Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 26th June 2014.

Present: Doug Daniels (President) and 23 members and no guests.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 20th June 2013

These were signed by the President as a correct record, with the following proviso pointed out by Leo McLaughlin:

2. President’s Remarks

The President remarked that Prof. Robert Weale had found it increasingly difficult each year to say something new in his Presidential Report because the Society seemed almost to ‘run itself’. The apparent ‘surface calm’ belies the activity, sometimes frenetic, below the surface, and we are very fortunate to have an enthusiastic Council whose members devote many hours ensuring that the Society continues to deliver the aims of its founders. He thanked the Programme Secretary, Jim Brightwell for producing an interesting and varied series of lectures, and also thanked all those distinguished scientists who have given freely of their time to come and lecture to us, keeping us on the ‘cutting edge’ of scientific discovery.

In December Professor Weale passed away, and in February we also lost Gordon Harding FRAS. We extend our deepest sympathies to their families and friends, Obituaries were published on our web-site.

At the beginning of the year, we received the welcome news that the Society was to be a major beneficiary in the will of the late John Hayden. This bequest, together with the anonymous donation last year to the Observatory fund, puts our Society on a sound financial footing for the first time in its history.

Membership numbers remain fairly constant, at around the 100 mark and we are pleased to see some younger members and visitors attending lecture meetings.

Finally, the President thanked our Secretary, Julie Atkinson and our Hon. Treasurer, John Tennant for all the work that they do behind the scenes, and all members who help at meetings, putting out chairs and making coffee and to those who have contributed to the refreshments this evening.

3. Secretary’s Report

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

The Secretary reported membership as 114 of which 14 are family, 2 junior, 5 country and 3 honorary. She reported our sadness to lose Prof. Robert Weale, Doug Daniels' predecessor as President, who ably ran the Society for 20 years, and who died at the age of 91, and also Gordon Harding.

Peter Stern organised a trip to the British Library in the autumn, and the event was enjoyed by all. The Society officially attended the British Science Association Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Newcastle in September.

The Secretary thanked members of Council for their contributions, Doug Daniels and Peter Wallis for the newsletter and its content, all those who help with coffee and chairs at meetings and those who provided food, wine and arrangements for the AGM.

4. Treasurer’s Report

The Treasurer, John Tennant, presented the Society's accounts and reported that bookings and expenses were up from last year. The increase in the Observatory costs of 6.4% was due to rises in insurance and telephone line costs. Administration was up 28% due to the bulk purchase of postage stamps before the price increase this year. Refreshments total decreased due in large part to the donation of the wine & food for the last AGM. The resulting total expenditure was up 15% on last year.

On the income side, Membership income fell by 6.5% and Gift Aid recovery was not in by the end of this financial year. No British Science Association grant was obtained this year. Our income was dominated this year by a legacy left to us in John Hayden's will of £12,850.39. Income overall was up due solely to J. Hayden legacy.

We have an excess on the year of £12,281.41. The capital at year end 31/5/2014 is £24,617.22 almost double last year's.

Peter Wallis proposed adoption of the report, and Doug Daniels seconded. 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 10th April 2014.

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

After last year's constitution change, at least one ordinary Council member needs to resign 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. At the Council meeting on April 10th by secret ballot, it was decided that Peter Stern should stand down on this occasion. We thank Peter for his support during the last four years and hope that he will return to Council in the future.

The following nominations were received for the 5 ordinary members of Council:

NomineeMartin WilliamsRoger O'BrienKevin DevineDavid Brandt 
Nominated byCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncil 

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

Julia Daniels noted that that Council was left with one vacancy which could be filled by co-option at any time in the next year.

6. Election of Auditors

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

7. Astronomy Section Report

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

Terry Pearce and he visited to the Festival of Astronomy at the old R.O.G at Herstmonceux and managed a look at Neptune, ‘Witches Broom’ – part of the Veil Nebula in Cygnus, M27, M57, M11 and M13. Glorious views of these deep sky objects which we never get in Hampstead.

On Friday13th Sept 2013 persistent rain and drizzle ensured that the Observatory remained closed on Friday but on Saturday and visitors were treated to some good views of the Moon – just a couple of days after first quarter. The weather remained unsettled for the following week-end, open on Friday and clouded out for the rest.

On Friday Sept. 27th the BBC used our Observatory as a venue for filming an item for the HORIZON programme and the paid £150 as a location fee.

A full report of the Sky at Night Magazine award made to Doug & Julia Daniels was published in the October edition of the magazine. It was in recognition of their combined total of 104 years as volunteers at the Observatory.

By mid-November we had hoped to be observing the ‘comet of the century’ a magnificent bright comet visible in daylight. Will we never learn? – comets are not to be trusted! ISON did not survive its perihelion passage and just fizzled out so we saw nothing of it.

During November/December, there were 3 other comets gracing our skies – Encke, Linear and Lovejoy. Of the three, Lovejoy was the most easily observed as it was at higher declination. On November 25 it passed a few degrees west of Cor Caroli (Alpha Canes Ven,) at a magnitude of +5.8.

In November we placed our order for a Coronado Hydrogen Alpha telescope and a HEQ5 computer controlled mount. These were delivered on December 3rd and on Sunday January 5th, we held our first training session for Demonstrators and Assistants so that they could familiarize themselves with the setting up and operation of the new Solar Telescope. It is now installed and fully operational and will add another dimension to our Sunday morning solar observation sessions. We had to wait until March 9th for a nice sunny Sunday to show visitors what the Sun really looks like! The Sun, however, was a bit quiet with a few small sunspots and a couple of small prominences and dark filaments visible.

