HAMPSTEAD SCIENTIFIC SOCIETY


Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 25th June 2009.

Present: Doug Daniels (President) and 29 members.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 19th June 2008

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President's Remarks

The President remarked that once again the Society had experienced a good year with the membership stable at a little over 100 members. The lecture programme had covered many aspects of science and he thanked the Programme Secretary for arranging this. Despite the fact that the meeting venue was disrupted for the last two meetings due to re-decoration at the Church, the move to Henderson Court had been made with little difficulty. He hoped that our regular meeting place would be ready for the new session in September.

Once again the Society had participated in Science week under the umbrella of the British Science Association and he thanked the sub-committee for arranging a first class series of lectures. He also thanked Hemant Desai for arranging a very successful visit to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Next year, the Society would be celebrating the centenary of our Observatory and Met. Station and would be planning an event to mark this.

Following the retirement of Prof. Robert Weale at last years AGM, Council has decided to offer him Honorary Life Membership & Vice-Presidency. Last year Elisabeth Fischer retired from the position of Membership Secretary after 30 years, and Council proposed to offer Elisabeth Honorary Life Membership. According to our constitution this proposal must be ratified at an AGM. The President requested the meeting's approval for both.

At last year's AGM our honorary Treasurer Peter Wallis gave notice of his intention to retire at this AGM and throughout the past year he had been gradually handing over to John Tennant.

Before Peter became Treasurer, he was the General Secretary, serving in that position from 1974 — 1990, that is 16 years, the longest serving Secretary in the Society's history. Peter took control of the Treasury in 1987 and has served in that position for 22 years, only exceeded by Alec Benard who served for 25 years. During his tenure he oversaw the Society's conversion to charitable status and has always maintained a firm grip on the Society's expenses, ensuring that we were always in 'the black', and he hands over a healthy balance to our new Treasurer. Peter also produced the Society Newsletter, often writing most of the articles as well, from 1974 to date. He has also produced additional lecturers for the Society his three sons, Charles, Graham and Jonathan! Peter took on the job of arranging the two celebration dinners marking the 90th and 100th anniversary of the Society, both of which required considerable organization and were both memorable occasions. For 35 years, Peter had made an unequalled contribution to our Society and as a vice-President, will continue so to do. The President proposed that he be granted Honorary Life Membership.

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 had completed the lecture programme for the next year, and it was on the web site. In early May Hemant Desai had organised a trip to Greenwich, where we had had a very informative tour around the sites and telescopes, followed by a session in the planetarium.

The Society had contacted two local state schools this year about National Science and Engineering Week, but neither were able to join with us. However, we had contributed to the programmes at UCS, and South Hampstead High School. The Secretary thanked Michael Wynne, Simon Lang, and the others helping in the week itself. It was well received by the schools and we again got coverage from the Ham & High.

We had officially attended British Science Association events, in particular the Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Liverpool, and another in Manchester. This was a useful place to discuss the experiences of other scientific societies and exchange ideas for events and attracting members.

Membership was 114, a little up on last year.

The Secretary thanked Martin Williams for continued sponsorship of the web site, Elisabeth Fischer, Julia Daniels and Peter Wallis for food and wine and AGM arrangements, Doug Daniels who had taken over the newsletter, though Peter Wallis is still contributing, and Elizabeth Davies and helpers for providing members with coffee and tea at meetings.

Jim Brightwell proposed that the report be accepted, John Tennant seconded, and the meeting agreed.

4. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer, Peter Wallis, distributed copies of the accounts and gave his report. He started with last year's expenditure. Room bookings & expenses were higher than for the previous year; half was due to the need to move to the Age Concern Centre from the Crypt Room. Observatory costs were up by 9%, mainly for electricity and insurance. Administration was much the same as the previous year, but postage costs were now rising. The Society had made a saving of 20% on refreshment costs. For Science Week, donations covered most of the costs. The major item in Miscellaneous was the purchase of a presentation stand. Overall, costs were up by 16%.

Membership subscription income, including tax recovery under gift aid showed a 7% increase. Donations were only half of that in the previous year but coffees etc. sold at meetings allowed us to make a small profit. The Sales item was distorted because we received two payments of £500 from Haycock Associates for meteorological data, one of which should have fallen in the previous year. Philip Eden would be using much of this money to revalidate the equipment. Interest, not surprisingly, had reduced.

During the year the Treasurer had closed the Society's Investment Account at National Savings and Investments, transferring £892 to its account at the Charities Aid Foundation. The Society now had £12,333.79 capital which he would hand over to the new Treasurer.

There were no questions. Elisabeth Fischer proposed that the report be accepted, Simon Lang seconded and the meeting agreed.

5. Election of Vice President and Honorary Life Memberships

Council had proposed that Prof. Robert Weale be made Honorary Vice President and Honorary Life Member of the Society, following his 20 years of service as President.

