The January letter is the one I most look forward to. I’m writing this in mid-December so it’s natural to look back wistfully at the previous year and with renewed excitement for the coming one.
My promise in 2016 – Make amateur astronomy accessible
Last January, I used my column to write about the woman amateur astronomer and my intention to make HAS programs more accessible to our female members. Over the year, we've seen the birth of a women's special interest group, student members who are young girls, two women speakers in one year, the construction of a new bunkhouse with separate rooms for women and families ... and a proud member shared news about his daughter, the professional astronomer.
Capping it off, a high school student—a brand new member—approached me after the December membership event about her senior thesis. It would be in astronomy, her passion, but it being such a large field, "a candy store" to choose from, she asked if I'd be her field advisor to help direct her.
Maybe these changes were inevitable with a female president. But I'm not the first. Maybe some of you remember Margaret Nuñez. She was president in 1995. Fast-forward to 2017, and we have seven committees chaired by women and three female members of the board, two of whom are also officers of the society.
As pleased as I am personally, it’s bittersweet making note of these changes considering the post-gender society many assumed we’d be living in by now. I’m not being political here, just pragmatic. I have two granddaughters interested in science who love visiting the Observatory. Now we’re ready for them—and for your sons and daughters and spouses and friends and student interns—almost every would-be member. Without the dedication of many men and women amateur astronomers, HAS would not be as inclusive as we are now. Thank you.
What’s new for 2017
What’s new for 2017? I can hardly wait to find out myself. What I do know about is a new program from our Telescope Committee Chair, Allen Wilkerson. Catch Allen’s article in this GuideStar. The Publicity Committee is taking another look at our communication model. Ditto for Web Technology and our move to Google G Suite. The Observatory Committee is always up to something—in a good way. As for E&O, don’t forget about their Great Winter Outreach Challenge. And in February, thanks to Audio/Visual, our meeting speaker will present to us via Skype. The other new programs introduced in 2016 were wildly successful so be watching the calendar for upcoming FT&O and WSIG events. (E&O, FT&O, WSIG? Check the HAS Directory on p. 4 of this GuideStar.)
At the January 6, 2017 meeting, we’ll nominate a member who lives in San Antonio to fill a vacancy on the board and we’ll also be voting on a new HAS Advisor. There’s more to be unveiled at the Leadership Planning Retreat, and you’re invited. As always, see www.astronomyhouston.org for the latest.
I have one final project that I’d like to make happen this year, my last as president. A full weekend star party complete with lectures, hands-on equipment tutorials, swap meet, HAS t-shirts, and, of course, food.
I didn’t mention observing. The only thing I can’t order up is good weather. Unless… Would you be willing to attend a Flash Mob Star Party based on observing conditions? Ideas about how this could work later, but do let me know your thoughts. Happy 2017!