15 May 2019 Meeting Minutes

Our May monthly meeting began shortly after 7 PM with introductions and a review of the agenda. First up was our featured speaker, Robert Powers, who gave us an overview of the late spring sky. Robert began with a naked-eye orientation, focusing on some of the most prominent constellations and stellar “landmarks.” He pointed out how the early evening location of the Milky Way – low along the eastern horizon – dictates that the spring sky is dominated by extra-galactic objects – galaxies and, to a lesser extent, globular clusters. He then drew our attention to some of the brightest and better-known galaxies, pointing out how to find them using the constellation and stellar landmarks he had highlighted earlier. 

Following the discussion and refreshments (kindly provided by Jim Baker), we heard reports from each of our Working Groups. 

Tom Aldern gave the report for the Outreach group, highlighting the first draft of our “Best Practices” outreach documents, a successful first event at Pecos National Historic Park, and plans currently underway for four more events during this summer and into the early fall.

M3. Credits: NASA, ESA, STScI and A. Sarajedini (University of Florida)
The Leo Triplet Galaxies from VST Image Credit: ESO, INAF-VST, OmegaCAM; Acknowledgement: OmegaCen, Astro-WISE, Kapteyn I.

The first of the two Best Practices documents, targeted to presenters, provides guidelines for preparing and providing a safe and fun outreach experience for the public. The second, aimed at public participants, highlights simple rules to follow while on the observing field and at the ‘scopes, which will protect people and equipment, and provide for a more enjoyable viewing experience. These living documents are available under Outreach on our web site. Comments and suggestions are eagerly solicited and should be emailed directly to the outreach group. 

Our first outreach event was held in support of the Pecos National Historic Park’s “Starry Nights at Pecos” event, held Saturday, May 4.  At the request of the Park, only four SFS members participated (Robert Powers, Tom Aldern, Brad Jones, and Sam Finn). The event is described in a separate post; here we’ll just note that the Park Ranger was very happy with the SFS’s participation and has invited us back for future events. These outreach opportunities will be announced when the dates become firm. 

Two other outreach events, both local to the Eldorado/Lamy area, are in the early planning stages. At least one of these is planned to promote dark skies, and at least one is expected to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and the first Moon landing. 

Sam Finn gave the report for the Observing Working Group, whose purpose is to plan opportunities for SFS members to observe under dark skies. An early May event, timed to coincide with the new Moon, was planned but, regrettably, clouded out. Two more dates for SFS member dark skies observing are set: 1 June at a dark site in Galisteo Basin, and 29 June at a second dark site – “Lot 1” – a few miles south of Eldorado off of Avenida de Compadres. Details on both events can be found by following the date links and on the Observing section of our web site. 

Sam then turned to review updates to our web site. These include additional content on our home page, featuring our Pecos outreach event and a local-area Clear Sky Chart, a new Events calendar, which can categorize and show events by type (e.g., meetings, outreach, member observing), and posts highlighting our meeting and outreach events. 

The Communications and Steering report was followed by a discussion of Dark Sky Advocacy. A detailed strategy was discussed for educating, motivating, and – most importantly – activating the local community to reduce area lighting. Some efforts have already begun: the SFS is working with the Eldorado Community Improvement Association to identify areas where the ECIA lighting footprint can be reduced, with the goal of improving the night sky environment in the Eldorado at Santa Fe development. 

Our broader effort, however, requires volunteers willing to assist with research, preparation of presentation material, identifying opportunities to reach the public and local area businesses and politicians, and do the necessary outreach to sensitize these groups to the value to the Santa Fe area of a dark sky. If you are interested in dark skies the Advocacy Group needs and welcomes your help: please contact Sam Finn for more information. 

Our final business was planning the speaker line-up for our next two meetings. Our June meeting will feature Tom Aldern, speaking on outreach and outreach planning; our July meeting will feature Sam Finn, speaking on gravitational wave astronomy. Titles and further details will be provided at a later time. 

The meeting adjourned at shortly after 9 PM. 

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