Re: VAAS success

Kayce Cover

You guys did a great job on this, Leigh Anne.  Thanks so much.  I just made this post on the Facebook page:

AAS Conference 2017 10 21

This is a first group event in a while, for Dave and I.  And, it was a really good one.  Thank goodness for the bright signs leading us right to the registration tables.  Those were really helpful.  Thanks, George Reynolds.  

The club generally took really good care of participants.  We were greeted, registered, fed, refreshed, and hydrated before, during and after.  

Karen Jagow and Jeff Goldstein welcomed and registered us.  President Chuck Jagow started the day and oriented the group.  

I really resonated with the presentation of Joseph Zawodny, PhD  Hmmm… he talked about immediate gratification - and how that can relate to astronomy.  Lots of insightful inspirations.  I reflected back on his two studies of the moon a number of times during the day.  I like the idea of really enjoying the less complicated aspects of astronomy.

Bob Beuerlein gave an introduction to 3D printers/printing.  After explaining the multiple complications involved with these printers, he then tantalized us with numerous cool astronomy gadgets.  He gave attendees a red ‘cap light’, which were hugely popular.  People were playing with them all day, and they were a major feature at the cook out afterwards, even lighting the dinner table.  

There were a number of really good planetarium shows and vignettes.  Like many in this group, I arrived with too little sleep, and the planetarium with the lean-back chairs, is a compelling invitation to zone out while watching beautiful animations of star nurseries, narrated by Neil de Grasse Tyson.  I think the day was a score, if I only got to see the planetarium presentations, and to hear the repartee of Professor Ken Broun.

However, there was more.  I really enjoyed meeting astronomers from all over Virginia, and I think they were right at home, and well cared for.

John Voss gave a presentation on AL.  He inspired us to want to join!  Oh wait, it is included with our BBAA membership. Score 2.  Our membership is such a bargain.

George Reynolds had a really beautiful presentation on BBAA.  It was really nice - like something I would expect to see at a major facility.  I wanted to join BBAA too.  But wait, I am already a member, I just need to participate and appreciate!  (I am seeing a theme here).

I loved the talk of Gene Tracy, PhD.  He systematically explained a subject that has long mystified me:  how do we KNOW how far away stars are.  And, oh, by the way, what is a parsec?  He seamlessly laid out a very understandable explanation of how we use two major tools, and a number of known associations, to map our our entire observable universe, relying on overlapping  measurements to confirm our conclusions.  I took lots of notes, and revisited them this morning, to refresh my newly gained insight.  I had avoided this subject, and feel like a new door opened before me.

The last presentation of the day was Michelle Shinn, PhD, BBAA member from the Department of Energy.  This presentation was extremely timely, as she spoke with passion about the newly found merging neutrino stars.  So much information here - not just about the paper, but the whole detection process, and collaboration, the anticipation from predictions, the prospect of finding 3-5 of these a year, now, and the pending construction of a new collider.  The excitement in the room was palpable, and the information was intense.  Michelle gave lots of background information, links to further support, and more.  Wow.  Talk about hot off the press.

Many of us met again at the cookout, where Bob Beuerlein’s night scope binoculars penetrated the dark and the clouds, allowing us to see things - albeit green things - that seemed impossible to see with all the clouds.  And back at the picnic table, Michelle graciously gave further explanation and answered yet more questions, while trying to get a chance to eat.

And there was a lot of tasty food, ready as soon as we arrived.  One might say, too much food.  Today I started the day with my gym machine.

The whole event was welcoming, really well organized, fun and inspiring.  I loved learning so much, in such a wonderful way.  Thanks very much to Leigh Anne for the organization, and the many other club members who worked hard to make this event memorable.  It was great.

Best wishes,

Kayce Cover,
Syn Alia Training Systems

On Sun, Oct 22, 2017 at 8:24 AM, lalagoe@... [backbayastro] <backbayastro@...> wrote:

Yesterday, the BBAA hosted the annual VAAS conference, and everything went really well. We started planning this conference back in January, ended up conflicting with multiple astronomy events—not due to an effort to avoid them, I promise—and still had a decent turn-out.

About 35 people came, including folks from Charlottesville, Richmond, and Roanoke, but most attendees were locals. We opened registration at 8:15 along with a free coffee & snack bar that kept our guest’s stomachs & caffeine needs satisfied all day long.

Starting at 9:00, we were treated to presentations on astrophotography, BBAA outreach, and 3D printing. We then moved to the planetarium for a fantastic show.

Lunch included pizza, sub sandwiches, chips, salad, and drinks. When folks were finished eating they wandered outside for some solar viewing. We were even treated to a cool 3D-printed sun dial that displayed a digital-style reading of the time in a shadow. Some folks strolled out back to take a look at the classic sun dial as well.

At 1:15, the club presidents held a small meeting to decide that Richmond would host the next VAAS and it was suggested to consider moving all future VAAS conferences to a centralized VA location.

The afternoon sessions brought information from the Astronomical League, another planetarium show, and presentations on estimating the size of the universe, and the neutron star merger.

Door prizes included multiple maps and guides, as well as a lithium Celestron battery, and an astro binocular kit.

We ended a little over schedule due to an internet connection problem, but nobody seemed too upset by it.

About a third of the attendees made the drive out to Cornland park for burgers & dogs, and a brief glimpse of a slivered moon before the clouds consumed most of our view. However, due to Bob’s night vision binocular chair, everyone got to do some stargazing after all.

Despite my determination to break even on this event, we ended up going a bit over budget (I’ll have final numbers for an event report once the returns have been made and all the receipts are added up). However, I think it was worth it to keep our registrants happy, give them a little more than their money’s worth, and to offer our presenters a small gift to show our appreciation.

A special thanks to all of those presenters: Dr. Gene Tracy, Dr. Joe Zawodny, John Goss, and of course the BBAA’s very own Dr. Michelle Shinn, George Reynolds, and Bob Beuerlein.

And let’s all thank Kenny Broun next time you see him. We probably don’t thank him enough for allowing us to use TCC every month. He was on site at 7:30AM to open the doors and deal with all the minor glitches like doors not opening and a clogged sink. Not to mention, his spectacular planetarium shows!

Without our planning committee, it wouldn’t have been the success that it was. Chuck Jagow arranged our Cornland site for the star party, and took care of the cookout. George Reynolds on our coffee bar and some beautiful signs directing people around campus, Jeff Goldstein handled our Tshirt orders, and Shawn Loescher took care of donation requests, website and online registration forms, as well as social media promotion of the event. Each committee member had a million additional tasks that I don't have time to list.

More thanks to those that helped: Bill Rust arrived early to help where needed, and Karen Jagow manned our registration table all day.

Another thanks to Bob Beuerlein for bringing that fun “digital” sun dial & his night-vision goggles for our evening viewing through the clouds that saved our star party for the guests that made the drive out there.

Overall, well done everyone!

-Leigh Anne

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