From the Director





by Rex Parker, Director

May 9 meeting – election of officers. We’ve come around in our orbit to the point when we elect officers again for the next season of AAAP. Or re-elect, because each of your officers has agreed to stand for another term. All members are urged to attend the May 9 meeting at Peyton Hall to give us your vote of confidence, and we do need a quorum.

This is an appropriate time to acknowledge those who have made this year an interesting and enjoyable one for AAAP. I’d like to thank Ira Polans (Program Chair), Michael Mitrano (Treasurer and chief carpenter), Larry Kane (Asst. Director), and Jim Poinsett (Secretary) for their key contributions and dedication as officers and trustees — and I’m very happy they have agreed to serve again. Others in the club made important impacts this year. I’d especially like to thank Prasad Ganti who worked with Ira and got several of the excellent program speakers this season. Further thanks go to Surabhi Agarwal for website improvements and to Surabhi and Tony Coventry for co-editing Sidereal Times; to Bill Murry for making the Planetarium a bigger part of our club; and to observatory co-chairs Dave & Jenn Skitt for driving the observatory improvements and keyholder training. Outreach is becoming an even bigger part of our mission as a club, and Gene Allen has recently agreed to join with Dave Letcher on the outreach committee. Finally, thanks go to all of the observatory keyholders (33 at last count) for representing AAAP to the community and making observatory public nights successful and fun.

AAAP Activities Coming Up

  • Celestial Refresher at the State Planetarium (May 13 at 10AM). We’re holding an astronomy night sky refresher session inside the dome so that members can improve deep sky skills away from the public and occasional pressure of finding and showing others. The Planetarium’s technical capabilities will be on display as AAAP member and Planetarium staffer Bill Murray runs the system. Location: NJ State Museum, 205 W State St in Trenton, park at the lower level near the Planetarium entry doors.
  • Members’ Nights at the Observatory (2 Saturdays, May 27 & June 24, dusk till midnight). These nights are reserved for AAAP members (you’re welcome to invite friends and family) at our Observatory at Washington Crossing State Park, NJ. This is a terrific opportunity to learn more about observing and telescope equipment, and get to know others in the club. Even if you know little or nothing about telescopes (especially so) we want to see you out there! Check out the new equipment and software which have improved the observing experience. Experienced members are asked to bring their telescopes to show others. See the website for directions.
  • Solar eclipse plans (Aug 21, 2017). If you want to join in on the Eclipse trip to Oregon, it’s essential that you make plans as soon as possible — please contact assistant director Larry Kane ( The chosen locale near the town of Monmouth OR, where one of our members has a family connection, is in the path of totality across the U.S. from Oregon to South Carolina. Of course, a clear sky is key, and August weather considerations are favorable at this site. NJ and surrounding states will see only a partial eclipse, far less impressive than totality.

What fraction of the sky do we actually see in a telescope? At last month’s meeting we considered the size perspective of observing through the eyepiece of a telescope. To revisit that idea, here’s the slide (below) I showed giving the geometry and math. We concluded that the field of view using the equipment described is only a tiny fraction of the entire sky, about 1/31000 or ~0.0032% of the entire sky (considering the sky over a year). Yet the full moon seems so large! Of course, what this really means is that we have a lot of observing to do in the months ahead…

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