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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