SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes
October 19, 2022
In attendance: Directors Al DiSabatino, Kevin Kane, Ara Jerahian, Howie Marshall, Maame Andoh, Carson Hanrahan, Kerry Kertes and Rob Burgess. Also joining the meeting weremembers George Bokinsky and Jeremy Wright. A quorum was present.
The minutes of the September 20, 2022 meeting were approved.
Follow-Up on Action Items and Committee Reports:
Debrief on September 24 Maine’s First Ship and October 8 Neptune Dr star party: George Bokinsky, who provided a talk on 17th century navigation, said it was a fun evening, even with the light from BIW to the south. He said one guest at his talk followed up with him and thought further collaboration been SMA and MFS would be a great idea. Rob said MFS Kirstie Truluck acknowledged a little more advance publicity on their part would have increased attendance – something good to know for any future event. SMA met its objectives with a focus on navigational stars and viewing 30 Pisces (YY Piscium) which was about 415 LY from Earth, with its light leaving the star about the same time the Virginia made its maiden voyage to England in 1608.
Carson asked for clarification on the Agenda’s reference to “OK attendance” at the Neptune Drive star party. Rob said about 40 guests attended which was slightly below last month, but a) it was cooler and b) there were competing events in the Brunswick area that night. However, two HS students from Windham made an hour-long drive to come and were very energized by the experience. They saw the notice in the Portland Cheat Sheet a non-traditional news source illustrating that using diverse media outlets is important to reach different demographics.
Jon Wallace provided by email several suggestions for future Neptune Drive star parties:
• Schedule of the evening’s activities at the Greeter’s Table (We have glow boards in the shed purchased for prior star parties that can be used)
• Maintain a Notebook of names and email addresses of attendees versus loose sheets of paper (purchased)
• List of equipment being used that night to alert attendees of choices (see below)
• Showcase equipment available through club lending program
• Maintain small, portable scope to be moved around as objects become visible through the trees as large stationary scopes can’t be moved
• Beginner’s station
Other members suggested the following:
• Move most observing to back of building to eliminate backlight from streetlight (Rob)
• Obtain red rope lights for staircase to back of building for safety (Rob)
• Buy another 6’ table for greeter’s area (Rob)
• Early bird telescope assistance with a dedicated group of volunteers. Encourage those seeking help with telescopes to come early (in daylight) for help with set up and operation. Don’t impinge on other volunteers who are doing set-up. (Howie, Maame, Carson)
• Organize scopes’ observing stations by object type so guests can knowledgeably move around (Carson)
• Provide name tags for all volunteers so guests know who’s with SMA (Al)
The Program Committee has the last two months of the calendar year covered but needs to flesh out dates in 2023. Russ was going to check with NE Colleges/Universities about faculty with projects needing outreach. A discussion with the Haystack Observatory was also a possibility as was a program with the Osher Map Library and its extensive collection of ancient celestial renderings. Kerry indicated he had a contact who worked for JPL who might be a good speaker. All Directors were encouraged to keep their ears to the ground regarding news events that might lead to getting a speaker.
• November 3: Thad Comacek, Professor of Astronomy, UMaryland – planet atmospheresfrom Hot Jupiters to rocky planets. We received a very nice plug for the event by Ed Gleason in his Daily Astronomer column.
• December 1: Greg Shanos, “Mars 2022 – An Observer’s Guide”
Maame thought a program on mythology, including Native American star lore, might be a great topic. Carson said a recent trip to the Devil’s Tower in the upper Midwest introduced him to Lakota astronomy traditions. In the past Russ has described Native American astronomical rock placements in New Hampshire that might be discussed. ACTION ITEM: Program Committee to report on speakers scheduled for 2023.
It was suggested that future club meetings include a formal assistant to help run the meetings from a tech support perspective, handling chat and making sure the meeting was recorded. Rob welcomed that idea.
There was extensive discussion of meeting perhaps the most common request of new members – help with equipment. One idea was to hold semi-annual workshops where people could bring their equipment for hands-on help. Another suggestion involved how to advise members (or others) about buying an instrument. The Club has dedicated a number of January meetings to helping members with new equipment Christmas presents, although due to COVID the last two have been virtual with the focus being more on general observing tips. Feedback from Directors has been that those meetings have been attended mostly by existing members who knew the material. Hands-on assistance is what is desired. Carson suggested dedicating a few minutes of club meetings in the pre-Christmas period with some pointers on first-purchase decisions and to add s tab on our website with similar information. Another suggestion was to invite “newbies” to come to a star party an hour early for assistance, although this would require one or more dedicated volunteers for this explicit purpose. Another idea was for a Saturday workshop in January at Neptune Dr, with pre-registration to manage the space and the number of volunteers needed. ACTION ITEM: Program Committee to report back with a) language to add to website on considerations for buying equipment and b) recommendations on the best way to provide hands-on assistance.
• Maine Coast Heritage Trust – Woodward Point (Brunswick) star party – Saturday, 10/29, 7-9 pm
• Neptune Dr star party - November 12
• BDA Fundraising Auction item, Oct 20 no immediate action required – club offered a star party for a private group at Neptune Dr that could include a business group or outing.
Rob will be soliciting volunteers for both of these events.
