History of the Unique Hastings 6.25 Refractor at the AAAP Observatory



11/5/62 Founding of AAAP.


After introductory remarks by Robert Sanders, founder of the Association, it was moved that the name of the organization be Amateur Astronomers Association of Princeton. The motion was passed. Mr. Sanders suggested that three committees be formed, and appointed members as follows:

Meetings and Programs: Gifford Havens, chairman; Stan Wells, Nancy Harris.
By-Laws: Fred Bowers, chairman;Milo Wadlin, Ron Rogers.
Nominating: It was suggestedthat this committee wait for a couple months to allow members to become acquainted. After some discussion of meeting dates and times, it was decided to hold meetings on the second Monday of each month. The next meeting will be on December 10, 1962 at 8 PM.

There was some discussion of telescopes owned by members. Six members have their own telescopes, and four have observatories. Mr. Sanders suggested that the next meeting be devoted to telescopes. A motion to make Sanders temporary chairman was passed. He offered to have the next meeting at the Lawrenceville School. A motion to adjourn was passed.
(Signed) Gifford Havens.


2/11/63 AAAP adopts its first constitution.


Kark Koehler is Director (formerly Asst. Director).


11/1/68 Member Henry Kalman purchases the 6 inch refractor from Frank Faltum of the old Galileo Club of Trenton for $200. He then sells it to the AAAP.


2/70 AAAP constitution is revised.


9/71 [First newsletter in JC files.] Minutes of 7/71 meeting. Election of officers: Barry Hancock, Director (continuing); Norman Sperling, Assist. Dir.; Kurt Rahlfs, Sec.; Art Martz, Treas.; Leith Holloway, Prog. Chmn. George Parker, outgoing treasurer, repts. balance of $255.


2/72 First issue of Sidereal Times, so named by Editor Roxanne Tobin. Announcement of talk by J. Richard Gott III, graduate student at Princeton, on black holes.

5/72 Election of officers: Norman Sperling, Director; John Church, Assist. Dir.; Roxanne Tobin, Sec.; Barry Hancock, Treas.; Bob Richardson, Prog. Chmn.

6/72 Membership list published (55 members).

7/72 Meeting at John Church’s home to discuss results from the July 10 total solar eclipse in Canada, observed by many AAAP members. Treasury at $280. Norm Sperling and others organize Cluster, a cooperative magazine published by several NJ astro clubs including the AAAP.

9/72 Vol. 1, no. 1 of Cluster is published. John Church volunteers to take custody of the 6-inch refractor, then being stored outdoors on George Parker’s farm in Plainsboro. In the Oct. Sidereal Times, John gives the following report:


Our large refractor, which has been sitting unused for some time, has been recently restored to active service. At the September meeting of the AAAP, the writer was given the responsibility of moving the instrument from George Parker's farm and putting it in reasonable condition for use. George's station wagon and my car proved adequate for the task, and by Sept. 14th the basically fine but antique and neglected telescope was in my back yard.

The first order of business was to arrange, somehow, to have the instrument protected from the weather. It has been sitting exposed for a lengthy period, and al though most of the mechanism is brass and painted iron (thus being relatively immune to moisture), a few vital parts, such as the steel worm for the right ascension drive, were showing serious signs of corrosion. The assembly weighs in the neigh borhood of a quarter-ton -- about the same as an upright piano -- and is NOT your ordinary garden variety portable telescope. It could not be stored in my garage and moved out for observation without some sort of moving equipment. However, a solu tion was soon found. A strong dolly was constructed, with 4 heavy-duty ball bearing casters, and the base of the pier is now firmly bolted to the wooden platform. It is now possible for me to wheel the telescope in and out of my garage unassisted, al though it is still considerable effort, inasmuch as there is a slight grade to my black top driveway. When placed on a level spot on the driveway, however, the telescope is quite stable, even on wheels, due to its great mass. Problem satisfactorily solved.

The objective of this telescope has a clear aperture of 6.19". It was filthy. Although the exterior surface was protected by a heavy brass cap, some corrosion had taken place inside the cell, and flakes of corroded brass had gotten between the crown and flint elements. There was also a fair amount of gummy brown residue on the interior surfaces. The objective was therefore carefully disassembled, with due regard to the orientation of the elements relative to each other, and given a thorough but gentle cleaning. There remain some scratches, however, as would be expected from the estimated 100-plus years of age. The scratches are not serious and do not appreciably degrade the contrast and resolution of the image. More on this below.

The brasswork has been cleaned as far as possible, and the pier and tube have been repainted. The tube has 2 coats of white enamel, and the pier has been repainted black. The equatorial head is difficult to paint, due to its intricate construction, and this has been left with its original battleship gray paint for the time being. Mechanically, the mount is in good condition. All bearings work smoothly, and even the declination slow motion is OK. Corrosion of the steel worm should not be a problem, provided no further corrosion occurs.

The telescope had no finder. A 7x30 model has been ordered from Jaegars, and should arrive soon.

The original eyepiece holder is 2 inches ID. An ancient Ramsden eyepiece was fit ted to this. This eyepiece has a focal length of about 1 inch, and consequently gives about 90x with the 90 or 91-inch focal length of the objective. However, it has very short eye relief and is uncomfortable to use, especially with objects high in the sky. I have adapted the eyepiece holder of my own 4-inch refractor to the eyepiece holder of the large scope, and it is now usable with a diagonal and any standard 1-1/4 inch eyepiece.

Optically the scope is performing excellently. Due to poor seeing, I have not yet attempted very difficult objects, but even with relatively poor seeing, the close pair of Epsilon Lyrae is very cleanly split, with the smallest diffraction discs I have yet seen on this pair. M l3 is bright and beautifully resolved. The Perseus double clusters are magnificent. Jupiter shows great detail, even with bad seeing (at moments), and a shadow transit was spectacular. The big aperture and long focal length make for much better image contrast than usually seen with smaller apertures. At 300x, I could practically count individual boulders in Copernicus, or so it seemed.

Most good nights will find me out with this telescope. Club members are invited to use it whenever the spirit moves. Call me early any good evening at 799-0723; with few exceptions, I will be home and the instrument will be available. Use it: it's your telescope.


The treasury balance was $490 before reimbursing John Church $67 for expenses in refurbishing the refractor (finder scope, clock drive motor, and assorted minor items). A possible club observatory was discussed at some length.

12/72 Report on the AAAP’s Tenth Anniversary Dinner, held on Nov. 13, 1972 at Emerson’s Steakhouse. Approximately 35 members and guests were present. An observatory committee was appointed, consisting of John Church (chair), Dave Apgar (co-chair), Harry Bernhagen, Mike Clark, Barry Hancock, Joe Lopez, Dick Peery, Bill Phillips, Steve Shutt, and Roxanne Tobin. The first meeting of the committee was held at John’s home on Nov. 29. Possible observatory sites were discussed.

NOTE:[Ironically, the consensus was to eliminate Washington Crossing State Park from further consideration.]


1/73 Exasperated by constantly overcast skies in NJ, Roxanne Tobin, writer of the column “Roaming The Skies” in Cluster, writes satire on her own column called “Roaming The Clouds.” Article is accompanied by sky map showing such objects as Dubheious, Vague, Denebulus, Ridiculous, and Beta Cumulonimbus.

5/73 Election of officers: John Church, Director; Karl Koehler, Asst. Dir.; Roxanne Tobin, Sec.; Mike Clark, Prog. Chairman; Joe Lopez, Treasurer.

7/73 Announcement of Star Party/Picnic at Wash. Crossing on 8/25. At the July meeting, it was announced that it might be possible to put a club observatory on the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study.

11/73 Nov. 10 transit of Mercury is observed and timed from John Church’s driveway, using the 6-inch refractor. Present are Freeman Dyson and Tullio Regge of the Institute for Advanced Study. A report is sent to Sky and Telescope, and the timings are published. Plans proceeding to place observatory in a modified aluminum garage at the Institute that will be put on roll-off tracks. Karl Koehler preparing detailed drawings. This proposal not adopted, however, due to finding that the Institute requires all construction to be performed by outside unionized labor, which the AAAP could not possibly afford.

12/73 Leith Holloway appointed by AAAP Board to fill unexpired term of Joe Lopez as Treasurer, as Joe had to resign due to the press of other business.Treasury balance stands at $430, and the Observatory Fund at $300. Dick Peery is Observatory Committee chair. Comet Kohoutek disappoints.


Mike Clark arranges for AAAP to sponsor a special public lecture by Dr. Immanuel Velikovsky in 10 McCosh Hall, Princeton Univ. on Monday, April 22 at which he discusses his controversial theories, published in “Worlds In Collision” and elsewhere. The large lecture hall is nearly full. Difficult questions are adroitly side-stepped by Dr. Velikovsky, who cites his remarks in various published articles without further elaboration.

