Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #60: January 1st, 2012
          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 2011-2012:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Sep 21   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1
Speaker: Dr. Ted Dunham, Lowell Observatory
Topic: The Kepler Space Telescope and the Search for Exoplanets
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 15   6:00-9:00 pm   Astronomy Night at Corona Ranch Resort
Setup 5:30-6:00 pm, observing 6-9 pm
Post-event details TBA
  Corona Ranch Resort
7611 S. 29th Ave
Laveen, AZ 885339
Oct 19   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2
Howard Israel, Phoenix IDA rep
Topic: Light Pollution Update
The IDA's Perspective
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Nov 16   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3
Speaker: Roger Serrato, DFAC
Topic: Astronomy 101 (How to Buy Your First Telescope)
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 18   6:30-8:30 pm   Astronomy Night at NVRL (takes the place of our regularly scheduled meeting)
Setup 6:00-6:30 pm, observing 6:30-8:30 pm
Fully staffed!
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 15   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: Fr. William Stoeger, S.J., Vatican Observatory
Topic: Cosmology
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 01   7:30-9:00 pm   PAS Special Meeting
Speaker: William K. Hartmann
Topic: Space Art
  Paradise Valley Community College
SE corner of Union Hills & 32nd Street
Building Q, Room 120A & B
Map available
Mar 17   6:00 pm - ?   Joint Observing Session with PAS
Setup starts at 6 pm (sunset at 6:30 pm)
Targets: Jupiter, Venus, and a plethora of deep-sky objects (no Moon that night)
  Heimhenge in New River
Map available on request.
Please RSVP if attending.
Mar 21   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: Tom Polakis
Topic: Atacama Astronomy
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 18   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 25   7:30-9:00 pm   Astronomy Night at Canyon Elementary School
Setup 6:30-7:00 pm, sunset 7:00 pm, observing 7:00-
8:00 or 8:30 pm
Volunteers still needed ...
  Canyon Elementary School
34630 S. School Loop Road
Black Canyon City, AZ 85324
May 16   6:30-8:30 pm   DFAC Business Meeting
Speakers: Dan Heim & Roger Serrato
Agenda: DFAC Business & Officer Elections
  North Valley Regional Library
40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Our next "meeting" is actually an Astronomy Night at NVRL. We owed them a favor, and it saved us the trouble of finding a speaker for that date. As you can see from the DFAC Events section above, that event is now fully staffed. Thanks to Roger Serrato, Jim Renn, Ron Walker, Bob Doerzbacher, and Raul Espinoza for volunteering to bring their scopes. Dan Heim will be bringing astro binocs for the Pleiades, as well as our illuminated donations box and DFAC sign. If anyone else want to attend, it's always good to have a few more people to answer questions or point out constellations. And we will be adjourning to NNY afterward for the usual food and libations.

We'll be setting up on the grassy area just west of the Library entrance. Targets visible that evening: Venus (might be too low), Andromeda Galaxy, Double Cluster, Pleiades, Orion Nebula, Sirius (shows colorful refraction when low), Betelgeuse, no Moon that night.

Backup plans in case of bad weather: Dan will bring a presentation on "What you would have seen tonight if it wasn't cloudy/raining" and NVRL will hold the usual classroom for us at no charge in case we need to do that. Depending on weather, we might still want to set up a scope or two under the protection of the overhang at the entrance to NVRL. Even if all they can see is a distant streetlight, at least that lets our guests look through a telescope at something.

THIS JUST IN: Scott Rohrer will also be attending, and running SkySafari3 on his iPad. He's already programmed it with the target objects I outlined above, so that's another backup possibility. Even if the sky is clear, it'll still be an interesting complement to telescopic views. Whether he'll bring a 32" external monitor, or be able to plug into my LCD projector, depends on the availability of a cable he currently lacks. Details are still being worked out.

Setup at 6-6:30 pm. Observing ends at 8:30 pm. Hope to see you all there!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
There was, as usual, no meeting in December. If you missed the review of our November meeting, you can still read it here. In fact, I'll take this opportunity to point out that all issues of our newsletter back to Day 1 (June 27, 2006) are archived online on this page. Quid Novi was pretty crude back then. Interesting to look at its evolution over time, as well as review some of the outstanding speakers we've had for our Lecture Series. If you have some spare time for browsing, you might want to check out some of those earlier newsletters.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: Here's hoping you're all enjoying the Holiday Season, and looking forward to 2012. DFAC has a great year coming up, much of which has already been planned. I appreciate your continued support of our club, and look forward to growing our membership in the future.

Item 2: We've pretty much settled on the pattern of Astronomy Night events for each DFAC season. We'll do one primarily for visibility and membership growth, one for fund-raising, and one for purely educational purposes (small school, scout group, home-schoolers, etc.). In the fund-raising category (as we did for Corona Ranch Resort with the help of PAS), our next opportunity is now in the works. I received an email from one Veronica Graves, a manager at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort on north 7th Street in Phoenix. She'd like to plan something for the summer, involving a small group of guests (25-30) requiring 3-4 scopes. DFAC will make the usual $100/scope. This event won't be nearly the magnitude of what we did at Corona Ranch, but it still feeds our treasury. Roger will be scouting the venue ahead of time, so we won't be surprised again by glaring lights and trees that block our view of the sky. More details to come.

