June 2016 Meeting Minutes

Richmond Astronomical Society

801st Consecutive Meeting

June 14, 2016


Greetings – approximately 42 in attendance at the meeting.

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


Announcements / Share Table


Library Report: Virginia Eckert


Welcome Visitors: Many


Events and Individual Observing:

RAS members

Science Museum

Astronomy Day

Belmead Observing Station


Belmead in Peril! As many of you know, we have developed a partnership over the past few years with Belmead in Powhatan, a beautiful, historic and relatively convenient dark sky location. Unfortunately, the owners of the property, Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia, have decided to sell the entire 2,200 acre tract. The local Virginia staff at Belmead was not involved in the decision and this turn of events was very much a surprise to them. More information is available at: www.richmond.comlnews/local/central-virginia/powhatan/.


A press conference is scheduled at Belmead on Saturday, May 14 at 2:00 PM. Friends and supporters of Belmead are encouraged to attend.  The event is NOT restricted to members of the media.


The decision to sell Belmead is enormously disappointing on many levels. RAS was in the process of expanding our partnership with Belmead by installing within the month a telescope storage facility from which scopes could be deployed for visitor and member use. We were also preparing an application to the International Dark Sky Association to secure Belmead’s designation as a dark sky reserve. Aside from our specific interest in the property as an observing and outreach education site, Belrnead is an absolute treasure, It has had a lifetime as an old southern plantation from the 1840’s into the 1870’s, followed by a second lifetime as a school for African American and Native American youth from the 1890’s into the 1970’s and yet a third rejuvenation as an environmental and community center and a model of land stewardship. It has most recently served us as a comfortable respite from urban light glow


RAS has sent a letter to the leadership in Philadelphia registering our displeasure and concern over the lack of inclusiveness in making this decision. There is also a petition at Change.org if you would like to add your name in support. Hopefully there will be a positive outcome.


Interesting article on light pollution on CNN:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/1 1/health/light-pollution-atlas-milky-way-irptlindex.html


Upcoming Events

Science Museum Skywatch, Friday, June 17, 6:30 PM: Skywatch at the Museum in conjunction with the Museum’s Science After Dark event.

Please join us and bring a telescope if you can.


Powhatan State Park, Saturday, June 25, 8:00 PM: Stargazing at Powhatan State Park – please join us and bring a telescope. We have a lead astronomer for this event, but could use a few extra folks with telescopes. We also need lead astronomers for events on November 5 and December 3. If interested, please contact president@richastro.org.


Belmead skywatch, Saturday July 2, 8:00 PM:

Public skywatch and sky tour at Belmead in Powhatan. The location of Belmead is at 5004 Cartersville Road, Powhatan, shown on this Google map at


Once you enter the Belmead property, follow the road approximately one mile to the mansion.


Green Bank Star Quest July 6-9, Green Bank, WV


York County Star Party, July 27- 31, York County State Park, York, PA


2016 Star Parties: Lots of star parties in 2016. The events for which we currently have information are listed at:



ALCON 2016 registration is open! ALCon is the annual convention of the Astronomical League, held in a different location in the US each year. ALCon is an excellent opportunity to speak with and learn from other astronomers and experts in various fields. This year, ALCon is in Washington, DC – only a couple hours away, August 10-13. Registration and more information is at alcon2016.astroleague.org .


Astro-imaging hangouts on Google: Bryan Hartley has been most generous in sharing with us his images and the expertise he is rapidly gaining with Pixinsight, a very powerful image processing tool. To join one of his Google hangouts, contact president@richastro.org.




Presentation: ‘Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers,” Jerry Hubbell, astronomy author, VP of Engineering at Explore Scientific, VP of the Rappahannock Astronomy Club. Copies of Jerry’s book can be purchased from him or on Amazon.com, by searching for Gerald Hubbell. The title of the book is: “Remote Observatories for Amateur Astronomers: Using High-Powered Telescopes from Home.”