5/74 Current officers are re-elected for another term.

8/74 AAAP sends a large contingent to Stellafane. Observatory Fund stands at $807, with $107 in pledges outstanding. Treasury at $300.

12/74 AAAP prepares a preliminary Certificate of Incorporation as a non profit NJ organization.


4/75 AAAP constitution is revised and adopted.

5/75 New officers elected: Richard Peery, Director; Steve Shutt, Asst. Dir.; Roxanne Tobin, Secr.; John Church, Prog. Chair; Leith Holloway, Treasurer.

8/75 Another large AAAP contingent goes to Stellafane.

9/75 Attribution of 6-inch refractor to Henry Fitz, ca. 1851, proposed earlier by Norman Sperling, remains in the forefront of possibilities.

10/75 AAAP constitution is amended to reflect need to distribute any assets on dissolution to another nonprofit organization, in order to achieve nonprofit tax exemption and tax savings for donors.

12/75 Observatory Chair Bill Phillips reports favorable progress towards establishing an observatory at Washington Crossing State Park, following a meeting with DEP, the State Museum, and the AAAP observatory committee. About $1500 is now in the Observatory Fund, and the total cost of materials is estimated at $4500.


1/13/76 Motion passes to authorize the Board of Trustees of the AAAP to propose an appropriate formal agreement with the State of NJ regarding the construction of an observatory at Washington Crossing. By passing this motion, the AAAP commits to constructing an observatory upon final ratification of an agreement with the state.

2/3/76 AAAP officially incorporates. For the first year, the Trustees are Richard Peery (Director), John Church (Prog. Chair), and Leith Holloway (Treasurer). Also signing the certificate are Anthony Miskowski and Henry Kalman.

2/14/76 IRS notifies AAAP that it is exempt from Federal income tax as a nonprofit 514 (c) (3) organization. Our Federal ID No. is 51-0146820. Donors can deduct donations on their own income taxes, retroactive to 1963.

5/76 Current officers re-elected. Negotiations proceed with state for the site at Washington Crossing.

10/76 Planetarium and AAAP continue to hold observing sessions at the site selected for the observatory.


1/77 Lease for the observatory site is nearly finalized.

2/8/77 Text of lease approved by AAAP at general meeting.

4/77 In April issue of Cluster, John Church tentatively identifies the lens of the 6-inch refractor as having been made by Charles Hastings, from its measured surface radii and other optical data.

4/2/77 Ground is broken for the observatory. Regular Saturday work sessions begin, with pick and shovel excavation of footings to 36 inches depth.

5/77 Officers elected: Dick Peery, Director (3rd term); Roxanne Tobin, Asst. Dir.; Dave Brown, Sec.; Leith Holloway, Treas.; Steve Shutt, Prog. Chair. Foundations and floor poured at observatory.

6/77 Rough piping in, pier foundations poured.

9/77 Four courses of cinder block have been laid. Five AAAP members observe and time a spectacular grazing occultation of 5.6 mag. Zeta Librae in Bordentown by a crescent moon. Comments are taped and played at the next general meeting. [Transcript published in Cluster and reprinted in the March ’92 issue of Sidereal Times.]


3/78 First meeting in Peyton Hall; previously, meetings had been held in Room A-07 of Jadwin Hall. Russell Hulse, future Nobel laureate, talks on “The Observable Properties of Pulsars.”

5/78 Officers elected: Leith Holloway, Director and Acting Treasurer; Roxanne Peery, Asst. Dir.; Scott Smith, Sec.; Dave Brown, Prog. Chair.

6/78 Observatory roof under construction. Cluster ceases publication.

Summer/78 Doug Wurzler appointed Treasurer. Roof completed and door installed.

8/29/78 Six-inch refractor is moved from John Church’s garage and installed in the observatory.

9/78 Total observatory expenditures to date are $3,800, and $200 remains in the fund.

11/78 Roof crank assembly under construction. Roof presently has to be pushed off by several people with poles. Trench for electric power being dug.

12/78 Roof opening mechanism is installed.


2/79 Power not yet hooked up due to delays in township inspection. Long time member George Parker passes away in Florida at 68.

3/79 First joint AAAP-NJ State Museum Star Party at the observatory is scheduled for 3/23. Nine AAAP-ers saw the total solar eclipse in Manitoba on 2/26. John Church’s article on the history of the 6-inch Hastings-Byrne refractor is published in the March Sky & Telescope.

4/79 Dr. Tullio Regge, formerly active AAAP member, receives Einstein Award at the opening ceremonies of the Einstein Centennial Symposium at the Institute for Advanced Study on March 4th. Electric wiring at observatory passes Hopewell Township inspection.

5/79 Special guests at the AAAP meeting are Mrs. Thomas Lowry, granddaughter of Charles Hasting (designer and grinder of the objective lens in our refractor), and her son and grandchildren. The current slate of officers is re-elected. Long time member, co-founder, and observatory designer Karl Koehler is honored on his retirement and presented with an engraved pewter mug for his many contributions to the AAAP. Karl is moving to Arizona, where the skies are not cloudy all day and night.

6/79 Electric power is connected at the observatory.

7/79 AAAP inaugurates “Star Wash” car washing events to raise funds. Karl Koehler’s 10-inch reflector installed at observatory. Good progress on plumbing wastewater disposal system. Long-time active member and Program Chair Mike Clark moves to South Carolina.

Late 7/79 AAAP picnic and 100th birthday party for refractor scheduled for 8/18. First “Star Wash” (organized by Doug Wurzler) raises $170 for the Observatory Fund. Although it was cloudy, Kurt Goepfert had brought his telescope so that customers could view sunspots by projection. (Many other such events are to be held in the future, raising significant funds. )

8/79 AAAP picnic is held on 8/19. Burglar alarm built and installed at the observatory. Septic tank is built and covered. Water supply not yet hooked up.

10/79 300 foot water pipe laid to the observatory from the Nature Center’s well. Pat Kane has a friend with a backhoe dig the trench, and John Church connects the water. Bathroom fixtures still to be installed. Dave Brown initiates idea of starting a weekend retreat near Blairstown in North Jersey, near the Water Gap. This later matures into the famous “Jersey Starquest.”

12/79 Sink installed. Toilet donated by Karen Procaccini. Septic tank and leach field are completed and covered with dirt. Left-over gravel put on access road. Roxanne Peery reports that in our first year of observatory opera tion, 54 sessions were held, with 8 public star parties and more than 150 guests from the public.


1/80 Harry Johnson is appointed to fill vacant post of Secretary.

3/80 Some frost heaving and freezing of the roof occurs at observatory.

4/80 Karl Koehler reports that he laid 3,000 bricks for his new round observatory in Arizona. In a special April Fool’s Day report, the AAAP is said to have been awarded $50,000 for a research grant to study the famous correlation between public star parties and bad weather.

5/80 Long-time member Cdr. Joe Richey, USN (retired), passes away on April 25th at age 81. Joe had been a member since the early ‘60’s and was also very active in amateur radio, holding a coveted “short call” (K2AT). Water turned on at observatory, and toilet connected. Telephone to be installed. Future Director Jay Albert joins AAAP. Roxanne Peery elected Director, Kurt Goepfert Asst. Director, Dave Brown Prog. Chair, Doug Wurzler Treasurer, Harry Johnson/Pat Kane co-Secretaries.

Summer/80 Wall finished between bathroom and utility room. Roof mechanism adjusted. Drainage pipe work around foundation to alleviate frost heaving problem.

10/80 Meeting site is changed to the Institute for Advanced Study for one year.


2/81 About a dozen AAAP members make a field trip to Sproul Observatory at Swarthmore, organized by Dave Brown. Prof. Wulff Heinz conducts the tour, but unfortunately the weather is cloudy.

3/81 Frost heaving problem at observatory prevents roof opening and causes interior door sticking. Drought causes postponement of popular “Star Washes”.

5/81 Current officers re-elected, with addition of Marc Halfon as Secretary and Kurt Rahlfs as Program Chair. Low member participationnoted as an issue, with dropping attendance. Treasury at a low point.

9/81 Treasury replenished due to a successful Star Wash. Meetings resume at Peyton Hall.

11/81 Member Freeman Dyson receives the Wolf Prize for his work on unified field theory.


3/82 Floor continues to heave at the observatory and jam the roof by its effect on the main partition, which does not have an independent footing.

5/82 New officers elected: Kurt Goepfert, Director; Marc Halfon, Asst. Dir.; Dave Crisp, Prog. Chair; Doug Wurzler, Treasurer; Kurt Rahlfs, Secretary.

