Southern Maine Astronomers
Board of Directors Meeting
19 September 2020
Directors Present: Rob Burgess, Forrest Sumner, Ron Thompson, Bob Dodge, , Ara Jerahian, Rowan Goebel-Bain, James Shields, Al DiSabatino, Scott Lovejoy, George Bokinsky. Guests: Russ Pinizzotto
Absent: Kirk Rogers
The Zoom meeting was called to order by Rob Burgess at 1000 hrs.
1. Program Committee: Rob Burgess, Rowan Goebel-Bain, and George Bokinsky report plans for future club meetings with invited speakers secured through April, 2021.
On October 3 the subject will be spectroscopy with speaker Tom Field; 5 November’s subject protostars with Kate Follette, December’s meeting features Dr Aileen Yingst with three potential topics including the Dawn Mission. Future mission to Moon, and Curiosity mission on Mars. January, 2021 appears to be basic astronomy with discussions of useful pieces of equipment such as eye pieces, finders, etc. “Show-and-tell” in the virtual world needs to be worked out in details. February, 2021 speaker will be Carroll Iorg, President of the Astronomical League. March, 2021 will feature Dr. Neil Comins of the University of Maine, author of “Heavenly Errors” describing common misconceptions about astrophysics. April, 2021, will feature Dr. Chris Magri of the University of Maine Farmington, on asteroids and radio astronomy. The committee will need to coordinate with Outreach Committee on publicity through news releases and e-mail.
2. Equipment Committee: Forrest Sumner reported that Kirk Rogers was unable to attend, being out of town. Ron Thompson reported that the club C-5 with case and tripod was sold for $450, which has been deposited into the club treasury. No further acquisitions. The equipment lending program and storage issues were deferred for later discussion. Rob noted that he and Forrest cleaned the 15” Discovery mirror and that the instrument is ready for sale.
3. Membership Committee: Bob Dodge reported the committee’s Zoom meeting with discussion of best method of interacting with the membership through either e-mail or a series of “Survey Monkey” surveys on a variety of club topics. A draft survey on a pending move to Brunswick Landing was deferred until the Board could discuss it. Scott Lovejoy and Al DiSabatino described the committee reducing the demands on Ron Thompson’s time by transferring these duties and documents to the Membership Committee.
5. 4.Outreach Committee: Ara Jerahian, Ron Thompson, and James Shields described the status of current projects including the SMA Facebook page to be up and running. SMA posters at 11” by 17” may be too large for locations to post on our behalf and that a smaller poster of 6X8” or 8.5X11” may be as effective and more likely to be used. The cost of the larger posters was $110.00 for 100 posters. Activities at several schools in Cape Elizabeth and Brunswick was mentioned.
The “touchless” “Safe and Sane” star party coordinated by and co-hosted with Cornerstones of Science (CoS) has been scheduled for 10/23/2020 at 1930 hours. James Shields described CoS’ plans with pre-registration limited to 50 (including SMA), masks, social distancing and observation of all other CDC guidelines. Various methods of conducting the star party were discussed including even using saran wrap over eyepieces and focusers that would be changed between users. However, most likely the event will be a laser tour of constellations, explanation of SkyMaps tools, and video astronomy displays using Revolution imagers. Tapes and light sticks to establish one-way lanes to and from the viewing sites was also discussed. Only a handful of members is needed to support the effort (in the interests of keeping total attendees to 50 or fewer). A push will be made to confirm those members. The effort is a learning experiment by CoS and SMA and will help guide future star parties in the era of COVID.
Ara Jerahian described changes to the webpage through the portal “Strikingly” that will enable prospective members to both join SMA and pay dues through a payment mechanism known as a “Stripe” account. The Facebook page has been recently used to communicate with the public on such issues as the location of the Neowise comet. Ara Jerahian also discussed getting images of the Board members on the website along with other astronomical images taken by members of the club onto the website as also being important in spreading news about SMA. The current plan is to have the transitions of platform completed by the year’s end so that renewal of memberships can be done completely on-line and securely. The new site would have improved functionality and would allow Committee members to update their respective areas of the site.
6. Treasurer’s Report: Ron Thompson reported $6,223.13 in the SMA account with accounting for on-going expenses such as liability insurance($438), memberships in the Astronomical League (~$200 ($5/member)), contribution to the International Dark Sky Association($50), and post office box rental ($148).
7. Brunswick Landings Site:
Rob Burgess began the discussion of considering a permanent location for the SMA at the renovated Brunswick Naval Air Station in shared space with an non-profit organization “Teens to Trails” that would allow potential space to store SMA equipment including telescopes currently at various members’ homes in a separate shed to be built or acquired for the site, that would be shared with our co-tenant. This would allow both a single site for the telescope lending program and potential site for star parties. Monthly meeting would be continued at USM Southworth Planetarium once the pandemic restrictions are no longer necessary. The arrangement has not been fully defined as the location within the building but the estimated cost of the sub-lease would be $150.00 per month. There will be no storage within the main building. Images from the internet of the site were presented to the Board.
A lengthy discussion followed regarding the cost and practicality of the commitment including potential impact on club dues currently reported as being the highest of all the astronomy clubs in Maine. Rob pointed out that the bulk of the funds in the club treasury were the result of three grants he wrote for the club in 2007 surrounding the club’s effort to educate school children about light pollution as part of the Globe at Night program. Club dues currently provide breakeven coverage of annual operating expenses, so the $6,000 in the treasury has effectively been unused for the last 12 years. Rob advocated for taking a chance for a year or two with this new arrangement since it met most to the criteria the club has had in place surrounding finding a permanent home location. Additional financial support to the club treasury could be provided by sale of the excess equipment, elimination of the PO Box rental, a growth in membership resulting from the increased exposure of club activities, a dues increase or a specific fundraising campaign surrounding the move. Directors raised many good questions that Rob agreed to obtain answers to. No decision was made during this meeting but further discussion, perhaps at a specially-called board meeting, will soon follow as our partner tenant needs to make their own decision as well, in part dependent on what SMA will do.
Adjourned at 1230 hrs.