From the Director





by Rex Parker, Director

Help Make 2017 a Great Year for Astronomy! To help improve members’ direct access to astronomy, we’ve been updating and improving the hardware and software at our observatory at Washington Crossing State Park, NJ. The latest changes include installation of Software Bisque’s TheSkyX Professional Edition on the computers running the two Paramount ME equatorial mounts. These mounts carry several excellent telescopes: (1) 14” Celestron Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope piggybacked with a 5” refractor equipped with Mallincam video camera; and (2) the historic Hastings 5.25” refractor tandem-mounted with a 10” Takahashi Mewlon Dahl-Kirkham Cassegrain telescope. TheSkyX is a significant upgrade improving the utility and user interface of the current v6 of TheSky software, and offering many more databases. It also integrates camera control so that members can work with their own CCD or DSLR cameras or with the club’s SBIG ST-10 CCD camera. An interesting and very helpful feature of TheSkyX software is simulation mode, where the operation of the telescope mount or CCD camera, guider, or any other attached equipment can be simulated. This is a great way to learn! At the January regular meeting and the next Board meeting we will discuss the best and lowest cost ways for members to obtain a personal copy of TheSkyX to install on home computer to help with learning the software and getting ready to operate the observatory.

Screenshot of the TheSkyX showing the star map and user interface.

Screenshot of the TheSkyX showing the star map and user interface.

All AAAP members in good standing are entitled to use the observatory whenever a “keyholder” is present. Even better, becoming a keyholder yourself brings you 24/7 access to the Observatory. Please contact Observatory Chair Dave Skitt or me if you’re interested in learning more about the equipment or to join training sessions and obtain your own access key.

Beyond the observatory, upcoming AAAP events for this year will include field trips to regional astronomy venues, night sky refresher sessions at the NJ State Museum Planetarium, and astronomy outreach events at local schools and organizations. For those of you who know someone fortunate enough to receive a new astronomy-related item over the holidays (or whenever), we’re considering holding a “How to Use that New Telescope” event this winter at the Planetarium. Please let me or Bill Murray know if you think this idea is worthwhile. Finally, we all know and love the AAAP for its ongoing series of astronomy lecture presentations held at the main meeting each 2nd Tues of the month at Peyton Hall. This year will continue that tradition – see Ira’s article in this issue of Sidereal Times for information about the January 10 guest speaker.

Announcement: AAAP Board meeting. The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held Wed Jan 18. Board and committee members are urged to participate, and any member interested in the future directions of the club is welcome to attend. Please send me a note if you plan to attend. Time & place: Wed Jan 18 at 7:30pm, Dome Room, Peyton Hall (2nd floor), Princeton Univ.



One of my first “practice processing” images from Star Shadows Remote Observatory at Cerro Tololo in the Chilean Andes. NGC-1512 is a barred spiral galaxy about 40 million light-years away in the constellation Horologium, which we never see from New Jersey as it’s below the horizon.

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