17 April 2019 Meeting & Minutes

Jim Baker presenting to the Santa Fe Stargazers at their first regular meeting.

Tonight we were joined by several new members: Bruce Howard and Rose Chavez, Matthew Kumagai, and Eddie Dry. Also in attendance were Sam Finn, Tom Aldern, Jim Baker, Robert Powers, and David Tiemeyer. 

Tom Aldern and Robert Powers reported on behalf othe Outreach Working Group. 

Since its establishment, group members have held an informal get-together to plan their approach. They have prepared two documents – one on best practices and one on star party etiquette – that will help the Santa Fe Stargazers establish a culture of (and reputation for) safe and fun outreach events. The group is identifying and investigating liaising with other local area groups, which can multiply everyone’s impact.  A first event,  in support of the “Starry Night” program sponsored by the Pecos National Historic Site, will take place on 4 May. Other events in the early planning stages involve Villanueva State Park and the Tourquoise Trail Middle School. 

Jim Baker reported on behalf of the Meetings Working Group. Jim also generously provided us with cookies and juice for mid-meeting refreshments. 

The Meetings Working Group has secured the tonight’s meeting venue – the Vista Grande Public Library Community Room – for the third Wednesday of every month, for the next year. Tonight’s meeting being our first as the Santa Fe Stargazers, the most important agenda item is brainstorming & discussion of what program and form we’d like subsequent meetings to take. 

Sam Finn reported for the Communications & Steering Working Group.

The Santa Fe Stargazers (SFS) are now the proud owners of the internet domain SantaFeStargazers.Org. That site hosts the groups web site. It will also, beginning Thursday, 18 April, host all the group’s e-mail discussion lists. The web site is ready to host content from each of the SFS working groups. The site is being developed using WordPress. Content may be sent to Sam for posting; or, any working group member who is up-to-speed with WordPress may request an “edit” account for the site, enabling it to post its own material.

Sam has also begun investigating the costs associated with SFS group liability insurance, and SFS affiliation with The Astronomical League.

Liability insurance is important for protecting the SFS and its members against lawsuits that might arise owing to, e.g., accidents that might occur at group outreach events. Many insurers offer liability insurance coverage to social clubs like the SFS. Basic liability insurance for the group runs approximately $315/yr per million dollars coverage. Additional riders, at an additional cost, are necessary to extend coverage to endemnify individual SFS members participating in SFS events.

The Astronomical League (AL) is an umbrella organization of U.S. amateur astronomy societies. Its mission is to promote the science of astronomy by supporting outreach, providing incentives for astronomical observation and research, and aiding the coordination and communication among amateur astronomical societies.

Individuals are members of the AL through their membership in astronomical societies or as “members-at-large.” Among the benefits of AL membership are receipt of the quarterly AL publication (“The Reflector”); the ability to participate in AL Observing Programs and receive completion certificates and pins, signifying their accomplishment in completing these programs; and access to The AL book service, which provides (10% discount/free shipping on books, posters, charts, atlases  from Sky Publishing, Cambridge, Oxford, Willmann-Bell, Springer-Verlag, etc).

Of particular interest to the SFS is a possibly reduced cost for liability insurance.

If the SFS affiliated with the AL, the annual cost would be $10 for the SFS, and then an additional $7.50/person for each SFS member. This cost should be contrasted with the individual, “at-large-member” cost of $40/person.

The main focus of the discussion was the format and programming of future meetings. The group quickly converged on a roughly two hour format, with the first hour devoted to some activity – e.g., a presentation or tutorial by a group member or outside speaker – that speaks to the SFS’s interest in stargazing and amateur astronomy. The second half of the meeting would address SFS business: e.g., working group reports and discussion or planning of future group activities. 

There were a number of suggestions for topics for future presentations. These included

  • How radio telescopes were employed to image a black hole;
  • Celestial Navigation;
  • Optical Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI);
  • Targets for imaging or observing the coming season’s sky;
  • How to choose and use a new telescope;
  • Observing Techniques.

Robert Powers offered to kick-off the next meeting (15 May) with a presentation along the lines of targets for imaging or observing the coming season’s sky. 

Sam Finn also asked that SFS members think about and make suggestions for the use of the SFS web site. Tom Aldern made the immediate suggestion that we implement an integrated calendar, which would provide members with ready access to all SFS activities, along with related events of interest (e.g., new moons, meteor showers, etc.)

Cookies and apple juice were kindly provided for the group by Jim Baker. 

Jim Baker should us slides from two of his trips to southern hemisphere (Namibia, Australia) observing camps, focusing on his imaging of several of Southern Hemisphere gems: The Southern Cross, Coal Sack, Jewel Box, Omega Cen(taurus), 47 Tuc(anae), Eta Car(inae). Jim will be traveling this summer to Chile to observe the total solar eclipse and will also spend some time at altitude in the Atacama desert. 

The SFS’s adjourned shortly after 9 PM. Our next meeting will kick-off with a presentation by Robert Powers. 

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