Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #33: March 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.
This event was cancelled due to poor weather.
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
This event is now fully staffed.
Mar 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: Mystery Guest
Topic: Unknown
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Our original speaker cancelled. We are working on a replacement.
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
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, March 26th, 2009
Our next meeting was going to feature engineer Scott Schoneman of Orbital Sciences Corporation in Chandler, AZ. See their website at: OSC is headquartered in Dulles, VA, but maintains a division in Chandler for launch systems R&D. Scott spoke to PAS back in the early 90s, when OSC's sole launch system was the Pegasus, a plane-launched, solid fueled, air-to-orbit delivery vehicle. They have since expanded into many other areas, including work with NASA on their new manned systems.

Unfortunately, I received an email from Scott earlier today with news that one of their Taurus launch vehicles had failed. And Scott has been assigned to head the internal investigation. This is going to keep him busy for awhile, so he cancelled with regrets. Our March meeting will go on as scheduled, but our speaker is, at the moment, unknown. We will be working on securing a replacement speaker starting tomorrow, and when Plan B is in place, you will receive an email update with the details. Sorry about that, but sometimes the best laid plans ...

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Last Meeting: Thursday, February 26th, 2009 (photos by Dan Heim)

Dan Heim opened the meeting with our ceremonial Galactic Gavel. Again, 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.

Before the actual lecture, Dan gave the podium to Rick Tejera, Editor of SAC News. Rick was promoting this year's All Arizona Messier Marathon, scheduled for March 28th at a site near Arizona City (maps are available on the SAC website at: Conditions will be ideal this year for spotting all 110 targets. Participation info, check-off lists, and waiver forms were provided to those interested, and are also available on the SAC website. This is a great event, and well worth your time. Thanks to Rick for taking the time to drive out here and fill us in.

Our speaker this evening was our own Roger Serrato, who presented "Astronomy 101" ... a guide for beginners. We decided that, instead of just advertising that "beginners are welcome," we'd actually devote one of our 8 lectures each year to this topic. We want DFAC to be "user friendly" to beginners, and hope to attract more of them to our ranks. A lecture like this is should do it. In fact, we had several new faces in th crowd that attended for exactly that reason. You can see from the photo the topics Roger covered. Pretty basic stuff. Still, even the experienced members learned some new tricks. This writer, for example, learned that the term "right ascension" comes from the fact that (if you're looking at Polaris) celestial objects "ascend from the right." After fixing a few bugs with oiur projection system, we got underway.

One of the "special features" of the evening was a real-time troubleshooting session. Member Jay Chatzkel brought in his scope. He'd been having problems with tracking. Roger, who worked at the Astronomy Shoppe for a few years, has had plenty of experience with astronomy hardware. He quickly determined that the hand-held controller would need to be replaced, and suggested checking AstroMart ( for a replacement, suggesting Jay should be able to find one for about $30. That's a cheap price to pay for salvaging this scope, which otherwise works fine. We wish Jay good luck with the repair, and hope to see him at future events with a fully-functional scope.

As always, there was time after the meeting for informal discussion. Here, Roger follows up with some questions about eyepiece selection.

Discussion ran late, and we left the Library around 8:50 pm (our latest adjournment ever). The Library locks its doors at 9 pm, and "would like us to clear the room by 8:30-8:45," but nobody seemed to mind.

This was a good turnout. The above photo was taken near the start of the meeting, but several more attendees arrived late (see below).

Total attendance was about 20, including our guests. We picked up a few new members as well. After the meeting, 6 of us returned to Heimhenge in New River for a look at Comet Lulin. There, through Dan Heim's 17" Dob, we checked out Comet Lulin (near opposition). At 40x it just about filled the view, easily showing a pinpoint nucleus and foreshortened dust tail. The "greenish tint" from its cyanogen and carbon components was not quite visible. An even larger aperture would be needed to make the color apparent in real-time. Still, it was a great look at this one-time visitor to the Solar System. Comet Lulin is on a hyperbolic trajectory, and after perihelion will be ejected from the Solar System into interstellar space.

