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SMA Board Minutes April 20th, 2022

SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes 

April 20, 2022 

Via Zoom 

7:00 pm 

In attendance: Directors Al DiSabatino, Bob Dodge, Russ Pinizzotto, Maame Andoh, Kevin Kane, Howie Marshall, Rob Burgess and members Forrest Sumner, George Bokinsky, Chris Parent and Jon Wallace. A quorum was present. 

The minutes of the March 16, 2022 meeting were approved.  

Follow-Up on Action Items:

  • Fred Martin biographical info:  This information was obtained as required to properly promote Fred’s talk on April 7th.
  • The suggestion to contact New England college physics and astronomy departments for speakers has been partially satisfied through the invitation to the club Open House set for 4/30/22. The physics and astronomy departments of Colby, Bates, Bowdoin and USM were all extended an invitation that included a request for speakers and/or assistance on outreach that may be required under any grant funding they received. As time permits more colleges and universities will be contacted. 

Committee Assignments: 

Rob asked board members for their preferences in serving on committees. The following positions were assigned: 

Program: Russ Pinizzotto (chair); Maame Andoh

Outreach: Ara Jerahian, Bob Dodge, Kerry Kertes, James Shields – chair TBD 

Membership: Al DiSabatino (chair); Kevin Kane

Equipment: Ara Jerahian (chair); Maame Andoh. Rob, Al, Kevin & Howie (being relatively local) can help with equipment check-in, check-out

Dark Sky: Rob Burgess (chair); Howie Marshall

Fundraising: Rob Burgess (chair); Bob Dodge, Russ Pinizzotto 

Committee Membership is open to all members. Rowan Gobele-Bain has offered to talk to Dartmouth faculty about speaking at a meeting. George Bokinsky will continue to supply names of possible speakers through his reading and research. Once an 11th Director is found that person’s capacity will be matched against Committee needs. Attached to these minutes is the latest update of Volunteer Opportunities to help the club. Rob will continue to serve as an ex officio member of each committee. 

In-Person/Zoom Meetings: 

There was discussion about returning to a physical meeting and pursuing a hybrid model with zoom. Russ reported on his experience at Simmons in trying to execute under that model. Even if technically possible (and there are many technical challenges) interaction between speaker and live and zoom audiences tends to be biased to the live audience. He suggested a hired technician may be necessary to facilitate the meeting. Chris Parent noted that he has a lot of experience with audio through his musical pursuits and offered to be of assistance. The consensus was that we should continue with zoom for the near future and fully research what would be required for hybrid meetings. Rob stated that while meetings provided an opportunity to physically interact, with the resumption of star parties and other events members will be interacting with other members. 

Summer Meeting Schedule: 

It was agreed to skip an August meeting as was done last year and resume zoom meetings in September. 

Program Committee: 

The May meeting will feature Prof. Atul Bhat from India speaking about “Stars and Constellations from the Indian Subcontinent.” In deference to the time differential Prof. Bhat will come on at 8 p.m, and be the last presenter on the agenda. The meeting will start at 7 but feature announcements, discussion and Russ’ tour of spring galaxies first. 

Open House Planning: 

Rob reported more than 115 parties from Media, local Middle and HS teachers, physics department faculty at Colby, Bates and Bowdoin (and today, USM), local businesses/neighbors at Brunswick Landing, and local legislators and town councilors had been individually invited. So far, the only certain volunteers were club directors, Ron Thompson, Forrest Sumner, Gorge Bokinsky (both tenative) and Jon Wallace. It is hoped that as we complete the phone survey of members that several will attend the event of be of assistance. Those planning to help should be on site by noon to help with set up. 

Neptune Star Parties: 

Jon reported he had a minimally sufficient group of volunteers for the first two star parties in May and June but that we needed to continue recruiting member volunteers to attend and possibly be of assistance. As we move into the summer we will determine if we have adequate support to conduct July and August events. Jon’s availability will be reduced due to his work with Colby on his micrometeorites. 

Outreach Committee: 

  • Space Day, Poland Middle School, Friday, May 6 (7:30 am – 2 p.m.) Additional speakers still needed to present to kids in this all day/all Space event. Rob will be attending and welcomes help from others.
  • Maine’s First Ship launch is scheduled for June 4 and we have been asked to offer a star party surrounding the ongoing festivities. In a conversation after the meeting with the Executive Director it was determined that June 4 would be too busy with all the activities associated with the launch that day, and that a fall star party, corresponding to when the ship, historically, was sailing to England, would be best. Evening comes earlier. A tentative date of Saturday, Sept 24, has been selected. This will be two after and two weeks before scheduled star parties at Neptune Dr.
  • The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust Astronomy talk featuring Russ and Rob will occurred on March 31. The talk will focused on light pollution and What’s Up in the Spring sky. Forty-three people attended and the talk was well received.
  • International Dark Sky Week (April 22-30) has no events scheduled. A tentative Kettle Cove event James suggested is not going to happen. The park now wants $5/head for such events. 
  • Kerry Kertes, however, took a group of students from Scarborough HS to Kettle Cove on April 12 for some star gazing. (Kerry’s obviously got pull!)
  • SMA has been selected/invited to be part of the First Light experience being organized by NASA around the JWST, with events scheduled for June-July. More details to follow.
  • Lunar Eclipse May 15-16: Ed Gleason has inquired if SMA wants to co-host an observing event on the USM campus that night. Rob will confirm if there is sufficient support to do so. 

Dark Sky Committee: 

Rob sent a congratulatory letter to the Town of Harpswell on its LED lighting decisions. Howie said the letter has been shared with the Board of Selectmen. Rob stated it was nice to be for something (congratulations) versus against something. 

