Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 23rd June 2005.

Present: Professor Robert Weale (President) and 30 members.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 24th June 2004

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President's Remarks

The President remarked that he felt the Society was running well, due to the efforts of the very able officers. He thanked all those who helped put out and cleared away the chairs at meetings, and those helping with the tea and coffee, though one of the ladies was laid down by a bad cold this evening. He noted that Jim Brightwell had finally learned how to best use a computer by connecting to the internet and thanked him for again providing an excellent programme of talks.

He noted that the editor of the Ham&High was interested in our weather reports, thanks to being collared by Michael Wynne.

3. Secretary's Report

The Secretary said that we had had another good session of talks, and recalled some of their memorable features. She announced that the Society was close to completing the lecture programme for next year, hoped members would find it stimulating, and invited suggestions for the next session but one. We had again arranged National Science Week programme at UCS, and South Hampstead High School. Michael Wynne did most of the work, with other members helping during the week itself. We used a previous grant from the British Association, and also had good coverage from the Ham & High. The Secretary thanked Doug Daniels for arranging a most enjoyable walk around the city last month, with Mike Howgate pointing out the biological, geological and scientifically historical features on the way. The Society had officially attended the BA Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Exeter last year, and another in London in May.

The Society was very sorry to lose a long-standing member and member of Council. Many would remember Angus McKenzie and his dog Wardie and have read the tribute to him in the newsletter. We were also sad to hear of the death of Michael O'Gara, a regular attender from Streatham.

Finally, the Secretary thanked Peter Wallis, Julia Daniels, Elisabeth Fischer and Betty Weale for providing the food and wine for the evening. She thanked Peter Wallis for his sterling work in publishing the newsletter, and Betty Weale and her helpers for providing us with coffee at meetings.

Julia Daniels commented that Michael O'Gara had been a frequent visitor to the observatory despite living in Norwood. There were no further 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 there had been significant increases in costs, particularly in administration where printing, postage and stationery were more than £100 higher. Although observatory insurance had risen by nearly £20, this had been largely offset by reductions in telephone and electricity. The biggest extra expenditure this year, shown as miscellaneous in the accounts, was £705 for the purchase of the new digital projector, but members will already have seen what an improvement this has provided.

On the income side we had a useful increase in interest by nearly £100. Subscription income is broadly similar at £1015 but we had a valuable increase of £140 in tax recovery under the gift aid scheme, arising from a member's donation of £500 to help in the purchase of the new projector. Our affiliation to the British Association had helped our finances somewhat over the two years, but we were not eligible for a further grant next year. A decision whether to continue was on the agenda for this meeting.

The Treasurer provided a summary of the balance for science week: we would be able to support this for the next few years without adding to the 2003 grant from the BA. Overall the Society's reserves had risen by £546 over the year, so he did not think an increase in subscriptions was needed.

Doug Daniels asked how we had got the extra £100 interest, and the Treasurer replied that it was due to bank rate changes and cutting down in the National Savings account.

Michael Wynne asked whether the Science Week expenditure of £68.68 was almost covered by the income of £50. The Treasurer replied that the £68.68 was the amount spent beyond the £50 income, see Scweek column under expenditure. There were no further questions, and the report was accepted.

5. Election of Council

The Secretary announced that Council had re-elected Robert Weale as President at the Council meeting on 11th May 2005.

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

The following members were proposed for Council and as no further nominations were received, were declared as elected:
Eric Morgan John Oakes Betty Weale Simon Lang Michael Sabel

6. Election of Auditors

The President thanked Geoff Shelley and Martin Williams for their work on auditing the Accounts. Peter Wallis proposed Geoff Shelley as auditor for next year, and confirmed that he was willing to continue. Julie Atkinson seconded. Elisabeth Fischer proposed Martin Williams as auditor, and Doug Daniels seconded. They were duly elected as auditors.

7. Astronomy Section Report

The Joint Astronomical Section Secretary, Doug Daniels, presented his report, summarised below.

On 24th of July (2004) there was a burst of solar activity accompanied by a Coronal Mass Ejection. Thin diffuse cloud hampered observation. On the evening of the 27th around midnight, towards the north, the sky appeared quite bright. This might have been air glow but was more likely light pollution.

On Sunday August 1st, the volunteers cleared the path and stairway to the Observatory. Repairs to the observatory included refitting part of the circular guttering, refitting the fraying shutter cords and patching numerous holes in the dome fabric. The fabric is in a poor state and will soon need to be renewed. This was last done over 20 years ago and it will be a major job and expense! The section purchased a metal locker for the Wildey telescope. It was screwed to the floor and bolted to the existing cabinet.

