From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD

Gravitate to Our Spring Events!  A total lunar eclipse, fantastic galaxies high overhead, and a close collection of planets before dawn make up a spectacular astro palette over the next month as spring emerges in full glory.  With social life returning to normal around the state, we’ve scheduled a few events to bring you back to shared astronomy experiences with fellow members – see the list below.  Note that the May 14 gathering is mostly a daylight event (starting at 5pm) to give us a chance to greet each other in person, maybe the first time in over two years.  On May14 we ask you to bring your personal telescope equipment to display and share your knowledge, or on the other hand learn how to set up and use it, ask questions and solve problems.  Shake off the cobwebs and get the hang of setting up your astro equipment in the daylight so you can better use it at night.  And if you feel like staying after sunset on May 14, this can be an observing night too.  But read on…

On Sunday May 15 we will have a total lunar eclipse here, and the Observatory will be open after sunset for members to observe it through the club’s top-notch telescopes.  The eclipse begins in earnest when the moon enters the deep shade part of earth’s shadow, the umbra, just after at 10:30 pm. Total eclipse begins about an hour later. Full eclipses occur on average only about once every 2.5 years at any given location, so don’t miss it.  And if you decide to get up before twilight that morning and throughout spring, you can see Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and Venus all lined up in the southeast sky.

AAAP Spring Events

  • May 10, monthly meeting (7:30pm, Zoom);  election of officers;  guest speaker info below (see Victor’s article).
  • May 14, Rescheduled to May 22 – Members Day at Observatory (daytime event).  We’ll gather at 5:00 pm and continue into darkness as desired (sunset is at 8:08pm).  Meet and Greet, make contacts within the club, learn more about how to use your own telescope equipment (bring your telescope) and learn about the club’s observatory at Washington Crossing Park.   
  • May 15, Lunar Eclipse at Observatory (night event).  Moon enters umbra at 10:34pm, totality starts ~ 1hr later.  Members are invited to view the eclipse through telescopes — weather permitting.
  • June 14, monthly meeting (7:30pm) in person at the Planetarium in Trenton.  Hosted by Bill Murray, AAAP member and staff associate at the Planetarium.  This is the last meeting of the traditional academic season for AAAP.

Board Election May 10.  At the regular meeting on May 10 (Zoom) we will elect officers.  The bylaws set out 1-year terms for the 7 members of the Board of Trustees, with elections to be held at the May meeting.  Here I’d like to thank the Nominations Committee (Joy Saxena, chair;  Mark Walker, and Jennifer Sturgiss) for reaching out to the membership for candidates.  We got a couple of responses from newer members, but as the slate shaped up it has turned out to be the incumbents (below).  We do need to vote them in of course, so I am asking you to join us by Zoom for the May meeting.

Don’t Miss It – the Best Season for Galaxies Is Spring.  Many dozens of galaxies are visible this month in small telescopes from right here in New Jersey, and even more if you’re doing astro video/photography with your scope. The constellations Virgo, Coma Berenices, Canes Venatici, and Ursa Major are chock full of galaxies, and these remain well overhead in good observing position after twilight all through May. A fine example is Messier 101 which I was fortunate to photograph last week (below).

The Pinwheel Galaxy, Messier 101, from a Telescope in New Jersey.  M101 is a face-on spiral galaxy about 25 million light-years away from us in Ursa Major.  It’s huge, about 170,000 light years diameter, twice the size of our Milky Way galaxy.  Astrophoto by RA Parker from NJ using 12.5” telescope and ASI2600MM LRGB filter technique, total exposure ~8 hrs.

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