Hi everyone

“We live in interesting times” seemed an apt 1936 quote by Sir Austen Chamberlain to start this update to you. We have some of the most interesting things going on above us at the moment but alas also around us and the distraction of both are hypnotic. Reading the pages of the various papers and news sites brings to reality the threat of the coronavirus whilst also the wonders of the scientific research that also uncovers more and more knowledge about the reality we live in. Indeed, in reading the Science Daily Dark Matter page https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/space_time/dark_matter/ also reveals articles on the latest supercomputers researching the Coronavirus so it seems that both will be topics of conversation and research for some time. I trust that everyone is keeping well and practicing safe distancing as this seems to be the only real defense until a vaccine is available.

The Committee has held several meetings over the last couple of weeks to determine our course of action for the club for the next 6 months.

The use of the hall by the St Ignatius school has been put on hold until at least the start of Term 2 (27th April) and to contact them then to determine what happens next. As a consequence the April Club Meeting will be cancelled and the 30+ attendees for the New Astronomers Group (NAG) will be postponed till later in the year. In also what has been a long sought after goal I am pleased to announce that we have a New AstroPhotography Group (NApG) course which was slated for 16th May and whilst it is pleasing to announce its existence it is bittersweet as the Committee also needs to advise that it will also be put on hold due to uncertainty of the situation.

The committee spent a fair bit of time also discussing our observing nights and how we should proceed here. Given the continuing restrictions on socialising and the fact that many of our members fit the profile of the worst affected by the virus the committee has decided to put observing on hold. There was much debate about distancing happens naturally around telescopes etc but I feel that for the club to hold events at this time is not prudent and that the members well-being is of the primary concern. Whilst it may be an individuals choice to attend a field to observe, the club should not be facilitating members, or the public, by advertising and hosting such events. No doubt the site can still be used by individuals as it is a public facility but this will be at the individuals choice. We will of course monitor the situation and reverse this decision as soon as we can. I realise that not everyone will agree with this but in the interests of the club, and our members health I believe that this is the correct course to take.

Our return to the Hunter Valley for our Star Party is still currently on track for late September. Whilst we haven’t committed to a booking at this point we have advised the site that we still plan to attend but will need to hold off on the booking at this point. The site is a large area in a quieter and darker area of the valley. Whilst it is next to a road the traffic in that area is particularly quiet. The plan includes marques at Two Fat Blokes’ new estate with platters of food and wine from the area, and as Jacinta is our organiser for this year the party side of the name is getting a good work out. It should be a fun filled event but also settled in a darker site with less sky glow than last year. More details to come as we will continue to flesh out the plans but we won’t be confirming things till mid-year.

2FB HVSP site
Two Fat Blokes’ new estate

Our search for our new site is progressing well with over 15 sites reviewed and evaluated. We are currently short listing and plan to bring to the club our recommendations to proceed. Some of the options require little investment whereas others come with lots of facilities and club houses already established but will require an ongoing financial arrangement that the club will need to be committed to. There is even a potential for a 10 year plan if the club so chooses. Shout out to Greg McCall, Nick Angelini, Phil Angilley, John Lin and Dave Armen on the progress to date. Look out for our next update in a few weeks time.

Given the above the club will further invigorate our Reflections Magazine and Monthly Showcase photos and articles. There is a new Reflections due to come out shortly so I encourage everyone to pick up your pen (or keyboard) and put down some of those thoughts that I know goes around in astronomers heads all the time. Turn your thinking into a muse or some jottings. I recently purchased a new guide-scope and it is decidedly not fixed and its position will definitely move from setup to setup. SharpCap says that this is not a problem! I’ve set out to test this and will be publishing my results in the next few weeks.  (“publishing!” – doesn’t that sound grand!!). The Monthly Showcase will be distributed electronically and you can all vote. Look out for the email…there are some lovely photos and interesting articles this month.

Meanwhile I have done a total re-haul on my electrics and cabling and significantly reduced my cable snagging risk!

DS scope
Dave’s scope

I hope you are all well and look forward to catching up with you all as soon as we can.

David Stevenson
Club President