Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #19: December 3rd, 2007


About Quid Novi

Past Issues

DFAC Events

Next Meeting

Last Meeting

State of DFAC

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
Speaker: Dan Heim of DFAC
Topic: Light Pollution Update
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 31   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2
Speaker: Gene Lucas of SAC, EVAC
Topic: Binocular Astronomy
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Nov 3-4   2:00 pm - overnight   A Night Under the Stars   Alamo State Park
Nov 26   6:00 pm - 9:00 pm   Way Cool Science Night   Horseshoe Trails Elementary School, 5405 E. Pinnacle Vista Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Nov 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3
Speaker: Kathy Hill of BCHS
Topic: The Phoenix Mars Mission
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: Tom Polakis of SAC
Topic: The Transition from Film to Digital
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 27   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: Jeff Hester of ASU
Topic: Quantum Physics & Cosmology
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb-April   sunset - ? pm   DFAC + PAS Astronomy Night   High Desert Park in Black Canyon City (date to be determined)
Mar 9   6:00 pm - 8:00 pm   Astronomy Night (DFAC fundraiser)   JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort (north of Loop 101 on Tatum)
Mar 26   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: JD Maddy of AVV (tentative)
Topic: TBA
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7
Speaker: Scott Loucks of DFAC
Topic: Minor Planet Astrometry
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Legends Sports Bar & Grill, 3655 W Anthem Way Suite D115, Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Our January meeting will feature local expert Tom Polakis of SAC. Tom successfully made the transition from film to digital photography some time back, and he'll share his learning experience with us. You can see many fine examples of his photographic work on the Club Photos page of SAC's website at: http://www.saguaroastro.org/content/photos.htm.

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
Our November Lecture featured Science Teacher Kathy Hill and two of her students, senior Alexa Ogburn and sophomore Kris Hansford, from Boulder Creek High School. Kathy's team was selected to work on NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission, on course to arrive at the Red Planet about six months from now.

Kathy Hill began with a brief introducton on how BCHS got involved with the Phoenix Mission. They competed with other school for this privilege, and were selected to participate earlier this year. Since then, they've had many exciting opportunities to work with mission scientists at the UofA.

Students Alexa Ogburn and Kris Hanford took over from there, giving a synopsis of their work along with a fascinating multimedia presentation using NASA animations and photos from mission control down in Tucson. Their enthusiasm for this work was obvious. It's exciting to see students at this level so involved with space science.

This is the official logo for the Phoenix Mars Mission. The colors were chosen to represent fire and ice ... appropriate since this mission will use a rocket controlled decent to land near the north pole of Mars. There it will search for evidence of microbial life in the icy soil available in this region. The BCHS team's area of involvement is the TEGA (Thermal and Evolved Gas Analyzer), which will "cook" a scooped-up sample of soil and look for organic indicators. You can read more about the Phoenix Mars Mission here.

After the presentation, Kathy handed out several brochures detailing both the Phoenix Mars Mission and the newly founded BCHS Astronomy Club.

DFAC had 10 members in attendance, two home-school students (seen at back), and Nick Hall (a reporter from The Desert Advocate) who was sent to cover this event. Look for his write-up in the next Advocate. We adjourned earlier than usual, around 8 pm. Thanks to Kathy Hill and her students for an excellent presentation!

