Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 20th June 2013.

Present: Doug Daniels (President) and 25 members.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 21st June 2012

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President's Remarks

The President remarked that for him, the session had been one of extreme contrasts – misery at the beginning, sadness in the middle and great joy at the end.

He had been unable to attend meetings until after Christmas due to an agonizing back problem. However, Julia Daniels 'filled in' for him admirably for which he thanked her.

The sadness came on December 9th 2013 when we received news of the death of Sir Patrick Moore. Patrick had long term associations with this Society and we were featured on the Sky at Night programme several times.

The great joy came at the end of the session when a visitor at the Observatory was so impressed by what we are doing to nurture interest in astronomy and science that his company made an anonymous donation of £15,000 to the Observatory fund.

The President said we are still receiving donations from members as a result of our general appeal, and expressed the Society's gratitude for all this generosity. It would allow us to obtain some specialized equipment for solar observation and other projects and has more than made up for last year's expensive renovations.

In all other respects, our Programme Secretary continued to provide us with lectures to expand our minds.

The President thanked Council for their continued support, all members who help at meetings, and Simon Lang for making his home available for Council meetings.

It seemed that members were reticent to join Council and this would create a problem at the end of the year, when 4 serving members would be forced to retire under the '4 year rule'. The President remarked that we may have to revise that part of the Constitution to enable willing members to continue to serve on Council beyond their 'sell by date'.

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.

The Secretary reported that membership is 123, of which 16 are family, 4 junior, 5 country and 4 honorary. The Society was sad that both John Hayden and Alfred Oppenheimer had passed away this year.

The Society had officially attended the British Science Association Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Aberdeen, in September. And we had received a grant from them to help with the printing costs of the programme cards.

The Secretary added her thanks to the President's to Members of Council for their contributions running the Society, to Doug Daniels and Peter Wallis for the newsletter and its content, to all those who help with coffee and chairs and to those supplying the food and wine for the evening.

4. Treasurer's Report

Unfortunately the Treasurer, John Tennant, had left the copies of the accounts and report at home. Nevertheless, he reported what he remembered.

Expenditure included:

On income:

Leo McLaughlin confirmed he had audited the account figures on 15/06/2013.

Peter Wallis asked if the Society could recover tax from the donation of £15,000 this year. The treasurer replied no, because the donor was a company rather than an individual, and one of the conditions was that the donor be anonymous.

Peter Wallis proposed adoption of the report, with the proviso that copies be distributed with the August Newsletter, and Elisabeth Fischer seconded. The meeting agreed.

5. Vice President Proposal

Doug Daniels proposed that Julia Daniels be made Vice President of the Society, in view of her long standing work for the Society: Julia Willcox joined the Society aged 18 in 1956 and was first elected to Council in 1959. She became an Observatory Demonstrator in 1960 and made observations of Mars and variable stars. She married Doug Daniels in 1965. She has been Astronomy Section Treasurer for 41 years so far (since 1972) and Roster Secretary for most of that time. She wrote the 16-page history of the Astronomy Section in the Society's history, from the Society's year books and from personal memory and records. Although physical frailty prevents her continuing as a regular Demonstrator, she is still a very active member of the Society and the Astronomy Section, and she helps out wherever needed at meetings.

The proposal was put to the vote and carried.

6. Proposal on Council Membership Tenure

The Secretary explained that Council had recommended to the AGM a change to the Society's Constitution concerning the tenure of members of Council. The aim was to avoid losing all or nearly all ordinary members of Council in one year, and to maintain some continuity, while ensuring a turn-over of Council members.

The Proposal was to change Constitution Clause 5b to:

The Council shall consist of the Officers of the Society, as defined in 5a above, and five ordinary members, of whom at least one shall retire each year, either voluntarily or the one who has served for the greatest number of consecutive years, or where there is more than one who qualifies, the one selected by a ballot of Council members. Any ordinary member of Council retiring under this rule shall not be re-eligible to serve on Council as an ordinary or co-opted member during the subsequent year, but shall be immediately eligible to fill any office as defined in 5a above.

Leo McLaughlin had stood down in 2011 to start the process, but with no change, there would be four out of five retirees from Council in 2014. Julia Daniels said this proposal would ensure there was at least one new Council member per year. Martin Williams agreed that this would bring in new blood.

Council's proposal was put to the vote and carried.

7. Election of Officers and Council

The Secretary announced that Council had elected Doug Daniels as President at the Council meeting on 11th April 2013.

