Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #8: December 3rd, 2006

About Quid Novi

Past Issues

DFAC Events

State of DFAC

Last Meeting

Next Meeting

Quote of the Month

Space Debris

Contact the Editor: Dan Heim, phone: 623.465.7307 or email:

DFAC Events:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Sep 27   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 25   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 30   5:30 pm - 8:00 pm   Ladies Guild Astronomy Night   6609 E. El Sendero Drive, Cave Creek, AZ 85331 (contact Dan Heim for gate code)
Nov 28   5:30 pm - 7:30 pm   Student Astronomy Night   Foothills Academy College Prep, 7191 E. Ashler Hills Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Nov 29   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 18   5:30 pm - 8:00 pm   Student Astronomy Night   New River Elementary School, 48827 N. Black Canyon HWY (Exit 232 east to frontage north)
Jan 31   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 21   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   Student Astronomy Night   Eastside Explorers Homeschool Group, address TBA

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • This month's issue finds yet another change to our newsletter format. Photos from our most recent meeting will now be included as part of the "Last Meeting" section. Because of the need to print some copies of Quid Novi, the images are embedded at a viewable size rather than using thumbnails with links. Unfortunately, cost limits require the printed copies be in B&W. But they're all here in glorious color for your online version.
  • And don't forget ... we're still looking for a real Editor to take over this newsletter for 2007-2008. If you have the skills, and a couple hours a month spare time, think about stepping up for this position when we have our elections at the May business meeting. It would also be great if the Editor had a digital camera to do some photos at our meetings and other events.
  • Our Astronomy Night for Foothills Academy was cancelled due to clouds. Ironically, the days to either side of that scheduled had clear skies. I'm starting to get a bit frustrated about this cloudiness thing. When I moved to AZ in 1978 it was because of the clear skies. Meteorological records claimed the AZ sky was clear 85% of the time. That translates to 1 out of 7 nights cloudy (allowing for longer runs during monsoon season). And that's about the way it was for the first 10 years ... maybe 1 out of every 7 observing events got clouded out. Over the last 10 years that ratio has increased. Not like I've been keeping written records, but it seems closer to 1 out of 4 these days. Is the climate changing? No doubts in my mind.
  • Our next public event, Astronomy Night at New River Elementary School, is scheduled for Thursday, January 18th (see DFAC Events above). This could involve a larger group of observers, so if you can assist with a scope, it would be greatly appreciated. Contact me if you are interested. Thanks!
  • Our final public event for the year is still a work in progress. Tentatively set for Wednesday, March 21st, we'll be with the Eastside Explorers Homeschool Group. Like the Ladies Guild event, this one will feed our treasury. A donation, amount unspecified, has been promised. This will also be a large group (40-50) of adults and children, so we'll really need some scopes there. Date and details should be finalized by the next issue of this newsletter.
  • You know, we still haven't had a private observing session for DFAC members only. And that was one of the things we decided was important to us at our organizational meeting. I did schedule one in June here at Heimhenge, but (drum roll ...) it was clouded out. Scott Loucks promises one at his place as soon as his observatory is finished, but is reluctant to hazard an ETC for that project. With the holidays coming up, it seems futile to attempt anything else this year, but come 2007 (unless I hear from someone else) I'll try for another one at Heimhenge. February looks good, since there's nothing else on the calendar that month. And I'd also like to join PAS up at High Desert Park in BCC one of these days. It's a great dark-sky site. Watch this space for updates.
  • As we won't meet again until January, I want to wish you all a joyous holiday season, and thank you for your participation in DFAC. We're still a small club, but growing and evolving. Tell your friends about DFAC, and bring them to our next meeting. I hope to see more of you at that point in spacetime.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. You know where to send your feedback. Clear skies!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, November 29th, 2006
Wayne Johnson, aka "Mr. Galaxy," Chairman of the Western Region of the Astronomical League, was our guest speaker for the evening. But before the lecture, we first solved a long-standing problem with our meeting room. The ceiling-mounted LCD projector hangs just below a ventilation duct. Resonance induced vibrations jitter the image on the screen. Our last speaker, Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU, suggested that all we needed was some damping. A small drywall sponge, cut on a bandsaw to 5" length, was just what the doctor ordered. Problem solved. The new vibration amplitude is only 10-20% of what it was. Thanks to Dr. Hester for the suggestion!