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Change in Quid Novi Layout: At the astute suggestion of member George Kantarges, I've decided to slightly revise the layout of Quid Novi. The "Next Meeting" and "Last Meeting" sections have been moved nearer the top of this page, with "State of DFAC" following. The idea is to locate the most important info in the most convenient place, and I agreed that the revised priority made sense. I also expanded the DFAC Events section at the top to include more detailed info. The Lecture Series info is repeated on our Lectures page, but that's OK. Out of consideration for our member(s) who lack internet access, all that info should be in Quid Novi anyway. We've now made it so.
  • Lecture Series Update: We now have all but one date (March 26th) for our 2007-2008 Lecture Series booked! See the schedule here. I'm waiting to hear back from JD Maddy, President of The Astronomers of Verde Valley (see www.astroverde.org). They have a most impressive website. I've met JD at a few events, most recently at the Alamo Lake Astronomy Night. JD said he'd be interested in filling this last lecture slot. His topic is yet to be decided, but he's an expert in many areas.
  • New Link: At the suggestion of member Raul Espinoza I've added a link to our Links page. The website is NASA's Learning Technologies, and it contains a wealth of information and resources, as well as updates on NASA missions. Check it out at: http://learn.arc.nasa.gov/. Thanks Raul!
  • BCHSAC: I'm pleased to announce that, under the leadership of this month's speaker Kathy Hill, Boulder Creek High School has finally formed an astronomy club. A copy of their club brochure (distributed at our last meeting) is available on our Downloads page. Kathy reports 12 current members, and is looking forward to joining us at a future DFAC observing session. Collaboration between DFAC and BCHSAC will be a great opportunity for outreach to students. I look forward to our first mutual event.
  • DFAC Parade Float: Member Scott Loucks has suggested that we could improve our visibility by entering a float in the annual Veterans' Day Parade at Anthem (next year). We had some discussion about this after our last meeting, and several of our members feel it's a good idea. Scott can score the trailer, but we're undecided about just what should be on it. Transporting a deployed telescope would not be optically wise, but Roger suggested a dome tent with a sonotube sticking out to simulate an observatory, with the usual accompanying DFAC ID signs. We could also setup a table at the park where the parade ends, where more DFAC info would be available, along with my Takahashi and hydrogen alpha filter for solar viewing. Sounds like a plan to me. It would only cost us $25 to enter a float, and Jim Renn (who is the announcer for this parade) could grease the wheels and help us with the details. If you have any ideas for addition to the float (or a better idea than a dome tent and sonotube), let us know.
  • LPR Update: As you all know, one of our primary missions is to combat light pollution in the North Valley. Our optimum strategy is still evolving (see below). In the meantime, we all do what we can. At the individual level, we can write letters to local newspapers, give talks to school and community groups, educate our neighbors by personal example, and join groups like DFAC or NRDHCA to provide info and influence policy. One of our members, Roger Serrato, has taken his own special route by establishing a website called SaveTheNightSky.org. It's still in the planning stages (as you can see by the link), but it's a great domain name to grab while it's still available. We wish him well in this endeavor, and look forward to updates on his progress!
  • LPR Strategy for DFAC: Back at our October meeting I started distributing printed copies of the ARS and MCZO regulations on lighting. All DAFC members should be familiar with these documents. I'll continue to distribute copies until all members have them. Please read them carefully. I understand that reading legal documents is about as much fun as going to the dentist, but they aren't that long or difficult, and this is stuff we need to know as a group. We need to generate internal discussion about our long-term strategy for fighting light pollution. I want DFAC to be effective, but we must also be pragmatic. It's time to start thinking about how we can have the greatest impact against light pollution. Your input is sincerely solicited.
  • Light Pollution Success Story: Members who attended our last meeting heard me complain about a D2DHg (dusk-to-dawn mercury vapor) light that was recently installed near my Heimhenge. The offending party was Jakes Granite Supplies, a small quarry that opened on the frontage road in New River about 6 months ago. Of course, new installations of Hg vapor lights are prohibited by law. I vowed to fight the fight here, since the glow of this light was visible from my property. The following day, I went down there to photograph the light. You can see it highlighted in the image below:



    One of their employees saw me taking the picture, though we didn't speak. I was just there to gather evidence (and the required address) needed to file a complaint with Planning & Zoning. I returned that evening to photograph a spectrum using the same equipment we employed for that experimental streetlight project. It sure looked like a D2DHg to my eyes, but I wanted spectral proof. Curiously, the light was no longer there! Apparently, they knew they were in violation, and it wasn't hard for them to see what I was aiming my camera at, so they pulled the thing proactively. Very cool. Sure made my task easier. Unfortunately, there is still another bad fixture on the property (the "porch light" fixture left of the door) that uses an unshielded 150W incandescent lamp. That is the maximum wattage allowed without shielding, so there's nothing I can do about that one. Fortunately, its glow is less obtrusive, but it's almost blinding bright when you drive by it at night.

