Minutes of the April 12, 2022, AAAP Members General Meeting (online)

by Gene Allen, Secretary

The meeting was convened on Zoom by Director Dr. Rex Parker at 1930 with the agenda for the evening.

  • He noted that this marks two years of Zoomed meetings.
  • His desktop computer failure disappointingly followed closely on the hijacking of our domain name by the current registrar, which shut down our website and group email capability for several days. Thanks go to Tech Chief John Miller for unraveling and correcting the issue with support from Princeton University IT alumni.
  • Covid restrictions have been lifted at all NJ state parks. While they still recommend prudence, we are thrilled to be back to near normal at the observatory.
  • Upcoming events have been collected here:
    • April 13: Assistant Director Larry Kane reported a Sierra Club webinar about light pollution. He will send the invitation to all members.
    • April 15: Simpson Observatory opens the season with our first Public Night. It will be a Full Moon.
    • April 22: Lyrid meteor shower peak with possible 20 per hour before Moonrise at 0150.
    • April 22 or 23: Outreach Chair Bill Murray is expecting a group at the observatory and will need additional Keyholder support, whether on the Friday Public Night or to open on Saturday.
    • May 10: The next AAAP meeting will feature the election of officers.
    • May 14: Members Day at Simpson Observatory 1700 (5pm) to dark. Just meet and greet or bring your unfamiliar scope for some help setting up.
    • May 15: Outreach Chair Bill Murray added the total eclipse of the Moon from 2230-0130. He invited members to bring scopes. We may consider shifting the Members Day from the preceding evening. Stay tuned!
    • May 22-30: International Dark Sky Week. Member Rich Sherman suggested trying to get some IDA (International Dark-Sky Association) literature to hand out at the observatory.
    • June 14: The June AAAP meeting will once again be held in the Planetarium of the NJ State Museum in Trenton.

At 1945 Program Chair Victor Davis introduced featured speaker Paul A. Daniels, FRAS, President, Federation of Astronomical Societies. The plummeting cost of launching small satellites has led to several companies having ambitions to place tens of thousands of them (potentially 100,000+) into low Earth orbit over the next few decades. Dr. Daniels, a leader in the Royal Astronomical Society’s Megaconstellation Working Group (Optical) will discuss the serious threats to professional and amateur astronomy posed by the projected astronomical growth of these reflective and emissive objects. A ten minute question session concluded at 2110.

We reconvened at 2115 with Observatory Co-Chair Dave Skitt offering observatory updates:

  • A special opening by Outreach Chair Bill Murray and Observatory Co-Chairs Jen & Dave Skitt on April 2 for a scout troop of 20 kids and 15 adults revealed that guests seem to need to look through scopes. Having only monitors displaying the greatly enhanced EAA images of deep sky objects is not enough.
  • We still need someone to offer to coordinate professional installation of new carpet.
  • Training has been difficult with our miserable spring weather and ranks have thinned. We need more Keyholders.
  • There is no new news on the progress of the repair of the ZWO astronomical camera.
  • We are encouraged that Treasurer Michael Mitrano has been able to connect with a human in our long-frustrated efforts to obtain permission to repair the columns. The contractor we previously identified is still onboard to perform the work.

Members were moved to social activism by the depressing future presented by Dr. Daniels.

Member Michael DiMario suggested trying to encourage the IDA to engage on satellite proliferation as a light pollution issue.

Director Rex Parker suggested contacting legislators jointly for a more powerful voice, perhaps engaging with activists among the Princeton University astrophysics faculty.

Member Dave Misiura suggested trying to find a PAC (Political Action Committee) that is focused on the satellite proliferation issue.

Program Chair Victory Davis has offered a “Night Under the Stars” at Simpson Observatory as a silent auction fundraising item on behalf of the New Jersey Ballet Company Gala to be held at the Chrystal Plaza in Livingston, NJ. He will coordinate a private opening by a few Keyholders for five or so guests of the winning bidder.

A question about progress toward securing a meeting venue was met with the response that we are working on it.

We are looking into the possibility of Zooming the planetarium meeting in June.

AAAP officer nominations are open through the end of April. Any member who wishes to be considered for a position should email the nominating committee at nominations@princetonastronomy.org.

Consider acquiring summer season merchandise from the AAAP online store. Merchandise Shop Lead Facilitator Rich Sherman advises that more items are available than we are able to display, so if you want something not shown, email him at merchandise@princetonastronomy.org. A suggestion was made that we add items suitable for children and grandchildren.

Facebook Lead Facilitator Debra Mayes was encouraged that she was approached by a PA park through Facebook about arranging a star party. They ended up engaging a more local club, but activity has been increasing. She invites members to like and share entries on Facebook and Twitter.

Member Len Cacciatore is still supporting Discord but wishes to identify a replacement or two to assume his role. He indicated that we need to transfer ownership to the club.

Webmaster/Editor Surabhi Agarwal is withdrawing from her role as webmaster but continuing as Co-Editor of the Sidereal Times newsletter along with Co-Editor Sam Sherman. She will continue to be available for webmaster duties on an emergency backup basis. Tech Chief John Miller leads on all IT issues and coordinates with Webmaster Jeff Pinyan. Monthly updates of speaker and such are critical. While redesign of the website is highly desirable, it is an extensive, time-consuming project. For now, moving our domain name from Network Solutions to another registrar is the top priority.

Member Tom Swords shared his astrophoto of the conjunction of Saturn and Mars taken with his 4” refractor. He managed to capture them between the branches of a tree on April 4.

The meeting was formally adjourned at 2204.

There were some 40 Zoom attendees throughout the speakers presentation and question session. 38 remained for the start of the business meeting and 33 were still hanging on at 2152.

The AAAP Roster presently shows 193 members. So far this year 11 members have failed to renew after three renewal notices and their email addresses have been removed from the server. Another 21 members have been sent notice that they are currently overdue and their membership will expire at the end of the month. This large group is the last of those who were not reminded in a timely manner during the transition to individual renewal terms and the change of Secretary.

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