From the Director





by Rex Parker, Director

AAAP ends observatory operation at UACNJ. For the past year and longer, we have been considering the fate of our club’s observatory at the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey observatory site at Jenny Jump State Forest. Our involvement there goes back to the beginnings of UACNJ as a consortium of NJ astronomy clubs when we became one of the founding member organizations. Our observatory, one of six on the Jenny Jump site, was built from scratch in the mid-90’s by a group of club members, including Bill Murray, Saul Moroz, and myself, along with former members Vic Belanger, Ron Mittlestaedt, Ralph Marantino, Larry Smith, and others.

Over the past year our assessment of member interest and the ability of AAAP to continue to support an observatory there reached a dismal conclusion. Largely due to travel distance, we lack a critical mass of member-observers able to participate on a regular basis. Further, recent rule changes executed by the UACNJ Board require a higher level of engagement and regular attendance in order to maintain our sub-lease for the site.

On Jan 18 the AAAP Board of Trustees considered these facts and reached a unanimous decision to formally disengage from observatory operations at UACNJ Jenny Jump. We therefore are allowing the observatory facility to be placed back into regular use by another club (several are interested), ending our claim to an observatory at Jenny Jump. Importantly, we agreed to maintain AAAP’s member-club status in UACNJ, so that AAAP members can bring their own equipment onto the site and observe anytime a UACNJ Observer is present.

Upcoming Club Activities:

Solar eclipse plans (Aug 21, 2017). A solar total eclipse is rare at any single location on earth, happening about once per 360 years on average. Several AAAP members are making plans to view the upcoming eclipse in Oregon. If you’re interested in participating contact assistant director Larry Kane. The chosen locale is near the town of Monmouth OR, where one of our members has a family connection. This site is in the path of totality running W to E across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. In Oregon the duration of totality will be about 2 min. Of course, a clear sky is key to eclipse observing, and August weather considerations are favorable at this site. NJ and surrounding states will see only a partial eclipse, far less impressive than totality.

Night-sky refresher at Planetarium (May 13, 2017). We’re reprising the “night sky refresher” session so that members can improve understanding of deep sky objects and how to observe them at our observatory or at home. We’ll utilize the Planetarium equipment along with the expert knowledge of AAAP member Bill Murray who is also on the Planetarium staff. Meet on May 13 at 10AM, at the Planetarium located at the NJ State Museum at 205 W State St in Trenton.

Member nights – star parties at Washington Crossing Observatory (May 27 & June 24). Plans are being made to hold two special celestial observing events for members (friends and family welcome too) at our observatory on May 27 and June 24. This is a good chance to check out the new hardware and software and bring your own telescope for a great night of observing and camaraderie.

Seeking AAAP outreach co-chair. We’re aiming to identify members interested in assisting current co-chair David Letcher to drive club outreach, helping enable this important AAAP mission. The role involves communicating with scout troop leaders, teachers, and other community leaders to help set up local astronomy events. This includes coordinating with members to bring telescopes to schools and other public facilities, and sometimes at the observatory. Please contact me if you’re interested (

Comet 45P/Honda Mrkos-Pajdusakova observing challenge. We now have a rare opportunity to see a comet with binoculars. As mentioned at the Jan meeting, I’m tossing out a friendly challenge for members to get out and observe comet 45P. The “P” is for periodic, this is a short-period comet with orbital period of ~5 years, an Oort cloud object that was deflected into the inner solar system when it was first discovered by humans in 1948. As February progresses the comet will move away from the sun climbing higher in the early morning eastern sky before sunrise. By Feb 5 it should high enough before twilight to see with binoculars due east about 15° above horizon around 5AM (chart below), but it will get dimmer as it goes higher, so don’t wait too long to attempt the observation!

Comet 45P/Honda is due east in Aquila at 5:20 AM Feb 5 from central NJ.  Chart by RAParker using TheSkyX software.

Comet 45P/Honda is due east in Aquila at 5:20 AM Feb 5 from central NJ. Chart by RAParker using TheSkyX software.

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No meeting on February 14, 2017. Happy Valentine’s Day

by Ira Polans, Program Chair

Since the next meeting is on February 14 which is Valentine’s Day we’ve decided not to hold the meeting.

I can report that the program committee is continuing its work to find speakers for the remainder of the year. It looks like we have good speakers lined up for both March and April. Next month’s issue of Sidereal Times will provide the detail about the next talk.

