From the Director





by Rex Parker, Phd

New Season Begins Sept 10. A very big thanks go to the Dept of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, for their support and especially the provision of Peyton Hall auditorium for our meetings again this year. The first meeting will be Tues Sept 10 at 7:30 pm; see the article below for information about the upcoming speaker programs.

Gravity Hill Star Party Sept 28. Bring your telescope to The Barn at Gravity Hill in Hopewell Township on Sept 28! ( The Barn is a beautiful, upscale venue with adjacent field suitable for telescopes with great sky views. Thanks to the efforts of Outreach chair Gene Allen and several members, we held a successful astro outreach event there in August for a youth group from Queens NY. In return, Gravity Hill’s owners are providing access for this star party, which could become an annual event if there is interest. This Sept 28 will be a one-night event (drive-home-before-dawn). Members, family and friends are welcome to attend, even if you don’t own a telescope. Please note that registration is required but there are no costs to attendees. See the flier below for more information. You can also e-mail me at to register if you cannot make the Sept 10 meeting.

Some things change, some stay the same. One of AAAP’s most important goals is to enhance connections and camaraderie within the organization while expanding member access to astronomy knowledge, experiences, and technology. Based in part on results from this summer’s member survey, which received 80 responses (100 members), we are making a few changes for this year – and also not making one proposed change.
10-minute member talks after the intermission. We realize that it can be a bit daunting to get up in front of a group in the auditorium, before the main speaker has even been introduced. Yet this is a great way for members to get to know each other and share astro experiences in the club. So let’s reconfigure: the 10-minute member talk will now be scheduled following the intermission after the main speaker. Although this usually means a reduced audience size, the spotlight is less glaring. So please step up and offer us a tale of your recent astronomy experience, book or travel review, observing tips, new telescope; slides or show-and-tell are optional. Please contact me or Program chair (Ira Polans) to get onto the schedule for an upcoming meeting.

Member Saturday nights with your telescope. In the recent member survey, 62 of 80 responders said they own a telescope, but only 37 said they use it at least once in a while or more. Becoming more skilled with telescopes is important to 67, yet only 38 said they come out to the Observatory more than once a year. To address this, the Board has decided to promote Saturday nights for members to gather for hands-on astronomy at a safe location with wide sky views. We suggest setting up at the west end of the soccer fields at Washington Crossing State Park, easily accessed off Rte 579/Bear Tavern Rd on the way into the Observatory. No gate opening is needed (the gate at 579 is generally open except in mid-winter). If you want to initiate an informal Saturday night telescope session with members, please feel free to send an e-mail to me or any Board member and we’ll broadcast a note to all members that day.

Name will not be changed. An altered perception of what “amateur” means led to a recent proposal to consider changing our name. Amateur in our title can be an attracter as well as a hindrance to new member recruitment. Our club needs to evolve in the context of significant advances in astronomy, images from Hubble, the visibility of NASA missions, and a thousand other changes in science communication. The impact of technology, emergence of citizen-science, changing demographics, and the presence of a highly knowledgeable population in central NJ are factors behind the proposition.

A change in AAAP’s name would be subject to a formal proceedings and vote later, so the current question is only an attempt to gauge members’ opinions. From the recent survey, there were 33 in favor, 13 neutral, and 30 against the proposed change to drop amateur. Therefore, at least at this time, the Board has decided to not remove amateur from triple-A-P (we will not become double-A-P). The Board also agreed this question should be revisited in a couple years.

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From the Program Chair

by Ira Polans

The first meeting of the season will be held on September 10 at 7:30 PM in the auditorium of Peyton Hall on the Princeton University campus. The talk is on the “Engineering the Measurement of the Hubble Constant” by Rachael Beaton, Research Fellow, Princeton University

The local expansion rate of the Universe, the Hubble constant, is one of the fundamental parameters in our current concordance cosmology and one that anchors the expansion history of the Universe. The resolution of the historical factor-of-two controversy in the Hubble constant nearly two decades ago (e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope Key Project) has evolved into a > 3.8-sigma tension between the traditional Cepheid-distance ladder measurements and that determined from modelling anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background (CMB; Planck Collaboration). At the heart of the tension, is not only a difference in method, but also a fundamental difference in the state of the observed Universe: the distance ladder measures the local rate in the nearby universe (e.g., z~0), whereas the CMB anisotropy measurements use the very young Universe (z ~1100).

