Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 21st June 2007.

Present: Professor Robert Weale (President) and 33 members plus one guest.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 22nd June 2006

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President's Remarks

The President first thanked John Oakes for his service on the Council, as he was due to stand down this year. He remarked that he believed that a chairman should be seen and not heard. The officers were highly efficient and the Council members exceedingly useful and enthusiastic, and the general membership was greatly assistive in getting meetings ready and tidying up afterwards. He had received no complaints, and so he gave a big thank you to everybody.

3. Secretary's Report

The Secretary felt that we had had another good year of talks, and gave a brief summary of the topics. The Programme Secretary then listed the topics he had arranged for next year.

The Secretary reported that in March, we had again arranged a special programme for National Science Week at UCS, and South Hampstead High School. It was well received by the schools and we again got good coverage from the Ham & High. She thanked Michael Wynne, Simon Lang, Nayna Kumari, who made most of the arrangements, and the others helping in the week itself.

There had been two trips this year: one in October to the JET Facility at Culham - arranged by Rob Grant and Hemant Desai, and another in May to the Regional Planetary Imaging Facility at UCL - with the Amateur Geological Society, organised by Julia Daniels. We had officially attended two BA Branches Forums, one at the Science Festival in Norwich last year, and another in Exeter in April.

She noted that membership was now at 113 paid up memberships, including families, meaning 116 members.

Finally, she thanked Elisabeth Fischer, Julia Daniels, and Peter Wallis for food and wine that evening, Peter Wallis again, for regularly producing a good standard of newsletter, and Nayna Kumari, Aileen Cooke and Hugh Scarfe for providing coffee at our meetings.

There were no questions and the report was accepted.

4. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer, Peter Wallis, distributed copies of the accounts and gave his report.

On the expenditure side, we had small savings on the Observatory and Administration, offset by increases in the cost of booking the room and on Science Week. On the other side, our membership income was up by £100 and interest by £35.

Overall, our income exceeded our expenditure by £600. However, with inflation running at over 3%, our capital had only increased by half this in real terms. He concluded that there was no need for us to increase the subscription. Indeed, an Auditor had pointed out that we could afford some extra expense on lecturers.

He was asked if the next AGM should be held in the Bahamas, but declined the suggestion!

The President thanked Peter Wallis for his report.

5. Election of Council

The Secretary announced that Council had re-elected Robert Weale as President at the Council meeting on 18th April 2007.

As there were no further nominations, the following officers proposed by Council were declared as elected:
Julie Atkinson Hon. Secretary Peter Wallis Hon. Treasurer
Jim Brightwell Hon. Programme Secretary Elisabeth Fisher Hon. Membership Secretary

John Oakes retired from Council under the four year rule. As there were no further nominations, the following members proposed by Council were declared as elected to Council:
Aileen Cook John Tennant Hemant Desai Nayna Kumari Elizabeth Davies

6. Election of Auditors

The President asked why the accounts had been signed by Graham Wallis but not the second auditor. Julia Daniels answered that due to her and her husband's recent illnesses and hospital visits, she had been unable to complete the Astronomy Section accounts in time for Martin Williams to audit before the AGM. However, he would be completing the audit as soon as possible. The President thanked the auditors for their work.

Julie Atkinson proposed Graham Wallis and Martin Williams for next year's auditors, with Peter Wallis seconding. The meeting concurred.

7. Astronomy Section Report

The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Doug Daniels, presented his report, summarised below. (An expanded account is on the web site.)

The annual Observatory maintenance session took place on Sunday June 11th 2006, again on a day when temperatures soared. We confined ourselves to clearing weeds, repairing holes in the dome and generally tidying-up. Thanks to all who participated.

On June 17th, Simon Lang organized at special Planet Watch to observe the conjunction of Mars and Saturn (3/4 deg.apart) and also Mercury and later Jupiter. Mercury was not seen due to haze. On Sept. 7th there was a partial Lunar Eclipse occurring just after moonrise but cloud prevented observation. Cloud also prevented observation of the occultation of the Pleiades on night of Sept. 12th.

We delayed resumption of public nights until October, mainly due to staff shortages. This year we lost Garry Marriott as he is off globe trotting to Canada and China. We thank Garry for all his help in the past and hope to welcome him back in the future. We also unfortunately lost the services of John Hayden who has been a demonstrator for some 30 years and also Gordon Harding. We thank both John and Gordon for all their help in the past and wish them a long and happy retirement.

On Oct. 11 members of the section attended a presentation and party to honour Terry Pearce for 30 years service, running the telescope making class - closed down by Camden and re-opened as Camden Amateur Telescope Society, C.A.T.S.

