Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #36: June 1st, 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 2009-2010:
Date   Time   Event   Location
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, and will be rescheduled for next season.
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
Our original speaker cancelled, and will be rescheduled for next season.
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
Jun 20   6:00 pm - 9:00 pm   June DFAC Social   The Renn Hacienda.
All food and drink will be provided by our gracious host.
Please RSVP by June 17th.
Jul 18   1 pm - ?   July DFAC Social   Walker Ranch.
All food and drink will be provided by our gracious host, not to mention a sci-fi double feature!
Please RSVP by July 11th.
Aug 22   6:00 pm - 10:00 pm   August DFAC Social   Heimhenge in New River
All food and drink will be provided by our gracious host.
Dan will premiere a new billiards game of his own design: Asteroids. No limit on the number of players.
Bring your cue, or use one of several available in the Heimhenge Game Room.
He'll also have his 5" Takashi set up for views of Saturn, Mercury, and the Crescent Moon,
all of which will be aligned low in the west, elevated 12 at sunset (7 pm).
Be there before 7 pm to catch your view of this celestial trio.
Please RSVP by August 15th.
Sep 24   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1
Speaker: Dan Heim, DFAC
Topic: Light Pollution Update
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Thursday, September 24th, 2009
Our next meeting is currently scheduled for that date, but as you'll read below, some members have proposed a change to our standard "last Thursday of the month" format. Whenever it happens, our speaker will be DFAC President Dan Heim, who will provide the latest news on light pollution in the north Valley (and other places), as well as information on the latest developments in environmentally friendly lighting. We hope to see you there.

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Last Meeting: Tuesday, May 26th, 2009
This was our annual Business Meeting. A summary of what transpired follows ...

1. We voted on the DFAC Officer positions for President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Media Liaison. All positions were uncontested, all existing Officers were willing to continue in their positions. All were re-elected unanimously. Thanks to these brave souls for continuing to serve as the necessary core of DFAC.

2. We voted to create a new Officer position (Newsgroup Moderator) and officially recognize Scott Loucks' volunteer efforts in that capacity. This required a revision to our Constitution. It passed unanimously.

3. We nominated and voted to elect Scott Loucks to the position of Newsgroup Moderator. The vote was unanimous in his favor.

4. We voted on a second revision to our Constitution, delegating the responsibility for scheduling speakers for our Lecture Series to the Vice President. Previously, that responsibility was the President's. We voted unanimously to approve that revision.

5. We discussed the expansion of our Summer Social event (always in July at Ron Walker's ranch) to three events, adding one in June and another in August. There will be no speakers, and no astronomy observing (unless the host wants to set up a scope). These are all strictly social events, allowing the members an opportunity to enjoy what there's never enough time for at our regular meetings. The character of each event is up to the hosts. This Summer, Jim Renn will take the June event and Dan Heim will take the August event. Read more about dates, times, and current plans in the DFAC Events section of this newsletter. The July event is likely to remain as it has been. The other two will float from year to year, and at the 2010 Business Meeting they will be "up for grabs" to any DFAC member interested in hosting. We think this will be a great way to extend our members' relationships to other areas of mutual interest. Plus, you know it's gonna be fun.

6. Dan Heim wanted some discussion about the extent of our commitments to doing Astronomy Nights for small groups. It seems to be a given that we need at least 2 major public events each year: the daytime Veteran's Day event in Anthem, and a night-time Astronomy Day event at the New River Kiwanis Community Park (NRKCP). These are the easiest ways to reach potential DFAC members, and we do need to continue our growth. Our numbers (19 members) are right at the sustainability level to meet our fixed costs. But the problem with the small events is adequate staffing. We don't want to keep asking the same 4-5 members to volunteer their time, and we don't want to pressure other members to participate. We occasionally ask, but there's never any pressure. Do we want to keep advertising that we're available for these small events, or do we want to remove that notice from the Services page of our website? Do we need to start charging for these events in order to make them worth our time? Discussion ensued ...

We agreed that the two large public events are necessary to our survival and growth. We decided to continue with the small events, since the value of bringing this hobby to younger people can not be overstated. DFAC members who are regular volunteers will continue doing so, no complaints. But we receive 3-4 requests each year for these small events, so other members who don't regularly participate are encouraged to do so. No pressure. But definitely encouraged. Thanks for thinking about it. We also decided to emphasise the importance of donations at these small events, and as you may have already noticed on our Services page, that has been done. The idea of actually charging a fee for small events was vehemently rejected.