In addition the program committee is planning to schedule a short meeting in either March or April to get the club member’s suggestions for speakers for next year (2017-2018). For example we’ve received comments about arranging a talk relating to radio astronomy. We would like your input for suggested speakers on this topic and others you would like to hear.

The March talk is about Exoplanets by Dr. Joshua N. Winn who recently joined the Princeton faculty after teaching for several years at MIT. We look forward to seeing you at the March meeting.

Happy Valentine’s Day!! Heart

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Minutes of the January 18th AAAP Board Meeting

by James Poinsett, Secretary

• Rex called the meeting to order at 7:30 pm

• A brief overview of 2016’s accomplishments and 2017’s objectives was presented.

• The main topic of the evening was next, what to do about the Jenny Jump Observatory. Bill Murray updated us on the requirements to maintain the observatory, the club must participate in at least one Saturday evening viewing event per month along with the two special events during the year. The discussion centered on will we be able to staff it and is it worthwhile to fix and upgrade the observatory equipment? There was a lot of discussion on both sides but the final decision was that it would be very difficult to enlist enough members to staff the observatory as required this year and even less likely we would continue to staff it in the coming years. A motion was made, seconded and approved unanimously (albeit reluctantly) to give up the observatory at Jenny Jump but to remain a member of UACNJ.

• The next subject was the possible purchase of “The SkyX” software for all keyholders. There are two benefits, one would be increased familiarity with the program for users. The second is it would be a perk for keyholders, possibly increasing the number of new members becoming keyholders. The cost was estimated to be about $1000, Rex is discussing a club rate with Software Bisque and will update the club when more information is available.

• Observatory upgrades were discussed next with training on the new software being scheduled. A new viewfinder was installed on the refractor and the proper viewfinder for the Mewlon will be purchased and the current one sold when the new one arrives. The possibility of automating the rollback roof was discussed. It was decided the goal would be to get it done this year after finishing all of the computer upgrades.

• Upcoming club activities was the next topic.

    o The site in Oregon for the solar eclipse is set, near the center line. All lodging reserved by Larry has been taken. John Church has the information on the site location, contact him if you plan on going out west and meeting up with other club members.

    o More member nights at the observatory are planned, May 27th and June 24th.

    o There will be solar observing at the Nature Center at WC Park on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Contact Dave Skitt if you can make it.

    o The possibility of using full moon nights at the observatory for scope clinics was discussed. Members and the public could bring their scopes and more experienced members would try and help them learn to use them better.

    o A night sky refresher will be held at the planetarium on May 13th at 10:00 am. This year we will go more in depth to find more than the usual objects.

    o A social/observing night with Friends of WC Park is being planned at Gravity Hill. The date is still to be determined.

    o Several field trip ideas were discussed, the Horn Antenna, Hayden Planetarium, Pittsburgh Planetarium were all listed as possibilities.

• The new member form along with PayPal payment is almost ready for the website. The roster will be returning to the website soon.

• With the success we have had by making the Program Chair position into a committee, the idea of making the Outreach Chair position a committee was discussed. This will be brought up at the next meeting.

• A motion was made and seconded to adjourn the meeting, the time was 10:15 pm.

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Minutes of the January 10, 2017 AAAP Meeting

by James Poinsett, Secretary

Minutes of the January 2017 meeting of the AAAP

• The meeting was called to order at 7:30

• Rex briefly listed some objective for the club for 2017
    o Continuation of the outstanding lectures at Peyton Hall
    o More members and hopefully new members to become keyholders
    o Strong astronomy/science outreach program
    o High quality observing with the observatory upgrades
    o Getting “The Sky 10” software into the hands of keyholders
    o Identify and plans some field trips for the 2017 year
    o Organize an astrophotography interest group

• The first topic for discussion was the fate of our Jenny Jump observatory. Rex told the club that the board will be deciding the fate at the upcoming board meeting and if any member wanted to express an opinion to attend the meeting.

• So far 12 club members are making the trip to Oregon for the solar eclipse. Talk with John Church if you plan on going so you will know where the club is gathering.

• The club will host some kind of event on eclipse day as the partial eclipse in the Mercer County area with cover about 75% of the sun.

• An event with the Washington Crossing Park association is being planned.

• Shirts for club members was discussed. Larry will obtain the logo and get pricing.

