SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes
May 25, 2022
In attendance: Directors Al DiSabatino, Russ Pinizzotto, Kevin Kane, Howie Marshall, Kerry Kertes and Rob Burgess and members Jon Wallace and Dana Hutchins. A quorum was present.
The minutes of the April 20, 2022 meeting were approved.
Follow-Up on Action Items: None
Debrief on Open House and Neptune Dr star party: Those directors and members in attendance reported favorably on both events. The Open House generated an audience of about three dozen in addition to more than two dozen members “who all seemed to be very happy to be there.” It showed there is a real interest in astronomy and the value of promoting the event, as some reported seeing an announcement in the paper and chose to come - demonstrating the obvious that “it pays to advertise.”
Rob said that a key role of the Outreach Committee is such promotion and he looks forward to the Committee’s focus on promoting our public events.
With no formal speaker for June it was suggested and agreed that inviting group discussion on a couple of current topics in astronomy/cosmology would be a good substitute: past spontaneous discussions have been widely enjoyed, and a break for formal presentations would be welcomed. All were invited to suggest topics and Russ will also generate some topics (e.g., Big Ear Radio Telescope at Ohio State “WOW” signal; Hubble Constant controversy) for the meeting. Greg Shanos had clear skies in FL for the eclipse and got some excellent pictures. He will make a short presentation of his pictures at the June meeting.
Russ has been in touch with Boston College and Boston University Physics departments for speakers and there is a definite willingness to do so later in the fall. This includes the Haystack Astronomy Center in Western MA. Howie suggested a cosmology professor from UNH (Dr. Chandra ___) who was recently a presented at a podcast taping he attended. He will reach out to her to see if she might reprise her talk to us. Dana suggested we look into remote observatory access for our star parties in the event of clouds where, by subscription, we might tap into real time observing elsewhere in the world.
Rob reported Stella Ocher, PhD candidate at Cornell, will speak at our July meeting on the Interstellar Medium. He also noted Greg Shanos has offered to do a presentation later in the fall on observing the Mars opposition. Kerry will also reconnect with a few individuals he met at a robotic competition who had relevant careers in space science or engineering.
Neptune Star Parties:
Jon reported that we are minimally staffed for the June 11 star party at Neptune Drive, although we could always use more member participation. We need to recruit speakers and helpers for future star parties. Protecting against automatically locking doors will be a priority for June!
• Rob reported that his attendance at Space Day at the Poland Middle School on May 6 went well. He presented to four classes of 20 + students each and the school was abuzz with its all-day space focus.
• Dana Hutchins reported on a program involving working with teachers and students on a cube-sat project. Given the timing he believes the opportunity may have passed. He said he did not necessarily have the technical expertise to participate but cited the program as an opportunity that SMA might like to explore participating in if/when such things arise in the future. Rob stated that establishing better liaisons with area schools is clearly a goal of the club, once again governed by our capacity to solicit sufficient volunteers to support any commitment. Dana also reported that the Cumberland Library is looking to hold another star party on August 25 at Twin Brooks Recreational Center. More to come on this. The club shared the spotlight with the Planetarium in arranging for a talk and telescopes at last year’s clouded-out event.
• Kerry will check in with the Cape Elizabeth police department about the possibility of a group of observers at Kettle Cove on the night of May 31-June 1 to see the Tau Herculid meteor shower. We will watch the forecast to see if this could be an event with club sponsorship.
• 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.
• Yarmouth Adult Ed contacted the club about offering an Astronomy 101 program of a duration of our choosing as part of their fall offerings. Ron Thompson will pursue this possibility with the Town.
Dark Sky Committee: No report
Al looked into the registration process of Night Sky Network and reported that the amount of information members can have on our site on NSN was to be chosen by the individual member. In short, it is an “opt-in” system. The best we can do is to encourage new members to provide us with more detailed address information as it does facilitate more intra-club interaction. For those wishing to receive the Reflector in hard copy we obviously get detailed address information.
Google Group participation among members remains spotty. Out of 71 members shown on NSN only 39 are on GG; two of the missing are Directors. We need to find a better way to sign up or recruit new members to join GG including the large number of current members who are not on GG.
Previously, 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 and Kevin agreed to serve in that function. ACTION ITEM: add Kevin to all lists that generate automatic notice when an inquiry is received by the club through our website, or NSN.
The phone surveys and Google Forms follow-up surveys were discussed. There were more telephone call connections made than there were follow-up surveys completed by members (only 14 of the latter). It was agreed to refer all collected material to the Membership Committee for review,, analysis and synthesis of responses. ACTION ITEM: Send all interview forms to Kevin who will report to the Board at the next meeting on survey and interview results, showing among other things, number of calls, number of forms submitted and themes emerging therefrom.
Bob reported that due to the press of work Ara had not yet posted the Questar for sale but would do so soon. On the agenda, Rob posited the question if we should keep the Questar for club use. It was never addressed due to the slow start to the meeting. ACTION ITEM: If not yet sold discuss Keep or Sell at next meeting.
Also not addressed was an agenda item posited by Rob to have a work party at the shed to: 1)scrap anything of no value; test all equipment for whether it works; identify any missing components including electrical connections; identify after-market accessories such as tripod head landing plates, dew removal systems/ dew shields, etc. for club equipment. ACTION ITEM: Set a date for a work party at the shed.
Treasurer’s Report/Finance Committee:
After the meeting Bob reported $15,906.76, an increase of $451.41 resulting from $172 in collections at the open house from donations and hat sales and dues from new members.
The meeting concluded about 8:40 p.m.
Next Directors’ Meetings for the year (all on Wednesdays at 7p.m. via Zoom):
June 15October 19
July 20November 16
August 17December 21
Volunteer Opportunities / Guide for Directors
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.
• 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
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
- 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
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 funding
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
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
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