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March 2012

March 2012 Meeting Notes

Our March meeting started with a full business meeting, which included a review of progress on the club's by-laws rewrite, a report on a successful St. John's School star party, reminders of several upcoming events, and the Treasurer's report.  The main program, Stellar Life Cycles by Daryl Doughty, presented a wide ranging discussion of the classification and diversity of stars, their inner workings, their births, lifespans and deaths, all in the context of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram.  A brief review of recent astronomy and space news followed the main program.

Business Meeting

Treasurer's Report

Treasurer's Report

Beginning Balance - 2/1/12:       $1406.96

February Dues Income:

New Membership - Bob Young        $20.00

Ending Balance - 2/29/12:          $1426.96

Addressed registering as a Charitable OK Organization with the State of Oklahoma's SOS office.  Annual registration and fee ($15 for organizations anticipating contributions of less than $10,000 yearly) is required of Charitable Organizations soliciting or accepting contributions within the state of OK except for those organizations specifically exempt under Section 552.4.  Registration is required by Oklahoma Solicitation of Charitable Contributions Act, Title 18, Section 552.1a of the OK Statutes, activated July 1, 2011.  The form and information may be viewed at

By-laws Rewrite

Arden Strycker, chairman of the By-Laws Update Committee, reported on progress in evaluating changes needed to bring our outdated by-laws up to date.  So far, the committee has mostly addressed existing officer positions and their responsibilities.  The current structure and distribution of duties could probably be improved and simplified.  Arden sought feedback from members on the number of officers (four, or possibly 6) and the distribution of duties and responsibilities.  The suggestion of going from President, Vice-President, Information/Publicity and Treasurer/Secretary, to a more standard, President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer, met with no opposition.  Going to six officers for allocating the major club responsibilities is also an option.  Daryl indicated that in his current position as Vice-President, his responsibilities are limited enough that also carrying the Program Chairman responsibilities is not a problem.  Mike Woods pointed out that, if the club once again contracted to only a few members, as it has in the past, filling six offices might be a challenge, forcing additional modifications of the by-laws.  Virgil felt that assigning these additional responsibilities to anyone motivated to do them (including officers) would be acceptable.  He didn't see a need to create new positions.  General consensus agreed that additional club responsibilities, like Programs and Newsletter, could be delegated by the President or the nominating committee.  Continuation from year to year was also considered acceptable.  Based on the feedback, the By-laws Committee will assess how to move forward.

St. John's Star Party, March 1

Education Coordinator, Joyce Gray-Ritchie, planned a successful star party at St. John's School on the evening of March 1.  While four or five telescopes and three tripod mounted binoculars were being assembled and aligned in deepening twilight, Joyce gave an indoor astronomy presentation to the students, their parents and school faculty.  After the presentation, the audience moved outdoors to the playground area, where the scopes and binoculars were ready and waiting.  The first quarter Moon was an easy target, but exciting to view, since most of the students had never seen it through a telescope before.  Jupiter and its moons also got lots of enthusiastic attention, as did Venus.  In past years, students often came back to a scope over and over again to get another view.  Now they pull out their iPhone, hold it up to the eyepiece and attempt to snap a photo.  We should try to figure out a way to make this more successful for them.  Near the end of the star party, the International Space Station made a bright and unexpected pass overhead, providing an exciting highlight for the evening.

Club Star Party, March 17

A members-only club star party is scheduled for March 17 at Mike Woods' place.  Daylight Savings Time will be in effect by then, so the Sun will set at about 7:30 pm, and the sky will be getting dark around 8:00 pm.  Regardless of sky conditions (clear or cloudy), members are encouraged to arrive around 6:30 pm to help us evaluate the collection of donated and club scopes that we've accumulated in Mike's storage building.  We hope to determine which, if any, are salvageable, and what to do with the rest.  One plan discussed at a previous meeting is to sell off the scopes or components that will bring some money, and apply that to a fund for a new club scope.  Another idea is to determine if we can accumulate enough usable parts from several scopes to assemble one good, working scope.

Observing conditions from Mike's are very good, so this will be a chance for members with new or rarely used scopes to put them to good use.  But, for members without telescopes, this will be a great time to look through a variety of different scopes and talk with others about observing.  New members and novice observers are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.  A reminder email, with a map to Mike's place, will be sent out a few days before the star party.  For several recent events, we've arranged for a small caravan to leave from the Civic Center for those unfamiliar with the site.  If there is a need, we'll try to do it again for this star party.

Future Events

Several upcoming events were mentioned briefly.  Rick Bryant is planning an excursion to Albuquerque to view the May 20 annular solar eclipse.  Interested members should contact Rick about the specific details of the eclipse.

BAS will have a booth at Sunfest again this year.  The dates will be June 1 - 3.  Steve Plank has already registered BAS with the Sunfest Committee.