• The possibility of a field trip to Tucson Arizona was brought up, most suggested waiting until 2018 because of the trip some are making to Oregon for the eclipse.

• The topic of Jenny Jump was brought up again with many ideas being discussed. Rex reminded everyone interested to be at the board meeting planned for Jan 18th, in the dome room in Peyton Hall.

• The meeting was adjourned.

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End of an era; potential new beginnings…

by Dave Skitt

It was a gloomy day on January 21, 2017, when Bill Murray, my wife, Jennifer, and I, made a trip up to AAAP’s former observatory within the UACNJ consortium of observatories in Jenny Jump State Forest. Yes, you read correctly, AAAP’s former observatory. You see, earlier in the week and after much discussion, the AAAP board had voted to change the clubs’ status within UACNJ from “Supporting Member with Observatory” to just “Supporting Member”. Unfortunately, the “observatory” had become, as one board member put it, “just a shed” since the telescope inside was no longer operable. The goal of our trip was to remove the non-operating instrument and return the shed keys to UACNJ.

Removing the 12 ½”, F6 Newtonian built by late club member, John W. H. Simpson, and the Telescope World/Thomas Mathis Company equatorial mount, seemed simple enough. Just loosen a handful of nuts and bolts and carry everything out. First off was the OTA. It was considerably lighter than its former self as Bill had removed the beefy mirror, focuser and assorted accessories years before. Next were the mount counterweights, which slipped off their shaft with ease, seemingly relieved from being suspended motionless in space for so long.

At this point, the mount must have become aware of some looming fate in the astronomy scrap heap, as the bolts securing the latitude adjustment turnbuckle to the pier refused to give. However, after a few squirts of penetrating oil mixed in with a little patience and some sweet talk regarding the future of the telescope, the bolts finally let loose. The rest of the mount and pier relented with little effort, despite their mass.

What will become of the notable telescope and mount remains to be seen. They are currently being stored in my backyard shed. The hope and desire amongst those tasked with the dismantling is to find a home for them alongside the telescopes’ namesake observatory, the John W.H. Simpson observatory in WCSP. One option being considered is to reconfigure the OTA onto a mobile, Dobsonian style mount housed in its own small observatory. The scope and mirror would be refurbished and the Dobsonian mount would be all tricked out with digital setting circles, Wi-Fi module and laser pointer. These would give the scope near go-to simplicity and accuracy when coupled with a handheld tablet. Who knows – maybe we could even add tracking capabilities! A new era of 21st century observing could be in store for the former Jenny Jump observatory telescope.

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Solar filter crafted for historic telescope

by Dave Skitt

In early 2016, knowledge of the approaching May 9th Mercury transit and the absence of a suitable solar filter for our club’s historic, 6¼-inch Hastings-Byrne refractor, prompted me, as observatory co-chair, to look for a solution. Protruding thumbscrews on the objective cell had thwarted previous attempts to properly fit an off-the-shelf white-light solar filter. Therefore, I set about to construct a custom-made filter; one that would fit securely and complement the historic look of the scope. Using both purchased and re-purposed materials, I was able to craft a solar filter for about $50. [See “Front” and “Rear” Photographs]

The inspiration and final design were gleaned from a document entitled “Make Your Own Solar Filter” from the Kendrick Astro Instruments website ( Baader Astro Solar Safety Film was purchased from Kendrick Astro. The remainder of the materials came from my basement “supply” (it’s not junk!) pile or local hardware stores.

The finished product was completed and fully tested one week before the May 9th Mercury transit when hoards of boy scouts enjoyed a day of solar observing at our observatory. But the true test, which the filter and our legendary Hastings-Byrne refractor passed with flying colors, came at 7:14 am EST on May 9th, when the disk of Mercury could be confidently viewed against the face of the sun… what an extraordinary occasion for this historic telescope and its custom-made solar filter!

