Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #67: January 21st, 2013
          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 on 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 on request
Aug 18   3:00-???   August DFAC Summer Social at Smith Ranch
BBQ food and drink on the house
Please RSVP by July 30 to
El Presidente, and it will be forwarded to Diann
  Smith Ranch
New River, AZ
Map available on request
Dec 1   4:00-9:00 pm   Holiday Social
Food and drink provided by our hosts
  Jim & Jean Renn's Hacienda
Anthem, AZ
Map available on request
Dec 8   6:00-??? pm   DFAC private observing session at Heimhenge
Setup 5 - 6 pm, BYO drinks and snacks, restroom and electricity available
New River, AZ
Map available on request
Jan 17   6:30-8:30 pm   Special Lecture: Fr. Chris Corbally S.J., of the Vatican Observatory, on the topic of: Astronomy in China, Ancient to Present
Doors open at 6 pm. Arrive early to get a good seat.
  St. Rose Church
2825 W. Rose Canyon Circle
Anthem, AZ 85086
Map available
May 25   6:00-??? pm   DFAC Business Meeting at Heimhenge
And who knows ... we might even get in a game of
Asteroids Snooker.
New River, AZ
Map available on request

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

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Last Meeting: Thursday, January 17, 2013
This was a special DFAC event held at St. Rose Church in Anthem. Fr. Chris Corbally, SJ, of the Vatican Observatory, spoke to us about Astronomy in China. [All photos by Dan Heim.]

Fr. Corbally explained that, although he was originally going to speak to us about "stellar evolution" (one of his research interests), his recent IAU conference in Beijing had motivated him to prepare a new presentation that focused on astronomy in China. I do believe we were privileged to be the first group to experience this presentation.

Slide 1 summarizes his presentation nicely. Fr. Corbally spoke about ancient, medieval, and modern Chinese astronomy.

Slide 2 shows the Vatican contingent in Beijing in front of the conference center. Also a nice touch is the deep-sky background image from the constellation Draco (it was The Year of the Dragon in China). Fr. Corbally is at right, and many of you will recognize Br. Guy Consolmagno second from left.

This photo shows some ancient (but recognizable) Chinese astronomy instruments. Astronomy began in China in the 4th century BC, and flourished during the Han Dynasty. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the influence of Jesuit missionaries revitalized the science. The Jesuits also introduced them to the then-newly-invented telescope.

This slide is a composite of some of the major astronomical observatories now operating in China. Most are located in the southeast provinces, which enjoy the darkest skies. Unfortunately, the proliferation of coal-burning power plants is creating some pollution problems and impacting visual observations.

Fr. Corbally entertained questions from the audience after his talk. People were especially interested in his comments about how China's new president (Hu Jintao) is a scientist himself, has opened lines of communication that didn't previously exist, and welcomes collaboration with western scientists. China is doing some serious astronomy, and has plans for a space station. They are also planning manned missions to the Moon and Mars.

These photos show the St. Rose facility (we were actually meeting in the church). It's a beautiful building, with all the audio-visual amenities you'd expect in a dedicated conference center. It also shows the fellow stargazers (and a few interested historians) attending. There were about 10 DFAC members present, a few from other astronomy clubs, and many St. Rose parishioners. Total attendance was a little over 50.

We'd like to thank Fr. Corbally for his fascinating presentation, Jim Renn for organizing and coordinating this special event, and Trish Boone, St. Rose Office Manager, for making this special event possible. As you'll read in State of DFAC below, we'll probably collaborate with St. Rose again in the future. For special events and/or large groups this is an ideal venue.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
Item 1: Publication of Quid Novi continues on an "as needed" basis. This is the first issue since July 2012. As explained earlier, email is more efficient for many communications. And if members diligently check the Events page on our website, they'll be apprised of upcoming activities. Note there is an update tag in yellow near the top, so you can tell just how current it is.

