SMA Board of Directors Meeting
18 January 2020
Norway Savings Bank
Falmouth, ME, 04105
President Rob Burgess called the meeting to order at 1000 hrs. Those attending include Rob Burgess, Forrest Sumner, Ron Thompson, Al DiSabatino, Joan Chamberlin, James Shields, and George Bokinsky. Unable to attend: Kirk Rogers, Russell Pinizzotto, Paul Howell, and Gregory Thorup.
Approval on minutes of Board of Directors meetings on 9-21-2019 and 11-16-2019: The minutes were circulated and approved as amended.
Nomination of James Shields to replace Robert Page due to poor health. James Shields described his developing interest in astronomy and work with boy and girl scouts in astronomy projects as well as willingness to participate in board of directors’ activities. His nomination was seconded and approved by those present. Bob Page is thanked for his years of service to SMA.
Report of Dark Sky Advocacy Committee: Rob Burgess informed the board of his discussion of dark skies at the annual meeting of the Friends of Merrymeeting Bay, an organization of 450 members focused on educating about and preserving the ecology of the bay. About 30 members were present at the meeting. Rob complemented the group for its well-organized fall to spring speaker series, holding it up as something SMA should emulate. Opportunities for direct interaction with SMA are limited because of the different club missions, but FOMB is interested in efforts to control light pollution and also in collaborating on a star party, much like local land trusts.
Rob reported that the Brunswick Planning Board finally approved amendments to its zoning ordinance limiting the correlated color temperature of new outdoor lights to 3000°K, and requiring full cut off fixtures for any outdoor lamp above 1800 lumens. Final approval by the Town Council is still required and will be presented shortly.
SMA is invited to join “Dark Sky Maine” website being developed by Colin Cassie of the CMAS (Central Maine Astronomical Society) of Whitefield, John Meader of Northern Skies Planetarium in Fairfield and a woman from the Mt. Desert area.
Rob shared a copy of a Technical Assistance Bulletin “Promoting Quality Outdoor Lighting in Your Community” prepared by the State Planning Office as part of its January 14, 2010 report to the Business, Research and Economic Development Committee of the 124th Session of the Maine Legislature. The report was in response to LD 11, “Resolve To Encourage the Preservation of Dark Skies,” signed by Gov. Baldacci on May 4, 2009. Unfortunately, with the election of Paul LePage as governor later in 2010 the State Planning Office was abolished and the report has sat on a shelf ever since. It does represent a good planning tool that can be used in our advocacy effort with various towns and members were encouraged to share it with their representatives.
Russell Pinizzotto’s letter to Elon Musk regarding swarms of micro-satellites adversely affecting astronomy in multiple forms was briefly discussed. More signatures are being gathered at this time.
Report of Program Committee: Joan Chamberlin and George Bokinsky as members of the committee sought feed-back regarding recent meetings. The pre-meeting gathering over coffee at 18:30 appears to be popular allowing mixing and casual conversation among members and visitors. This should be continued. Some expressed hope that Edward Gleason would provide more publicity of SMA meetings at the Southworth Planetarium. Ron Thomson reports that internet service in the facility has greatly improved through installing a router on site. This opens the possibilities for expanded presentations.
Recent presentation including “forgotten astronomers,” book reviews, astro-shorts including “top 10 of 2019 in astronomy” received support. Russell Pinizzotto’s constellation of the month drew high praise. Whether to not these presentation can be placed on the SMA website is uncertain for reasons that appear to be complex and worthy of further discussion.
Future topics pending for presentation at the monthly SMA meetings include: Astro-year in review, black-hole imaging, gravitational waves, recent article on a statistical solution to the chaotic non-hierarchical 3- body problem, etc. Rob will resend the list from a popular astronomy magazine and encourage all directors to take one of the topics for discussion at future meetings
The state of current invited speakers appears unsettled. Rob will contact several local professors; Joan offered to reach out to Prof Julie Ziffer at USM. James suggested his wife, Linda Shields, on Girl Scout Astronomy; George - Dr. Carl Rodriguez of Harvard-Smithsonian CFA on BH dynamics, and Kirk Rogers on mythology of the constellation. With quality internet accessibility Rob will contact Dr. Ryan Hickox at Dartmouth for a possible Skype presentation. Rebroadcasting TED talks on astronomy was also discussed as topics for future meetings.
Report of Outreach Committee: Rob Burgess asked James Shields to join Ron Thompson on this committee and James agree to do so. Scheduled events status was discussed by Ron including cancellation of the Scarborough HS event, the Westbrook High School event scheduled for 1-20-2020 is still on and may be at the football field. Members are asked to participate. An event at Cape Elizabeth High School is tentatively set for 1/30/20, starting with a talk at the HS and observing at Gull Crest field.
Jon Wallace’s presentation of micro-meteorites at the Freeport, ME library is still scheduled for 2-3-2020 at 1700-1900 hrs.
Ron Thompson discussed the state of Cornerstones of Science library lending program for telescopes. Over 300 telescopes are now available for the public nation-wide. Cornerstones has a grant for a program at Maine State Parks and Ron was interviewed by the Portland Press Herald regarding it. The kick-off of the program will be on the UM Orono campus. Ron will keep SMA apprised of further developments and how we might participate.
Report of Equipment Committee: Forrest reported he and Kirk Rogers have been unable to get together to make recommendations on what equipment should be sold, and then how to sell it, as well as lending policies for club equipment.
Report of Membership Committee: Al DiSabatino was nominated and agreed to join Bob Dodge on the Membership Committee. The process of getting products with SMA logo from LL Bean was described and will be made known to the membership. Suggestions regarding improving the membership experience were solicited including greeting and following-up with first time attendees at meetings, recognition awards for contributions to astronomy by members. Supporting young members’ growth in astronomy was a focus. The Membership Committee was tasked with reviewing the Sept 2019 Reflector article on ways to grow a club and to report to the Board at its March 21st meeting with its recommendations.
Annual Meeting: The difficulties of attending director meetings was discussed by Rob Burgess due to available time, distance of travel, health, and other commitments. Rob will canvas existing directors who have missed multiple meetings to learn their intentions and to ask them to consider other ways of helping the club other than as a director. It is expected that as many as 3-4 new directors may need to be recruited and a nominating committee will be appointed to develop a slate of interested members for any positions that open up.
Directors’ planning retreat:Rob proposed the idea of an informal gathering of Directors for a few hours to evaluate the club’s mission and direction, given our recent 15th anniversary. Are our founding objectives still relevant today? Do we want to commit to finding a permanent location for placement of our equipment or should we remain “stateless” and focus more on monthly meetings and occasional star parties? Should we focus on recruiting younger members? If so, how would that be accomplished? A list of such questions would need to be developed beforehand to make a retreat effective.
Home-base for SMA: There was insufficient time to explore options regarding Hurricane Valley in Falmouth and the former BNAS facility in Brunswick. Rob met with the Executive Director of the Cathance River Education Alliance in Topsham to discuss such options. Logistically there was no fit in terms of their site, access for equipment, etc.. Rob will pursue Tom Wright for possibilities at the Brunswick site.
Next Meeting: Saturday, March 21, 2020, 10 am, Norway Savings Bank, Falmouth.
Adjourned precisely at 1200 hrs.