From the Program Chair

By Victor Davis

Welcome back from summer hiatus!  Though we’re still Zooming, we’re kicking off the 2022-2023 academic year with a “double header;” two AAAP members each giving approximately half-hour talks. Michael DiMario tells the story of how a group of amateurs affiliated with Yerkes Observatory made a “precovery” of dwarf planet Pluto on photographic plates decades before Pluto’s official discovery by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930. Lisa Ann Fanning, a longtime birder and frequent photographic contributor to Sidereal Times, will speak on “Astronomical Events and Bird Behavior.” Here are the details:

The September 2022 meeting of the AAAP will take place (virtually) on Tuesday, September 13th at 7:30 PM. (See How to Join the September Meeting below for details). This meeting is open to AAAP members and the general public. Participants will be able to log in to the meeting as early as 7:00 pm to chat informally with others who log in early. We will not be using the “waiting room;” participants will enter the meeting as soon as they log in. However, you will enter the meeting space with your microphone muted. Please be aware you must unmute yourself to be heard by other participants.

For the Q&A session, you may ask your question using Zoom’s chat feature or you may unmute yourself and ask your question directly to the speaker. To address background noise issues, we are going to follow the rules in the table below regarding audio. If you are not speaking, please remember to mute yourself. You are encouraged, but not required, to turn your video on.

Michael DiMarioFeatured Speaker: Michael DiMario, PhD

Founder and CEO,  Astrum Systems

Pluto Precovery and the Resurrection of Yerkes Observatory

The dwarf planet Pluto was famously discovered by Clyde Tombaugh in 1930, using photographic plates he exposed at Lowell Observatory near Flagstaff, Arizona. There’s now evidence that serendipity played a role in Pluto’s discovery, since we now know that the dwarf planet is not massive enough to have disturbed Uranus and Neptune in such a way as to put a hypothetical “Planet X” where Tombaugh was told to look. Nevertheless, now that we do know where to look, could pre-1930 images have revealed Pluto? It turns out that Pluto has been “precovered” fourteen times, the earliest images taken on January 23, 1914 at the Konigstuhl Observatory in Heidelberg, Germany.

More recently, an even earlier “precovery” was accomplished at the University of Chicago Yerkes Observatory, located at Williams Bay, Wisconsin. Members of the Asteroid Search and Studies by Amateurs at Yerkes Group (ASSAY), a function of Yerkes’ Outreach Program, made a precovery of Pluto on two photographic plates dated August 20 and November 11, 1909.  At this time, Pluto was in the constellation Taurus. 

Pluto orbits the Sun once every 248.5 earth years at a mean distance of 39.53 au. Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has only traversed 27% of its orbit. The 1909 precovery increases the observed orbit to 36%. Dr. DiMario will discuss the precovery process and its significance. He will also discuss the status of Yerkes Observatory’s Revitalization.

Dr. DiMario is the Founder and CEO of Astrum Systems, a global consulting venture focused on employing systems engineering methodologies in early research and development. He is also actively engaged in creating a blog highlighting large and university-based observatories including solar and RF telescopes.

Dr. DiMario has five granted patents, numerous corporate trade secrets, a published book on systems engineering, a book chapter on systems engineering, and more than forty peer reviewed papers in regard to quantum magnetometry, systems engineering and quality management. He has been interviewed and quoted in Wired Magazine, GPS World, Sifted, and the Financial Times.

He holds a PhD in Systems Engineering, MBA in Management of Technology, MS in Computer Engineering, and significant course work in Space Science. He is President of Astrum Systems, a technology management consulting firm and co-chairs the INCOSE Early Systems Engineering and Research Working Group. He holds an amateur radio Extra class license, call sign K2MJD.


Featured Speaker: Lisa Ann Fanning

Astronomical Events and Bird Behavior

Many people are familiar with the effects of solar eclipses on animal behavior, but what about the stars or moon phases? What is their link to the bird and animal world? How is migration impacted? This program will explore all those and more with some interesting case studies.

Lisa Ann Fanning

Born and raised in New York City, Lisa Ann Fanning has always had a curiosity for the natural world, and that passion has only grown into her adult life. She is a longtime member and volunteer for Monmouth County Audubon and various other conservation organizations across New Jersey. She is also an amateur Astronomer, recipient of the Explore the Moon and Explore the Universe Observing Certificates from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, editor of the RASC’s Halifax Centre’s Nova Notes newsletter, creator of “Lisa’s Look Up!” on Facebook, a member of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton and contributor to their Monthly online newsletter, Sidereal Times and has appeared on several programs and podcasts.

AAAP webcast:  This month’s AAAP meeting, beginning with Rex’s opening remarks and ending at the beginning of the business meeting, will be webcast live on YouTube and recorded for subsequent public access on AAAP’s YouTube channel. Be aware that your interactions during this segment, including questions to our guest speaker, may be recorded for posterity. 

YouTube Link: Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton, April 12, 2022 Meeting, 7:30 PM EST

This session will be recorded and saved on YouTube. Send me an email at if you have any concerns.

Using Zoom: While we are social distancing, the AAAP Board has chosen to use Zoom for our meetings, based on our belief that many members have already used Zoom and have found it easy to use. One of its great features is you can choose whether you want to install the software on your computer or use it within your browser.

NOTE: The Zoom site has many training videos. If you’re unsure how Zoom works you might want to view the videos on how to join a meeting or how to check your computer’s audio and video before the meeting.

How to Join the September Meeting:

  • Please make sure you have Zoom installed on your computer. You do not need a Zoom account or to create one to join the meeting. Nor are you required to use a webcam.
  • Please see below for the link to the meeting, or visit our website.

Join Zoom Meeting,   Meeting ID: 837 9968 3295   Passcode: 441861

There is no “Unjournal Club” presentation scheduled this month. As you may know, guest speakers receive a baseball cap with the AAAP logo embroidered upon it as a “thank you” for making a presentation to us. We’re expanding the hat giveaway to members who contribute an “Unjournal Club” presentation to encourage participation.

We hope to make these short presentations a regular feature of our monthly meetings. We’d like to know what members are doing or what members are thinking about in the broad range of topics encompassed by astronomy. A brief ten-minute (or so) presentation is a good way to introduce yourself and the topics you care about to other club members. If you are interested in presenting a topic of interest, please contact either or

October 11, 2022 Avi Loeb, will speak on “The Galileo Project: The Search for Technological Interstellar Objects.”  Prof. Loeb, Professor of Science at Harvard University, is the author of the controversial book, “Extraterrestrial,” which examines the possibility that the unusual interstellar object Oumuamua may be not a wayward asteroid but a product of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization. Thanks and a tip o’ the AAAP cap to Rex for promoting Prof. Loeb as a guest speaker.
Future meetingsAlthough we do not expect to return to Peyton Hall in the foreseeable future, alternative venues are being sought to resume in-person meetings. Based on member feedback, the Board is acting on the commitment to continue virtual participation in the meetings via Zoom and/or YouTube even after in-person meetings resume.

As always, members’ comments and suggestions are gratefully accepted and much appreciated.

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