Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #13: May 7th, 2007


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 10   6:00 pm - ?   DFAC Observing Session   Heimhenge
Mar 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 19   6:30 pm - 9:00 pm   Student Astronomy Night   New River Kiwanis Community Park
Apr 25   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 12   5:00 pm - ?   Blue Hills Observatory Astronomy Pot Luck   Dewey, AZ (contact Dan Heim for directions)
May 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Eastside Explorers Home-School Group: Our long-scheduled Astronomy Night finally went off without weather conflicts (on our third try). It was a great turnout, with close to 50 parents and students in attendance. Saturn and the Crescent Moon were the hits of the show. Thanks to Roger Serrato, Scott Loucks, and Jay Chatzkel for providing additional scopes at this event. We raised $105 in donations for the DFAC treasury. Check out some of the images from this event below in Space Debris.
  • DFAC Deep Sky site: Roger and I got too busy to check out this potential site on Stoneman Lake Road (off I-17) as promised last month. It's still on our agenda, and we'll keep you posted. Looks now like we won't be able to scout this one out until some time in June. We'll let you know what we find.
  • DFAC Constitution: Yes, it already exists in "rough draft" form. I've posted it here your perusal. Please send me your feedback. Our "Constitutional Convention" can be held, essentially, online. We'll have time to discuss it at our May business meeting too, and it would be nice to ratify some time next season.
  • Officer Duties: One of the main reasons I wanted to get moving on this Constitution was to clarify the duties of DFAC officers. I expect any member considering a position would want to know what their duties will be. As I've explained before, the one position we really need to fill is Vice President. Roger and I are willing to continue our provisional positions next year, but the need for a VP was made clear to me these last couple months as I dealt with a family medical emergency. I was able to make all the meetings, but just barely. So if you want to help out, and contribute to the stability and continuity of DFAC, read the VP job description and think about it. And don't forget that, as an officer, you'll get an unlimited supply of really cool, glossy, DFAC business cards. See mine here.
  • Galactic Gavel: Since I received no input beyond Roger's and my own, this quorum has decided to go ahead with the Galactic Gavel project. We will use that Campo del Cielo meteorite donated by Bob Holmes as the head of a gavel. Plans are to drill and tap it to accept a threaded stainless steel or brass handle, and then make a cool carrying case for it. It will represent the "authority of the President" and be used to start and end future DFAC meetings. The gavel will be passed on from President to President as a DFAC tradition. We hope to have it operational for our next meeting season.
  • Last Call for Blue Hills Observatory: Saturday, May 12th, up in Dewey (near Prescott) Stan Gorodenski is hosting his annual Astronomy Pot Luck. He extended an invitation to DFAC members, and I'll be attending along with Roger Serrato and Jay Chatzkel. We're carpooling from Heimhenge in Jay's 4-runner. That means we have a full vehicle (with equipment and pot luck food). If you want to attend, let me know ASAP and I'll forward you directions and details.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. You know where to send your feedback. Clear skies!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
Provisional President Dan Heim opened the meeting with a few items of club business, reminding members that we still need a VP for next season, and why this is the most critical position to fill.

Our previously scheduled speaker, Dr. David Burstein of ASU, was unable to be present due to health reasons (no further information has been made available by his family). Our own Scott Loucks stepped up to fill the vacancy and give a presentation on his observing program.

Scott's area of expertise is astrometry. He started with the basics, defining several relevant terms, and proceeded from there to the details of discovering, tracking, and reporting asteroids and other minor bodies. He also spent some time talking about his observatory and equipment. With a decent CCD imager, and 12" aperture, a skilled amateur can still make meaningful contributions in this area of astronomy. Unfortunately, Scott and many others believe the era of amateur contributions here is drawing to a close. The reason is several large-scale professional projects that will have found "all there is to be found down to magnitude +18" by the end of this decade.

Scott had some interesting stories to share about the Minor Planet Center, where would-be discoverers go to report possible new objects. His advice: understand what you're doing, get the right hardware and software, practice astrometry with known objects to hone your skills, follow the MPC's submission format and protocol to the letter, and whatever you do ... do not bug them with noise.

Turnout was surprisingly low for this meeting. We had only four members in attendance. It wasn't the weather, which was beautiful. And there weren't any playoff games being broadcast. Whatever the reasons, if you missed this meeting, never fear. I felt this was such an informative program I asked Scott to do a repeat next season, and he kindly agreed. One of the reasons we formed DFAC was to share our expertise, and Scott's program does exactly that. So, "Asteroids and Amateur Astrometry" ... coming again to Career Centers near you!

The doors closed around 9:15 pm. Thanks again to Scott Loucks for filling in with a fine quickly-improvised program.

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, May 30th, 2007
Our May meeting is our annual (and first) Business Meeting. There are several items on the agenda:
  • formal election of officers
  • Treasurer's report
  • discussion of DFAC Constitution
  • discussion of strategies for membership growth
  • other business?

Unless I'm surprised by a last-minute entry, it looks like both Roger and I will continue in our positions next year. We do need to be voted in officially so we can drop the "provisional" from our titles. I'd still like to see someone step up for the VP position, but we can survive without it. I think a real priority for DFAC is to increase our membership to a level where someone in the group has the time/skill/motivation to fill some of these other positions. For a new club, we're doing pretty good, but we do need to grow. Very likely this meeting will finish earlier than most. I propose we adjourn to Legend's Bar & Grill just down the street for some snacks and a cold one after our business is complete. Hope to see you there.

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Quote of the Month:
"Black holes are where God divided by zero."

— Seen on a bumper sticker in Phoenix

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Space Debris:
Here's some images from our Astronomy Night for the Eastside Explorers Home-School Group ...


Dan Heim shows the near half-phase of Venus to one interested student.


Roger Serrato explains how his telescope works. These kids had lots of questions.


Scott Loucks (back to camera) had long lines at his scope all night.


Here Scott is showing the Orion Nebula. The students waited patiently in line for their turn at the eyepiece.


Jay Chatzkel needed to provide a chair with his tripod. Many of these young observers were under 4 feet tall.


Several of the parents wanted to try their digital cameras at the eyepiece. Although this type of astrophotography (known as "afocal") is notoriously difficult, the Moon is an easy target. This photo was emailed to me by Suzanne Castillo (who coordinated the event). That's a pretty good focus, as you can see by the craters along the terminator.


Here's another of her shots with a longer exposure to show the Earthshine effect. Also very nice.


They wanted a group photo at the end of the evening, so we all posed for the camera. These kids were as nice as they look. It was a well-behaved, curious, and attentive group. I fully expect this may become an annual event for DFAC, as they were thrilled with the views and most grateful for our efforts. Plus ... our treasury grew by $105!

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