Return to site

SMA Board Minutes - May 16, 2020

· Board Minutes

Southern Maine Astronomers

Board of Directors

16 May 2020

1000 hrs

The scheduled meeting of the Board of Directors was called to order by Rob Burgess, President, at 1000 hrs with Zoom format necessitated by the ongoing SARS CoV-2 pandemic. Also in attendance were Ron Thompson (Treasurer), Russell Pinizzotto, Bob Dodge, Paul Howell, James Shields, Al DiSabatino, Ara Jerahian, Scott Lovejoy, and George Bokinsky.

Information submitted in advance of the meeting by Rob Burgess include four documents including minutes of the SMA Board of Directors meetings of 18 January 2020 and 4 April 2020, SMA astronomy assets, and Al DiSabitino’s spread sheet analysis of SMA committee assignments based on the Astronomical League’s recommendations as published in the Reflector.

Approval of Minutes of January and April, 2020 Minutes:

Opportunity to discuss the submitted minutes lead to no changes. Following Bob Dodge’s motion to accept these minutes, the minutes were accepted as presented.

Committee Reports:

Dark Sky Advocacy Committee:

Rob Burgess reported that not much has happened since last meeting other than to note challenges to proposed changes within the Town of Brunswick Planning Board. The Dark Sky Maine group is seeking to create or to be the “umbrella” for efforts to reduce light pollution. In accordance with the discussion of “deliverable” actions Rob and/or Committee will report on the current state of SMA footprint communities’ conversion to LED streetlighting at the next meeting.

Program Committee:

The departure of Joan Chamberlin for the Board of Directors and from the Program Committee is noted with regret and her great contributions to the committee, to SMA, and to the international astronomy family through education, advocacy such as Astronomers Without Borders, and mentoring aspiring astronomers is recognized.

The recent closure of USM including the Southworth Planetarium has necessitated two monthly SMA meetings to take place over the internet using Zoom. This produces both challenges as well as opportunities. Lost as a result is the spontaneous social interaction with fellow members and guests along the ability to project the night sky. Hands-on demonstration of equipment is also lost. Opportunities include greatly improved audiovisual presentations as well as the expanded audience that the internet presents. Since there is no date set to re-open the planetarium, further Zoom meeting should be anticipated and plans made accordingly.

Discussion centered around creating a program for the next three months with the hopes that a longer list of scheduled events can follow. Recent meeting highlights include Russ Pinizzotto’s constellations of the month, and Ara Jerahian’s “Introduction to Deep Sky Astrophotography.” Russ plans to present Canes Venatici at the June meeting. Russ, or Rob, will contact Skip Pass at to inquire as to his availability for the June meeting. Additionally mentioned were J. Kelly Beatty, Senior Editor at Sky and Telescope and Thomas Baumgarte at Bowdoin College.

Russell Pinizzotto and Paul Howell agree to join the committee to work toward the calendar of scheduled speakers for the monthly meetings.

Outreach Committee:

Ron Thompson reports that not much is happening in part due to social distancing related to the pandemic. Kerry Kertes is no longer on the committee being out of country. The Cathance River Educational Alliance expressed interest in a star party possibly in August. James Shields described use of Facebook as a means of providing “virtual” astronomy meetings giving the efforts of the Fort Worth (Texas) Astronomy Club as an example. There was discussion of using video cameras such as Revolution Imager, owned by the club, as a tool for our own EAA (Electronically Assisted Astronomy) star party as the imagers stacks images improving the experience. Paul Howell currently has the club camera and Russ and Rob have their own. Each party agreed to experiment to see if the images could be presented in a Zoom, YouTube or Facebook live presentation.

Equipment Committee:

Neither Forrest Sumner nor Kirk Rogers was in attendance. A listing of SMA assets has been created and a “check-out” process allowing members to use the telescopes, etc was discussed but is not available for review or to be placed into action at this time. Ron Thompson offered to check with libraries regarding their forms for lending telescopes to the public. Rob agreed to review the materials from a club and legal perspective.

Equipment unlikely to be used due to size making transport impractical was again discussed as to potential sale via Astromart or Cloudy Night classifieds section. All members with club equipment at their homes or in their possession were asked to provide photographs of the items to be sold to Ara so that the equipment could be posted on appropriate astronomy classified pages.

These tasks are assigned to Rob Burgess and Ara Jerahian.

Membership Committee:

Bob Dodge uniformed those in attendance that SMA clothing items from LL Bean and ordered by members can be picked up at his home.

Committee Structure Review by Al DiSabatino:

Using a guideline published by the Astronomical League in Reflector, and integrating existing committee responsibilities, Al created a spreadsheet of the various committees, their members, and duties for discussion. An engaged discussion followed regarding the importance of one person taking responsibility for the committee, assigning priorities to the tasks so that progress can be demonstrated in a timely fashion. In part, this seeks to lessen the burden from falling on one person for multiple functions within the club and to recruit members from the club to participate in these activities. There was also agreement that the result of each meeting should be assigned tasks, or “deliverables,” that would be reported on at the next meeting. A specific person from each committee would be expected to undertake whatever action had been agreed to and to have that task accomplished by the next meeting and to report back to the board with the details. Many members expressed the need for this kind of personal accountability related to their own life experiences on other boards and committees saying it was the best way to move an organization forward. Without it, board meetings simply become discussion sessions. It was agreed that additional suggestions for committee responsibilities should be forwarded to Al DiSabatino who will incorporate them into a revised master list that could serve as an agreed-upon list of all major committee duties that the respective committees would prioritize. The Board would then discuss and confirm that priorization.

From this discussion, on behalf of the Membership Committee Bob Dodge proposed making membership in SMA free for all students no matter their place in the educational process that could be renewed on an annual basis. Since part of dues goes to the Astronomical League, it was also proposed that the club could absorb this cost and reassess the impact on SMA finances in six to twelve months. Bob Dodge’s recommendation was discussed and approved.

Additional ideas brought up for discussion re Membership Committee duties were:

Rob Burgess: Establishing liaison with school groups, and recognition of members for achievements in astronomy and contributions to the club and Al DiSabatino: Incorporating club members with special interests in solar, meteorites, astrophotography as part of monthly meetings. Also, beginner’s astronomy sessions.

James Shields: Projected the new SMA logo as designed by his daughter with questions regarding where to display the art work and how the posters might be used in promoting the club. James also shared a prototype Facebook page he created for the club utilizing the poster artwork, and was thanked for his initiative.

Based on the prior board meeting Ron Thompson provided a list of activities he would like to have assumed by others. They primarily fell into the “membership” category of handling renewals and new members, providing refreshments for meetings and expanding the number of people capable of operating the planetarium. The Membership committee will consider these and report back on how it will undertake these tasks.

Ara Jerahian: Brief review of the status of the SMA webpage and or and improving the interface. Discussion of new models of webpage design ensued with several innovations now available that would modernize the club site and would be adaptable and easy to manage and edit. One feature would allow committee chairs to update their own sections so that the site was up to date with latest announcements and plans, which would be especially helpful for public outreach activities.

Rob Burgess: The annual meeting will take place in June with required notices sent to members at least 14 days in advance, in accordance with the bylaws. A Nominating Committee of Bob Dodge and Al DiSabatino has prepared a slate of candidates for vacancies on the Board and for Officers of the Corporation. The latter will recommend a re-election of incumbents all of whom have agreed to serve again in their current positions.

Respectfully submitted,

George Bokinsky, Secretary