Once again the BBC produced another two Stargazing Live programmes in early January. Once again the weather was appalling but we managed one clear night on Saturday 11th Jan. Despite not advertizing our participation in the event because of last year’s problems with crowd control, around 200 visitors still turned up and were treated to views of the Moon, Jupiter and M42 and the Pleiades. Well done all those who turned up to assist on the night.

Well done to Dr. Steve Fossey and his students at Mill Hill Observatory for their discovery of a Supernova in the galaxy M82 Ursae Majoris. The discovery was made on Jan. 21st during a training session with the Observatory’s Celestron 14 and was the first time that the students had used the telescope.

Towards the end of January and the early part of February, we experienced the worst weather for almost a century. Persistent rain and high winds blew in from the Atlantic. The high winds managed to dislodge the Observatory shutter.

On February 18th we heard of the sad passing of Gordon Harding (age 85). Gordon had been an Assistant demonstrator at the Observatory for many years. He was an enthusiastic amateur astronomer and was a Fellow of the RAS, a member of C.A.T.S and of the Harringay Astronomical Society. He will be greatly missed by his many friends.

Reports came in of strong auroral activity on the night of February 27th. The display was visible as far south as Jersey. From Finchley he saw nothing due to light pollution. Needless to say, it was totally overcast on 28th.

The Christchurch Scouts at last managed to visit the Observatory on the evening of March 7th and were able to view a near first quarter Moon and Jupiter under clear skies. We decided to extend our opening season up until 18th of May because Jupiter was still on view, Mars was well placed for observation and we could get a brief glimpse of Saturn before it was lost to view. Because ‘summer time’ was by then in force from April 25th we opened at 9:00 pm - 11:00pm. The last weekend opening sessions were blessed with clear skies and about 150 visitors turned up on 16th for a final glimpse of Jupiter, Mars and Saturn.

Responding to some midweek clear nights, we decided to open for members to observe Mars. Two sessions were arranged on April 24th and again on May14th. Considerable surface detail could be seen together with a small northern polar cap.

The session ended on Sunday May 18th. The Astronomy Section Secretary thanked all Demonstrators and Assistants for their continued support, and commented that the Observatory is becoming ever more popular with visitors. He also thanked Kevin McNulty, Cara Christie and Simon Lang who keep our Face Book entries up to date – we have over 800 regular readers, some from abroad and well out of our ‘catchment’ area. Finally, he thanked Julia Daniels for organizing the roster and looking after the section’s finances which thanks to our anonymous benefactor has ensured that they remain in a very healthy state.

Martin Williams proposed a vote of thanks to those running the Observatory, and the meeting concurred.

Astronomy Section Treasurer Julia Daniels presented the Astronomy Section accounts.

The Astronomy Section has its own separate bank account and is financially responsible for keeping the Observatory building in a good state of repair, maintaining and replacing astronomical instruments, and raising the funds to pay for this. Insurance and electricity, however, are expenses which are shared with the Meteorology Section, so they are paid out of the Society's general bank account.

The Observatory Fund Box collected £1,207 in donations on public open nights. The BBC televised two programmes from the Observatory, for which they paid £350. Canadian TV also paid £50 for use of the Observatory. We received a late donation of £25 to the Observatory Appeal Fund towards repairs in 2012. Our National Savings Investment Account earned a meagre £16.56 in 2013. This brought our TOTAL INCOME to £1,648.56. This compares with an exceptionally large income of £16,887.27 in 2012-13 due to an anonymous donation of £15,000.

The aforementioned donation was intended to be spent in part on buying new equipment for the Observatory, with a hope that it might be of particular benefit to children. With this in mind, a decision was made to buy some equipment for observing the Sun, since it is easier for children to visit the Observatory during the day than at night. A Coronado Solar Telescope was purchased for £2,159, together with a computerised mounting, a set of eyepieces and a power supply, the total cost for this equipment beign £3,087. We also bought a pair of binoculars for £30. On the more practical side, a Grass Strimmer and cable cost £37.98 and an Extension Lead cost £11.99.

Our admin. Expenses were £42 for postage and £31.90 for photocopies. The B.A.A. Handbook cost £4.50. Finally we spend £38.94 on soft drinks for our summer party at the Observatory for demonstrators, assistants and other helpers.

Our TOTAL EXPENDITURE came to £3,284.78, compared with £7,664 last year when we had to do a lot of repairs to the Observatory building. Our Excess of Expenditure over Income of £1,636.22.

The Astronomy Section Treasurer thanked Leo McLaughlin for auditing the accounts.

Martin Williams asked whether the telephone expenses in the main account included the link with the Meteorological Office. The Treasurer replied that the Met. Office line was separate, and the telephone line was the Society's.

Julie Atkinson proposed that the report be accepted, Elisabeth Fischer seconded and the meeting agreed.

8. Meteorological Section Report

The Meteorological Section Secretary, Philip Eden, was unable to attend due to illness and the meteorological section report had not been received. The President promised that it would appear on the web site when received.

9. AOB

The Secretary announced that the British Science Festival would be held in Birmingham from 6th to 11th September. The Royal Society Summer Exhibition would be held on 1-6th July.

The Treasurer was asked whether the Astronomy Section was covered by the Society's charity registration given that it maintained separate accounts. He confirmed that it was.

Doug Daniels asked when Science Week would be. It will be on 13th to 22nd March 2015.

Martin Williams asked if members could make use of the telephone at the observatory and pointed out it would be useful for incoming calls and possibly could be linked to an alarm. Doug Daniels said that a normal phone would be open to abuse and he wouldn't like to leave it open. The observatory is covered by a surveillance camera now, but he will consider the incoming calls option.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM, and it was followed by a Scientific Entertainment comprising Which Scientist Said That?

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