8/82 Nine AAAP members attend Stellafane.

9/82 AAAP sponsors an Astronomy Weekend at Quaker Bridge Mall on Sept. 25-26, organized by Jay Albert. More than 160 shoppers stop at our exhibit. Star Wash on 10/16 brings in $169.

11/82 Dave Brown plans a club outing at Beemerville, later to be the site of numerous Jersey Starquests). Co-founder Robert Sanders returns to Princeton area and renews membership, as AAAP marks its 20th birthday.

12/82 Don and Mike Monticello and future Director Larry Smith join AAAP.


2/83 By-Laws are revised to recognize existence of observatory.

5/83 Officers re-elected, with addition of Jay Albert as Secretary and Dave Brown as Program Chair.

7/83 Ninth “Star Wash” brings in a record $254. Participants included Art Esposito, Leith Holloway, Kurt Goepfert, Signe Harrison, Dick and Roxanne Peery, Larry Smith, Scott Smith, Robert Sanders, Jay & Mike Albert, and the Monticellos.

9/83 AAAP sponsors “QB Mall II” at Quaker Bridge Mall. About 200 club brochures are handed out.

12/83 AAAP rents 12.5” reflector from Don Monticello and Mark Halfon, who purchased it from John Simpson. Purchase price to be eventually paid to them from club pledges, and the telescope to be permanently acquired. Beemerville weekend was a success, with clear weather.


5/84 New officers elected: Jay Albert, Director; Art Esposito, Asst. Dir.; Al Zampirri, Secretary; Doug Wurzler, Treasurer; Dave Brown, Program Chair.

6/84 Installation of the Simpson 12.5” reflector proceeds at observatory.

7/84< Installation of 12.5” completed. Steelwork needs repainting. Cinder block painting planned.

9/84 Six-inch tube repainted. Scraping of steelwork begun. Roof opening problem under consideration (cable slippage). Thieves break in observatory through rotted roof ends and take 2 eyepieces worth $100 each. Alarm functions, rangers come out, but thieves escape.

11/84 Roof cable system improved. Louisa Lockette becomes Public Relations chairperson. Second Beemerville star party is held.

12/84 Special recognition given to Dave Brown and Doug Wurzler for their many years of hard work on behalf of the club.


1/85 Amendments proposed to Constitution and By-Laws to clarify voting procedures on major expenditures. Roof cable snaps and pulley comes off of wall. William Sharp, AAAP member and associate of Dick Peery at the NJ State Museum Planetarium, dies of injuries sustained in an auto accident at age 42.

2/85 AAAP joins the PC revolution with the first issue of Sidereal Times prepared with a primitive word processor and dot-matrix printer.

3/85 Constitution and By-Laws amendments pass by 35-0 vote.

4/85 Chain drive being planned for roof.

5/85 John Simpson joins AAAP and begins astrophotography training sessions. Officers elected: Jay Albert, Director; Art Esposito, Asst. Dir.; Doug Wurzler, Treasurer; Larry Smith, Secretary; Dave Brown, Prog. Chair.

8/85 AAAP is well represented at Stellafane.

11/85 Halley’s Comet begins its mediocre apparition, requiring much explanation to the general public. In compensation, AAAP gains new members.


2/86 Of the original 19 members in the AAAP, three remain on the rolls: Bob Sanders, Karl Koehler, and Frank Shallcross.

5/86 Officers elected: Art Esposito, Director; Don Monticello, Asst. Dir.; Doug Wurzler, Treasurer; Larry Smith, Secretary; Dave Brown, Program Chair. About 300 people came to view Halley’s Comet on the May 2nd public night.

9/86 AAAP member and Institute for Advanced Study Prof. Freeman Dyson is the speaker.

12/86 Observatory duty assigments will continue through the winter as the floor heaving problem seems to have abated.


4/87 Treasury is down to $225 after the last payment on the Simpson telescope.

5/87 Officers elected: Art Esposito, Director; Jay Albert, Asst. Dir.; Dick Sivel, Secretary; Wes Walton, Treasurer; Don Monticello, Program Chair. Thanks are given to Doug Wurzler for his ten-year stint as Treasurer. Finances are in better condition.

Summer/87 Roof cable still slipping at observatory. Leith Holloway (now retired in Vermont), former director, treasurer, and active member, makes a significant donation to the AAAP.

9/87 Beemerville star party a success; only the second clear night in five years.


5/88 Jay Albert elected Director, Dave Brown Asst. Director, Wes Walton Treasurer pro tem, Dick Sivel Secretary, Noah Levy Program Chair.

9/88 Field trip to US Naval Observatory in Washington. Rain prevents any observations with the 26-inch refractor.

10/88 Field trip to Sproul Observatory at Swarthmore. Cold clear weather, but poor seeing and a poorer eyepiece prevent good observations.


2/89 Treasury is very low at $240.

3/89 Karl Koehler’s 10-inch reflector, formerly at the observatory, was sold to a group of amateur astronomers as GE Astro for $130. The mirror is good, but needs re-aluminizing.

4/89 Membership list stands at 91, with a few extras due to family affiliations.

5/89 John Simpson assumes editorship of Sidereal Times, bringing much enthusiasm to the assignment. Roof chain drive almost ready for installation; Karl Koehler provides remote design help from Arizona. Dave Brown elected Director; Larry Smith, Asst. Dir.; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer [beginning a long stint]; Dick Sivel, Secretary; Don Monticello, Prog. Chair.

5/89 The May 20 work party accomplishes a great deal. The steelwork is wire-brushed and Rustoleumed, exterior trim is replaced, and the roof chain-drive mechanism is worked on but still needs some parts before final installation.

8/89 Roof chain drive installed. Dave Brown resigns Directorship due to his new position at JPL, working on the Hubble Space Telescope at Pasadena. [Compiler’s note: is this why it ended up with such bad spherical aberration? ::grin:: Dave contributed so much to the club that it is impossible to list everything he did.] Larry Smith succeeds to the Directorship, as provided in the Constitution.


1/90 Treasury stands at $1,718 before paying insurance premium of $457.

2/90 AAAP meets at the Plasma Physics Laboratory for a lecture and tour hosted by Don Monticello and Pat Colestock, featuring the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor.

3/90 Sidereal Times converts to a booklet format. The field trip to Fels Planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia on Feb. 7 was discussed. The Beemerville party is referred to for the first time as “Jersey Starquest.”

5/90 Officers elected: Director, Larry Smith; Asst. Dir., Greg Mauro; Secretary, Dick Sivel; Treasurer, Ron Mittelstaedt; Program Chair, Vic Belanger.

6/90 UACNJ formed. Treasury stands at $2,167, with a nice gain from Jersey Starquest net proceeds.

11/90 Prof. Freeman Dyson, long-time AAAP member who participated in the observatory construction in the late ‘70’s, presents a talk entitled “Hunting Comets and Planets.”


3/91 UACNJ is proposing a joint observatory. Messier Marathon held on 3/16.

4/91 Buzzer and new power supply installed on burglar alarm. Second Jersey Starquest announced for June 14-16.

5/91 Officers elected: Director, Greg Mauro; Asst. Dir., Chip Yuill; Secretary, Dick Sivel; Treasurer, Ron Mittelstaedt; Program Chair, Vic Belanger.

Summer/91 Jersey Starquest very successful, with 103 attendees. Treasury stands at $1,834.

9/91 Program Chair Vic Belanger announces complete lineup of speakers for the entire meeting season through next June. Treasury at $1,863. As reported in Sidereal Times, the New York Times estimates that a 50-year-old person has one chance in 6,000 of being killed by a meteor; this has never happened to anyone before as far as is known (? Tunguska?), although a number of people have been injured and many others have had meteorites land close to them. Digital setting circles installed on the 12.5”.

10/91 Light pollution is a major topic of discussion. Membership at 88.


3/92 1985 Constitution and By-Laws published in March Sidereal Times, along with transcript of the 3/77 grazing occultation expedition noted previously.

5/92 Election of officers: Greg Mauro, Director; Chip Yuill, Asst. Dir.; Secr., Ralph Marantino; Treasurer, Ron Mittelstaedt; Prog, Chair, Vic Belanger.

6/92 On the lighter side, Editor Simpson publishes “Guide To Safe Fax” in Sidereal Times, along with “Mufi’s Laws,” e.g. “Common sense will always be defeated in a contest with common nonsense.”

Summer/92 Observatory Chair Bill Murray reports that everything is in good condition.

9/92 Treasury at $3,053. Insurance premium of $500 due soon; state required increase in liability insurance to $1,000,000. Dues at $40.00 including subscription to either Sky & Telescope or Astronomy.

