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1999

Annual Report 1999

Reports of the Kingston Centre Executive and Committee Chairs

President | Secretary | Treasurer | Editor | National Council Rep | Website | Observing


President

This has been a busy year for the Kingston Center of the RASC, mostly building on activities that started in previous years.

The Youth Group funding has dried up, and this has necessitated some changes in the operation of the group. Nevertheless, this funding has allowed the purchase of some equipment and materials that will be of benefit to our youth and other members for many years to come. Among these are binoculars, a Bushnell Yoyageur telescope, and a department store telescope. The purpose of the latter is to illustrate the problems with poor quality optics. Many thanks to Laura Gagné and Brenda Shaw for leading this, and their many helpers including Hank Bartlett, Peggy and John Hurley, Kevin Kell, and others. Of special note is the Great Barn Door project to produce 30 barn door trackers for the youth by Kevin Kell and Tom Dean.

Our public observing sessions have been well attended, especially the 30th anniversary of the moon landing, which drew about 60 people. This has been an excellent forum for the education and enjoyment of the public, and publicity for the Center. It has also resulted in many several new members. These sessions were the excellent work of Tom Dean and Don Mastriani, with help from Susan Gagnon, Hank Bartlett, Vic Smida, Kevin Kell and Laura Gagné.

Last winter, a 24 inch mirror blank was donated through the efforts of Ron Pow. Many hours of work have gone into this, with the result that it has now been completely ground to f/4.5, and is ready to polish. Kendra Angle has organized most of the grinding, with special thanks to Kevin Kell and Tom Dean for parking the project, and the grinding machine in their garage, as well as a larger share of the grinding. Upwards of 30 people have contributed time and effort to the grinding to date, and we look forward to continued participation in the future. In addition, the center has completed a second 8 inch scope, and several members have completed their own telescopes. We also had the donation of a 16 inch blank, now queued up for the next project.

Finally, the education committee have redeamed themselves admirably, by putting on a special seminar for Secondary School teachers. This has been the brainchild of Laura Gagné, with more than a dozen others contributing. Special thanks to Hank Bartlett and Mark Kaye for producing slide sets, and to Kevin Kell for his work editing the teachers manual. This was outrageously successful, as it was greatly appreciated by the teachers, and generated revenue of about $2100 for the center, as well as several new members. Sales of material produced for the seminar continue.

Prospects for 2000 are at least as bright. Our membership has seen a relatively constant increase, and now is about 180. The 24 inch should be complete in 2000 or 2001, and the education comittee is turning its efforts to the rest of Ontario, and the grade 6 curriculum. Both are good prospects for increased recognition, revenue, and membership. If you haven't been a part of one of these efforts, get in touch with one of the organizers, and get involved. If you have been, please accept my grateful thanks for your efforts.

Doug Angle

Secretary

Secretary's Report 1999-11-12

Partners in Astronomy, a partnership between professionals and amateurs, a theme that carried throughout the year, not only at the 1999 General Assembly, which was co-hosted by the RASC, ASP and the AAVSO, but was also quite evident at the Kingston Centre in 1999.

Though Mother Nature tried her best to keep many from showing up at meetings or observing sessions, the weather did not dampen the spirits, as those who were there enjoyed the company of fellow astronomers.

Our meetings this year took us on a trip from new cosmic discoveries by Professor Richard Henrikson, to Ancient Egyptian Archeoastronomy by Denise Sabatini. Both of these talks showed us the past in astronomical events, that helped to shape the present universe, and the universe that us unfolding each day before our eyes, as the telescopes and technologies advance.

January had Peter Ceravolo fly into Kingston ahead of storm to show us the Trials and Tribulations of filming "Comet Odyssey". A marvel in its own right, with brilliant collaboration from fellow amateurs, created a movie that we can all enjoy and see the beauty of a comet from head to tail.

As new Star atlas's arrived on the bookshelves, Leo Enright intrigued us with his comparison of the Millenium star atlas to many atlases already on the market, and those, which are out of, print. To choose an atlas is a personal decision, but Leo's knowledge on the subject makes the task even harder. Whether you went from a book of a star atlas, or a computer program, Michael Watson, showed us how Red Shift 2 & 3 compared with Earth Centred Universe, and how these programs should be one of every astronomers tools.

