NCRAL Convention 1998

The 1998 NCRAL Convention was held on Friday, May 8 and Saturday, May 9. It was held at the Adventureland Inn in Altoona, Iowa, which is an eastern suburb of Des Moines.

I left my house at 4:00pm on Friday, and didn’t get to the hotel until after 10:00pm that same night. There was a star party scheduled for that evening, at the Ashton Observatory of the Des Moines Astronomical Society. But, since it was cloudy, late, and nearly a full moon, I just stayed in and caught the last half of Star Trek: First Contact on HBO.

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Saturday morning, I registered for the convention and went to the first talk. Professor Anthony Marsden was speaking on cool supergiant stars. Afterward, I went out to the AL Sales table. I picked up a coffee mug, a T-shirt, a few emblems, an “I’d Rather See Starlight Than Streetlights” bumper-sticker, and the new Messier club book called “The Messier Objects: A Beginner’s Guide.” This is more than an update of the old book; it’s really a completely new publication. Written by Kathy Machin and Sue Wheatley, the book supplies more up-to-date positions and background information on the nature of the various Messier objects. All of the observing descriptions are from the logs of the two co-authors, while photographs, drawings, and CCD images have been supplied by a number of amateur astronomers. As a matter of fact, you can check out the handiwork of NCSF member Rick Kazmierski on pages 14, 15, and 17. I was also looking for the Herschel II book, but they were backordered and only had a display copy for me to look through. The best thing about the book is that it’s spiral-bound, so it will truly lay flat in the field. And it’s got a lot of pages!

Regional Council Meeting

Right after lunch, the NCRAL had their Regional Council Meeting. Bert Stevens, the Chair of the NCRAL, presided over the meeting. After the roll call of member society representatives, they got on with the reports from Secretary/Treasurer Steve Peters:

The region has gained 3 new societies (Lake County Astonomical Society, Amateur Astronomers Of Southern Illinois and one other that I didn’t catch). We also had 1 society drop membership (Northwest Suburban Astronomers). Our current balance is $3,379.93…which puts us, once again, as one of the few regions that actually has a financial surplus.

Two people from the Cedar Amateur Astronomers of Cedar Rapids, IA made a presentation as part of their club’s bid to host the 1999 NCRAL Convention. In addition to the standard star-party and convention activities, they also talked about two special tours: the first to one of the dishes of the VLBA, and the second to Torus Precision Optical. Both of these places are near the Cedar Rapids area.

Frank Roldan and another member of the La Crosse Astronomical Society of La Crosse, WI made a presentation as part of their club’s bid to host the 2000 NCRAL Convention. Their presentation concentrated on UW-La Crosse and area astronomy vendors.

Dave Bactel, our Regional Representative to the National Council, gave his report on the1997 National Convention in Copper Mountain, CO:
• membership is stable
• the League’s financial problems have abated with the new dues structure
• we have $62,000 in the Trust Fund
• the Herschel II observing program is becoming very popular
• Jackie Wade (member of the Astronomical Society of Kansas City and current Astronomical League Treasurer) was elected as a new trust fund trustee

Bert Stevens gave an update on our NCRAL newsletter, Northern Lights.They currently mail 500 copies per issue. Some of the ideas that have been bandied about include photocopying instead of printing, anannual color issue, and an on-line version of the newsletter.

Frank Roldan, Elections Coordinator presented the slate for the 1998 officers:
• Chair: George McCourt (Neville Public Museum Astronomical Society in Green Bay, WI)
• Don DeWitt: Vice-Chair (Neville Public Museum Astronomical Society in Green Bay, WI)
• Steve Peters: Sec/Treas (didn’t catch the society he was from)
It was noted that the Regional Representative position is a 3-year term and Dave Bachtel still had time left on his term. There were no nominations from the floor, and all of the people on the slate were elected by unanimous ballot.

Bert Stevens called for votes on future convention sites. The Cedar Rapids, IA convention site was approved for 1999, and the La Crosse, WI convention site was approved for 2000.

Bert Stevens gave some closing comments & thanks as outgoing NCRAL Chair.

Oh yeah…there was another reason I made the trek to Iowa. I bought a new telescope.