Meeting Minutes: July 21, 2021

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The Santa Fe Stargazers convened for their regular monthly meeting at t 7 PM MDT on July 21, 2021 (fifty two years to the day from when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the Moon).

The meeting began with the introduction of several new members who joined us for the first time.

Following introductions, Jim Eagle gave the Monthly Sky Report, highlighting conjunctions involving Mars, Venus, Regulus, and the Moon; a pair of interesting double stars (Porrima and Algeiba); and the summer globular cluster M22.

“Astro-Travel: Opportunities to Spread Your Horizons”, by Jim Baker, was the evening’s featured presentation. Jim described observing opportunities for the intrepid amateur along the Southern Hemisphere “Horse Latitudes”, characterized by calm winds and little or no precipitation. This sub-tropical belt, between 30 and 35 deg south latitude, includes Chile’s Atacama Desert, the Namib coastal Desert, and much of the Australian Outback, including Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). Jim ended with a discussion of what’s in store for those willing to chase solar eclipses over the next decade.

The “business” meeting began with an update by Robert Powers on upcoming opportunities for club members interesting in supporting outreach opportunities planned by the NPS staff at Pecos National Historic Park and Fort Union National Monument. The earliest of these will be in Sep 4 at Fort Union; later events will be Oct 9 at Pecos and again at Fort Union on Oct 22. The first two of these are dark nights – i.e., no Moon, or very young Moon – and will likely feature telescopes; the Oct 22 will be just pass the full moon and may be just a guided night time walk. More information will be available about these opportunities at the next meeting.

The next topic for discussion was meeting programming. Sam Finn gave a brief update on availability of the Vista Grande Public Library for hybrid – in-person and zoom – meetings. The VGPL meeting room is available for group meetings and is in the midst of upgrading its internet bandwidth and meeting-room infrastructure to support simultaneous teleconference meetings. The bandwidth upgrade, which requires running new fiber to the VGPL, is underway and the hardware – higher capacity router, improved wifi, and an in-room camera – will follow. The new infrastructure may be available for the Santa Fe Stargazers August meeting; it will almost certainly be available for the September meeting. If it is available for the August meeting Sam will try to attend the meeting from the room as a kind of “dry-run” for future meetings.

Jim Baker then reviewed the current programming through the end of the year and solicited/encouraged volunteers to fill open Featured Presentation and Monthly Sky Report slots through Nov. (The club will not meet in December.) Following the discussion it was determined that the Aug Monthly Sky Report will be given by Sam Finn, the Sep Report by Robert Powers, the Oct Report by Donna Coleman, and the Nov Report by Jim Eagle. Following a suggestion FM Patroni, Sam Finn agreed to give the Sep Featured Presentation with the tentative title “Why the Big Deal about Gravitational Wave Observations?” Tony Bonanno will give either the Oct or the Nov featured presentation on electronically-aided astronomy (EAA), which differs from astrophotography in its focus on real-time observations. Sam Finn agreed to try to an outside speaker to fill the other slot. For next year, Albert Schulz offered to develop a presentation on observing the Milky Way.

The next meeting – Aug 18 – will not have a featured presentation; instead, we will have a semi-structured group discussion on “My Favorite Space Probe.” For “My Favorite Space Probe”, all meeting attendees should come armed with a slide or two, showing their “favorite” space probe (e.g., the Hubble Space Telescope, or the Viking Lander, or Apollo 11, or . . .). Be prepared to say a few words about why it is your favorite – 2-3 minutes is great, but no more than 5. Everyone will get a chance to show their slides and explain their choice. Jim Baker will moderate.

We next discussed the resumption of club-member observing opportunities. Depending on how and when the monsoon season ends there are three possible opportunities: early Sep, early Oct, and late Oct or early Nov. Jim Eagle agreed to take charge of scheduling these opportunities and announcing them to the club.

The meeting ended with a brief discussion of Dark Sky advocacy work. On Jul 9-11 the Los Alamos group had a very successful community outreach event, which involved planetarium presentations, outdoor lighting demonstrations, and night observing. It was attended by country commissioners who were engaged and enthusiastic. Los Alamos County will be bringing up a revision to their lighting ordinance, which is by all measures very progressive and a great improvement over the existing ordinance, and – apparently – enthusiastically supported by the commissioners. Separately, Espanola is looking into upgrading its street lighting and is seriously considering dark sky friendly lighting. Regrettably, there is no good news to report on either Santa Fe City or County.

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