P.S. Newsflash – Use of the observatory is not restricted to nighttime viewing only! The club has white-light solar filters for not only the HB refractor, but also for the C-14 and the Explore Scientific refractor used with the Mallincam video camera. My wife, Jennifer, and I will be happy to train keyholders how to use the filters. We’d also entertain your ideas on how to possibly incorporate Hydrogen-Alpha solar observing into the observatory’s future capabilities. The August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse is rapidly approaching…

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A myth you can live by…

by Theo Frimet

Angular momentum and the space time ripple effect

I came. I listened. I learned. And all at last month’s lecture on how stars explode. I am writing here, today, to opine on how a software program running on modern supercomputers accounted for only hundreds of kilometers of space expansion during a novae event. And upon review of two recommended PDF’s, by our guest lecturer, I came to the conclusion that:

I know a whole lot less of what I should know about supernovae.
Neutrinos are far more fascinating than I had ever thought, as is Fermi pressure.
It appears to me that the only limitation in modeling the outlying progression of nova events lay in how long the simulation runs.

I found number three, above, to be profoundly disappointing. I was expecting a novice challenge. I was all set to argue the set of equations used, in cosmological modeling. And to suggest that Newton’s gravity was employed, instead of Einstein Gravity. No such luck.

Item number three, completely blew away what was going to be my answer to a disconnect between computational graphic output and observational astronomy. However, not wanting to waste any pablum, I hereby tip my hat to Kaluza of 1919 vintage, and present my contribution, not of an additional space dimension, but one of time. With your mind prepped to time warp, we dance about the head of the proverbial pin, and consider echoes in space-time.

Let’s dive right in, shall we?

There is change in angular rotation imposed upon space-time curvature by the frame dragging effect of the massive and fast rotating novae.

Each wave event, from the exploding novae, is captured in a spacetime slice.

The farther away we get, distance wise, from the novae core, the slower time becomes. That is a direct result of special relativity. To visualize this, think of a spinning bicycle wheel. For the core and outer rim to travel the same distance, the rim must travel at a greater velocity than the core. The faster something moves, the slower its clock becomes. Time, at the rim, is not the same, as time at the core.

Each novae wave moment traverses space and time, along an area defined by the angular momentum twisting effect. And propagates itself through its slice of space time. I believe the event occurs for each slice of space time. It is therefore, in my opinion, a recurring event. And each event has a time curve; fast at the core, and slow at the rim. I think of these events as pulses through spacetime. And each pulse having its own re-pulsing with an ever slowing velocity, a result of having lost its momentum to space-time.

As momentum is “re-expressed” in each occurrence, it is lost on the whole. Not unlike light propagating through a Bose-Einstein condensate medium, which loses its momentum upon re-radiation, and causes a decrease in kinetic energy. Which is why, the calculations of novae expansion terminate and are not observed to be infinite in the cosmos. I simply disagree with an infinite expansion model. And propose that time, more than space, in the fabric of space-time, puts a brake on expansion.

Sure, hot novae aren’t the cold containers that we find Einstein-Bose Condensates parked in. But sometimes we need myths we can live by. While I think that this part of science isn’t well understood, there can’t be much harm in using strong individual intuition to go farther than what supercomputer models for us.

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compiled by David Kaplan

Gas to solid. Credit: Harvard Univ.

Gas to solid. Credit: Harvard Univ.

Claim made for hydrogen ‘wonder material’
Scientists in the US say they have at last managed to turn hydrogen into a state where it behaves like a metal. If that is true – and it is a controversial claim – it fulfils a more than 80-year quest to produce what many have said would be a wonder material…more

The UK could have a spaceport by 2018. -BBC

The UK could have a spaceport by 2018. -BBC

Plans for Kintyre spaceport discussed at Westminster
The area’s MP Brendan O’Hara is hosted a reception detailing plans for the former NATO base at Machrihanish to be the center of space tourism in the UK.
Machrihanish is among five sites across Britain – three of which are in Scotland – hoping to be a spaceport…more

Peggy the, bright smudge at the edge of Saturn's A-ring. - NASA

Peggy the, bright smudge at the edge of Saturn’s A-ring. – NASA

To see finally the face of Peggy
Scientists studying the splendor of Saturn’s rings are hoping soon to get a resolved picture of an embedded object they know exists but cannot quite see. The moonlet is named after London researcher Carl Murray’s mother-in-law, and was first noticed in 2013. Its effect on surrounding ice and dust particles has been tracked ever since…more

Hakuto "White Rabbit",  Japan

Hakuto “White Rabbit”, Japan

Five in final stretch of Moon race
The race to put a privately funded spacecraft on the Moon has just five teams left in the competition.
The surviving groups all met an end-of-2016 deadline to obtain launch contracts – and these have now been verified by the organisers of the Google Lunar X-Prize…more

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