President's Message

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  • 01 Jan 2014 2:48 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Austin Astronomical Society has seen a very successful 2013 with regards to outreach, new members, quality speakers and presentations. I feel honored and privileged to be part of such an amazing organization surrounded by such remarkable individuals.

    Several of our members received accolades and certificates for their observing efforts. Meeting attendees were treated to an array of educational and inspirational talks by both members and non-
    members alike. We have seen the Practical Astronomy sessions flourish and I cannot wait to see what is in store in the coming year. We will kick off January and February with two member presentations; Brian Lippincott will speak on homemade Dobsonian mounts followed by Lauren Gonzalez talking on Astronomical League awards. The calendars for the Eagle Eye Observatory are set and posted and we hope to see a lot of you out at COE with your scopes on public nights.

    In recent years we’ve seen our fair share of heat and drought in the region. This has made for dry viewing conditions. However, it has been nice to see some rain back in 2013 even though it has meant sacrificing the last few months of public star parties. Let us hope a healthy balance of precipitation and good viewing nights can be met, and soon.

    We’ve witnessed some astronomical phenomenon in the past year, developed as a membership and introduced hundreds of people to the marvels of the night sky. Some heavenly displays were not as awesome as anticipated. However, in the grand scheme of things I think we are fortunate enough to live in a time where we not only get to witness these wonders but we know why, scientifically, they exist and how to better predict the nature of future spectacles.

    Pan-STARRS was dimmer than anticipated but still viewable by naked eye. ISON didn’t survive the sun but it taught us much about our star’s magnetosphere and comet trajectory. Meteor showers weren’t as prolific but it made the meteors that were seen all the more special. The annular solar eclipse missed the mark on being visible in Central Texas. However, next year will yield two visible total lunar eclipses and one partial solar.

    In 2013, research in the scientific and astronomical communities exploded with everything from increased discoveries of exo-planets to continued data collection by the Curiosity Mars rover to the discovery of the Higgs boson out of the LHC and the possible detection of dark matter. The Antares Rocket launched while NASA successfully printed and tested the first 3D rocket injector. Astronomers discovered the densest known galaxy supporting over 10,000 stars clustered across four light years,
    India launched their first Mars probe and China put a rover on the moon.

    We’ve had a great year and I expect no less of the next twelve months. As always you can reach me via email or phone if you have any questions at or by 512.663.2249.

    Happy New Year! May 2014 grant us clear, transparent, cloudless nights filled with dark and starry skies!


  • 01 Dec 2013 2:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    As we pass the Thanksgiving Holiday and near towards the end of the year there is so much to be grateful for.  In 2013 we saw 165 new members join the Austin Astronomical Society family.  We also brought thirty different events to the public in and around the Austin Metro area.  Over 200 people attended our Austin Under the Stars function in July and we have seen attendance numbers at the General Meetings increase with each month.

    Our monthly meetings have featured some phenomenal presenters from society favorites Don Olson and Russell Doescher to AAS member and published author David Henderson and UT Students of AAS member Phil Schmidt presenting the engineering behind their custom crafted observing chair.

    The content of the Practical Astronomy sessions, hosted by our Member Services Committee, has been rich and insightful.  Jim Spigelmire and Mike Krzywonski taught you about the fundamentals of telescopes.  Lauren Gonzalez educated the group on how to be a better observer and tools for completing your AL lists.  Kim VanCamp from the Williamson County Society presented a brilliant education on Herschel and we closed out the year welcoming back long time member Darron Spohn as he helped us learn our way about the night sky.

    We saw many of our members achieving accolades throughout 2013 including; Alan Carruth – Messier Binocular, John Huntsberger – Messier, Mark Johnson – Carbon Star and Erika Rix – Mable Sterns Editor Award.  These are fantastic achievements and I foresee many more in the coming year.

    The past few months have seen activity within the Texas IDA increasing, with much thanks to member and departing coordinator and AAS liaison Steve Bosbach.  His contributions to defending our night sky are commendable and praiseworthy.  Our loaner scope program continues to thrive and is a great way for members, new and old, to ease into astronomical observing.  The star parties at the dam are also back in force and I see them flourishing in 2014.