By 7:15 pm the projector was still, our speaker was ready, and the members had arrived. You see them here milling about and chatting about matters astronomical. There's always a lot of good conversation even before the meeting starts. Left to right: Wayne Johnson, Jim Renn, Roger Serrato, Scott Loucks, George Kantarges, and Ron Walker. Photos by Dan Heim.

The meeting began with Wayne speaking about the history, structure, membership benefits, and activities of the Astronomical League. Most of this information is, of course, available on the League website at but it was more informative to hear it presented by one of their officers, and convenient for asking and answering questions. If you haven't already been to the League website, take some time to browse around there. The guided observing programs are an excellent resource for beginners and experienced amateurs alike.

After about 30 minutes of Astronomical League education, we moved into part two of the evening's lecture. Mr. Galaxy earned that moniker for his multiple supernova discoveries, including two in a single evening! Wayne had prepared a nice personal account of his experience, so rather than reproduce it here, it was scanned and OCR'ed into electronic form. You can download that document below:

SN.doc (30k)
SN.pdf (92k)

With the small group at hand, there was a lot of interaction between members and speaker. Everyone wanted to know the details about how he acheived his 6 SN discoveries. In addition to quality equipment, according to Mr. Galaxy, it mostly boils down to time at the eyepiece (or CCD). He also emphasized the importance of having access to quality reference images of galaxies for comparison. There's a lot of this online, and he recommends the Bright Supernovae Website:

Members in attendance: 6 (a bit low, but still not too bad for a new club).

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 31st, 2007
Our January speaker is still not locked in, not like there's a rush, but I did want to get this issue of Quid Novi out near the 1st of the month. We have several possibilities, including Bob Holmes (meteorite broker), Dr. David Burstein (ASU Dept. of Physics), Dr. Jeff Hester (for a return engagement), and a local distinguished amateur (yet to be determined). Trust that we'll have one of these speakers locked in well before the meeting date. You can check our Lectures page for updates any time, but I'll post an email to members when we have our man.

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Quote of the Month:
"Telescopes are in some ways like time machines. They reveal galaxies so far away that their light has taken billions of years to reach us. We in astronomy have an advantage in studying the universe, in that we can actually see the past. We owe our existence to stars, because they make the atoms of which we are formed. So if you are romantic you can say we are literally starstuff. If you're less romantic you can say we're the nuclear waste from the fuel that makes stars shine. We've made so many advances in our understanding. A few centuries ago, the pioneer navigators learnt the size and shape of our Earth, and the layout of the continents. We are now just learning the dimensions and ingredients of our entire cosmos, and can at last make some sense of our cosmic habitat.

— Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain

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Space Debris:
One of the reasons we astronomy clubs do outreach is self-promotion and the search for new members. Another is our intrinsic desire to share what we love, and hopefully inspire the next generation to get involved with this cosmic hobby. Still another, not often cited, is an encumbent responsibility to act as a "knowledge base" for the public, who are often grossly misinformed on matters astronomical. If I had a nickel for every time I was asked about "UFO's" or the "Apollo Moon Hoax" or "balancing an egg on the equinox," I would already be retired. When you get these types of questions at an observing event, take the time to respect the question and provide an informed answer. Don't just dismiss them abruptly. This is your chance to increase the public astronomy IQ.

There's a website that addresses these issues, and it's really worth checking out. Bad Astronomy is a fascinating website, hosted by Philip Plait at Sonoma State University in California. He's doing a great job providing resources to help debunk these astronomical myths. You can visit his website at:

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