Resolution of the tension requires (i) a full-scale evaluation of the systematic effects in either technique or (ii) “new physics” added to the standard cosmological model. The trigonometric parallaxes provided by Gaia in the near term permit an unprecedented opportunity to use alternative standard candles and construct a full end-to-end distance ladder without Cepheids. The Carnegie-Chicago Hubble Program is doing just that; we are in the middle of building a new distance ladder that relies on the tip of the red giant branch (TRGB). As I will demonstrate, this not only provides a direct cross-check on the Cepheid path, but there are numerous advantages to using a distance indicator that, as a standard candle from old stellar populations, is nearly ubiquitously present low-crowding and low-extinction components of galaxies. More specifically, by being able to calibrate every ‘local’ SNe Ia and easily probing ever-larger volumes with JWST and WFIRST, the TRGB-based distance ladder paves a clear path to a measurement that is engineered for the highest precision and accuracy.

Two changes are being made for the 10 minute talks this season. First, the talk will be given after the intermission. Second, we are instituting a 10 minute limit. The speaker will be given a 90 second warning to wrap up the talk. If you’re interested in giving a 10 minute talk please contact either Rex or me.

There will be a meet the speaker dinner at 6 PM an Wiberries in Palmer Square. Please contact by noon on September 10 if you are interested in attending the dinner.

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Outreach Blotter

by Gene Allen, Outreach Chair

The support our member have given for the summer push has been great, and now it is winding down, with only a few presentations remaining.

At 7 pm on Wednesday, September 4, Victor Davis will be offering a presentation at the Hopewell Theater, 5 S Greenwood Ave, Hopewell, NJ 08525, in support of the Hopewell Public Library. Following the presentation, we hope a few can join me to show what we can of the night sky from the adjacent lot. If you can bring a scope to help, please plan to be set up to receive observers by 7:30.

At 6:30 pm on Sunday, October 20, I will be giving my presentation at the Pennington Public Library, 30 Main St, followed by star gazing from a nearby open playing field. Volunteers bringing scopes include Jen & Dave Skitt, David Reis, and Tim Donney.

Looking farther ahead, Jim Peck will be giving his presentation to the Jewish Community Center of Edison on January 14, and I will be offering mine to the Princeton Windrows Science Group on January 30.

All this, plus some really high attendance Public Nights at Simpson, make this our most active summer in years. Let’s hope we get a bloom in membership from all your efforts!

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Minutes of the August 8, 2019 AAAP Board Meeting

by John Miller, Secretary

  • Rex Parker called meeting to order at 7:30 PM
  • AAAP online member survey synopsis was reviewed. Member participation at the observatory, percentage of member scope owners/regular users, AAAP name change (Board decided to keep “Amateur,” rather than replacing with “Astronomy”), and other survey responses were discussed.
  • Sidereal Times co-editor Surabhi Agarwal suggested a 50% dues discount for high school-age membership to the AAAP. Rex Parker said this would have to be discussed with Treasurer Michael Mitrano, who was not at the Board Meeting.
  • Member dues reminder was discussed. A more effective communication process was suggested. Surabhi will place a notice in Sidereal Times.
  • It was recommended that regular notices be sent to the general membership inviting same to meet at-will at the Washington Crossing Soccer Fields for observing sessions, on any Saturday.
  • A new star party venue was further discussed – to be held at The Barn at Gravity Hill, Hopewell Township, NJ; September 27th and 28th. Details published in the August 6th Sidereal Times.
  • Rex Parker forwarded the idea to mount the club’s ZWO294 camera onto the C14 telescope. This would be partnered with a flip-mirror optical diagonal. Operational details are under study. Details in the August 6th edition of Sidereal Times.
  • David Skitt’s offer of a donated storage shed, to be placed on the observatory property was put on hold with three board members voting against.
  • A detailed discussion regarding needed reinforcement / repair to the observatory outside supporting pillars was undertaken. Michael Mitrano was suggested as lead investigator for contractor and permit reviews.
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NJAA’s 3rd Annual Open House and Astronomy Flea-market