Membership Committee: 

In looking for additional director members on the Membership Committee, Al stressed the need for a point person to handle inquiries received on the website, through Google Groups and NSN. That person would not have to handle every inquiry but would need to know to whom to steer it if it required an answer from another director. It was agreed to centralize this function within the Membership Committee. Al reported three new members since last month. Rob reported he had not heard back from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific of the club’s nomination of a club member for the Las Cumbres Outreach Nomination. Russ mentioned that the AL has a library telescope award and we should investigate whether a club can nominate directly. 

Equipment Committee: 

Bob reported that due to the press of work Ara had not yet posted the Questar for sale but would do so soon. 

Treasurer’s Report/Finance Committee: 

Bob reported $15,455.35 in the bank after paying bills and receiving $110 in new membership funds and $100 from the estate of Jeff Weinstein. Rob noted he thanked Jeff’s widow Mary on behalf of the club for Jeff’s thoughtfulness in remembering the club in his Will. 

The meeting concluded about 8:40 p.m. 

Submitted by 

Rob Burgess 

Next Directors’ Meetings for the year (all on Wednesdays at 7p.m. via Zoom): 

May 18 September 21

June 15 October 19

July 20 November 16

August 17 December 21

SMA Website

Volunteer Opportunities 

Ways to Help the Club 

Like many non-profit organizations, reliance on volunteers is essential. With no paid staff, what gets done is the result of the hard work and commitment of volunteers. What follows are ways in which you can help your club achieve its mission while gaining the personal satisfaction that comes from participating in a good cause. You will also learn a lot from your efforts.

Club Mission:

  • Promote the science of Astronomy by offering a forum for the interaction and collaboration of amateur and professional astronomers and members of the general public; 
  • Engage in outreach activities for children and adults that excite and educate about the wonders of our universe;
  • Assist schools and libraries with curricula and special projects related to Astronomy;

Collaborate with local astronomical societies in the above objectives; and

  • Actively engage as a member of the International Dark Sky Association in efforts to curtail light pollution and preserve dark Maine skies. 

How we are organized: 

The club is organized into six standing committees: 

  • Dark Sky – engage in proactive efforts to control light pollution
  • Equipment – manage club assets and operate the Equipment Lending program
  • Fundraising – seek additional outside sources of funding and build an endowment
  • Membership – Maintain and grow membership, manage in person meetings (once resumed) and member recognition

Outreach – Manage star party requests and club-scheduled events; external communications

  • Program – Monthly meeting content (especially main speaker), design and communication and special programs for member education 

Each of these committees has a board member as chair and usually one other board member for support and back-up. Regular members of the club can join these committees to help out as they can. 

Some ways in which you could volunteer to help our committees, and the club generally, to achieve our mission are: 

  • Dark Sky:
  • Gather local news stories on light pollution topics including proposed lighting ordinance changes in our footprint communities;
  • Research local lighting ordinances in search of model standards
  • Serve as a club liaison to others working on light pollution issues
  • Become a club outreach speaker on the topic of light pollution to civic organizations, clubs, etc., to raise awareness
  • Write letters to the editor of local papers
  • Help develop a recognition program by SMA for good actors (businesses or communities who use lighting responsibly)
  • Identify Dark Sky observing sites in SMA footprint communities & put on website 
  • Equipment:
  • Assist with incoming donations to evaluate them for “Retain for Club Use,” “Equipment Lending Program” or “Sell”
  • For items to be sold, prepare for market, photograph, and place ads; negotiate final price
  • Participate in Check-out / Check-in process for club Equipment Lending program
  • Obtain user manuals for all club equipment and basic operating instructions for all Equipment Lending program telescopes
  • Maintain and Fix Club Equipment
  • Maintain shed
  • Assist with the Library Telescope Program in concert with Cornerstones of Science
  • Maintain an up-to-date inventory of all equipment for insurance and management purposes
  • Develop a wish list for accessories to club equipment or new instruments on the market useful to the club mission 
  • Fundraising:
  • Help identify prospective funding sources of local and regional foundations
  • Grant writing; proof reading
  • Follow-up reports to grantors
  • Develop program for bequests/ estate plan fundingundefined 
  • Membership:
  • Provide high-touch follow up with new members – a warm welcome
  • Renewal thank you communications
  • Devise relevant surveys of the membership
  • Search out local student astronomy clubs; liaise with same to grow student membership
  • Assist with LLBean/club logoed clothing items promotion, ordering and distribution
  • Analyze membership trends: growth/attrition, and why
  • When in-person meetings resume, act as greeters
  • When in-person meetings resume, manage refreshments, name tags, etc.
  • Point of Contact for inquiries to club from Google Groups, SMA website and NSN 
  • Assist with developing a recognition program for distinguished service by members 
  • Outreach:
  • Help recruit volunteers for ad hoc star party requests
  • Help recruit volunteers for monthly Neptune Drive star parties; Open House
  • Participate in star parties as laser-pointer constellation tour guide, telescope operator, speaker, welcome table, general helper
  • Develop star party content
  • Research/advise Board on “safety of children standards”
  • Maintain/expand Media contacts lists
  • Coordinate outgoing SMA communications on meetings, events
  • Expand SMA social media presence to new platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  • Develop lists of area Middle and High School science teachers for club outreach
  • Website management and enhancements
  • Newsletter 
  • Program:
  • Help recruit speakers
  • Periodically review meeting format for time allocation, content
  • Recruit club members to present 5-minute bios on famous/little known astronomers
  • Publicize club meetings and other educational events inside and outside the club
  • Help develop programs and content for new member education
  • Assist with meeting summary preparation

Assist with recording meetings on Zoom, editing and then posting to an appropriate platform