On Nov. 9th, members finally saw Comet Swan, as an 8th magnitude object with no tail. In 2007, Comet McNaught far exceeded its predicted magnitude, attaining -2 on the evening of Jan. 11th when it was seen by Simon Lang and Dan Pooley. Its tail extended for at least 5 degrees.

On Feb. 7th there was a rare conjunction of Mercury and Uranus. Simon organized a session on Parliament Hill. Poor weather prevented seeing Uranus, but Mercury and Venus were well seen. On March 2nd, there was an occultation of Saturn. For once the sky was clear but it took place too late (02.43 hrs UT) to open the Observatory especially as on the following day there was to be a total Lunar Eclipse. This took place under cloudless skies and was enjoyed by more than 100 visitors to the Observatory. Thanks to all members who turned up to give support.

The Observatory was opened each night during Science Week 9th-18th March. There were few clear nights but those who attended were rewarded with some fine views of Saturn. The rings are beginning to close now and the South Equatorial Band was seen double and red tinted.

We decided to extend the public open nights until mid May to afford opportunity to observe Venus at a particularly favourable eastern elongation, and Saturn.

On Jan 16th, the Observatory was featured in the TV programme Disappearing London. The Astronomy Section secretary was interviewed by the presenter Suggs. Later in the year, the Section took part in the Ham. & High Festival. All three sessions were fully booked and despite generally poor weather, visitors were able to observe Venus close to dichotomy as well as Saturn.

The session's activities ended with a visit to the Planetary Imaging Facility at UCL. Our thanks to Julia Daniels for arranging this and to Peter Grindrod for giving up his Sunday to entertain us.

The Astronomy Section secretary concluded by saying that once again the section has enjoyed a very busy year both 'on stage' and 'behind the scenes' where, for example, Dan Pooley has expended much time and effort to re-design the section's website, shortly to be put in place. Simon has organized extra observing sessions and Julia has made sure that the section remains solvent. All these activities depend upon all section members freely giving their time and effort to the Society. On behalf of the Section, the Secretary thanked them for their continued generosity.

Alfred Oppenheimer asked whether the Section was moving with the times and offering things other than just observing. There are much more detailed pictures available on the internet, e.g. pictures from the Hubble Space Telescope that could be used for education. Doug Daniels replied that there are internet sites not generally known that he refers visitors to. Dr Grindrod had shown how to access and process Mars Observer images, for people wanting to do research.

Simon Lang said that when visitors want to know more, we provide sources. Doug Daniels said that he will add links to the new web site. Leo McLaughlin suggested having an internet link in the observatory. Doug Daniels said that there would be security problems, but Martin Williams said that all we need is a telephone line, and we have one for the meteorological data. Martin Williams volunteered to sort out a connection, and Doug Daniels thanked him and will consider the use of a link.

The President thanked the Astronomy Section Secretary for his report.

Julia Daniels then presented the accounts of the Astronomy Section. She apologised for producing the accounts too late for auditing, as explained earlier.

She was asked how the observatory maintenance cost was zero this year. She said that last year the usual observatory maintenance group had expended £375 on materials and tools, but this year, the group had used the leftovers, so there was no expenditure. She noted that the extra postage cost this year was for circulating the Regional Planetary Imaging Facility trip.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

8. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, after apologising to the Astronomy Section for the weather, presented his report, summarised below.

Data from the Society's automatic weather station had been logged every five minutes without any breaks during the last twelve months, and the requisite summaries had been sent to the Meteorological Office each month -switching from ink-on-paper returns to electronic returns as from November last year.

In August 2006 the station was visited and examined by the Met Office's official inspector, Mr Stephen Haynes, and instrumental calibrations were checked, and damaged instruments replaced. This inspection is still officially called the “three-yearly inspection” although the last two were in 2001 and 1996.

Monthly reviews of Hampstead's weather were posted on the section secretary's website by the 4th of the following month, but he hadn't had the opportunity to extend the on-line availability back in time beyond the mid-1950s.

He had been contacted by Nick Haycock of Haycock Associates in January. They had designed a web-based system for collecting and displaying environmental data for the Hampstead ponds for the City of London corporation, with weather data from the Hampstead Scientific Society being an important element of the display. This system was due to go live soon. In return for making the data available to this website, Haycock Associates would be paying for the annual service and maintenance of the automatic weather station.

The Meteorological Section Secretary then summarised the weather experienced during the last year.