by Michael Franzyshen, New Jersey Astronomical Association

The New Jersey Astronomical Association’s (NJAA) 3rd Annual Open House and Astronomy Flea-market is on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at their observatory in High Bridge, NJ.

Hours are: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM. The rain date is October 5, 2019. The club had over 200 attendees last year and hope to grow the attendance again this year!

If you are going to participate in the flea-market, limited tables/chairs are available (first come/first served). For Sellers, there is a $20 registration fee (refundable at end of event). Paypal:

Tours of the observatory, Astro flea-market, solar observing, see Venus in the daytime (a favorite), door prizes and food will be available onsite.

Speakers/Vendors/Sponsors Include:

  • Charles Bracken, Author of the “The Deep-Sky Imaging Primer” Speaking at 11:00 AM EST
  • “Telescope Tune-Up” by Keith Marley at 1:00 PM EST – Bring your Scope!
  • Al Nagler of Televue will be onsite demonstrating their exciting, new Apollo Eyepiece!
  • Al Ernst will be sharing his widefield images take out west (Death Valley, Etc) – 2:30 PM EST
  • Rob Teeter of Teeter’s Telescopes will be onsite displaying some of his wonderful Dobsonian telescopes.
  • Outdoor Sports Optics will be onsite selling eyepieces, scope accessories, filters, etc.

More information on the open house event and registration details for the flea-market is available at:

Clear out your garage or living room of astro-hardware – Join us for the Flea-Market and sell that unused astro-hardware!
Come enjoy a day of astronomy, buying & selling! Buy that difficult to find scope/eyepiece/mount you’ve been looking for!

The PDF Flyer can be referenced here:

Questions about the event? Call me at 908-256-2918!

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Simple Astrophotography

by Larry Kane

I took this picture with my cell phone, hand held with lots of light pollution nearby. It is touched up a bit with Photo Shop. I wanted the members to see that astrophotography can be achieved with simple tools (and some patience).

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Solving the gravitation problem

by John Church

I posed a gravitation problem in the May Sidereal Times. The problem was to find the time that it would take for two nonmagnetic cubes, 4 cm on an edge, with masses of 1 kilogram each, originally placed with their centers 1 meter apart on a perfectly frictionless horizontal surface, to touch under the sole effect of their mutual gravitation. The right-hand cube is fixed in place and the left-hand cube is free to move towards its neighbor. Assume that there are no nearby masses that could perturb the experiment. The Earth’s vertically-downward gravitational pull is assumed not to have any effect on purely horizontal and frictionless motion.

Here’s my solution. Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation says that the force attracting these two cubes to each other will be directly proportional to the product of their masses (i.e. 1 kg x 1 kg) and inversely proportional to the square of their separation, which starts off at 1 meter and then begins to decrease. The constantly changing acceleration of the left-hand cube is then specified by Newton’s Second Law of Motion: acceleration equals force divided by mass. Putting all this together, the result is a differential equation (DE). The gravitational constant G is taken as 6.67 x 10^-11 in the SI system of units (meters, kilograms, and seconds).

Now comes calculus. We need to solve this DE to find the separation as a direct function of time. In this case, we need to specify two initial conditions. The first condition is that the initial separation is 1 meter and the second is that the initial velocity of the movable cube is zero.

