Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #42: January 25th, 2010

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 2010:
Date   Time   Event   Location
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: The Physics of Weightlessness
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 17   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Members' Night?
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

Back to Top

Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
This may end up as a "Members' Night," with a variety of short (5-20 minute) presentations by DFAC members on topics of their own choosing. Or we might have Dr. Jeff Hester. Or we might have something completely different. We apologize for the uncertainty. Read more about this below in State of DFAC.

Back to Top

Last Meeting: Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
President Dan Heim spoke on the "Physics of Weightlessness," showcasing several new animations he created just to clarify this often-misunderstood topic.

Dan opened the meeting as usual, with a resounding smack of the Galactic Gavel. There were two new guests attending, so he took some time to explain the meteoric origin of the Gavel.

Our newest members, Mark Bosley (L) and Scott Rohrer (R) receive "bonuses" in the form of a Vatican Observatory calendar and a recent copy of Reflector, newsletter of the Astronomical League.

There wasn't much in the way of club business, so after apologizing for needing a backup speaker, Dan launched into his presentation on weightlessness. It was a great review of high school physics, which is all that's needed to understand weightlessness. In a nutshell, he demonstrated that weightlessness in orbit is caused by being in a state of freefall, and is physically equivalent to what would happen in an elevator if the cable broke. Of course, in orbit, the effect doesn't end when you reach the basement ... a sufficiently fast horizontal speed (7500 m/s) ensures that you keep falling, but never get any closer to Earth.

For an evening that threatened rain, it was a pretty fair turnout. Eight members attended, and two others committed to joining DFAC. We adjourned a bit early, and several of us regrouped at Legends SB&G for libations and further discussion.

Back to Top

State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1. Our January 14th Astronomy Night at the YMCA in Cave Creek went off almost as planned ... there was a miscommunication regarding the actual setup location, so we had a bit of a problem finding each other, and ended up in an area where the parking lot lights and building interfered with observations. This happened because I trusted (but dud not verify) the info I received. From this point forward, I will insist on a face-to-face meeting with the Astronomy Night coordinator onsite ahead of time. This will preclude similar problems in the future. Still it was a good night for the observers. With only a fuzzy Jupiter (plus four satellites) and some star color comparisons (Rigel vs. Betelgeuse), people were nonetheless thrilled to see anything through a scope. Some 50-60 students and parents stopped by to check us out. And our new donation box pulled in an astounding $2. Thanks to Raul Espinoza, Ron Walker, Roger Serrato, Jay Chatzkel, and yours truly for manning the instruments. Two photos follow.

The first 3 arrivals chat while waiting for sunset. Note our new DFAC Donation Box.

Raul observes "Hey ... what's up? Everything looks so tiny."

Item 2. I'm pleased to announce that DFAC has grown by another 3 members. I'd like to welcome Scott Rohrer (our newest member), Dee Hartwell (who's been attending our meetings and finally decided to make it "official"), and Mark Bosley (who recently escaped from cloudy Wisconsin, as I did back in 1978). Thanks to all for their support. That brings our total membership to 23, which is 3 more than the "critical mass" needed at current membership fees. Truth be told, 2 of our members have not yet renewed for this season, so the total membership is still slightly uncertain. We hope to hear from them.

Item 3. I recently made contact with one of the engineers up at the Very Large Array (VLA). Daniel J. (Mert) Mertely and I met via a renewable energy website, and when I found out he worked at the VLA, I asked if it might be possible for him to secure DFAC and "inside tour" of the facility. I had tried this many years ago when I visited the VLA, but they couldn't let me into the actual control center. The astronomers were too busy. Mert says "No problem, provided he gets advance notice." So what I'd like to do is this ... when the weather gets a little warmer, perhaps this summer, we could head up there. It could be a "day trip," with us leaving Phoenix early in the day. Charter air is out, since the nearest commercial airport is in Albuquerque ... still a 2-3 hour drive to the VLA (plus car rental). MapQuest estimated travel time by car would be about 6 hours one way, so that's possible, but really pushing it for a "day trip." Or it could be an "overnighter," carpooling to the nearest town (Magdalena, NM) on Day 1, and getting the tour and driving back on Day 2 (probably our best option). If any member is interested in pursuing this field trip, let me know. We'll talk about this at our next meeting.

Item 4. VP Jim Renn has been having trouble confirming new speakers. If they don't answer your emails, or return your calls, there's not a heckuva lot you can do. No doubt you've noticed the lack of activity on our Lecture Series page. Furthe complicating things, Jim has picked up additional responsibilities at work and with his church groups. He will remain in his position as VP, but has (at least temporarily) relinquished the duty of booking our speakers. So I'm on that as of today, and we'll see who I can come up with for the remainder of our 2009-2010 season.

Since it's almost February already, I've been considering the possibility of a "Members' Night" presentation for our Feb 17th meeting. Any member could give a short (5-20 minute) presentation on a topic of their choosing. We did these every once in a while back when I was with PAS, and they can be quite entertaining and lively. What you need to do is let me know how much time you need, what your topic will be, and whether you have any preferences in terms of presentation order (first, last, doesn't matter). If you need a laptop and projector, mine will be available. All you need to do is bring your media on a USB flash drive (or external drive), or on a CD/DVD. Your presentation could be straight lecture/discussion/personal recollection, "show and tell," or multimedia based. Anything related to our favorite hobby is fair game. I'd bring my video of the Gravitron Experiment (playing catch in a spinning Gravitron), which we discussed last meeting ... several members expressed an interest in seeing it. So, even though I'd rather have Jeff Hester speak, and he might yet, please start thinking about your possible contribution for a "Members' Night." I'll keep you all posted on speaker bookings as they develop.

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's note: On this, our 42nd issue of Quid Novi, we just had to pick a quote from our favorite humorist and science fiction writer. It also seemed appropriate, given the publication deadline we missed on this issue.]

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

— Douglas Adams (1952 - 2001)

Back to Top

Space Debris: Astronomy Names and Pronunciations
One of the things we often get asked by both public and members is how to pronounce certain astronomical terms. "Mars" is easy, but what about "Uranus," "Betelgeuse," and "Bo÷tes?" Members of an astronomy club should know these pronunciations. You may or may not be aware that we have a "pronunciation guide" document available on our website. It's on the Downloads page, but you can link to it directly below. This document was assembled from three separate websites, all trusted, and reorganized for ease of use. Be aware there is not unanimous consensus on all pronunciations (for example, with Io), in part because there is not unanimous consensus between linguists on the sounds of ancient Greek and Arabic. What's in this document are the pronunciations most commonly agreed upon by astronomers.

pronounce.doc (43k)
pronounce.pdf (97k)

This is also a great source for checking spelling, since most of these formal names (proper nouns) won't be in your spell-checker unless you've manually added them. In fact, I just used that document to check the spelling of Betelgeuse in the State of DFAC section, and then I added it to my spell-checker dictionary. Very easy. Two clicks typically. If you can open the document in MS Word (or whatever you use), the "misspelled" words will all be indicated. You can just go down the list, one at a time, and do your "add to dictionary" thing.

Back to Top