SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes
February 16, 2022
In attendance: Directors Ara Jerahian, Al DiSabatino, Bob Dodge, James Shields, Russ Pinizzotto, Forrest
Sumner, George Bokinsky and Rob Burgess and Club Members Jon Wallace. A quorum was present.
The minutes of the January 19, 2022 meeting were approved. Ooohs and Ahhs were then expressed for
Russ’ new Unistellar telescope and its early results from downtown Boston. It was then learned that
George Bokinsky has also acquired the same instrument. Next star party “Gentlemen, start your
Follow-Up on Action Items:
- Regular Star Party Program at Neptune Drive: There was discussion on when these events would occur and the recommendation of Rob that the program be preceded by an Open House for the public, news media, etc., announcing our new location and capabilities. The Neptune Drive star parties would be the first follow-up manifestation that we were “on the map.” Discussion ensued on timing, with a recommendation for Saturday, April 30 to be free of school vacation week conflicts. It was suggested Physics/Astronomy profs from nearby colleges be among the invited. Jon and Rob will collaborate on organizing both undertakings with the first Neptune Dr star party expected in mid-May.
- LLBean Lunar Eclipse viewing: James has made contact with the new person at Bean’s handling these kinds of events. More to come.
- Jocelyn Hubbell - ME Parks: James has connected and she would like SMA to be part of various summer stargazing sessions at Sebago Lake and Bradbury Mountain State Parks. Details and timing to be worked out. Caution was expressed about over-commitments of the club.
- Report on how other clubs recruit volunteers: A continuing challenge; Rob supplied a draft document, recommended to be incorporated into our webpage, offering specific “rifle-shot” ways members could volunteer to help the club. The list of volunteer opportunities was organized around our committee structure and the needs of each committee to fulfill its role, as discussed at the January meeting.
The needed speaker for the February meeting was thankfully and very capably filled by George
Bokinsky providing his second lecture on Astrobiology. There were 31 attendees at the last meeting, a
second month of solid attendance. Dr. Jonathan McDowell will speak at our March meeting. ACTION
ITEM: Invite all Maine and NH clubs to join the Zoom meeting. Rob will get a Hold the Date notice out to
clubs with Zoom details to follow. Fred Martin, a retired NASA Engineer from the Apollo Mission, will
speak at April’s meeting. Possible speakers for the following month include Prof Atul Bhat (from India)
speaking on Indian Constellations and the intersection of Astronomy and Astrology in India; Tim
brothers, Director of Student Observing at MIT and Bill Cotton and the VLA, and the Very Low Frequency
Sky Survey. Russ suggested we contact the department chairs of Physics and Astronomy Departments at
major NE colleges and universities to see if they have faculty who would like to speak. Some may have
topics ready to go, others could use us to help fulfill public outreach required by grant funders. ACTION
ITEM: Rob will work with our Outreach Committee to gather names and emails to send out our request
for speakers to colleges and universities.
The Club received a request to participate in a community star party at Rowe Elementary School
in Portland on Friday, Mar 4 from 7 -8:30 pm. It will include some observing, a talk by Ed Gleason, and
then a book reading by a children’s author of the book “Skywatcher.” Rob informed Ed Gleason (who
asked for our help) that we would participate, pending board consideration. The Board had some
questions including the short period allotted to observing (30 min) considering all the effort in
mobilizing. ACTION ITEM: Rob will connect with the sponsor express our concern and report back. He
will also be the point person on this request.
The Cape Elizabeth Library EAA event with Ara and Russ is scheduled for March 1 or March 8.
The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust Astronomy talk on March 31 featuring Russ and Rob will be
Rob submitted SMA’s name to be part of the First Light experience being organized by NASA
around the JWST, with events scheduled for June-July. If accepted as an organization we will get more
details on how that will happen from NASA.
James indicated we might move the Observe the Moon Night in October to October 4 to
coincide with Flatbread’s non-profit promo night, where local organizations get a cut of the evening’s
proceeds. We could set up on their deck on in the Old Port. James is also looking at possibilities for
outreach events at Rising Tide Brewing, similar to what’s being contemplated at Flight Deck Brewing.
Dark Sky Committee:
Rob reported that Harpswell is planning to upgrade their streetlights to LEDs and he
recommended to Howie Marshall and Paul Howell, both Harpswell residents, that they encourage low
color temperature standards. It turns out Howie is on the town committee handling this conversion and
he reported the town is going with 2200K fixtures. ACTION ITEM: Rob to send commendatory letter to
the Town on their wise choice in low-blue fixtures and for protecting dark skies. This is an objective of
the Committee, to publicly acknowledge wise decisions with lighting by businesses and communities.
Al reported that in the 12 month period of Jan’21 – Jan’22 the club has gained 20 new members
but that at present 23 existing members had not renewed. Renewal deadlines were discussed and Rob
reminded all that the bylaws indicated anyone not renewing by 2/28 was no longer considered a
member. ACTION ITEM: Al to immediately get more forceful reminders out to non-renewers that we
need them to act to remain members. Rob will assist. It is easier to retain members than to find new
ACTION ITEM: The Board was asked to review the list of volunteer opportunities proposed for
their committees and to provide feedback to Rob. Rob will then work with Ara to get a tab added to our
webpage to list these opportunities.
Ara reported he recently sold the C-11 OTA, shipping included, for $2,970 net to the club. It sold
on Cloudy Nights within about a day. With the sale of CGE Pro Mount for $1,750 and Star Sense
Alignment system for $300, the club has netted $5,020 from the donation from a gentleman from Round
Pond last summer. The Board thanked Ara for his great work in getting this equipment tested,
photographed, advertised and sold.
Bob reported that he and Howie Marshall worked on the Questar that was not working but after
dismantling and cleaning it now works properly. A new power cord was also obtained. It is a
remarkable instrument. It is estimated it should sell in the $3,500 to $4,500 range once we put it on the
market. Bob and Howie were thanked for their efforts to bring this instrument back to life and to
increase its value.
Rob noted that once the Questar sells that through donated equipment sales the club will have
eclipsed the total of grant funding received from our fundraising efforts last year. While those will
continue, this experience demonstrates that by getting our name out there it is likely we will receive
equipment donations from others too old to continue using their equipment, or their estates. This may
be a more viable prong of financially strengthening the club than originally contemplated, and perhaps is
worthy of a tab on our website.
Treasurer’s Report/Finance Committee:
Bob reported $16,642 in the club treasury, supplemented by renewals and proceeds from the
sale of equipment as noted above. Rob reported that follow up letters were sent to the three
organizations (Bangor Savings Bank Foundation, Simmons Foundation and Worden Charitable
Foundation) that provided us with grant funding in 2021 thanking them for their support and reporting
on the state of the club, aided by their donations.
Board vacancies were discussed as were possible replacements. It was recommended that as
we seek to fill these spots we look for gender and age diversity. ACTION ITEM: Board members were
asked to again review our membership roster and recommend candidates. Rob to appoint a Nominating
Committee to participate in the candidate selection and in developing a slate of candidates for the open
director seats, and a new officer for Vice President.
The meeting concluded about 9 p.m.
Next Directors’ Meetings for the year (all on Wednesdays at 7p.m. via Zoom):