From the Director

by Rex Parker, Phd

Be thankful for computerized star charts We’ll illuminate the history of celestial cartography at our next meeting via Zoom on Nov 10 at 7:30 (see Ira’s section below about the guest speaker and Zoom link). The premise that we stand on the shoulders of giants is apropos here, as planetarium software today owes a great debt to the work that came before. Our computers can display a wealth of graphical information using very large databases created over the decades (actually, centuries) by professional astronomers. Astrometry is the oldest branch of astronomy largely because of its role in the development of navigation. Some experienced AAAP members will recall flipping through paper star atlases with flashlights in the dark beside our telescopes, trying to find dim celestial objects which were equally faint on the chart pages. Having a laptop PC, iPad, or cell phone display colorful, zoom-able, searchable star charts with million object catalogs is one of the many wonders of the modern era that we absolutely cannot live without!

AAAP astrovideo live – one Friday per month via Zoom A proposal for regular astro video sessions for members was described in last month’s Sidereal Times, and I urge you to go back and read it. The vitality of our astronomy club depends on audio/video technologies – these days we have few alternatives. AAAP intends to expand involvement in these areas and help members apply them in an astronomy context. The idea we’re developing is to offer members regular opportunities to participate in live astrovideo Zoom sessions. The events feature electronically-assisted astronomy (EAA) with local telescopes run by members. The stable of scopes sending live video to these sessions includes the club’s Paramount/Celestron-14 with ZWO-ASI-294 CMOS camera, along with 6 inch Astrophysics refractor, 12.5 inch AG Optical Cassegrain, and other scopes owned by members. Those of you who are gearing up to do EAA with your own equipment are welcome to be part of the video source, and all members are urged to join in the sessions to learn and enjoy. This is the beauty of using Zoom to host the sessions.

The once-a-month events are being scheduled, rain-or-shine, on the Friday nearest the new moon each month for best sky conditions. In clear weather live sky tours will be featured, while cloudy nights allow a forum for “how-to” discussions of the technology and astronomy talk. The first session was held on Oct 16, a cloudy night, and it was well-attended and much appreciated based on feedback. Starting times and Zoom links will be sent to members prior to each event.

Upcoming AAAP astro video sessions
Nov 13 Dec 11 Jan 15 Feb 12

Seeking the next Program Chair

You may have heard that Ira Polans intends to step down as Program Chair after December following a tremendous run of 5 years in the post (see his article below). The chair of the program committee is an officer of the Board of Trustees whom we elect each May. With Ira ready to hand it over soon, we need one of you to step up into this important role.

We’ve usually had a committee of one, but it doesn’t need to be that way, and in my opinion should not be so going forward. In fact the by-laws describe the role as follows. Section 1: Duties of the Officers. E. Program Chair. The Program Chair shall select a Program Committee, over which the chair shall preside. The Program Committee shall be responsible for arranging suitable astronomy-related programs at general meetings.

Our club runs on the energy released by the speaker program, with the Princeton cachet as an additional fuel source. We have connected with amazing speakers over the past many years, and undoubtedly Princeton has been a draw for getting top notch speakers. Coming to campus, having AAAP-hosted dinner in town, and presenting in the auditorium of the famed Dept of Astrophysical Sciences is a potent venue for speakers. Now we are deep in the new era of remote Zoom meetings. While much seems lost, for a while at least, there are also positive aspects. There is the unique opportunity to connect with world-class scientists, authors, and innovators unencumbered by distance and travel expenses. The next program chair can contact potential speakers across the globe using the club’s “” e-mail address. It’s a chance to directly communicate and develop rapport with professional and amateur astronomers, scientists, and other experts. The office empowers the Chair with the obligation to make the Princeton connection with these potential speakers, who nearly always are pleased to receive the invite even if they are not always able to say yes. Princeton provides the entrée into places and personalities that many other clubs may not have.

It’s been fantastic for me to work with Ira over the past 5 years. He’s done the job at a very high level with innovation and creativity. He’s carried out the role with deep consideration of appropriate topics and identified and coaxed important astronomers to speak to us at our monthly meetings. We’ve had some of the best speaker presentations ever in the history of AAAP during these 5 years. Please contact me soon if you are interested. And I will help you form the committee so you’re not going it alone.

This entry was posted in November 2020, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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