    AAS continues to grow and thrive and there is so much on the horizon.  We hope to see requests increase so we can begin the production of merchandise.  In the New Year we will strive to bring you the Solar Scope Loaner Program for those of you interested in utilizing the society’s newly acquired Coronado Solar Scope.  Additionally, agreement negotiations are underway with COE and LCRA to bring you more benefits of membership and increased opportunities out at the Eagle Eye Observatory.

    Now is a great time to be a member and get involved in all that AAS to offer.  Stay tuned here on the Sidereal Times, on the AAS website and at upcoming meetings to learn more.   As always you can reach me via email or phone if you have any questions at or by 512.663.2249.

    Here’s to dark and starry skies!  Hope to see you all at the holiday party!


  • 01 Nov 2013 2:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you are anything like me then you are grateful for the rain we have received in the past few months but on the flip side, aching to get your eye on a scope.  Sadly inclement weather has caused the cancellation of the past two public star parties.  However, November is chock full of events and as we enter the month of “Falling Back”, due to daylight savings time, and cooler weather one might hope clearer nights are on the horizon.

    Please pay special attention to some of our upcoming events.  We’ve been working with the Texas Stars for the past six months on a collaborative event coming up on November 9.  The hockey games draw a lot of fans and that is a grand opportunity to present Astronomy to the public.

    November and into December will also present chances to see Comet ISON as it nears the Sun for a pass Thanksgiving day.  Flanking that date are two public star parties, one November 23 and the other December 7.  It is safe to assume that these will be attended in great number due to this cosmic event.

    Speaking of December, keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming Evite in your email box to the AAS’s holiday party scheduled for December 13 at Wild Basin Nature Preserve.  This is a delightful evening of good company, delicious food and rousing music.  Mark your calendars now and plan to attend.

    In recent months you’ve heard me at meetings and via email talking about AAS branded merchandise.  As was reported at the last assembly, we do not yet have enough forms to necessitate a full order of shirts, hats and the like.  This does not mean we will not be placing the order, it just means that we will not be doing so in the time frame initially set.  Please continue to provide me, either electronically or physically, your merchandise forms and when we reach a full order we will move forward.

    There is so much going on within the society and a great deal on the horizon for the next few months and in the coming New Year.  If you’ve still not renewed your membership I encourage you to do so as we will begin removing non-members from our system.  If you know someone who might want to become a new member, it is never too late to join.  Membership within AAS is what you make of it and there is so much to do.  Don’t ever hesitate to ask questions of your executive committee and speak up at the monthly meetings, they are put on to support you, the membership.  And if you’ve ever been curious about how business is conducted outside of the general assembly gatherings; don’t forget that the executive committee meetings are also open to members.

    Feel free to contact me about the location of our EC meetings, merchandise or any other questions you might have at or via cell at 512.663.2249.

    Here’s to dark and starry skies!

  • 01 Oct 2013 2:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In my downtime, when not at AAS events and meetings, I spend my time taking part in various non-astronomy based hobbies.  It was during such an activity that I happened to sit down next to fellow member.  We were both attending a Community Garden Leadership Training in North Austin.  This class was held for individuals interested in learning how to develop and maintain a community garden.  My comrade was there with an interest in starting one up with his church.  I was there because I’m on the leadership committee for the North Austin YMCA community garden. This encounter got me thinking about our society members and how little I, and probably most of the rest of you, know about those you observe with or find yourself seated next to during meetings.  Those of you who attend the monthly GA meetings eventually make it around to Double Dave’s afterwards know what I’m speaking of as it is there that a multitude of topics are touched on, not just astronomical in nature.

    Some of you, old and new members alike, have already forged bonds with your fellow astronomers and get together outside of AAS functions.  I have had the pleasure of getting to know a fair number of you all and have delighted in our encounters beyond the AAS realm.  I look forward to becoming acquainted with more of you.  It is my hope that in the future we will be able to introduce more casual get togethers in addition to our meetings and outreach functions.

