Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 22nd June 2006.

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

1. Minutes of A.G.M 23rd June 2005

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President’s Remarks

The President remarked that the Society was doing well, with the number of joiners equalling the number of resignations, and he had no complaints about its running. He thanked the officers and members of the Council for their work for the Society, particularly those who were retiring this year, and sent his best wishes to Simon Lang, who was in hospital.

3. Secretary’s Report

The Secretary recalled some memorable features of the lecture series this year. She hoped members would find the lecture programme for next year, just being completed by the Programme Secretary, as stimulating, and listed some of the topics. Some members had joined Gordon Harding who arranged a visit to the library of the Royal Astronomical Society, which was most interesting. She noted that we had again arranged a special programme for National Science Week at UCS, and South Hampstead High School. The observatory was also opened. She thanked Michael Wynne, Simon Lang, and Nayna Kumari for the arrangements, and those others who helped in the week itself.

Membership is 106, including a junior, and several young people visited for one or two lectures.

The web site now includes a subscribe facility, and the discussion forum had been changed to a new format.

The Society had officially attended BA events, in particular the Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Dublin last year, and another in London in May. This was a useful place to discuss the experiences of other scientific societies and see what they were doing that is successful.

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.

4. Treasurer’s Report

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

Our lecture expenses are higher this year, due to lecturer's travelling expenses and so are the costs of insurance, electricity and telephone at the observatory. But we have been able to hold down administration. We continue to make a small profit on refreshments. The miscellaneous item is zero this year; last year it covered the purchase of the digital projector.

On the income side, subscriptions are down slightly. Donations show a large fall from last year, but this is only because we were given a special donation of £500 towards the digital projector; which also affected the tax recovery under Gift Aid. The sales income is largely due to hiring it out to the Amateur Geological Society. Interest income shows a small increase. Surprisingly, Science Week finance shows a small profit, as summarised in the table below. There have been no costs or income related to our affiliation to the BA.

Overall, our income has exceeded our costs by some £500. This is a useful boost to our capital when we remember that inflation is gnawing away at to the tune of nearly £200.

There were no questions, and the reported was accepted.

5. Election of Council

The Secretary announced that Council had re-elected Robert Weale as President at the Council meeting on 12th April 2006.

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 of Council are due to retire under the four year rule:
Eric Morgan Betty Weale Simon Lang

An election was held for the five places on the Council, with nominations and votes as follows:
Proposed By Votes Proposed By Votes
Aileen Cook Council 19 Hemant Desai Council 19
Nayna Kumari Council 19 John Oakes Council 15
John Tennant Council 20 Michael Sabel Mario Curati and Brian Bond 8

The following were therefore declared as elected to Council:
Aileen Cook Hemant Desai Nayna Kumari John Oakes John Tennant

Julia Daniels announced that she was retiring from her position as Joint Secretary of the Astronomy Section, and therefore from her place on Council. Simon Lang was taking the role of Assistant Secretary in the Section and hence on Council.

6. Election of Auditors

Unfortunately, the one of last year's elected auditors, Geoff Shelley, had moved away from London and was unable to audit the accounts this year. Graham Wallis had stepped in and performed the audit.

Peter Wallis proposed that Graham Wallis and Martin Williams for auditors, as both were willing. They were duly elected as auditors.

The President thanked Graham Wallis and Martin Williams for their work on auditing the Accounts.

7. Astronomy Section Report

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

The annual Observatory working party cleared the stairs and path and applied creosote to the building in June 2005. The main task, which took longer than the two days and was mainly accomplished by Simon Lang and Doug Daniels, was to totally restore the shutter frame and cover it with aluminium sheet. This was accomplished by the start of the new session.

Public demonstration nights resumed on 16th September. The weather was kind but there were no bright planets to observe and the moon did not help with faint objects. A large sunspot group was visible which the Astronomy Secretary managed to image. Total cloud cover prevented any sight of the Sun during the partial eclipse on 3rd October. Five of our members journeyed to foreign parts to observe it as an annular eclipse.

By the middle of October Mars was observable, approaching its opposition in November, and presented a disc some 20'' arc in diameter, large enough to reveal considerable detail. Attendance at the Observatory on the occasions when the weather allowed was good. However it was nothing like the volume in 2003, due to the media largely ignoring this opposition, despite it being better than that of 2003 for northern observers.

During November and December 2005, Venus was making its presence felt in the south western twilight, achieving its greatest elongation on November 3rd. By Christmas it had attained a reasonable altitude and was visible in a dark sky, rapidly heading for inferior conjunction on January 13th.

