From The Director

by Rex Parker, PhD

April 11 Meeting – Archeoastronomy.  After last month’s wind driven last minute decision to go virtual only, we’ll again plan to convene at Peyton Hall on the Princeton campus on Tues April 11 (7:30pm).  The University wants us to park in the new garage at 148 FitzRandolph Rd, off of Faculty Rd.  Please arrive early enough for the walk from the garage (~15 min).  This month we’re rolling out a very different guest presentation – cinema!  It’s been an ambition for a few years to feature archeoastronomy, and one of the best movies ever made on the topic of southwest American Indian culture and knowledge of the sky is the movie Sun Dagger. This 1983 documentary is now considered a classic.  Member Ira Polans will introduce the ~1-hour movie and guide a discussion afterwards.  Sun Dagger reveals the remarkable celestial calendar in stone created in Chaco Canyon, New Mexico by the Anasazi over 1000 years ago.  The film’s copyright status means that if you join the meeting by Zoom from home then you will need to pay a small fee to log in, while AAAP is covering for the Peyton showing.  Please see Program Chair Victor Davis’s section below for more information.

After the Break.  For the April meeting we’ll have a discussion of Archeoastronomy after the break to help coordinate the virtual and Peyton audiences.  In addition to this, our tradition each month is for a member to give an Unjournal Club, a brief informal and fun astro presentation to begin the second half of the meeting.  There’s plenty of time in the April agenda, or in future meetings, for you to contribute by giving an UnJournal presentation.  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 the program chair.

Nominations for Club Officers.  AAAP has a straightforward organization structure that depends on members stepping forward to positions on the Board of Trustees (the elected officers) as well as a few appointed positions.  Through our 60-year history we have elected officers for new 1-year terms at the May meeting, as provided in the by-laws.  Member Lee Sandberg has agreed to serve as Nominations Chair to identify candidates for the slate for this cycle.  The elected positions are: Director, Assistant Director, Treasurer, Secretary, Program Chair, Observatory Chair, and Outreach Chair.  The constitution, by-laws and position descriptions are on the website I hope you will consider stepping forward for one of the positions.  If you are interested, or want to nominate a fellow member, send a note to

Seasonal Time.  Where did we get the idea for “Daylight Savings Time?  The notion that clock time should spring forward and fall back with the seasons seems quite unnatural.  Perhaps the least likable feature for amateur astronomers is that it makes summer sunsets so late, keeping  telescopes waiting an hour longer than our internal biological clocks prefer.  Of course, we could become early morning observers with that extra hour, but psychologically that seems harder to do.  Messing with diurnal rhythms is never a good idea for mammals highly tuned to the solar cycle ever since their primordial beginnings on this planet. Modern human society bears the considerable burden of changing this rhythm, for the sake of – just exactly what? 

The common story goes that an agricultural community benefits from a later work day, but this doesn’t match the reality that farmers also need to work in the early morning. Daylight Savings Time originated in the US and Europe a century ago with the idea of improving train schedule efficiency and saving fuel and power during World War I.  Then WW2 led to enactment of year-round “war time” in the US for the same reasons.  After spring forward/fall back was reinstated, permanent daylight savings time was again enacted during the 1970s energy crisis for the sake of power savings, but again this didn’t stick very long.  Today the states are not required by federal law to switch time forward and back, yet only Hawaii and most of Arizona don’t.

Now the spring forward/fall back cycle is again being questioned.  But rather than abolishing it for the sake of natural, longitude-based time zones, Congress is considering making Daylight Savings Time permanent again.  In my opinion this would be the worst idea for amateur astronomers.  Fortunately, we’re not the only ones who might feel this way and the argument is far from decided.  There are plenty of economic arguments both pro and con.  Next time you consider writing your representative, ask them to consider abandoning time tinkering altogether. 

AAAP Observatory Opening in April.  Thanks to observatory chair Dave & Jenn Skitt, the club’s facility at Washington Crossing Park is getting set for the new season.  Public open house Friday nights, run by the Keyholders, will commence on April 7.  The superb astronomy equipment at the observatory is listed in my section in last month’s Sidereal Times.  Although we’d like to schedule a couple of member-only observing sessions, the vagaries of weather make it impossible to schedule in advance.  Therefore, this season we are asking members to bring personal telescopes out to the observatory field each Friday night when weather supports a public session.  This gives members a secure dark site to do astronomy and there’s plenty of room to set up with excellent sky views.  Let’s see just how many member telescopes we can get onto the field (I recall the current record is 12).  You can check for observatory opening status on our Twitter feed (, the AAAP Discord server, or call the observatory phone at 609-737-2575.

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