11/92 Thirtieth anniversary of AAAP founding.


1/93 Ralph Marantino writes article in Sidereal Times about amazing computers now available for $1,500, having 8 megs of RAM and a 210-meg hard drive BUILT RIGHT IN (sic). CCD’s start being made available to amateurs. John Simpson voices opinion that CCD’s have a very long way to go to match film in resolution at a reasonable price (still true). Simpson also reports physically destroying his home computer, resulting in the police being called to his home to investigate. Truth of report not established.

4/93 Bill Murray proposes selling the 12.5” reflector and purchasing a 14 to 16-inch fully computerized and CCD-equipped Schmidt-Cassegrain. UACNJ identifies Jenny Jump as a good site for their observatory. Larry Smith visits site and serves as AAAP liaison to UACNJ on this and other matters. Member George Lewicky reports on his upcoming Hubble Space Telescope spectroscopy project, searching Titan’s atmosphere in the ultraviolet for formaldehyde.

5/93 Officers elected: Vic Belanger, Director; Bill Murray, Asst. Dir.; Ralph Marantino, Secretary; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer; Herb Johnson, Program Chair. Thanks to Bill Murray for five fine years as Observatory Chair. Chris Moser now assumes this position.

6/93 Treasury at $4,187, of which $2,215 are prepaid Jersey Starquest funds.

9/93 Final issue of Sidereal Times to be edited by John Simpson. John dies of a heart attack while bicycling on Sept. 19, a heavy blow to the AAAP and his many friends.

10/93 Sidereal Times carries several tributes to John Simpson. A memorial service is held at Trinity Episcopal Church in Princeton on Oct. 16. John was a 1966 graduate of Princeton University and a professional photographer. Steve Cole assumes editorship of Sidereal Times. A complete description of the duties of the officers and appointed chairpersons of the club is printed in this issue.

11/93 AAAP votes to name the observatory the John W. H. Simpson Observatory. Member Russell Hulse is awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in the mid-seventies on binary pulsars, jointly with his teacher Joe Taylor of Princeton. Treasury is at $4,001 with $300 in the capital improvement account. Sidereal Times reverts to previous format (8.5” x 11”) for most future issues.

12/93 Prof. and member Freeman Dyson speaks to the AAAP on the subject of “Revolutions in Astronomy.”


4/94 Astronomy Day at Jenny Jump State Forest, with AAAP participation.

5/94 Officers elected: Vic Belanger, Director; Greg Mauro, Asst. Dir.; Secretary, Ralph Marantino; Treasurer, Ron Mittelstaedt; Program Chair, Bill Murray. Fifth Jersey Starquest scheduled for 6/10-6/12 at Beemerville.

9/94 A large unattributed donation increases our total assets to $10,728, divided up as $9,500 in the Capital Improvement Fund and $1,228 in the Treasury itself. Many observed the impact of the fragments of Comet Shoemaker Levy on Jupiter around July 17. UACNJ holds its first annual symposium of amateur astronomy at Jenny Jump. Capital Improvement Committee meets on Sept. 8 and recommends acquiring a 16-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain as well as moving the 12.5-inch to the AAAP site at Jenny Jump. Funding for this will require another $8,000. Archivist Rex Parker writes a short piece in Sidereal Times on some early highlights in the AAAP’s history.

12/94 Member Russell Hulse speaks about his Nobel Prize-winning work on binary pulsars.


2/95 Member Peter Mitchell continues his series of articles in Sidereal Times challenging the notion of the constancy of c, the speed of light. Editor Vic Belanger notes that publication in Sidereal Times does not constitute an endorsement of his views. [Compiler’s note: Those interested in current intense discussions on the validity or non-validity of Special Relativity and the existence of an ether are referred to the Internet newsgroup, sci.physics.relativity.]

4/95 Member Mike Stevens arranges for a grant of $2,125 from Bristol-Myers Squibb for our Capital Improvement Fund. Sixth Jersey Starquest set for May 26-28 at Beemerville.

5/95 Officers elected: Vic Belanger, Director; Greg Mauro, Asst. Dir.; Larry Koss, Secretary; Ron Mittlestaedt, Treasurer; Larry Smith, Program Chair. Membership at 95. Star Quest VI very successful; 94 attendees.

6/95 Membership reaches 100 for the first time in AAAP’s history. Treasury also hits an all-time high with $5,028, plus a CD now worth $9,183. Mel Bartels describes the current status of the Big Bang and its challenges, in a piece in Sidereal Times. [Compiler’s note: Pure mathematics is often confused with physics, leading to difficulties, as many everyday things in physics cannot be explained by mathematics (e.g. the unrestricted three-body problem, for which there can be no analytical solution, but which is easily solved by nature itself.)]

10/95 Illustrated article in Sidereal Times on the UACNJ clubhouse at Jenny Jump, with story of a visit by Ron Mittelstaedt. On behalf of the AAAP, Director Vic Belanger is presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by Gregory Marshall, NJ Director of Parks and Forestry, on Oct. 14 (photo in Nov. Sidereal Times.)

12/95 Inspiring letter from Moscow amateur Albert Garnelis, describing his ambitious and energetic program to further amateur astronomy in Russia under very difficult circumstances. He and other amateurs there are making their own Newtonians from scratch, using techniques popularized in the West during the Great Depression. Roof rails scraped and painted. Freeman Dyson presents talk, “How the Dinosaurs Might Have Been Saved: Detection and Deflection of Earth-Impacting Comets.”


2/96 We have $14,000 in a CD and $1,044 in the Treasury proper.

3/96 Comet Hyakutake begins its fine apparition. Dan Benedict and George Lewicky launch AAAP homepages on the Web.

4/96 Rex Parker’s anti-light-pollution efforts gain momentum. Seventh Jersey Starquest set for June 14-16 at Beemerville 4-H Camp, where it has always met since before it was called Jersey Starquest.

5/96 Officers elected: Bill Murray, Director; Vic Belanger, Asst. Dir.; Larry Koss, Secretary; Ron Mittlestaedt, Treasurer; Rex Parker, Program Chair.

Summer/96 Vic Belanger arranges for 4th consecutive introductory astronomy course to be held at the Nature Center on consecutive Friday eves. in September and early October.

9/96 Correspondence and photo exchanges continue with Moscow amateur Albert Garnelis. Work parties at the AAAP site in Jenny Jump’s UACNJ complex continue under Director Bill Murray’s leadership. Member Ralph Marantino is President of UACNJ.

10/96 Concrete poured for all five observatory foundations at Jenny Jump.

11/96 Gene Ramsey demonstrates his homemade observing chair.

12/96 More exchange of photos and newsletters with Albert Garnelis. Peter Mitchell reviews asteroid-earth collisions in Sidereal Times.


2/97 Bill Murray and Vic Belanger attend Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys despite numerous car difficulties. Treasury at $2,742 with another $14,783 in the CD. AAAP membership reaches 120.

4/97 Bright apparition of long-awaited Comet Hale-Bopp; approximately 600 observatory visitors swamp AAAP staff and local law enforcement on April 4. Eighth Jersey Starquest scheduled for June 6-8 at Branchville, NJ.

5/97 Officers elected: Bill Murray, Director; Vic Belanger, Asst. Dir.; Greg Cantrell, Secretary; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer; Rex Parker, Program Chair.

6/97 Director Murray notes that only a few keyholders are capable of finding more than a few objects in the sky without assistance - a poor state of affairs for advanced amateurs, indeed making us similar to many so-called “professional” astronomers! Bill therefore initiates his well-known “star hop” training sessions. Dick Sivel, long-time active club member and Secretary 1987-91, passes away on June 22 at age 68. CD at $15,079 and Treasury at $4,379. Materials being purchased for AAAP observatoryat Jenny Jump.

9/97 Active member and expert solar observer Ralph Marantino relates his journey as an amateur astronomer in Sidereal Times. Jenny Jump construction proceeds.

11/97 Photo of Jenny Jump progress in Sidereal Times.

1/98 Founding member, former director, generous contributor, and observatory designer Karl Koehler passes away in Arizona on January 5 at age 81; tribute published in March Sidereal Times. Upgrade Committee proposes to replace Simpson reflector with a C14 on a computerized Software Bisque Paramount GT-1100 mount.

3/98 Proposed Merrill Lynch complex on Scotch Road threatens observatory with increased light pollution. Hopewell Twp. resident Rex Parker active in efforts to diminish local night lighting. Club approves purchase of C14 on Paramount computerized mount. Ninth Jersey Starquest set for June 19-21at Hope Conference Center, Hope, NJ.

