Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #61: February 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: Big Bang Cosmology, Quantum Cosmology, and the Philosophical Idea of Creation
  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 02   6:00-8:30 pm   Astronomy Night at Archway Classical Academy
Setup starts at 6 pm (sunset at 6:30 pm)
Targets: Gibbous Moon, Jupiter, Venus, and a few good deep-sky objects
Fully staffed!
  Archway Classical Academy
7496 E. Tierra Buena Ln., Scottsdale, AZ.
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, Mars, Saturn, 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: Scott Rohrer
Topic: Using SkySafari3 on the iPad
  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, February 15th, 2012
Our next meeting will feature Fr. William Stoeger, S.J., of the Vatican Observatory. His topic will be: Big Bang Cosmology, Quantum Cosmology, and the Philosophical Idea of Creation. Should be a fascinating look into some of the biggest questions in astronomy research.

Thanks to DFAC VP Jim Renn for setting this up, and to Jim & Jean for covering our honorarium for this out-of-town speaker.

Doors open at 6 pm, the meeting will run from 6:30-8:30 pm. Get there early for a good seat. This lecture had been publicized to other clubs, and we could have a crowd. Hope to see you all there!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, January 18th, 2012
Our last "meeting" was actually an Astronomy Night at NVRL. We owed them a favor, and it saved me the trouble of finding a speaker for that date. Thanks to members Roger Serrato, Ron Walker, Bob Doerzbacher, and Raul Espinoza for volunteering to bring their scopes. Thanks also to the other members and spouses who showed up to provide support. Dan Heim brought 10x80 astro binocs for the Pleiades, as well as our illuminated donations box and DFAC sign. We pulled in $3 (I need a brighter light in our donation box). Some 30+ people showed up, mostly parents with kids in tow. It was a good turnout, as NVRL handled most of the publicity.

This first photo was by Scott Rohrer via his iPad. It's the poster NVRL set up in their lobby to direct our guests to the telescopes. Scott and his wife Dianne stayed in the lobby most of the night to help the guests navigate. You can't find the stars if you can't find the scopes. Their assistance was much appreciated.

Turned out the ambient lighting (which could not be controlled) was a bit brighter than expected. Fortunately, there were enough bright objects to keep our guests interested. Those included: Pleiades, Jupiter, Venus, Orion Nebula, and the usual Betelgeuse/Rigel star color comparison.

We were unable to locate Andromeda and the Double Cluster. Not like we didn't know where to look ... there was just too much light. And the only scope with setting circles was Roger's CAT, which had been dedicated to Jupiter for the evening. The Great Red Spot was clearly visible.

Here's another difficulty we encountered. Two of our target objects (Pleiades and Jupiter) were very near the zenith. That makes for extended (wobbly) tripods, and stiff necks.

And that's where the battery on my camera ran out, so I was unable to get a shot of Roger's setup. He attracted a good crowd all night with his excellent view of Jupiter. Glynn Dunbar, NVRL Education Coordinator, was extremely pleased with the event, and said he'd like to have us back this Fall. I asked him to explore the possibility of setting up in the northeast corner of the parking lot, barricading it, and getting a few of the nearby parking lot lights turned off. He is looking into that.

We adjourned to NNY afterward for the usual food and libations. Or so we thought ... turns out the ownership has changed hands, and it's no longer a Native New Yorker franchise. It's a non-franchised sports bar and grill called Rookies, not unlike Legends (but they don't do poker on Wednesday nights). Service was excellent, food was pretty good, but they're still new and taking written comments from their patrons. I informed them the fries were a bit soggy, and they needed to cook them longer. We'll definitely give them another try after next month's meeting.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: We just filled in our last (April) speaker for this season. DFAC member Scott Rohrer will be demonstrating what you can do with astronomy software on a tablet PC. Specifically, he'll be demonstrating SkySafari3 on his iPad 2, patched through our usual LCD projection system. I've seen it run, and it's pretty impressive. Truth be told, any laptop with GPS and an internal accelerometer could run an app like this, but when you see what SkySafari3 can do, you might want to look into this technology. There's many other astronomy apps for tablets, even some for controlling "go-to" telescopes. If you're a "techy" (and I know many of you are) you won't want to miss this presentation.

Item 2: [repeat from last month] 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 3: [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 4: [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:
[Actually, an entertaining series of quotes that are best presented together.]

Clarke's First Law: "When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong."

Clarke's Second Law: "But the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible."

Clarke's Third Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)

"Perhaps the adjective 'elderly' requires definition. In physics, mathematics, and astronautics it means over thirty; in the other disciplines, senile decay is sometimes postponed to the forties. There are, of course, glorious exceptions; but as every researcher just out of college knows, scientists of over fifty are good for nothing but board meetings, and should at all costs be kept out of the laboratory!"

— Clarke's later note on his First Law

"When, however, the lay public rallies round an idea that is denounced by distinguished but elderly scientists and supports that idea with great fervor and emotion, the distinguished but elderly scientists are then, after all, probably right."

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) in response to Clarke's First Law

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Space Debris: Kst Graphing Software (free)
Many of us have a need for graphing software, but the good commercial apps are very expensive. There is now an extremely capable open-source solution. It's called "Kst," currently at version 2.2, and freely downloadable at:

Kst was brought to my attention by member Scott Loucks. He has downloaded and used it. Here's what he said in an email:

Ok, I had a little time last night to go through my cut list and singled out one of the graphing programs. Check out Kst if you get the chance. I was able to import a raw unaltered MetaGuide full report log and it plotted every column in the report without me having to interact at all. It placed about 10 tiled graphs on my screen which enabled me to immediately locate correlations between the various data displayed. Needless to say I was highly impressed. For fun I was able to import a Fit image file and placed it on one of the graphs. It will do matrix plots so stellar 3d graphing is possible. I can’t say enough. Oh, be sure to utilize the Kst plot wizard. Also, I could not find any help manuals on the Kst website but I did come across one at a different site; I don’t have the link but it was easy to find Google-ing. There was also a plot wizard tutorial which I will go through tonight. -Scott

The website for the manual Scott mentioned is here: This is an online HTML manual, and looks fairly complete. If you want to download a (presumably equivalent) manual in PDF form, you can get it here: Note that this is 5.5 MB, and 332 pages. It's extremely well done, and as a PDF, it's searchable. If you'd like, I can email you a copy. Just ask.

And I haven't downloaded Kst myself yet, but intend to do so soon. I'll write my own review at that time. —Dan Heim

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