From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD

Spring Events — Back to (Nearly) Normal.  COVID restrictions have been lifted in NJ state parks, though individuals going to the AAAP Observatory are urged to remain careful especially with the public, and recognize that COVID cases continue to occur in central NJ. Soon the Princeton area will be vibrant with blooms and warmer days and nights. Clear nights seemed scarce this winter, so if you miss seeing the sky, check out the events we’re lining up to get you back in the celestial flow – see the list below.

This spring we will also elect officers, as we do each May according to the bylaws.  The 7 members of the Board of Trustees serve one year terms:  director, assistant director, program chair, treasurer, secretary, observatory chair, outreach chair.  To keep the club vibrant we need members to segue onto and off of the board over time.  Please consider helping by serving on the AAAP board.  Here’s how:  as set out in the bylaws I have appointed a member, Joy Saxena, to be nominations chair. The chair will poll current board members to see if they wish to run again, and will contact the membership by e-mail to see who would like to run for a board position. If you are interested, send a note to The slate will be announced at the April 12 meeting (Zoom) with the election in May. 

AAAP Activities Coming Up

  • April 12 Meeting (Zoom) – slate of candidates presented;   guest speaker info below (see Program Chair’s article).
  • April 15, begin Public Friday Nights at the Observatory.  Keyholders will be contacted by the Observatory Chair.  All members as well as the public are welcome on these public outreach nights (weather permitting).
  • May 10 Meeting (Zoom) – election of officers;  guest speaker info below.
  • May 14, Members Day at Observatory, 5pm and into darkness (sunset 8:08pm and the moon is near-full).  Meet and Greet, and how to use your own telescope.  We’re aiming for a second date in June.
  • June 14 Meeting in person at the Planetarium in Trenton, hosted by Bill Murray. Bill is a AAAP member and staff associate at the Planetarium.

Notice of Job Vacancy – Planetarium at the NJ State Museum.  Issue date March 18, 2022, closing date April 29, 2022.  POSTING # STA-2022-014. 

Title: Assistant Curator, Planetarium Education.

Definition: Under the general supervision of the Curator of Education in the State Museum,  initiates, designs, implements and evaluates planetarium programming; creates planetarium shows; monitors the operation of planetarium instruments and equipment; initiates, designs, plans, implements, and evaluates exhibitions related to astronomy and space sciences; assists with the marketing and promotion of planetarium shows; does other related duties as required.

Contact: email Bill Murray,

Telescope equipment at the AAAP Observatory for keyholder use, as of April 2022.  For information about keyholder training, contact

  • Paramount-ME #1, robotic equatorial mount
    • TheSkyX planetarium and control software under Win10 computer. 
    • Celestron-14 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, D=355mm (14-inch), f/11, FL=3900mm.
    • Stellarview 80 mm right-angle finder scope on the C-14.
    • Explore Scientific ED127 refractor telescope, D=127mm (5-inch), f/7.5, FL=950 mm, triplet air-spaced apochromatic refractor.
    • Numerous 2-inch and 1¼-inch eyepieces for these telescopes.
    • ZWO ASI 294 Pro color CMOS camera.
    • Starlight Xpress Ultrastar Colour CCD camera.
    • Starlight Live and SharpCap software cameras.
    • Verizon FiOS available inside the Observatory.
  • Paramount-ME #2, robotic equatorial mount
    • TheSkyX planetarium and control software under Win10 computer. 
    • Hastings-Byrne 6¼-inch refractor, f/14.6, FL=2310mm. This historic instrument, dates to 1879 with original air-spaced doublet lens and steel tube.
    • Takahashi Mewlon-250, D=250mm (10-inch) Dall-Kirkham reflector telescope, with 2-inch TMB dielectric diagonal and Feathertouch 2-inch Crayford focuser.
    • Numerous 2-inch and 1¼-inch eyepieces, e.g., Panoptic 27mm and 41mm.

Goodbye to the Winter Constellations.  As we begin to see the spring constellations in mid-evening we bid farewell to the winter deep sky objects.  I was fortunate to get great telescope imaging data for a less-commonly observed but amazing Messier object in Orion, Messier 78.  M78 is located above and to the left of Orion’s belt, not far from the more famous nebula M42. 

Messier 78 near the belt of Orion from a 24” telescope in Chile.  M78 is a reflection/ emission nebula with many new stars forming amidst giant clouds of gas and dust. Astrophoto by RA Parker.

This entry was posted in April 2022, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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