5/98 Officers elected: Director, Rex Parker; Asst. Dir., Greg Cantrell; Secretary, Gloria Kendall; Treasurer, Ron Mittelstaedt; Program Chair, George Lewicky. Treasury at $4,921 with $13,559 in the CD.

6/98 Old Brickyard Road entrance to observatory abandoned. Access now is through the soccer fields and camping area from Bear Tavern Road. Jersey Starquest a great success, with two clear nights. Celestron 14 OTA received. Member George Briggs donates valuable optics to AAAP.

9/98 Jenny Jump AAAP observatory nearly completed. Simpson reflector removed from Washington Crossing, and reconfiguration of pier and base under way to accomodate the new C14. DOT planning revamp of Scotch Road I-95 interchange, with more lighting threatened.

10/98 Photo of nearly finished JJ observatory, with worker Ralph Marantino, in Sidereal Times. New C14 on computerized Paramount sees first light at Washington Crossing.

11/98 Photo of new C14 in Sidereal Times. Member Peter Mitchell reflects on weaknesses of purely mathematical (as opposed to observationally-backed) theories of the universe, from Plato and Ptolemy onwards. Simpson reflector installed at Jenny Jump.

12/98 Archivist Herb Johnson publishes table of AAAP officers from 1963 onwards, in Sidereal Times. Mark Jaworsky, Chairman of Light Pollution Committee, reports on progress in dealing with local issues.

1/99 Treasury at $7,583 after paying insurance for both observatories. Simp son reflector has been installed at Jenny Jump. Constitution and By-Laws published in Sidereal Times (last revised in October, 1992). New mount under consideration for the Hastings-Byrne 6-inch refractor.

2/99 Capital Upgrade Committee proposes new Losmandy G-11 mount for the 6-inch refractor plus a new focuser ($3,000), and ST-7 CCD camera for the C14 ($3,000). Discussion of changes in public viewing nights policy at WC.

3/99 Club authorizes expenditures proposed by Capital Upgrade Committee. More correspondence received from amateur Albert Garnelis in Moscow, with photos of restored observatories.

4/99 Plans underway to improve rutted driveway at observatory.

5/99 Officers elected: Rex Parker, Director; Mark Jaworsky, Asst. Director; Gloria Kendall, Secretary; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer; Greg Cantrell, Program Chair. Quotes obtained for driveway upgrade.

6/99 Components for Losmandy G-11 mount arriving. Successful 10th Jersey StarQuest at Hope Conference Center with over 130 attendees.

9/99 Greg Cantrell resigns as Program Chair; Mark Jaworsky appointed in his place.

10/99 Losmandy G-11 mount installed for the 6-inch refractor; larger tube rings on order. Simpson reflector collimated and fine polar aligned at Jenny Jump.

11/99 Treasury at $6,253. New refractor mount completely installed.

1/00 Completely redesigned AAAP website in preparation.

2/00 New website will have URL, http://www.princetonastronomy.org

3/00 Jersey StarQuest 2000 announced for June 2-4 at Hope Conference Center.

4/00 New AAAP website goes on-line.

5/00 AAAP adopts $2.500 proposal to improve unsatisfactory slewing performance of Paramount C14 mount at WC observatory. Officers elected: Kirk Alexander, Director; Ralph Marantino, Asst. Dir.; Mark Lopez, Secretary; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer; Mark Jaworsky, Program Chair. UACNJ honors Ralph Marantino as Volunteer of the Year. John Miller is appointed Editor of the website. Membership list is published in Sidereal Times.

Summer/00 StarQuest on June 2-4 had one thunderstorm night and one clear night. Revised gate and parking rules listed by Washington Crossing Park. All Friday nights are considered Observing Nights, with special gate open hours.

9/00 Treasury at $8,788.

9/00 John Church gives illustrated talk on the building of the WC observatory.

10/00 Work party reports a vole, yellow jackets, and a snakeskin in the Simpson observatory. All observatory users reminded about need to dry off optics with the hair dryer before closing up the building, especially on humid nights. Landmark lighting ordnance passed by Hopewell Township Committee, after much effort spearheaded by Rex Parker and Mark Jaworsky.

11/00 Nobel laureate and AAAP member Russell Hulse reviews his work on binary pulsars. Letter in Sidereal Times from former director Jay Albert, in retirement in south Florida. AAAP now has 137 members. Legendary astronomy personality and entrepreneur Roger Tuthill passes away.

2/01 Mark Lopez appointed to fill unexpired term of Mark Jaworsky as Program Chair. Saul Moroz writes remembrance of Roger Tuthill for Sidereal Times. Archivist Rex Parker reviews some tidbits from AAAP’s history. Joe Bartolick reviews history of astronomy at Princeton University.

3/01 Roxanne Tobin Peery, long-time AAAP member, former Director, Asst.. Director, Secretary, and namer/Editor of Sidereal Times, passes away in Florida at 44. Roxanne was an energetic sparkplug of the AAAP in the 70’s and early 80’s as well as a tireless worker during the WC observatory construction. Ron Mittlestaedt continues his column “Observations” in Sidereal Times, remembering significant events in his progress in amateur astronomy. Messier Marathon conducted at FitzRandolph Observatory with the 36-inch reflector. Spectacular aurora visible.

5/01 Officers elected: Kirk Alexander, Director; Ralph Marantino, Asst. Dir.; Bill Murray, Secretary; Pete Oppenheim, Treasurer; Mark Lopez, Program Chair. Thanks offered to Ron Mittelstaedt for his long stint as Treasurer. Editor Vic Belanger’s son, V. James Belanger II, a recent physics graduate, contributes article in Sidereal Times on “The Geometry of Cosmology”

6/01 Despite poor weather at Jersey StarQuest June 22-24, 80 attend and share their experiences in amateur astronomy.

Summer/01 In Sidereal Times, Peter Mitchell continues his stimulating presentations on alternative approaches to explaining astronomical data and cosmogony. Editor Vic Belanger offers some points in rebuttal.

9/01 Terrorist attacks at World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11; AAAP meeting cancelled that evening. Treasury at $10,254.

10/01 Bill Murray relates events at the Rockland Astronomy Club Summer Star Party, a 10-day event held 60 miles from Stellafane (going on the same week), which Bill also attended and reports on. Five of Bill’s fine CCD images of M-objects also published in Sidereal Times. J. Richard Gott III talks on “Time Travel in Einstein’s Universe.”

11/01 Leonid meteor shower delights viewers with spectacular display in clear skies on the morning of Nov. 18th. Reports in Dec. Sidereal Times.

12/01 Funds appropriated for grounds improvement at Washington Crossing.

1/02 New Paramount drive for the C14 and the deluxe Burg Optics/Denton focuser for the refractor are anxiously awaited, but have not yet arrived..

2/02 Letter from former member Wes Walton (now in Florida) published in Sidereal Times.

3/02   Illustrated report on the Winter Star Party in the Florida Keys by Mark Lopez. Rex Parker arranges for an observing trip to nearby Baldpate Mountain in early April. 13th Jersey StarQuest set for June 7-9 at Hope, NJ. Messier Marathon at Jenny Jump, March 16th.

5/02  Officers elected: Kirk Alexander, Director; John Miller, Asst. Director; Bill Murray, Secretary; Ron Mittlestaedt re-assumes Treasurer spot after one year off; Mark Lopez, Program Chair. Superb new focuser for the 6-inch refractor received and installed in late May. Major exterior and interior maintenance/refurbishment of Simpson Observatory under way.

6/02  Highly successful 13th Jersey Starquest, June 7-9 at Hope, NJ. Steelwork at WC Observatory scraped, wirebrushed, primed, and finished in red. Roof support pedestals stuccoed, nearby brush pruned, other work.

Summer 2002  Treasury balance at $8,353. John Church writes up the experiences that he and Gene Ramsey had while installing the grand new Burg Optics focuser on the 6-1/4-inch refractor. Moral: nothing's easy.

10/02  Mark Jaworsky records in Sidereal Times his experiences at the Rose Center (aka Hayden Planetarium) in NYC and at a field trip to the BWII ("Blair Witch II") S*T*A*R observing site in the Pine Barrens, with spectacularly dark skies and a fine aurora.

11/02  AAAP holds 40th Anniversary Dinner at the Frist Center on the Princeton campus. Freeman Dyson, one of the WC observatory's builders, speaks on "A New Way To Look For Life In Cold Places Far From The Sun." John Church gives a slide presentation showing the observatory's construction, and records his reminiscences of events and club personalities during the 1970's as the observatory was being planned and built. 25-year lease on the WC observatory grounds renewed by the state, giving us occupancy there until Feb. 28, 2027. Optical SETI and Near Earth Object searches active at FitzRandolph Observatory, with significant volunteer assistance from several AAAP members.