    I’ve said time and time again, this is your society.  With that in mind, what do you want to see?  Would you like more casual events such as meeting up for coffee or a monthly brunch? Do you want to see an AAS happy hour or more organized activities based on common interests?  We’ve expanded things a bit by introducing a show and tell element to the monthly meetings (looking for volunteers to speak to such at the October GA gathering).  However, I think there is more and I’m open to feedback and suggestions.

    Don’t worry I’m not envisioning an Austin Astronomical Society vs. Hill Country Astronomers softball game. Or maybe I am…

    What I am saying is that we are more than just the star crazed observers you see on the fields or on the UT campus.  Our membership is overflowing with talent and interest and skill unidentified and it is my hope to learn, over time, what other subjects you are all passionate about.  And perhaps I’ll have the pleasure of meeting up with some of you unexpectedly in and around the Austin area.

    Here’s to dark and starry skies!


  • 01 Sep 2013 2:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    From the perspective of a new member it can sometimes look like all we do in AAS are attend public star parties and monthly meetings. What I’ve witnessed during my time in this society has been so much more. The people that compose the membership of our club do more than just the aforementioned activities; these people leverage their astronomical knowledge. Within the Austin Astronomical Society we have Cub Scout and Boy Scout leaders who regularly take to the wilderness to show the youth of today the wonders of the night sky among all the other responsibilities as a troop or pack leader. Many of our members are teachers using the skills that they develop as astronomical observers in AAS to help round out develop their teaching curriculum in the sciences. Some of our members work in fields closely related to astronomy or that involve work on scientific apparatus. A few of our members are champions for causes such as encouraging an interest in science at the lower education levels or working to improve our not-so-dark skies.

    One such new member, an outreach coordinator for a neighborhood coalition, asked me at the end of August to attend and speak at a town hall type meeting. This was an assembly where board members of a local school district were hearing arguments for and against the development of a major sports complex down in Southwest Austin. This structure, when built, would not only harm a vast and diverse ecosystem but its lights would add to the continued deluge of light pollution we experience in the Austin Metropolitan Area. Not more than two seconds after being heard by the board I was approached by another group of individuals with a similar issue looking to connect with our organization of astronomers.

    Our membership comes from all walks of life. Some have been interested in the sciences of the universe from an early age and some are discovering it a bit later in life. Many members find ways of incorporating their interests into their other hobbies and some find ways to make it a part of their everyday work. It doesn’t really matter how you got to this lovely corner of the world and found AAS, we’re just happy you’re here. Furthermore, as a society and as a community we need to, if we’re not compelled naturally, to support one another. In many ways this is what our Members Service Committee does. Our Practical Astronomy sessions are opportunities for members to teach on and share their particular astronomical based interests. At our last meeting members were treated to a beautiful and informational presentation on astrophotography.  Our guest speaker, also an AAS member, spoke about his lifetime of experience working in the field of astrodynamics. We also introduced a show and tell segment into the agenda and were treated to a demonstration of new lighting technology engineered by one of our members.

    I want to encourage each and every one of you, new and old member alike, to become active members in whatever way you interpret the word. Perhaps you want to do more public outreach; maybe you have a more inward desire and want to teach the members about your area of expertise. You might do some really amazing work in your 9 to 5 job you want to share. Whatever it is that brought you here, has kept you here and fires you up, we want to know about it because odds are it is really exciting stuff.

    Reach out to your executive committee for guidance on how to leverage your membership and to discover new ways to be active. Attend the monthly meetings and feel free to speak up about those issues that are of interest and importance to you. They are your meetings; the AAS is your society!

    Here’s to dark and starry skies!


  • 01 Aug 2013 12:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Some of my fondest astronomical memories can be traced back to the month of August. My father would pack up my brother and me into his Volkswagen Vanagon and head out to the western part of the county, away from city lights, to view the Perseids. Throughout the year we would witness many meteor showers and the occasional lone grazer but nothing compared to the awe and wonder of so many falling stars at once. It is a tradition I hope to share with my son as he gets older and one I’m always delighted
    to share with the public out at COE. I expect a large turnout at this month’s public star party at the Eagle Eye Observatory due to it occurring around the meteor shower’s peak.

