Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 16th June 2011.

Present: Doug Daniels (President) and 31 members.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 17th June 2010

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President's Remarks

The President thanked all present for attending the AGM and particularly those who had contributed the food and he thanked Peter Wallis for obtaining and distributing the wine.

The Society's involvement with the BBC 2 'Stargazing Live' saw membership of the Society increase to 130, a record for the Society, and attract some younger members. Donations to the Observatory fund also attained record levels.

Our programme of lectures were well up to standard, thanks to the diligence of the Programme Secretary Jim Brightwell. There were two 'glitches' when booked speakers unexpectedly pulled out, but the replacement lectures given by Dr. David Rowley and Prof. Michael Crawford, were amongst the best of the session and all lectures were very well attended with capacity audiences on several occasions.

Our involvement in Science Week was reduced this year, but nevertheless, Simon Lang the assistant Astronomy Secretary gave a talk to University College School on the History of the Telescope and the schools produced their own series of talks.

On Jan. 8th we visited the RAS library at Burlington House by kind invitation of Peter Hingley, and then on 18th of May, to the clock tower at the Houses of Parliament. Thanks to Peter Stern for arranging this trip.

There were two sad events during the session. In June 2010 we heard the sad news of the untimely death of Cezary Ludwik Kamieniecki – affectionally known as Caesar K. who was a demonstrator at the Observatory and minutes Secretary of the Section for 36 years. And in April 2011 we were saddened by the news of the death of Betty Weale, wife of our last President Robert Weale. Obituaries were published on the web site. The President sent the Society's deepest sympathy to Robert and to Caesar's families.

All in all, the 2010-2011 session had been yet another record year for the Society. The President thanked all members, and members of Council who have given their time so freely to continue the aims of our Society – to promote and encourage interest in all branches of science.

3. Secretary's Report

The Secretary reported another year of good lectures, and reminded members of the topics. She gave a taste of the lecture programme for next year.

Membership was 133, with 6 juniors, as the President said, a record.

We had officially attended British Science Association Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Aston, Birmingham in September. Some members also went to the Festival itself. And we received a grant from the Association to help with the printing costs of the programme cards.

Following the President, the Secretary thanked Council, in particular those who were standing down. She thanked Doug Daniels and Peter Wallis for the newsletter and its content, Martin Williams for continued sponsorship of the web site, all those who help with coffee and chairs at the meetings and those who had contributed food and wine for the evening.

Elisabeth Fischer proposed that the report be accepted, Tim Bierman seconded, and the meeting agreed.

4. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer, John Tennant, distributed copies of the accounts and gave his report.

Bookings and expenses were down over 8% from last year. An increase in Observatory costs were due to rises in telephone and insurance.

Administration was up a third due to increased membership and leaflet production. Miscellaneous had over a tenfold increase due to the purchase of a new digital projector for £281.99 when the old one broke down. The resulting total expenditure was up 20.5% on last year.

Membership income and Gift Aid recovery rose by over a third. Donations were down from last year. Sales income had decreased and savings account interest remains depressed. Income overall is up by about 10%. Despite this we made a loss on the year £140.94. Except for the one off emergency purchase of the projector, our balance on the year would have been in the black. The capital at year end 31/05/2011 is £12,218.09.

There were no questions. Julie Atkinson proposed that the report be accepted, Philip Eden seconded and the meeting agreed.

5. Election of Officers and Council

The Secretary announced that Council had elected Doug Daniels as President at the Council meeting on 21st April 2011.

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 ineligible Council members under the four year rule this year. However, Leo McLaughlin had decided not to stand this time. The following nominations were received for the 5 ordinary members of Council:
NomineeJulia DanielsMartin WilliamsRoger O'BrienPeter SternKevin Devine
Nominated byCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncil

As there were no further nominations, these nominees were declared as elected to Council.

6. Election of Auditors

The President proposed Leo McLaughlin and Martin Williams. Both were willing to act. The meeting elected them both.

