Southern Maine Astronomers
5 May, 2022 1830 hours
Attending were members Russell Pinizzotto, Greg Thorup, Bob Dodge, Forrest Sumner, George
Bokinsky, Ron Thompson, Paul Schumann, Howie Marshall, John O’Donnell, Greg Shanos, John
Bucci, Anita DeVito, Ara Jerahian, Jack Gelfand, Scott Lovejoy, Kevin Kane, David Manchester,
Dwight Lanpher, Maame Andoh, Brad Irish, James Shields, Al DiSabatino, Joanne Sharpe, Jeff Van
Fleet, Kat Taylor, Tom O’Conner, Chris Parent, John Saucier, James Hummer, Chalmers
Hardenbergh and Rob Burgess and new members Craig Snapp, Joe Long and Dana Hutchins,
guests Mikel Satcher, Daniel Raach and Doug Lund Yates and guest speaker Asst. Prof. Atul Bhat.
This was another very well attended meeting.
1900: Rob Burgess opened the formal portion of the meeting stating the club gained four new
members in the last month, three of whom were in attendance, and a fourth, Carol Alcott. He
welcomed them all to the club and also welcomed tonight’s guests.
Recent activities by members:
- New member Joanne Sharpe recommended the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society’s lectures and noted Prof. Alex Fillipenko was scheduled to present at an upcoming meeting.
- Kerry Kertes led a group of Scarborough HS students for an evening of observing at Kettle Cove on April 12.
- Rob reported on the club’s Open House at Neptune Drive on April 30 that saw about two dozen club members in attendance as volunteers or guests and about 30 visitors. The weather cooperated allowing Ron Thompson to provide views of the sun through the club’s solar scope, while Jon Wallace allowed guests to focus his radio telescope on the sun and study his meteorite collection. Chris Parent collimated a number of members’ reflectors, including the club’s 15”Dob, and answered questions. Russ Pinizzotto brought his new EV scope, a Questar and his large binoculars. Everyone in attendance enjoyed the event.
- Space Day is May 6. SMA will assist with presentations at the Poland Middle School by Rob Burgess.
- The Club’s first star party at Neptune Drive is scheduled for Saturday night May 14 at Neptune Drive at 8 p.m.
- The total lunar eclipse is on May 15-16. Club members are invited to join folks on the USM campus in concert with the Planetarium staff. The next club directors’ meeting is Wed., May 18 (now postponed to May 25) at 7 p.m. via zoom.
Guest Speaker: Asst. Prof Atul Bhat from Poornaprajna College and Poornaprajna Amateur
Astronomy Club in Udupi, India.
Rob introduced Atul who received his Masters in Physics in 2015 from Jain University and has been
actively involved in promoting astronomy to the public in India ever since. He has published
beautiful inforgraphics in English and Hindi about astronomical events, as well as games such as
crossword puzzles and connect-the-dots star charts for kids. When a solar eclipse
crossed nearby in 2019 Atul was involved in promoting eclipse observing awareness in over 200
schools locally and 1,000 schools across India.
Atul began describing the importance of astronomy and astrology in Indian culture, citing the ancient
texts and epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata that were replete with astronomical references such
as to the planets, Moon and Sun as well as eclipses. Similar to Greco-Roman mythology all celestial
objects were deified. Rahu and Ketu were such beings that ate the sun and moon during eclipses.
Modern day researchers have traced backward in time to determine when significant celestial events
have occurred to see if they can then be related to events in epic religious/mythological texts.
While the West uses the Gregorian calendar that measures time in relation to the Sun, in India time
is measured in more ways including in relation to the Moon and stars. The Candra Mana calendar is
based on the Moon and its fortnight cycle of New to Full in one fortnight and then back to New in
another. A Masa is a lunar month, new moon to new moon. In the course of that circuit the Moon
(Candra) passes near 27 background stars along the ecliptic that in mythological texts correspond to
the 27 wives of the Moon, the Nakshatres. Candra would spent one day with each wife, but his
favorite was (by our naming convention) Aldebaran because the Moon occults Aldebaran more than
any other star.
Using a lunar calendar causes the Indian and Gregorian calendars to become unsynchronized with
the Indian year having twelve masas equaling only 354 days. Every 2.5 to 3 years another month
would have to be added to re-synchronize the two calendars.
Indian culture has its corresponding words for equinox (Vishuva) and solstice (Aayana). It also has
specific references to the Sun’s relative direction in the sky such as “Dakshina ayana” for “sun
moves north” and “Uttara ayana” for “Sun moves south.” A Yugadi is the New Year and it is
celebrated with sweet and bitter foods to reflect the vicissitudes of life. The Indian calendar and
ancient writings recognized the precession of the equinoxes, which is currently celebrated on April
20, moving forward 1 day every 75 years.
Atul explained how some major constellations are viewed from the Indian perspective. The Big
Dipper asterism was characterized by the Seven Sages. From another perspective the bowl of the
Dipper was a stretcher carrying the dead to cremation followed by three mourners. The Pole star,
Dhruva (or immovable) was considered to be deep in meditation. Alpha Centauri was considered a
companion to our Sun because of its closeness. But how was closeness determined? Through
parallax, a trigonometric technique that was recognized in India as in the Mediterranean. Gemini
was seen as two women carrying water. Orion was variously seen as a plow (the belt stars and
Rigel) and alternatively as an entity related to Shiva, dancing on a demon (the constellation Lepus).
Taurus was the ox of Shiva, while Scorpius (“Ganisha”) was the head of an elephant on a human
body, with the curled up tail of the scorpion being the curled trunk of an elephant. Mizar and Alcor in
the handle of the Big Dipper figure into the imagery of modern day Indian wedding ceremonies.
Atul also briefly touched on Jantar Mantar, part of five historic, large astronomical observatory sites
built in the 18 th century. These structures contain various instruments, one of which is an enormous
sundial. The site in the city of Jaipur with the sundial was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage
site in 2010.
Overall, it was an amazing talk and this summary does not do it justice, given that trying to record
the difference in culture and approach as explained by Atul was akin to drinking from a firehose! His
slide deck from his talk has been made available to the club, and anyone wishing to have a copy
Tour of Astro League Spring Galaxy targets by Russ Pinizzotto
The Astronomical League Observing Program for Spring Galaxies requires the observing (and
sketching) of at least 12 of 22 galaxies between March 1 and June 30, with reports to be in by July
31. Observations can be visually or by imaging, by manual location or Go To, containing a brief
description in your own words as to what you saw with an accompanying sketch. The pool from
which to observe is: M 81 (Bode’s Galaxy), M 82 (Cigar Galaxy), M 108 (Surfboard Galaxy), M 101
(Pinwheel Galaxy), M 51 (Whirlpool Galaxy), M 63 (Sunflower Galaxy), M 94 (Cat;’s Eye Galaxy), C
32 (Whale Galaxy), NGC 4656 (Hockey Stick Galaxy), C 38 (Needle Galaxy), M 64 (Black Eye
Galaxy), M 87 (Virgo A Eliptical Galaxy), NGC 4438 (The Eyes), M 66 (Leo Triplet Galaxies), M 65,
M 83 (Southern Pinwheel), M 104 (Sombrero Galaxy), C 60 and 61 (Antennae Galaxies), C 53
Spindle Galaxy), C 77 (Centaurus A) and C 57 (Barnard’s Galaxy). Russ is the administrator for
some of the AL Galaxy Observing programs and can fill in details on program requirements and how
The meeting concluded about 9 p.m.