Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #65: June 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 2012-2013:
Date   Time   Event   Location
May 23   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
Jun 23   3 pm-?   June DFAC Summer Social at Heimhenge
Asteroids Snooker (official rules available
here), possible big-screen video feature
Food and drink on the house
Please RSVP by June 15
New River, AZ
Map available upon request
Jul 21   noon -?   July DFAC Summer Social at Walker Ranch
Double-feature (TBD) in the Walker Cineplex
Food and drink on the house
Please RSVP by July 14
  Walker Ranch
Cave Creek, AZ
Map available upon request
Aug 18   TBD   August DFAC Summer Social at Smith Ranch
BBQ food and drink on the house
Start time and observing options dependent on weather
Please RSVP by July 30
  Smith Ranch
New River, AZ
Map available upon request

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Next Meeting: Unknown
See State of DFAC below ...

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Our last meeting was our annual Business Meeting. No photos needed. Here's the agenda, and discussion thereof. We had 7 members in attendance. According to our Constitution, any number of members present comprises a quorum for voting on matters of club business. There were no proxy votes requested of any club officers. The first item (which was not on the official agenda) was brought to our attention by Treasurer Roger Serrato. A summary of that discussion follows as "agenda item zero."

0. Treasurer's costs

Roger Serrato reported he was down to 4 checks for our club account, and needed more. Those checks and deposit slips were ordered May 24, at a cost of $35.65 to our treasury balance. He also reported his costs of $70/year to maintain a secure post office box for club business. He was directed to immediately reimburse himself $100 (which hardly covers his total cost over the 6 years since DFAC was founded), and look into acquiring a cheaper non-USPS alternative. Roger was appreciative of the reimbursement, and graciously offered that no further reimbursements were necessary, as this is just something "he wants to do for DFAC." We thank him for his generous contribution to the club, and his continuing service as Treasurer.

1. DIY planispheres printing from DFAC treasury?

Dan Heim found a DIY planisphere online, and suggested we have some printed off on glossy cardboard stock. They would be "handouts" for guests at our meetings or other events. The template is clearly labeled "© 2000 by Regents of University of California," but it's freely available for download as a PDF at many online sites. See it here. Raul Espinoza expressed concern about that, and suggested we look for a non-© equivalent. An online search found nothing available. Dan argued that our proposed use would fall under the educational provisions of the Fair Use clause of the DMCA. Any further action on this is pending a price quote from a printer. Until then, this matter has been tabled.

2. Dues increase from $30 to $35 for USPS newsletter?

We have only one member who requires Quid Novi to be printed and mailed. In a typical season, 10 newsletters are printed and mailed. Dan noted that the actual additional cost has been more than the $5 difference in our current dues structure, and suggested we increase the USPS dues from $30 to $35. All present were OK with this increase. The member who receives that printed newsletter was not present, but would have been outvoted anyway. However, given we are currently in a dues collection cycle, we decided to hold off on that change till next season.

3. Honorary membership for Jim Conley? (would require amendment)

When we reached this point in the agenda, Jim Conley, who was in attendance, declined the offer. Our motivation had been the fact that, even though Jim continues to support DFAC with his membership, and maintains the club's "loaner" telescope, he wasn't really getting his money's worth. Health issues have prevented him from attending many meetings or other events. Jim said those health issues are improving, and he expects to participate more in the future. So he thanked us for considering it, but declined.

4. Membership drive in a bad economy (outreach beyond public events?)

DFAC currently promotes its events online, in local media, and via posters at NVRL and New River Mailbox. Still, our membership has hovered right around the "critical mass" of 20 for 3 years now. At our current dues rate, this is just sufficient to cover our costs (room rental, liability insurance, IDA an AL membership, printing and mailing). Dan asked for suggestions about what we might do differently to further increase membership. Jim Walborn suggested a presentation and observing event for the Carefree Kiwanis, many of whom are retired scientists and engineers, and who might join DFAC as a result of the exposure. Jay Chatzkel suggested that, for paid public events, we raise our per-scope fee $100 to $125. Dan suggested that, rather than using NVRL for an outreach event, we pursue the larger potential of an Astronomy Night at Pioneer Village (the Directors of which have already expressed interest). Of course, all this is highly dependent on agenda item 7, which is discussed at length in State of DFAC below.

5. RSVPs for June 23 Social? Other Socials?

See DFAC Events above for info about our June and July Socials. Please do our hosts the courtesy of responding with your RSVP in a timely manner. August is still open, should any member decide to host an event. If so, please contact Dan Heim. Jim & Jean Renn will host a Holiday Social in December, date and details TBA.

6. Thursday, October 18 Astronomy Night at NVRL (=> 4 external speakers/season)

We have already committed to an Astronomy Night at NVRL on Thursday, October 18. Despite the fact that we lost our meeting room to BCHS (who owns the NVRL facility) and needed another classroom. This could well be our final event at NVRL. Further discussion on this topic is in State of DFAC below.

7. New format for DFAC w/o a monthly formal Lecture Series?

See State of DFAC below.

8. Election of Officers (VOTE)

All returning club officers were voted in unanimously, except for Jim Renn who chose not to run for VP due to other obligations. This will be our first season without a VP. All in attendance agreed DFAC could weather that. Read more discussion of the implications of having no VP in State of DFAC below.

