Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #32: February 2nd, 2009

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, SAC & EVAC
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., Vatican Observatory
Topic: Intelligent Design
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Note: This is a special Monday night meeting.
Feb 12   6:00 pm - 8:00 pm   Astronomy Night
Coincides with the DAMS Science Fair
  Desert Arroyo Middle School, 33401 N. 56th St., Scottsdale, AZ 85331
This event is fully staffed. Thank you.
Feb 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: Roger Serrato, DFAC
Topic: Amateur Astronomy 101 - Tips and Tricks for Beginners
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 2   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   Astronomy Night
Anthem Cub Scout Den
Setup at 6:30 pm
We still need two more volunteers for this event..
Mar 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: Scott Schoneman, Orbital Sciences Corporation
Topic: The Latest in Private Launch Systems at OSC
  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: Dr. Jeff Hester, ASU
Topic: Open Q&A
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Please submit your astronomy questions before January 31st via
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, February 26th, 2009
Our next meeting will feature our own Roger Serrato who, as some of you might know, once worked at the (now defunct) Astronomy Shoppe. It's closure had nothing to do with Roger. His presentation will be geared to beginning observers, of which we have a few. Roger will cover everything from mounts to eyepieces to optical designs. We bill DFAC as the club to join if you want to learn how to better use your astronomy hardware, so it's about time we address this in an official meeting. Experienced observers may also learn a few things. Of special note: Roger will attempt to troubleshoot Jay Chatzkel's scope (which has some tracking issues). Roger doesn't guarantee a "fix," but he does guarantee a "diagnosis." It should be entertaining and informative to see him do this in real time. Good luck to Roger and Jay!

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Last Meeting: Monday, January 26th, 2009 (photos by Roger Serrato)
If you missed this one, you missed a great show. We publicized this event widely, and our new whiteboard sign was posted just outside Classroom #1.

Dan Heim opened the meeting with our ceremonial Galactic Gavel. Because of all the "strangers" in the crowd, he took a few minutes to explain its origin. If you're not familiar with the story, click here.

Fr. Coyne was on a tight schedule, so we dispensed with much of the usual club business, and turned the meeting over to the Vatican.

This was all about "Intelligent Design," and Fr. Coyne provided his perspective as an astronomer and a Jesuit. The lecture title (The Dance of the Fertile Universe - Chance and Destiny Embrace) fairly summarizes his thesis. The evolution of intelligent life was a necessary consequence of increasing complexity amidst the abundant materials provided by stellar nucleosynthesis.

One of his most intriguing graphics was a "tree" depicting the branching of universal morphology over time. The "human" segment fits nicely in the scale of time and space.

Fr. Coyne closed with a cartoon asserting the "state of the art" in cosmology. The bottom line is ... we still don't really know the how and why of creation, but we can say that the universe was "fertile" in the sense that intelligent life was "programmed" to evolve given the initial conditions and sufficient time. For us to exist, the Universe had to be both large and old. It is, of course, both of these things.

This was our largest attendance ever. Some 45 people were present, including members of SAC and EVAC, as well as the general public.

We adjourned at 8 pm, earlier than usual, to accommodate Fr. Coyne's schedule. A few of us met at Legends later, for libations and informal discussion. Their sliders are pretty good. The Guinness on tap is outstanding. We normally only do this after our May business meeting, but we had a quorum. Perhaps we'll need to look into member interest in making this a regular post-meeting option.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Astronomy Night for Cub Scouts at Heimhenge: Back in November, at our Veterans Day event in Anthem, I was approached by a gentleman who was interested in providing his Cub Scout den an astronomy experience. I gave him my DFAC business card, and asked him to get back to me when he had some ideas about times and dates. He just did. It will be a small group, but I need 2 more scopes in addition to my own. The scheduled date is Monday, March 2nd. Sunset is at 6:30 that night, and observing would run from about 7-9 pm. If you can assist, please let me know as soon as possible. Thanks!

