Observing Session, Saturday, October 18, 3:00 PM—?: RAS will hold our sometimes annual Fall picnic under the stars and public observing session at Belmead on the James in Powhatan County. We will have telescopes, astronomers and a night sky orientation for the public to enjoy and RAS astronomers are welcome to observe as late as they care to throughout the night. Please join us if you can and bring a dish to share with the group. The entrance to Belmead is at 5004 Cartersville Rd in Powhatan. There will be signs showing the way to the mansion parking lot once you enter the facility. We will picnic near the mansion and observe from the parking lot.

Staunton River Star Party, October 20-26, Staunton River State Park: This year’s Fall version of the Staunton River Star Party will be held from October 20-26. The Richmond Astronomical Society will be hosting an imaging workshop at the star party on October 23 and 24th. More information about the party is at this link: is at Note that you must register in advance for the event.

East Coast Star Party, October 23-35, Coinjock, NC: Hampton Lodge Campground — Coinjock, NC; Contact Kent Blackwell, Organizer, for more info. Portable restrooms conveniently located near observing area; showers and country store located on the campground site; you may camp near your telescope; no AC is available in the observing field. Star party registration is $20 per person for the party — does not include camping fee of $20 per night for primitive camping, additional charges for sites with electric, water and sewer service,


Short Talk: “Adventures in NASA Image Archaeology,” Ken Wilson

In the 1960’s, there was no photographic technology as we know it today. During this time, NASA sent 5 lunar orbiters to the Moon to photograph the surface to plan for the moon landings. In their efforts, 99% of the surface was photographed with a resolution of 60 meters. The photographs was taken on 70 mm tape on the satellite, developed, and beamed to Earth. This was before the digital age, so the quality was not great. 1500 reels of tape were created on Earth to hold the photos.

Eventually, in the mid-1980s, the reels were under the care of Nancy Evans, co-founder of the NASA Planetary Data System (PDS).

For a short time in the late 1980’s and then again in the mid 2000’s, the Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) with Nancy Evans, Dennis Wingo, and Keith Cowing transformed the reels to digital photos of the lunar surface.





Presentation: “Preview of the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse,” Jim Blowers

History of early eclipses date back to 585 BC by the Lydeans and Medeans. Eclipses have been reported by many figures since then, including Christopher Columbus.

There is a cycle of eclipses that repeat over time. A major component of the eclipse cycle is affected by the orbital tilt of our Moon. Eclipses do not occur each month because the moon is usually in its ascending or descending node in their orbit, rather than the center portion of its orbit. This length of time for the orbital cycle to align itself again with the Earth and Sun’s position in their own orbit is called the Metonic Cycle, A period of 235 lunar months, or about 19 years in the Julian calendar. The Metonic cycle has a major impact in the creating another cycle that is called the Saros cycle, about 223 months. This is the amount of time between occurrences of the Earth–Moon-Sun being in a straight line to cause identical eclipses.

Jim displayed a list of total eclipses that were separated by a saros cycle. Using the pattern, the next total eclipse in the US will be on August 21, 2017.

In Richmond, we will have 85% totality. History and weather forecasting predicts weather will improve as we go westward across the country.

To select a site to view the eclipse, look for Astronomical Societies planning an eclipse party. Remember to book your hotel early.

Eclipses have been known to affect animal life, for example night creatures awaken and cows have been know to return to the barn.

The next local eclipse after 2017 will be 4/4/2024.

More information at

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