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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. The scheduled event is Monday, March 2nd. Sunset is at 6:30 that night, and observing will run from about 7-9 pm. The event is now fully staffed (thanks to Roger Serrato, Scott Loucks, and Ron Walker for volunteering). If everything works as planned, Ron will have his laptop linked to Scotts observatory scope via wireless linkup, providing the Scouts a demonstration of remote observatory control and viewing. We'll get the usual plethora of photos and fill you in on how it all went in the next Quid Novi. If the remote viewing works out, we'll use it for our IYA public event later this year. Which brings me to ...

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.

Change of Meeting Day: 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). I wanted to discuss this at our last meeting, but we were running behind schedule so I thought I'd cover it here again. We propose that our Business Meeting be changed from Thursday, May 28th to Tuesday, May 26th. If I hear no feedback from members, I will assume this is acceptable. If this change creates problems, let me know and suggest another day that week that works better for you. The final decision will be announced at our March meeting.

Business Meeting: Speaking of which, it's only three months until that meeting. As I've said in the past, with only around 20 members, it's hard to draw people into serving as club officers. I understand it's a matter of time, ability, and (hopefully not so much) motivation. Our existing club officers have confirmed to me that they will be happy to continue in their present positions: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, Media Liaison. (Of course, any member has the right to run against them for office.) But a few changes to the existing structure would be beneficial.

First, I'd like to create a new position that Scott Loucks has already assumed responsibility for: Newsgroup Moderator. Our newsgroup, DFAC-QN, at currently has only 9 registered members, not all of whom are routinely active. Still, this is yet another venue for improving our visibility and attracting new members. You'll need to be registered with Yahoo (an easy task) to join the newsgroup. It's also a venue for the type of informal discussion that we seldom have time for at meetings or in Quid Novi. If you haven't already joined, please consider it. Either way, I'd like to make that Newsgroup Moderator position formal, include it in our constitution, recognize Scott for his efforts (Thanks Scott!), and print him up a set of those nifty DFAC business cards. We will vote on this amendment at our May Business Meeting. If you are not able to attend, your vote can be sent to me ahead of time via email, USPS, or phone.

Second, although our Constitution specifies this as the President's duty, I would like to delegate the job of contacting and scheduling speakers. In some astronomy clubs, scheduling speakers is the President's duty. In others, it is the VP or some other dedicated position. Given that I'm already the President, Editor, and Webmaster (a situation unlikely to change in the foreseeable future), I could really use some assistance here. I have spoken to Jim Renn, DFAC VP, and he has graciously agreed to accept this duty as part of his job. As with the preceding item, we will need to vote on this change of job description as a constitutional amendment in May.

It has also been suggested that the President delegate the duty for scheduling outreach events (public and private observing sessions). I gave this some serious thought, but finally decided the President should keep the outreach responsibilities, acting in his capacity as the official representative of DFAC. I don't want to make too many changes in a given year, so we'll see how this new arrangement works out. As required by our Constitution, and for your review, there will be a formal notice in the April Quid Novi of all proposed amendments.

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. To make things easier for the good Doctor, and to allow him time to pull together any multimedia that might help with his explanations, we have solicited advance questions from members. Those questions (5 in number) we recently sent to Dr. Hester, so that part of the process is closed. Hopefully, there will be additional time for spontaneous questions during his presentation. If you're curious about those 5 advance questions, you can read them here (57k PDF).

Kiwanis Event Cancelled: The Carefree Kiwanis Club is sponsoring a Science Fair at the Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, and I had mentioned at the last meeting that we needed volunteers to set up some scopes at this event. After further discussion with Jim Walborn, we decided there are too many scheduling conflicts to make this happen. So thanks if you were considering it, but maybe next year. We will, however, be able to use the Carefree Kiwanis database of North Valley schools to promote of IYA 2009 event (above) at the schools themselves.

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: I don't know how many of you knew Pierre Schwaar. He was an institution in AZ astronomy for many years, skilled at mirror making, a regular on the club lecture circuit, all around great guy, and was sometimes called "the Galileo of Phoenix." Pierre passed away at the young age of 54, and left a real void in the local astronomy world. I attended his funeral at the VA Hospital in Phoenix representing PAS at the time, and there were close to a hundred fellow stargazers present. This poem was published in the SAC newsletter a year after his death. I reprint it here on the 9th anniversary of his passing.]

