December 2017 Sky-Watch:  Xmas Program and Meteor Shower by Dennis Herrmann


Thirty years ago, December 1987, I led my astronomy students at Kent County High School in writing and producing a Christmas Program in the planetarium.  Along with the help of the radio station at school, WKHS-FM, the program was presented to the public and to classroom students from our county schools.  Each year since 1987, we have done the same thing.

This year we present the 31st annual Xmas Program on December 15, 18, 19, 21, and 22 at 7 p.m. at the KCHS planetarium.  We never charge admission and always provide holiday refreshments.  We hope many of you and your families and friends will join us for this year’s program, “The Magic of Xmas; the Magic of the Planetarium.”  It remains, as always, our gift to the community and is a unique way to help celebrate this wonderful time of year.

The year’s richest and most reliable meteor shower, the Geminids, will peak on the night of December 13/14, without any Moon interference.  The Moon’s phase is slim crescent; and it does not rise until 3:30 p.m.  The Geminids appear to come from the area of the sky where we see the constellation Gemini.  Gemini rises around sunset time, nearly due east, and is nearly overhead by 2 a.m.  The best meteor views will come then on the morning of December 14th, between midnight and 4 am.  Under clear, dark sky conditions we may expect to see upwards to 120 meteors per hour!

Geminids Meteor Shower

Mars rises in the southeast sky at magnitude +1.7 around 3:30 a.m. in early December, where it will be very close to Spica; brightest star in Virgo.  Mars is only half as bright as Spica this month, but bright enough so that its ruddy color will make a nice contrast of color with the blue-white star Spica.

Jupiter also rises in the east about 75 minutes after Mars.  Jupiter is much brighter at –1.7 magnitude and is found among the stars of Libra the Scales.

Last month a close conjunction of the two brightest planets as seen from Earth, Venus and Jupiter, occurred behind cloudy skies for us; so we missed it.  But we will have another chance to see a good planetary conjunction on December 31st.  One hour before sunrise, looking southeast, Mars may be seen just 3 degrees to the right of Jupiter, with the bright star of Libra, Zubenelgeneubi, right between them.  During the first week of January 2018, they will be even closer (just 0.2 degrees) apart!  By the way, Zubenelgenubi is my favorite star name.  Pronounced:  Zoo Ben L gen Oo Bee.

Size comparison – Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, Mercury, etc.

During the month of December, we can watch Mars draw closer to Jupiter, from 16 degrees apart on the 1st, down to 3 degrees on the 31st.  In between on the 13th, the waning crescent Moon may be seen above Mars, with Jupiter 11 degrees below the red planet.  On December 14th, an even slimmer crescent Moon will be 5 degrees to Jupiter’s upper left.

This month’s Full Moon on December 3 will gather a lot of attention and receive media hype because full phase happens only 17 hours before the Moon makes its closest approach to Earth (perigee) during its monthly orbit.  This coincidence makes this the largest full moon of 2017 – some 7% more than average.  If we observe this Full Moon low above the eastern horizon we will be surprised by its size.  But this is mostly an illusion caused when viewing the Moon near familiar objects in the foreground.  Our minds are “tricked” into perceiving the Moon as larger.  The media will refer to it as a “Super Moon.”

The Moon will also Occult the brightest star in Taurus, Aldebaran, on December 30 between 6 and 7 p.m. EST.  The dark side of the waxing gibbous Moon will cover the star for about one hour, with it coming back to view as the brightly lit side moves past it.  This event is an occultation and is fun to observe with binoculars.

Merry Christmas; keep looking up and watching God’s glorious night sky – and come to the Xmas program!!!


Kent County Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee to Hold Special Meeting, Monday, Nov. 27


The Kent County Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee of the Kent County Board of Education is holding a special meeting for the purpose of discussing long-term facilities planning.  The meeting will be held on Monday, November 27, 2017, at 4:30 pm.  The meeting will be held at the Kent County High School Media Center, 25301 Lambs Meadow Road, Worton, Maryland  21678

Members of the Kent County Board of Education are Trish McGee, president; A. Bryan Williams, vice president; Jeff Reed, member; Dr. Wendy Costa, member; and Joseph Goetz, member. Karen Couch is superintendent of schools.


Leadership, Character, Service, and Scholarship: NHS Induction


On Thursday, November 16, thirty-two students were inducted into the National Honor Society at The Gunston School. The National Honor Society (NHS) is a prestigious organization for juniors and seniors, which requires them to hold a grade point average of at least 88 and to meet the society’s rigorous non-academic criteria.

