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SMA Board Minutes - Sep. 30, 2021

· Board Minutes

SMA Directors’ Meeting Minutes

September 30, 2021

Via Zoom


In attendance: Directors Ara Jerahian, George Bokinsky, Al DiSabatino, Forrest Sumner, Bob Dodge, Rob Burgess and James Shields and Club Members Paul Howell, Jon Wallace, Howie Marshall and Ron Thompson. Russ Pinizzotto, Kerry Kertes and Rowan Gobeil-Bane were unable to attend. A quorum was present.

The minutes of the August 21, 2021 meeting were approved. Rob asked James Shields as Outreach Coordinator to procure the items identified at the last meeting to assist with star parties: red lights at the registration table, a white board identifying scopes/observing areas, etc. James was also to explore using a QR code to link to a page where the evening’s observing would be set out so people could follow by phone and eliminate the need for paper handouts.

Replacement Director for Scott – No update. Rob will continue to pursue and would appreciate any suggestions.

Communications – internal & external – Rob lamented the low turnout at the club open house and that only four questionnaires have been returned from the membership at large. Jon Wallace said that his former club in CT, specific jobs were identified and people were recruited as to those tasks.

Timing for star parties were discussed. It was agreed that Saturday nights are better than Fridays. It was also agreed that choosing the same Saturday night would provide consistency in our message, e.g., star parties on “the third Saturday of the month.” It was also agreed that for Neptune Drive events we would meet regardless of weather: an indoor program would be developed to provide basic astronomy instruction supplemented by having members give short sessions on a topic of particular interest to them. Ara suggested that internal emails about event planning now directed to the board be shared with the membership at large to let them know of the planning underway and our need for volunteers.

Star Party and Other Events

- Paul reported that Bowdoin was seeking a faculty astronomer and if one were hired there would be a real impetus for the college to build a new observatory. Interesting opportunities abound for SMA to interact with the college. In the meantime Paul thought it was likely we could get some Bowdoin students attending our star parties at Neptune Dr.

- The Cumberland Star Party and ALCON Virtual Convention were debriefed.

- Proposed dates for star parties at Neptune Drive were discussed: Sat., Oct 9, Sat., Nov 27 and Sat., Dec 11. These dates were not always on the same Saturday each month to accommodate other event requested of the club (see below).

- The Cape Elizabeth library will open a month-long exhibit of Ara’s astrophotography on Oct 5, with a virtual talk.

- It was reported that the Katahdin Woods & Waters National Monument will hold another virtual version of “Stars over Katahdin” on October 14. One must go to their website and register to get the zoom link

- James suggested the club participate in the International Observe the Moon night on Oct 16.  James will organize the event on the Eastern Prom. Rob will prepare a News Release that can serve as a template for announcements of other club events that will, hopefully, increase attendance.

- The Club has been asked to host an event at Neptune Drive on Friday, Oct 29 for the Lady Adventurers Club. Our co-tenant, Alicia Heyburn of Teens to Trails, is a member of the Adventurers club, so we are committing to this event.

- Tom Cattrell has asked for volunteers to help him offer star party at Clarry Hill in Nobleboro on Oct. 29/30.

- Cape Elizabeth Library has scheduled an EAA star party on Tuesday, Nov. 9 with a rain date Nov 16. Ara will host this from his home observatory with Russ Pinizzotto offering a guided tour of the constellations from which the evening’s targets are chosen.

- Windham Library is seeking a star party and a speaker to talk about the James Webb Space Telescope on Friday, Nov. 12. We want to support this request.

- The Club has been asked to be part of the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust winter speakers’ series discussing astronomy, with programs running from November to April. Russ Pinizzotto has offered to give the talk.

- Touring Library Exhibit – Jon Wallace provided details on his micrometeorite display and talk at several local libraries. There was discussion about approaching local libraries with images from club members to promote the club and educate about astronomy, light pollution, etc. I was agreed this was a worthwhile goal that we could pursue after Ara’s display at CE.

EAA Project – Ara and Rob undertook a dry run of our EAA equipment at Neptune Drive on September 9. The numerous snafus were all educational. This was the first use of the donated Celestron Mount that had its own learning curve.

Given the size and weight of the mount it was decided that we would attempt to sell it, with or without the C-11. The mount and tripod are clearly oversized for carrying a 4” refractor. Ara will re-order the mount we originally intended to purchase. Sale of the C-11 will provide more than ample funds to cover the cost of the new mount and return funds to the club treasury.

Equipment – A sorting out of what to sell remains to be done. This should be undertaken soon to make room in the shed and make easier the task of setting up for star parties.

Program Committee and Club Meetings – In light of the resurgence of COVID / Delta it was agreed to continue our virtual meetings and not utilize the USM Science building. Speakers lined up for the fall are:

- October: Dr. Renee Berglund on astronomer Mary Mitchell

- November: Greg Shanos (from RI astronomy club) Travelling to a comet

- December: Jon Wallace on micrometeorites

- January: tentative – Dr. Elizabeth McGrath on the James Webb telescope calibration process

- Having off-cycle introductory meetings at Neptune Dr for new members, or members seeking to learn more about basic astronomy or telescope use was discussed

Finance Report – Bob reported $10,815.43 in the club treasury with rent at Neptune Drive prepaid through 12/31/21. Bob remarked on how this time last year the club was financially apprehensive about making the move to a permanent headquarters. Equipment sales and grant funding, plus some generous donations from a few club members have made the club far more flush.

Grant Submissions – Rob reported that there were four grant applications pending with funders from June. Unfortunately, one of the possible funders, the Mimi Foundation, declined our request for funding. We await word on the other three.

Membership – the Club has had three new members join in the last month, two of whom are high school students. The club is very excited to see this kind of growth, particularly with younger members. Other third parties have approached the club about our outreach efforts that may well result in more new members.

Dark Sky Advocacy – Rob reported that the Town of Brunswick recently adopted a new streetlight policy in advance of buying out its streetlights from CMP and converting them to LEDs. The policy caps the CCT of the lights at 3000K.Town Committee that developed the policy. Rob also submitted comments to the Land Use Planning Commission on a new 300’ tower in the Rangeley area that would flash day and night, creating an eyesore to an area of the state exploring the potential of night sky eco-tourism.

The meeting concluded about 2100.

Submitted by,

Rob Burgess