SUMMER 2006 was a very strange season. June was dry, warm and sunny; July was hotter than any other July - hotter than any other month of any name - in Hampstead's records, and as far as we are able to ascertain it was probably the hottest calendar month nationally in over three centuries of records. (It should be pointed out, though, that hotter 30-day periods straddling calendar months occurred in both 1995 and 1976). July was also the sunniest calendar month on record. Hot Julys are normally followed by warm or hot Augusts, but not so last year. The crash in temperature from July to August was the greatest ever recorded between those two months. August was also cloudier and wetter than average with frequent thunderstorms.

AUTUMN 2006 was the warmest on record, not just in Hampstead's 97-year history, but in the national record which extends back to 1659. September broke its record, October was the fourth warmest ever, and November was the warmest since 1994. Rain fell very frequently, and the seasonal total was almost 20 per cent above the long-term average. Nevertheless, sunshine duration was close to the long-term average thanks to a very sunny November.

WINTER 2006-07 was also exceptionally mild - the warmest in Hampstead for 32 years. Long periods of southwesterlies, with frequent and often heavy rain, and incessant wind, were punctuated by two or three brief cold snaps. The first of these occurred just before Christmas and brought four days of persistent fog, seriously disrupting holiday travel. The second brought sharp frosts and light snow flurries in late-January, and the third delivered the heaviest snowfall for ten years - 8cm deep - on February 7th. The season was also enlivened for some by the Kensal Rise tornado on December 7th, and a severe and damaging gale on January 18th.

SPRING 2007 has been a season of contrasts. The first week of March was very wet, but from then until the second week of May hardly a drop of rain fell. April was the warmest on record, and one of the driest and sunniest ever, but May (at least from the 6th onwards) was dull and rather cool with frequent rain. In fact May completely sabotaged the normal seasonal progression, being colder, wetter, and appreciably less sunny than April.

Martin Williams suggested that we link to Haycock Associates from our web site if the negotiation is completed.

Jim Brightwell said that in his records April had been the driest since 1990. Philip Eden said in Hampstead it was since 1994, but other areas had had no rain at all.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

9. BA Affiliation

The Secretary stated that the Society was due to review its affiliation to the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The memorandum of understanding between the Society and the BA had been on the web for a while. She listed the pros and cons as follows:

Any person whose subscription is in arrears for six months shall cease to be a member of the Society and shall only be re-eligible on payment of those arrears and the current subscription.
Potential new recruits via the BA. We had feared overcrowding, but that hasn't happened.
Grants- need to be applied for, for events - not done but intend to. Average of £300 per branch available at the moment. Work for officers to apply
Free affiliation Reduced fee to attend HSS events for BA members.
Resources - advice and literature. Science Week help and speakers advice.
Contacts - with other similar societies. We have attended Branch forums Work for officers
BA events, information and literature is available to our members. Work for officers to advertise our events via the BA

She proposed that the affiliation be continued and the memorandum of understanding be ratified. Simon Lang and Brian Bond seconded. The proposal was put to the vote and carried with no objections.

11. AOB

The following forthcoming scientific events were announced:

Alfred Oppenheimer suggested a talk on Scientists for Global Responsibility. Jim Brightwell will make a note.

Luke Kurtulus announced that the recently started up Hampstead Junior Science Club, for 7-16 year olds would welcome any help from Society members. Their activity is from 4-5pm. Simon Lang will liaise with them for visiting the Observatory.

Martin Williams suggested we could get more involved with SHHS and UCS rather than just collaborating once a year. UCL lectures were another source of young visitors - they get a good supply of cards, but visitors usually come only once. We should ask why.

Simon Lang said that he had tried encouraging SHHS and UCS, but the paperwork involved with trips is a discouragement. Brian Bond said that adults working with children needed a certificate, which cost money to obtain. Luke Kurtulus agreed that it was difficult for schools to organise trips, and helpers had to go through bureaucratic checks too. The Church was able to pay for the check in his case. Simon Lang suggested writing to the Secretary of State for Education to abolish testing!

Martin Williams suggested that we invite suggestions from people for the web site. Doug Daniels thought not, as the Astronomy Section were just redesigning their part. Jim Brightwell recommended that we remove out of date information from the web site.

Jacqui Oppenheimer suggested that people like freebies, and we should offer something to youngsters, such as a map of the sky - it could be advertised. Doug Daniels said that he had tried giving away a simple moon map, but not very successfully. In fact, not many children came, because the Observatory was open at night. Brian Bond said that he regularly promotes Cartes Du Ciel http://www.stargazing.net/astropc/, a free program for download. We could do that.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM.

There followed a Scientific Entertainment, which consisted of proposing solutions to doomsday problems.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

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