7. Member Ron Walker proposed a possible change of our regular meeting day from "last Thursday of the month" to "2nd or 3rd Wednesday of the month." His reasoning was that this would avoid conflicts with other monthly events, many of which run in the first or last week. It was noted that such a change would require input and vote from all members, and since there were only 7 out of 19 members present, Dan Heim did not recognize that motion as voteable, but will seek that input from the full membership. Read more about that in State of DFAC below. Since some people are members of more than one Valley astronomy club, note the current publicized meeting days below, as this may affect your input.

  • East Valley Astronomy Club: 3rd Friday of the month
  • Phoenix Astronomical Society: 1st Thursday of the month
  • Saguaro Astronomy Club: Friday night closest to Full Moon (generally)
  • West Valley Astronomy Club: meets 6 time from September through May (no details available)

8. DFAC Treasurer Roger Serrato provided his year-end Treasurer's Report (available here). DFAC is in fine shape, but still operating near the "crucial mass" of 20 members (we currently have 19, assuming all of last year's members renew — an ongoing process). He emphasized the importance of acquiring new members, and acknowledged that 2 major public events each year would certainly help. He noted that, with the first two lectures of our Lecture Series now locked in each year (Dan Heim on "Light Pollution" and Roger Serrato on "Astronomy 101"), that we'll save $40/year on honoraria. That should allow us at least one "out of town" speaker, which requires a $50 honorarium, each year, even at present membership levels.

In attendance were (in order of appearance) Roger Serrato, Dan Heim, Jim Renn, Ron Walker, Dave Beams, Scott Loucks, and Raul Espinoza. We'd hoped for a larger turnout (we always do), but members present constituted a quorum for all needed business. The only communication from members not in attendance was from George Kantarges, whose proxy for the meeting was Ron Walker. We adjourned at 8 pm to Legend's Sports Bar & Grill, where informal conversation about all things astronomical continued till around 9 pm.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Business Meeting: The meeting report above has already explained most of what you need to know, and what I need to expand on here.

Item 1: We've only had a couple members express a desire to move our regular meeting date closer to the middle of the month, and the reasoning makes sense to me, and there's no real conflict with other astronomy club meeting days, and it works with my schedule. But this is a change that will require notification and input from the membership. I hereby solicit that input, and would appreciate receiving it within a week of the publication date (June 1st + 1 week = June 8th). If you want the meeting to stay where it is (last Thursday of the month) you need to let me know. If you want the change, specify "second Wednesday of the month" or whatever. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume it makes no difference. The decision will be announced on Tuesday, June 9th.

Item 2: Like I always say ... no pressure, but I gotta ask. It would be great to have more members participate in the small group Astronomy Nights we get asked to do 3-4 times each year. We've got a core group of 4-5 members we can always count on, and they say they don't mind, but I know it takes time and gas to do these things. Often, you can get the group to come to you ... we've done several here at Heimhenge, and that's pretty convenient for me at least. If you're in a location that's dark enough (and better still if you have an observatory), you might want to consider volunteering your site. If not, you can still help with either a portable scope or binoculars. Plus, this is one of the ways we generate donations and build our treasury. Plus, it helps promote our hobby. Plus, it's just a lot of fun. So next time you hear the call for volunteers, you know how to reach me. Thanks.

Item 3: Some members have been asking why we don't do more "DFAC only" observing sessions. There's a few reasons this has been the case. First, there is no impediment to doing private club observing sessions. It's still possible to do astronomy here in the North Valley. It's not a "dark sky" site by a long shot, but I can still see the Milky Way from here at Heimhenge. And there are plenty of similarly dark sites scattered around the area, some at DFAC member residences. I've hosted two sessions here since DFAC was formed. It's the prerogative of any member to do the same.

I haven't pushed much on this for good reason. Ironically, soon after DFAC was formed, my vision started heading south. The problem is cataracts in both eyes. Observing has simply become more difficult and less enjoyable for me personally. The good news is, this month I'll be having surgery on both eyes to correct that problem, including the insertion of some new synthetic lenses to replace my originals. Insurance will only pay for the cataract removal — the rest is out of pocket. It's a big chunk of change, but I can't think of anything much more worthwhile to spend money on than eyesight. Expect my motivation for organizing observing sessions to be reinvigorated this summer.