As the year continued on, it was evident that the Ontario School Board was about to change the face of science in every school, from grade 6, 9 and 11, with the new teachings of Astronomy in science. Though most of the teachers teaching science may not have had experience in astronomy, Dr. John Percy of the University of Toronto showed us, that we as amateurs can make a difference, both with teachers and with the students. This meeting was a stepping stone for one member at the Kingston Centre. Laura Gagn? to initiate a Teachers Seminar, which included a helpful binder with lots of tips along with the help of Centre members, was held on November 3. It was to give information to the teachers, and help them to understand the areas that may have been fuzzy.

Throughout the year, the youth group and public observing sessions were quite a hit. Though the youth group took a break in the summer months, it will be starting up again this fall. Lots of summer activities were evident this summer, with Telescopes for Telethon, a project that was hosted by our honorary President, David Levy and his wife Wendee. This project was to raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy though astronomy. Our Centre participated at a public observing session in June, and raised funds that will remain in Canada for the Canadian Chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

With thanks to Don Mastrianni, our June meeting along with our July public observing session, which was on the night of the 30th anniversary that man first stepped on the moon, (July 20,1999) had a display of Apollo paraphernalia and NASA information for the members and public to view and experience, the thrill of touching another heavenly body away from Earth.

To reinforce the feeling of lifting off and seeing the Earth as a magnificent body, was Julie Payette, who gave a public talk on October 28 at Grant Hall, sponsored by Queen's. Her experience on flying in STS-92 mission and now her work with the International Space Station has shown, how we all can become part of the growing universe.

And the year is not over yet. We still have many things planned for the Kingston Centre. We will be entering in the Festival of the Trees, for the first time. Our tree will be known as "Astronomical Wonders". This goes to a good cause, by the donation of the tree by Canadian Tire, and the decorating by our Centre Members; it is auctioned off to help our Hospitals. The Awards Banquet is on November 27, and our final meeting before the Christmas Holidays on December 10. Though the year is coming to a close, in astronomy there is always a new discovery, what shall we see in 2000.

Submitted By

Kim Hay
Secretary
Kingston Centre RASC 1999

Treasurer

Report missing (web only).

Editor

This year has shown membership growth from 160 to over 180 members (#5 in Canada based on other Centre's 1998 numbers), and an increased workload in the distribution of the newsletter (addressing, labelling, stuffing, stamping, sorting and mailing). Three issues ago we decided to move the mailing from after the meeting to at least 1 week before the meetings, on the alternate months.

Even though the older method allowed local members to pick up their newsletters at the meeting and saved us some money in mail costs (30 x $.55 = $16.50), the complexity of sorting out who had or had not picked up caused massive time delays in the mailing out processing. With these membership numbers, it is far more efficient to prepare all for mailing (and causes the Editor far fewer stress breakdowns) at a small cost increase.

For those interested in background information, the newsletter is exactly 10 pages (5 pieces of paper), which fits just under the 30g limit of Canada Post for a standard stamp. Going even one page over would roughly double postage costs.

The format of the newsletter itself reflects the method in which it is created: several standard columns which may or may not get articles submitted, a great deal of Internet Space and Astronomy Press releases (which are removed as regular submissions come in), some graphics and a few photos. Our printing and duplication methods (at around $0.04/image) do not provide high enough quality for photos, especially astrophotos, so until we can come up with something better without a large price increase, the format will stay much the same as it is today.

1999 has seen the last 4 years of Regulus put online in Adobe Acrobat format (an electronic format suitable for displaying exactly the original layout, with a free public reader program), continuation of HTML web based versions (with telephone numbers and addresses removed for privacy reasons), and a search engine which has indexed all of the online HTML formatted newsletters.

In addition, the paper archive issues of Regulus have continued to expand, in particular with copies of 1990 and 1991 from Ian Levstein (ex-Past-President). The Secretary, Librarian and Editor hold individual archives in 3 ring binders.

One item which has been neglected of recent years has been that of advertising sales. For 2000, we hope to recoup 10% of the publish costs (1999 costs were approx $1150) with no more than one full page per issue, with ads being only those of potential interest to members.

As an alternative to the massive costs of changing the publishing schedule to monthly, from bimonthly, an email note is sent out once a month to all members on the Centre Announcement List (rascmem) with short points on the activities of the centre and upcoming events. In addition, we rely more and more on the web site to provide better-than-every-two- months timely information.

I have expanded the role of Newsletter Editor to include most of the other publishing and printing functions of the Centre (including business cards, brochures, Careers in Space booklet, Expanding Their Universe Book, and more). In the future, we should amend the Centre Bylaws to change the title from Newsletter Editor to Editor and expand the duties to include responsibility for this (and then get the editor an Assistant :))

This ends my fourth year as Editor of the Kingston Centre.

