From the Director



by Rex Parker, Director

Return to Peyton Hall! Monthly meetings begin Sept 13 (7:30 pm). A very big THANK YOU to the University and Dept of Astrophysical Sciences for the opportunity to use Peyton Hall auditorium for our meetings again this year.

Astronomy at AAAP in the ‘Summer of Sixteen’. No lull in the action this summer! Exciting developments in and around the club included brushes with history, and new ways to expand member access to astronomy. Here are some of the important AAAP events of the summer:

  • Making history – 3 centuries of Mercury transits with the Hastings 6” refractor. On May 9 another Mercury transit of the sun was observed with this historic telescope – we now claim 3 transits over 3 centuries (1881, 1973, 2016), a unique attainment seemingly unmatched anywhere. Thanks to John Church, Bill Murray, Gene Ramsey, Larry Kane, Dave and Jenn Skitt, and others for making it happen. The Dec 2016 issue of Sky and Telescope will feature an article and photo about this historic achievement.
  • More history – 150 years of the Rutgers Schanck Observatory. Ten AAAP members attended a celebration hosted by the Rutgers Cap & Skull Society, unveiling the renovated Schanck Observatory on the Queens campus. The presentation included the heritage of the structure and restoration of the telescope, and noted that our 6” Hastings refractor once was in the Schanck (ca. 1904-1937) before the Galileo Club acquired it.
  • New Takahashi Mewlon 250 telescope at Washington Crossing Observatory. This very high quality instrument, a Dall-Kirkham Cassegrain reflector telescope with 3-meter focal length, excels at high resolution views of the planets, moon, and deep sky. I want to thank the telescope search committee: Bill Murray, Larry Kane, Jim Poinsett, Arshad Jilani, John Church, Jim McHenry, and Jeff Bernardis; and Ira Polans, Dave Skitt, Jennifer Skitt, Gene Ramsey, and Michael Mitrano also weighed in.
  • More upgrades at WC Observatory. Changes underway this summer include modernizing the computers and preparing for the jump to The SkyX software to control the two Paramount-ME’s. The Mallincam/5”refractor works better than ever with a new video monitor, and the latest Celestron-14 has performed notably better than the previous telescope, which was sold. We are planning to install Verizon FiOS and aim to have high speed internet access at Washington Crossing Observatory soon.
  • Fate of AAAP’s UACNJ Jenny Jump Observatory. After consideration of the issues and challenges around our observatory and equipment, the Board of Trustees on Aug 23 resolved to continue AAAP’s commitment to the United Astronomy Clubs of New Jersey Observatories at Jenny Jump State Forest. A proposal to repair the observatory and upgrade equipment is being developed, including a possible shared use and maintenance partnership with the north Jersey club, Amateur Astronomers Inc (AAI).

Jersey StarQuest (Oct 28-30). Once again we’ll be hosting the Jersey Starquest astronomy weekend at the end of Oct at the Hope Conference and Renewal Center This is an observing-oriented event involving both Friday and Saturday nights at one of the best, relatively dark sky locations in the state. The Hope Center is located just north of I-80 a few miles north of Jenny Jump forest, and offers clean bunkhouse accommodations or camping on-site and a kitchen for cooking if desired. Restaurants are within a few minute drive. Even if you don’t own a telescope, here’s your chance to learn hands-on about astronomy and observing. To make it easier to participate, here’s how we’ll organize the event.

    • Walkin registration, no advance payment, no pre-registration needed. You can decide to attend at the last minute. We will ask that you send in a non-binding intent-to-participate form (to be distributed soon) to help estimate needs for the Hope Conference Center.
    • AAAP member oriented event, a chance to make friends in the club. You’re also welcome to invite family and friends who may not yet be members.
    • Reduced prices: the cost per night is $20 for adults and $10 for children (ages 6-12), regardless of choice of bunkhouse or tent/RV camping.
    • No meals will be provided by the club. You should bring your own food and plates etc. The Center’s kitchen will be available, and we may self-organize for carry-out food from local establishments. Hot and cold drinks will be available throughout the weekend.


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