From the Program Chair

By Victor Davis

Welcome to Peyton Hall
The April 2023 meeting of the AAAP will take place on Tuesday, April 11th at 7:30 PM in Peyton Hall. As usual, the meeting is open to AAAP members and the public.

Options for Attending the April Meeting
You may choose to attend the meeting in person or participate via Zoom or YouTube as we’ve been doing for the past few years. (See How to Participate below for details). This evening’s presentation is a film “The Sun Dagger” produced by Bullfrog Films. It will be proceeded by an introduction and commentary by Ira Polans and followed by Q&A conducted by Ira. Showing the film has a bit of a tortured history, and has had to wait for several years as we suffered through Covid and for Princeton University to welcome the club back to Peyton Hall. Ira acquired the film several years ago, pre-Covid, and, since copyright restrictions prevent the club from streaming the movie over the internet, we originally anticipated that viewing the film would be a strictly in-person experience.

A New Plan
We are pleased to announce that there is now an option to view the film online. You may now open an account with Google or Vimeo and pay a $3.99 fee to view the 59-minute film on your digital device. You may stream the film at:

In order to accommodate this dual method of viewing while still maintaining a close approximation of our usual meeting agenda, we’ve modified the meeting agenda a bit:

(Times are approximate)

Please note that the break (extended to ten minutes) will occur following the film but prior to the Q&A. This will allow online participants time to log in to Vimeo, rent and view the film, and then rejoin the meeting in time for the discussion.

Getting to Peyton Hall
The parking lots across the street (Ivy Lane) from Peyton Hall are now construction sites, unavailable for parking. We’ve been advised by the administration of the astrophysics department that we should park in the new enclosed parking garage off Fitzrandolph street and walk around the stadium and athletic fields. Here’s a map of the campus and walking routes from the parking garage to Peyton Hall. The map shows the recently completed East Garage. Not shown is an access road Sweet Gum that connects from Faculty Road to an entrance at the lower left corner of the garage. Stadium Road connects from Fitzrandolph Road to another entrance at the opposite corner (and higher level) of the garage. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk from the parking garage to Peyton Hall.


Featured Speaker:  Ira Polans
Former Program Chair AAAP

The Sun Dagger: Chaco Canyon and the Anasazi
Archeoastronomy combines the disciplines of archeology, astronomy, and others to study how people of the past understood the sky and its phenomena. Examples of such sites include Stonehenge, Newgrange, the pyramid El Castillo, built in the center of Chichen Itza in Mexico. It also includes artifacts such as the Antikythera mechanism. Many sites around the world mark or seem to mark the solstices or the equinoxes. In this month’s meeting we will cover an example of a site that is closer to home.

Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi, showing Fajada Butte. Credit: Wikipedia

Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi, showing Fajada Butte. Credit: Wikipedia

Several groups of indigenous people lived in what is now the four corners region of the United States where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. This region is covered by hundreds, if not thousands, of ancient ruins. Some are excavated while others have not been. This month’s talk features a film on the Sun Dagger, which was found in the 1970’s by Washington artist Anna Sofaer in Chaco Canyon, NM. The Sun Dagger was built by the Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloan) Indians who built this calendar and thrived in the arid canyon environment a thousand years ago. Since then, the Sun Dagger has marked the seasonal solstices and equinoxes in vivid symbolic images of light and shadow on stone. To enhance your understanding of the film a brief introduction to the region and its people will be given prior to the screening.

Ira Polans
Ira is a lifelong amateur astronomer, former Program Chair of the AAAP, AAAP keyholder, and former volunteer at the Franklin Institute, including during the Galileo exhibit in 2009.

As a teenager he spent several summers camping in the Southwestern United States where he first visited Chaco Canyon and other Ancestral Puebloan sites. He has been back to the Southwest several times as an adult. His most recent trip was in the Summer of 2016 for the camp’s 90 anniversary.

He has travelled to see Halley’s Comet in Australia in 1986, visited Italy in 2009 for the 400 anniversary of Galileo pointing his telescope to the sky, the Venus Transit at Kitt Peak in 2012, to the Total Solar Eclipse in Oregon in 2017 as part of the AAAP eclipse group, and to Yerkes Observatory in 2018. He is looking forward to next April’s Total Solar eclipse!

There will be no “Meet the Speaker” dinner this month.
Weather and logistical considerations have prevented us from honoring John Church, Joe DePasquale and now Ira with free eats at Winberie’s, but please make plans to join us there next month when we honor them along with May’s guest speaker Alain Maury who’s driving down from NYC to be with us. Please let me know if you plan to attend.

Hats Are Here!
…though I’ve yet to pick them up. The club has invested in a new stash of AAAP baseball caps, to thank our guest speakers and to try to shake loose “unjournal club” recruits. Contact me or Rex to line up your fifteen minutes of fame.

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.

Join YouTube Live to listen to the speaker Ira Polans using the link below –


YouTubeAAAP- Meeting – April 2023-Ira Polans, Former AAAP Program Chair, The Sun Dagger

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 Participate:

  • 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 Link  Meeting ID: 848 8960 6960   Passcode: 917792

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

A look ahead at future guest speakers:

May 9, 2023
Alain Maury, Astronomer and discoverer of comets and asteroids. Alain Maury operates a time-sharing observatory near San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. He’s also an active observer and discoverer or co-discoverer of several dozen comets and asteroids, several of which (i.e. 3780 Maury) were named in his honor. He’ll talk about his observatory, its operation, and his numerous astronomical activities.
June 13, 2023
Bill Murray, AAAP’s Outreach Director and staffer at NJ State Museum planetarium Bill will give his traditional planetarium show at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.
Summer Hiatus
Later this fall
Gary Rendsburg, Distinguished Professor of Jewish Studies and History at Rutgers Prof. Rendsburg will talk about “The Jewish Calendar,” with emphasis on its astronomical connections to lunar months, intercalated month to adjust to the solar year, festival days, and new moon observances.

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

This entry was posted in April 2023, Sidereal Times and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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