Minutes of Annual General Meeting held at
The Crypt Room, St John's Church, Hampstead, on 25th June 2015.

Present: Doug Daniels (President) and 28 members and 1 guest.

1. Minutes of A.G.M 26th June 2014

These were signed by the President as a correct record.

2. President’s Remarks

The President remarked on another interesting session of lectures all of which were well attended and covered topics as diverse as Black Holes to the Post Office Railway but not together! Alien Animal Invaders to Fracking and the truly inspiring talk on Bionic Hearing by Ian Shipsey, himself a sufferer from profound deafness. Then to round off the session Roger O’Brien reported on the highly successful Rosetta mission to land a space probe on the nucleus of a comet. The President thanked Programme Secretary Jim Brightwell for producing a lecture programme of such interest and diversity.

He noted that the Society was saddened to hear of the passing of both Joan Wolff, wife of ex-President Prof. Heinz Wolff, and also Dr. Jamie Nelson. They are greatly missed by family and friends.

He stated that the Society continued to flourish because of the interest and dedication of its members and its Council, so on its behalf he thanked them. He thanked those members who assist regularly at meetings and those who had brought contributions to the night’s refreshments, and also thanked Martin Williams and colleague Ian Lewis for the interesting display of 3D printing.

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. There had been no trips this year, but the Secretary reported that Council were making enquiries to arrange something next year. The Society had officially attended the British Science Association Branches Forum at the Science Festival in Birmingham in September.

The Secretary reported membership as 106 of which 16 are family, 2 junior, 3 country and 3 honorary.

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, reported that bookings and expenses were up from last year. The increase in the Observatory costs of 2.26% was due to a rise in insurance & cost of the telephone line. Administration was down over 34% due to the bulk purchase of postage stamps last year before the price increase. Refreshments total increased this year due in part to the donation of the wine & food in the previous year. The website subscription remained unchanged. Total expenditure was 0.14% down on last year.

Membership income fell by 9% and Gift Aid recovery was not in by the end of this financial year. The donations were up from last year's level (excluding John Hayden's legacy of over £12,000). No British Science Association grant was obtained this year. Sales income was up from last year and interest on our savings account remains depressed. Income overall was considerably down.

The outcome is we have a shortfall of income over expenditure of £462.09. The capital at year end 31/5/2014 is £24,155.13, down slightly on last year. The shortfall appears worse than it is as the gift aid for this year has not been claimed yet (in process at the moment) as it is earning a better interest rate unclaimed than with our savings account. The overall health of the end of year balance indicates no urgent action is needed to balance the annual income/expenditure but this will require regular reviewing.

Peter Wallis proposed adoption of the report, and Julie Atkinson 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 9th April 2015.

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

At the Council meeting on 9th April 2015, David Markham was co-opted to fill the vacancy on Council for the rest of this year's session.

The constitution requires at least one ordinary Council member needs to resign at the AGM. The Secretary reported that this year, Roger O'Brien had volunteered to step down. She thanked him for his support during the last four years and hoped that he would return to Council in the future.

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

NomineeMartin WilliamsKevin DevineDavid BrandtDavid MarkhamAlexander Menegas
Nominated byCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncilCouncil

The Secretary noted that Alexander Menegas was too young to qualify as a trustee of the Society, but she believed he would be able to make valuable contributions to Council.

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

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.)

On the evening of January 10, the Astro Sec. found Comet Lovejoy using 7x50 binoculars at 212:15 hrs. It appeared as a small dim circular patch with a not very bright condensation and no evidence of a tail. It did not appear to be much brighter than about Mag.6 so it does not appear to have brightened to the predicted value. Observing from the darker skies of Weston Coleville (Cambs.), but still with a moon in the sky, Terry Pearce managed to get images of Lovejoy on January 6th at 20:30 hrs. He described it as a pale disk with a distinct greenish hue resembling an out of focus globular cluster. On Sunday Jan. 18th, he took 2 images of Lovejoy as it passed close to the Pleiades.

On the evening of January 14th, Venus and Mercury were in conjunction in the low south-western sky after sunset. A low cloud bank prevented observation. On the following evening, a very clear sky just after sunset presented the Astro Sec. with a clear view of the conjunction, with Venus and Mercury in the same binocular field of view. On the 15th, Simon Lang, Kevin McNulty and John Culshaw watched the event from Parliament Hill and later got a view of Comet Lovejoy.

On the 24th-25th of January, it was possible to view all the major planets. Mercury & Venus were visible at sunset, followed by Mars, Neptune and Uranus. Jupiter was visible for most of the night and Saturn was rising low down in Scorpio before dawn. There was also a 4 day old crescent Moon to add to the occasion and Comet Lovejoy was passing close to beta Arietis. The evening was particularly clear and some 100 plus visitors turned up to the Observatory. Such large crowds severely limit the number of objects that can be shown. All we could show them was the Moon until it set then M42 Orionis and finally Jupiter exhibiting all 4 moons. They all seemed to enjoy the experience.

