January 2019 DFAC Update

quidnoviElectronic Newsletter of the
Desert Foothills Astronomy Club

Captain’s Log: January 7, 2019

Greetings Fellow Stargazers,

Here’s hoping your Holidays were filled with fun and family and friends. Been seeing some extreme weather here in New River … it snowed on New Years Eve and our heat pump froze up from the 93% humidity and 30° temps. Spent the night with a portable electric space heater in the room. No damage to the heat pump, just a normal response to those extreme conditions. First time that’s ever happened since we installed the heat pump 16 years ago. Climate change? Fortunately, the thermal mass in our earth-sheltered home kept the interior temps in the 60s. The following morning it was sunny, so we opened all the window louvers for solar gain. By noon the house had warmed to nearly 70° while outside temps were in the 40s. Heimhenge performed as designed.

My apologies for Quid Novi arriving a week late. More about that to follow in item 1 …

1. My last season as president
I will not be able to continue as President or Editor of DFAC after the end of this season (May 31, 2019). The time and effort those positions require can no longer be sustained. Other interests are pulling me in new directions — not the least of which is some travel now that Sandi has retired. As far as DFAC goes, this is uncharted territory and I’m not sure what happens to the club at this point. We’ve been operating outside our Constitution for several years now.

Our web hosting and domain name is paid up through March 2021, so our website will continue running at least until then. It provides great resources for astronomers, and Google Analytics tells me we get lots of traffic. I’ll continue in my position as Webmaster to make sure our website stays up to date. But unless one of our members steps up to take the position of Editor, Quid Novi will no longer be published after the May 2019 post.

Of course, I’ll still be doing astronomy and hosting observing events here at Heimhenge, and I’ll update our DFAC Events page accordingly. Events at Walker Star Barn will continue to be featured. And any events at members’ homes can also be included — just let your Webmaster know. But I won’t have the time to organize any events beyond that. The Discovery Channel Telescope field trip was a nice finale to my tenure.

You’ll note that I removed all the phone numbers from our Contact page. I’d been receiving too many lengthy phone calls from people who just wanted to ramble on about their new scope, or alien conspiracy theories, but weren’t interested in joining the club. Anyone visiting our website probably does email, and that’s a far less intrusive medium for communication.

Between now and May 31 I’ll continue business as usual, and I look forward to some outside observing sessions when the weather improves. What happens on June 1, 2019 is anyone’s guess. Likewise March 2021. As I said, we’re in uncharted territory. It’s been a great run serving as DFAC President these past 13 years and I thank you for your ongoing support.

DFAC could continue, as described above, without an acting President. If so, I’m not sure if there’s any point in charging dues (already reduced from $25 to $10). We still have $333.77 in our bank account and no significant operating expenses until our domain name and web hosting expires in 2021. We can renew our membership in the Astronomical League for $140 to ensure members continue receiving The Reflector newsletter. I’d lean toward keeping the website online for the interim, but that won’t be my decision after May 31.

Any feedback, questions, suggestions? You know where to find me. Should any member decide to take the positions of President or Editor, trust that I will assist in the transition. The duties of both offices are clearly described in our Constitution.

2. DFAC website changes
They’re subtle, and you probably wouldn’t have noticed them, but the overall layout of our website has been simplified to correspond more with the default Twenty-Fifteen WordPress theme. All the original content is intact, but this slightly simpler layout reduces the size of style.css, makes the site more resistant to breakage by future WordPress upgrades, and saves your Webmaster considerable maintenance time.

3. New website for astronomy resources
I received an email from Bob DuHamel at amsky.com, a clearing house for astronomy clubs with tons of resources for amateur astronomers. DFAC is listed on their White Pages, among 18 astronomy clubs in AZ, so I thought I’d return the favor. There’s a lot of good stuff on their website. Take a look around and you might end up bookmarking it like I did.

4. Photos from the Far Side of the Moon
Got this link from Jay Chatzkel, thanks. If you haven’t yet seen the photos sent back by China’s Chang’e-4 you really need to check these out. Story and photos here.

5. Astronomical League e-newsletter
Just a reminder that the electronic version of Reflector is now available for download. Get it here:

6. Planetary Society podcast
The Planetary Society (one of DFAC’s donees) has launched a podcast. Here’s their blurb on it:

Each episode contains a main feature that introduces (or lets us get reacquainted with) a leader in our quest to know the cosmos and our place within it. We take the show on the road several times each year to create Planetary Radio Live in front of an audience. I’ve also brought listeners along as I’ve visited some of the most exciting space locales around the world, ranging from the Kennedy Space Center to the ALMA radio telescope array, 5,000 meters above Chile’s Atacama desert.

You’ll usually hear one or two of my Society colleagues, too. CEO Bill Nye, Senior Editor Emily Lakdawalla, and Digital Editor Jason Davis are regulars. Chief Scientist Bruce Betts is the only other person who has been heard in every episode’s What’s Up segment. Bruce and I have a great time as he takes us on a tour of the current night sky, looks back through space history, and provides a reverberating Random Space Fact. Catch the weekly space trivia contest for your chance to win cool prizes like a Planetary Radio t-shirt!

If you want to check it out and maybe subscribe go here:

7. Astronomical Eye Candy
With another total lunar eclipse coming up on Jan 21 (see our DFAC Events page) I thought this video by William Castleman on Vimeo would be a nice feature. Follow that link for more great astrophotography.

Till next we meet, clear skies.

Dan Heim
Desert Foothills Astronomy Club


December 2018 DFAC Update
February 2019 DFAC Update