2006 began with a period of bad weather with few clear nights. Saturn came to opposition on Jan. 27th. The rings, still well displayed, were just beginning to close so that the pole of the planet could be seen above them. The view was much appreciated by a good crowd of visitors who gathered at the Observatory on the evening of Jan. 21st.

The weather throughout February was generally poor with few clear nights at the observatory. When the clouds parted, attendance was good, except for Sunday mornings. There were few sunspots, though Brian Bond observed some small prominences with his Coronado hydrogen alpha telescope.

In Science week the Astronomy Secretary gave an illustrated talk 'Welcome to the Universe' to the two schools we collaborated with, well attended at both sessions. The Section also arranged for the Observatory to be open every night with Simon Lang talking about telescopes when it was not clear. Only two nights allowed observations. Astronomy Secretary thanked those members who turned up to add their support.

On 29th March there was a total eclipse of the sun, observable as a partial eclipse from London, with about one third of the Sun obscured. At first contact, the skies were totally overcast, and the observers at Hampstead had to wait for the clouds to part to allow them brief tantalizing glimpses of the advancing Moon. There was a small group of sunspots close to the Moon's limb and Brian Bond's hydrogen alpha telescope revealed a number of short-lived prominences, but the skies remained relentlessly overcast at maximum eclipse. Classes of schoolchildren failed to turn up, but 40 or so members of the public attended. Colleagues who had travelled to Africa and Turkey fared better.

Public open nights at the Observatory ended on April 15th. However, from May 8th there was an opportunity to pick up comet Schwassmann-Wachmann, which is breaking up, with two main components. However, rain and poor seeing prevented the Astronomical Secretary from seeing it until 11th. Terry Pearce managed to see both components on 16th May on a particularly clear night in Weston Colville.

Following a protracted bout of ill-health, Julia Daniels felt it was time lessen her workload and, as reported earlier, has resigned as joint Astronomical Secretary. Simon Lang was appointed Assistant Astronomical Secretary at the Council meeting of April 12th. Julia will still look after the section's finances. She has worked tirelessly for the Society since the 1950's, and the Astronomical Section owes her an enormous debt of gratitude for the hours spent arranging the roster year on year, and ensuring that the section always s remain solvent. Doug Daniels thanked Julia and welcomed Simon Lang to his position. He also thanked Ron Smith, who has resigned from the section's band of assistants for all his help.

The Observatory re-opened in May for three sessions for the Hampstead and Highgate Festival. Unfortunately the weather was bad, but visitors had talks from the Astronomy Secretary, who was also interviewed on Radio London on 22nd May. Also in May, Simon Lang organized a special session at the Observatory to observe Jupiter before it is lost in horizon murk for several years. It remained cloudy throughout the entire five nights, but this did not deter quite a few visitors some of whom managed a momentary glimpse of the planet through scudding cloud. He decided to try again in early June, and both nights were clear. The Great Red Spot seemed to have faded and a new spot was not conspicuous but the north equatorial best had developed into a very broad feature.

Terry Pearce's telescope making class, running for 30 years in Camden, was closed by the Council. It has now been loosely affiliated to the Society as the Camden Amateur Telescope Society (CATS).

Doug Daniels recognised that the eventful year had meant more work for Demonstrators and Assistants. He expressed the Society's indebtedness to those members who generously gave their time.

Martin Williams asked what maintenance had been needed for this year, 2006. Doug Daniels said that it had been done two weeks before, mainly plugging holes in the dome. Aluminium work had not been done this year, because of the cost.

The President stated that the Society owed Doug and Julia Daniels and colleagues a debt for their enthusiasm in running the Astronomy section.

Julia Daniels then presented the accounts of the Astronomy Section. There were no questions, and the report and accounts were 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.

It’s been another year of quiet consolidation for the Meteorology Section … there have been no problems with the Automatic Weather Station which has continued to function satisfactorily. Data has been logged every five minutes without a break, and the usual monthly summaries have been despatched to the Meteorological Office. We have now completed 96 years of unbroken records.

Following last year’s hard-drive failure and the loss of some data, the data logger and the web pages are now backed up regularly with no further disasters. During the last year the Meteorological Section had extended the archive pages back a few years, and annual summaries back to 1955 can be accessed, with 1954 soon to go up. There were very few weather station sites on the internet with more than ten years’ data online, let alone the 50-plus years that we have. His intention is to complete the online archive back to 1910 in time for our weather station’s centenary.

He then summarised the weather experienced during the last year.

