Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #28: October 6th, 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
Oct 1   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1
Speaker: Dan Heim
Topic: Light Pollution Update
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2
Speaker: Steve Jureweicz
Topic: Arizona Meteorites
  Cave Creek Museum, 6140 E Skyline Dr, Cave Creek, AZ 85331
Map available
Nov 8   12:00 pm - 4:00 pm   Veterans Day Parade
DFAC booth & scopes
  Anthem Community Park
Nov 20   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 29   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 30   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 28   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
(later adjouring to)
Legends Sports Bar & Grill, 3655 W Anthem Way Suite D115, Anthem, AZ 85086

Back to Top

Next Meeting: Thursday, October 30th, 2008
At the time of this printing, the venue for our next meeting is still uncertain. Jay Chatzkel is working on booking the Cave Creek Museum for a private presentation on the Arizona Meteorite Collection (part of the ASU Meteorite Lab collection), now on display in Cave Creek. Jay's wife Barbara is the Chairperson of the Museum, so she has the connections to make this happen. She's currently working on getting a speaker from the ASU Lab to host this special event. Failing that, we'll meet in the NVRL as usual (speaker yet to be announced). We expect to have this all sorted out by the end of the week. You will be notified by email as soon as we know. Hope to see you all there, wherever "there" is! [NOTE: The Cave Creek Museum meeting is now confirmed. —Editor, Oct 10, 2008]

Back to Top

Last Meeting: Wednesday, October 1st, 2008
This meeting was held in Classroom 1 at the North Valley Regional Library. instead of our usual Career Center in Boulder Creek High School. It's a nice room, about 50% larger than the Career Center. It has its own wall-mounted large projection screen, white board, lectern, and TV; convenient nearby restrooms and vending machines; and it's right across the walkway from the Career Center in an adjacent building. But it's a Maricopa County facility and not a Deer Valley Unified School District facility. Read what, how, and why, in State of DFAC below.

Our meeting was delayed by a week due to our speaker's unexpected bout with viral pneumonia. After an additional week's rest, President Dan Heim was ready to go with his usual season kick-off lecture on light pollution. Dan updated us on the Gavilan Peak Estates project, which has consumed many hours of his effort this Summer. You can read more about this project in North Sky News.

The meeting began with some business items relating to our future meeting locations and dates. Two votes were held, deciding unanimously to change our meeting location to the North Valley Regional Library (NVRL), and our meeting day to "last Thursday of the month." These changes go into effect immediately, as is reflected in our DFAC Event calendar above. You can read more about the issues leading up to this change in State of DFAC below.

The second half of Dan's presentation covered his and Roger Serrato's research into the spectra of some experimental street lights being tested by the City of Phoenix. One is an LED based system, using blue LEDs with a phosphor coating that down-shifts the blue light across the entire spectrum, producing a nice "white" light with a normal wavelength envelope lacking the enhanced blue and violet seen in the current favorite HPS (high pressure sodium vapor) fixtures. They are also extremely efficient and low-maintenance, which means cost and energy savings over the long life of the "bulb."


The other fixture was an induction lamp, aka "electrodeless discharge lamp." These lamps use an external RF antenna, not unlike the klystron in a microwave oven, to excite the gas in a sealed tube to fluoresce at frequencies to which the antenna is tuned. That means they can filter out the violet transition frequencies, and boost the red, achieving a fairly balanced and astronomy-friendly spectrum. In that sense, they are equivalent to the LED fixtures. Curiously, they use the same chemistry as traditional mercury vapor lamps, and that can be seen by comparing the two spectra below. Note the attenuation of violet and boost of red in the induction spectrum. But induction loses to LEDs on energy efficiency and "bulb" longevity.



Dan concluded with an official DFAC endorsement for the new LED fixtures, noting how, in these times, astronomers must augment "astronomy friendly" concerns, with "planet friendly." Our input at the upcoming McDOT meeting (Tuesday, October 14th, 5-7 pm at the New River Elementary School) will include a recommendation for LED fixtures at the controlled intersection along the New River Road corridor. Our previous recommendation of LPS fixtures is not likely to be incorporated, but we'll find out for sure at the meeting.

Attendance at this first meeting of the 2008-2009 season was auspicious. We had 10 members present, including Dave Beams, our newest member from Sun City West. Welcome Dave! We adjourned at 8:35 pm, in accordnace with our new "curfew." Read more about that in State of DFAC below.

Back to Top

State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
DFAC Moved in Time and Space: Over the summer, a drama unfolded that threatened the stability of our club. When I returned from vacation in July, and applied for our usual meeting dates at BCHS, I was informed that the faculty member who moderated the BCHS Astronomy Club had resigned. District policy had been revised to require the presence of same at our meetings in order to secure use of the BCHS Career Center at no charge. With no new moderator in sight, we were in danger of losing our meeting room. Simply renting the room without a moderator would cost us over $400/year, which is impossible on our budget. So we explored some alternatives, including the Anthem Community Center, the New River Elementary School, the Anthem VFW and New River Kiwanis meeting halls, and the North Valley Regional Library (on the BCHS campus). As per the vote at our October 1st meeting (including emailed votes from members not in attendance) we have (nearly unanimously) approved the following changes:

1. DFAC will meet in the North Valley Regional Library, Classroom #1, for the remainder of our 2008-2009 season. Barring an unexpected push by BCHS to get us back, that is where we will remain. It costs us $10 per meeting, but that's a steal compared to the $45 per meeting DVUSD wanted for the Career Center.
2. Our meeting day will change from "last Wednesday of the month" to "last Thursday of the month." In November, when the "last Thursday" is occasionally also the "fourth Thursday" (as it is this year), our November meeting will be on the 3rd Thursday of the month to avoid conflicts with Thanksgiving.
3. The meeting time slot will shift slightly. In the past, doors opened at 6:30 pm, the meeting started at 7 pm, and we adjourned anywhere from 9-10 pm, depending on how late our speaker was willing to talk. We are now operating under a constraint that requires us to "end" the meeting at 8:30 pm, as the Library locks its doors at 9 pm sharp. In speaking with Sal Casillo (Branch Manager), he explained that "as long as it looked like we were in the process of shutting down," we could vacate as late as 8:45 pm. We also need to leave time for packing up the LCD projector, laptop, extension cords, etc., so here's what we need to do. Note that the meetings are now listed in our Events Calendar as starting at 6:30 pm. We always wait for the inevitable late arrivals out of courtesy to our members, but we'd like to get the meeting underway sometime between 6:30-7:00 pm. The sooner the better. We'll see how this goes, and if it looks like our members can get here a bit earlier, we'll consider formalizing an earlier start time.

What Happened to BCHS: We actually do have a new faculty moderator for the BCHS Astronomy Club. Her name is Kristin Strempel, but she is unavailable on Wednesday nights. This was one of the reasons for moving our meeting day to Thursdays. Unfortunately, the new DVUSD policies make it difficult for DFA to continue its collaboration with BCHS. There were problems with scheduling the Career Center, even with a faculty moderator present. There were uncertainties about the continuity of future seasons, given the high faculty turnover rate. And there were new restrictions placed on student activities off-campus (as in Astronomy Night at Heimhenge). In the end, it was decided, and voted on, that using the NVRL for our meetings was the best choice.

Speaker Scheduling: As result of the uncertainty in our meeting time and place, we've been unable to start scheduling our guest speakers for this season until just recently, something we usually do in August. Other than myself for Lecture #1 (already a done deal), nothing else it locked in. Committed, but not yet scheduled, are Fr. George Coyne of the Vatican Observatory, Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU, and our own Roger Serrato (who knows more about astronomy hardware and methods than you may suspect from his humble demeanor). In the works right now is a special October meeting at the Cave Creek Museum. By the time our Lecture Series is underway, we expect to have the usual plethora of outstanding speakers. Watch the Lectures link on our website for the latest updates.

North Sky News: We've added a new page to our website titled North Sky News. It will be used to highlight current events in the north Valley that impact matters of concern to astronomy. Several items were added over the summer. If you haven't already seen it, be sure to check it out. It will be updated as needed, independent of the publication schedule of Quid Novi.

Veterans Day Parade: With the help of VP Jim Renn, planning for this event is proceeding nicely. We decided to forego the idea of an actual float in the parade. Instead, we'll be setting up a table and a few scopes in the community park area to educate residents after the parade. This daylight event will allow for the following astronomical experiences:

  • Sun through an H-alpha filter, hopefully showing solar flares [I have this one covered with my Takahashi]
  • Sun through a neutral density or mylar filter, hopefully showing some sunspots [Roger has this one covered]
  • Saturn, Venus, or Jupiter, all of which will be up and at least 30 degrees away from the Sun, seen in the daytime — a well aligned scope with an orange or yellow filter will be required [Ron Walker is working on this one]
  • Any distant mountain peak at high mag, showing refractive turbulence [Jim Renn has this one covered]
  • DFAC rep manning the table to answer questions and distribute club info brochures [Scott Loucks has this one covered].

This event is planned for Saturday, November 8th, Noon - 4 pm. The parade ends at Noon, so setup will be from 11-11:30 am.. This is a fantastic PR opportunity. We expect to generate some great publicity for DFAC, and hopefully pull in some new members. If you'd like to attend, and just hang out around the DFAC displays, please do! We'd like this to be a real "show of force." Jim & Jean Renn have graciously offered to fund a parade sponsorship on behalf of DFAC, so we will have maximum visibility for this event. Watch for our ad in the weekly In & Out of Anthem magazine. Thanks to Jim & Jean for their help on this!

Sky Lights Still on Sabbatical: Still no good news here. Only two options remain. Sky Lights might appear online as a blog, or it might appear as a regular column in the Anthem weekly In&Out. I really want this "soapbox" as a venue for our fight against light pollution, but other issues have taken priority of late. I intend to pursue this later in the year. I'll keep you posted on developments.

Thanks for reading Quid Novi. If you have feedback, you know where to reach me. Until next we meet, clear skies!

Back to Top

Quote of the Month:
"When the Sun shrinks to a dull red dwarf, it will not be dying. It will just be starting to live and everything that has gone before will merely be a prelude to its real history."

— Arthur C. Clarke

Back to Top

Space Debris:
As explained in Sate of DFAC above, we got a late start on lining up our speakers for this season. Although not yet confirmed, we have tentative commitment from George Coyne, S.J., of the Vatican Observatory. Fr. Coyne will be speaking on the topic of "intelligent design" (ID), a topic of some interest to both theologians and scientists. Coyne is both, of course, and should provide us with some keen insights in this issue. For those of you who missed our earlier emailing, we present here for download his 2-page article on that topic. It was originally published in the January 2008 Physics Teacher magazine. These are scans in JPEG format.

Coyne-P1.jpg (235k)
Coyne-P2.jpg (211k)

These reprints are provided with the permission of the author. We think you'll enjoy reading it. Better yet, come to the meeting and hear Fr. Coyne in person!

Back to Top