SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes
March 16, 2022
In attendance: Directors Ara Jerahian, Al DiSabatino, Bob Dodge, James Shields, Russ Pinizzotto, Forrest
Sumner, George Bokinsky, Rowan Gobele-Bain, Howie Marshall and Rob Burgess and Club Members Jon
Wallace. A quorum was present.
The minutes of the February 16, 2022 meeting were approved.
Follow-Up on Action Items:
- Regular Star Party Program at Neptune Drive: Jon reported that he had received no response to his recent email to the full membership seeking volunteers for the regular star parties planned for Neptune Drive, which was, of course, disappointing. Previously, Bob, Kerry, Russ, Rob and Ara had previously indicated a willingness to commit to one or more of these events. It was agreed that direct contact with members who had attended recent star parties, or the calling of members in closer Brunswick, would need to be pursued to secure more volunteers. Jon has been provided with a list of members with mailing addresses to start calling. Rob stressed the importance of getting the ball rolling with these events to build momentum and encourage other members to step up. Rob reported that club member John Saucier responded to him offering to volunteer on some behind-the-scenes needs of the club.
- Reach out to sister clubs: Rob reported that all clubs in Maine were contacted about the Jonathan McDowell talk and that at least two new guests appeared at the meeting. We will continue to invite other clubs to future meetings as topics warrant.
- Reach out to colleges/universities for speakers: Rob reported he has yet to do this but will ensure it gets done once we have reconstituted Program and Outreach Committees.
- Rowe School star party debrief: Those directors in attendance reported our presence and participation was as symbolic as substantive. It was clearly chaotic but our presence, and the views we provided for kids through the telescope, was worth it. The experience was teachable about how we better organize and coordinate with school management for future school events.
- Commendatory letter to Harpswell on lighting: Howie will provide the names and contact information on Town officials so that SMA can send a letter congratulating them on their decision and process in upgrading town lighting to LEDs at 2200K.
- Replacement directors: Rob reported that Kevin Kane and David Gay have both indicated a willingness to serve. Based on director feedback Rob will approach Maame Andoh to see if she would serve.
George Bokinsky was thanked for his last-minute stand-in for Prof. McDowell who
became ill and could not appear. George’s overview of recent literature on the proliferation of
satellites was comprehensive and enlightening. Several directors commented on the enjoyable
free-wheeling discussion among members that occurred at the last meeting and recommended
we not over-pack all meetings to allow more time for such spontaneous discussions.
- Fred Martin, a retired NASA Engineer from the Apollo Mission, will speak at April’s meeting. ACTION ITEM: Howie will get a title for the program from Fred and some biographical information so that the meeting can be properly promoted.
- Rob offered several possible 2022 events that could serve as topics for future meetings: The DART Mission that will arrive at it asteroid destination in Sept. 2022; the JUNO mission close approach to Europa in June 2022; the PSYCHE launch to the metal-rich asteroid in the Asteroid Belt in August 2022; the ARTEMIS test flight in April, May 2022; JWST FIRST LIGHT in June, July 2022; Astrobiology 3 by George Bokinsky; Native American Astroarchaeology by Russ Pinizzotto; Moon Rock Analysis from Chinese Chang-E return mission; Indian Astronomy/Astrology by Prof. Atul Bhat; Tim brothers, Director of Student Observing at MIT and Bill Cotton and the VLA, and the Very Low Frequency Sky Survey; and George B’s niece who works at Northrup Grummond on satellite guidance. Rob will also follow up with 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.
- James announced that because of his new role as Scoutmaster for his son’s pack he would have to step back from his role as Chair of the Outreach Committee. He will continue to support the club’s efforts but won’t have enough time to do both.
- The Open House tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 30, needs non-rainy weather. Rob will check with Midcoast Hunger (the primary tenant at 179 Neptune) to see if they have any open space that we might set up in in the event of bad weather. If so, we can more confidently advertise the date of April 30. If not, we may have to delay our announcement until the last week when we have a better view of the forecast.
- Maine’s First Ship launch is scheduled for June 4 and we have been asked to offer a star party. New Moon is May 30, so the Moon will be ideal for twilight observing.
- The Cape Elizabeth Library EAA event with Ara and Russ occurred on March 8. It was another successful presentation with 58 in attendance. Objects observed included the Rosette Nebula, the Crab Nebula and a Neutron Star.
- The Kennebec Estuary Land Trust Astronomy talk featuring Russ and Rob will occur on March 31. The talk will focus on light pollution and What’s Up in the Spring sky.
- 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 that Observe the Moon Night in October will not work at Flatbread Pizza, nor at LL Bean. There’s a possibility of doing an event at Allagash Brewing. The club has also been invited to collaborate with the planetarium for an event on the USM campus.
Dark Sky Committee:
See above. [Subsequently, it was learned that the town of Lisbon is going to completely
reengineer its Main Street, including streetlights. This would offer SMA the opportunity to
suggest proper LEDs to the Town.]
Al reported that in the 12 month period of Jan’21 – Jan’22 the club has gained 20 new members
but that at present 16 existing members had not renewed. This is down by seven from last month. The
club is now showing 62 members (net) on NSN. Thanks to Al for his persistent reminders to non-
renewers. There was discussion on establishing a policy of waiving dues for any member 90 or older.
Such a change should be incorporated into a future bylaws change.
Ara reported he has photographed and will soon post the Questar on Cloudy Nights for sale. It
is expected, conservatively, that it should net $3,000. Bob, Howie and Ara were thanked for their efforts
in readying this scope for sale.
Rob has drafted text for a new tab on our website addressing how to donate equipment to the
club. Reselling such equipment has been a lucrative practice by the club while also assisting donors.
Treasurer’s Report/Finance Committee:
Bob reported $15,591.98 after the club purchased two new 2.5’x6’ vinyl SMA banners and
paying rent through March 31.
Rob asked each director to offer their feedback on the state of the club.
- Forrest: felt the club was more vibrant as evidenced by a more robust speakers and star parties/outreach events
- Rowan: Brunswick Landing was a great step forward for providing the club with opportunities for consistent outreach
- Al: Grateful for patience with Membership
- Russ: More outreach needed to younger members from Bowdoin, SMCC, schools
- George: COVID is not over; we have learned much from adjustments to Zoom meetings, including bringing in a wider array of speakers; new products (such as EAA, Unistellar) have/will allow ways to respond
- James: electronics are great but do not abandon the visceral experience of being at an eyepiece in conducting our outreach
- Bob: club has experienced historic growth but be mindful of not getting too far out over our skis in outreach and committing beyond our ability to enlist volunteers
- Ara: sought outreach experience and is getting it but recognizes we need more volunteers; thinks there is potential with displays in schools and libraries; has concerns about scaring away new members with too technical meetings and recommends balance in content; would emphasize better ways to introduce new members at meetings and elicit their stories and what brought them to SMA
- Howie: we should offer special-interest meetings off-cycle from regular club meetings
- Rob: Thought all these comments should be pursued by the club, particularly regarding over-commitments. Believes it will require greater commitment by board members in the early days of implementing these outreach programs but that as other members gain experience in these events it will be easier to recruit them for other outreach. Believes direct asks will be required to get volunteers in the short term; expecting people to respond to general emails is unrealistic.
There was further discussion regarding the membership information gathered, suggesting we need to
ask members about equipment and special interests so that could be shared among members to
facilitate more member-member interactions. A buddy system was recommended with an existing
member being assigned to new members to help them feel more welcomed.
The meeting concluded about 9 p.m.
Next Directors’ Meetings for the year (all on Wednesdays at 7p.m. via Zoom):