9. Treasurer’s Report

Roger presented his Treasurer's Report for 2011-2012. A copy is available here.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1 and only: Many of the agenda items at our Business Meeting were impacted by two major changes ...

1. One day before our Business Meeting I received a call from NVRL informing me that BCHS had taken over the meeting room at NVRL as an additional classroom.
2. Jim Renn had to retire from the VP position due to other obligations. That means DFAC has no person charged with booking speakers for our Lecture Series.

Technically, in accordance with our Constitution, the duties of vacant officer positions revert to the President, who can perform or delegate those duties. Unfortunately, I already act in the following capacities, which I've arranged in order of priority (imho) for success of the club.:

1. point of contact for the IDA and AL, as well as for most outside communications with other astronomy clubs
2. event coordinator
3. Editor of the newsletter
4. Webmaster
5. Lecture Series speaker booking (which I've assumed for some years due to time limitations for our VP)
6. multimedia coordinator for our Lecture Series

I should point out that Ron Walker, who has excellent computer skills, has on several occasions offered to take over the position of Webmaster. Truth be told, that position is so intricately linked to the Editor position (given our newsletter is electronic) that I haven't been able to figure out just how to separate them. But it is my responsibility to do so, should I want to take advantage of Ron's kind offer. I'll be taking a closer look at just how that might be done this Summer. One possibility I'm considering involves migrating our entire website into a WordPress blog template. That's how Sky Lights is done. And WordPress makes electronic collaboration extremely easy. Quid Novi would simply become a monthly blog posting. Of course, that migration would require several days of work.

In any case, I no longer have the time to perform all those functions, the first four of which consume about 1-2 hours each day (averaged over a month). I therefore proposed, at our Business meeting, that DFAC suspend its Lecture Series for next season. That decision was further prompted by the loss of our meeting room and VP. DFAC would, instead, focus more on actual observing sessions at members' homes, field trips, and public outreach. We'd still do our social events, either at members' home or places like Rookie's. But I expressed concern about whether this would lose members, or attract members, noting DFAC hasn't done that much actual observing and should be doing more. Likewise for field trips.

Between now and the June 23 Social at Heimhenge, we'll be exploring some alternate meeting locations. We already have Fr. Chris Corbally S.J., from the Vatican Observatory, booked for our Jan 16, 2013 meeting, and might have to cancel that depending on how this all plays out. Once our guests have arrived at Heimhenge, and before the Social actually gets underway, we'll report on what we've found.

I also noted that any club is the sum of its members' interests, and necessarily evolves over time as members join, leave, or change. With over two months notice, no member expressed interest in running for the now-vacant VP position. As President, I can interpret this in either of two ways ... members are not that concerned about whether or not we continue our Lecture Series, or they are concerned, but don't have the time or motivation to take the VP position, given its speaker-booking responsibilities. If this change in DFAC's activities loses members, then the latter is the case. On the other hand, increased outreach and member observing sessions might attract new members. But we'd need to use those outreach events to invite potential members to our "private" observing sessions.

Personally, I look forward to not having the task of booking speakers, and to doing more observing with my fellow stargazers. And I do enjoy the outreach events. It's the teacher in me. Also, on the more pragmatic side, saving $70/year on room rental fees drops our "critical mass" by 2-3 members (not that I want to lose 2-3 members). But we have other expenses. Liability insurance is mandatory, given our public events. So is membership in the Astronomical League, which is how we get that great group rate for our insurance. Membership in the IDA is, de facto, mandatory. Fighting light pollution is in our club Mission, and the IDA needs as much support as they can get. Membership only costs us $35/year. Our online presence is also, de facto, mandatory. One can hardly imagine any club succeeding without it. And by purchasing a 3-year block of hosting from GoDaddy, that only costs us about $40/year.

All in attendance at the Business Meeting were OK with dropping our Lecture Series for the interim, returning to it if/when we can, and focusing on observational and social events, including "member presentations" at member homes. We still have access to a digital projector (mine or Roger's), but would need either a projection screen or light-colored wall available. In terms of observing, Heimhenge still hits 20.0 on my SQM on moonless nights, and we have plenty of space to set up scopes. Plus, several of our members have their own observatories, and have been talking about hosting an event. That includes Scott Loucks, Jim Conley, and Raul Espinoza. Ron Walker is still working on his observatory ... expected date of first light TBA.

In closing this somewhat unprecedented State of DFAC, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't concerned how this change will affect our club. Many of our members have been with DFAC since Day 1, when we met informally here at Heimhenge to talk about what we wanted our club to be. We have evolved much since then, but those core members have provided the continuity we needed to persist for 6 years. We also have some new members with considerable skills and commitment, and that's the lifeblood of any successful club. I've no doubt DFAC will be around for a long time, given the expected growth here in the North Valley. How DFAC will further evolve is a bit murkier to divine. What form DFAC will take, and how many members it will have a year from now, I don't pretend to guess. But I'm sure it'll be an interesting ride.

If you have any feedback, you know where to find me. Until next we meet, clear (and dark) skies!

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Quote of the Month:
[Given the likely shift of our club activities from a Lecture Series to more actual observing, this quote seemed appropriate.]

“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be. Our feeblest contemplations of the Cosmos stir us — there is a tingling in the spine, a catch in the voice, a faint sensation, as if a distant memory, or falling from a height. We know we are approaching the greatest of mysteries.”

— Carl Sagan, first paragraph of Cosmos

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Space Debris: ?
Sometimes space is just empty.

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