Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #29: November 7th, 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: Gene Lucas
Topic: 9 Metis Occultation
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: George Coyne, S.J.
Topic: Intelligent Design
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Note: This is a special Monday night meeting.
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

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Next Meeting: Thursday, November 20th, 2008
Note that this date is NOT the "last Thursday of the month." Due to obvious conflicts with the Thanksgiving holiday, we'll be meeting on the third Thursday for this one. See my Space Debris below.

Our November meeting will feature Gene Lucas of SAC & EVAC. His topic will be: A Recent Asteroid Occultation and Modern Video Observing Methods. On September 12th, Gene was deployed (along with many other observers) in the Mojave desert for the 9 Metis occultation. With multiple observers timing the occultation over a wide geographic area, their data can provide details about the asteroid's size and shape. Gene spoke to DFAC last year on the topic of binocular observing, and we're excited to hear what he has learned about 9 Metis during his most recent astronomy expedition. Gene tells me he will also bring a prototype of his newest invention, the Bino-Reclin-O™ binocular observing chair (still under development) for our perusal. Should be a very interesting meeting. Hope to see you all there.

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Last Meeting: Thursday, October 30th, 2008
This special meeting was held at the Cave Creek Museum, where we were honored to have a "private viewing" of the Arizona Meteorite Collection (a subset of the ASU collection), supplemented with an outstanding presentation by Steve Jurewicz, a retired professional geologist who at one time worked for the ASU Center for Meteorite Studies (not to mention JPL). Steve provided a geologist's insight, complementing what we learned at our March 2007 meeting with Bob Holmes, a professional meteorite collector.


Dan opened the meeting by holding and striking the Galactic Gavel with his bare hands (no lectern was available). Speaker Steve Jurewicz looks impressed.

Steve spent a large part of his presentation talking about Meteor Crater, aka "the Canyon Diablo Meteorite." He has actually worked (geologically) in that crater, and had many interesting stories to share regarding its origins, purchase, and development. For example, we learned that, some years ago, a small Cessna got trapped inside the crater by updrafts around the rim, eventually crashing inside. The wreckage is still there.

Here's one of many screen shots from Steve's presentation, showing several views of Meteor Crater.

This 80 pound piece of the Canyon Diablo Meteorite was on prominent display in the museum. Note the hole at upper right, burned into it by the heat of entry.

Steve brought along several sample that had been cut and polished to better reveal their composition and crystalline structure. He explained the different categories of meteorites (iron, stony-iron, and stony), and what that tells us about their origins.

After the presentation, members were able to examine and handle those samples, as well as ask some follow-up questions. Steve graciously obliged us.

Our sincere thanks to Steve for a very educational evening, and to Barb Chatzkel, a member of the Museum Board (shown above with husband Jay) for arranging this unique event. If you've never been to the Cave Creek Museum, you owe yourself a visit to this fine area resource. They specialize in local history, from ancient native settlers to the cowboy era, and have many interesting archeological displays.

Attendance at this meeting numbered a cozy 10. Personally, I enjoy the small group atmosphere — I get to ask more questions. Barb Chatzkel provided home-made Halloween cupcakes for snacks, and they were delicious. Thanks again Barb! We adjourned at 8:45 pm, and headed our separate ways into the darkness of Halloween weekend. Boo!

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
DFAC Moved in Time and Space: This is your final reminder that the following changes have been approved by membership vote:

1. Future DFAC meetings will be held in the North Valley Regional Library, Classroom #1.
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 to slightly earlier. 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. No big deal if we run a little late, but we need to leave time for packing up our AV equipment and other materials. We always wait for 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.

Speaker Scheduling: As result of the original uncertainty in our meeting time and place, we were unable to start scheduling our guest speakers for this season until early October, something we usually do in August. As of this writing, we have Fr. George Coyne S.J. of the Vatican Observatory already scheduled for our special (Monday night) January meeting. Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU has been invited to speak again, but has not yet responded. Scott Schoneman of Orbital Sciences Corporation has committed to speak this season, but has not yet chosen a date. Our own Roger Serrato (who knows more about astronomy hardware and methods than you may suspect from his humble demeanor) will be speaking on a date yet to be chosen. We apologize for the late start this year, but expect to fill the gaps in our Lecture Series shortly. If you have any speaker suggestions, now would be the time to let us know. Watch the Lectures link on our website for the latest updates.

New DFAC Photographer: You'll be seeing a new camera at our meetings and other events. Roger Serrato, a shutterbug from way back, recently made the transition to digital. Truth be told, he still shoots film, but feels the tug of the dark side. Roger has graciously volunteered to be DFAC's photographer, relieving me of yet another responsibility at meetings. Between the DFAC notebook, LCD projector, Galactic Gavel, and occasionally a laptop, my load gets pretty heavy. It'll be nice to carry one less thing. You saw his premiere photos in this issue's Last Meeting section (above). Nice work, don't you think? So be sure to smile when you see him with his new camera, and you too might show up in Quid Novi. Thanks Roger!

North Sky News: Last reminder: 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: This event is all systems go. We'll be setting up a table, shade tarp, 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]
  • 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!

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Quote of the Month:
[Editor: It's astounding how far exoplanet searches have come in only a decade, yet this quote still rings true.]

"For many planet hunters, though, the ultimate goal is still greater (or actually, smaller) prey : terrestrial planets, like Earth, circling a star like the Sun. Astronomers already know that three such planets orbit at least one pulsar. But planet hunters will not rest until they are in sight of a small blue world, warm and wet, in whose azure skies and upon whose wind-whipped oceans shines a bright yellow star like our own."

— Ken Croswell, "Planet Quest" (1997)

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Space Debris: Calendar Curiosities
After receiving several questions about my calendar comment in the last Quid Novi, I decided some clarification was in order. The comment I refer to follows:

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.

So here's a quick lesson on the mathematics of calendars. First, you need to recognize that Thanksgiving is "officially" held on the 4th Thursday of November (at least in the US). There are 30 days in November, so there can be a 5th Thursday in that (or any other) month. Thanksgiving can come as late as November 28th (in which case the month starts with Friday). Or it can come as early as November 22nd (in which case the month starts with Thursday). If you look at all the permutations, it turns out that (on average) there will be 2 years out of every 7 years when the "last Thursday of the month" comes a week after Thanksgiving. Those 2 Novembers will start with a Thursday on either the 1st or 2nd day. So there you have it.

Looking ahead on my "perpetual calendar" I see that the first time we'll meet in November after Thanksgiving will be in 2012. Then it doesn't happen again until 2017 and 2018 (a pair). Like I said, it's 2/7 averaged over the long term, but that's the way the calendar works. In all other years, we'll change our meeting date to "2nd-last Thursday of the month" like we're doing this year.

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