Minutes of the February 11, 2014 AAAP Meeting

by Michael Wright, Secretary

Director Jeff Bernardis opened the meeting.  He congratulated and awarded an observatory key to new keyholder Kevin Mooney and requested a volunteer to form the nominating committee for next year’s officers.

Program Chair Kate Otto introduced Princeton Astrophysics post-doc Renee Hlozek who introduced the speaker for the evening, Prof. Craig Wheeler of the University of Texas at Austin.  Prof. Wheeler specializes in the astrophysics of violent events: supernovae, neutron stars, black holes, gamma-ray bursts and the relation of these events to astrobiology.

Before beginning, Prof. Wheeler recognized member Insu Yi, who was a graduate student at U of T during Prof. Wheeler’s tenure as Department Chair.  Prof. Wheeler spoke about the current supernova in M82 and latest theories to explain type IA supernovae including historical supernovae records and new evidence from space-based telescopes like the Chandra X-ray Observatory.  Following the talk, the audience went outside to see the current supernova in M82 (the Cigar Galaxy) through John Giles 11-inch Dobsonian.  Unfortunately, the supernova and galaxy were lost in the background glow.

Following 30 minutes of observing, Jeff convened the business meeting.  Rex Parker observed that about 95 people attended the lecture, which almost filled the lecture hall.

Friends of AAAP Mail List – Secretary Michael Wright proposed creating a mailing list for non-members to receive notices of AAAP public events.  The idea was received favorably so he will create the list.

StarQuest – Mike explained that he called a meeting to begin planning for StarQuest, which was poorly attended.  Currently, volunteers are limited Ludy D’Angelo, Jim Poinsett, Kate Otto and Mike.  He suggested that the lack of additional volunteers indicates that there is no interested in organizing a public star party and recommended that the event planned for Sept. 26-28, 2014 be an observing event for members and guests.  Rex suggested that the club promote StarQuest to new members and beginners as an opportunity to try out different scopes and learn more about observing.  Based on his experience working on StarQuest, Bill Murray indicated that attendance would drop dramatically after a year or two of bad weather ruining public star parties.  Gene Ramsey suggested having a picnic in the summer combined with a star party at the observatory.  Mike pointed out that an observing-only event is easier to cancel for bad weather.  Jeff suggested that we consider the options and make a final decision at the next meeting.

Mount Lemon Trip – Rex proposed that the club organize a trip to the Mount Lemon Observatory near Tuscon, Arizona.  He envisioned six to twelve members staying on the mountain for three-days to use the telescope for observing or astrophotography.  His recent astrophotography workshop cost about $800 excluding travel expenses so he anticipated that the stay would less than that.  Accommodations in the dormitories and meals by the observatory’s cook would be included.  He volunteered to contact Andy Block so find out what could be arranged.  The idea was well received by those present.  The preference seemed to be for observing.  Rex suggested that additional days could be added if some members wanted to stay on to do astrophotography.  In response to Bill’s question, Rex thought that members could bring their own scopes.  Mike suggested that the club organize the stay, and members make their own travel arrangements to give them the most flexibility to visit other attractions in the area.  Mary Hayes asked about the best time weather-wise to visit.  Rex said he would research it, but thought the fall would probably be best.

New Observatory Donation – Bill reported that he learned from UACNJ about an NJIT professor who may be interested in purchasing the dome for an observatory that he wants to build at Jenny Jump.  Bill volunteered to contact him.  Jeff reminded that the club cannot make any representations about the completeness or suitability of the dome because we have not seen it assembled.

Nominating Committee – Jeff reiterated his call before the lecture for a volunteer to lead the nominating committee.  No one stepped up.

Program Chair’s Report – Kate announced that a speaker has not been found for the March meeting, but member Bob Vanderbei will speak at the April 8 meeting and Neta Bahcall of Princeton Astrophysics will speak in May.

Simpson Observatory – Gene reported that reported that the Park Administration has not cleared the roads to our observatory at Washington-Crossing Park so access is treacherous.  Dave and Jen Skitt have tried to keep the roof clear of snow and ice, but are losing the battle.  Also, locks are freezing up due to the cold.  The observatory is now closed for all use until further notice.  Lee Sandburg is training to be a keyholder.

Website – Jeff said that Prof. Wheeler will forward his photographs of the supernova in M82 to the club.  Mike volunteered to coordinate with John Miller to post them on the web.

Outreach Report – Jeff reported for Dave Letcher that there are no outreach events on the schedule.

Jeff adjourned the meeting at 10:00 p.m.

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