The inductees, their parents, and current NHS members gathered in the Susie Konkel Atrium for breakfast, pictures and celebration before the induction ceremony that was held in the Field House. Welcoming remarks were made by Headmaster John Lewis, who spoke about the importance of pursuing the four key National Honor Society values: leadership, character, service, and scholarship.

Photo: NHS Inductees: front row (l-r): Ellie Merton, Becky DeFino, Shiloh Clark, Camy Kelly, Leah Hellwege, Nellie Stup, Megan Prochaska, Elena Sherman, Anneliese Clair, Caroline Roser, Hope Murphy; middle row (l-r): Si-tong (Vicky) Zhou, Marisa Pisapia, Phin Howell, Nick Lee, Jack Morrison, Sheng Hao (Jack) Xu, Pengyu (Oliver) Wu, Katie Easter, Cora Duncan, Kejing (Karen) Chen; back row (l-r): Cole Evans, Menel Harris, Nick Basham, Mitchel Naumann, Yifan (Michael) Shen, Haorui (Davy) Song, Drew Seaman, James Pratt. Missing: Yuxuan (Ciara) Chen, Paige Murphy, and Claire Johnson.

Following Mr. Lewis’ remarks, the keynote address was delivered by Mr. Lance Richardson, State’s Attorney for Queen Anne’s County (and NHS member). Mr. Richardson spoke to the student body and guests about goal setting, “not only do you have to set goals, but you also need to map out a plan on how you will achieve your goals.”

To highlight the core values of NHS, four candles were lit by current members, as senior and NHS president Henry Parkhurst spoke about the meaning of each value. NHS Secretary Alli Webb read each inductee’s accomplishments as they were called up one-by-one, to receive a certificate, pin, and rose, and to sign their names into the NHS registry. To make them official members of the society, current members pinned the inductees with a pin bearing the NHS logo and the pledge was recited, led by Henry Parkhurst. To conclude the ceremony, Mr. Michael Kaylor, the NHS advisor, shared words of wisdom and high praises to the students for their accomplishments.

We congratulate this year’s NHS Chapter Officers and Inductees.

President: Henry Parkhurst, Vice President: Susie Fordi, Secretary: Alli Webb, Treasurer: Neel Patel, Historian: Gillian Felton, Parliamentarian: Chris Newberg, Public Relations: Lila Ingersoll

Heidi Barcus, Kangcheng (Max) Cao, Simiao (Grace) Dai, Rongjie (Rose) Fan, Steven Goss, Sam Johnson, Mary Macmillan, Ryleigh Paskoski, Lily Phipps, Joey Smith, Baoyi (Betty) Zhou

Grade 12: Yuxuan (Ciara) Chen, Jack Morrison, Hope Murphy, Mitchell Naumann, Pengyu (Oliver) Wu, Sheng Hao (Jack) Xu. Grade 11: Nick Basham, Kejing (Karen) Chen, Anneliese Clair, Shiloh Clark, Becky DeFino, Cora Duncan, Katie Easter, Cole Evans, Menel Harris, Leah Hellwege, Phin Howell, Claire Johnson, Camy Kelly, Nick Lee, Ellie Merton, Paige Murphy, Marisa Pisapia, James Pratt, Megan Prochaska, Caroline Roser, Drew Seaman, Yifan (Michael) Shen, Elena Sherman, Haorui (Davy) Song, Nellie Stup, Vicky Zhou.

The Gunston School Announces First Quarter Academic Honors


Congratulations to the following students for earning High Honors or Honors for the first quarter of the 2017-2018 academic year. To earn a place on the High Honors list, a student must have an A average and effort grades of “S” or above. To earn Honors, a student must achieve a B+/A- average and effort grades of “S” or above.

High Honors: Grade 12—Simon Cawley, Yuxuan (Ciara) Chen, Susie Fordi, Steven Goss, Lila Ingersoll, Sam Johnson, Mary Macmillan, Hope Murphy, Chris Newberg, Alex Papadopolous, Henry Parkhurst, Ryleigh Paskoski, Lily Phipps; Grade 11—Brooks Armstrong, Kejing (Karen) Chen, Katie Easter, Cole Evans, Will Gibson, Phin Howell, Paige Murphy, James Pratt, Megan Prochaska, Caroline Roser, Katie Schizy, Yifan (Michael) Shen, Elena Sherman, Haorui (Davy) Song, Nellie Stup, Yong (George) Yan; Grade 10—Eily Ashley, Yuntian (Areopl) Bai, Emily Gray, Grace Holmes, Wyatt Howell, Katie Moreau, Will Newberg, Yaxuan (Joey) Zhuo; Grade 9—Avy Aubin, Helen Boone, Em Borghardt, Arianna Campi, Julie Ireland, Toni McCluskey, Sydney Nittle, Ethan Nuessle, Adie Parish, Lydia Periconi, Severin Schut, Hannah Worth.

