April’s Exoplanet Meeting a Big Hit! by Ed Mizzi

Hamilton RASC April 7, 2016 Monthly Meeting


Our April meeting was not only well attended but was one of the most diverse meetings we have experienced in recent times. Close to 40 members and guests were treated to a great guest speaker, several exciting club announcements and an on-the-road Armchair Astronomy simulation.

Gary Bennett starting things rolling with a summary of the night’s activities. Here is a synopsis…

* We began with our membership Chairperson Bob Prociuk, who gave us an update of membership numbers and then asked any new members present to introduce themselves. As is our tradition, Bob presented each new person with a small astronomy grab bag and welcomed them to the club.

* Gary Bennett displayed a slide describing the upcoming Transit of Venus which occurs on May 9 of this year. He encouraged people to get out and witness this special event and also put out a general request to anyone willing the spearhead a group viewing.

* Gary then showed us a photo of the present condition of the club’s 17.5 inch scope, which has been undergoing several repairs over the past several months. Gary’s firm, Kendrick Astro Instruments, has generously taken on the job of completing the update. Stay tuned for further announcements.

*Gary next discussed our Strategic Plan, what we have accomplished and where we go from here. Part of that plan involves working with the RBG on a project that could potentially see a state-of-the-art Planetarium built in Hamilton/Halton over the next several years. He also mentioned improvements that have been made to our Observatory and the C14 scope, but that there is still work to be done.

* Gary strongly encouraged members to take advantage of our Observatory, for both visual astronomy and astrophotography, as it is one of the best facilities in the area; and, in fact, one of few observatories owned by clubs in Ontario.

* Next came an Outreach Program update. Muhammad Ahmad reminded the members of the next official Observatory visual night, April 8 and encouraged everyone to attend. Gary B. added that we will be helping the RBG with their Spring program and the Hamilton Public Library’s Fall program of spreading the good news about all things astronomy. He is looking for volunteers to help teach both beginner and advanced lessons to the public.

* Gary next brought up AstroCATS and how exciting it will be this year, especially because it is teamed up with the RASC General Assembly in London and a brand new CAPS (Canadian Astrophotography School). He is asking for a total of 20 volunteers to help run AstroCATS in May.

* Gary then introduced Bert Rhebergen, a long-time and very dedicated member, who briefly discussed a special sky event and passed around an interesting photo of it.

We were next treated to a fascinating talk about Exoplanets by Paul Mortfield of the RASC Toronto Centre. His presentation was entitled “Hunting Exoplanets from Your Backyard” and he explained, using several interesting slides, how you, too, could find exoplanets with amateur equipment, even if it means simply spotting those that have already been discovered. The Hunt is on!!!

When Paul was finished, David Surette took the floor, and introduced the first ever Monthly Meeting version of Armchair Astronomy. David’s goal was to encourage members to join with him on the first Monday of each month, at the Observatory, in one of the many fascinating discussions that ensue on those evenings. So he introduced the topic with a short discussion about early astronomers and how brilliant they were, even though much of their work was “naked eye” astronomy with not much technology at their disposal. He also mentioned the vast array of technology we now have at our disposal, from GO TO telescopes to smart phone apps that tell you what’s in the night sky at any given time or place. He then invited the audience members to weigh in on what is more important and/or useful…technological devices such as GPS units, Smart Phones with planetarium apps and the like, OR, learning the night sky using star charts, books and other visual aids that allow hobbyists to find celestial objects and share those skills and that knowledge with others.

There was a 20 minute limit on the discussion and during that time no fewer than 10 people gave their opinions and rationale for either or both sides of the argument, and I am certain the discussion could have gone well into the night. So for those who were in attendance and other members reading this, you would be denying yourselves a very enjoyable evening by not coming out to Armchair Astronomy where the topics are endless, the discussion engaging and the comradery memorable.

Gary Bennett adjourned the 2 hour meeting and invited people to join him at the Royal Coachmen for refreshments.

Thank you to all who attended and participated. A special thank you to our guest speaker, Paul Mortfield. Also thanks to Bill Leggitt for bringing the screen, projector and grab bags for new members. Hope to see you next month.


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