Astronomy Benalla’ exists to promote the interest and enjoyment of amateur astronomy.  Through the provision of a venue with facilities and resources, we seek to foster a safe and enjoyable learning experience, whilst seeking also to engage the interest and involvement of the wider community of Benalla and district. PRESIDENT’S REPORT FOR 2016 In many ways 2016 was the year many of us felt we could have done without! Amid tragedy, sickness, theft, and ‘life unforeseen’, we have had to face a very challenging twelve months, and I, for one, am glad to enter into a New Year.    In January 2016, even before our first meeting, we were greeted with the news that our storeroom had been broken into and our most prized possession, the Coronado 60mm Solar Telescope, had been taken.  The police were notified, investigations conducted, but to this day we have not had this valuable item returned.  Within three months the brazen thieves struck again, and our expensive data projector was this time taken.  Access had been gained yet again through the still unsecured Netball Storeroom.  Repairs were immediately attended to, but all too late for us. In the midst of all this we were negotiating with the Winton Wetlands Committee of Management regarding their intrusive security lighting of the Hub and the potentially obtrusive saplings growing near our viewing pad.  In April we learned of our Vice President’s serious car accident and he and his wife’s grave hospitalisation.  In many ways this put much of our setbacks into their proper perspective, and we were very thankful that life had not been lost. Rupe and Gwen have made an amazing comeback but, like for many of us, it has been a journey fraught with frustration. As the year unfolded we continued to respond to invitations to conduct night viewings or presentations for a number of school and community groups around the district and beyond.  The primary schools of Currawa and Dookie invited us to join them on Mt. Major for a beautiful evening’s viewing of the crescent moon and late summer constellations.  Over sixty people participated in this event, with twenty-four Commemorative Telescopes purchased for the use and promotion of amateur astronomy.  Twenty-five Year 12 students from Melbourne’s Presbyterian Ladies College met with us at the Winton Wetlands for a very successful evening’s viewing, and have requested another viewing in 2017. A similar night was held at the Bonnie Doon Community Centre with good attendance and interest in further visits.   Tomorrow Today’s ‘Come & Try’ Day in April attracted much attention, amid the many and varied sporting groups represented on the day.  Astronomy Benalla had been specially asked to be represented, and had agreed at the last minute.  Our relationship with Euroa’s U3A continued as we gave yet another presentation to the passionate and enthusiastic members upon their invitation.  The primary school at Katandra West, also hearing of our expertise, invited us to host a viewing night, and purchased 84 Commemorative Telescopes for the event.  Around 120 people participated in a superb evening and expressed great appreciation for our involvement. 2016 also proved to be an incredibly ‘wet’ year for the North-east.  Farmers did it tough, but we had to cancel many more viewing nights than were actually held.  Mansfield Primary School, for example, sought us on a number of occasions to conduct a viewing night, but on each occasion the weather demanded postponement. Finally, the advent of the Benalla Festival saw clearer skies, and we participated in “The Sky’s the Limit” theme by hosting a ‘Parade of Planets’ viewing at the lakeside Mural in which a number of families attended.  There have been many opportunities in 2016 for the promotion of Astronomy Benalla, but it would seem our most effective mission (or niche!) lies with the conduct of viewing nights and sky tours.  We have been interviewed on radio and T.V. and sought after regularly for comment, advice, news articles, displays and presentations.  We have manned sites at markets, featured in community and media events, encouraged the talents of aspiring astronomers, and contributed to the wider world of amateur astronomy (Astronomical Society of Australia's Time Capsule). In all this, thank you to all our members, who have journeyed this difficult year together. Thank you also and particularly to Patrick.  His considerable effort, expertise and passion have been of great benefit to us all. We concluded the waning year with a very peaceful, catered meal at the scenic Benalla Golf Club. Out of interest, we learned much this last year through the following stimulating sessions: “In Search of Planet X”    - Rupe Cheetham  “Stellar Objects – Open Clusters”             - Patrick Watson “Stellar Objects – Double Stars”             - Patrick Watson “Stellar Objects – Nebulae & White Dwarfs”  - Patrick Watson “The life and achievements of Astronomer, Giovanni Domenico Cassini”  - Robert Waterman “The Winter Solstice”  - Jeff Knight “Stellar Objects – Wolfe-Rayet Stars"  - Patrick Watson  "Visual & Weather Phenomena”             - Patrick Watson "Discovering Exoplanets"             - Jeff Knight  “The Juno Mission to Jupiter”  - Bev Morton “Supermoon Photography”             - David Webb      Thank you again to our passionate presenters.  Do you have a passion?  May we always learn from and encourage each other. - Jeff Knight President, 2016.
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