7. Election of Honorary Members

The President proposed that Ray Softly be made an honorary member, for his long service as Natural History Section secretary and long membership of the Society. Julie Atkinson seconded. The President was asked how long Mr Softly had been a member, and answered that it was many more years than him. The meeting elected Ray Softly as an honorary member.

8. Astronomy Section Report

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

The 2010 session ended on May 16th. We had extended the session in order to continue observation of Saturn and give visitors the opportunity to view the exhibition celebrating our centenary.

On Monday May 17th , in collaboration with Chris Hatherill of 'Super/Collider', the section put on an observing evening in Shoreditch, East London. The donation to our funds was much appreciated.

The summer programme of site maintenance at the observatory began on Sunday July 4th. The railings had not seen paint for more than two decades and were in a poor state of repair. Simon Lang recruited a large task force of volunteers to chip off the rust and loose paint prior to re-painting. Eight sessions later on September 12th the last working party attracted just 4 members. All the jobs scheduled for this Summer were completed, the railings were painted, the building was painted, the Met Station barrier was moved to provide extra room for additional tripod mounted telescopes and a proper side gate was built to give easy access outside the enclosure for maintenance. The path and steps were given their final de-weeding and the whole observatory compound looked very smart for our centenary year. Thanks to Simon and to all members who gave up their Sundays to complete this work.

In July 2010 we received the sad news that Caesar Kamieniecki had died aged 60 following a long illness. Caesar was a long standing member of the Society, and an obituary was published online.

On the evening of July 31st, the planets Venus, Mars and Saturn were aligned in triangular formation in the western sky after sunset. Simon Lang arranged a viewing session in the guise of a picnic to be held. Due to cloud Simon decided to postpone. However, at 6pm the sky cleared and conditions became good enough for around 30 visitors to see the conjunction. The proposed second try was totally cloudy.

A group of 9 members watched the Perseid Meteor Shower from Hertfordshire. They arrived at around 22:15, just in time for some to witness a bright fireball. The sky was clear with a little haze initially, but by 03:30 became totally obscured.

The new session at the observatory began on Friday September 17th and shortly afterwards we opened the Observatory for three extra nights as part of the Hampstead & Highgate Festival.

In early December, Pioneer Productions used the Observatory as a location for a filmed interview with Ian Ridpath for a programme they were making for the National Geographic Channel on the subject of UFO's. Pioneer made a donation of £60 to the Observatory fund.

There was a total Lunar Eclipse on December 21st. Unfortunately from London totality occurred at moonset between 07:40 – 08:53 am. At Hampstead the sky was totally clouded over and no part was observed.

2011 began with a major astronomical event, Stargazing Live. Between the 3rd and 5th of January 2011 the BBC put on a special series of programmes aimed at increasing the public's awareness of astronomy. The dates chosen were to include the annual Quadrantid meteor shower, the partial Solar Eclipse at sunrise on Jan. 4th and also the close conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus. We were asked to participate in this event and, to help with the publicity, the President was interviewed for an article that appeared on the BBC London website. The BBC also gave us a banner to put up at the Observatory, some posters and a huge quantity of Star Guides to be handed out. We also had several entries detailing our events on the BBC website.

Simon Lang recruited a good number of volunteers and opened the Observatory on Monday 3rd until 04:00 hrs – the peak time for the Quadrantid meteors. The night remained relentlessly cloudy. As the Solar eclipse occurred at sunrise on the 4th of January, it was decided to observe from Parliament Hill. A tiny part of the eclipse was glimpsed for about 5 seconds through a hole in the cloud cover. To observe the conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus, we opened the Observatory from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm from the Monday to Thursday. The weather did not co-operate but visitors still turned up. We had to wait until Saturday 8th for a clear night and about 100 visitors arrived, and by then we also had a crescent moon on view. The Sunday morning was also clear and about 50 visitors came to view the Sun. Frustrated by the lack of clear skies during the 'Stargazing' event we decided to open the observatory from 6 pm – 8 pm on Monday – Thursday during the following week as well, but again we were frustrated by poor weather and had to cancel.

