From the President...

President's Perspective April 2012

It has been a busy couple of months for me, so I haven't had a lot of time to write stuff. My employer, KNPB TV, got a grant to build a new production control room. The challenge with this project was having to install about half a million dollars of new equipment, and rewire both video and audio in the control room, in about a month and a half, while retaining the ability to produce TV shows during the project. Needless to say, I worked 10-12 hours a day, for about 20 days straight getting this project done. (Ask me for a tour sometime if your interested!) As soon as this was done, I was able to spend 9 days in Southern Nevada, at a friend's place taking care of their animals while they took a trip. (More about that, later!) So, now, I am in 'catchup mode'.

This is traditionally the time of the year when ASN 'wakes up' from the long winter. So, observing activities are starting to ramp up for late spring and summer. But eclipsing all of this (all puns intended) is the upcoming annual eclipse of the sun on May 20th. This will be the biggest astronomical event for the ASN since the close approach of Mars in August of 2003. (I still remember the entire Mapes Hotel site filled with people, taking their turn to see Mars!) Plans for this event are coming together quickly, and you are advised to keep checking our website, as well as the Fleischmann Planetarium website for the event: There will be information there for people traveling to the area as well.

The events on May 20th will get underway about 5 PM at the MacLean Observatory, 18600 Wedge Parkway, in Reno. This is just off Mt. Rose Highway for those of you who have not yet joined us for our first Friday monthly public star parties there. There will be plenty to do besides look at the sun. There will be some demonstrations by the Desert Research Institute and Nevada Energy. The local Girl Scouts have some activities going on as well. KNPB TV will be bringing 'Sid the Science Kid' for children to meet. After the eclipse, there will be a dinner (see webpage for costs, etc.) for members of the various organizations (including ASN members) who participated in the event. At the dinner, Dean Regas, host of the popular PBS 'Stargazers' series, will be speaking. In any case, we are expecting a big turnout from the general public, a turnout that should eclipse (those puns again!) the 2003 Mars event! We are looking for volunteer help for this event. So, if you have some time, please consider coming and 'working' the event. At this point, I think we have enough solar-capable telescopes to handle this event, so we are not calling for more. We will be looking for the volunteers to be at the site around 3 PM that day. I am also hoping we will have distinctive T-shirts or ball caps for the volunteers to wear (we will ask for a donation to help cover their cost-- these will not be for sale!). Please watch the website for more details.

Remember to get your solar viewer glasses early, either at ASN meetings, the Fleischmann Planetarium science store, or from ASN member Jim Fahey. (Most of the officers also have solar viewers available to sell.) These solar viewers can also be used to view the June 5th Venus transit, or for any time you want to look at the sun.

While I was in Southern Nevada, I had a place to myself with reasonably dark skies. As the March new moon coincided with the spring equinox, it was the perfect time and place to do a Messier Marathon. I did this on Wednesday evening, March 21st, when we had a nice warm night, with cloudless skies (the transparency and seeing were a bit marginal, but not enough to be a major issue). The Las Vegas sky glow was manageable, and I could see most Messier objects in it quite clearly. I also took my time and visited such favorites as the Veil Nebula and the Double Cluster. Jupiter and Venus were spectacular that evening, especially as 'lamps in the sky'. The most memorable thing though, was seeing for the first time, the elusive 'Frosty Leo Nebula' in Leo. (With a lion (behind a fence) about 15 feet away. Oh! I didn't mention, my friend's animals are big cats! In any case, they love it when I am out at night doing astronomy, and caring for them also means spending quality time like this, with them.) I should be able to easily find this object now, in the future. All in all, I saw 109 of 110 Messier objects, by far my best ever. I would have had 110 if M30 hadn't risen behind the house on the property. In retrospect, I should have set up another 'scope (my friends have a 8 inch SCT as well, but the drive system is broken beyond repair), just to view M30! In retrospect, I wondered if I had missed the supernova in M95 (a galaxy I view pretty much any time Leo is visible). But I know now that my 'scope is too small to see it.

It is my understanding that the club's Messier Marathon, 3 days later, got 'weathered out'. This is too bad, as the timing for this year's spring marathon was very good. Even elusive M74 and M77 should have been easily seen. But this event has been rescheduled for the evening of Saturday, April 21st. M74 and 77 will be gone, but M30 in the morning should be a lot easier. I will not be able to be there, as I will be coming back from another trip to Southern Nevada, for the the National Association of Broadcasters convention.

Interest in astronomy in general has been growing. In light of this, the ASN is going to be trying to 'build connections' with other astronomy clubs in Nevada and California. We will be starting to do this as a build-up to the solar eclipse. Hopefully, this will open up some new observing and participation-type activities that we can take advantage of. The ASN has also joined the Night Sky Network, which should open up even more opportunities to get out your 'scope. They will also provide us with literature, discount magazine subscriptions and some services to make managing the club easier. Watch for more details coming as we get this relationship underway.

Some other things going on: With the upcoming eclipse, Jim Fahey has been working on some other activities. One of these is to help out Gordon's Photography with an event on May 19th, just prior to the eclipse. This will be an opportunity to promote the eclipse event, as well as educate people about astronomy. It is likely our local Meade representative will be there as well, as Gordon's does sell some models of Meade telescopes. I will not be able to be at this event, which I usually go to, because I will be in Albequerque, New Mexico. In the 'strange coincidence' department, this is the one other good place in the US to view this eclipse. But because of my involvement with our club, I will be leaving the meeting there (National Translator (TV/FM, not language) Association) a day early, so I can be back in Reno for our event. Otherwise, eclipse viewing is being planned as part of the meeting that I will be attending in Alberquerque!

There other activities going on, such as school star parties, talks at the Historical Society, etc. Help is always needed for these activities. Come to the meeting next Tuesday evening, April 10th, to learn more. Or if you can't make the meeting, contact Jim Fahey, who is coordinating all this activity.

Looking to summer, we have the Venus transit of the sun happening on June 5th. June 14-16 is the Great Basin Astronomy Festival (which I am planning to attend). July 18-21 is the Golden State Star Party (and I will be in Seattle during that event). I am also wondering if we might want to, not perhaps for this year, start organizing our own multi-night star party somewhere in central Nevada. This might be in association with the Tonopah astronomy group. I am also wondering if there is any interest in organizing a group to go down to Yosemite for one of their Friday night star parties they do all summer.

In any case, sorry for the long article this month. But there is so much going on that I know I didn't cover everything. But come to the meeting next Tuesday (I don't remember the topic-- bad President!!) and learn more. And stay for the board meeting afterwards, where the future of this organization (short term and long term) happens.

In the meantime, keep looking down (into your eyepiece)!
Tim Stoffel


Category: President