Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #63: April 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: Origin of the Moon
  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)
  Cancelled due to weather.
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: Astronomy Apps on the iOS
  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
This event is now fully staffed.
  Canyon Elementary School
34630 S. School Loop Road
Black Canyon City, AZ 85324
Map available
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, April 18th, 2012
Our April speaker will be DFAC member Scott Rohrer. He'll have his iPad connected to a digital projector for convenient group viewing, and demonstrate some of the cool astronomy apps that run on the iOS (Apple operating system). Similar apps are available for other tablets running a different OS. Perhaps the most amazing feature of these apps is their ability to use built-in GPS and inertial sensors to know which part of the sky you're pointing them at. The apps take that info, and show you onscreen what you're seeing in the sky. Below is the image Scott provided for our publicity poster.

Doors open at 6 pm, the meeting will run from 6:30-8:30 pm. Arrive early for a good seat. Hope to see you all there!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
Our last meeting featured local amateur Tom Polakis (though it seems almost unfair to call him an "amateur"). Tom had recently returned from an adventure far south of the border. He and Jennifer visited the high Atacama Desert in Chile, toured some observatories, and got some great shots of the southern sky. All photos by Roger Serrato, DFAC Treasurer.

Dan opened the meeting with the Galactic Gavel (now on the shelf), as usual. We had a little club business to take care of while our speaker patiently awaited his introduction.

That's Tom in the background, as well as a few of our assembled members. Our disassembled members couldn't make it, apparently.

Tom's presentation was as much about climate as hardware. This was his first slide, and he went into considerable geographic and meteorological detail to explain why the Atacama Desert is the best place on the planet to do astronomy. Actually, the sky is occasional cloudy ... but very occasionally. The best sites average around 350 cloudless nights each year.

Here's a slide from early in his presentation that shows Chile and its distinct geographic regions, many of which are excellent for astronomy. He used this as an overlay on many of his other slides to help us locate astronomical sites and put the geography into better perspective.

Of course, in addition to weather, there's the factor of light pollution. It does exist in Chile, but as you can see from this slide, it's way better than around Phoenix.

On this slide, just to provide a sense of scale, he compares his own 18" scope with the Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) funded by the ESA.

He also talked about some astronomy projects still "in the works," like the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA). The best radio astronomy can be done from high altitudes with little water vapor in the air above.

There's some great opportunities for amateur observing as well. Here's one place he visited that was set up just for amateurs, students, and travelers who didn't bring their own scopes. It's really well done, with permanently mounted scopes and easy concrete walkways between them. You can rent one of these scopes for the evening.

There's so many more great slides I'd like to include, but I'm already over average. So I stuck with the main highlights. If you want to see more than what I can include in these reviews, you're just gonna have to come to the meetings. Turnout was a little low that night, with only 10 members in attendance, but it allowed for more Q&A. Tom was happy to answer all our questions, including the obvious "What did this trip cost you?!" Thanks to Tom for a most educational and entertaining presentation. This was his third time as a speaker for DFAC.

We adjourned at 8:30 pm to Rookies Neighborhood Sports Bar & Grill (RNSB&G). Service was excellent, food keeps getting better. This is now our default post-meeting hangout. Hope to see you there after our April meeting.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: In keeping with our club mission, I can't help but get involved when I hear bad advice about night lights. Here's my editorial response (which ran in the Foothills Focus two weeks ago) to what a Phoenix Police Department representative told a group of Anthem residents: Leave your outside lights on at night, and it will deter crime in your neighborhood. I beg to differ ...

Item 2: Speaking of light pollution, by now most of you know that HB 2757 was vetoed by Governor Brewer. Bravo! Score one political victory for astronomy. I want to personally thank all our members who participated in the letter/email writing campaign against that bill, as it was fast-tracking through the state legislature. What remains to be seen is: what kind of compromise will be reached with the electronic billboard lobby, whether the original court ruling based on the Arizona Beautiful Highways Act of 1970 will force existing electronic billboards to be shut down (or remain in "steady state" without rotating ads), or whether it will only apply to new electronic billboards, and whether the requested 75 mile exclusion zone around professional observatories will materialize. Read more in this post from my Sky Lights blog.