I have an application called Mathematica that is very good at solving DE’s, but it couldn’t solve this one in terms of known math functions because the equation is nonlinear. Nonlinear in mathematics means that the dependent variable (the separation in this case) is raised to a power other than 1. The separation is squared due to the basic nature of gravitation, i.e. the inverse square law.

Nonlinear DE’s are notoriously hard to solve except in special cases. This reflects the real world, in which most things are nonlinear. Results are usually not directly proportional to causes. This is exemplified in the old saying, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost, for want of a shoe the horse was lost,” etc.

Back to gravitation. Mathematica was able to solve this DE numerically in terms of what’s called an Interpolating Function. Mathematica also made a graph showing the position of the left-hand cube as a function of time, starting from t = 0 when the left-hand cube is released. As expected, the movable cube hardly moves at all for a very long period of time, but it gradually speeds up and the effect feeds back on itself as the separation decreases.

Using the Interpolating Function, one can find the moment when the two 4-cm cubes will just touch by finding the center-to-center distance at various times in seconds and zeroing in by successive approximations. The cubes will touch when this distance is 4 cm, i.e. half the diameter of each cube.

The answer that I found was 162,737 seconds. How does this relate to my anagram “To find us a pretty egg in Ohio, eh?” Anagram solution: This many seconds is about “One point eight eight four days.” It would take nearly two full days for the movable cube to finally touch the fixed one after its short journey. This would be a very boring experiment to watch, even if it could actually be set up and carried out.

I also found how fast the movable cube was moving just before it touched the stationary one. This was about 1 millimeter per minute, which would be barely perceptible with a strong magnifying glass. There wouldn’t be much of a bang at the end. The Big Bang would be a lot more interesting. Talk about nonlinearity !

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by Theodore R. Frimet

No Taurus

We spoke. We speak often with those we outreach, under the night sky. It is an impermanent relationship. One that is marked by conversation, sight and awe. Among the two-way talks that glanced thru the veil, were The Standard Model, a new flavor of neutrino, and an Awakening.

When faced with the prospect of speaking beyond my comprehension, there will come the time when a question is also far out of the boundaries of Astronomy. The question begs its genesis. Whatever did I say to encourage a question on the composition of the Standard Model, during outreach?

I flopped and flailed about, like a fish out of water. Creeping to the innermost part of my temporal lobes, was an attempt by my raging hippocampus to unleash the dogs of war. And out it came. ‘Shot, over. Shot, out’!

Spoken softly, we engaged a brief incursion to QED, the Quantum Electrodynamics Theory. Briefly, I took pause to mention the few flavors of Quarks that I could taste. Salty, bitter, were at the tip and back of my tongue, as thus Sprach Zarathustra: Charmed, Up and Down. Never enough time to chat about bottom, top and strange. Although the utterances rang true, they had little to do with the Standard Model, as it is the framework that describes boson carrying forces between quarks and leptons. Well, at least my brain had it a third right. There were Quarks in there, somewhere. Maybe charges do come in thirds, after all? Yes. I recall they do.

Earlier, that afternoon, a Superman of math, and engineering, queried, “what do you make of sub-neutrinos”? I turned partially on my heel, and answered out of the corner of my mouth, “there is no such thing. Why do you ask?” “I was checking to see if you were paying attention”, he replied.

I was. Once again, the fluttering of Quantum change took place, as information was displaced from our future selves, to the present. It is with deep regret, that one of our time lines has forever been erased. Having borrowed information, from the future, that future has now become your past. When we apply what we gleaned, from the wheat, to be felled in the field, our ‘morrow becomes a new yesterday. Sorry for that. We must move forward. I always wanted to know more about sub-neutrinos (warning: hyperbole ahead).