Honors: Grade 12—Heidi Barcus, Kangcheng (Max) Cao, Simiao (Grace) Dai, Rongjiee (Rose) Fan, Gillian Felton, Yohanes Gray, Wenyuan (Nick) Li, Robert Messier, Jack Morrison, Mitchell Naumann, Dutch Nickerson, Neel Patel, Garrett Rudolfs, Charlotte Sheets, Joey Smith, Alli Webb, Pengyu (Oliver) Wu, Baoyi (Betty) Zhou; Grade 11—Dolan Carella, Shiloh Clark, Malachi Graham, Menel Harris, Yanni Harris, Leah Hellwege, Grafton Howard, Claire Johnson, Camy Kelly, Nick Lee, Miao (Suzy) Li, Ellie Merton, Marisa Pisapia, Drew Seaman, Katie Staley, Sam Umidi, Anna Wolf, Fuji (Cynthia) Yang, Sitong (Vicky) Zhou; Grade 10—Andrew Amygdalos, MacCallum Borghardt, Mark Bourdin, Cotter Buckley, Natalie Cockey, Nina De Angelo, Frankie Fisher, Cedar Foster, Lynsey Hildebrand, Lily Judd, Nick Kellogg, Martina Kreienbuehl, Payton Lord, Hunter Mansfield, Michael Nickerson, Mason Rudolfs, Isabella Santobani, Max Scott, Peter Sharpless, Abby Silva, Owen White; Grade 9—Bella Adams, Zack Anderson, Lily Bernsten, Maxmillian Brady, Tiger Christman, Lydia Davis, Kayla Flood, Glynis Gardner, Reagan Gessford, Olivia Hershey, Campbell Parkhurst, Connor Reichardt, Emily Ryon, Joshua Sanford, Owen Santora, Charlie Shifron, Henry Shifron, Christian Walker, Haoying (Grace) Wang, Colin Ward.

Library Gets Grant for Early Literacy


The Foundation for the Kent County Public Library has been awarded a $6,500 grant from the PNC Foundation to continue their Early Literacy initiative that focuses on improving school readiness. PNC provided the funding in support of Grow Up Great, its bilingual program in early childhood education.

“Summer Readers Sing” will be the theme for the 2018 Kent County Public Library Summer Reading Program which will encourage children of all ages from birth through teen to engage with reading and music literacy activities throughout the summer. In addition to experiences for children, KCPL will host a continuing education program on incorporating music into the classroom for early childhood educators. For the summer of 2018, KCPL will continue the summer reading game’s online option and further assist the school’s summer program with their participation.

“Thanks to the PNC Grow Up Great Grant, KCPL’s exceptional Children’s Department will continue to be an integral part of early education initiatives in Kent County,” said Jackie Adams, Library Director. “The Library’s goal is to foster and support ongoing interaction for children with reading activities throughout the summer and encourage families and caregivers to promote reading throughout the year.”

The grant from the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC), will enable the Kent County Public Library to engage professional childcare presenters, fund the purchase of educational supplies to support these programs, and provide core knowledge training and readiness skills for early care providers and parents.

“PNC is committed to providing families with the tools and resources to help children be successful in kindergarten and life,” said Chick Hamm, PNC Executive Vice President and Market Executive in Greater Maryland. “We are thrilled to expand our support of the Kent County Public Library Summer Reading Program as it continues to serve a critical community need – helping more Kent County children arrive at kindergarten with essential skills and ready to learn.”

In FY 2017, nearly 5,600 community members attended children’s library programs offered throughout the year, including weekly story times and other culturally enriching programs.

The PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., actively supports organizations that provide services for the benefit of communities in which it has a significant presence.  The foundation focuses its philanthropic mission on early childhood education and community and economic development, which includes the arts and culture.  Through Grow Up Great, its signature cause that began in 2004, PNC has created a $350 million multi-year initiative to help prepare children from birth to age five for success in school and life.