    The arrival of the Perseids is also a great opportunity to start a dialogue about the upcoming Comet ISON. It has already been a record year with the viewing of PANStarrs and ISON is not expected to fail when it comes to the wow factor.

    And speaking of conversing with the public, what better way to display your AAS pride when out and about than wearing AAS gear.

    That’s right! At long last we now have available for purchase AAS branded apparel and merchandise. Between now and the end of August you can place an order for emblazoned shirts, hats and other items sporting our keen logo and in some cases our slogan, “Keeping Astronomy Weird Since 1969”. See the article in this Sidereal Times issue for more information.

    Also new to the AAS website is our “Requesting a Star Party” page under the events tab. There you will find tips on hosting a star party, a star party FAQ and our printable request form. Feel free to forward this information and the link along to friends, family, co-workers or anyone else looking for a star party with AAS astronomers and telescopes. 

    If your friends are looking for a different kind of AAS experience consider bringing them to a meeting. Visitors are always welcome and the content is always entertaining. Jim Linn, Member Services Chair, is ramping up the Practical Astronomy session with full speed. This month, AAS member, Edward Plummer will present on “Astrophotography: Equipment, Techniques and Examples” followed by our post business meeting guest speaker David Henderson talking on "Science Awareness for the Layman - Astrodynamics"

    There is always something new happening within the Austin Astronomical Society. If you’re not a member, consider becoming one or at least coming by to see what we’re all about. If you’re a member and want to be more active, have a conversation with your member services chair or outreach chair.

    Opportunities abound! And as always…

    Here’s to dark and starry skies!
  • 01 Jul 2013 12:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    With June at a close goes with it another successful Austin Under the Stars event. The weather wasn't ideal, the heat and humidity lingered well into the night. However, a grand time was had by all. We anticipate there were approximately one hundred visitors, many of which were first timers and some of which were new society members. Thanks to the Austin Planetarium we were able to once again provide visitors an opportunity to experience their mobile dome and, new this year, to showcase some
    phenomenal software called the 3D Universe.

    I’m proud to be part of a society that holds outreach to the public in such high regard. With each AUTS event I see more children inspired and awed by astronomy. Equally delightful is the reaction their parents have towards seeing the moon or a cluster of stars through a scope. It is one thing to get a child excited about the sciences but when the parents are equally intrigued the likelihood that the child’s interest will be fostered, and allowed to develop, increases. You've heard me say it before as Outreach Chair and you will continue to hear me speak to the value of volunteering at public events. However, being a member of AAS is more than attending star parties.

    There are many more ways to take part in the society. The Sidereal Times is a fantastic platform for detailing your latest observing exploits for the group. Or perhaps you are an astrophotographer looking to share an image from your most recent session. There are opportunities to submit articles to the Times and also to the website home page. If you are more of a public speaker perhaps you would be interested in presenting at one of the monthly Practical Astronomy Sessions. Looking to be active to a smaller audience? Consider being a mentor to a new member or someone looking to get more familiar with the sky. There are countless ways to participate and make a difference in this society.

    If you are inclined to be more of a spectator than a contributor that is just fine as well and the best way to do that is attend a meeting. Our next one will be on July 12 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, the location of our AUTS events. Please see the website for further details and as always…

    Here’s to dark and starry skies!
  • 01 Jun 2013 12:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    I've always said that things happen for a reason, so I can’t say I’m too surprised by this recent role change having been my high school’s Astronomy Club president. Though this time around my responsibilities are a bit more in quantity and the society exceeds more than four members in total.

    I've no allusions regarding the remarkable shoes I have to fill and I am familiar with playing second fiddle to Joyce as I have manned her prior role of Outreach Chair for the past two years, the role she will once again acquire.

