Minutes of the October 11, 2022, AAAP Members General Meeting (online)

by Gene Allen, Secretary

The meeting was convened on Zoom by Director Rex Parker at 1929. He briefly described his agenda items:

  • Next month we return to Peyton Hall. Michael Strauss, Department Chair of Astrophysics at Princeton University, invited us back and will be our in-person speaker on November 8.
  • The Lunar South Pole Challenge is still alive, noting that it is turning out to be even more challenging than he thought. The NASA Artemis Program is targeting the south pole due to water being discovered in Permanently Shaded Regions there, but that area is barely viewable even when the Moon librates, or wobbles upward a bit. Members are challenged to view or image as near to Shackleton Crater as we can.

Program Chair Victor Davis introduced Speaker Dr. Avi Loeb at 2034 and he began his talk, “The Galileo Project: In Search of Technological Interstellar Objects,” with 79 people logged onto Zoom. The Galileo Project has been formed at Harvard University with non-government funds. It intends to make the search for objects that are signatures of extraterrestrial technology fully transparent and scientific. Much of his talk was based on his book, Extraterrestrial: The First Sign of Intelligent Life Beyond Earth. He makes a compelling case for Oumuamua being other than a rock, and whether or not one buys into his conclusion he well makes the point that if we are always expecting to see a rocky asteroid or icy comet, we will never be able to see anything else. He is very troubled about how mainline science only funds “safe” research and that stifles curiosity and outside-the-box thinking in young researchers. Furthermore, social media promotes herd mentality. He said that he is willing to risk his reputation, as a soldier might lay upon barbed wire to allow others to cross unharmed. He finds manned exploration unfeasible and advocates sending herds of self-replicating AI astronauts into the galaxy.

Questions ran from 2030 to 2100, then the meeting reconvened at 2105 with 56 attending on Zoom.

The AAAP was organized in 1962, and we have met very nearly every month since. Some ideas for how to commemorate our 60th Anniversary have been put forward, but more are being sought. Please send ideas to Surabhi at editors@princetonastronomy.org.

The AAAP Merchandise Shop now has “Anniversary” logo items that were very cleverly designed. The words “Since 1962” have been added, so that it celebrates our longevity from this time forward. The logo does not “date” things to 2022. The link to the shop is found under the Members tab on the website.

Back to Peyton Hall for November, but Ivy Lane itself and the parking lots we used before the pandemic have been consumed by extensive campus construction that is expected to last years. Peyton Hall is no longer accessible from the north. The nearest parking is now the Stadium Drive Garage off Faculty Road, a fifteen-minute walk away. While that may limit participation by some, we feel we need to try. Renewing a connection to either the university or the IAS is important to maintaining our prestige. Subsequent visits have confirmed that we can accomplish hybrid (in-person plus Zoomed) meetings, although the exact hardware needed has yet to be finalized. The auditorium will be unavailable to us in January because its equipment is being “brought up to campus standards.” We expect that to help. Maps  and explanations will be added to the website before the meeting.

Director Rex Parker reissued his Lunar South Pole Challenge and described the difficulties of viewing and imaging the very bottom of the Moon. The lower left corner of the two-page star chart in Sky & Telescope magazine gives the date of the most favorable lunar libration for specific polar features. He recommends the Virtual Moon Atlas (https://ap-i.net/avl/en/start) for well-labeled lunar observation. He also recommends taking an image into PowerPoint to label it, then back to jpeg. Member Tom Swords recommends a source of libration information (https://www.astropical.space/moon/libration_calendar_2022.pdf) combined with lunar illumination, because if too little of the Moon is lit by sunlight, nothing will be visible near the pole.

Member Michael DiMario reported that students have taken up the Lunar South Pole Challenge with the mammoth Yerkes 40 inch f/19 refractor.

Member Lisa Ann Fanning reported capturing a nice image of Jupiter at opposition with her cellphone, noting that Live Mode is actually doing some stacking.

Member Bob Vanderbei showed an image he made with a new diffraction grating that separates the OIII and Ha spectra. It required a 35 minute exposure to show distinct, displaced blue and red images (respectively) of the Ring Nebula, M57. If you missed it, or want to explore his work further, go to https://vanderbei.princeton.edu/images/NJP/m57.html

Freehold resident Dave Bates is moving out of the area and has graciously donated his Orion SkyQuest XT12i IntelliScope to the club. It is an older version of the current Model #10020, a 12” Dobsonian-mounted Newtonian reflector telescope with push-to computer guidance. After something like a decade of idleness it was adjuste d and recollimated in a couple of sessions by Member Tom Swords and Observatory Co-Chair Dave Skitt and the hand controller function was validated. Final laser collimation has been offered by Outreach Chair Bill Murray. It is being stored in the observatory and will be used in the adjacent field during Public Nights. It is very different from the other instruments that we own, so at the present time there is no intention to either sell or loan the scope.

Book recommendations included The Pope of Physics: Enrico Fermi and the Birth of the Atomic Age by Gino Segre and Bettina Hoerlin, Starry Messenger: Cosmic Perspectives on Civilization by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and The End of Astronauts: Why Robots Are the Future of Exploration by Donald Goldsmith and Martin Rees.

Attendance had dwindled to 40 by 2145 and the meeting was adjourned at 2201.

Our membership currently numbers 186. Those who joined this calendar year number 51, with 25 of them joining since our June meeting. While 88 have renewed, 54 have failed to renew, giving us a 62% retention rate year-to-date. Renewal reminder emails are continuing to encourage members to praise what is working for them and call our attention to what we might do better. Very few respond to that request.

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

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