Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #22: March 3rd, 2008

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 2008-2009:
Date   Time   Event   Location
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
Topic: A Personal Tour of Mauna Kea
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
April 12   sunset - ? pm   DFAC + BCHSAC Astronomy Night   Heimhenge (tentatively)
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, March 26th, 2008
Our March meeting will feature JD Maddy, President of the Astronomers of Verde Valley (AVV). You can visit their website at:, and see some of JD's astrophotography on display. JD will be recounting his personal tour of the Mauna Kea observatories, and show us some of the photos he shot of their instruments. Some of our members have expressed an interest in doing that tour, so this should be an informative and entertaining presentation. We hope to see you all there.

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
Dan Heim opened the meeting with about 10 minutes of club business, discussing our upcoming fundraiser at JW Marriot Desert Resort, our upcoming "rent payment" of a private Astronomy Night for the BCHS Astronomy Club on April 12th, and recent science fairs. Read more details in our State of DFAC section below. Jay Chatzkel reported on the event he and Roger Serrato ran at Desert Arroyo Middle School on February 12th. Jay said the sky cooperated, they had 50+ observers, and a good time was had by all. We received a nice thank you note from Jessica Snook, the science teacher who coordinated the event. Thanks to Jay & Roger for their excellent work that night!

Dan also showed off our new night-sky-friendly "billboard" for display at night events. It was originally a generic "Exit" sign from Home Depot, but was "repurposed" by changing the letter template and replacing the AC rechargeable battery with a pair of AAs in parallel. The light source is 6 red LEDs, so it runs a long time on one set of batteries (6+ hours during our test). That's plenty of charge for a typical evening event. The idea is to set it up near the scopes to help people find us in the dark, and to proudly proclaim who we are. Later, we'll add a box to the tripod to hold DFAC brochures and also accept donations. Roger's already got the design for that box all worked out.

After a brief introduction, and thanks for returning, we gave the floor to Dr. Jeff Hester, of ASU. Dr. Hester, some may recall, was our inaugural speaker at meeting #2 back in 2006. At that time, he spoke about the evolution of structure in the cosmos, but the Q&A at the end generated a lot of discussion about quantum physics and how it relates to astronomy. As a result, Dr. Hester promised to return and speak on just that topic. His talk tonight was "A Quick Look at Quantum Mechanics." It was anything but "quick."

Dr. Hester started with a lesson on atomic physics, and gradually built up to one of the central "paradoxes" of modern physics — the wave particle duality of photons. He used some outstanding digital animations (of his own creation) to explain Thomas Young's classic experiment with the 2-slit interference pattern produced by light. Ultimately, this led to a discussion of electron energy levels, atomic spectra, and the periodic table. In short, we learned how quantum mechanics produces tangible effects that result in the cosmos we inhabit and observe.

By the time his lecture ended we had learned a great deal, had our minds boggled by some powerful ideas, and were ready for the Q&A. At this point, our discussion veered toward relativity, vacuum zero-point energy, the Big Bang, and theories of multiple universes. It was a great discussion, with many good questions from members, and the usual clear answers from Dr. Hester. Q&A continued for almost 30 minutes, at which time (9:30 pm) we had to adjourn for the night.

Membership turnout was good, as expected for this speaker. 10 members were in attendance, and we had two new guests (Keith and Dave) who will likely become members. Unfortunately, we're still not getting any attendance from the BCHS Astronomy Club or other students, but we're working on that. Thanks again to Dr. Jeff Hester for an outstanding presentation! You can visit his website and learn more about his research at:

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Save The Night Sky: If you didn't catch this news last month, Roger Serrato's new website is now online! It's still pretty basic, but Roger is starting to add more content. In fact, he'll be getting a lesson from me this weekend (before our poker game) on HTML and hyperlinks. Hopefully, he'll also get a lesson from me during the poker game, but that's a whole 'nuther story. His goal for the website is to provide a clearinghouse for info about light pollution, showcase his own astrophotography, blog about astronomy issues, and perhaps even start a discussion forum some time down the line. We wish him well in this noble endeavor. I've added it to our Links page, but you can visit it now right here:
  • BCHSAC: I've been in contact with Kathy Hill, Moderator of the new Boulder Creek High School Astronomy Club, regarding a private Astronomy Night for her students. Collaboration between DFAC and BCHSAC will be a great opportunity for outreach. The event is tentatively set for Saturday, April 12th, sunset to whenever. This will fulfill DFAC's obligation to do an on-campus event in exchange for our use of BCHS facilities for our monthly meetings. The location will probably be here at Heimhenge, rather than on-campus, so I can deploy my 17" Dob. Details are still being worked out. If you can reserve that night in your plans, it would be good to have another 4 scopes up here. Please let me know if you can help out on this. Thanks.
  • Change of Power: It was recently announced that Principal Kevin Imes of BCHS will be transferred to another school in the DVUSD this summer. His replacement is Lauren Sheahan, now at Sunnyslope HS. I will attend the district's Governing Board meeting on February 11th to make contact and introduce myself. Hopefully Ms. Sheahan will be receptive to continuing the relationship between BCHS and DFAC. Also at this meeting will be Kathy Hill (our November 2007 speaker), and the students involved with her Phoenix Mars Mission program. They will be presenting an update on their program to the Board. I hope to finalize the details of our BCHAC Astronomy Night at that time.
  • 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've had some discussion about this, 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. This is all still in the early planning stages.
  • 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.
  • Income Opportunity: On Sunday, March 9th, there's a convention of marketing professionals at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort (just north of the 101 off Tatum). We'll be doing a 2-hour astronomy presentation, and will earn $250 for DFAC. We've got all the volunteers we need at this point, so all systems are go. Thanks to: Roger Serrato, Scott Loucks, Raul Espinoza, and Ron Walker (backup) for being there. I'll be using my green laser pointer to show constellations and bright stars, and also have my 10x80 binocs on the Pleiades. The scopes will be on M42, Saturn, and the Moon. This event is being coordinated by Laura LeRoy of Zohar Productions, and there's a good chance this could turn into a continuing relationship that feeds our treasury each year. Of course, we need to balance outreach activities with income opportunities, but this is a good match. We decided early on that about three Astronomy Nights a year was all DFAC wanted to commit to, so we need to select the best opportunities. Zohar looks like it will be able to provide those opportunities.
  • 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. 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. At this point it looks like the only date open is Saturday, April 26. If you're interested, let me know and I'll coordinate with PAS.
  • Sky Lights Still on Sabbatical: As some of you may know, my weekly column on astronomy and weather has not been published since last November. The Desert Advocate newspaper has had some problems, and I'm still waiting to hear from the publisher. They've missed publication for nearly 3 months now, and their future is still undecided. I had some interest expressed by 12 other AZ newspapers, but none of that has turned into new subscriptions. At this point, I'm seriously considering all-electronic self-publication on the internet (like a blog), but I wanted to give the Advocate until the end of February. That deadline is now past, and I have entered into negotiations with John Alexander, publisher of the Foothills Focus (one of the two remaining north valley newspapers). You may see Sky Lights back in print soon. Wish me luck.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. If you have feedback, you know where to reach me. Until next we meet, clear skies!

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Quote of the Month:
"When we are a million species spreading through the galaxy, the question "Can man play God and still stay sane?" will lose some of its terrors. We shall be playing God, but only as local deities and not as lords of the universe. There is safety in numbers. Some of us will become insane, and rule over empires as crazy as Doctor Moreau's island. Some of us will shit on the morning star. There will be conflicts and tragedies. But in the long run, the sane will adapt and survive better than the insane. Nature's pruning of the unfit will limit the spread of insanity among species in the galaxy, as it does among individuals on earth. Sanity is, in its essence, nothing more than the ability to live in harmony with nature's laws."

— Freeman Dyson, "Disturbing The Universe"

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Space Debris:
There's a discussion group on the internet called "AZ Observing" frequented by members of astronomy clubs around the state. It's set up as a "list server," which means you'll be automatically forwarded new posts (via email) as they occur. A couple DFAC members are already participating here, but more participation helps increase the visibility and credibility of DFAC, and that's a good thing. It costs nothing to join, and sign-up is easy, so check it out at: You can browse the discussions first, without signing up, and see if this is the type of thing you'd be interested in. So take a look and get involved. And remember, when you post messages there, sign your name followed by "Desert Foothills Astronomy Club" followed by "" to proclaim your membership in DFAC and increase our exposure. We hope to see (read) you there!

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