    It is bittersweet becoming AAS’s next president as the appointment comes on the heels of Mr. Tim Brown’s departure from the EC. While Tim won’t be a regular attendee at the EC and GA meetings I’m certain we've not seen the last of him in the slightest. This month we will be losing Tim to a new position in Fort Worth as well as Jack Estes to Boerne. Tim has been instrumental in the continued progress and success of the Member Services Committee and served as our esteemed Vice President before that. Jack has been a corner stone of the EC for more years than most of us have been members. His diligence to the position of Treasurer, and most recently to the role of ALCor, has been exemplary to say the least. Gentlemen, your presence will be missed. Thankfully those that remain round out a top notch group of individuals that I continue to look forward to working with.

    Ron Carman will continue his term as society Vice President, Mark Lyon is still on board as our intrepid Treasurer. I’m pleased to announce that Darin Koch and Jim Spigelmire will remain as Equipment Chair and Communications Chair, respectively. Not to be replaced we’ll welcome back for another year our Members At Large, Terry Phillips, Mike Krzywonski and Vic Ellisor. Steve Bosbach will continue to keep us apprised of dark sky on-goings as our liaison to the Texas IDA. And taking on new positions with the 
    EC are Jim Linn as Member Services Chair, David Lynch as Secretary and Lauren will be changing gears as the new Coordinator to the Astronomical League.

    There are a great many happenings on the horizon for our little part of the sky. In the coming months you will see additions to our website. We will have phenomenal speakers both visiting and from within the society. And coming up right around the corner is our big annual summer event Austin Under the Stars, taking place Saturday June 15 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School.

    Whether you’re new to AAS or a long time member I want to encourage you to come to the meetings and take part in our outreach opportunities. If you can only make it out under dark sky circumstances I implore you to take advantage of the Astronomical League’s observing lists. AAS has so much to offer its members and conversely you have so much to offer AAS.

    I look forward to serving as your new president and hope you will contact me at any time should you

    need; or 512.663.2249.

    Here is to dark and starry skies!
  • 10 May 2013 4:07 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Joyce Lynch

    I will finish my second term as club president at the end of this month.  I'm very grateful for all the help I have received from the Executive Committee and other club members.  Thank you so much!
    As I look back on the last two years, I remember various highlights.  In March 2012 we partnered with the San Antonio Astronomical Society in an attempt to "flash" the ISS.  It worked, and I have a photo from astronaut Don Pettit to prove it.
    In June 2012 we worked with the University of Texas to help the public view the transit of Venus.  Hundreds showed up to experience this once-in-a-lifetime event. 
    Last fall we raised almost $3000 for the Austin Planetarium in memory of our member Larry Forrest.  Then more recently we renamed the Ealing telescope at Canyon of the Eagles for him at the same time as we dedicated the new observatory donated by our member Fred Ruof.
    Just recently at SXSW some of us got to see a scale model of the James Webb Space Telescope on display and let visitors look through our scopes.
    Interspersed among these happenings were eclipses, comet viewing, many COE star parties and other outreach events, and some very interesting programs and Practical Astronomy sessions. 
    I'm not going away.  I will continue to work at outreach events as well as attend Practical Astronomy sessions and GA meetings.  See you around!
  • 23 Apr 2013 4:45 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Joyce Lynch
    March was a busy month for the club.  The first Saturday we had a public star party with lots of scopes on the field, and the next night we finally got to conduct an observing night at Wild Basin after several cancellations over the last few months.  The following weekend some of us went to see the mock-up of the James Webb Space Telescope during SXSW, and the weather was good enough on Sunday for some solar viewing and a star party there.  Then there was the week of viewing Comet PANSTARRS.  On the 16th, after a postponement the previous cloudy Saturday night, many members tried to do the Messier Marathon, but clouds came in and ended their efforts early.   Several of us were at Austin City Hall on the 23rd for Earth Hour and some urban observing, where we got the usual "wows and "awesomes" we often hear from people who are looking through telescopes for the first time.  All in all, it was a pretty good month for outreach and personal observing.
    I hope to visit with many of you at the Central Texas Star Party at Canyon of the Eagles April 5 and 6.  See below for more information.
    The following Friday evening, April 12, will be our general meeting, with our own Dawn Davies as the speaker.  The election of officers for the year beginning June 1 will also take place that night.  Come and help determine your club's future. 
    See you soon!
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