Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #43: February 27th, 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
Mar 17   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: Scott Schoneman
Topic: New Launch Systems at Orbital Sciences Corporation
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 20   6:00 pm-???   Members-only Astronomy Night   Heimhenge in New River.
Apr 21   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7
Speaker: Rick Tejera
Topic: How to Use a Star Atlas - Finding Your Way Around the Night Sky
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 19   6:30-8:30 pm   Annual Business Meeting   North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, March 17th, 2010
Our speaker will be Scott Schoneman, Director of Systems Engineering for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Launch Systems Group. He'll be filling us in on recent developments at OSC, a private launch systems company that works with both government and private clients. You may recall their "ground-breaking" Pegasus launch system back in the 90s. If not, read more about it here. We had actually scheduled Scott for last season, but he had to cancel at the last minute due to a "launch system failure," investigation of which became his immediate responsibility. He said he'd fill us in on that too, and it promises to be an interesting story.

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, February 17th, 2010
For the first time in the history of DFAC, President Dan Heim was unable to be there are the opening of the meeting. He was dropping his mother off at Sky Harbor Airport, returning her to the frigid realm of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, from which she had escaped for 10 (mostly) sunny days in AZ. DFAC VP Jim Renn called the meeting to order, and Treasurer Roger Serrato took care of the multimedia hardware setup. Thanks to both for filling in during Dan's absence. Dan arrived around 6:45 pm, just in time to watch Jim's historic "first official VP duty" premiere performance. He did just fine, and even included an explanation of the Galactic Gavel for the benefit of some new guests in the audience. This was a Members' Night meeting, with four members contributing to the presentation.

Jim continued as the first speaker on this Members' Night, enlightening us on the history and current status of the Vatican Observatory. Jim's connections with the Vatican Observatory helped us to get Fr. George Coyne, S.J. as a speaker last season, and has already booked Br. Guy Consolmagno, S.J. for next season. Have you ever noticed Jim's license plate? It reads "JESUIT."

Our second member-speaker was DFAC Treasurer Roger Serrato who, unfortunately as our default photographer, did not get a photo of himself. He spoke about his current project of integrating an old security camera he acquired with his Meade 8" CAT. It's still a "work in progress," but he hopes to have it working for our next Anthem Veterans Day event allowing a live feed from his scope to his laptop for solar viewing.

Speaker #3 was DFAC member Ron Walker, who amazed and impressed us with his long-standing effort to bring a planetarium to Cave Creek. Starting with a "catalog order" cheap star projector, he worked his way up the technological ladder to eventually acquire a "planetarium grade" projector. We knew Ron was a smart guy, but I don't think we appreciated his mechanical and electrical skills until he explained what he'd done with these projectors. We wish him well in his effort, as Planning & Zoning has reared its head in regards to Ron's plans.

Our final speaker was Dan Heim, scheduled last because of his uncertain arrival time. Dan spoke about his "Gravitron Experiment" where he shot video of some students while riding inside the spinning machine. The phenomenon of centrifugal force, and the coriolis effect, were clearly documented as the students threw baseballs and attempted to catch their own throws.

There wasn't much in the way of club business, so it was , as planned, a "Members' Night." This is really a good way to find out what other members are working on, and we may decide to make this an annual event, as many of our members are extremely talented and involved in interesting astronomical ventures that otherwise would not come to light.

This meeting had a good turnout. 14 members attended, two of which joined that night. We adjourned at 8:45 pm, and several of us regrouped at Legends SB&G for libations, grub, and further discussion.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1. Our change of venue from Boulder Creek HS to the North Valley Regional Library created some scheduling problems that we're still trying to sort out. The inability to reserve dates beyond the current calendar year messes with our attempts to schedule speakers. If you've been following the Lecture Series page on our website, you know what I'm talking about. This might dictate a "Members' Night" meeting every January, which is not necessarily a bad idea. It will be discussed at out upcoming Business Meeting in May. Your input at any time is most appreciated.

Item 2. I'm pleased to announce that DFAC has grown by another 4 members. I'd like to welcome Daniel & Bernadette Boyce (our newest members), Scott Rohrer , Dee Harrington-Hartwell , 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 22, which is 2 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. I will be contacting them personally to see if they intend to renew.

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 wouldn'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 it would likely be an "overnighter," carpooling to the nearest town (Magdalena, NM), or possibly bunking at the dorm at the VLA on Day 1, and getting the tour and driving back on Day 2. If any member is interested in pursuing this field trip, let me know. We'll talk about this at our next meeting.

Item 4. Our Saturday, March 20th, "members only" observing night here at Heimhenge is "all systems go." Several members have already responded, even though RSVPs were not required. Restrooms and electricity are available onsite, and plenty of flat ground for setup and parking. Beer and red wine on the house. You want snacks, BYO. We ask that you arrive between 6:00 pm and 6:30 pm to facilitate the parking lineup. Weather permitting, we still register an SQM reading of 21.1 on a clear sky , no moon night. That's pretty good. That night will feature the Moon occulting some minor members of the Pleiades Cluster. Plus, I'll be attempting to split Sirius A & B with my Takahashi. Its resolution is 0.9", and the current separation of Sirius A & B is 9.1"so with decent seeing I should be able to split them, maybe with a red filter to improve the contrast. Check out this recent chart from S&T.

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:
"But does Man have any "right" to spread through the universe? Man is what he is, a wild animal with the will to survive, and (so far) the ability, against all competition. Unless one accepts that, anything one says about morals, war, politics, you name it, is nonsense. Correct morals arise from knowing what man is, not what do-gooders and well-meaning old Aunt Nellies would like him to be. The Universe will let us know - later - whether or not Man has any "right" to expand through it."

— Robert A. Heinlein, "Starship Troopers"

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Space Debris: Astronomy Names and Pronunciations
Tom Polakis, a frequent speaker for DFAC, posted this on the AZ-Observing list server. If you're not yet a member, go to: and join. There's a lot of good discussion there that helps you learn more about astronomy. Tom's most recent communication included a link to an amazing time-lapse video by Iranian "amateur" Babak Tafreshi that shows geostationary satellites passing in front of M42 (the Orion Nebula). Watch it here: Very cool. According to Tom, at the latitude of Iran and AZ, the geostationary orbit (which is equatorial) passes right through M42.

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