Meeting Minutes: 20 Oct 2021

The Santa Fe Stargazers convened for their regular monthly meeting at 7 PM MDT on 20 Oct 2021

Following a general welcome, Donna Coleman gave the Monthly Sky Report, focusing on Cassiopeia and the mythology surrounding the Perseus family of constellations: Perseus, Cepheus, Andromeda, Cetus, Pegasus, and Cassiopeia. Her Sky Report included a musical selection: a live piano performance of music inspired by Cassiopeia.

Jim Baker gave the evenings featured presentation “Teaching Beginning Astronomy: Brain Builders”: a series of questions, graded in difficulty, regarding basic astronomical facts and how we know them.

During member updates, Greg Marshall described his first experience setting-up under Santa Fe’s October skies and estimates of seeing. His estimates of seeing, based on guidescope corrections to tracking, gave estimates in the neighborhood of 0.5″. This was consistent with estimates made by Tony Bonanno over the last few nights. This kicked-off an extended discussion that migrated from seeing here and now, to seeing elsewhere, to the evolution of seeing over the years, and then jumping to “mounts I have known.”

Following member updates Sam Finn gave the first of what will be three presentations, at this and the next two meetings, on outreach opportunities that the Santa Fe Stargazers can choose to participate in as a club. Tonights presentation focused on a strategic partnership with the Santa Fe Conservation Trust.

The Santa Fe Conservation Trust (SFCT) is a local organization, with a 28 year history, whose mission is to keep Northern New Mexico lands and people flourishing together, protect cultural and environmentally significant landscapes, and ignite people’s passion for nature.

Sam and the SFCT were connected by Terry Smith, a former chair of the SFCT Board, who was largely responsible for the inauguration of the SFCT Dark Skies Program. Discussions between Terry, Sam, and SFCT Executive Director Sarah Noss, led to the April 29 SFCT sponsored “Dark Skies Chat” on street lighting, which featured Sam, Peter Lipscomb, Francois-Marie Patorni, and Terry. Sam and the SFCT are currently working together on establishing long-term sky brightness monitoring of the Santa Fe area, with special focus on the contributions from Santa Fe City.

In 2008, the SFCT inaugurated a “Dark Skies” program with the goal of educating the community about the importance of the connection between land and sky conservation. The goal of this partnership is to revitalize that program. The proposal involves an approximately 3-season set of monthly outreach events: i.e., 7-9/year sky viewing opportunities, led by the Santa Fe Stargazers. These might include some daytime solar observing, some moon & planets observing, some deep sky observing, some “constellation tours.” The choice would largely be ours to make.

Some of the events would likely be coupled with other SFCT events: e.g., a viewing at the end of a walk, or as part of a fund-raiser. Others would be stand-alone.

How does this fit-in with our goals? Loosely speaking, our goals include astronomy education; promoting night sky appreciation, preservation, conservation, and restoration; and having fun. The fit is straightforward: we would gain all the advantages of working with a large & established organization that shares our goals. This includes access to a large and positively pre-disposed audience to build appreciation for the night sky. And, through that access, the opportunity to reach a new audience for new club members.

Currently, our outreach “burden” is principally carried by 2-3 members. To make this partnership work Sam estimates we would need 4-6 scopes per regular (approximately monthly) event; so, a bench depth of 6-8 members with ‘scopes who will agree to participate with reasonable regularity – not every month, but several times a year – are needed.

There ensued a good discussion, with questions about the SFCT and the size of its membership, other amateur astronomers who might be involved in the SFCT, and how – if at all – it would affect other activities we are engaged in. Tony Bonanno spoke-up about his very positive experience with the SFCT and its Executive Director. Several members with ‘scopes (you know who you are) agreed that they would participate if we moved forward with this opportunity: enough that we would have the bench depth that we estimate is needed. There was a strong consensus that we should go ahead with this partnership. Sam will carry that message back to the SFCT and we will begin discussions on a spring event.

Following the outreach discussion we turned to discuss a November observing opportunity. The decision was quickly reached to that we would aim for a Friday, 29 Oct observing event at the Cowboy Shack, with a 30 Oct weather fall-back. Sam will make those arrangements with the Galisteo Basin Preserve.

Owing to the lateness of the hour we decided to defer to the November meeting any discussion of programming for the January and later meetings. Jim Baker, who has taken the lead on programming since the clubs formation, announced his desire to step-back from that role. We thanked him for all his work. Sam will survey the club to identify one or more people to take-over principal responsibility for programming.

Sam may be unable to attend next months meeting; in his place Robert Powers will “MC” the November meeting.

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