From the President...

President's Perspective - December 2012

I hope this will be a short President's perspective for a change. A lot is going on in my personal life at the moment (mostly good stuff, for a change), and I am writing this in the wee hours of the night!

In September, we had a most pleasant picnic and star party at Wilson Commons Park in Washoe Valley. We had good weather for a change. The food and the observing were very good as well. I think this is going to become a 'standard event' for the ASN, and it has been suggested we do more of these kinds of events.


October and November turned out to be incredibly busy months for the ASN. It started with the business meeting of that month. At that meeting, a letter was presented to Tony Berendsen, of the UNR Physics Department, indicating our desire to go ahead with re-establishing our relationship with the UNR Physics Department, and hopefully getting a permanent place to meet. (In the meantime though, KNPB has very graciously given us indefinite use of their Community Room for our monthly meeting!)

The ASN also became comfortable with the weekly observing program for the Planetarium, out at the Redfield Campus's MacLean Observatory. At a meeting with Dan Ruby a week ago, it was decided to continue with this program, and a new list of volunteers was issued. This program is starting to pick up some interest, and the logistics have not been nearly as bad as we all thought they would be. The hours have even been adjusted back to 6-8 PM for December and January. This helps most people who are involved, and it won't be nearly as cold as it would be later in the evening. Now, let's hope for some clear skies on Fridays!

Later in October, the ASN held their annual fall Messier Marathon at a home out in the Winnemucca Ranch area. This was a good time by all involved, although the only person who stayed all night was Jeff Wolff. (I normally try and stick these out as well, but I had some personal stuff to deal with, and it turned out to be a good decision on my part to go home when I did.) Very notably, we all saw a lot of new objects through the club's 20 inch 'scope. (We also learned of a few objects this monster 'scope is NOT good at!)

Also in October was the annual meeting of the Division of Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society (DPS-AAS). This ended up having a lot of related activity for the ASN! On the first night of the conference, there was a fascinating lecture on asteroids by Dr. Patrick Michel. There were not many ASN folk there, but those that were enjoyed a fascinating lecture that generated many followup questions. This was a good introduction for things to come.

I was able to have dinner with a friend of mine who was in town for the DPS-AAS convention, Brother Guy Consolmango, an astronomer with the Vatican (I was on a panel with him at the Worldcon Science Fiction Convention back in August). We talked at length about the Advanced Technology Telescope the Vatican operates on Mount Graham in Arizona. This is an exceptionally fast telescope, with an F 0.9 primary mirror. The primary and secondary mirrors are so unusual that the mirrors have to be adjusted to within 5 microns of the correct positions to be in focus!

Probably the most interesting thing that came of the DPS-AAS meeting, was an opportunity for the ASN to be involved in some real research-- measuring asteroid occultation timings, of Kuiper Belt objects, no less! This is a project being funded by the NSF, and will involve a string of observing groups up and down the west coast, making measurements of stars being occulted by these asteroids. Each group will have an 11 inch go-to SCT 'scope with an interesting integrating video camera. In late October, I met with John Keller and Marc Buie (As well as Dan Ruby, some folks from the Washoe County School District, and ASN member Warren Simison). What came of this meeting was a realization that the ASN is just one of several players involved in this project in the Reno area. But because Reno is smack-dab in the center of the project, a realization was made that the ASN might best serve as the 'mentoring organization' for the project. Originally, the plan was to have just one Mentor for the project, but the idea of having an organization for mentoring made far more sense. About a week ago, I did the formal applications for ASN to both be involved directly in observing, as well as to be the mentoring organization. We will learn more in December on how this will work out. There will also be a workshop in March for the chosen participants in the project.

Finally, in November, things started to wind down for the ASN for 2012. This has been one of the busiest years in the club's history-- and one of significant change. We will officially end this year, early next year, with the annual holiday party, at Tim Burns' home in Washoe Valley. The date will be January 5th, and we will flesh out the details at this month's public meeting.

And speaking of meeting, the topic for next weeks' meeting will be 'Life in the Universe' by ASN member Jim Fahey. This will be held on Tuesday, December 11th, at 7 PM. The location is the Community Room of KNPB TV. A business meeting (hopefully much shorter than previous meetings!) will immediately follow the public meeting.

Lastly, some of you know that I have obtained an observatory for my home. I am in the process of building a base for it, and hope to erect it in late December or early January. The whole project has been an amazing adventure, and I will write a couple articles about it. Eventually, I hope to hold an open house to 'dedicate' it.

That's all for this month-- and I didn't keep the article short. Happy Holidays, and keep looking down-- into your eyepiece! (If the clouds break!)

Tim Stoffel

Category: President