Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #56: June 6th, 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 25   3:00 pm - ?   June Summer Social at Heimhenge, featuring Asteroids Snooker, snacks and drinks provided by your hosts Dan & Sandi. Arrive at 3 pm for Snooker, 5 pm for food and a special double-feature on the big screen.   Heimhenge (maps will be sent to members only)
Jul 16   1:00 pm - ?   July Summer Social at Walker Ranch. Doors open at 1 pm. First movie starts at 2 pm. Main grub (brats et al.) at 4 pm. Second feature 6 pm. All times 30 minutes. Spacetime happens. Food and drink (beer, wine, soda, spirits) provided, as well as popcorn for the theater. Please RSVP by July 10th. RSVP emails sent separately.   Walker Ranch (maps will be sent to members only)
Aug 27   4:00 pm - ?   August Summer Social at the Renn Hacienda in Anthem. Jim says the food theme will be Southwest and Mexican. Food and drink (beer, wine, soda) provided, but feel free to bring a special beverage. Please RSVP by August 13th. RSVP emails sent separately.   Renn Hacienda (maps will be sent to members only)

Back to Top

Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 21st, 2011
Our next Lecture Series meeting is September 21st. We'll be kicking off a great season with Dr. Ted Dunham from Lowell Observatory. He is one of the Kepler Space Telescope team scientists, and will enlighten us on the most recent developments in exoplanet research. This lecture will be publicized to the other area astronomy clubs as well, since I know there are many other stargazers fascinated by this topic. So, as with Fr. Coyne, there could be a crowd at this meeting. Thus, you'll want to arrive early to get a good seat.

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

Of course, we'll be seeing each other at three other :meetings" before then ... We have Socials planned for June, July, and August (in the works). See our Events schedule above.

Back to Top

Last Meeting: Wednesday, May 18th, 2011
Our last meeting was the annual Business Meeting, which I'm pleased to say had 10 members present ... a new record for Business Meetings! We hope this portends more involvement by members, and is not just a reaction to the usual post-meeting feast at Native New Yorker (which we did visit later). And so we report to you here the results of our meeting. It convened at 6:45 pm with the usual gavel impact ...

1. VP Jim Renn had suggested a "50 Years in Space event," with an astronaut as speaker, possible involving the other area clubs. President Dan Heim has already made two attempts at soliciting interest to no avail. If this event is gonna happen, DFAC needs to spearhead it. Peggy Biegler pointed out that there's a possible "free" venue is the Game & Fish Auditorium just west of Ben Avery Shooting Range. We need to look into their scheduling protocols and facility features, like do they have a projection system infrastructure in place, and how many people can they seat. We also need to research availability and cost of getting a real astronaut to speak. Work will be short after this last flight, and the honorarium may be reasonable. Earlier research by Dan found that virtually all astronauts (active or retired) expect the host to cover expenses, but Huston ain't that far away. Beyond that, they set the honorarium (they just call it "fee") based on the following criteria taken from the Astronaut Speakers Bureau:

The fees generally range between $3000 and $10,000 per event plus expenses, depending on the Astronaut and the time commitment. Some of the top names are considerably more expensive. We will try to match each event with a speaker who will address your needs and provide a quality event for your guests and clients.

So it looks like, unless we can find a local retired astronaut, this would almost have to be a multi-club collaboration, with tickets sold, and wide publicity to ensure we fill the seats. Jim and Dan will conduct further research over the summer.

2. Scott Loucks had suggested a Tucson Field Trip that would hit both the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show (which always includes choice meteorites for sale), and the Catalina Sky Survey (where he has the connections to get us an "inside tour"). We need to research distances and travel times to include both TGMS and Catalina Sky Survey, since this might require a 2-night stay. Scott will conduct this research over the summer.

3. Dan Heim has been in contact with Tony Gutowski, a Board member at the Pioneer Living History Museum. The Museum expressed interest in a public Astronomy Night, and would handle promotion. Details about whether this would be a free event (with donations accepted) or ticketed event have yet to be worked out. Based on the potentially large turnout, I contacted Terri Finch of PAS, she brought it to their membership, and they have 5-6 scopes that could also be deployed at Pioneer. Public education is a good thing, Pioneer is a reasonably dark site, and this could also provide a nice boost to our treasury, that of PAS. It could also evolve into an annual event depending on feedback and turnout. The event would be planned for post-monsoon, say October. DFAC will also need to field 5-6 scopes to help keep the lines short.

4. We have 3 empty speaker slots for next season. Tom Polakis was suggested by Ron Walker. Other suggestions are always welcome. Jim and Dan are currently collaborating on speaker scheduling, so if you have any ideas or special requests, just let either of us know. We're easy to find.

5. We held a vote with the quorum present, and the decision to switch our liability insurance from Marsh Affinity to RV Nuccio was unanimously in favor. Marsh expires August 22, 2011. The new policy can be applied for, paid, activated, and downloaded for printout from their website at: This change will save DFAC $55/year with only slightly reduced coverage. Sandi Heim (DFAC insurance consultant) will handle that transition for us.

6. We held a series of votes for the five DFAC officer positions. None were opposed, all were retained by motions, seconds, and unanimous votes. There was some discussion about splitting-off the Webmaster responsibilities from Dan Heim to Ron Walker, who is eminently qualified for the task. Dan pointed out that the roles of President, newsletter Editor, and Webmaster are so intertwined that further thought was needed on his part regarding how to best proceed. Dan and Ron will be talking about this over the summer.