The meeting approved the proposal.

Peter Wallis is already a Vice President of the Society, and Council proposed that he also be made Honorary Life Member for his 38 years service in the offices of Secretary and Treasurer.

The meeting approved the proposal. The President presented Peter Wallis with wine in appreciation of his service. Council proposed that Elisabeth Fischer be made Honorary Life Member following 30 years of service as Membership Secretary.

The meeting approved the proposal.

6. Election of Council

The Secretary announced that Council had elected Doug Daniels as President at the Council meeting on 28th April 2009.

The Secretary expressed her thanks to the outgoing Treasurer, Peter Wallis. Since Membership Secretary and Treasurer need to liaise closely in their duties, and in order to pass on experience as Treasurer, Council had proposed that John Tennant take on both roles. The sitting officers were proposed for the other offices.

As there were no further nominations, the following officers proposed by Council were declared as elected:
Julie Atkinson Hon. Secretary John Tennant Hon. Treasurer
Jim Brightwell Hon. Programme Secretary John TennantHon. Membership Secretary

There were no retirements 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:
Leo McLaughlin Hemant Desai Nayna Kumari Elizabeth Davies

This left one vacancy on Council. The Secretary noted that the Council has the option to co-opt members.

7. Election of Auditors

The President proposed Leo McLaughlin and Simon Lang as auditors. Both were willing to act. The meeting elected them both.

8. Astronomy Section Report

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

The Observatory was opened on the morning of August 1st. 2008 for the 20% partial solar eclipse. The eclipse began in fairly clear skies but soon cloud interrupted the event and after mid-eclipse turned to rain. Jerry Workman viewed the total eclipse under ideal conditions in western Siberia.

During early August, the Astro. Sec. talked to a reporter from the Evening Standard generally about astronomy and they managed a brief look at Jupiter. For this service the paper made a donation of £100. The event resulted in a full column report in the Evening Standard on August 12th.

Despite doubtful weather, the observatory was opened on the evening of August 16th 2008 a large (80%) partial eclipse of the moon. Unfortunately, the cloud thickened and by mid-eclipse it had started to rain.

The new session of open nights began on Friday 12th September in order to observe Jupiter before it finally sank into the murk. By the end of October, Jupiter had set by 20:00 hrs. and major bright planets were absent from the night sky. November cloud persisted to ruin our chances to observe the occultation of Venus on December 1st. Observing from Hastings, with a sea horizon, Theon Pearce managed to secure an image shortly after the planet's reappearance.

On December 3rd over 30 cub scouts, parents and leaders descended on the Observatory. The telescopic view of the moon was greatly appreciated. Simon introduced them to some of the brighter stars and constellations and the event was proclaimed a great success by all concerned.

The full moon of December 12th was the closest and brightest for 15 years, however its increased radiance was totally obscured by unyielding cloud that persisted for the following week.

Venus was just 1.5 degrees north of Uranus on January 24th. Simon opened the Observatory early at 18:00 hrs. to give visitors the opportunity to see our nearest and most distant major planetary neighbours close together in the twilight sky.

On January 31st, the Astro Sec. & Assistant Astro. Sec. accompanied Terry Pearce to the Museum of the History of Science in Oxford, where in association with the Hanwell Astronomical Society, Terry gave a demonstration of telescope mirror making. This formed part of the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope.

The Astro.Sec. could not find Comet Lulin on Feb. 25th or Feb.28th but Terry Pearce had observed the comet from clear skies in Cambs.

Towards the end of March, Venus was finally lost to view. Shortly before this, the Astro Sec. managed to image the slim crescent with a 75 mm. apo refractor through his bathroom window!

During the latter part of the session, Saturn was well placed for observation, coming to opposition on March 8th. The ring system was displayed almost edge-on and five of Saturn's satellites were seen on several occasions. To give visitors the opportunity to view Saturn, the observatory remained open until mid May.

Despite the fact that the new cycle was expected to begin last year (Cycle 24), and one or two very small sunspots were seen, the Sun has remained quite inactive during this session.

On the evening of 22nd April, a team of glamorous young ladies including fashion photographer Julia Kennedy, stylist Pandora Lennard and a top fashion model used the observatory as a location for a photography session for the Observer Fashion supplement magazine 'Tank O'. It was an unusual way of celebrating the 400th anniversary of the invention of the telescope.

During this session we welcomed several new assistants to our ranks. Ennio Tabone, Slim Loghmari, Agnieszka Fraszczka, Charlie Groome and Roger O'Brien. We are hoping to upgrade two or three of our new assistants as demonstrators early in the next session.