Item 3: At the request of Terri Finch, PAS Events Coordinator, I've added a non-DFAC event to our calendar above. After badgering him for several years, they finally got William K. Hartmann (who needs no introduction but check out the link if you do) to agree to a presentation. This high-profile speaker is not easy to book. I know. I tried. PAS would like a good turnout for this event, and I'll be attending. If anyone else from our club is interested, I'll have room for 3 car-poolers. Might even do a stop at Magnum's Fine Cigars & Spirits on the way back. Note that March 1st is a Thursday.

Item 4: [repeat from last month] Speaking of which, you might have noticed we added an event to our calendar for Saturday, March 17th. This will be a joint observing session with PAS (who typically fields 5-6 scopes). They'll be car-pooling where possible, as parking space at Heimhenge is limited to about 10 vehicles. DFAC doesn't do nearly as much group observing as the other clubs, but we try to do at least one each year, even if it doesn't always come together. So this is your opportunity for some good observing conditions (still over 20 on my SQM) and observational camaraderie. Please RSVP and consider carpooling with another member if possible. If you need a map, let me know.

Item 5: [repeat from last month] And speaking of group observing, the final public outreach session on this season's calendar is a school event in Black Canyon City at Canyon Elementary School. This is a somewhat disadvantaged group of kids, and not the richest school district. The teacher, Trinka Hall, approached SAC for volunteers, and SAC contacted me for additional help. Trinka says to expect 75-80 people (including the parents), so it would be good to have 5-6 scopes up there.

The problem is that April 25th is a Wednesday night, and I know that weekday events can be problematic for many of you. The good new is, since this is a "school night," it'll be a relatively short session. Setup will be 6:30-7:00 pm, sunset 7:00 pm, observing 7:00-8:00 or 8:30 pm (or whenever the kids get tired or too cold). I'll be there, since it's a 15 minute drive from New River, but if we could get two more volunteers with scopes, that would really help. I'll need to clear this with our Treasurer, but I think DFAC should buy any volunteers a burger and drink at the Roadrunner afterward (time permitting).

These will be younger kids, not likely to appreciate most deep-sky targets. But here's what will be up that night: Waxing Crescent Moon, Pleiades, Orion Nebula, Venus, Mars, Saturn (low in east). I'll put out an "official" call for volunteers in March, since the event is still 5 months off, but if you think you might be able to help out, put it on your calendar and let me know. It's an easy-to-reach venue, just off I-17 at Exit 242. I also have a map that will help you find the school. Thanks!

And 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:
[As 2012, the "Year of the Apocalypse," is upon us, and fear-mongers pervade the popular media, here's something a bit more tangible to ponder. Spooky shades of the Terminator movie series.]

"Setting loose on the battlefield weapons that are able to learn may be one of the biggest mistakes mankind has ever made. It could also be one of the last."

Richard Forsyth, "Machine Learning for Expert Systems"

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Space Debris: Another Unabashed Plug for my Sky Lights Blog
As most of you know, Sky Lights started in print as a weekly column for the (now extinct) Desert Advocate newspaper. When they went under, Sky Lights languished for a couple years while trying to find a new home. It's a bad time for the newspaper business, what with the profusion of electronic media. Nobody was interested in hiring a new columnist and sacrificing ad space. Sky Lights did enjoy a brief run in the online version of the Foothills Focus, but I found their webmaster almost impossible to work with ... he wanted the column in *.doc format, and didn't want to do the extra coding required to display special symbols, Greek character sets, or mathematical formulae (all of which are essential in my column).

So in August of 2011 Sky Lights went live as an online WordPress blog at: gave me total flexibility with content, and allowed the use a full color images (try talking about Sun Dogs using a grayscale image ... I did, back in the print era, and it sucked). Further, it also allows the use of animations. I recently discovered a WordPress plug-in that enables me to embed SWF (Flash) videos for my main graphic. If you haven't already, check out this posting:

That animation is 700x500 pixels, color, 15 frames/second, and the file size is 1.0 MB. Flash is a vector-graphics video, so it scales nicely, keeps the file size relatively small, and allows the page to load in a reasonable amount of time (less than 5 seconds with broadband). Plus, animations open up a whole new territory for Sky Lights content. Some things are difficult to explain using still images.

I also recently added an easy "Subscribe to Sky Lights" process. If you'd like to receive an automatic email every Monday (when each new column is posted), just Subscribe. The email includes a quick like to the new column, as well as its title. Sky Lights is fun to write, provides me with another "soap box" to preach against light pollution, teaches people about our hobby, and has no ads or popups. It's purely an educational endeavor. So what are you waiting for?

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