The section received a request to host the Association of British Science Writers at the Observatory on the evening of August 12th to hopefully observe some Perseid Meteors. With heavy rain falling intermittently on the day, they cancelled. The Perseids went unobserved for yet another year.

The regular public open nights at the Observatory resumed on September 17th, but the sky was totally overcast. The following night allowed some observations but there were no bright planets to observe at the beginning of the new session and the increasing sky glow makes locating fainter interesting objects to show to visitors ever more difficult. During September and October 2004, Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4), slowly traversed the sky. Its rapidly decreasing magnitude at around 9-10, made it difficult to locate from the light polluted London skies. In the early morning hours of 28th of October, the Moon was again totally eclipsed, but that night was totally overcast and no sight of the moon at all.

Once again the Leonid meteors remained unobserved due to poor weather. During the early part of December the skies remained overcast but on the evening of 17th. Simon Lang and Daniel Pooley were able to show visitors Comet Machholz (2004 Q2), which was close to gamma Eridani. Doug Daniels managed to record images with a Minitron ultra sensitive CCD video camera. The comet appeared as a small diffuse patch of light with an unresolved nucleus at about 6th magnitude or less. He could detect no tail. He observed it again in the early hours of the 21st. but conditions were unfavourable.

By 31st of December, comet Machholz had moved further up into Taurus and continued to brighten to about mag. 4.5 and allowed the Astronomical Secretary to secure images which revealed a thin tail extending to the east at an angle of about 45 degrees. In the early evening of Jan. 1st 2005, comet P/2004 V4 was supposed to be within the coma of Machholz but at Mag. 17.1, it was invisible on his images. Machholz passed close to the Pleiades on the evening of Jan. 8th, but the sky was covered by thin diffuse cloud driven by high winds. Nevertheless, Doug Daniels obtained images and so did Terry Pearce from Cambs. using conventional film.

During January and February 2005, there were few clear Friday and Saturday nights. The poor weather continued into early March. However, on the very last day of Science Week, Friday March 18th, the weather changed completely, providing us with a clear night. It was also during this week that the Observatory played host to two television companies, in connection with some programmes, one featuring Prof. Colin Pillinger and the 'comedian' Vic Reeves. This brought in donations to the section in excess of £100. He thanked Radar Television and to Endemol Entertainment.

Throughout the session, Saturn was the main object of interest, being well placed for observation. The ring system is still well open and the public's interest in the Saturnian System, always high, was further raised by the successful landing of the Huygens space probe on Titan on 14th of January. In late March Jupiter, now lower down in Virgo, became accessible, but the weather remained poor and consequently there were few opportunities to observe it. Jupiter is now moving into the low declination zodiacal constellations of the Summer sky and will be missing in the Winter sky for the next few years. The session concluded on Sunday April 17th, a beautiful warm sunny day with one fair sized sunspot.

Once again the Observatory took part in the Hampstead and Highgate Festival, opening on three evenings in May. This year, the weather was kind to us with clear nights on all three occasions and the demonstrators were able to show visitors Jupiter, Saturn and a near 1st quarter moon. This event is a useful fundraiser.

The Astronomical Secretary paid tribute to Angus McKenzie and also to Michael O'Gara.

He welcomed two 'new' assistants to the section: Tristan Oppenheimer and Daniel Pooley, and wished them both a long and happy association with the Society. He took the opportunity to thank all demonstrators and assistants for their support of the section, for their time and labour freely given and their continued enthusiasm for the Society.

Martin Williams asked what the long term intentions were for the dome, to patch or replace. Doug Daniels replied that safety was an issue. They were currently engaged in replacing the shutter. They intended to replace the roofing felt first. There was a discussion on the relative merits and costs of aluminium and fibre glass as a replacement material. The wood base of the observatory was sound. Jacquey Oppenheimer suggested applying for lottery funding. Doug Daniels said that he had tried that once. There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

Julia Daniels then presented the accounts of the Astronomy Section. She noted that due to the repairs mentioned above, there had been some heavy spending since the accounts had closed. There were no questions, and the report was accepted.

8. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, presented his report, summarised below.

It had been a year of quiet consolidation for the meteorology section. There had been no problems with the Automatic Weather Station. Data had been logged every five minutes without a break, and the usual monthly summaries had been despatched to the Meteorological Office. The section has now completed 95 years of unbroken records.

Last October Philip Eden had a catastrophic hard-drive failure on his computer and only part of his backup was up-to-date. Among the losses were the original page drafts for the Hampstead metereorological web pages. Since then he had caught up, plus the pages for each of the last twelve months, but he had not extended any further back into history the data online. Nevertheless, monthly summaries of Hampstead data is available online from 1961 to date.

