From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD

Spring Is Coming!  We’ll convene at Peyton Hall on the Princeton campus for our monthly get-together on Tues March 14 (7:30pm).  If you just can’t make it physically, this will again be a hybrid meeting via Zoom (link sent by e-mail to members, also on the website). The huge campus construction project across the street continues and the old parking lots are gone forever. So the University wants us to park (free) in the new garage at 148 FitzRandolph Rd, off of Faculty Rd.  That means a 15 minute walk around the football stadium to Peyton once you park your car.  Our guest speaker will be Joseph DePasquale from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Maryland.  For more information on the presentation and for the walking route map to Peyton Hall, see Victor’s article below 

Our tradition each month is for a member to give an Un-journal Club, a brief informal and fun presentation to begin the second half of the meeting.  “Un-journal” means this is not grad school, you don’t need scholarly journal-like topics, just what you care about in astronomy.  PowerPoint slides, JPEG’s, astro-images, travel pictures, book reviews, your imagination is the limit (bring a USB memory stick). To get onto the schedule for an upcoming meeting, please contact me or program chair Victor Davis (

Going into the Field.  We’re open to ideas for mini-tour destinations for AAAP members now that we are mostly all travelling in high gear again.  It’s been about 8 years since our private tour of PPPL in Princeton.  Later in 2015 a group of members made an unforgettable field trip to D.C. to see the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum and the US Naval Observatory in Washington D.C.  This week I visited Air & Space again.  Though some of the iconic craft were on display, more than half of the exhibits were closed for major renovation, putting this on hold as a AAAP destination for a couple years.  If you have an idea for a field trip please send me a note.

Voyager and Columbia/Apollo 11 at Smithsonian Air & Space

Seeing the “Invisible” Deep Sky.  It was Alfred Lord Tennyson who wrote, “I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair”.  Lest you despair utterly that the famed Messier objects are forever lost in the glare of skyglow, consider this.  AAAP has the latest technology for members to pursue electronically-assisted astronomy (EAA) at Washington Crossing Observatory.  This technique is revolutionizing the field and has generated great excitement among amateur astronomers around the world.  It is especially important in regions like ours because it is capable of restoring visibility of deep sky objects that are otherwise lost in light polluted skies.

Standing in the middle of the continuum between eyepiece and long-exposure astrophotography, EAA renders images in near real-time with markedly greater sensitivity than the eyepiece.  High resolution images are acquired in seconds of sensor exposure and immediately rendered as color (RGB) images on the monitor.  Software swiftly stacks and averages multiple frames to display images with increased signal/noise.  Color is markedly enhanced for deep sky images compared to eyepieces especially for nebulae because the camera sensors have far greater color sensitivity than the vision of the human eye in low light. Yet visual astronomy is not entirely forgotten at the Observatory, as the historic Hastings refractor and exceptional Takahashi Mewlon 250 offer outstanding eyepiece observing.

The current telescope and mount equipment owned by AAAP and installed at the Observatory are listed below. Please contact the Observatory Chair ( or me if you’d like to visit the observatory this spring and learn how to use the equipment.  It’s a privilege of your membership in AAAP.

Member benefits.  Are you a recent member and wondering what the club is all about?  Here’s a brief summary of AAAP member benefits.

  • AAAP has a 60 year history of enhancing member and public astronomy learning and appreciation from the theoretical, astrophysical, observational, and educational perspectives.
  • We are informally affiliated with Princeton University’s Astrophysical Sciences Department, who generously allow us access to the auditorium in Peyton Hall for monthly meetings. 
  • Members are exposed to deep astronomy learning opportunities, including presentations by professional astronomers and physicists at our monthly meetings on the Princeton campus. Guest speakers include professors and post-docs from Princeton Astrophysics Dept, IAS, Rutgers, and other area scientific institutions. 
  • Members may observe at our well-equipped Observatory (see equipment list below) in Washington Crossing State Park, NJ any timer a Keyholder is present.  Members have the opportunity to be trained to become a Keyholder, allowing 24/7 access to the Observatory.  Learn more about the telescopes and training opportunities by contacting
  • Outreach is a big part of our mission.  Keyholders participate in public astronomy sessions at the Observatory , held each week from April through October.  In addition to the Observatory events, members participate in a wide variety of educational astronomy experiences with schools, youth, and adults in the area.
  • Members have direct exposure to learning observing techniques, telescopes,  astrophotography, and other hardware and software from other experienced astronomer members.  Members also have access to club-sponsored field trips.
  • Members have occasional opportunities to buy at great prices used telescopes, mounts, and other equipment which the club may acquire through donations.

Some of the telescope equipment for member use at the AAAP Observatory 

  • Paramount-ME #1, robotic equatorial mount
    • Mount run with TheSkyX planetarium and control software under Win10 computer. 
    • Celestron-14 Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, D=355mm (14-inch), f/11, FL=3900mm.
    • New 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 1-1/4-inch eyepieces for these telescopes.
    • Starlight Xpress Ultrastar Colour CCD camera.
    • Starlight Live and SharpCap software cameras.
    • Verizon FiOS is available inside the Observatory.
    • 24”-32” monitors for viewing the telescope images
  • Paramount-ME #2, robotic equatorial mount
    • Mount run with TheSkyX planetarium and control software under Win10 computer. 
    • Hastings-Byrne 61/4-inch refractor, f/14.6, FL=2310mm. This fine historic instrument is a great planetary telescope, dating to 1879 with the original air-spaced doublet lens and steel tube intact.
    • Takahashi Mewlon-250, D=250mm (10-inch) Dall-Kirkham reflector telescope, with -inch TMB Optical dielectric-diagonal and Feathertouch 2-inch Crayford focuser.
    • Numerous 2-inch and 1-1/4-inch eyepieces including Panoptic 27 mm and 41 mm for the M250.
    • ZWO ASI 294 Pro color CMOS camera
    • ZWO ASI Studio, Starlight Live, and SharpCap software set up for EAA cameras
This entry was posted in March 2023, Sidereal Times and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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