Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #40: November 23rd, 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
Jun 20   6:00 pm - 9:00 pm   June DFAC Social   The Renn Hacienda's home.
All food and drink will be provided by our gracious host.
Please RSVP by June 17th.
Jul 18   1 pm - ?   July DFAC Social   The 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 9   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
Sep 19   6:00 pm - ?   DFAC Members Only Observing Session   Heimhenge in New River.
Setup 5:30 - 6:30 pm, sunset at 6:30 pm, moonset at 6:45 pm
NWS is predicting clear skies through the weekend!
Oct 14   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2
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
Oct 24   6:00 pm - 8:00 pm   Astronomy Night for DAMS   Desert Arroyo Middle School, 33401 N. 56th Street, Scottsdale, AZ 86331.
Map available
Setup from 5:30 pm - 6:00 pm.
Nov 17   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3
Speaker: Tom Polakis
Topic: Lunar and Planetary Imaging with a Webcam
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
This meeting will be held on a Tuesday to accommodate our speaker's schedule.
Dec 5   TBA   Holiday Social   The Renn Hacienda
1-5 pm, casual dress, spouses or guests welcome.
Please RSVP by Nov 30.
Our gracious hosts will provide all food (buffet of soup, salad, appetizers) and beverages.

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Our speakers for January - April are now in the process of being booked. Watch the Lectures page on our website for developments. We expect the remaining Lecture Series for 2009-2010 will be filled-in over the next 2 months. We are awaiting confirmation from Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU, and Scott Schoneman of Orbital Sciences, a private launch system company in Chandler, AZ. But we still have two open slots. So if you have a particular speaker you'd be interested in seeing, Contact VP Jim Renn with your suggestions.

Of course, our next "unofficial" meeting will be Saturday, December 5th, at the home of Jim & Jean Renn. Read more details in the Events section above.

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Last Meeting: Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Our last meeting featured Tom Polakis, member of SAC and EVAC, and expert astrophotographer. This was the third time Tom has spoken to us, and Dan was embarrassed to learn that, for all these years, he'd been pronouncing Tom's name incorrectly as "Polakis" with a short "a" instead of a long "a." Dan resolved to get it right in the future.

Dan opened the lecture, as always, with a precision impact of the Galactic Gavel. With so many new faces in the audience, he took some time to explain the origin of the Galactic Gavel. After a brief discussion of the Veterans Day event (see North Sky News), and the upcoming DFAC Holiday Social, he turned the lectern over to EVAC member Gene Lucas for some brief announcements.

Gene spoke about some recent EVAC and personal projects. Turns out he's also involved in the MAG lighting ordinance project (read more in State of DFAC below), as well as Project Astro, which teams local amateur astronomers with local teachers to help them with their astronomy units. Project Astro was discussed in an earlier issue of this newsletter, but there were no DFAC members who chose to get involved, primarily based on the time it would require. Even though DFAC does outreach to school groups, it's not quite the same as mentoring an individual teacher. The K-8 teacher certification program leaves most woefully prepared for science, so this is a great program if you have the time to commit. To learn more, just click on their link above.

Our scheduled speaker, Tom Polakis, then took the lectern and began his amazing multimedia presentation. Tom's topic was "Lunar and Planetary Imaging with a Webcam." He took us through the equipment choices, optics, filters, image capture and processing, including a brief foray into the calculations required to optimize results. He made it look easy, but he has decades of experience in astronomy and photography, and close to another decade of experience with CCD imaging. We all learned from him. Perhaps the highlight of the presentation was the show itself ... not your typical PowerPoint show, it contained photos, CCD images, overlays, and time-lapse video clips, most from his own outstanding collection. It wasn't projected on a dome, but in terms of the multimedia content, logical flow of ideas, and narration, it rivaled what you'd see in a professional planetarium show.

There was plenty of time for Q&A afterwards. Tom fielded several questions from the audience. If you missed this meeting, and have never seen any of Tom's amazing photographic work, check out his website at: You could spend hours browsing his collection. His time-lapse sequence of the ISS transiting the Sun and Moon are two of my favorites.

