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New Officers Elected

At the meeting on Saturday, October 9, at Brower Observatory, the club elected new officers:

Members at the Oct. 9th meeting

Jim Curry, President

Colin Caissie, Vice President of Equipment and Inventory

Jon Silverman, Vice President of Policy and Public Relations / Secretary

Jacob Gerritsen, Treasurer

Jim and Jon are new to their posts. Jim replaces Pete Kalajian, who wished to step down after over two years of service. Jon fills a  previously empty Vice President’s post, and was additionally drafted to serve as Secretary because of his habit of taking notes at meetings on his iPod anyway. Colin and Jacob were reelected.

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.

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