Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #34: April 6th, 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: Dan Heim & Roger Serrato of DFAC
Topic: Planning session for April 4th public event
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Our original speaker cancelled.
Apr 4   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   100 Hours of Astronomy for IYA 2009, (public observing)
Setup 6-7 pm
Sunset 6:48 pm
  New River Kiwanis Community Park, New River, AZ
Map available
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 26   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Note this is a Tuesday night, changed from our original date.
(later adjouring to)
Legends Sports Bar & Grill, 3655 W Anthem Way Suite D115, Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Thursday, April 30th, 2009
Our next meeting will feature DFAC regular Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU. This lecture will be a new format, wherein Dr. Hester responds to questions previously submitted by members, and "live" questions from attendees. Questions can be from most any area of astronomy, as the Good Doctor is an astronomical "jack of all trades." The list of submitted questions can be read here. Bring your own questions to the meeting. This should be a most interesting and educational event. We hope to see you there.

To learn more about Dr. Hester's current research and interests, visit his website here:

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Last Meeting: Thursday, March 26th, 2009
Our original speaker for this evening, engineer Scott Schoneman of Orbital Sciences Corporation in Chandler, AZ, had to cancel at the last minute. We'll be rescheduling him for next season. See their website at: OSC is headquartered in Dulles, VA, but maintains a division in Chandler for private and commercial launch systems R&D.

So after some deliberation, and in view of our then-upcoming major public event (IYA 2009 100 Hours of Astronomy), we decided to dedicate this meeting to final planning for the observing details. What scopes were available? What targets were available? How to best allocate our "firepower?" Recommended eyepieces and filters for specific targets? Dan and Roger pretty much covered it all. And as a special primer for the evening's sky, Dan projected views of the sky in all directions to review major stars and constellations. Some of those names are hard to pronounce, much less remember. So we've added a document on our Downloads page titled "Astronomical Pronunciation Guide." The image below shows the April 4th sky at sunset, as simulated by SkyGlobe, Dan's planetarium software of choice.

Total attendance was exactly 8. And those 8 were the volunteers for our April 4th IYA 2009 public event: Jim Renn, Roger Serrato, Scott Loucks, Ron Walker, Howard Grodsky, and Dave Beams (who attended to learn about how these events are planned). With all business completed by 8:30 pm, we decided to adjourn to Legends Sports Bar & Grill in Anthem, where astronomical discussion continued for two rounds.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
IYA 2009: Our 100 Hours of Astronomy event went off as planned on April 4th at the New River Kiwanis Community Park. Read more about it in Space Debris below.

Change of Business Meeting Date: Last month we proposed that our Business Meeting be moved from Thursday, May 28th to Tuesday, May 26th. Since there was no feedback to the contrary from members, we have now made that change official. See our revised calendar at the top of this page.

Business Meeting: Speaking of which, it's only two 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. Thus, this is your formal notice of items to be voted on at the May meeting. If you are not able to attend, and still want to cast your vote, you may do so by phone, email, or postal mail at any time prior to that meeting.

  • First, I'd like to create a new club Officer 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.
  • 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.
  • One final item up for discussion is our policy and commitment to doing public events. Turns out we've been getting a rather high number of requests, and we hate to say "no," but we also hate to tap the same volunteers over and over again for fear of burning out their enthusiasm. This is not meant to pressure non-volunteers, but to generate discussion about what our level of commitment to public events can realistically support. The Services page on our website advertises our availability, but places no limits. We may need to state "3 per year" or something to that effect. It would be good to do at least one "major" public event each year. Maybe we should only do 1-2 "major" events, and lose the small stuff? The daytime event at the Anthem Veterans Day Parade is great for generating free publicity, as would be a night event at NRKCP (during warmer weather than our recent event). Point is, we need to have some discussion about this, since the situation as it now stands is untenable.

DFAC Summer Social: Just a reminder that our Summer Social will again be hosted by member Ron Walker. The date for this event will be chosen at our May meeting, but it's always been on a Saturday around mid-summer (July). Our Lecture Series runs from September through May, and we normally schedule no other official events from June through August.

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:
"Calculations of the probability of other inhabited planets in our Galaxy are rather meaningless at this stage of our knowledge of the origin of life. But in the framework of the cosmological principle we should assume that there is at least one inhabited planet per galaxy."

— Michael Rowan-Robinson, "Cosmology"

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Space Debris: 100 Hours of Astronomy
Our public event for IYA 2009 went off as scheduled on April 4th at the New River Kiwanis Community Park. The sky was clear, but the wind was more than we liked, with steady breezes of 5-10 mph all night. We all dressed for the weather, and started setup shortly after 6 pm. The event was scheduled to run from 7-9 pm. Sunset was at 6:48 pm.

Scopes were deployed inside a ring of vehicles to shield them from traffic-generated dust. [photos by Dan Heim and Roger Serrato]

Howard set up his Dob in a better location to see M42, his target object. Jim and Roger assisted him with some alignment details.

Dan had his 4" Takahashi on Saturn at 200X using a blue filter. Seeing was better than average, but the wind caused some vibration problems at high magnification.

Raul started with his 10x70 binocs on the Moon. Later, he moved to the Pleiades, which showed up nicely with his wide field of view.

Jean Renn volunteered to be our "club rep" at the welcome table, distributing info and answering questions. Thanks Jean!

Members Dave and Cindy Beams dropped by to check out the views. Ron had his scope on Mizar/Alcor, and split the double-double nicely. Scott (in background) is zeroing in on the Double Cluster in Perseus.

One young lady discovers the Moon at 100X. She exclaimed "Cool. I can see all the craters and mountains!"

Turnout was only around 20 people, but everyone had a great time. Objects visible included: the Moon (at 1st Quarter and showing nice detail along the terminator), Saturn (with little ring tilt, but two satellites visible close in), M42, M3, Double Cluster, Mizar/Alcor, Pleiades, Sirius, and Betelgeuse. Although the turnout was less than expected, given our publicity efforts, we were competing with the Anthem Days celebration, and fighting weather that may have been too cool or windy for some. Still, those in attendance were glad they came, and members had a chance to chat and share views. Thanks to our volunteers, and thanks to the New River Kiwanis for letting us use their fine facility.

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