I will not mention the Physicist, by name, that gave her lecture to our club, a year, or few ago. I do not wish to do harm, to the good name of a great scientist, while spewing my own brand of insanity. It was, however, an excellent lecture. Here, we sat, listening in on the flavors of Neutrinos, and their conversion from electron, to tau, or muon, and not necessarily all in that order. I thought briefly, that neutrinos, being so plenty, and exotic, that they could pass thru the fabric of space time? So, I asked. The reply was professional, succinct, and non-exclusive. Think, the good doctor said, and ask yourself how a photon would behave in the curvature of space-time. I replied that it would follow the curve. Apply that to the neutrino, was the unspoken answer, as our guest lecturer nodded her head, as if to agree.

The answer did not take root. The question stuck for months. Years even. Until the Superman asked it, as a glancing afternoon blow to my cerebrum. I told my flighty friend that in my world, sub-neutrinos exist. To be of good manner, I acquiesced to a second Astronomer, on site. And asked how to put the “sub” in sub-neutrino. He replied, “Submarine”, as in water, water, everywhere. He knew not what he had just said. You do, if you read one of our previous essays, don’t you? Keep it safe. Keep it secret.

I then let them into my world, as I revealed that the sub-neutrino exits, and pierces the curvature of space-time. Where our photon observations are bound to follow the stiff curves, the sub-neutrino travels the human observed distance that is shorter than photonic flight.

Yes, of course, in relativity, massless photons travel without respect to time or distance. It is you, the observer that slows the reference frame, and to have beams of light take eons to reach your retina. Not so, with the sub-neutrino. It defies relativity, and even within the reach of the observer, it destinates itself, as quickly as it was instantiated. That is, it travels without regard to the measurement of time, or distance; despite the observers reference frame. Coupled with the faster than light expansion of space-time, which is not bound by relativity, we now have formed the basis for faster than light (FTL) travel. Einstein rode a beam of light. You and I, however, will take spin on a Magic Carpet Ride.

Then the Ghost Catcher article was published. It is a featured story, authored by Adrian Cho, Science, 9 August 2019, pps 532-535. It wasn’t concerning my hyperbolic sub-neutrino. Cho captures the flavor of the sterile-neutrino. It is a particle we are now on the hunt for. It will doggedly make up the difference in a neutrino flavor count, as our nearly massless particle covets electron, tau, or muon, moieties. We envision the largest detectors on the job, vying to account for these transpositions. These nearly massless particles will shortly be accompanied by the detection of the far heavier sterile-neutrino. My hyperbole, continues to be safe, so far, as they have decided not to take on a massless solution. FTL, it seems, is not on their radar. Creating or maintaining mathematical symmetry in the standard model, no doubt, is.

After many tear soaked investitures of making a little human come into their life, in its place, there came a dream. Seven woman gathered about a common point. A circle was made. Our dream catcher saw them, as I see you, in the night. Some color, and mostly shades stemming from the near ultra-violet. Crying emanated from the locus.

Her dream-time color was now no longer impeded. They appeared, all at once, to be dressed in blue and white. One by one, they left the circle. Unveiling a child that cried to the night sky. Our dreamer, too, turned to take her leave. The last of the blue and white clad, dream-time dwellers called out to our departing, sleep walking, mother, “Here is your baby. Don’t leave without her. She is yours.” Cradling the newborn infant, in her arms, she awoke. Several days later, she was pregnant with child. Hers, finally, would be birthed upon this Earth.

Years later, she spoke of her mothers dream, and owned it as her own genesis. I told her that the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters, were a constellation of interest. These Seven Sisters are clad in blue-white hot stars. We remarked on the coincidence. We learned to appreciate that this nebulous cluster appears at the tip of the constellation Taurus, the Bull. And quick was she to be telling that her Astrological sign was Taurus.

How much data sampling is required to reject the null hypothesis? There is too much burden, within an essay, an apparent work of fiction, to yield to the inner workings of advanced statistical mathematics. Suffice to say, that the story, although modified, is human enough an experience. You and I have found our Starchild. And yes, Starchild has traveled on a sub-neutrino, magic carpet ride.

Steppenwolf – Magic Carpet Ride 1968, last accessed Sunday, August 24, 2019, 9:44 AM EST

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