Kerry reported that as Chair of the Outreach Committee he has taken on the role as chief planner/organizer for club star party events for 2023. Others are, of course, welcome to assist with this challenging process. He and Rob came up with a tentative schedule for star parties for 2023 that was sensitive to lunar phase and generally included a young moon setting early. Club programs at Neptune Drive would resume in March through May as star parties. June and July events would be solar events (due to late sunsets making evening sessions too late). The Cape Elizabeth Family Fun Day, or the Cape Strawberry Festival might be the June event and the Yarmouth Clam Festival being the July event. Kerry will check with the organizers of these events to determine if SMA could participate. Nighttime star parties would resume in August through November. As there is a desire to hold at least one of these star parties elsewhere in our footprint members were encouraged to come forth with ideas on where and how to do that including partnering with local groups like Land Trusts or Libraries, and report back to Kerry or Rob. ACTION ITEM: Kerry to circulate proposed schedule for 2023 Outreach events.
Dark Sky Committee:
Howie reported on his work to develop a SMA footprint-wide list of dark sky observing sites. He proposes a survey of the membership asking for their local knowledge on good sites in their area that are publicly accessible. Among the criteria to be addressed are:
2. Parking? Cost?
3. Open hours
4. Access: Public, private, etc. Admission charge? Advanced permission/arrangements required?
5. Capacity: how many people, cars, telescopes?
6. How good is the surface for walking, standing, setting up a telescope; how far from parking?
7. Directional visibility: how clear is the view of the sky in various directions?
9. Sources of local light and light pollution: direction, hours
10. Power available?
At the next few club meetings members will be encouraged to complete the survey. Logistics on getting it out to all members will be determined. ACTION ITEM: Develop questionnaire and means for soliciting member input by next meeting.
Rob reported on the recent work with Dark Sky Maine and the Natural Resources Council of Maine at the Patagonia store event in Freeport and with plans to have the film shown in the Brunswick and Cumberland libraries. Directors were encouraged to pursue connections in their communities with libraries, land trusts and other environmental groups to show the film. If there is interest, please refer them to Rob who will coordinate with DSM and the film director.
Al reported memberships continued to roll in, with five new members in the last week and a half. Ara stated that as we approach 100 members we need to upgrade our plan with Strikingly to the next level. It will cost about $150 extra per year but we will also get some additional functionality including an internal communication platform that might address some of the problems we’ve had with GG and NSN. Ara will provide the details once fully understood. Ara was authorized to upgrade our plan.
Al, Kevin and Rob reported on a Membership Committee meeting on Monday about how to improve onboarding of new members, and reduce the administrative work of managing NSN, GG and AL memberships. Al currently works with all three. And because of the approach we have taken with regard to members opting in to NSN, Al has had to do follow up with many members to determine their election.
Among the three members it was agreed that the website could be improved to present a more affirmative case for joining the club, highlighting all the benefits of membership in more detail than presently. ACTION ITEM: Develop draft text for revamped webpage highlighting membership benefits for November meeting.
There was extensive discussion on the requirements of NSN as to opting in or opting out of inclusion by new members. At the conclusion it was agreed that we would sign up new members for GG and NSN upon joining and would advise them of their ability to Opt Out if they so chose. We agreed to provide a limited amount of time (a week after processing their membership) to opt out (although as a practical matter anyone can opt out at any time). This would streamline the membership joining process and get more members onto GG, in particular. We agreed to enhance the Welcome letter to again highlight all membership benefits and how to access them.ACTION ITEM: Draft revised Welcome letter for review at November meeting.
• Rob reported that recently donated C-8 from Owen Buck had been inventoried and stored in the shed. Bob also had sent Owen a thank you letter acknowledging the donation. ACTION ITEM: Update Equipment List for insurance and other purposes.
• Ara reported that after extensive and frustrating negotiations with a potential buyer the Questar did not sell. It is back on the market at $4,500, with the club bearing PayPal and shipping fees (meaning a net to the club of about $4,250 at the asking price).
• There was discussion about making a determination of what equipment would be available for the lending program and then so noting that on our webpage, and elsewhere. There was also discussion about acquiring one (or perhaps two) Library Telescope-type instruments for our lending program and for beginners to use at star parties. ACTION ITEM: Equipment Committee to identify lending program equipment, get pictures for website, and costs out Library Telescope scope(s) for lending program and use at star parties.
Treasurer’s Report/Finance Committee:
In Bob’s absence Rob reported $13,477.75 in the Treasury with virtually no change from last month. New memberships offset modest interim expenditures. Rent has been pre-paid through 12/31/22. Rob reported that although Teens to Trails experienced a modest increase in their rentthey have not asked for more from SMA. A new Shared Use Agreement with Teens to Trails is out for signature.
Suggested changes to the bylaws were discussed at the October meeting and a redlined version of the changes was provided. Notice to the membership went out 14 days prior to the October 19th meeting as required. There was no further discussion at the meeting and the bylaws changes were unanimously approved.
The meeting ended about 9:10 p.m.
Next Directors’ Meetings (all on Wednesdays at 7p.m. via Zoom):
• November 16
• The December Directors’ meeting was cancelled due to the holidays and Rob’s absence for much of the month.
• January 18
• February 15
• March 15