The 'Stargazing Live' event was a limited success and the publicity certainly raised the Society's profile. Our participation meant that many members of the section worked long and hard to man the observatory and entertain visitors. Our thanks to Simon and all demonstrators and assistants who gave up their time.

Eight members of the Society visited the library of the Royal Astronomical Society at Burlington House at 3:00 pm on Saturday January 8th. Peter Hingley treated us to a two hour tour of the library and showed us many of its treasures including rare first editions by such luminaries as Copernicus, Herschel and Newton.

The bad weather continued throughout January and people were still clamouring to get a last look at Jupiter and Uranus before they descended into the horizon murk. Simon Lang opened the observatory on Friday Jan. 21st in the early evening and around 100 visitors turned up. We estimate that about 400 visitors came to the observatory during January. Due to this demand, many extra open sessions were planned during the early evening up to the end of the month, but due to persistent cloud cover, most were cancelled.

Twenty five children from Christchurch (Cricklewood) Cub-Scouts and their group leaders turned up at the Observatory on Feb. 11th as part of their studies for the 'Astronomer' badge. Unfortunately, the sky remained totally cloud covered. Nevertheless, they stayed for an hour and a half, asking many questions.

March 19th was at last a clear night and so Simon Lang organized a special session to view Mercury and Jupiter. About 20 people were rewarded with a good view of the elusive Mercury. Over 100 plus visitors turned up at the Observatory to view the Full Moon at perigee. Those arriving later also got a look at Saturn.

Saturn was gradually descending and would only be visible during the summer months when the observatory is closed. Accordingly, we decided to open the observatory for extra viewing nights over the Easter weekend and also the following Bank Holiday weekend. The extra openings over Easter were very well attended.

Unfortunately, the drive system began to give trouble. The stepper motor and gearbox had suffered damage over the years and needed replacement. Various repairs were done but more work was needed. Eight members attended the section sub-committee meeting at the Observatory at on May 15th to discuss further maintenance work, including the necessary repair to the dome rotation pulley and the re-covering of the dome, possibly using thin aluminium sheeting. But this will not be attempted this year.

On Friday May 21st 60+ visitors took a last chance to observe Saturn before the observatory closed for the summer break. The night was fine and clear and many stayed until past 11:00pm.

The last public opening of the session took place on Sunday morning May 22nd. 35 visitors came with the 'Hampstead Walks' group and later about ordinary 10 visitors. The day was partially cloudy but all visitors managed to see one sunspot and later some large prominences with Brian Bond's H alpha kit. Afterwards a dozen or so Demonstrators and assistants arrived for an end of session picnic at the Observatory.

Sourav Sen, who had been a visitor to the Observatory, donated his telescope to the Observatory. The instrument is a Celestron 114 mm reflector on a portable equatorial mount. We thank Sourav for his generous donation. The instrument will join the other portables for use by visitors.

This had been one of the most active sessions on record at the Observatory. Contributions to the observatory fund box totalled in excess of £870 for the session –by far a record. The Astronomy Secretary thanked Simon Lang and all Demonstrators and Assistants for their willing involvement and hard work to keep the Observatory and the Society in high profile with the public.

There were no questions. Julie Atkinson proposed that the report be accepted, Tim Bierman seconded and the meeting agreed.

Julia Daniels then presented the Astronomy Section accounts.

The largest single source of income was the observatory fund box, which brought in a record £972.90 from donations on public open nights. Interest on our National Savings Investment Account had dwindled to £12.31. The Society was one of the beneficiaries at Caesar Kamieniecki's funeral and received several cheques, of which £30 was paid into the Astronomy Account and the rest into the General Account. The Observatory received £60 for a TV interview, and £216 for the annual Ham. & High. Festival. Unfortunately there will be no Festival this year. Our total income for the year was £1,291.21, probably an all time record.

