September 2018 DFAC Update

quidnoviNewsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Captain’s Log: September 1, 2018

Greetings Fellow Stargazers,

As monsoon season draws to a close I’m hoping for clearer skies and cooler temps. Been a long hot summer. The dust storm on Mars continues to subside, but the telescope view is still far from acceptable given the planet’s proximity. As of this writing Mars shows an angular size of 21″ so it’s not too late to catch this close perihelic opposition. Get out there and observe, and pray for clear skies (on both planets).

1. Mars observing at Heimhenge
The weather (on Earth) cooperated nicely. Alas, that wasn’t the case on Mars. Only two members joined me here at Heimhenge for a view of the Red Planet: Raul Espinoza and Dave Beams. We had a great time talking astronomy, and a nice view of Saturn, but Mars was too awash in dust to see much more than a hint of the south polar cap and maybe one (blurry) large dark surface feature. And this was at 200X, which the seeing (here on Earth anyway) permitted. Still, as they say, even a bad night at the scope is better than a good day at the office. We’ll be doing another open observing session on October 13.

2. Private showing for DFAC at Walker Star Barn
On Saturday, September 15, 3–5 pm, Ron Walker will host a private showing for DFAC members at his planetarium Star Barn. It will include a history of the building and projector, basic operational demos, and at the conclusion a demo of his multi-colored laser light show set to music. Although geared to members who have never attended the Star Barn, all are welcome. Members can RSVP on our DFAC Events page as always, but please do so by Sep 8.

3. IDA news
The International Dark-Sky Association no longer distributes their Night Watch newsletter and has transitioned to a blog and article based online format. I’ll occasionally point out an item of special interest, but you can drop by anytime to see what’s up with the fight against light pollution. Their dark sky advocacy page is here, and their news blog here. I have both bookmarked to stay current with light pollution issues.

4. State of DFAC
With the cancellation of our Lecture Series (and honoraria) bookkeeping becomes less crucial. If you want to see what our simplified 2018 Treasurer’s Report looks like just follow that link (but it’s pretty minimal). Assuming all current members are paid up for the 2018–2019 season, our bank account is holding at $333.77. There may be 1 or 2 late renewals yet to come. Web hosting and domain name registration is paid ahead through March 2021, and we have made our annual donation to IDA. Our membership in the Astronomical League has been updated along with our current roster, so DFAC members can look forward to continued access to Reflector, the League’s newsletter, either in print or online.

Our roster at this time lists 14 members. I’d like to welcome our newest member Mel Hildreth of BCC, who some of you met on our DCT field trip. He’s just getting into observational astronomy at the binocular level, and is learning his way around the constellations. He looks forward to attending our next observing event.

The officer situation is less than desirable. We lost our Social Media Manager last year. Just dropped outa sight. I have not heard from our Media Liaison in some time. Last I heard she was on a road trip. The VP post remains unfilled, as it has for several years now. But the members must be happy … at least the 14 who renewed. And so we will continue our reduced activity schedule with no Lecture Series or public events.

What that leaves us with is regular observing sessions — shooting for 5-6 each season if the weather cooperates, private events at members’ observatories or homes, field trips, and social activities. It also leaves us with solid contacts to fellow stargazers in the North Valley area.

5. Astronomical Eye Candy
This visualization uses a digital 3D model of the Moon built from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter global elevation maps and image mosaics. The lighting is derived from actual Sun angles over many lunar days in 2018. The composition is set to the music of Claude Debussy’s best-known composition, Clair de Lune (moonlight in French). The changing shadows and lighting are just mesmerizing. I’m sure you’ll enjoy this.

Till next we meet, clear skies.

Dan Heim
Desert Foothills Astronomy Club

August 2018 DFAC Update
October 2018 DFAC Update