Kevin Kell

National Council Rep

NC Meeting Reports:
Regulus, 1999 May-Jun, page 6.
Regulus, 1999 Sep-Oct, pp. 4-5 (2nd, 3rd, AGM meetings).

Web Operations

This is the first annual report from the Web Hosting service. As time goes on we suspect that this will become more and more important and grow in size. Time to start thinking about throwing it out to committee so that more than one person can maintain it.

We have a free Internet account with Internet Kingston, a local ISP in Kingston, as we are a local charitable organization. Our contact is David Schmidt: email . We are allowed 4 Mb of space at the URL listed above. We are not allowed any other special services (a "secure" web page, or more space) without money changing hands. All we are required to do is have the little blurb at the bottom of the main web page (webspace provided by Internet Kingston) and it should continue to run as long as the company is in business or changes it's policy. The worth of this service in todays market is approx $20/month.

Because of these restrictions, and the availability of other web servers of one of our members, we have only the core web pages on Internet Kingston, with links to more on two other systems. One of these systems hosts the secure web pages, which allows for userid/password access only to members. This is where we store complete copies of Regulus (with phone numbers and addresses), Observing Group directions to members homes, financial information from the Centre and National, and membership lists. The other system stores the vast volume of images we have online. In the near future these two additional systems contents will be merged into one machine, allowing easier web page maintenance and backup.

At present this excess web space is provided at no charge thanks to the Department of Pathology and Queen's University. They will however, continue only as long as I remain employed there. In anticipation of a move, CDROM's have been burned as backup copies of the web site and distributed to Kim Hay (webmistress) and Laura Gagné (Education Chair). Other CDROM backups will be made at least once a year.

Web Summary
members.kingston.net/rasc approx 1.7 mb, with 99 html files and over 100 graphic images.
130.15.144.3/~kell/secure approx 500 kb, with 47 html files and 12 images.
130.15.144.100/rasc approx 42 mb with 736 images and 20 html files
130.15.144.100/regulus approx 6 mb with 90 files

Other material is not contented against the web site as it will be maintained someone by someone: approx 10 Mb of astronomy software, clipart, etc.

We have had notices out asking for Centre member help with the site but no one has come forward. Help will be essential as the site, if it is to be used and valuable as PR, must be kept up to date and "touched" on a regular basis to keep fresh. Other RASC centres have only a token advertising presence, with Centre event pages being months out of date. We must avoid this at all costs.

Web Page design philosophy has been that of informative and useful content overriding that of heavy graphics laden "pretty" pages. The main page has progressed from a straight inline format to a frames based one this year. In general the site or various pages are updated on a weekly basis. Our Education Group is making heavy use of the services as will the Youth Observing Group.

At present there is a dedicated search engine but this is only accessible from the "secure" web page. We will be making this available on the main front page soon, to assist surfers in finding items of interest on our site, which has become quite large and diverse to say the least.

Kevin Kell

Observing Group

This year continued the monthly private and public observing sessions. Attendance varied based on weather conditions, but we had several nights where the attendance was over 100 people. Out biggest turnout was in February for the conjunction where between 100 and 120 people show up, including the receptionist for my dentist. Our private sessions seemed to be dogged by the curse of bad weather, but enough were clear that some observing was done.

In addition to the monthly sessions, we assisted Queen's with monthly open houses intended to raise money for the new dome and telescope. We set up on the sidewalk in front of Ellis Hall, and provided our own views of the sky in addition to the Queen's telescope. The observatory was unavailable during Science Quest (a science based summer day camp), and we provided observing for each group. We also had the annual show supporting Terry Dickenson's talk at Charleston Lake. This year it was clouded out, but we provided static telescope displays. This year the Sky's the Limit festival was held at Lemoine Point. We were there providing several scopes for solar observing and a mirror grinding demonstration.

In past years, we only provided public observing on the night of astronomy day. This year we decided to expand the offering. We provided solar observing almost every noon that week (we missed one) and regular observing evening. In retrospect it turned out well since the Saturday night was clouded out. The best observing was the Friday night with the best views of Mars that I have ever had.

Public attendance figures at Murney Park (all figures are approximates):

February 100-120
March 40-50
April clouded out
May 50-60
June 20
August 40
Sept 10
Oct rained out

The public sessions are drawing repeat observers, several of which have joined the center. These should continue over the next several years. We have also promised the teachers that we will set up some public sessions specifically targeted for school kids.

Respectfully submitted,

Thomas Dean
Observing Chair.

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