Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #53: March 1st, 2011
          Member Society of the Astronomical League
Since 2006

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 @ 623.465.7307 or email:

DFAC Events for 2011:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Jan 19   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: Dennis Young, Sirius Lookers Astronomy Club of Sedona
Topic: Astro Scenic Photography of Arizona
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 16   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: Howard Israel, IDA
Topic: The Search for Intelligent Life in the Universe
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 16   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Bob Holmes, Meteorite Man
Topic: Meteorite Hunting
The Inside Story
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 20   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7
Speaker: Rick Tejera, Saguaro Astronomy Club
Topic: Beyond M42 (what to look at after you've found all the easy stuff)
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 18   6:30-8:30 pm   Annual Business Meeting   North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jun TBA   5:00-9:00 pm   June Summer Social at Heimhenge, featuring Asteroids Snooker, snacks and drinks provided by your hosts Dan & Sandi.   Maps will be sent to members only.

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
Our speaker will be Bob Holmes, Meteorite Man. Bob has one of the largest meteorite collections in AZ. Some of his collection was found right here in AZ, but he also deals in the meteorite market, selling and buying unusual specimens. Have you seen the show Meteorite Men on the Science Channel? How accurate is this portrayal of meteorite hunters? Bob actually knows Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold (stars of the show) and will enlighten us on the realities of making a living hunting rocks from space.

Bob was one of our guest speakers for DFAC's inaugural 2006-2007 Lecture Series. At that lecture he presented DFAC with a 166.3 gram specimen form the Campo de Cielo fall in Argentina, dated around 3000 BC. That nickel-iron meteorite ultimately became our Galactic Gavel, the symbol of Presidential authority for DFAC, and a continuing legacy for our club. One never knows what spectacular sample Bob will bring for "show and tell," but rumor has it he will be packing both Lunar and Mars meteorite samples on loan from another collector. Be there ... and touch a piece of outer space.

Doors will open at 6 pm. Hope to see you all there!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Our last meeting featured Howard Israel, Phoenix IDA Representative. No, he didn't talk about light pollution, though he is eminently qualified to do so. Howard is an expert in many areas, and spoke to us on the topic of SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). Dan started the meeting with his usual asteroid impact, made a few announcements related to club business, and turned the lectern over to our speaker.

Before the meeting, Howard chatted with several members about various astronomy-related topics. He waited patiently for his introduction as Dan tried frantically (and unsuccessfully) to resolve an aspect ratio problem with our laptop and projector system. We were forced to accept circles looking like ellipses for this presentation, but Howard graciously proceeded in the face of that glitch. That issue has now been resolved, after finding an aspect ratio setting buried deep in the Windows XP video display menus.

Howard spoke about all areas of SETI, from its humble beginnings in the middle of the 20th Century, to current efforts like the Allen Telescope Array in California (financed largely by Paul Allen of earlier Microsoft fame). Other related topics included the Drake Formula (see next image), the Fermi Paradox, first stated by physicist Enrico Fermi, SETI@Home, and the explosion of discoveries in the search for exoplanets.

Here Howard covers the famous Drake Formula, an equation for calculating the probably number of intelligent species in our galaxy. He went over each parameter, providing updates on their current "best values" based on research since the formula's inception. Though some of the parameters are highly debated and still uncertain, he concluded that there are probably at least 10 other intelligent civilizations in the Milky Way capable of electromagnetic communications. He expects that, if we keep looking, we will certainly make contact before the end of this century.

The meeting adjourned around 8:30 pm, as Dan caused the traditional asteroid to lithosphere impact.

The assembled crowd, numbering 12, enjoyed the presentation and often engaged our speaker with questions and lively debate. SETI is a contentious topic, and we all have our personal biases and presuppositions regarding this fascinating area of ongoing research.

We retired after the meeting to Legends Sports Bar for food and libations, and continued our discussion of SETI. It was a bit crowded, as 8 members joined us and we were forced to fit into a booth. But we made it work, as always, and extended our enjoyable evening till around 9:30 pm.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: DFAC Member Ron Walker will be giving a presentation to the Daisy Mountain Camera Club on Tuesday, March 22 at 7 PM at the North Valley Regional Library (same room where DFAC meets). His topic will be “The History of Movie Photography.” Many of us have video capability in our cameras, but are not familiar with what is necessary to use that feature effectively. Ron will enlighten us on the finer points of videography. And, I expect, discussion will continue after the meeting at Legends.

Item 2: Some of you will have noticed the new look at the top of this newsletter. The addition of the Astronomical League logo was done (at the suggestion of the AL) to qualify Quid Novi for their Mabel Sterns Award, which recognizes outstanding newsletters in member societies. It's my intention to nominate Quid Novi (and my humble self) for this competition. I really believe Quid Novi is a fine example of what an electronic newsletter can be: efficient, cheaper than print, and including active links and full color photos. Plus, it's got a cool name. Nominations must be made before the end of March, so this is the issue they'll see. Wish us luck!

Item 3: I'm pleased to announce that Jim Renn will be continuing as DFAC VP next year. Recent changes in his work schedule will allow him the time he needs for this important post. In fact, he is now in the process of scheduling Fr. William Stoeger, S.J., of the Vatican Observatory for our Lecture Series next Spring. Fr. Stoeger is a world-class cosmologist, and sure to have the latest update on such fascinating topics as Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Multiverse.

Item 4: Based on feedback (or lack thereof) we've made three decisions regarding next season. First, we'll be planning a field trip south next February to attend the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, and take in some other interesting area sights, including (perhaps) the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope and a retired Titan Missile silo, mothballed since the end of the Cold War. Turns out one of our members, VP Jim Renn, actually spent some time in one of these silos during his tenure in the Air Force. Details are still being worked out, but this will likely be an overnight stay.

Second, it has been decided that our 3rd-Wedensday-of-the-month nominal meeting date will remain as is, with occasional exceptions to accommodate our speakers.

And finally, we are going to switch our liability insurance from Marsh Affinity Group to RV Nuccio & Associates. The switch will save us $55/year, with slight but insignificant reductions in coverage limits. My wife Sandi, who's in the insurance business, tells me it sounds like a viable deal. I would tend to agree, since claims are rare for astronomy clubs, and nonexistent to date for DFAC. See the February issue of Quid Novi for specific details about the coverage changes.

It's still not to late for any member to provide input on these three items. Only the last (insurance) needs to be voted on at our May Business Meeting. If you don't expect to attend, send me your preference and I will cast your vote by proxy in your absence.

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:
“Cosmology does, I think, affect the way that we perceive humanity's role in nature. One thing we've learnt from astronomy is that the future lying ahead is more prolonged than the past. Even our sun is less than halfway through its life.”

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal of Great Britain

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Space Debris: The Moon as Seen by LROC
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LROC), using its Wide Angle Camera (WAC) captured a mosaic of the Moon consisting of 24,000 x 24,000 pixels. That's 550 MB at a resolution of 145 meters/pixel! You can view the entire (zoomable) image at:

No, you can't "see the flag," but for those of you who are fans of our nearest neighbor, you have to check out this amazing image. It takes some time to load, but it's well worth the wait. It's almost like flying over the lunar surface. Unlike the typical Full Moon view, the 1300 individual images in the mosaic were photographed under good Sun angles to show vivid relief. If you want to read the whole story, see:

Never forget that, for most of us anyway, the Moon was our first astronomical target, and one of the celestial wonders that got us "hooked on photonics." Thanks to Terri Finch of the Phoenix Astronomical Society for calling this link to our attention.

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