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9/11/2010 meeting minutes

hese are the minutes to the meeting held on Saturday, September 11th, 2010, at 6:00pm in the Damariscotta River Grill in Damariscotta, Maine, including a report on the dinner held to honor the memory of Stan Brower.

Upon the meeting’s beginning with necessary introductions all around, an informal vote ensued. It was unanimously agreed that we needed to get together more often, and not only in the dark. Many of us had actually worked together finding all kinds of objects at our star parties, but could not recognize each other when seated at a common table in daylight. Others had simply not met, an understandable, if sad, result of everyone’s attending meetings and parties when they can. Pete proposed that the meetings needed to be more attractive, and suggested speakers and trips to make the club more compelling to its members. There was talk of visiting the planetarium in Portland, question of how far people would travel for events, and murmerings about a believed active contingent of astronomers in the Bar Harbor area whom we all hoped to join in the near future.

The club met at the Damariscotta River Grill for a dinner honoring the memory of Stanley Brower, a mentor to many of us, influence to all of us, and the major benefactor in establishing the club and its unusually fine observatory. The location was chosen for its ambiance, proximity to the site of the evening’s star party afterward, and the wide range of its menu ($10 to $25 per person, in the hope of suiting the tastes of all members). Those who knew Stan discussed not just his life’s history, but the fascinating link between his gracious personality and practical philosophy, including as expressed in his creations. On display, for example, was a magnificent tool for measuring the curvature of mirrors, machined to the tightest tolerances from the finest steel, yet with a casual approach to the aesthetics of the beads of epoxy holding the parts together. This profoundly focused, productive man found technical perfection partly through differentiating between essential and unimportant details, a good lesson for us all.

To honor Stan’s memory, Colin recounted Stan’s words on donating many boxes of items most likely packed away since the 1970s, when Stan moved from New Jersey to Maine. He had said we were receiving many boxes that most likely would never be opened, but that did not matter, because we likely would have no use for most of the items inside anyway. Colin therefore decided to open a beautiful mahogany box for the first time at the memorial dinner. Inside were a number of tools and fascinating mirrors and prisms, all with unusual shapes and coatings. While passing the objects around the table, we mused about how Stan may have used them. Photographs of our surprised expressions will be posted on the Web; watch for the link to arrive separately. Stan’s son will also receive this link, to show once again how grateful we are for all Stan gave us.

After honoring Stan, we moved on to the business meeting.

Elections are overdue. They were meant to have been held last May. Pete wants someone else to assume the presidency. Nominations are sought for elections in October. Votes will be accepted at the meeting and election at 6:00pm before the October star party at Brower Observatory, or by eMail in advance.

We are behind in collecting dues. Please pay at the club’s Web site, .

The club raised money by selling some of the equipment donated by Stan Brower. As an example, Pete showed pictures and discussed an historically important Schmidt camera that Stan built and used some 60 or so years ago. It will soon be displayed in a museum in Indiana. Today’s astrophotographers use digital SLRs to get better images more easily, so it was felt to be appropriate to send our camera on to a properly curated and conserved collection.

With $3,000 in the bank, these votes were accepted:

(1) CMAS will join the International Dark Sky Association . This important organization leads in the fight against light pollution, and so is basic to the future of amateur astronomy. It appears to accept annual memberships for any amount of $35 or higher, with $50 the lowest full fee. Our fee will be whatever Pete, as president, feels is appropriate when navigating their gracious if somewhat baffling Web site.

(2) $75 to pay for one year of CMAS’s three entries on Atilla Danko’s Clear Sky Charts . That’s $25 each for the Brower Observatory, Galaxy Quest, and the Damariscotta River Association. Yep, you heard it right; we’ve been freeloading, but that’s about to end. Clear Sky Charts are astronomical weather forecasts. If you are unfamiliar with them, you really should try them. They are far, far more accurate than other forecasts, graphically representing cloud cover, transparency, seeing, and darkness of the skies, along with wind, humidity, and temperature at ground level. They are the gift of a wonderful man in cooperation with the Canadian Government. Forecasts for major cities are already in the database and always free, but he gently encourages $25 donations from anyone who requests that forecasts be created for special locations. iPhone jockeys, be sure to download the free app, “iCSC.”

(3) Recoat the mirror in the 16″ reflector in the dome, as part of its routine maintenance. The cost was not discussed. Not cheap, but we can afford it. Best of all, Colin will regrind the mirror to correct for newly discovered imperfections prior to recoating. Following on the refurbishing of the mount this summer, this will complete the scope in its current form. Next up? The local tinkerers are plotting to convert it to GoTo. We’ll then have the perfect easy-to-point light bucket for seeing countless dim objects easily, complimenting the many manual scopes on the ground for learning to find objects manually. We are extraordinarily fortunate to have such a fine scope available for our use. If you have not been up in the dome to see the skies through it, be sure to attend October’s star party at Brower Observatory.

(4) About $200 for permanent access to Sky and Telescope’s On-Line Archives. Members would have to log on one at a time. Looking at Sky and Telescope’s Web site after the meeting, we may be mistaken. No link to online access was apparent. It would be less practical for members to share the DVD sold on the home page.

Clear Skies,

Jon Silverman

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