This image shows the assembled group (minus photographer Dan Heim). We had 7 DFAC members in attendance, and another 10 guests, some of whom returned after seeing Roger's "Astronomy 101" lecture in October, two members of EVAC who are fans of Tom Polakis, and a few new faces. It was a good turnout. We thank speaker Tom Polakis for an outstanding presentation, and hope to have him back again in the future. The meeting was adjourned at 8:30 pm.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: MAG (the Maricopa Association of Governments) is in the process of developing a comprehensive light pollution policy that would apply throughout the County. Of course, both the ARS and Maricopa County Zoning Ordinance address these issues (to a limited extent), but beyond that, there exists an inconsistent mix of other policies for individual cities and towns within the County. MAG is working with the IDA on this, and also seeking a "citizens panel" to provide additional input. The Glendale MAG rep contacted Jimmy Ray of SAC for the name of an amateur astronomer who could work on this committee. He suggested me, since I had spoken to SAC last year on the topic of light pollution. A recent communication from MAG confirmed my position on this committee. This is the kind of opportunity I've been seeking, in order to have some real impact on laws and zoning that preserve our night sky. I am awaiting notice of our first MAG meeting, and you can trust I'll keep you all apprised of my progress. Frankly, at this point, I don't expect much to happen until after the holidays. But you'll be the first to know.

Item 2: I spoke with Sal Casillo, NVRL Manager, at the meeting last night, and he tells me the re-allocation of Classroom #1 to the Boulder Creek HS Computer Class is likely to be "indefinite." That means we'll be in Classroom #2 likewise indefinitely. At least that makes us easier to find. Sal also tells me they will start taking reservations for 2010 in December of 2009. I will be there on December 1st with our 2010 schedule, and grab those dates before the Boy Scouts do.

Item 3: Our October 24th Astronomy Night at Dessert Arroyo Middle School went well, with perhaps 80 7th grade students and parents attending. The sky cooperated (finally!) If you haven't read the entry and seen the photos, it's posted on our North Sky News page here.

Item 4: Likewise, our daytime solar and terrestrial observing display at the Anthem Veterans Day festival went well, with close to 200 people stopping by for a look at the Sun. Again the sky cooperated, but not so much the Sun. Read about it, and see the photos, on our North Sky News page here.

Item 5: Same notice here as last issue, but I thought I'd let it run one more month. At some point your life, you will play a game of Asteroids Snooker. The game was invented by yours truly, scheduled for play at the August DFAC Social, but the balls arrived one day late. We now have the full set of un-numbered snooker balls: 13 black (asteroids), 1 yellow (Sun), 1 blue (Earth). After the game we played at the last Heimhenge meeting (when observing got clouded out), I discovered, not surprisingly for a new game, some ambiguities and other defects in the rules. The current revised rules are available on our Downloads page. Note that I have added a copyright notice to preserve my rights while still posting this online (which would otherwise put it immediately into the public domain).

Item 6: VP Jim Renn is now at work scheduling four more speakers to fill our 2010 Lecture Series for this season. Our Lectures page will be updated as each speaker confirms, so check it out occasionally to see what's coming up. We have some exciting speakers in the queue, and are awaiting confirmation on their choice of dates. Thanks for your efforts here Jim!

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: We got the usual number of "UFO questions" from people at our recent Vets Day event. This quote came to mind.]

"If a large number of people who are convinced alien abductions are real are hypnotizing even larger numbers of others who suspect they might be, then it is likely there will be many alien abduction narratives flying around, as, indeed, there are. Of course, this is not proof they are not true, but it does provide a persuasive context for a simple psychosocial explanation. Hypnotism is a technique that triggers a mass storytelling project in which all the stories are linked."

— Bryan Appleyard, "Aliens: Why They Are Here"

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Space Debris: The Year in Space
Photocells (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

Dashing through space-time
At the speed of light
Through vector fields we go
With our colors bright ...

I was digging through some old physics materials last week and came across this gem that I used to hand out to students just before Christmas break. If you want to read (or sing) the rest of this song, as well as four other cleverly and scientifically re-written holiday favorites, check out the easy download below. Then print copies for family and friends, and have a happy and musical holiday season.

HolidaySongs.jpg (361 kB)

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