As there were no further nominations, the following officers proposed by Council were declared as elected:

Hon. Secretary Julie Atkinson Hon. TreasurerJohn Tennant
Hon. Programme Secretary Jim Brightwell Hon. Membership SecretaryJohn Tennant

There were no ineligible Council members under the four year rule this year, but Julia Daniels resigned as an ordinary Council member following her acceptance as Vice President. The following nominations were received for the 5 ordinary members of Council:

NomineeMartin WilliamsRoger O'BrienPeter SternKevin DevineJulia Daniels
Nominated byCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncilJulie Atkinson and Doug Daniels

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

8. Election of Auditors

Julie Atkinson proposed Leo McLaughlin and Martin Williams as auditors, with John Tennant seconding. Both were willing to act. The meeting elected them both.

9. Astronomy Section Report

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

The new session of public open nights began on October 19th. The weather was not particularly helpful for the first few weeks, except for the Sunday session on November 18th which featured a cloudless sky for Solar observation.

The weather deteriorated further in December for 3 weeks. When skies did clear, visitors were able to observe Jupiter presenting much fine detail in the cloud belts.

On Sunday December 9th 2012 we received the sad news that at the age of 89, Sir Patrick Moore had passed away. Patrick had a long standing association with our Society from the 1950's with a visit to our Observatory, up to the Sky at Night team's visit in October 2011 although Patrick was not well enough to attend on this occasion.

Just before Christmas, the telescope drive packed up. Jim Brightwell was soon able to discover that the stepper motor itself was faulty. It was installed in 1992. Jim has volunteered to build a simplified version using easily obtainable and inexpensive components. In the meantime, Jim had built a stand-by unit using a components from an old printer and Meccano. On Sunday morning January 6th, Jim, Simon and Doug fitted the 'new' drive unit to the telescope, and it worked. The Astronomy Secretary thanked Jim for donating it to the Society.

The BBC decided to 'keep the ball rolling' with another session of Stargazing Live in January. Due to being somewhat overwhelmed by visitors on the two previous sessions, we kept a low profile this year. The weather was again appalling but visitor numbers were still high when we did get a clear night.

On Feb 15th a massive fireball was reported over the Ural Mountains in Russia close to the city of Yekaterinburg. Also, Near Earth Asteroid 2012 DA 14 made a close approach to Earth at 19:26 hrs. UT to within the orbits of geostationary satellites. The event took place on an open night, but the skies clouded up shortly after sunset and remained overcast for the entire evening.

Braving a viciously cold day, some 25 former friends of the late John Hayden gathered for a remembrance walk on the Heath on Saturday February 24th , John's birthday.

Braving freezing temperatures and wintry snow showers, Simon organized a session to observe comet pan-STARRS. Seven hardy souls turned up in the 'old sand pit' field at the end of Judge's Walk. After a brief snow shower, the sky cleared and the comet was picked up by Jon Culshaw using a pair of Patrick Moore's binoculars. Ennio Tabone, now living under the darker skies of Dorset, managed to get a decent image through his 4-inch refractor on March 31st. On the 7th of April, well over 40 visitors just managed to make it out as it has faded considerably.

The Society was well represented at a special reception to celebrate the life and work of the late Sir Patrick Moore on Wednesday 1st May at Broadcasting House.

Due to the fact that Saturn is now descending into the low declination Summer constellations, we decided to extend our opening season until May 12th. We changed the opening hours to 9:00pm – 11:00 pm. This gave visitors the chance to take a last look at Saturn with its rings well displayed. The Observatory is scheduled to re-open on September 13th.

During mid May, Doug Daniels received a telephone call from a visitor to our Observatory. He was so impressed by what he had seen that he told Doug that as the director of a finance company that made donations to deserving causes we might benefit from this scheme. Our application was successful, the donation must be described as "an anonymous donation" and it was £15,000. We received a cheque for that amount on May 24th. The Astronomy Secretary expressed the Section's big "Thank You" to our anonymous benefactor. This sum would allow the Section to purchase some new equipment that has long been on our "wish list".

At the beginning of the session the Observatory joined FaceBook. This has enabled us to post 'up to the minute' news about the Observatory's opening status and to post other articles of astronomical interest. We must thank Kevin McNulty for initiating this and for the work that he puts into uploading items of interest and to Simon and all those members of the section who do the same.

The Astronomy Secretary thanked Simon and the team of Demonstrators & Assistants for their continued support. He also thanked Julia for managing the roster and looking after the section's finances.