Item 2: As a review, here's a summary of the results of our search for a new formal meeting venue. The following venues were investigated. They are in no particular order:

  • Anthem Aerospace Academy: I finally made contact with the new principal, Deb Roets (who replaced the now-retired Pat Yenny). They are definitely interested in an ongoing collaboration with DFAC, including evening observing sessions, daytime solar observing, in-class presentations, and acting as a host for our meetings. They have classrooms that would seat 25, and a media room and multi-purpose room that could accommodate larger numbers. The former is $10/hour, the latter two are $15/hour. All rooms have projection screens and built-in projectors. If custodial assistance (special setup or post-meeting clean-up) is required, there would be additional fees. Given our usual meetings run 3 hours, allowing for pre- and post-meeting activities, our cost here would likely be $30/meeting.
    Discussion about PTA support for room rentals has stalled, with no response to my last two emails. Price is high either way.
  • St. Rose Parish in Anthem: They have meeting rooms with projection screens and projectors, and are hoping to add more to meet demand. Classroom capacity is 25-30. The rental fee is only $10/evening (same as what we were paying at NVRL). Unfortunately, due to demand for those rooms, we couldn't lock-in the same day every month unless we went with the 4th Friday, any Saturday morning, or any Sunday evening. You can see the scheduling difficulties inherent in this choice, and I doubt many members would want weekend meetings. The church itself can be used for larger group meetings, as we did for the Jan 17 presentation by Fr. Corbally. That room seats 500.
    We will use this facility again, at least for the short term. If the meeting is open to the public, and our speaker attracts parishioners, we can get the large room at no cost.
  • Desert View Bible Church: This is located at Central and Carefree HWY, so it would be more centrally located for many of our members. They have both a regular size classroom, and a larger room that could accommodate up to 100. Both rooms have projectors and screens. The rental fee is $50/meeting. That's a bit high, and would likely require an increase in dues. Still, it could work for the occasional "special meeting" when a prestigious speaker attracts people from other clubs and the general public.
    This option is in addition to St. Rose, and could be used to accommodate scheduling conflicts.
  • Ben Avery Shooting Range: Small meeting room seats 20-25 adults, the large room up to 150. Both have projectors and screens. $50/night for the small room, $75 for the large.
    Too pricey, except as a last resort for some special event.
  • Anthem Outlet Mall: I'll fill you in, since I checked it out, but this one is totally out of the question. $50/hour, two hour minimum, no screen or projector, seating is on benches.
    Too pricey, and lacks ammenties.
  • New Anthem Community Association Building: I put this late addition last, not because it would be undesirable, but because there are too many unknowns. As many of you know, this building was recently purchased to add office space for the ACA and Sheriff's substation. Plans for the future include meeting rooms for civic groups. My most recent conversation with Meghann Hill, Executive Assistant of the Anthem Community Association, confirmed that they will indeed be adding meeting rooms. Screens will be installed. Projectors will be available for rental if needed. Rental fees are yet to be determined. And those rooms are not scheduled to become available until "early 2014."
    This is still a "wait and see" scenario. I will continue to be in contact with Ms. Hill, since the sooner we schedule, the more likely we are to get our preferred meeting date (currently the 2nd or 3rd Wednesday of the month). The uncertainty about rental fees makes this even more a "wait and see." So we will have to wait and see.

Item 3: No input requested here. This is pretty much the way things have to be, based on the State of DFAC. Given Item 2, it seems that the best thing to do for the remainder of the 2012-2013 season, and at least the first half of the 2013-2014 season, is continue our formal Lecture Series hiatus. In the interim, alternative activities could include:

  • Private observing sessions at members' homes (we had one here at Heimhenge in December, and another that was scheduled but cancelled at Diann Smith's ranch)
  • Social events at members' homes (I'm always up for a game of Asteroids Snooker), or at a restaurant or sport bar
  • Cinema spectaculars at Walker Ranch (or cinema not-so-spectaculars at Heimhenge)
  • Special Lectures at (probably) St. Rose Church, with high-profile speakers as we can get them, but not on a monthly basis
  • Field trips to sites of astronomical interest

Item 4: On the topic of field trips, I’ll be getting back in touch with engineer Dan Mertely at the VLA to pursue an inside tour of that facility. This would be scheduled for the warmer months, and be a great escape from the desert heat. It would have to be an overnight excursion, and there's still a lot of details to be worked out. We'd probably do this as carpool trek. Other possibilities include the Mars 3D exhibit at Lowell Observatory, and an inside tour of the new Discovery Channel Telescope at Happy Jack. Other ideas for possible field trips are solicited.