There are some good dark-sky sites within a couple hours driving time from the North Valley. In order of increasing distance, those are Lake Pleasant, High Desert Park in Black Canyon City, and the Cherry Road site off I-17 (much frequented by SAC and EVAC). I have proposed these at times over the years, but received little feedback. It may have something to do with the fact that our average member age is in the high 50s (my estimate), and the older one gets, the less one feels like driving long distances at night. At least that's my take on it. I'm not going to be twisting any arms just to have a DFAC presence at these sites, so it really comes down to what the membership is interested in doing. It's your club, and we are always open to suggestions.

Bottom line, even if we can't see NGC 2818 from the North Valley, it's still fun to deploy scopes en mass, share views, compare notes, and just talk about our mutual hobby. I would like to see more of that being done within DFAC. Especially after my eyes are fixed. I've hinted to some members that it would be nice for them to host a session at their home, but it hasn't yet happened. If you think you'd like to do this, all you need to do is suggest it via email or at a meeting, and we'll make it happen. Your feedback on this item is welcome.

Dues are Due: This is another reminder that your DFAC dues are due. You can send your check to Roger Serrato at: PO Box 71458, Phoenix, AZ 85050. Or you can save a stamp a bring it to the June DFAC Social at Jim Renn's home. You don not need to fill out the Membership Application Form unless your contact information has changed. If you need one, get it here. Our dues for next season remain at $25 (with electronic delivery of Quid Novi) and $30 (with postal delivery). For those members we seldom see, but who keep renewing nonetheless, we say thank you for your continued support. DFAC fights light pollution in the North Valley on behalf of all sky lovers.

Summer Socials: Yes, it's plural now ... we decided, at the request of several members, to expand our summer activities. It costs the club nothing, as the volunteer hosts have offered to cover whatever is needed at their events. There will be one each month (June, July, August). Details are in the DFAC Events section at the top of this page. Although Ron Walkers July event will continue as it has in the past, the June and August events will be up for grabs each year, and the "theme" of the event at the host's discretion. Not like there has to be a "theme" beyond just getting together socially with some good people who share your passion for astronomy, which was really the whole point of the additional socials. So many of us have enjoyed the casual time at the local "watering hole" after our meetings, that it just seemed like the right thing to do. As the hosts are volunteering their resources for these events, please RSVP (affirmatives only) by the dates listed. Thanks, and we hope to see you there.

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:
"The destruction of this planet would have no significance on a cosmic scale: to an observer in the Andromeda nebula, the sign of our extinction would be no more than a match flaring for a second in the heavens: and if that match does blaze in the darkness there will be none to mourn a race that used a power that could have lit a beacon in the stars to light its funeral pyre. The choice is ours."

— Stanley Kubrick

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Space Debris: ISS Flares, an Amazing Shuttle Shot, and an Impending Antares Occultation
Item 1: This just in from Space Weather News, courtesy of DFAC member Raul Espinoza ...

Space Weather News for May 26, 2009

SPACE STATION FLARES: Lately, a growing number of observers are reporting intense "flares" coming from the International Space Station (ISS). During some nighttime flybys, the luminosity of the space station surges 10-fold or more. Some people have witnessed flares of magnitude -8 or twenty-five times brighter than Venus. A movie featured on today's edition of shows what is happening: sunlight glints from the station's recently expanded solar arrays in a shadow-casting flash. Currently, the flares are unpredictable. You watch a flyby not knowing if one will happen or how bright it might be. That's what makes the hunt for "ISS flares" so much fun. Sky watchers in North America should be alert for flares this week. The ISS is making a series of evening passes over many US and Canadian towns and cities. Flyby times are available from the Simple Satellite Tracker:

Would you like a phone call when the ISS is about to fly over your hometown? Sign up for Space Weather PHONE:

Item 2: An amateur astronomer named Thierry Legault took this unbelievable photo of the Space Shuttle Atlantis silhouetted by our massive Sun.

The shuttle (which is only 37m long and has a 24m wingspan) was traveling 17,500 mph at 350 miles above the Earth's surface — and Lagault says he only had .8 seconds to get the shot. The sun looms in the background a mere 91 million miles away. Check out other amazing shots on his website at.

Item 3: If you're an occultation fan, there's a nice one coming up this Saturday (June 6th). The Moon will occult Antares at a time and place favorable for southwestern US observers. Read the details and get the maps at the link below:

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