Midnight ...
There is no sound in the forest ...
only the phantom murmur
of the far wind
and the wind's shadow drifting
as smoke
through ebon branches; there a single star glistens in the heart of
night ...
A star!
Look skyward now ...
and see above ... INFINITY
Vast and dark and deep
and endless ... your heritage:
Silent clouds of stars,
Other worlds uncountable and other suns
beyond numbering
and realms of fire-mist and star-cities
as grains of sand ...
drifting ...
Across the void ...
Across the gulf of night ...
Across the endless rain of years ...
Across the ages.
Were you the star-born you should hear
That silent music of which the ancient sages spoke Though in silent words ...
Here then is our quest
and our world
and our Home.
Come with me now, Pilgrim of the stars,
For our time is upon us and our eyes
shall see the far country
and the shining cities of Infinity
which the wise men knew
in ages past, and shall know again
in ages yet to be.
Look to the east ... there shines
the Morning Star ... soon shall the sunrise come ...
We await the Dawn,
Rise, oh eternal light;
Awaken the World:
With trumpets and cymbals and harp and the sound of glad song!
And now ...
The clouds of night are rolled away;
Sing welcome to the Dawn
of the bright new day!

By Robert Burnham, Celestial Handbook, Volume I

May 14, 1946 — March 6, 2000

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Space Debris: More Interesting Astronomy Links
People keep sending me these interesting astronomy links, and this last month saw about twice the usual number of forwards. Here, for your edification and enlightenment, are some of the more interesting submissions. First, as you probably know, author John Updike passed away last month wrote a short poem about the Mars Rovers Spirit and Opportunity titled "Duet on Mars." Godspeed, John Updike. You can read his poem here: 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 get on their mailing list to receive emails about late-breaking astro-events. Current topics of interest include the recent satellite collision between Iridium 33 and Kosmos 2251. If you've never been there, check it out at:

Tucson amateur astronomer Keith Schlottman posted (on the AZ-Observing forum) a link to his website where you can download a time-lapse movie showing the proper motion of Comet Lulin against the stars. As you probably know, this comet is moving clockwise toward the Sun, opposing the general counter-clockwise motion of the planets. This makes for some pretty rapid motion relative to the background stars. You have to see it to appreciate it. Keith did an excellent job on this video. Download the 18 Mb GIF version to save some time:

Another Tucson amateur, Sam Rua, also a frequent contributor on AZ-Observing, posted the below link to a photo he shot of that awesome conjunction last Friday. I hope you caught it. Venus and the Moon were about a degree apart, and both were showing similar crescent phases. This photo was taken with a digital camera using a 500 mm telephoto lens, and the magnification is sufficient to clearly show the phase of Venus. It is worth noting, in this IYA 2009, that the phases of Venus (coupled with apparent size changes of the planet) were cited by Galileo as geometric evidence of heliocentrism. The full phase has the smallest angular diameter, the crescent phase the largest. There is no way to explain this correlation other than with a heliocentric system and Venus as an inferior (smaller orbit than Earth) planet. The March 2009 issue of Reflector (which all members receive) has an illuminating graphic on page 8 showing this effect. You can see Sam's outstanding photo of the real thing at:

Local astrophotographer (and previous DFAC speaker) Tom Polakis captured the Feb 24 transit of Titan's shadow across Saturn. I've seen plenty of shadow transits on Jupiter, but never before on Saturn. You can watch or download this video from Tom's website at:

The IDA has completed its draft of a Model Lighting Ordinance (MLO). They worked with the IES (Illuminating Engineering Society) for three years to come up with this template for municipalities. It's open for public comment until April 10th, and well worth your time to take a look. If you have comments (I didn't ... it's very well done) you can go the IDA website at and link to the "MLO Public Review" easily from their main page. Read the full proposed ordinance at:

Finally, here's an amazing image of the ISS transiting the Moon. No individual credit was cited. All it said was "as seen from a location on the US west coast near Mt. Hamilton, California." The image was taken on February 2nd, with the ISS superimposed over The Sea of Serenity. Note the distinct blue color of earthshine reflecting off the solar panels. See the image here (460k JPG).

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