Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #15: July 25th, 2007 (Summer Supplement)

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 for 2007-2008:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Sep 26   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Year Two on Deck: After a great first year, I'm looking forward to continued success for DFAC. We have plans for increasing meeting attendance and membership, and it looks like we'll finally realize a student astronomy club at BCHS. We'll be doing some more Astronomy Night events (all of which raise funds for our treasury), and hopefully have our first deep-sky outing at a location up north yet to be determined. On the topic of increasing membership, watch for my Sky Lights column in the August 29th edition of The Desert Advocate. The question is "Where can I learn more about astronomy?" And so, of course, I take the opportunity to plug DFAC (as well as other clubs in the Valley). With the continued growth of this north Valley area, I fully expect we'll see continued growth in our membership. We just need to get the word out, and Jay Chatzkel will be assisting on that front. My thanks to all members for making DFAC possible. I'm optimistic about the future for our organization, and look forward to a great next season.
  • Upcoming Speakers: I am now in the process of locking-in dates for next season's speakers, and should have all that finalized for the September Quid Novi. In the meantime, here's the list:

               Jeff Hester of ASU on quantum cosmology
               Tom Polakis of SAC on transitioning from film to digital photography
               Scott Loucks of DFAC on minor planet astrometry and photometry
               Stan Gorodenski of Blue Hills Observatory on observatory planning and construction
               Gene Lucas of SAC on (topic to be determined)
               David Burstein of ASU (open Q&Q on all things astronomical)
               Dan Heim of DFAC on multimedia methods in astrophotography

  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. Look for our next regular issue in early September. You know where to send your feedback. Clear skies!

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Last Meeting: Saturday, July 21st, 2007
Our first annual DFAC Summer Social was held at the home of member Ron Walker in Cave Creek. Ron graciously provided a fine assortment of food and drink for our members.

In attendance were half a dozen DFAC members, as well as some friends of Ron from around the valley.

Check out the spread prepared by Ron and family for the enjoyment of his guests. The bratwurst is yet to come. Likewise the cheese cake (donated by yours truly).

We also got a walking tour around the Walker ranch. No, he doesn't have an underground observatory ... the dome is just being stored there. But future plans include a personal (above ground) observatory. You can also see some of his horses in the background.

Ron has an awesome home theater. Here, his daughter Katie (who also wants to get into the movie business) poses to show the scale of the screen. That's a 20 foot diagonal, not including the paper extension around the border. They're looking for an even larger screen, but haven't yet found the right product at the right price. Note also the massive array of speakers, including multiple sub-woofers and horns. You have to see and hear this system to believe it!

The audience took their seats in preparation for the evening's feature: Silent Running, a sci-fi classic from the early 70s.

Around 8 pm Ron dimmed the lights and fired up his projector.

One of the demo clips he ran first was an animated feature called "Spirit," about wild horses in the early west. Fantastic sound system! This image is blurred because the picture is moving and the camera was shooting a longer exposure due to the dim light. Cool effect, since it kinda' captures the motion of the horses.

Silent Running is a great flick about a dismal future where Earth has lost its vegetation, and the remaining plants have been moved into orbiting domes to preserve the ecosystems. Starring Bruce Dern as the rebellious environmentalist, it casts a pessimistic view of imminent climate change. Ironically, just such an effort is now underway to preserve the genetic information of plant species worldwide. See: for more information.

The movie is outstanding in its use of models, lighting, tracked cameras, and compositing. This was before the era of CGA (computer graphics animation), so they had to do all the special effects "the hard way." And it worked, in my opinion. The clips below are from the website, where you can read a traditional review ( They note that, in that last image of the domes, if you look closely, you can see part of the supporting stand under the model. I never noticed that in the movie.


Although we had discussed the possibility of a double feature, the first movie ran until 10 pm, so we called it a night. I'm pleased to announce that Ron has volunteered to host this event annually at his place, so we all look forward to this new DFAC tradition in years to come. Thanks to Ron and family for a wonderful evening!

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 26th, 2007
DFAC does not meet during the Summer, but will return for our 2007-2008 Lecture Series in the Fall starting on Wednesday, September 26th. Over the Summer we'll be lining up speakers for next season. Watch this space for more info as the date approaches.

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Quote of the Month:
"Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth."

— Ptolemy, ca.150 AD

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Space Debris:
The IDA (International Dark-Sky Association is in the process of redesigning their website, and needs beta-testers to assist them in their efforts. By volunteering as a beta-tester you can help them improve the usability of their site. All it takes is filling out a form, and spending a little time browsing their website. They're a huge asset to our own efforts on combating light pollution, and it's worth your time to give them a hand. I did. Visit their website at: and click on the "beta tester" link for more info. We owe them. Thanks!

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