    In the process of preparing to file a complaint, and to make it easier for others to do so, I made some changes to the Light Pollution page on our website. I wanted to make it more readable and easier to access our resources, and added a direct link to the Maricopa County online code violation complaint form. I also needed to change the name of Planning & Zoning to Planning & Development (I have no idea when they made that change). Anyway, all the links are now updated and ready for use.
  • Way Cool Science Night: DFAC received an invitation to participate in this event (a general science exposition) from the Carefree Kiwanis through member Jim Walborn. Jim's an avid advocate of science here in the north Valley, and his Kiwanis group is now in its second year of hosting a North Valley Science Fair open to grades K-12. Thanks to members Roger Serrato, Jay Chatzkel, and Scott Loucks for volunteering their scopes at this event. Unfortunately, Scott had to cancel due to a bad cold. He didn't miss much, as we got clouded out. When Jay arrived, we sent him home too. Roger had his scope on Vega, which was about the only thing visible, and I had my 10x80 binocs on a street light a couple blocks away. Of the 200 people in attendance, some 50 ventured out to look at the sky. Though we were frustrated by sky conditions, our guests were thrilled to see what little there was. We shut down an hour early at 8 pm, but at least scored some public exposure for DFAC.
  • Income Opportunity: I was contacted today by Laura Leroy of ZOHAR Productions regarding a paying event for DAFC. On Sunday, March 9th, there's a convention of marketing professionals at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort (just north of the 101 off Tatum). They're looking for a 2-hour astronomy presentation, and we can earn $200-$300 for DFAC. We'll still need 2 additional volunteers (plus Roger and I) to handle the show. One person with a green laser pointer (mine is available) to show constellations and bright stars, one person with binocs on M42 & M45 (that's me), and two telescopes (for Saturn and the Moon). Details are being worked out now, but if you can commit to this event, it will help our treasury grow. Let me know if you're interested ASAP. Thanks!
  • An Evening at High Desert Park: The members present at our last meeting voted unanimously to accept an invitation from the Phoenix Astronomical Society to do a joint observing session up at High Desert Park in Black Canyon City. I've been to that site, and it's got darker skies than Heimhenge, about the same altitude (2500 ft there, 2200 here), and convenient parking and restrooms. I've added a map to this site on our Maps page. Because PAS rents the park for the night, so it'll cost us $2 per carload, but that's a smokin' deal for an evening of fine observing. Possible dates in the Feb-April window are: February 2, March 1, March 29, April 26 (all Saturdays, starting at sundown). Let me know your preferences here, and I'll coordinate with PAS.
  • Change in Meeting Date: It has come to my attention that "the last Wednesday of the month" may no longer be the best time to meet. In fact, at this point, only half of our members were those that voted on this meeting date, and it wasn't unanimous. We're locked into our current date for the rest of the BCHS school year, but this is the time to start talking about a possible change for 2008-2009. Let me know your preferences, if any. As always, such issues will be decided by majority rule.
  • Holiday Greetings: DFAC doesn't meet in December. I thought about doing a holiday social, like last year, but four relatives (three unexpected) decided they wanted to visit during January, so that's the end of that. Anyway, we won't meet again until January 30th, so I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support, and wish the best holiday season for you and yours. See you again soon.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. You know where to send your feedback. Until we meet again, clear skies!

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Quote of the Month:
"The large-scale homogeneity of the universe makes it very difficult to believe that the structure of the universe is determined by anything so peripheral as some complicated molecular structure on a minor planet orbiting a very average star in the outer suburbs of a fairly typical galaxy."

— Stephen Hawking

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Space Debris:
I received an email from member Raul Espinozar containing a link a the NASA news site. Thanks Raul! We talked about this "cosmic cannonball" at the meeting, debating about what mechanism could accelerate a neutron star to the speed of 1,000,000 mph (that's 0.0015 c). It seems the best explanation to date is an asymmetric supernova. You can read the details yourself by clicking on the link below.

Visit: http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2007/28nov_cosmiccannonball.htm?list978482

As far as asymmetric supernovae go, that was news to me. I'd always thought these explosion were more or less symmetric. After a little online searching I discovered there's a wealth of literature and theory on asymmetric supernovae. If you have high-speed internet access, go to the site below and download the movie. Fascinating!

Visit: http://online.kitp.ucsb.edu/online/grb_c06/janka/

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