From the President...

February 2012 President's Perspective

2012 sure has gotten off to an interesting start!

Who would have imagined the kind of weather we have been having, in January? It has made some possibilities for astronomy that otherwise wouldn't have been. I've taken advantage of these possibilities. But it seems every time I get the 'scope set up, it suddenly clouds over! Even so, I have managed to get some observing done, despite the 'water vapor nebulae'. And this is certainly better than most Januarys I have experienced since I moved here in 2000.

I also want to mention the Holiday party we held at Tim Burn's house on January 14th. What a good time we all had! There was more food than anyone could eat. There was a lot of fun. And a wonderful white elephant gift exchange (except that there was some very nice stuff in the gift exchange!) Interestingly enough, there were beautiful dark skies at Tim's house, but no one remembered to bring a 'scope. And just like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, the skies were clouded over (and a nasty wind had picked up) by the time I got home.

February is the last of three months of 'deep winter' here. But even though we may still be in the deep throes of winter, astronomy activities are heating up! Just looking at the schedule of upcoming events, there is something for (almost) everyone.

There are the usual events. Our Public star parties this month are on Friday, February 3rd (at Redfield Campus Observatory at dusk) and on Friday, February 17th (Sparks Marina park at dusk). There is the member's meeting on Tuesday, February 14th (7 PM at Fleischmann Planeterium on the UNR campus)(I do not know what the topic is yet). The monthly Board of Directors meeting always follows the general meeting, and is open to all members.


We are starting to see the usual spate of spring school star parties, perhaps a little early this year. This is in large part due to the efforts of ASN member Jim Fahey, who has been doing an outrstanding job of promoting and setting up these activities. We have one scheduled on Thursday, February 23rd at Grace Warner Elementary School, and another one on March 8th at Alice Taylor Elementary School. It is always fun to bring the night skies to children, as it can spark a lifelong love of Astronomy. I suspect that my life may have turned out differently if I had had the chance to do this when I was young. So if you can, work one or more of these into your schedule.

With the annular solar eclipse coming up on Sunday, May 20th, things are starting to get into high gear for promoting this important event. We are 'out on the leading edge' with this event, spearheading the promotional campagin with the planetarium. We have a working agreement with them concerning who is going to do what, and when. With up to 100,000 people expected to flock to Reno to see this event, we need to be ready! Jim Fahey is doing a number of different educational events to cover different groups of eclipse viewers. Especially important is school outreach. When I was young, we had a solar eclipse where I lived. Our teachers shut us in our rooms, pulled the shade, and forbade even the 'science nuts' (which I was one) from observing the eclipse, for fear 'we'd burn our eyes out'. We don't want this to happen this time!

A quantity of eclipse viewing glasses have been obtained, with information for safely viewing the event printed right on them. There is also information on them for the June 5th transit of Venus. These are available from Jim Fahey for sale to friends, businesses, etc. They will also be available at the planetarium, and at ASN events. The going price is $2, with special pricing for groups, schools, businesses, etc. We want to get as many of these viewing glasses out there as we can, but at the same time, we are trying to make a little money off of them to cover the costs associated with promoting this event. As we get closer to the event, we will try and get a supply of these to every interested member. There will also be plenty for everyone to do as tha date draws closer.

UNR and the planetarium have set up a website with additional information: www.eclipsereno.unr.edu (rumor has it you will soon be able to find this site at www.eclipsereno.com as well).  Searching the web is turning up some interesting websites regarding both the solar eclipse and the Venus transit. I would list some of these sites, but I think that it would be more fun for you to discover these on your own.

Thanks to some extra effort on the part of Tim Burns, Robbin Scholl, and Lynda Traves (and others wh I am sure I missed), you can now join the ASN on our website, or renew your membership. You can use PayPal to pay for your membership or renewal. And down the road, you will be able to order ASN merchandise through this same portal. Thanks again for doing this right in the middle of the Holiday season!

Now onto some other things going on in the ASN. At the January Board meeting the ASN Board of Directors voted to make a substantial investment in what is becoming the clubs premier observing instrument, the 20 inch telescope. We voted to purchase an Equitorial Platforms motorized tracking system for this 'scope. This system consists of a platform on which the telescope is set up. The platform allows a limited amount of equitorial mount-like tracking for large Dobsonian telescopes. The platform is first readied for tracking, and then, an object is located. the mount is turned on, and it will then track the object for more than an hour. Since this is an equitorial type mount, this would even allow astrophotography to be done with this 'scope, without the need for a field de-rotator. But for visual astronomy, and especially group or public viewing, it means no more nudging the 'scope to keep an object in the field of view. This should improve viewing for everyone who uses this fine instrument.

Also at the last Board meeting, it was decided that the club will investigate becoming incorporated as a nonprofit under the State of Nevada, as well as write a set of by-laws. We have been registered with the federal government as a nonprofit 501c3 for several decades now (which allows you to deduct donations to the club). But none of the current members can remember the last time, if ever, we were incorporated with the state (which would be required to legally sell club logo merchandize, etc.). Although the club has a constitution, we have not been able to find the last set of bylaws, something we need before incorporating.  Therefore, a number of us are getting together to draft a new set of bylaws, which will be forwared to the membership for review and approval. Becoming incorporated brings some responsibilities with it, and we want to make sure that these responsibilities are addressed before we proceed with incorporation.  Bottom line, we are doing some housecleaning to ensure our affairs are in order.

Finally, at the last Board meeting, we put Mike Hopper in charge of running the monthly club meeting. This is something that has been on Mike's heart, and this will give him an opportunity to 'run with it' and see how it works. There was some talk about making this an official responsibility of the Vice President, but it was decided that this was not a necessary thing to do. To cover other outreach activities of the club, both internal and external, we are going to once again start holding periodic program planning meetings, but not in place of Board meetings, like was done before. With all the special events, this is going to be a very busy year for the Board, and we want to be able to meet on a routine basis.

With that, I will remind you that YOU are part of the Board of the Astronomical Society of Nevada. Your attendence is always encouraged at Board meetings, and attendees are allowed to participate in the meeting. Even with new bylaws, we intend to keep things this way because this is YOUR club, not my club or the Board's club!

Keep looking down (into your eyepiece)!
See you under the stars!
Tim Stoffel

Category: President