SUMMER 2005 was another indifferent one, but – as we have come to expect for most seasons these days – it was a warm summer; that is, its mean temperature was above the mean for the standard reference period 1971-2000 by about a degree. There were, nevertheless, lengthy cool periods during early-June and late-July, but lengthy warm spells characterised the second half of June, the middle of July, and both mid and late-August. It was slightly drier than average, while sunshine duration was close to the norm.

AUTUMN 2005, some people say, never happened. Summer seemed to go on for ever, and September and October together comprised the warmest such pair by a long way in the entire Hampstead record. The warm weather continued until mid-November, at which point winter arrived with sharp frosts, thick morning fogs, but also abundant sunshine. November was among the three sunniest on record at Hampstead, but nationally it was the sunniest of in 130 years of records.

WINTER 2005-06 was the subject of much speculation, the Met Office predicted with much trumpeting that it would be colder than average, and their press office foolishly warned us to be prepared for much snow and ice (that was not what their forecasters were predicting). In the event the mean temperature for the entire season was exactly equal to the 1971-2000 norm, although it was the coldest winter for nine years – a measure of the warmth of recent winters rather than anything else. It was also a very dry winter, fuelling the water industry panic over impending shortages.

SPRING 2006 was a season of contrasts. For three weeks March was very cold and dry, but the ending was warm and wet. It became dry again for much of April and the first half of May – the first half of May was actually the warmest such for 61 years – but that was all forgotten when the rains came mid-month and the second half was the wettest since 1979. In spite of the dry periods, the entire spring quarter was the wettest since the year 2000.

Peter Stone asked what had happened to snow, which he was old enough to remember! Philip Eden stated that snow had never been common in London, only persistent in 1947, 62-63, 78-79, when there had been skiing on Hampstead Heath.. Once it had lain every 5-6 hears, but was now much rarer. Last winter was cold and dry here, but there had been snow in France and North Africa.

Martin Williams asked if his figures suggested global warming. Philip Eden said yes, all trends were up. When asked whether the cold meltwater from Greenland would affect us, he replied that it might affect the North Atlantic drift, which would have some impact on us, but could not say what.

9. Proposal for Rule Change

Constitution Rule 4c is:

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.

Peter Wallis introduced a proposal by Council to change this. Council felt that six months was a rather long time to be in arrears and to enjoy the facilities of the Society, particularly as there is a break over the summer, and proposes that it be reduced to four. Since subscriptions are due on 1st October this would mean that for those who were still in arrears in February would cease to be members. Elisabeth Fischer seconded the proposal.

Martin Williams asked how many were in arrears after six months, and was told double figures. It was suggested that 6 months was a long period, but so was 4, so should it be cut to 2 months? This would mean the membership would cease at the beginning of December.

The President felt we should allow for forgetfulness. Leo McLaughlin proposed three months as a compromise. Peter Wallis seconded, and a vote resulted in 26 for, and 6 against. This annulled the original proposal and the Constitution Rule 4c is amended to say 'three months' in place of 'six months':

Brian Bond suggested that we put a standing order form in with the August newsletter, whether or not it is used, as a reminder. The meeting agreed this was a good idea. Eddie Oates suggested that the standing order form should be separated from the joining form on the web site, to help renewal by standing order but also allow for payment by cheque.

10. BA Affiliation

The Secretary reported that the Society had received a revised draft memorandum of understanding between the Society and the BA. Its main features were that the affiliation fee which was charged when the BA charged for membership no longer applies. The Society will be able to bid for funding twice yearly from the "Strategic Grants" fund for events which promote the BA’s strategic objectives, and for a small grant from the fund for National Science Week events. The Society will be encouraged to send one or two delegates, expenses paid by the BA, to the twice-yearly Branches Forum of the BA. BA members will be entitled to attend the Society’s events and activities at a reduced rate, but will not be voting members of the Society. The Branch will post all events on the BA events listing part of the website. Since it was only received the day before, and is still subject to change, as the BA are hoping to use the same format for all its affiliated societies acting as branches, we feel we cannot ratify it here. Council will discuss it at their next meeting.

11. AOB

Peter Stone pointed out that it was 100 years since Hampstead Tube station opened, and suggested a talk on the topic. Many people use it. It may be appropriate for Science week. The Programme Secretary had suggested this to Council.

Brian Bond announced that there would be a solar observatory at the Camden Festival on 1st to 2nd July.

Martin Williams commented that members who receive the newsletter by email rather than post could Subscribe to the website for updates.

Due to lack of time, there was no Scientific Entertainment this year.

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 020 7328 0874

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