On March 20 2015, there was a total Solar Eclipse – 87% partial from Hampstead. Unfortunately for us the entire event was obscured by relentless cloud. Because of the BBC's Stargazing Live, public interest was high. About 100 visitors turned up at the observatory but their only view of the eclipse was from many ipads and tablets. But all was not lost as Julia Daniels managed to recruit three possible assistants. Not all our members missed the main event. Kevin McNulty took to the ocean waves north of the Faroe isles on the good ship ‘Boudicca’ together with Paul Abel, Pete Lawrence and Jon Culshaw. They saw the total eclipse in its entirety and Kevin produced a report.

Kevin McNulty organized a member’s observing session on April 14th, from which Paul Abel produced a series of excellent drawings of Venus, and some views of Jupiter showing a transit of Ganymede. Kevin organized another member’s observing session on April 21st. Quite a few members turned up to view Venus, close to a crescent Moon and Jupiter. However, the seeing conditions were not as good as on the 14th.

During April, Alexander Menegas proposed the construction of an illuminated weather-proof notice board that could be attached to the outside observatory wall. Alexander (aged 14) wanted to construct and finance the board himself and by the beginning of May, the work was almost complete. Simon Lang fitted an external plug point. Well done Alexander, we like to see our younger members getting involved in this way.

The current session of public open nights ended on 10th of May. Because the sky was still light at 8:00 pm, we opened from 9:pm - 11 pm. The 9th was partially clear for a last look at Venus, bright in the western sky, and Jupiter still well placed for observation.

Although the weather was not particularly favourable during the ‘open season’, we still managed to attract close to 1000 visitors during the session, indicating that the Observatory remains as popular as ever. The Astronomy Secretary thanked all Demonstrators and Assistants for their continued support and Julia Daniels for taking care of the duty roster and the section’s finances. He also thanked Kevin McNulty for keeping the FaceBook link interesting and lively.

Jacqui Oppenheimer remarked that she had been on the 'Braemar' for the eclipse this year, but was clouded in. Her sister ship had had clear skies.

Martin Williams asked if the Section was going to work on lighting the steps to the Observatory, and suggested rope LEDs. Doug Daniels replied that they would agree a date for maintenance at the Observatory picnic on 12th July.

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 are shared with the Meteorology Section, so they are paid out of the Society's general bank account.

Our main source of income was the Observatory Fund Box, from which we collected £891 in donations, compared with £1,207 last year. We received £80 from an individual who hired the Observatory for a promotion. There was another donation of £10 and a £10 deposit on Observatory keys from a new Demonstrator. Finally our National Savings Investment Account earned a meagre £16.68 in 2014. This brought our total income to £1007.68 (compared with £1,648 last year).

Purchases were minimal this year. We bought a cheap pair of binoculars for £19.44, but the optics were inferior. A patio knife, a hand fork, and a broom were purchased for £33.13 for the summer working party at the Observatory. We also bought another extension lead for £10. Our expenses for organising a roster for the Observatory were £42.40 for postage and £15.10 for photocopies. The B.A.A. Handbook 2015 cost £4.50 (reduced) as usual. Finally a £10 deposit on Observatory keys was returned to a retiring Demonstrator, but the cheque was not presented.

Our total expenditure came to only £125.557, compared with £3,284.78 last year when we bought equipment for observing the sun. Our excess of income over expenditure of £882.11.

She thanked Leo McLaughlin for auditing the accounts.

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 was presented by Doug Daniels.

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 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 – of which we have now completed five 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 briefly summarised the weather experienced during the last year.

SUMMER 2014 was both warm and dry, but August after the 9th was cool and wet with rain on 12 days.

AUTUMN 2014 began with two weeks of dry weather, but from 18th September the rains returned.

WINTER 2014-15 saw the rains continuing throughout December and January, but the weather changed abruptly with February; February were drier than average. However, they were also rather cold months with wintry episodes from December 29–31, January 16-February 12, and February 19-21.

SPRING 2015 began with six days of rather cold weather which encompassed the Easter holiday, then it warmed up with 25C on April 15, but became cooler again. April was dry and sunny throughout. (26C was reached on June 12.)

Julie Atkinson proposed that the report be accepted, Doug Daniels seconded and the meeting agreed.

9. AOB

The Secretary announced that

Leo McLaughlin noted that the lecture on bionic hearing was available online, and was very good.

Doug Daniels noted that there were Formula One races with electric cars taking place in Battersea Park on the following Saturday and Sunday.

The President announced the conclusion of the AGM, and it was followed by a continuation of the demonstration of a 3D printer by Ian Lewis of Replicat 3D.

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