There were no questions.

Julie Atkinson proposed that the report be accepted, John Tennant seconded and the meeting agreed.

Julia Daniels presented the Astronomy Section accounts.

The Astronomy Section has had its own separate bank account since 1971 and is financially responsible for keeping the Observatory and astronomical instruments in a good state of repair. It is also responsible for raising funds to pay for this, and we had gradually built up a balance of over £10,000. This year so much work was needed to renovate the Observatory that we had no alternative but to employ and pay for a carpenter named Peter Gould to do the bulk of the work, always assisted by Simon Lang and a number of volunteers.

Peter Gould's professional expenses came to £7,440.38, paid in 6 instalments. There were also a couple of expenses for Simon and Doug: £87.67 for steel bars and £28.86 for plywood. In recognition of the amount of time Simon gave he was presented with an Astronomy book at a cost of £45.99.

Our regular expenses were £36 for postage, £22.60 for photocopies and £4.50 for the B.A.A.

Our total expenditure was £7,664.00.

Interest on our Savings Account was a mere £26.87. We had a donation of £50 after a talk to the Totteridge Women's Group, £100 from Juniper TV for use of the Observatory, and £100 from friends of John Hayden in his memory Members of the Society responded to our Observatory Appeal to help pay for the cost of repairs with a total of £1,135. The public gave a total of £475.40 in the Observatory Fund Box. Then literally on the last day of our financial year, we received a donation which we could not believe, when a cheque arrived in the post for £15,000. This magnificent donation brought our total income to £16,887.27.

Our Total Income and Expenditure appear again on the balance sheet at the bottom of the page, together with our Opening Balance of £10,522.11 and our Closing Balance of £19,745.38. This confirms our Excess of Income over expenditure of £9,223.27.

Julia Daniels thanked members who donated to the Observatory Appeal Fund, members who gave their time to help with the renovation work, and Leo McLaughlin for auditing her accounts.

Julie Atkinson proposed that the report be accepted, John Tennant seconded and the meeting agreed.

10. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, was unable to attend and so Trevor Law presented his report, summarised below. (An expanded report is on the web site.)

The Met Office's automatic weather station has functioned continuously throughout the year with no gaps in the record at all. The overlap continues between the old automatic station and the Met Office one, so our own automatic station continues to function. The ideal time scale for overlap for us is five years – of which we have now completed 3 years and 3 months.

Due to a combination of caring responsibilities and, latterly, ill-health, it has not been possible to update the website since early-2012. The intention remains to extend the data online further and further back when health permits.

The report then briefly summarised the weather we'd experienced during the last year.

SUMMER 2012 was both cold and wet although the weather relented somewhat after July 20, just in time for the Olympics. June was exceptionally wet with 151mm of rain setting a new record in our 103 year history, and July wasn't much better with 114mm though August was much drier with just 36mm. Overall, the summer quarter was also the wettest on record, and had the least sunshine since 1987.

AUTUMN 2012 began with three weeks of dry weather, but from 22nd September the rains returned. With a total of 353mm of rain it was the wettest autumn since 2002. Temperatures were rather below the normal.

WINTER 2012-13 saw the rains continuing throughout December, but the weather changed abruptly with the year, and both January and February were drier than average. However, they were also rather cold months with lengthy wintry episodes.

SPRING 2013 began with six weeks of exceptionally cold weather. It was the coldest March since 1962, and there were further snowfalls around March 12, and from March 23 to the end of the month. The weather improved in mid-April giving us three weeks of tolerably warm weather, but from May 8 onwards conditions again became cool and cloudy.

Trevor Law commented that Stephen Burt in Berkshire reported that the last 10 days in March were the coldest in Southern England since the 1780's.

Peter Stern asked if there was a case for measuring atmospheric pollution. Julie Atkinson responded that we had asked the question of Philip Eden and he thought not, because the site is not suitable, and the Council is measuring pollution at the heavy spots. Trevor Law commented that CO2 is measured on Mauna Kea, and the government records the rest.

Julie Atkinson proposed the report be accepted, Peter Stern seconded and the meeting agreed.

11. AOB

David Markham recommended visiting the National Maritime Museum, at Greenwich, where they have a Vision of the Universe exhibition with phenomenal photography.

The Secretary announced that the British Science Festival would be held in Newcastle from 7th to 12th September. Royal Society Summer Exhibition would be held on 2-7th July.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM, and it was followed by a Scientific Entertainment comprising Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral.

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