12/02  Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University describes his work on the cyclic theory of the universe, an alternate to the Big Bang theory.

2/2003  George Dyson gives a talk on Project Orion, to which his father, Freeman Dyson, made major contributions.

3/03   Bill Murray presents a talk on transits of Mercury and Venus, in anticipation of the upcoming May 7th transit of Mercury. It is hoped that the Hastings-Byrne refractor will be used to time this event, which would mark the 3rd century in which it would have been used for this purpose. Bill also writes an excellent article on how to dress properly for cold weather observing.

4/03  15th Jersey StarQuest is set for June 18-20.

5/03  Officers elected: Kirk Alexander, Director; John Miller, Assistant Director; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer; Mark Jaworsky, Secretary; Mark Lopez, Program Chair. Unsuccessful "observation" of transit of Mercury at WC by Van Liew, Jaworsky, Murray, and Church ("Astronomers in the Mist").

Summer 2003  Director Kirk announces that he and his wife are moving to UC/Davis (California) to accept new positions. AAAP Board appoints Rex Parker to fill Kirk's unexpired term. StarQuest highly successful except for Vic Belanger's distraction by a box turtle that resulted in ankle and knee injuries. [Historian Church follows up by attempting a spacewalk in his son's garage in August, spraining his foot; beware trifocals on steps!].

9/03  Closest opposition of Mars in centuries attracts much media attention and many successful observations. Martian weather remained clear, allowing exceptional views of surface features through the club's and members' telescopes. Picnic on August 23rd a great success, followed by Mars observing at the WC observatory.

10/03  Kirk Alexander, newly relocated near Sacramento, reports his welcoming by the Sacramento Valley Astronomical Society and seeing their excellent facilities.

11/03  Bright aurora visible on Oct. 30. Fine new Paramount ME successfully installed on the C14 at WC Observatory.

12/03  Prof. Michael Mahoney of Princeton talks on Christiaan Huygens and the determination of longitude. Treasury at $9,312. Minutes of June 12 AAAP Board Meeting published in Sidereal Times. Barry Malpas of UACNJ to take possession of the old Byrne equatorial head for the 6-1/4 inch refractor, which was replaced earlier by a Losmandy mount.

2/04  New dues cycle published in Sidereal Times. Dues are increased to $40/year (the first increase in many years) and all memberships will go January to December, with a phase-in during the current year. Subscriptions to magazines will henceforth be handled by members on their own, with Sky & Telescope honoring the existing club discount. Membership chairman Saul Moroz reports 122 members as of Dec. 9. Next Jersey StarQuest announced for June 18-20.

3/04  Brian VanLiew publishes excellent Saturn photo taken with a WebCam. Michael Brown of Caltech speaks at March 9th meeting, discussing Quaoar and hinting at a major announcement to come in the next few days. On March 15, Brown and his colleagues formally announce the discovery of the new object Sedna, orbiting the Sun in an extremely eccentric orbit with a perihelion of 76 AU.

5/04  Officers elected: Rex Parker, Director; John Miller, Assistant Director; Mark Jaworsky, Secretary; Ron Mittelstaedt, Treasurer; Michele Novatski, Program Chair. Vic Belanger continues as Editor of Sidereal Times and John Miller as Webmaster.

6/04  The June 8th transit of Venus is a spectacular success. Clear skies allow Venus to be safely seen naked-eye on the Sun's disc shortly after sunrise, an amazing sight never seen before by anyone presently alive. As the Sun grows brighter, the event is followed by projection and the use of welder's shade glasses as well as by solar screens on telescopes. A large contingent, including our Congressman Rush Holt, observe from the soccer fields at WC. The Sun manages to clear an obstructing tree at the observatory just in time for 3rd and 4th contacts to be timed by using eyepiece projection on the 6-1/4 inch refractor, at which Congressman Holt, Don and Anthony Monticello, Darryl Foyuth and his son, and John Church are present. (Photos of this event are published in the Midsummer issue of Sidereal Times.) Brian Van Liew publishes a fine photo of M51 taken with the C14 and a cooled CCD.

9/04  Prof. Ed Witten of the Institute for Advanced Study gives a talk on cosmology and string theory. The premeeting dinner at The Annex surpasses all previous such dinners with about 27 participants. Director Parker publishes a photo of M31 and M32 taken with his Takahashi FS-128 refractor and a color CCD, capturing excellent detail even with a nearly full moon interfering.

10/04 Despite a computer snafu, George Bunk gives a well-received talk on the Space Shuttle program from the viewpoint of a “Cape Ape/Bolt Torquer” (as Cape Canaveral engineers have sometimes been referred to by the more theoretical Houston people). AAAP picnic at Washington Crossing on Oct. 23 was a huge success. Rex Parker images galaxies to nearly 16th magnitude with his 5-inch Tak refractor and a CCD, a remarkable achievement in central NJ. A lightning strike near the WC observatory in late September disables the Paramount’s computer, requiring its replacement, and disabling the phone temporarily. On October 27, the moon begins to emerge from total eclipse at the exact moment that the Boston Red Sox win their first World Series in almost 90 years. Astrology fans, especially those in Beantown, are thrilled.

11/04 Dr. Michael Strauss of Princeton gives a fine talk on the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Treasury balance at $9,873 pending the next insurance payment. John Church will work with State Farm to reduce our insurance costs. A new computer was installed to operate the Paramount. New gutters were installed recently, with large downspouts to carry roof drainage water away from the building. A new RA drive motor was installed on the 6-1/4 inch refractor to replace the damaged one.

12/04 Michael Carr of the Princeton Astrophysics Dept. brings us up to date on advances in the design and construction of CCD imaging devices. Mark Jaworsky contributes a fine article in the Dec. Sidereal Times about an observing session at Silver Mine Lake near Bear Mountain, NY.

1/05 Dr. Robert Vanderbei of Princeton talks on using CCDs and contrast pupil masks to assist in the optical search for extra-terrestrial planets. Director Rex Parker reviews our excellent progress in 2004 on diverse fronts. Former Director Jay Albert writes from Florida, where he has gone through many trials and tribulations with the building of a new house in Boca Raton, on top of the active hurricane season. Former treasurer Wes Walton also sends a letter from Florida, recounting his exciting experiences with the hurricanes as well. John Church reports success in lowering our insurance bill with State Farm.

2/05 Michael J. Laine’s scheduled talk on the Space Elevator (sky-hooks, anyone?) is canceled at the last minute. Ken Kremer fills in with a multimedia presentation on the NASA Mars Rover and Saturn Cassini missions. The 16th Jersey Starquest is scheduled for June 3 – 5 at the Hope Conference and Renewal Center.

3/05 Michael Laine’s talk is presented this month. A Nominating Committee Chairman (John Church) was selected to organize the committee and propose a slate of officers at the April meeting. The By-Laws are being edited to remove or modify a great deal of obsolete material.

4/05 Dr. Charles Liu of CUNY/Staten Island presents a talk on galaxy evolution and star formation. The Nominating Committee presents the proposed slate of officers for 2005-2006: Director, Rex Parker; Assistant Director, John Miller; Program Chair, Ken Kremer; Secretary, Ludy d’Angelo; Treasurer, Ron Mittelstaedt. John Church discusses the proposed changes to the By-Laws for discussion. These will be printed in the May Sidereal Times.

5/05 The program this month consists of a Member’s Night. The proposed slate of officers is elected by unanimous consent. Mike Mitrano and Ludy d’Angelo qualify as new keyholders for the Washington Crossing observatory. John Church and Gene Ramsey shortened the tube of the Hastings-Byrne refractor by one inch to allow the Burg Optics focuser (which they originally installed in May, 2002) to reach focus with large low-power 2-inch eyepieces on a 2-inch diagonal. (This was done only after it was determined to be impractical to shorten the focuser itself.) This results in a substantial improvement in the field of view, very noticeable with objects such as the Double Cluster in Perseus.

6/05 A fine photograph of M100 by Rex Parker taken with a CCD and his C11 is published in the June Sidereal Times, showing other (much more distant) galaxies as faint as mag. 16.4. The changes to the By-Laws are ratified by the membership.

Midsummer The 16th Jersey Starquest was a big success. Director Rex Parker continues his series of superb deep-sky images in Sidereal Times with an excellent portrait of the Dumbbell Nebula, M27 in Vulpecula.