Two days after Sunfest, on June 5, Venus will transit the Sun during late afternoon and early evening, as seen from Bartlesville.  There will not be another such transit until December, 2117, so BAS should organize a public viewing for this event.

Night Sky Network

As Public Outreach Coordinator, Steve Plank has been busy establishing BAS in the Night Sky Network.  Unfortunately, due to a very full meeting schedule, computer and projector problems, and last minute agenda changes, there was not enough time for Steve to report on this progress.  He will be at the top of the agenda for next month's business meeting.  If you are interested in learning more about NSN before Steve's discussion next month, click the Night Sky Network logo on our BAS home page on the internet, to visit the NSN website.

Recent Astronomy and Space News

Virgil Reese presented a brief summary of recent astronomical news.  He showed several star charts depicting the best encounter of Jupiter and Venus in years.  These two planets will appear close in the sky throughout the month of March.  As Jupiter descends toward the western horizon during the first half of the month, Venus will climb higher to meet it at mid-month.  The two will be less than three degrees apart at closest approach, and still high enough to create a brilliant and beautiful spectacle in the western sky after dark.

Other recent astronomical news included the discovery of an exoplanet 2.5 times the size of Earth, but with small enough mass that it appears to be mostly water.  Spectroscopic observations appear to be consistent with the interpretation of water vapor in the planet's atmosphere.  While the science behind this discovery is reasonable, Virgil noted that the breathless media hype, and in particular, the rather arbitrary artist's rendition of the planet, is likely to be misleading to the general public.

Another recent exciting astronomical news story was the release of results from a study suggesting that there could be many more "Nomad Planets" roaming the Milky Way Galaxy, unbound to any parent star, than the previously estimated one or two per star.  While the astronomers were fairly cautious about describing their micro-lensing observations and computer simulations, media reporting seemed to focus on the upper limit of perhaps 100,000 nomad planets for every star in the galaxy.  This, of course, immediately leads to speculation about increased chances for life in the galaxy, with all those additional planets.  Further observations will be necessary to refine the estimates of nomad planet numbers.

Stellar Life Cycles by Daryl Doughty

The stars in the sky have fascinated man for thousands of years, as he wondered what they were, how they shine, and why they are in the sky. Man has projected his own yearnings and spirit into the sky, picturing the stars grouped into familiar shapes from his religion, mythology, and the creatures around him. Only relatively recently in the last few hundred years, have men finally begun to understand what stars are, why they are not all the same, how they came to be, and what will happen to them at the end of their life.   In a comprehensive discussion, Daryl described the most current knowledge we now have about star classification and their birth, life, and eventual death.

Much of a star's life cycle is established at birth, by its mass.  Daryl showed that the mass of a star determines its size, its internal pressure and thereby the rate it consumes its hydrogen fuel, its temperature and its resulting color.  Except for the Sun, the only information we have for determining stellar conditions must come from the light we observe.  As a consequence, the color and spectrum play a very important part in establishing fundamental characteristics, such as temperature.

Stars occur with diverse combinations of color, spectral class, mass, diameter and luminosity.  Making sense of these characteristics was challenging until two astronomers created the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in the early 20th century. By locating individual stars on a plot of their absolute magnitude or luminosity, versus their spectral types and effective temperatures, this diagram revealed the stellar evolution from early protostars, through the "main sequence", accounting for most of a star's lifetime, to the end stages as giants, supergiants, supernovae and white dwarfs.  With these clarifications it became much easier to relate and classify different stellar types.

Daryl showed illustrations depicting the dramatic range in stellar sizes, from planet sized dying white dwarfs and somewhat larger red dwarfs, to enormous red giants that would completely engulf the Earth and extend well past the orbit of Mars, if placed in the Sun's position.  There is also a direct correlation between the mass of a star and its lifetime.  Huge, hot, blue giant stars, perhaps up to 200 solar masses, may burn all their hydrogen in 10 million years, while small, cool, red dwarfs burn so slowly that they may last a trillion years.

In addition, Daryl described how individual stars and planetary systems can form from small concentrations called Bok globules or proplyds (proto planetary disks), inside larger molecular clouds of gas and dust.  This process results in a dense central concentration, accreting more and more matter, until the internal pressure is great enough to begin the fusion of hydrogen into helium (through multiple steps).  This is the process that drives stars for most of their lives.  Smaller concentrations within the accretion disk surrounding the forming star may grow to form planets orbiting the star.  Eventually, the stellar wind from the newly formed star will push away the remaining dust in the proplyd, revealing the young star to the outside.

Although the stellar life cycle is a complex process, Daryl explained it in a clear, yet thorough presentation.

Next Meeting

Monday, April 2, at the East Side Arvest Bank Meeting Room (4225 SE Adams Road).  Native American Storyteller, Lynn Moroney, of Oklahoma City, will present a program on Native American Star Lore and Sky Stories.   For more information, see the meeting announcement on our website home page at <> .

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