Item 5: DFAC needs a Vice President. We are currently operating without a VP. But when/if we return to our regular Lecture Series schedule, we'll need someone to coordinate speakers for those meetings. All VP duties are described in our Constitution. Here's the relevant section:

Vice President: The Vice President shall assist the President in the performance of all duties, and assume responsibility for those duties should the President be unable to do so. The Vice President will maintain and a list of potential speakers for our Lecture Series, contact and schedule those speakers, ensure the necessary multimedia equipment is available for each speaker, and coordinate honoraria as needed with the Treasurer.

If you think you can serve DFAC in this capacity, please let me know prior to our May Business Meeting.

Item 6: Our current Treasurer, Roger Serrato, has moved to Flagstaff and will relinquish his office in May of this year. We need a Treasurer to handle our finances. It's not as complicated as you might think. Roger has prepared this document describing what the position entails. If you think you can serve DFAC in this capacity, please let me know prior to our May Business Meeting.

Item 7: Our annual Business Meeting will be held at Heimhenge, Saturday, May 25, 6:00 pm. Snacks and drinks will be provided. No room rental required. And Rookie's is too noisy for a serious meeting.

Item 8: INPUT DEFINITELY REQUESTED HERE: Our club lost several members and two officers this last season. Our current membership roster lists 17 members (we had 5 non-renewals this year). We are now below "critical mass" in terms of meeting our operational costs without raising dues, although our treasury is in fine shape with a balance of $954.51. I can continue as President, Editor, and Webmaster, but without sufficient membership, and a VP and Treasurer, I fear DFAC could be reduced to a loose coalition of stargazers. Not like a "loose coalition of stargazers" is a bad thing ... but if we want to continue as a force for astronomy education and enlightenment in the North Valley, we'll need to re-organize, evolve, and adjust to conditions. So here's what I need from you, fellow stargazers, in the form of specific feedback. Your thoughts on the following please:

  • Expanding on Item 3, what other activities would you like to see DFAC involved in? This includes specific field trips.
  • How would you feel about raising dues from the current $25 to $30?
  • Can you serve DFAC as VP or Treasurer?
  • Even with a regular venue, is a formal monthly Lecture Series worth our time, effort, and cost? Or should we maybe just shoot for 2-3 "special lectures" each year?
  • Should we continue to do any Astronomy Nights for schools and other groups? These are good to do for so many reasons, and they do bring in some nice donations, but the same DFAC members get tapped over and over for these events, and it must be starting to wear on them. I've been diligently attempting to limit DFAC to 3 of these events each year, but wonder if even that is too much? Note that general public outreach events are a separate question, and addressed in the following bullet.
  • Above and beyond the preceding five bullets, should we become DFAC Lite? How Lite? A loose coalition of stargazers? In my opinion, at minimum, we should maintain an internet presence and do a public outreach event once each year at some highly visible location (for publicity/recruiting). We could indefinitely suspend our formal Lecture Series, and enjoy whatever "special events" our collective membership can pull together. Quid Novi would remain on an as-needed basis, same as it has been since July 2012. Our treasury account would remain intact at Wells Fargo, since we do have fees for our online presence (though we're paid up on that till March of 2014). Of course, doing any public outreach events necessitates liability insurance, and hence Astronomical League membership. Guess it all depends on how "Lite" we want DFAC to become, but lower expenses = lower membership critical mass = no raise in dues. Something to think about anyway.

I look forward to your feedback by the end of January. Discussion will hopefully ensue. Decisions will be made in May. You know where to find me. Until next we meet, clear (and dark) skies!

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Quote of the Month:

“Astronomy is one of the sublimest fields of human investigation. The mind that grasps its facts and principles receives something of the enlargement and grandeur belonging to the science itself. It is a quickener of devotion.”

Horace Mann, Educator

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Space Debris: Two "Comets of the Century" on the Way in 2013?
They could be big ones. See these two articles (if you haven't already) for more details:

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