Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #41: December 21st, 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   Jim Renn'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   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.
Jan 14   6-8 pm   Astronomy Night   YMCA at 34250 N. 60th Street (just south of the Carefree HWY)
6-8 pm (setup 5:30-6:00 pm)
Jan 20   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: Dan Heim
Topic: Weightlessness Explained
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
This is our tentative back-up speaker. Watch the Lecture Series page for updates.

Back to Top

Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Our speakers for January - April are still in the process of being booked. Watch the Lectures page on our website for developments. We expect the remaining Lecture Series for 2010 will be filled-in over the next month. 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.

Back to Top

Last Meeting: Saturday, December 5, 2009
Our last "official" meeting (on November 17) featured Tom Polakis, member of SAC and EVAC, and expert astrophotographer. If you missed the meeting, and the highlights from the November Quid Novi, you can view that issue here. Our most recent event, however, was the DFAC Holiday Social hosted by VP Jim Renn and his wife Jean. Both Dan and Roger were shooting photos, so here's a brief review ...


The two photographers had to get shots of each other shooting each other, of course. How wonderfully recursive. They both use Canon digital SLRs. Nice work, gents.

Our generous hosts, Jim and Jean Renn, pose here for a photo next to their buffet. Soup, salad, and other delectable goodies were available.


They had a chocolate cake custom-made to match our DFAC logo (and business card). Not a bad job by the Safeway bakery. The Crescent Moon looks a little weird, but the match of colors is outstanding!


And as if that wasn't enough, they also gave out custom-printed M&Ms (also in DFAC colors) that had "DFAC" printed on the shells.

El Presidente Dan, and Media Liaison Jay, enjoy the buffet and a beer.

Ron and Dave prefer the red wine. You can tell Ron really prefers red wine.

And on the west end of the table ... several members engage in astronomical chat, story telling, and good memories.

Cleverly propping his camera on a bookshelf, and setting its timer, Dan pulls off an "everyone" shot of the entire table of guests. Minus Scott, unfortunately, who arrived a bit late, exclaiming "Oh ... it was this December 5th?" A total of 10 members enjoyed the gracious hospitality of Jim & Jean. Thank you, and Happy Holidays!

Back to Top

State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: If you've been watching the Lecture Series page on our website, you've no doubt noticed that not much has changed. As promised, I went to NVRL on December 1st and submitted our request for meeting dates in 2010. Turns out (Library policy) that precedence confers no priority. If another group requests the room on the same date as DFAC, they hold a "drawing" to decide who gets that date and who has to reschedule. I totally disagree with that policy, but unless we move to another location (and I do like the NVRL facility), we'll just have to work with them. I will speak with NVRL manager Sal Casillo in the next week or two, and explain how scheduling professional astronomers for speakers requires a bit more lead time and a lot less uncertainty, but don't expect any miracles.

Bottom line is that we won't know for sure we have the "3rd Wednesday of the month" for 2010 until some time between Christmas and New Years. Jim Renn has contacted potential speakers, assuming those dates will hold, but with January looming, there might be too much uncertainty for our first scheduled speaker. In consultation with Jim, we decided to proceed with the scheduling , and allow for a potential back-up speaker in January (yours truly), though I'd much prefer to see Dr. Jeff Hester next month. Hester's a busy guy ... I read about his research frequently in everything from Scientific American to S&T, and he hasn't responded to Jim's queries yet, but we're working on him.

So lacking Hester, I'll cover our January meeting with some new material I've been working on related to "weightlessness." This includes animations and videos. I had the privilege to experience a ride on the infamous "Vomit Comet" back in the 70s, and I still dream about weightlessness to this day. And, I have some photos from my ride. By the time you leave this lecture, you'll not only understand how weightlessness comes about, you may decide you want to spend $5k to experience it yourself. See:

Item 2: We have been asked to an Astronomy Night for a group of K-8 students (and their parents) at the new YMCA building just south of Carefree HWY on 60th Street. You've already received an email with the details, but here they are again. Date: Thursday, Jan 14th, 6-8 pm, setup 5:30-6:00 pm. Place: the main parking lot at 34250 N. 60th Street (they tell me the lights will be off), so it'll be an easy setup right outside your car. Expected: 75 people, students and parents included ... that means we'll need 4-5 scopes. If you can help out, please let me know at your earliest convenience. We're going to have a "donations" jar out there this time, just to help feed our treasury. Not sure what we'll get, but any donations will be gratefully accepted. We need to be able to offer $50 honoraria to pull in those out-of-town speakers from Lowell and Kitt Peak.

Thanks for reading Quid Novi. If you have feedback, you know where to reach me. Until next we meet, clear skies!

Back to Top

Quote of the Month:
[Editor: As the IYA 2009 comes to a close, this quote came to mind.]

"To command the professors of astronomy to confute their own observations is to enjoin an impossibility, for it is to command them to not see what they do see, and not to understand what they do understand, and to find what they do not discover."

— Galileo Galilei

Back to Top

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. Yeah, I know this was the Space Debris last month, but it's still the holiday season, so "let 'er ride!"

HolidaySongs.jpg (361 kb)

Back to Top