From the President...

President's Perspective October 2012

Wouldn't you know it, fall is upon us already!

After what seemed like an all-too-short summer, we are heading for colder weather. Winter means cold observing, but some of the best skies of the entire year. But before we get completely frozen out, it looks like we are going to have a few more good weeks of weather. And the ASN plans on capitalizing on that good weather (crossing fingers, toes, etc.)!

In any case, one of the biggest challenges to face the ASN in a long time has been, at least for now, 'tamed'. In August, the ASN decided to work with Dan Ruby and his Friday night observing program at the MacLean Observatory. We will continue to meet at KNPB for our monthly meeting until such a time as we have made a permanent decision as to where to meet. (And KNPB for their part, has scheduled us in their community room indefinitely on the 2nd Tuesday of each month, a very nice thing for them to do! So, we can choose to keep using that space as well. In return, it was discussed that perhaps we will man the phones for a live membership night once in a while.)

Although it is off to a slow start, we plan to work with Tony Berensden of the University Physics department in securing a permanent meeting space, probably at Redfield campus. It is next to the observatory and has some very nice classroom-type spaces we could use. If we approach this carefully and work through the politics that are undoubtedly involved, we may end up with this space reserved with few or no strings attached. Once this gets going, I (or whoever the next president is) will form a committee to be our official 'voice' during this process.

And speaking of President, do you want to be the President of ASN? Or Secretary?, or Treasurer?, or Historian? (Or even Vice President?) Then come to the next meeting. As of this writing, there are no nominations for Secretary, Treasurer or Historian. (Dennis Jamison has been nominated for VP and I am running for President.) The floor will be re-opened for nominations at the October meeting, and I hope some people will nominate either themselves or someone else. Most organizations need to change out their leadership from time to time in order to stay relevant, and ASN is no exception. Above all, I GUARANTEE that these elections will not be anywhere near as political as the elections that we will be dealing with about a month after the meeting!

Now, a little report about the World Science Fiction convention in Chicago, IL. This was held over the long Labor Day weekend, and consisted of over 860 different events for science fiction writers and fans. Many of these events are 'panels', where one or more people speak to a group in a panel discussion type format. Depending on the subject, these panels were designed to accommodate an audience of anywhere from a dozen to over 500 people. This year, the first year I signed up to be on panels, I was chosen for six different panels! One of these panels was the 'Latest News from Astronomy' panel, and this is one of the big panels, with up to 500 people expected to attend. Very surprisingly, I was chosen to be moderator of this panel. The other two panelists were distinguished scientists. One of these scientists was David L. Clements, who is a professional astrophysicist working at Imperial College London on extragalactic astronomy and observational cosmology. Current major projects he is working on include the Herschel and Planck satellites. Mr. Clements also writes Sci-fi and has been the Science chair of past Worldcons. The other panelist was Brother Guy Consolmagno, a Jesuit Brother (= a monk) who works for the Vatican's Astronomy program. He is curator of the Vatican's meteor collection. He has also served as a past president of Commission 16 of the International Astronomical Union (where he sat on a committee to determine Pluto's fate) and as past chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society. Brother Guy even has an asteroid named after him, Asteroid 4597 Consolmagno! In any case, I was humbled to be moderator for these two distinguished scientists. David Clements gave me some pointers and guidance, which made the entire panel run very smoothly. The only mildly disappointing thing about the panel is only 75 people showed up to listen. The rest were at a opening night party at the Adler Planetarium (which I later went to). All in all, a really wonderful experience.

Other astronomy-related panels I sat on included one on spacecraft design (Which I thought was fantasy spacecraft design, but instead was REAL spacecraft design!) and one on the end of the Space Shuttle era.

And speaking of big meetings, one is coming up in Reno later this month. The Division of Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society will be meeting at the Grand Sierra the week of October 15-19. Although the conference itself is very expensive to attend, there is a public lecture being given on Monday evening the 15th, at 7:30 PM. The title of the presentation is 'The Fascinating Quest of Asteroids: Remnants of Planetary Formation', and will be given by Dr. Patrick Michel. This should be a fascinating program, and I hope as many ASN members as possible can attend. (Dinner together before or after?) The AAS is also doing some free education events for Middle and High school students that week on Tuesday and Thursday. Reservations are required for these events, which might be school class-oriented. (Brother Guy Consolmango will be attending, as well.)

Coming up on the evening of the 13th of October is our annual fall all-night observing party. Although we usually refer to these as 'Messier Marathons', much more goes on at these events besides running a Messier Marathon. The location will be at a member's home out near Pyramid Lake, where we have had the last several all-nighters. (There will be an email with driving directions going out to members) Details have yet to be announced, but we will probably have a cookout late afternoon, and begin observing right after sundown. Jeff Wolff will be bringing our 20 inch 'scope with its equatorial drive platform. I hope as many ASN members as possible can make this event. You do not have to stay the entire night, and indeed many people don't. This will be our last organized members-only observing event for the 2012 season.

Closer to Reno, our monthly business meeting will be on Tuesday, October 9th, at KNPB TV. Start time is 7 PM, with a business meeting to follow after the public meeting. We will have some sort of presentation, but I am not sure exactly what at this time.

The Friday evening observing program at the MacLean Observatory is off to a great start! As expected, it is not as 'formal' or 'high key' as it was made out to be. Everyone who has participated so far has had a chance to use the 14 inch 'scope (and help Dan understand its shortcomings), as well as the 11 inch Celestrons. One of the best thing about these events is you only need bring your eyepiece collection-- nothing heavy! If members are not official volunteers, they are free to bring their own 'scopes and set up, as we have always done on first Fridays. Observing hours are always 8 to 10 PM, although we hope to adjust these a little come next spring. At this point, the only thing missing is visitors. But these will come in time-- the promotion of this activity has just really gotten underway. So, don't be discouraged if the public doesn't show up to observe. Use the time to thoroughly learn how to use the equipment at the observatory. This will be very helpful when you are busy with members of the public! (I have been out there most Friday nights, because it was easy for me to do so. I still plan to come out there on many Fridays, but I will not be out there all the time.) In any case, spread the word about this event. We want to put this on the Reno tourist map!

Jim Fahey continues to host the third Friday evening public star party out at Sparks Marina. This event has continued to build momentum, and some people are going out there just to see the heavens!

On Tuesday, October 17th there will be a school star party at Milton Elementary school, for McQueen High School. Another school star party, and one we have done numerous times, will be at Libby Booth Elementary School on Tuesday evening, October 23rd. These school star parties are an important part of our mission, so it is always appreciated when you attend one of these. Jim Fahey can give you more details about these school events, if you need them.

The Western Nevada Astronomical Society has their monthly meeting on Tuesday, October 16th, at 7 PM. The location is the Jack C. Davis observatory in Carson City. With the new highway finally open, it is easier than ever to attend events in Carson City!

That's all for this month. Hopefully for next month, I will have a (less then) adventuresome tale on how I retrieved an Observatory dome from a couple in Las Vegas who no longer wanted it! While in Las Vegas, I will pick up an Easy-up tent and a nice folding table that was donated to the ASN by the Stargazers TV show folks. These items have been at KLVX TV since the Venus transit.

I will close this article with a nice photo of the conjunction of Venus with the 'Lion Star' Regulus early on the morning of the 3rd of October. This is the closest conjunction I have ever seen. And, I hope that, since the conjunction was with the Lion star, that good will come of it! (still crossing fingers and toes.)


Keep looking down (into your eyepiece)!
Tim Stoffel


Category: President