By Michael Wright, Secretary
Director Jeff Bernardis opened the meeting. Program Chair Kate Otto introduced the speaker for the evening, Ted Blank of the International Occultation Timing Association. Ted presented an engaging talk called Chasing Shadows for Planetary Science. On March 20, 2014 at approximately 2:06 a.m. EDT the shadow of 163 Erigone cast by Regulus will race across the New York metropolitan area on its way to Ontario. If skies are clear, observers within the shadow path will see Regulus disappear for up to 14 seconds. Never before will so many people have the opportunity to witness an asteroid occultation of a star with their naked eyes. Ted explained how citizen scientists could contribute to science by timing the event with any camera able to record video or an iPhone app developed by IOTA.
After a short break, Jeff convened the business meeting.
Nominating Committee – Jeff announce that John Giles and Jim McHenry have volunteered to serve as the nominating committee and put together the slate of candidates for next year’s officers. The slate will be announced at the April meeting and the election will be conducted at the May meeting as required by the club’s by-laws.
Communiversity – Larry Kane announced that the club has been invited to participate in Communiversity, which will be held on April 27, 2014 in Princeton. Jeff said this has been a worthwhile event and encouraged members to volunteer to bring scopes and staff the club’s table.
Friends of Washington Crossing Park: – Trustee Larry Kane announced that FWCP has adopted a constitution. There may be opportunities for the club to participate in events planned by FWCP. The organization is working with the park administration. Jeff suggested that FWCP could help the club address the observatory access problems.
StarQuest – Michael Wright suggested that the club plan an observing-only event because no one offered any ideas or help for organizing a bigger event after the discussion at the last business meeting. Mike will call a meeting of the volunteers to begin planning.
Mount Lemon Trip – Rex Parker provided more information regarding the proposed trip to the Mount Lemon Observatory near Tuscon, Arizona. He suggested a two-day stay on the mountain. The University of Arizona runs a public visual observing program on the weekends until 11:00 p.m. for which they charge $60 per person for up to 20 people. After 11:00 p.m., the club could have exclusive use of the scope for the rest of the night. An operator would be provided. Rex estimated UofA’s fee for 10 members would be about $160 per person per night if we share the evening with the public observers. Members could stay in dorms on the mountain, and the club would have to cater meals. Since there is no deliveries on the mountain, it means members would have to cook. The optimum times to visit are October 2014 or April 2015. Trips to Kitt Peak Observatory and the Stewart Lab could be included if there is interest. The visit could be arranged immediately before one of Adam Block’s astrophotography workshops if some members wanted to stay on to attend. A show of hands by the 30 +/- members present showed about 12 members are interested in the trip, which is enough to justify continuing researching the trip.
Program Chair’s Report – Kate Otto announced that Bob Vanderbei and Gene Ramsey will speak at the April 8 meeting and Neta Bahcall of Princeton Astrophysics will speak in May. The June meeting will be at the planetarium at the NJ State Museum in Trenton.
Simpson Observatory – Gene Ramsey reported that he has trained two new keyholders that will be assigned to teams. One other person is going through training, but the snow, cold weather and lack of access to the observatory interrupted his training. The duty roster for the upcoming season will be issued shortly. The observatory is now closed for all uses until further notice. Due to the cold weather the floor has heaved and pushed up the wall between the computer room and the main room, which prevents opening the roof. He anticipates that the floor and wall will return to normal when the ground thaws. Gene demonstrated a new observing chair that he designed and gave it to Jennifer and David Skitt in appreciation for their work at the observatory. Ludy D’Angelo reported that he checked out the stereo and that it works fine except the CD player needs a new power cord.
Outreach Report – Dave Letcher announced that the club has been invited to participate in Super Science Saturday on May 3 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the NJ State Museum. Also, the Plainsboro Preserve has asked for the club’s assistance with an event at October 24 (rain date October 25) and Hightstown Library has asked for participation in a daytime event during the summer. The next outreach event is a science night at Ben Franklin School in Lawrenceville on Thursday, March 27. Dave will send out calls for volunteers with full details at the appropriate times. Gene Ramsey announced that he will be helping with a science night at Hopewell elementary school on March 14, and members are invited to bring scopes.
New Observatory Donation – Jeff agreed to contact the potential buyer for the dome. John Miller said that there is no need to bench test the C14. An optical test at the observatory would be more appropriate.
Astronomical Calendar – Bill Murray reported that there will be a total lunar eclipse in the early morning of April 15.
Jeff adjourned the meeting.