Two New Board Members for Gunston


The Gunston School is pleased to announce the appointment of two new members of its Board of Trustee, for the 2017-2018 academic year. Joining the Board of Trustees are Greg Farley and Robert Fordi. “We are fortunate enough to have caring, diverse, and committed individuals with varying strengths to serve on our board.”, said John Lewis, who is entering his eighth year as Headmaster.

As a team, the Board of Trustees and the Head of School work to maintain the vision for the School, consistent with its mission, and to develop and approve long-range and strategic plans.

Greg Farley

Greg Farley is Director of the Center for Leadership in Environmental Education (CLEEn) and Professor of Biological Science at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills. A marine zoologist and evolutionary biologist, he holds an MS from Florida State University and a BS from Duke University.

In 2011, Farley studied at the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui (SLIM), part of the University of Hawaiʻi-Maui Campus. Since his return, he has worked to bring successful ideas home to the Delmarva peninsula. Case studies that illustrate these lessons are captured in his new book, Thinking Like an Island: Navigating a Sustainable Future in Hawaiʻi, co-edited by former SLIM Executive Director Jennifer Chirico.

Robert Fordi

Robert Fordi of Chestertown is CEO & Managing Partner of Realterm Logistics, the surface transportation logistics platform of Realterm, a $4+ billion-in-assets global multi-strategy real estate private equity firm. Since joining the firm in 1998, Fordi has helped the company build the largest third-party-owned real estate platform serving the transportation industry in the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to his professional responsibilities, Fordi serves on the board of Kent School, an independent K – 8th school in Chestertown,, and as a member of Chestertown, Maryland’s Planning Commission.  Fordi received a BS in Economics from Towson University, as well as an MS in Real Estate Development from The Johns Hopkins University.

College Speaker to Discuss Russian Revolution


This year’s Conrad M. Wingate Memorial Lecture in History at Washington College will feature Russian scholar Ian D. Thatcher and focus on the historical importance of the revolution and how our understandings of it have changed in the last hundred years. Thatcher, a professor at the University of Ulster, will discuss “From February to October, 1917: Competing Visions of the Russian Revolution,” on Thursday, Nov. 2, at 5:30 p.m. in Litrenta Lecture Hall of the John S. Toll Science Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Thatcher is the author of a biography of Leon Trotsky (2002).  He has also edited several volumes of scholarly essays on late Imperial Russia, the revolution itself, and the first years of Soviet power. He is currently researching Alexander Kerensky and the failed attempt to establish a moderate, Western-style democracy in 1917.

This event is sponsored by the Department of History.

WC-ALL Holiday Trip to Hillwood Estate Museum


WC-ALL has planned a special holiday trip to The Hillwood Estate and Museum in Washington, DC, on Thursday, December 7. Participants will journey through cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post’s final home to experience the elegant French dining room, efficient and “high tech” kitchen and pantry, and the many personal touches that make Hillwood one of Washington’s most memorable homes.

A detailed self-guided audio tour will give each visitor an up-close and personal view of the formal dining room, two well-appointed libraries, and an entry hall featuring décor from 18th century Imperial Russia and France. A special exhibition, “Spectacular Gems and Jewelry”’, displays some of the finest examples from Hillwood’s collection. Over fifty pieces belonging to Post will tell the story behind some of the remarkable stones and the jewelry into which they were transformed. After touring the mansion and grounds, which will be festively decorated especially for the holidays, a buffet luncheon will be served at the Hillwood Café with time afterwards to browse the museum shop.

The ADA compliant bus will leave Redner’s parking lot on December 7 at 8:15 am and return at approximately 4:30 pm. The mansion has an elevator and benches and chairs throughout for seating. The cost of the trip is $75. for WC-ALL members and non-members alike, and includes the bus ride, self-guided audio tour of the mansion and gardens, luncheon buffet, and driver tip.

Reservations are due by Tuesday, November 21 by sending a check payable to WC-ALL to WC-ALL, 300 Washington Ave., Chestertown, MD 21620. Please include names, phone numbers, and email addresses for all who plan to attend. Questions should be directed to WC-ALL at 410-778-7221.

School Board to Meet With Facilities Planning Committee


The Kent County Board of Education is holding a work session with the Facilities Strategic Planning Committee on Monday, November 13 from 4 to 6 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the Kent County Board of Education Administration Building, 5608 Boundary Avenue, Rock Hall.

The regular November monthly Board of Education meeting is also scheduled for November 13, 2017 at 6:30 p.m. There will be a closed session meeting from 6 to 6:30 p.m.