Simon Lang claimed only £51.71 for the materials used by the Summer Working Party, but should have claimed almost twice as much. We had paid Terry Pearce £35 for fitting the 6inch Cooke telescope with a right-angled diagonal and returned Caesar Kamieniecki's £5 key deposit to his wife. The Section bought a copy of the 2011 B.A.A. Handbook for £4.50. Then there were the usual routine expenses: £15.36 for postage and £19.55 for photocopies. Our total expenditure for the year was only £ 131.12.

The Opening Balance was £7,670.34 and the Closing Balance £8,830.43. The excess of income over expenditure was £874.09. These additional funds would be needed as we plan to carry out major work on the Observatory dome over the next two summers.

David Brown pointed out an inconsistency in the accounts: the excess of income over expenditure did not match the difference in income and expenditure figures by £286. The auditor, Leo McLaughlin, gave his opinion that the income and expenditure figures were correct and the error was in the calculation of the difference, which was not material to the accounts themselves. Doug Daniels proposed that the accounts be accepted with the proviso that Julia Daniels confirm this was the case, Elisabeth Fischer seconded and the meeting agreed.

9. Meteorological Section Report

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

The Met Office's automatic weather station (AWS) had functioned continuously throughout the year, with the sole exception of the rain-gauge which was out of action for three weeks; it took three weeks before anyone spotted there was a problem because there was simply no rain at all during that period. But it does emphasise the value of having a traditional manual rain-gauge on site as well as the automated version.

The overlap continued between the old AWS and the new AWS. The ideal time scale for the overlap is 5% of the station record for long-standing sites, and never less than two years for shorter-lived sites. So that means ideally five years for us.

Monthly reviews of Hampstead's weather had been posted on the Meteorological Secretary's website, and linked to from the Society's website, usually by the 5th of the following month, and the summaries extend back to the mid-1950's. The intention remains to extend the data online further and further back.

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

SUMMER 2010 began well with a warm, dry, and very sunny June, and the dry and warm weather (though with less sunshine) continued for most of July. August, however, was the coldest for 17 years and the wettest for six. Taken as a whole, the summer quarter was the warmest since the hot summer of 2006.

AUTUMN 2010 started well and finished badly. Most of September was fine and dry with several warm days. Five days of rain straddled the switchover from September to October, though it then turned a bit colder. November was a month of extremes ... an exceptionally warm start, and an exceptionally cold finish.

WINTER 2010-11 was a season of contrasts. December's frost and snow gave the coldest December in the entire Hampstead record, and probably the coldest in the London area in general since 1890. January was an average month, and February was very mild. All three months, however, had a marked shortage of sunshine, and the winter quarter was, overall, the gloomiest at Hampstead since that of 1971-72 ... 39 years ago.

SPRING 2011 was exceptional ... the warmest in the entire Hampstead record (and indeed the warmest by some margin in the whole of the Central England Temperature record which extends back 353 years), the driest for 21 years, and the sunniest for 16 years April was, by a wide margin, the warmest on record. But, as I've said before, dry springs are often followed by wet summers.

Peter Stern commented that there appeared to be less snow than there used to be – we did not often have to shovel our paths clear. Philip Eden agreed with the exception of the last three winters.

Doug Daniels proposed the report be accepted. Julia Daniels seconded and the meeting agreed.

10. AOB

The Secretary announced that the British Science Association Festival of Science would be held in Bradford from 10th to 15th September .

Martin Williams invited suggestions from members for improvements to the website, to be sent to webmaster@hampsteadscience.ac.uk or info@hampsteadscience.ac.uk.

Jim Brightwell suggested that the programme include postcodes for the Crypt Room and the Observatory, as they can be used by visitors to locate the events. There is no official postcode for the observatory and John Tennant noted that the electricity board has been querying our address. Simon Lang said that Camden has put up a sign to the observatory from Whitestone Pond.

There was a question about participation in Science Week next year. The Secretary responded that it depended on peoples' time and availability.

Simon Lang reported rumours that there may be two Stargazing Live events next year.

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

Julie Atkinson, Hon. Secretary, 0118 977 5192

Home Page

More AGMs

Last updated   16-Jun-2012