The Celestial Observer – March, 2015

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Night after night they are there.  And night after night they arouse our curiosity, our urge for knowledge.
A. Rey, The Stars


My thanks to everyone who turned out for the March meeting at which we heard Alan Hirshfeld, PhD deliver a presentation on the first chapter of his book Starlight Detectives: How Astronomers, Inventors, and Eccentrics Discovered the Modern Universe. Thanks also to outgoing NSAAC President Kevin Hocker for his dedicated service to the club. Kevin’s efforts over the years have helped position NSAAC to grow and become a fun and relaxing venue for our shared interest in astronomy.  Kevin, your efforts are much appreciated.

Looking forward the Board of Directors and I will be focusing on three primary areas during 2015:

  1. Simplifying the club, with a focus on fun!
    Our club meetings and management structures are overly complicated, and detract from the enjoyment of our shared hobby. The Board will be reviewing the way we operate with an eye toward streamlining managerial structures that offer little value to members and directing our limited volunteer hours toward activities that do: frequent observing, wicked-awesome guest speakers, scope clinics, useful information sources, and public outreach through Salem State University, Merrimack College, and star parties. I encourage all members to attend upcoming club meetings during which we will discuss and vote on changes, and hear our 2015 lineup of guest speakers. Stay tuned!
  2. Observing
    In 2014 we began the process of identifying and securing access to new and better observing locations. Several have been identified and we are working to securing regular access to them. If you are aware of a dark sky location that would be receptive to a relationship with NSAAC, please let a board member know.  We are also looking for site coordinators who will maintain good relations with site owners.
  3. Comradery
    Enjoying the night sky in company with like-minded individuals is probably the #1 reason that people join the club and stay with it. A shared respect for the majesty of nature and for each other makes club membership and the efforts of our volunteers worthwhile and rewarding. The comradery born of shared interests also creates opportunities for mutual learning. And we have much to learn from each other. Every member has unique skills that can add to our collective understanding of astronomy.  Whether you use a laser to collimate your dob, have deep eyepiece expertise, or just make good ham & eggs the morning after a night of campground observing, each of us has something to contribute.  We’ll be looking for ways to encourage that sharing in the months ahead.  Give us your suggestions.

It is my hope that we will do more group observing and have more fun as the weather improves and as we streamline our organization. But even as we streamline, there will be important tasks to do: keeping the Web site up to date; helping with scope clinics and star parties, identifying guest speakers, contributing articles to the newsletter; and so forth.  Have you thought about taking on one of those tasks?  They are a great way to participate in the life of the club.  Even small contributions make a difference.  And many small efforts deliver big results!

I look forward to working with you toward a great year.

Kind regards
Ed Burke, Club President

Download Newsletter (PDF)

Glenn Chaple’s Sky Object of the Month

Glenn’s object for March is Messier 47, an open cluster in Puppis.  You’ll find it just above and to the left of Sirius.  Catch this southerly object between 9 and 11 while it’s still in observable position.

Glenn’s article and star chart are posted on the club web site.  And while you’re in that neighborhood, slew 1.5 degrees east to catch M46.  Glenn’s March 2014 article on M46 is still on the site.  Rick Beno captured M46 and M47 (and NGC 2424) in the following image taken from Arizona Sky Village.  Thanks, Rick!

Photo: Rick Beno, TAK Epsilion 180ED at f.2.8  

Photo: Rick Beno, TAK Epsilion 180ED at f.2.8

Upcoming Activities

Next Club Meeting, Friday, April 3
Our meeting at Brooks School in North Andover will begin at 7:30 p.m.   A scope clinic will begin at 7 p.m. if –and only if–one is requested in advance.  (See the website for scope clinic requests.)  A presentation will begin at 8:00.

Presentation:   “Observing from the Dark Skies of Southeast Arizona”
Arizona Sky Village is a remote community of 18 homes located in one of the darkest places in the lower 48.  Created at 4,700 feet for astro aficionados, it offers eye-popping views of the heavens, including southern objects like Omega Centaurus that cannot be seen from New England.  By day, the area is a paradise for birders and hikers.

Taking a break from February’s ice and snow, club member Dick Luecke rented a house and scope in ASV.  He will recount his experience with a photographic tour of ASV, one of its many residential observatories, the nearby Granite Gap (NM) astro community, and the Chiricahua Mountains.