This year the Section purchased a 150mm. Schmidt/Newtonian reflector on a semi-portable equatorial mount. This instrument can be used outside the observatory, provides a wide field view of extended objects and gives members and visitors the opportunity to use a modern compact telescope. To introduce it to demonstrators and assistants and thank them for their continued support, Simon organized an informal pick-nick lunch at the Observatory on May 31st at which Doug Daniels presented a certificate for long service to John Hayden, a demonstrator for over 30 years.

The Observatory remains the Society's most important interface with the public and next year will be the centenary of its establishment. In order to keep it up and running, it requires a lot of people giving up a lot of their time and effort for no reward other than the acquisition of knowledge and the satisfaction gained by passing it on freely to others. The Astronomy Secretary thanked the Assistant Secretary, Simon Lang, the section Treasurer, Julia Daniels, Dan Pooley for the section's web-site and all demonstrators and assistants for their continued enthusiasm for the section's activities.

There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

Julia Daniels then presented the Astronomy Section accounts.

The Section started the year with a balance of £6,716 and ended with a closing balance of £7,404. Its income was £1,136 while its expenditure was only £448. The National Savings Investment Account gave £171. Public donations totalled £566 this year, which must be a record. We received our usual £189 for participating in the Ham. & High. Festival and raised some additional funds by various promotional schemes. The Section spent £275 on a portable richest field telescope. It is fitting the Cooke telescope with a new Finder telescope, which necessitated the purchase of some finder rings. We had the usual small expenses for photocopying and postage, but none for the summer maintenance work.

In conclusion the Section had a very good year, with £688 added to its balance in readiness for the day when they will need to spend a lot of money repairing or replacing the wooden dome.

Julie Atkinson proposed they be accepted. Tim Bierman seconded and the meeting agreed.

9. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, was unable to come due to a confusion over meeting dates, so the President presented his report, summarised below.

Both the electronic and traditional instruments at the Society's weather station have continued to function satisfactorily during the last twelve months and there have been no faults or breakages. As a result, the logging of data every five minutes has continued without a break since December 2002. The monthly summaries previously required by the Meteorological Office have been superseded by a more flexible approach, and the data is now sent online each day for most of the time, and in bulk after absences.

A request to replace the manual rain-gauge was declined by the Met Office. However, we are due one of our three-yearly inspections later this summer and the Met. Sec. will make the plea again.

Monthly reviews of Hampstead's weather have been posted on the Met. Sec.'s web site, and linked to from the Society's web site, by the 4th of the following month, and the summaries extend back to the mid-1950s. The intention remains to extend the data online further and further back when time permits.

The Society has continued to supply data to Haycock Associates and the Society has now received annual payments sufficient to cover the costs of servicing the automatic weather station.

The weather we've experienced during the last year was then summarised.

SUMMER 2008 was second successive poor summer with an excess of rain, a shortage of sunshine; daytime temperatures were slightly below the long-term mean but nights were often rather warm, so that mean temperatures for the quarter were close to the average. Though the wettest weather in 2007 occurred in June and July, those two months in 2008 were pretty average. August 2008 rainfall was 60% above normal, while the sunshine aggregate was barely half the normal amount, a mere 97 hours, and during 2008 only January, November and December brought less sunshine. The real statistical contrast was with February which had delivered 135 hours of sunshine in spite of a considerably shorter length of daylight and two fewer days.

AUTUMN 2008 began where August left off, and the first twelve days of September brought more heavy rain and a continued marked shortage of sunshine. But from the 13th, the remainder of September and also the bulk of October were characterised by spells of warm sunshine. On the evening of the 28th October snow fell heavily for three hours, leaving 5cm on the ground. This was Hampstead's first October snowfall since 1974, and was arguably the most widespread and heaviest fall in October in southern England since 1880.

WINTER 2008-09 was rather drier and sunnier than average with near-normal temperature. There were cold spells early and late in December, in early-January, and in early-February, which were balanced by lengthy mild periods in mid-December, mid to late-January and the second half of February. The most interesting feature of the winter was the heavy fall of snow on 2nd February when the maximum snow depth was 16cm. This was certainly our heaviest snowfall since 1991, when the snow depth at Hampstead Observatory reached 27cm.

SPRING 2009 was warmer, drier and sunnier than average. It was not uniformly so. Tthere were occasional interruptions of cool, blustery and showery weather. But the warmer periods were sufficient that the spring quarter ended up the fourth warmest in our 99-year history. It also ranked 10th driest, and 7th sunniest.

There were no questions and the report was accepted.

10. AOB

The Secretary reminded members that the Royal Society Summer Exhibition would take place in early July. She also announced that the British Science Association Festival of Science would be held in Guildford in September and would be worth visiting.

Doug Daniels invited members to submit articles for the newsletter.

Leo McLaughlin recommended members view images from the spacecraft Cassini on the BBC web site. Prof. Carl Murray would be talking to us about them in December.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM. There followed a Scientific Entertainment, which consisted of Call My Bluff.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

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