9/05 Stephen Gorevan of Honeybee Robotics speaks on the topic of “Mars Rovers – Drilling for Science.” Sidereal Times will be distributed by e-mail to those members wishing to receive it this way; others can still opt to receive paper copies. John Church and Don Monticello volunteer to serve as a Finance Committee, to create a pro forma budget and forecast future spending by the club; this is a new initiative for the AAAP. Ken Kremer, our new Program Chairperson, describes details of many current solar system robotic exploration missions. Director Parker publishes a fine image of M31 and M32 in Sidereal Times.

10/05 Craig Covault, Sr. Editor of Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, presents a talk entitled “Science and Secrets: Capers and Misadventures in Global Aerospace Coverage,” recounting such episodes as hiding under a desk in a government office to escape the eye of a security officer who dislikes journalists. Mars, at a fine apparition, is under active observation when the weather (usually so good at this time of year) occasionally cooperates.. Director Parker branches out from his specialty of photographing deep-sky objects to capture excellent images of the red planet with his Takahashi refractor. The annual AAAP picnic is planned for Oct. 22 but is canceled due to inclement weather. Under the new and simpler dues system, the $40 annual dues are now to be collected in October, prorated for those who join as the year goes along. John Church presented a tentative club spending plan which he and Don Monticello have worked out (published in the Nov. Sidereal Times.)

11/05 Dr. Mario Livio of the Hubble Space Telescope Science Institute talks on the Hubble Telescope’s top ten scientific discoveries, afterwards signing copies of his book entitled “The Equation That Couldn’t Be Solved.” Prog. Chair Kremer summarizes a long series of space exploration projects along with many Internet links for more details.

12/05 Dr. Kimberly Weaver of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland gives a very fine talk entitled “New Eyes on the Universe: Observing Beyond Hubble with the Chandra and Spitzer Space Telescopes.” Our own solar observing expert Ralph Marantino writes enthusiastically about his new SolarMax Calcium K Line telescope. Ken Kremer is one of the team that creates a photo of the Mars Spirit Rover atop Husband Hill, on the cover photo of the Nov. 14th issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology. The Rover traveled 3 miles over a period of 2 years to reach this spot for the stunning panoramic photo. [Unfortunately, none of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famed Barsoomians showed up to have their portraits taken also.]

1/06 In a change of pace to the universe below rather than to the one above, Dr. Peter Rona of nearby Rutgers University presents a fascinating talk on “Volcanoes of the Deep Sea,” featuring spectacular “black smokers” with their accompanying tube worms and other organisms that survive and thrive under conditions that seem impossible for animal life. Director Parker summarizes the progress and achievements of the AAAP during the highly productive year just ended. The minutes of the Board of Directors’ meeting of Dec. 8 were published in Sidereal Times, including the revised spending plan for 2005-2006 incorporating increased funding to support the fine programs being lined up by Ken Kremer. It was felt that the treasury (now at more than $11,000 after payment of the insurance premium) could sustain this increase for at least the current year over normal program spending, perhaps attracting new members.

2/06 Dr. Mary Lou West of Montclair State University (NJ) presented a fine talk entitled “Celestial Mechanics: How Things Move in Space.”  This was followed up by a lively discussion on a current hot topic, “What’s the definition of a planet?”  This related to the recent demotion of Pluto by the International Astronomical Union, a source of dismay for many astronomical traditionalists.  Program Chairman Ken Kremer described his outreach activities.

3/06  On March 9, Dr. Marc Rayman of JPL gave a well-attended special science lecture in the Friend Center, with emphasis on low-energy space travel using gravity assists from planets.  This program was jointly sponsored by AAAP and Princeton’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department.  On March 14, our regular meeting was held in conjunction with a Board of Directors’ meeting.  The treasury stands at approximately $11,500.  Form 990 from the IRS will be completed and sent in, reaffirming our longstanding nonprofit 501(c)(3) status wherein donations are tax-deductible for donors  (as opposed to regular dues, which are not tax-deductible because membership services and privileges are received).

4/06  Dr. Robert Nemiroff of Michigan Technological University was out guest lecturer and gave a wonderfully illustrated talk on “Astronomy’s Best Images – As Subjectively Selected by the Editors of Astronomy Picture of the Day.”   The AAAP had a fine picnic on April 1 at Washington Crossing, with subsequent enjoyment of a spectacular crescent moon occultation of the Pleiades as well as other astronomical objects.  Larry Kane, Chairman of the Nominating Committee, presented the committee’s selection for a slate of officers for the May election:  Director, Rex Parker; Assistant Director, John Miller; Program Chairman, Ken Kremer; Secretary, Ludy D’Angelo; Treasurer, Brian Van Liew.

5/06  Dr. Michael A’Hearn of the University of Maryland presented a talk on the exciting encounter with Comet Tempel I (“Deep Impact”) that took place on July 4, 2005.  The strength of the surface layers was very weak down to a few hundred meters, and the entire nucleus must be extremely porous, like talcum powder.  About 4000 tons of water were ejected, along with many other compounds.  Officers re-elected at this Annual Meeting were Rex Parker, Director; John Miller (Assistant Director); Ken Kremer (Program Chairman); and Ludy D’Angelo (Secretary). Brian Van Liew was elected Treasurer, succeeding Ron Mittelstaedt who retired as Treasurer after many terms, beginning in 1989 and with one year off in 2001.  Ron continues in the post of Observatory Co-Chair along with Bill Nagel and Gene Ramsey.  The 17th Annual Jersey Starquest is set for June 23-25.  The treasury stood at $9,777. 

6/06 Bill Murray continued the long-standing tradition of having a planetarium staff member give a presentation for the AAAP at the New Jersey State Museum Planetarium in Trenton, which was recently reopened after renovation.  The Hubble-Vision multimedia show was featured.  As reported in the midsummer issue of Sidereal Times, heavy rains unfortunately marred Jersey Starquest, but attendees were still treated to a number of fine presentations.  At their June 1 meeting, the AAAP Board of Directors approved a tentative program budget for the next club year.

9/06  Past Director John Church gave a talk entitled “When Ireland Was the Center of the Universe,” describing the tour that he and his wife took of the extensive grounds of Birr Castle in central Ireland in the summer of 2004.  The estate is the home of the restored 72-inch reflector that the 3rd Earl of Rosse, William Parsons, constructed in the 1840’s, with which he discovered the spiral structure of many galactic systems including M51, the famous Whirlpool Nebula in Canes Venatici.  There is a large walk-through model of M51 not far from the telescope, consisting of spiral rows of lime trees, as well as many fine specimen trees and other botanical gems in the estate’s extensive arboretum.  The M51 tree model, with a diameter of about 80 meters, has a scale of roughly 1 to 6 x 1018 (i.e., one to six quintillion); at this scale, the Earth would be considerably smaller than a hydrogen atom. 

10/06  Dr. Theresa Kucera of NASA/Goddard presented a visually stunning talk entitled “The Sun as Seen from SOHO and STEREO: NASA/ESA Missions.”  SOHO is the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory and STEREO is the (twin) Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory.  The latter is composed of two spacecraft in the Earth’s orbit, one ahead of and one behind the Earth to provide a real-time 3-D image of the sun for better studying phenomena such as coronal mass ejections  Program Chair Ken Kremer reported that the October 2 issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology featured a large color spread of the Martian crater Victoria, taken by the Opportunity Rover.  Ken worked closely with aerospace journalist Craig Couvault on this project.

11/06  Al Nagler of TeleVue Optics, manufacturer of highly regarded wide-field eyepieces and small telescopes, talked on “Giant Eyepieces That Swallow Spacecraft.” Al has also designed visual training equipment (aka flight simulators) for training astronauts in the Gemini and Apollo missions.  The treasury balance was $13,466. 

12/06  Dr. Jim Bell of Cornell University gave a fine and exciting talk to an overflow crowd on the Mars Rover mission entitled “Postcards from Mars: Spirit and Opportunity Roam the Red Planet.”  The date for the 2007 Jersey Starquest has been moved from the first new moon weekend in June to the corresponding weekend in October, which may be better weather-wise.  A new finder was recently installed on the Hastings-Byrne refractor at Washington Crossing, and plans are being made for a better balancing system for the scope.  A $1,000 appropriation was made to replace the burned-out circuit board on the Paramount ME mount for the 14-inch Celestron with an upgraded version.  The cost to clear the trees and brush from the east side of the observatory was estimated at $675; the club voted to proceed with this project.


1/07  Dr. Jim Gunn of Princeton presented a very well received talk to a large audience entitled “Cosmology – A 50-Year Perspective and Some Prospects for the Future.”  AAAP membership currently stands at 100 and the treasury balance was $13,875.

