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December 2011

Club business this month included a Treasurer's Report, a dues reminder, brief mention of the club's on-line calendar, an update on newsletter content, and discussion about planning future programs.  Observing reports and a short review of recent astronomical news preceded Object of the Month.  The main program, "Beginner Stargazing", was presented by Steve Plank, and a short auction of donated items to raise money for the club followed.

Business Meeting

Treasurer's Report

Beginning Balance - 10/31/11:     $968.13

Membership renewals (9):           $170.00

Donation:                                   $   1.00

Ending Balance - 11/30/11          $1139.13

Welcome to new members David Cade and Sergey Pisetskiy.


BAS has established November as club dues month in order to simplify dues collection and payment of our Astronomical League dues.  Members who have not yet paid dues were encouraged to do so before the end of the year.

Club Calendar

A tentative 2012 schedule of dates for possible club and public observing events, created by Arden Strycker, has been published on-line in the Club Calendar on our BAS Website at <> .  An attempt to display this live, during the meeting, by accessing the Bartlesville Public Library wireless internet connection, failed with an error.  If you encounter any difficulties accessing the club calendar, please report the problem to <> .

Newsletter Content

Newsletter Editor, Mike Woods, reported that he was recently contacted by the editor of the Astronomy Club of Tulsa newsletter about republishing one of the articles from our BAS newsletter.  Their subsequent conversation led Mike to reassess how external content is included in our newsletter.  The decision was made to provide a title and short summary, followed by a clickable link to the external on-line content, in both email and on-line versions of the newsletter.  Meeting attendees agreed that this would not put any additional burden on our newsletter recipients.

Future Programs

Options for expanding the pool of presenters for our meeting programs were discussed.  Some form of incentive, such as a semiannual drawing from the names of members giving a presentation or arranging for someone else to do so, was discussed.  Winners would receive a gift card to an astronomical vendor.  However, it was quickly determined that this would not motivate most members.  The growth in our club over the past couple of years has increased the proportion of new and novice members, leaving many to feel unqualified to give a talk.  This is understandable.  Our alternative is to try to bring in more speakers and programs from outside the club.  BAS board members have been asked to help our program chairman, Daryl Doughty, search for outside presentations, but all members are encouraged to look for opportunities to bring in outside programs.

Observing Reports

Daryl Doughty reported that he has been photographing the Sun frequently, and has mastered Photoshop techniques that allow him to transform his green filtered solar images into a pleasing yellow.  The Sun's activity continues to increase, sunspots are often visible and aurora are becoming more frequent at high latitudes, as we approach solar maximum in 2012 or 2013.

Visitor Ronald Cox reported that he made his first telescopic observations last week.  He observed Jupiter and its moons, which are currently high and bright in the southeast during evening hours.  Unfortunately, Ronald was somewhat disappointed at the image he saw through his scope.  He asked for comments from club members, and a short discussion of collimation followed.  The importance of a solid mount in preventing small vibrations that can degrade the seeing was also mentioned.  Members were reminded that public and club star gazing events are a good time for those with new or little used telescopes to bring them out for practice, and for advice from more experienced members.

What's News

Discussion of recent astronomy news included information about a rare transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun on June 5, 2012.  Daryl pointed out that U.S. observers from further west will see more of the transit before the Sun sets.  This event occurs just two days after Sunfest and might be a good public event for BAS.  Also mentioned during the current news discussion was the announcement by NASA, earlier in the day, that the most Earth-like exoplanet yet discovered was confirmed by the Kepler spacecraft.  The planet is about 600 light years away, has a diameter about 2.5 times larger than Earth, and orbits within its star's "habitable zone", where temperatures are in a range that could permit liquid water on the surface of the planet.  Little else is known at this time, but the exoplanet is likely to be the target of intense investigation in the near future.

The Pinwheel Galaxy (M33) - Object of the Month by Daryl Doughty

The Object of the Month for December is Messier 33, the Triangulum Galaxy, also known as the Pinwheel Galaxy.  While explaining to the audience where M33 is located in the winter sky, and how to find and view it using star charts or planetarium programs, Daryl recounted some of the star lore and constellation mythology of the surrounding region.  He also showed a very good astrophotograph of M33 that he created by summing together about 30 images of 5 minutes each.  The photo not only shows the face on galaxy, but clearly delineates the spiral galactic arms.  Although not as large as the Andromeda Galaxy or our own Milky Way Galaxy, M33 is a member of our Local Group.  Daryl displayed a 3D representation of the Local Group, showing the relative sizes and positions of its members.  He also cautioned that our Milky Way Galaxy and the Andromeda Galaxy are being slowly drawn toward each other by gravitational attraction, and will eventually collide.  No need to worry, however, since this won't happen for another two to three billion years.

Beginner Stargazing by Steve Plank

Planned for many months as a beginner's view of beginner star gazing, this month's program offered plenty of helpful advice and useful tips on getting started as a novice stargazer.  Although no longer a beginner, Steve Plank, who joined the Bartlesville Astronomical Society just two years ago and jumped right into amateur astronomy, remembers well the questions, problems and confusions of being new to star gazing.  During his presentation, he addressed many of the important issues that can deter newbies  trying to star gaze from their own back yards.  High on that list is knowing what to look for, and when, and where.  Steve pointed out the importance of using star charts or planetarium programs to plan an evening's viewing before stepping out into the dark.  Stellarium is an excellent desktop planetarium program that can be downloaded from the internet for free.  It's Steve's favorite, and he used it to demonstrate the process of locating objects to view.

Another, sometimes baffling topic for beginners, is telescopes.  Steve described refractor, reflector and Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes, explained the different optical paths of each type, and discussed their advantages and disadvantages.  Portability, optical quality and mechanical stability are among the most important characteristics of scopes appropriate for beginners.  With three separate scopes, Steve demonstrated how to use each type, emphasizing their relative merits.

Everyone in attendance benefited from Steve's informative presentation.  Hopefully, BAS can now take the next step and bring more experienced amateurs together with beginning star gazers, under the night sky, during public and private events, to improve the observing abilities and enjoyment of our novice amateur astronomers.

Next Meeting

Tuesday, January 3, in the Bartlesville Public Library Meeting Room.  Topic to be determined.   For more information, see the meeting announcement on our website home page at <> .

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