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Minutes of October 9th Meeting

Brower Observatory, 7:00pm

Thirteen members showed for the meeting and elections, including three relatively new members. Pete Kalajian lead his last meeting as President.

Updates about refurbishing the club’s 16″ Newtonian in the dome of Brower Observatory:

Jim Curry, the club’s machinist, recently tested his latest work on the declination axis, and reports it “almost works.” This is good progress for a scope and counterweight system weighing many hundreds of pounds.

The new GoTo system has passed its initial testing. Once the declination axis is ready, one day’s work remains to complete the installation.

These significant upgrades will be great for star parties. We will no longer have to nudge the scope between observers, which will help immensely when there are many observers. Additionally, those of us who are less adept at finding dim objects manually will be able to share the work with the current scope masters.

The club has adopted preserving the dark skies of Maine as a major area of outreach.

Pete Kalajian, a science teacher in Rockland, used the club’s 80° sky meter and data collected by an army of his high school students to enact a lighting ordinance in Rockland. The club voted to buy a more precise 20° USB meter for real-time logging to detail Rockland and one other town. Jim Curry recommends Thomaston, to prepare for stores emerging around Wal-Mart.

There was some discussion of whether the club, Pete’s school, or perhaps some other organization should buy the new light meter, which will cost about $160. It was decided that owning the meter would put us in a strong position for outreach, with other organizations calling us asking for our help bringing lighting ordinances to their towns. The upgrade allows both better precision in measuring sources of light pollution and real-time analysis of the data via the connected computer, making projects faster and less expensive. The old meter may be sold on Astromart.

New member Dwight Lanpher is the Secretary of the Island Astronomy Institute, a nonprofit in Mt. Desert Island with a particular interest in preserving dark skies. Dwight is joining all the astronomy clubs in Maine, with the goal of enhancing them all by uniting the tribes. A collective newsletter is a first priority, with a long-term goal of some kind of federation so that all the clubs would know each other’s activities, and could more easily coordinate efforts among themselves and other organizations.

As an electrical engineer, Dwight lead a discussion of how the color of lighting was even more important than the cut-off (focusing all light downward). The new, blue, energy-efficient LED lighting permiates the sky in a manner causing more light pollution than the old, yellow sodium arc lighting, even when both are properly shaded. Dwight commented that Wal-Mart has been a good neighbor for lighting, because their accountants are savvy to the significant cost savings in lighting only the grounds, not the skies. The real risk is that the many smaller businesses Wal-Mart would attract may think they were saving money by buying cheap, outdated fixtures that actually were expensive to run.

Jon Silverman commented that the astronomical societies could work together with organizations seeking to lower Maine’s carbon emissions and overall use of energy. With the finances on our side, this is a wonderful, win-win opportunity for astronomers to retain the dark skies we need, while preserving Maine’s beauty for everyone.

Other new business:

CMAS will be joining The Astronomical League. Annual dues are $10 per club plus $5 per member. Treasurer Jacob Gerritsen said this could be paid out of General Fund. The League will provide liability insurance for the club’s officers at star parties, reducing the insurance burden on the landowners of our observing sites.

New member Pete Coughlin, Webmaster of Town of Randolph , will be creating a Facebook page for the club. There was discussion of how sites are only as good as their content, so we wanted to be careful not to dilute the existing site when adding another. Pete is confident he can do that, while allowing CMAS to take advantage of the marketing possibilities of social networking.

Pete Kalajian will continue as Webmaster, to help the new officers in the transition to the new WordPress based Web site.

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