February 4, 2013 AAAP Meeting Minutes

by Michael Wright, Secretary

Director Ludy D’Angelo called the meeting to order. He welcomed everyone to the meeting. Ludy recognized the new members in attendance and invited them to participate in club activities.

Kate Otto, Program Chair, introduced the speaker, Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA. In his talk entitled “The Revolution in Planetary Science”, he enthusiastically discussed the findings of NASA’s exploration of the Solar System over the past 50 years. Members enjoyed his explanations and illustrations of our current understandings about the rocky planets, the dwarf planets, comets and asteroids, the Galilean moons, Titan, Saturn’s rings and the Kuiper Belt. Also, Dr. Green spoke passionately about the possibility that NASA will find life in the Solar System. After a brief break, Ludy reconvened the business portion of the meeting.

  1. Program Chair: Kate Otto said that the speaker for the March meeting is author Michael Lemonick. The anniversary dinner planning committee is making progress toward the May event and will be holding a conference call on Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 7:00 pm. Ludy reminded Kate that the May meeting is the annual meeting at which the Board elections are held so she should book a speaker for that meeting.
  2. Observatory Donation: Jim McHenry reported for the new observatory committee. He said that Chair Michael Mitrano submitted a letter to Neil Ferrari, the W-C park superintendent, asking for approval to build the new observatory. Neil is circulating the request through the various bureaus at NJDEP that have to sign-off on it. Ludy reminded that all official communication should come from the Board. Specifications are being written to get quotes for the structure. The options for Internet access are Comcast ($9000), Verizon (no quote yet), DSL and Wireless. Verizon will be contacted because they have lines to the amphitheatre and may extend them to AAAP’s observatory and the Nature Center at a reasonable cost. There is DSL elsewhere in the park, but the park staff is dissatisfied with it. Wetlands are not present where the observatory is proposed. Ludy reminded that the plans do not have to be based on the donated equipment, which is dated. Purchasing new equipment may be better. Jim responded that the committee is working under the assumption that the club wants to accept and use the donation. Ludy said the club does not have to accept the donation. If AAAP takes it, the equipment must be used and not stored indefinitely in a storage locker or member’s garage.
  3. Comet PANSTARRS: Gene Ramsey suggested that AAAP hold a public event at the soccer field parking lot at Washington-Crossing to observe comet PANSTARRS. The best observing dates are predicted to be March 5 to 15. The comet is projected to be at mag. -1. Bill Murray reported that the brightness estimates have been reduced to mag. 1 – 2. Gene will contact Neil Ferrari. Ken Kremer suggested holding the event at the Engineering Quad parking garage. Ludy said that would only be feasible if AAAP does the vent jointly with Princeton. Michael Wright said that to publicize the event a press release would have to go to the papers two weeks before the event, say by Feb. 19, so plans have to be made within the next two weeks. Mike, Gene and Jeff Bernardis will work together.
  4. Observatory Report: Gene reported that the park has not made any progress in repairing the gates and reopening our access to the observatory. Rex Parker presented a $625 quote from a mason to repair the columns that support the roll-off roof. There was a discussion about whether the quote should be accepted or additional quotes should be sought. The consensus among Board members present was that the quote was reasonable. Since the work cannot be done until warmer, action on the quote is not urgent. Ludy requested Rex to submit the quote in writing for the full Board’s review.
  5. Outreach Report: David Letcher was not present, but Ludy said he asked for a current copy of the membership roster. Mike agreed to send it to David.
  6. Sidereal Times: Mike said the deadline for submitting articles for the March issue is February 28, 2013.

Ludy adjourned the meeting at 10:00 p.m.
After the meeting, Michael Lemonick’s talk was rescheduled to April.

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