He then summarised the weather we'd experienced during the last year.

SUMMER 2004 was indifferent. There were lengthy warm periods in early-June, late-July and early-August, but there were cool interludes too, and it was a very wet summer with a shortage of sunshine. At Hampstead it was the wettest summer since 1977, and the ninth-wettest in 95 years of records, but it was one of the warmest summers in that period, only eight warmer.

AUTUMN 2004 was mixed ... the three months were dry, wet, dry, and warm, cool warm. Arguably the best weather of the year came in the first 10 days of September which were warm and sunny, with low humidity levels, and therefore much more comfortable than the humid heat of July and August.

WINTER 2004-05 was dry. January had been warmer than any other January for 15 years. But after mid-February northerly and easterly winds set in and delivered the longest period of wintry weather for almost a decade.

SPRING 2005 continued the dry weather. There has now been a shortfall of rainfall for eight successive months. May brought several night frosts, something we have not seen since 1996, but it also brought the highest May temperature, on the last Friday of the month, since 1947.

The Meteorological Secretary noted that the reports had been continuous for 95 years, the longest for any Greater London meteorological station. Peter Stone remarked that he was old enough to remember snow - where had it gone? The Meteorological Secretary said that since 1988 our winters were dominated by Westerly and South Westerly winds from the Atlantic. Whether this is a response to global climate change is not a simple link.

Jim Brightwell said that the press advertised this as being the driest year. He had measured 583mm of rain, compared with an average of 600mm. It didn't seem too bad. Philip Eden said that Novembers had been wet but were recently dry. There were no further questions and the report was accepted.

9. BA Affiliation

The Secretary reported that the Society had been affiliated to the British Association for two years, and it was time to review the affiliation. She summarised the pros and cons as follows:
We had hoped for new people, but that hasn't happened. We had feared overcrowding, but that hasn't happened.
Grants- the initial grant has ended, and new ones need to be applied for, for events. Average of £300 per branch available at the moment. Three Memberships. This had cost £90 and was covered by the initial grant. Now it is free (donations welcomed), but three officers must become members.
Was reduced cost of membership of BA, but now it is free anyway. Free atendance for BA members at HSS, not taken up much. We ought to encourage HSS members to take up free BA membership.
Resources - advice and literature. Science Week help and speakers advice. Card and letters to all NW London BA members. So far expenses covered part of the cost. Perhaps request cover for the rest or only email.
Contacts - with other similar societies. We have attended Branch forums
BA events, information and literature is available to our members.

Ron Smith suggested that the Society carry on with the affiliation for a year or two to see how it settles down with the new arrangements. Peter Stone asked how many cards were sent to BA members in the catchment area. Julie Atkinson replied around 250-300. There are links both ways between the BA website and the Society's. John Oakes suggested email instead of card distribution if possible, and asked how BA members would find out about us. Julie Atkinson replied that we are listed as a branch, and are on their web site as a London branch.

Doug Daniels suggested that if the main objection was paying £90 and we no longer have to, then there was no objection to remaining affiliated. Elisabeth Fischer said that we had joined for two years to see how it went. There had been five BA members attending. She suggested another two years and a review. Michael Wynne asked if Highgate were also affiliated to the BA. No, but Richmond Scientific Society were.

The President proposed that we remain affiliated for another two years and then review. A vote was taken and the proposal agreed.

10. AOB

Martin Williams reminded members that the Royal Society Summer Exhibition was being held on 4-7 July with the open evening on the 4th. Brian Bond pointed out that the Camden Festival was being held on 17th July, in Camden Square. It would include a solar workshop at 10am.

The Society had been contacted by the Royal Institution, and copies of their flyer granting members a concessionary attendance fee for one of their meetings was available. We had also been contacted by the Institute of Biology about joint membership concessions. The Council would discuss it.

Michael Wynne said he had helped organise events for 3 Science Weeks. It had been hard to get help from other members. He recognised that those in work would find it hard. However, unless there was more help for future events, he would not be organising any more.

Peter Stone commented that he had attended one at UCS, but felt that we were limiting ourselves to one sector of the education system. Michael Wynne replied that other schools were invited but found it a problem to arrange visits because they needed adequate notice and we were generally late in firming up the programme. Also, visitors would need space, and UCS and South Hampstead now had pretty full attendance from their own classes filling most of the venues. The President suggested moving around from school to school if there were more helpers.

The AGM was followed by a set of talks from various members

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

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