7. Roger delivered the Treasurer's Report and presented his usual excellent summary of DFAC's solvency. Download it here:

T-report-2011.doc (25k)
T-report-2011.pdf (9k)

8. The meeting was adjourned at 8 pm, after which 6 of the members retired to Native New Yorker for further discussion, libations, and the usual great food.

Back to Top

State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: I recently received the following communication from a high school teacher, located I know not where ...

Hi Dan,

I wanted to take a minute and let you know I've been sharing your page: with the students and families at my high school. We really appreciate the info and figured we'd extend our thanks :)

I also wanted to share a resource with you that I've been using: "Your Online Guide To Light Pollution": which I thought would make for a good addition to your page because it has a wealth of information and resources on the different facets of light pollution.

We have to work together to raise awareness for this because I can't even tell you how often I talk to people who don't even know what "light" pollution is! Anyways, let me know if you like the link I pointed out and if you decide to use it.

Mary Jenkins

The link Ms. Jenkins suggested has been incorporated into the DFAC website on both our Light Pollution and Links pages. It's an excellent resource, and well worth looking into.

The more interesting part is that she was looking at only a few "sample" columns of Sky Lights posted on my website from way back when I was trying to market it to Arizona newspapers. I've been thinking and talking about turning it into a weekly blog on my website, and have already DLed the software and instructions (provided free by GoDaddy). But getting that all set up is gonna take the better part of a week, and I've just been too busy lately. There is an opportunity coming up this summer though, when I'll have sufficient discretionary time to pursue things like this. It was a fun column to write, and most importantly, it provided a "soapbox" for me to rant (and educate) about light pollution. Of course, I'll keep you posted on developments.

Item 2: [repeated from last month] Dues are due. We got burned last year with cash flow because of late renewals. Some members missed out on their Astronomical League magazine. We've cut costs to keep our dues stable. But we need prompt remittance for this year's dues. May 31 was the deadline. You can mail it to our Treasurer here, or (as a last resort) bring your check or cash to our June Summer Social.

Item 3: [repeated from last month] Details on the DFAC June Summer Social. RSVP deadline was June 1st. We received 9 RSVPs (regrets not needed). But if you decide at the last minute that you want to attend, no problem, since we always have extra food & drink. Official invite follows ...

Dan & Sandi Heim are proud to be hosting the DFAC June Summer Social at Heimhenge. Just bring yourselves and your family. Heimhenge has everything else covered for you (but hey, an extra bottle of wine never hurts). This is just our way of saying "Thanks!" to all our members for helping make DFAC possible. We truly hope to see all of there.

Where: Heimhenge in New River. Maps will be mailed to all members.
When: Saturday, June 25th, 3 pm for Asteroids Snooker [download the latest rules
here as a 65k PDF], 5 pm for hors d'oeuvres and big-screen video.
Video Double Feature: With military footage de-classified in 1999, The Atomic Filmmakers (45 min) and Nukes in Space (52 minutes).

Menu: Sloppy Joes w/ pickles, grated cheese, deviled eggs, fruit salad.
Snacks: crackers and cheese, mixed nuts, chips, veggie platter & dip.
Drinks: choice of several beers and wines
Desert: you're just gonna have to attend to find out what you would have missed.

And of course ... popcorn for the movies. If anyone still has room left.

Weather permitting, I'll have the Takahashi tracking Saturn. Sunset is 7:40 pm, at which time Saturn will be elevated 52 degrees in the SSW. The ring system is starting to open nicely. Decided to set it up for solar viewing in H-alpha until about 7 pm, at which point the Sun will be too low. Then we'll switch to Saturn.

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:
[Submitted by DFAC member Diann Miller]

“To suppose that earth is the only populated world in infinite space is as absurd as to believe that in an entire field sown with millet, only one grain will grow.”

Metrodorus of Chios, On Nature

Metrodorus of Chios (4th century BC) was a Greek Presocratic philosopher, belonging to the school of Democritus, and an important forerunner of Epicurus. Metrodorus was a pupil of Nessus of Chios, or, as some accounts prefer, of Democritus himself.[1] He is said to have taught Diogenes of Smyrna, who, in turn, taught Anaxarchus.

Metrodorus was a complete sceptic. He accepted the Democritean theory of atoms and void and the plurality of worlds, but held a theory of his own that the stars are formed from day to day by the moisture in the air under the heat of the Sun. According to Cicero he said, "We know nothing, no, not even whether we know or not" and maintained that everything is to each person only what it appears to him to be. Metrodorus is especially interesting a forerunner of Anaxarchus, and as a connecting link between atomism proper and the later skepticism. The above quote is attributed to him. If accurate, it demonstrates that Metrodorus had a cosmological philosophy that was advanced for the ancient world.

Back to Top

Space Debris: Continuing Progress at Star Veil Observatory
We received some more photos from member Raul Espinoza updating us on his progress on Star Veil Observatory. Below you can see the pier is now installed. You can also see how he gets electricity into the structure through that outside outlet. There's another outlet on the pier to run the scope, but that's a separate circuit. In his original plans, that outside outlet was actually intended to be inside the structure, but then Raul "downsized" the structure to its current form, leaving that (WT) outlet outside.

Here you can see he's also got his C-14 mounted. Raul tells me he actually "had first light when I did the necessary polar alignment, but that doesn't really count."

And finally, a shot of the "business end" of his scope. [Editorial comment: Back in the 80s when Pluto was at opposition (and still a "planet") it was through a C-14 that I star-hopped to Pluto and found it as a tiny point of light best seen with averted vision.]

Raul still promises an official "first light" event at his place for all DFAC members, date to be announced, but his current best guess is "sometime in June."

Back to Top