16 October 2019 Meeting Minutes

At 7 PM on 16 October 2019 the Santa Fe Star Gazers met for their regular monthly meeting at the Vista Grande Public Library. Member Jim Baker introduced us to the history and phenomenology of transits generally, and Mercury transits particularly.

Following Jim’s presentation and refreshments we briefly reviewed the status of our outreach and club observing efforts. Aside from the 11 November Mercury Transit event are two possible outreach opportunities in collaboration with Fort Union, and several events scheduled for Spring. Aside from the Spring National Astronomy Day event there are no dates yet assigned to any of these events.

Our 28 September club observing event at The Cowboy Shack Trailhead in Galisteo Basin was a great success (see the post). Our next event is scheduled for 26 October at “Lot 1”: for more information see the event calendar. Robert Powers is point for this event and will notify all via sfs-members if the event needs to be called for any reason (e.g., weather).

On 11 November the Santa Fe Stargazers will offer free public observing of the Mercury Transit. This is a rare opportunity: the next transit will not be until 2032. The program will be a simple one: properly equipped telescopes in the VGPL parking lot, with posters on easels describing transits and their historical importance. [The VGPL meeting room is otherwise scheduled.] We expect to have between three and five telescopes available. Advertising will be through community mailing lists and the VGPL newsletter. Sam is point for this event.

Following the Mercury Transit event plan overview the Santa Fe Stargazers engaged in a discussion of the clubs first six months and plans for the forthcoming year. Our outreach efforts, led by Tom Aldern and Robert Powers, have been tremendously successful. Though hampered by a hostile monsoon season, our club observing program, led by Robert Powers, has had two notably successful dark sky observing events. Our meetings and meeting programming have likewise been successful, with regular participation roughly doubling over the first six months. Sadly, however, we have had to shelve our Dark Sky Advocacy efforts for lack of participation.

Planning for the next year touched upon meetings, outreach, and building membership. The meeting structure – presentation, refreshments, business – was deemed a good one.  For the upcoming we identified three types of presentations: presentations focused on specific objects – e.g., planetary nebulae, globular clusters, galaxies, double stars – and how to observe and appreciate them; “show and tell” presentations highlighting particular types of telescopes or other amateur astronomy “gear”; and presentations focused on astronomy history, or topical astronomy, astrophysics, or space-science. The first two presentation categories would be handled made by Santa Fe Stargazer members; the last by external presenters drawn from local area colleges, universities, laboratories, or technology companies.

Our membership building discussion focused on two questions: “why?” and “how?” The “why?” question was raised to help us keep our membership goals aligned with our goals for the Santa Fe Stargazers as a club for stargazers and amateur astronomers. All agreed we want to avoid building membership for the sake of size. 

On the other hand, we cannot do the things we would like to do – hear from external speakers, continue and expand our outreach efforts, develop greater opportunities for dark site club observing, re-start our dark sky advocacy efforts – that require a large enough membership that no effort is reliant on the efforts of just one or a few people. We have had significant success in building our outreach, club observing, and meeting programs; however, our success and continued efforts are not sustainable without increased membership and member participation in Santa Fe Stargazer events, including their organization and programming. 

To help build membership in the coming year we discussed social media (facebook, twitter, instagram, etc.), community newsletters and mailing lists, and word-of-mouth. Social media was set-aside as requiring very high maintenance with a very low conversion of visitors to members. Community newsletters are more likely to reach potential members. Word-of-mouth is generally regarded as the most effective advertising effort. For the next year the Santa Fe Stargazers will focus on (paper and electronic) community newsletters, bulletin boards, and word-of-mouth to build membership.

The next meeting of the Santa Fe Stargazers is 15 January 2020: we will not meet in November or December. Between now and then there may a November Dark Sky Club Observing event, perhaps even a December event, possible outreach events as highlighted above, and other informal get-togethers. Our first presentation of the new year will be by Robert Powers, who will talk to us about Double/Multiple Star Observing.

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