Desert Arroyo Middle School: We will be doing an Astronomy Night at this school on Thursday, Feb 12, 6-8 pm. This event is in conjunction with their annual Science Fair, and affords DFAC a great opportunity for PR. Thanks to Jim Renn, Roger Serrato, and Ron Walker for volunteering their scopes and time. I understand that not all members have the time and resources to participate in these public outreach events, so I appreciate whatever help we can get. Volunteering is not a requirement of DFAC members. Still, if you haven't yet participated in one of these events, please consider it. There's few things more satisfying than showing someone the Moon through a telescope for the first time and hearing their reactions. I know it's what keeps me hooked.

Change of Meeting Day: This discussion keeps resurfacing, and that's OK. We want the club schedule to be convenient for our members. In this case, however, we are talking about our May business meeting only. May is always a bad month for me, what with end-of-the-school-year responsibilities. It has been suggested that we move our business meeting from its scheduled May 28th date to either May 26th or May 29th (the 26th is more favored). We will discuss this at our next meeting, but this is the time to check your schedules and see what fits best.

IYA 2009: As many of you know, 2009 will be an International Year of Astronomy celebrating the 400th anniversary of Galileo's invention of the telescope. It was early in 1609 that Galileo first turned his telescope (originally designed and perfected for military purposes) on the heavens. What he saw changed our own world-view, and reinforced the Copernican idea of heliocentrism. Astronomy clubs world-wide are being encouraged by numerous stakeholders to make this a year of public outreach, so this is a great time to start thinking about a public event by DFAC. I would like to propose we do a public Astronomy Night at the New River Kiwanis Community Park. We've worked this venue before, I have the needed contacts to arrange scheduling, equipment deployment is easy since we can park our cars immediately adjacent to our scopes, and the sky there is about as good as it gets in this area with an additional line of hills blocking the light of Phoenix and Anthem. We need to decide what date would work best for DFAC members, as we'll need a large turnout to support the expected attendance. It would be good to wait for slightly warmer weather, so some time after March sounds good to me. As for day of the week, I believe Saturday would be most convenient. I'll be talking about this during the next few meetings, but start thinking about it now. If you have any feedback, let me know.

Q&A for Dr. Hester: Our April 30th, 2009 meeting will be a first of its kind for DFAC. Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU (and HST) will field open questions from members for the entire evening. This is your chance to ask a professional astronomer about anything you want to better understand. Dr. Hester is knowledgeable about all areas of astronomy, from its ancient history, to cutting edge cosmology. We are asking members to submit their questions ahead of time so that the good Doctor can bring appropriate supplementary multimedia with him on his laptop. Of course, you can also ask a question in "real time" at the meeting, but the list of prepared question will have priority. To submit a question, simply email me by January 31st, 2009, [I have extended this deadline for another week.] and include your question in your email. I will compile the list of questions and forward it to Dr. Hester.

Surely there's some astronomy question that's been puzzling you. I know I've got a few. Send your questions my way, and I'll stop calling your Shirley. Then hear the answers to your questions on April 30th!

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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Quotes of the Month:
[Editor: As with last month's quote, these three quotes seemed especially appropriate, given the mind-boggling concepts presented at our last meeting.]

"Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine."

— Sir Arthur Eddington

"The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

— Albert Einstein

"Not only does God play dice, He rolls them where you can't see them."

— Neils Bohr

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Space Debris: More Interesting Astronomy Links
This first link was sent to me by Raul Espinoza. It appears that Earth may have a second moon. Or maybe our Moon has a moon? The orbit has not yet been determined with sufficient precision to decide, but the celestial dynamics of co-orbital bodies is well understood. First encountered with Saturn's moons Epimetheus and Janus, it now appears we have a second example. Read more at: is a great website for up-to-date news on astronomy events. It's bookmarked in my browser, and also on the Links page of our DFAC website. You can also get on their mailing list to receive emails about late-breaking astro-events. If you've never been there, check it out at:

Finally, as if light pollution wasn't already bad enough, a new form of "daytime light pollution" has been discovered. It takes the form of polarized light reflected from glass windows in skyscrapers, and may impact both birds and insects. Read more about it at:

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