2/07  Dr. Robert Vanderbei of Princeton, an expert astrophotgrapher, talked on “Backyard Astrophotography:  A How-To Story” illustrated with many fine examples of his work.  Two upcoming special lectures were announced, not connected with the regular AAAP meetings.  The first, given by Jonathan Lunine about the Cassini mission, was on Feb. 27th and featured unpublished data recently received regarding Titan and its large lakes of hydrocarbons and other organic molecules. On March 30th, there will be another special lecture by solar eclipse expert Fred Espenak” “Predicting and Chasing Solar Eclipses.” 

3/07  Dr. Edgar Choueiri, Director of Princeton’s Electric Propulsion and Plasma Dynamics Lab, presented a talk entitled “Plasma Propulsion and the Exploration of Space,” discussing this propulsion method as an alternative to obsolescent chemical rockets.  Fred Espenak’s special lecture on solar eclipses was enthusiastically received by a large crowd at Peyton Hall.

Beginning with the March 2007 issue, former Director, Assistant Director, and Program Chairman Vic Belanger retired from his more than 12-year editorship of Sidereal Times, passing the torch to the team of Bryan Hubbard and Ira Polans. 

4/07  This month’s speaker was Dr. David Spergel of Princeton’s Department of Astrophysical Sciences, who gave a talk on “The Atacama Cosmology Telescope:  A New Tool for Astronomy.”  John Church, Chairman of the Nominating Committee (members Gene Ramsey, Don Monticello, Jeff Bernardis and Ron Mittelstaedt) presented the proposed slate of officers for the upcoming year:  Director, John Miller; Assistant Director, John Church; Program Chair, Ludy D’Angelo; Secretary, Ron Mittelstaedt; and Treasurer, Michael Mitrano.  Ron Mittelstaedt installed the new Crayford focuser for the C-14 telescope at Washington Crossing, and John Church and Gene Ramsey have installed a new sliding brass balancing weight system (donated by Saul Moroz) on the Hastings-Byrne refractor.

5/07  This month the AAAP was treated to a talk entitled “God, Astronomy, and the Search for Elegance” by Brother Guy J. Consolmagno, Curator of the Vatican Meteorite Collection at the Vatican Observatory in Castel Gandolfo, Italy.  Brother Consolmagno is also Chair of the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society.
The proposed slate of officers, who also serve as the Board of Directors of the AAAP, was elected. The club thanked retiring officers Rex Parker (Director), Ken Kremer (Program Chair), and Brian van Liew (Treasurer) for their distinguished service in these positions. Rex reviewed the progress of the AAAP over the last several years.  Membership was reported at 105 and the treasury stood at $12,232.

6/07  Finishing off a successful and well-attended lecture season, outgoing Program Chair Ken Kremer introduced Dr. Tony del Genio from the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, who talked on “The Cassini Mission to Saturn” and its many exciting discoveries about this perennially pleasing planet and its retinue of rings and exotic satellites.

9/07  Director Miller, substituting for incoming Program Chair Ludy D’Angelo, introduced Dr. Scott Tremaine of the Institute for Advanced Study, who talked on “Massive Black Holes in the Universe.” Final preparations were made for the 18th Annual Jersey Starquest, which has now been shifted to October from its previous June slot.  Brian van Liew continued his fine series of astrophotos in Sidereal Times with a shot of M8, the Lagoon Nebula.  Ron Mittelstaedt and Ludy D’Angelo re-greased the Paramount with silicone grease better adapted for extremely low and high temperatures than the factory-applied grease.  This should solve the seizing problems noted in previous winters.  The field just east of the observatory has been completely cleared of small trees and brush, which gives us better visibility and reduces any possible fire hazard.  Ultimate plans are to convert this into a useable area for setting up small telescopes.

10/07  Dr. Arlin Crotts of Columbia University presented an extremely interesting talk on “Transient Lunar Phenomena,” unexplained sightings that have been recorded for many centuries and are often attributed to outgassing events.  Jersey Starquest(Oct. 13-15 at the Hope Center) enjoyed good weather and was highly successful.  Past Program Chair Ken Kremer brought us up to date on his outreach talks and the fine photos obtained in Victoria Crater by the Mars Opportunity Rover. Treasurer Michael Mitrano reported that the club’s cumulative surplus stands at $15,038, noting substantial dues income during this membership renewal season.

11/07  Dr. Edward Belbruno of Innovative Orbital Design Inc. and a visiting research collaborator at Princeton University, gave a talk entitled “Using Chaos to Go to the Moon and to Travel Between Planetary Systems.” These methods, although relatively slow, feature very low fuel consumption. John Church and Gene Ramsey repaired the rotted wood at the northwest corner of the observatory roof sill plate.  Ken Kremer wrote up an account of his visit to Cape Canaveral to view the launch of the Dawn Asteroid Orbiter, which is to visit Ceres and Vesta.  Using scans of paper files of old Sidereal Times issues, current issues will now feature images of pages from 20 years ago. 

12/07  Dr. Ed Turner of the Dept. of Astrophysical Sciences at Princeton gave a very interesting talk on “Detecting Extrasolar Planets, Plants, and Beaches.”  Spectroscopic signals can detect the presence of plant life that might be similar to that on Earth.  Brian van Liew continued his series of fine images in Sidereal Times with one of M33, the Pinwheel Galaxy in Triangulum, a difficult low-contrast object.


1/08  This month we were treated to a fascinating presentation by our local tourist astronaut, Dr. Greg Olsen, on his Russian Space Shuttle trip to the International Space Station in 2005, an expensive adventure which he nevertheless says he would gladly repeat. Treasurer Mitrano reported that the club’s cumulative surplus stands at $16,163. (For comparison, in Feb. 1989 our treasury balance was $240.) 

2/08  This month’s speaker was to have been Dr. Jerry Sellwood of Rutgers, to talk on “The Dark Side of the Universe.”  However, the meeting had to be canceled due to inclement weather. Dr. Sellwood’s talk will be re-scheduled at a later date. Brian van Liew’s excellent pictures of Mars at its recent opposition were published in Sidereal Times. 

3/08  Our speaker this month was Dr. Orsola DeMarco of the American Museum of Natural History, who gave us a fascinating talk on “Stellar Duets: How Companions Shape the Lives and Evolution of Stars.”  Brian van Liew published some fine photos of the recent total lunar eclipse, which was well seen in our area with last-minute clearing skies.  Jeff Bernardis continued his monthly listing of his extensive community outreach events.  Gene Ramsey announced that he is stepping down from his long and highly valued service as Co-Chair of the Observatory Committee.  Gene will continue to assist with observatory maintenance, but on a reduced basis.  Ron Mittelstaedt was given the go-ahead to purchase a new 13-mm TeleVue Ethos eyepiece for the observatory. On March 15, a team of members selected and purchased new cabinets for the observatory, to replace the old sub-par furniture.  The new furniture was set up the following day and the old furniture was set out for subsequent breakup and removal.

4/08  A Nominating Committee spearheaded by Georgette and Bob North proposed that the current officers be re-elected, with the exception that the secretary position be filled by Larry Kane to replace retiring Secretary Ron Mittelstaedt.  The election will take place next month.  Dr. Argyro (Iro) Tasitsiomi of Princeton University gave a fine talk on “Cosmology:  Current Status and Remarks on the Dark Side of the Universe.”  Bryan Hubbard, co-editor of Sidereal Times, speculated on the size of the universe in an editorial, arguing that someone in the most remote galaxy that we can see could possibly still see an equivalent distance continuing in the same direction, and so on forever. Such a viewpoint has been disputed by others, maintaining that the entire universe ultimately lenses itself and that someone situated out there would see essentially the same thing that we see.  Bryan gave web links for others to explore these various viewpoints.  A deposit was sent to the Hope Center to reserve Oct. 24-26 for this year’s Jersey Starquest.

5/08  The slate of officers nominated last month was elected.  John Miller, John Church, Ludy D’Angelo, and Michael Mitrano will continue to serve as Director, Assistant Director, Program Chair, and Treasurer, respectively, and Larry Kane will serve as our new Secretary.  David Hogg of NYU gave a most interesting talk on “Astrometry: Automated Calibration of Amateur Astronomy Imaging Data for Scientific Research.” Treasurer Mitrano reported that we currently have 105 paid memberships and that our cumulative surplus is $14,965.  The cost of the new Ethos eyepiece was largely offset by the sale of three other eyepieces that have been of limited value.  The state has resurfaced the access road from Bear Tavern Road past the soccer fields and part way down the smaller road that leads to our own access gate to Brickyard Road.  This makes the drive to both the soccer fields and Brickyard Road much smoother than it has been in many years and will be appreciated by visitors to the observatory.  There will be no formal June meeting; instead, there will be a picnic for members and their families at the pavilion by the Nature Center on Saturday, June 14.