Item 3: Our 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 parents), so it will be good to have some extra scopes up there. 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 the east). It's an easy-to-reach venue, just off I-17 at Exit 242. Here's the map to help you find the school. This event is now fully staffed. Thanks to DFAC members Scott Loucks and Mark Bosley for volunteering to assist me at this weekday event.

Item 4: [repeat from last month] Several members have emailed me regarding plans for the May 20th annular eclipse. I know some will be traveling to the Monument Valley area, others to Lake Powell or Bryce Canyon. May 20th is a Sunday, so that makes logistics easier. There are no official club plans for this event. If I go, it'll be to Albuquerque, which is right on the center-line. Plus, that's where my bro lives, so I would combine that with a visit to family. If you haven't seen a map of the eclipse path, check it out here: Zoom and pan as needed.

Item 5: Jim Renn will be stepping down from his position as DFAC VP due to other obligations. He will continue his membership. The primary responsibilities of this position are filling in for your President when he can't make it to the meeting (a rare occurrence), and scheduling our guest speakers for the DFAC Lecture Series. Given that I usually kick off the season with my "Light Pollution Update" presentation, Roger Serrato does his traditional November "Astronomy 101" presentation, and May is our Business Meeting, this involves finding 5 speakers each season (4 if the NVRL Astronomy Night becomes a tradition, which it well might).

I have a list of potential speakers, with contact info, that serves as a starting point. Of course, DFAC members can always suggest other speakers to add to that list. If you want to run for this position, see the "job description" as outlined in our Constitution below. Please let me know of your interest as soon as possible. We will vote on Jim's replacement at our Business Meeting this May 16th.

Constitution.doc (36 k.)
Constitution.pdf (74k)

And don't forget ... you'll receive (at no cost) unlimited glossy club business cards. Imagine your name on the card below! To my knowledge, all the other DFAC Officers will remain in their positions. I had been considering turning over the Presidency to some new blood, but decided changing both top Officer positions would be too much change in one year. Of course, any member is always free to run against me.

Item 6: Speaking of which, and our current VP might correct me, for what I believe is the first time in DFAC history I'll be unable to attend our next meeting. As some of you know, we have a new dog here at Heimhenge and she's not quite ready to be left alone. She's improved much since we adopted her in late January, but still likes to chew things. My wife Sandi will be visiting her sister in Minnesota in April, so I'm stuck here. Either that or I'd have to pay a dog sitter $30/hour. So Jim Renn will be handling that meeting, and Roger Serrato will be bringing the necessary hardware for our speaker. I'll probably run down to Jim's house a day or two before the meeting, just to deliver the Galactic Gavel ... I'd hate to see that tradition broken. I will see you all at our May Business Meeting.

Thanks for reading Quid Novi. If you have any feedback, you know where to reach me. Until next we meet, clear (and dark) skies!

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Quote of the Month:
[After last month's prayer by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Jesuit, French philosopher, paleontologist. geologist, and influential thinker (provided by Fr. William Stoeger, S.J.), this quote seemed appropriate.]

"I have no doubt that Christians can support the exploration and use of space. The so-called "science commission" in Genesis 1:28 certainly seems to apply to any part of the material creation which God places within man's reach."

— Rev. Paul A. Bartz, Bible-Science Newsletter, October 1990

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Space Debris: The Blue Marble
The link below will take you to an amazing website ... the equivalent of Google Earth, but at night. Take a look at the light pollution levels in most of the world, then compare and contrast with Chile. You'll clearly see why, as speaker Tom Polakis pointed out, most of the really big new telescopes are being built there.

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