August 2017 DFAC Update

quidnoviNewsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Captain’s Log: August 1, 2017

Greetings Fellow Stargazers,

Monsoon weather continues to thwart observing. Unless, that is, you’re observing the monsoon itself. Check out my latest experiment in time-lapse photography in the July 31, 2017 post on Sky Lights.The evolution of a thundercloud is a fascinating example of thermodynamics. Beautiful to watch. But I’m ready for clear dry skies, so let’s get right to item 1 …

1. Annual Perseid Watch at Heimhenge
This year’s peak spans Aug 11-13, so the midpoint conveniently falls on a Saturday (Aug 12). Alas, there will be a waning gibbous Moon (70% full) rising at 11:30 pm. But that still leaves 3-4 hours of good observing. Sunset is at 7:15 so an 8:00 start time works well. BYO favorite recliner, beverage, snacks, and maybe binocs — we won’t be setting up any scopes. As always, expect plenty of time for astronomy chat between fireballs. Plus, you’ll have your first opportunity to experience our newly paved recycled asphalt driveway. No more hazardous ruts! Hope to see you here. RSVP via our DFAC Events page.

2. Change of plans for the Aug 21 total eclipse
Our proposed “eclipse from the air” expedition never panned out. Turns out the cost to charter either an executive jet or twin-engine turboprop for a custom flight over Wyoming exceeded expectations. Total cost would be close to $15,000 to be shared by 4 passengers. And so it goes.

Instead, I’ll be doing an H-alpha time-lapse with my Takahashi from here at Heimhenge. Sandi will be shooting a time-lapse with her point-and-shoot camera, which I outfitted with a neutral density filter from a spare set of solar shades. First contact is around 09:14 MST and last contact is around 12:00. Maximum coverage (63%) occurs at 10:34. Good luck and clear skies to all, whatever your plans for the Great American Eclipse!

3. NASA’s plans for the eclipse
Watch how NASA plans to view the Aug 21 eclipse. This will be a real chase at close to Mach 1. Just follow this link.

4. Apollo training in northern Arizona
This just in from Roger Serrato at Lowell Observatory:


Flagstaff, Az- Nearly a half-century after humankind first visited the Moon, a new book has been published that captures Northern Arizona’s role in preparing for these missions.   Images of America: Northern Arizona Space Training, shares the passion, drive, creativity, and quirkiness of the people who helped fulfill President Kennedy’s bold challenge of sending humans to the Moon before the end of the 1960s.

Neil Armstrong hiked the Grand Canyon before taking his “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”, scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey exploded cinder fields near Sunset Crater to create a simulated lunar surface, and engineers joined forces with astronauts to test lunar buggies across the cinder fields of Flagstaff and beyond. Authors Kevin Schindler and William Sheehan tell these and others tales of astronaut training, lunar mapping, and instrument development and testing.

The book features more than 200 vintage pictures and captions, as well as introductory chapter remarks, that capture the excitement and spirit of one of the grandest eras in human history.  Schindler said, “This book captures an important yet often ignored era of Northern Arizona history. We wanted to not only let people know about this remarkable work, but also to help preserve this legacy of the men and women who made possible the flights to the Moon.”

Schindler is the historian at Lowell Observatory, where he has worked for the past two decades. He regularly writes astronomy and history articles for a variety of publications, and contributes an astronomy column, “View from Mars Hill”, for the Arizona Daily Sun newspaper. Sheehan, a psychiatrist by profession, is also an independent scholar of the history of astronomy.  Recognized worldwide as an authority in these fields, he writes extensively for various magazines and journals and has authored more than a dozen books.

5. This just in from Juno …
If you’ve not yet seen the latest Juno images of Jupiter, you have to check out this gallery. Spectacular!

6. Vatican Observatory Library now open for business
The Vatican Observatory Foundation recently made their extensive collection of content available online. It includes written, audio, and video presentations on the topic of Faith and Science. Browse the stacks here

7. Joshua Tree named International Dark Sky Park
Read the full article on the IDA website here:

8. Astronomical Eye Candy:
Just to get you primed for the Perseids, here’s an almost surreal time-lapse of the 2010 Perseids from Malibu, CA, bracketed by dusk and dawn in the meadow along with an eerie sound track. RT=1:24. Enjoy.

Till next we meet, clear skies.

Dan Heim
Desert Foothills Astronomy Club

July 2017 DFAC Update
September 2017 DFAC Update