The Bartlesville Astronomical Society Board of Directors met an hour prior to the January 3 club meeting to establish goals and plans for 2011. Issues discussed included planning meeting program topics, scheduling public events, refurbishing the club's 12" Dobsonian, purchasing a vinyl banner for club activities, locating storage for club equipment and materials, establishing a Library telescope lending program, proposing a large scale model of the solar system for the community, increasing membership and revising the club by-laws.
Meeting Program Topics
Currently, meeting programs are scheduled through April. There was some discussion about what topics should fill out the rest of the year. Some attendees suggested broadening the range of programs to include topics that might appeal to a wider audience in the community, and attract more attendance at meetings. Space, in particular, was mentioned as an example of a topic that might have wider appeal. Others expressed the view that club programs should remain focused primarily on astronomy; the word "astronomical" is in the club's title, after all. It was agreed that the program chairman should conduct a survey of club members, similar to the one done a year ago, to determine if the increase of new members during the year has resulted in a significant shift in interests. If the interests are quite varied, it may be worthwhile to experiment with a few more diverse programs to gauge the level of interest. Daryl Doughty agreed to solicit feedback from members and frequent visitors about their interests.
With liability insurance coverage for the first time, 2011 will be an important year to expand our visibility in the community by conducting a variety of public events. Several public star watches are already scheduled for later in the year, and additional ones will be added as the opportunities arise. Our recent total lunar eclipse watch, just before Christmas, is a good example. Static displays of equipment and other astronomical materials were mentioned as another valuable way to gain visibility. Locations such as the Mall, and the Plaza between ConocoPhillips buildings were mentioned as possibilities. Annual Astronomy Day activities (this year it's on Saturday, May 7) are widely publicized nationally, and that would be an appropriate time for such daytime displays, as well as an evening public star watch.
Club Scope Update
The club's 12" Dobsonian reflector, built as a club project under Fred Frey's direction in the early '80's, is in a state of disrepair and currently unusable. The idea of reworking and modernizing the scope to make it more functional and more easily transportable arose last fall. It is unknown at this time what will need to be done or how much it would cost, so Fred Frey and Jim Vogh have agreed to take a look at the scope and formulate a plan for refurbishing it. With this plan and a cost estimate for the project, the club will then decide whether or not it's worthwhile to proceed with the effort.
Even in a familiar city park, finding a small group of amateur astronomers with scopes in the dark can be rather difficult for visitors. The club could benefit from a relatively large, vinyl banner to attract attention for nighttime sky watches as well as daytime public activities. Steve Plank reported that he had already checked with a local signage business, but it turned out to be focused primarily on neon signs. Virgil Reese explained that he had previously ordered custom vinyl banners for other organizations from businesses on the internet, and Mike Woods quickly located on-line information with his iPad that supported the idea that this was a reasonable way to go. Steve Plank will pursue the on-line options further, and report back to the club about the best alternatives. The club members will then decide if the cost of a banner sign is justified.
The club has equipment, documents and other materials scattered in several different locations. This makes it hard to keep track of what we have, and even harder to make it readily accessible to members. The three club telescopes are a good example. We should get them fixed up an on loan to members or others who can benefit from them. But unless we have a centralized location for storage, access and tracking will make this more difficult. We have talked several times about renting a small storage unit, but it appears, based on preliminary information, that this is probably more costly than we can afford. Nevertheless, ideas about other, broadly accessible alternatives are needed. During the discussion, Mike Woods mentioned that he will be building a storage shed/garage at his place in the near future, and might have room to store the large club Dobsonian telescope. This would be a big help, but we still need to look for a central location for our other materials.
Library Telescope Lending Program
The Focal Point column on the last page of the December 2010 Sky and Telescope describes "The Library Telescope Program", which is a cooperative outreach effort between the New Hampshire Astronomical Society and New Hampshire Public Libraries.
The idea is to lend a telescope to the public, just like a book, from the library. It was agreed during the board meeting that this would be a worthwhile project for BAS to undertake. Virgil Reese will contact members of the Library Board to determine if there's enough interest to proceed.
Community Scale Model of the Solar System
Virgil suggested that a large, scale model of the solar system, stretched along a major road, such as Highway 75, could be a very visible attraction for the community and the club. Mike recalled several similar exhibits in other communities, reinforcing the notion that such displays get attention and are memorable. Although this would be a fairly large project, requiring collaboration between the club and the city, the positive results make it worth pursuing. Virgil will investigate how we can proceed on this.
Steve Plank stated that increasing membership should be one of our goals for 2011. This has been a primary effort for the past year and a half. BAS has now increased membership enough that we are able to more evenly distribute club responsibilities, although there is still a need for volunteers to help with activities such as managing and maintaining our BvilleAstro Yahoo Group, updating our on-line club calendar and handling our Astronomical League administrative activities. In addition, our acquisition of liability insurance last September was with the expectation that this would allow us to provide public outreach events that would, in turn attract new members. Without increased membership, we will not be able to sustain the cost of the insurance.
Revise Club Bylaws
Our bylaws are decades old, and could benefit from a thorough review. This was mentioned as a goal for 2011, and Arden Strycker has volunteered to chair a small committee to rework the bylaws. Volunteers are needed to assist with the effort. The complete text of the Bartlesville Astronomical Society Bylaws can be found on the Files page of our BartlesvilleAstronomy website at:
The initial direction and preliminary plans for this year have been determined, and we look forward to an active and rewarding year. We hope the club will move forward vigorously. Our priorities will be open to reassessment as conditions and interests change. Club members with additional questions or suggestions about BAS directions and activities are encouraged to direct them to any of the current officers.