Meeting LocationBrooks School
Brooks is east of Hwy 125 and south of Hwy 133. Enter the campus from Great Pond Road at point M on the Google map below and continue to the Science Center parking lot at point B.  We’ll meet there with our liaison and enter the Science Center.  If for any reason the gate at point M is closed, enter the campus at point A on Great Pond Road, drive to the security gate (point C) and indicate that you are with “North Shore Amateur Astronomy Club.”  Then continue on to the Science Center parking lot (point B). The campus and meeting location:

Star Parties:  Brewster LaMacchia is working on the spring schedule. Stay tuned.

Collins Observatory:  Club-sponsored public viewings are held at Salem State University with Dennis Gudzevich at the controls of the 12-inch Meade. The observatory is closed on school holidays and cloudy nights, so check the website,

Mendel Observatory   Merrimack College’s observatory is open every Wednesday from dusk until 10 p.m. when the sky is clear, with Kevin Ackert and Fred Sammartino operating the 20-inch scope.  Check before driving out.

Non-NSAAC Events

Astronomy Classes   GAAC’s series of free 1-hour astronomy classes continues on Saturday afternoons from 2:00-3:00 in concert with the Gloucester Lyceum and the Sawyer Free Library.  Coming up next are:

  • Saturday March 21:  Virginia Renehan, Violent Weather Inside & Outside the Sun
  • Saturday, March 28:
    • Dr. Mario Matta, Dark Skies and Bright Lights
    • Michael Deneen, New Worlds Around Other Stars
  • Saturday, April 4:  Alan Winter, Astronomy as Art
  • Saturday, April 11:  Dr. Danilo Marchesini, The Expanding Universe


North East Astronomy Forum

April 18-19  SUNY at Rockland Community College, Suffren, NY

Billed as “the world’s largest Astronomy Expo,” NEAF has a stellar (pardon the pun) line up of speakers and workshops.  And the vendor hall will be packed with all the latest and greatest astro equipment and gadgets. Visit the NEAF Website to learn more about the event.

Volunteers Needed

Want to help the Club with its mission?  Volunteering is a great way to meet other members and learn new things.

  • Assist Brewster LaMacchia with any of the upcoming slate of star parties and presentations.  Contact:
  • Help out at Merrimack College Observatory on Wednesday evenings.  Contact: Kevin Ackert at
  • Help Ed Burke with the website. Contact:

Minutes of the NSAAC Business Meeting March 6, 2015


President Hocker called the March Business Meeting of the NSAAC to order at 7:35 PM.  There were nine members present plus five Board members. There was a quorum. Meeting was official.

  • Minutes   The minutes of the February Club meeting were approved by acclamation.
  • Secretary    No Report
  • Treasurer   No Report
  • Membership    There are currently 102 members in good standing.
  • Early Meeting Announcements   Open forum on the agenda after New Business
  • Committee Reports
    • Merrimack College   The Observatory was closed all month due to storms and snow on the dome.
    • Salem State University   No report

 News, Correspondence, and Upcoming Activities

  • Star Party Committee   No report.
  • Telescope Clinic   Kevin Ackert held a scope clinic for a family who had a reflector that was made by their father who was a member of ATMoBs.
  • YAP Program   No Report.

Old Business

Vice President Ed Burke announced the slate of candidates for the upcoming election of officers:

  • President: Ed Burke
  • Vice-President: Richard Luecke
  • Treasurer: Kevin Ackert
  • Secretary: John Hobbs
  • Membership Director: Richard Luecke
  • Member at Large:  open
  • Member at Large: open
  • The slate of candidates was approved by acclamation.

Also, we need more volunteers for the operation of the telescope at Merrimack College. If interested contact either Kevin Ackert or Fred Sammartino.

The club still would like to find other volunteers to do star party presentations.  If anyone is interested please contact Brewster LaMacchia.

New Business

John Hobbs indicated that a request to observe behind the West Boxford library has been approved by the Boxford selectmen.  He has also received the Dark Park permit for the coming year.

Entertainment for the evening was an engaging talk by Professor Alan Hirshfeld of the University of Massachusetts Bridgewater, the author of “Starlight Detectives”, on how astronomy got stared in America.  Afterwards, he had copies of his books for sale and signed those purchased by members.

Next Board Meeting 

The May Board meeting date will be Monday 16h at 7:30 PM at Papa Gino’s in Andover, MA.

Meeting adjourned 7:50 PM.


Respectively submitted, John Hobbs, Secretary NSAAC





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