Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #68: June 1st, 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 2013-2014:
Date   Time   Event   Location
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
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
Jun 22   TBA   Day Trip to Lowell Observatory
Dan Heim who will be coordinating carpooling, with vehicles leaving from Heimhenge.
Roger will be organizing an "inside tour" with his new privileges as docent.
New River, AZ
Map available on request
Jun 29   6:00-??? pm   DFAC Summer Social at Heimhenge
Food and drink on the house.
Activities: astronomy talk, big screen movie,
Asteroids Snooker.
RSVP: to
Dan Heim by June 22 please.
New River, AZ
Map available on request
Jul 13   noon-??? pm   DFAC Summer Social at Walker Ranch
Food and drink on the house.
Activities: astronomy talk, tour of planetarium project, big screen movie (double feature to be determined by vote)
RSVP: to
Dan Heim by July 8 please.
  Walker Ranch
Cave Creek, AZ
Map available on request
Aug ???   TBA   DFAC Summer Social at Chatzkel Nature Preserve
Food and drink on the house.
Activities: TBA
RSVP: to
Jay Chatzkel by TBA please.
  Chatzkel Nature Preserve
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: Saturday, May 25, 2013
This was our annual Business Meeting, but it was followed by a Sunday "field trip" to the Harkins Norterra 14 to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, with dining afterward at a local bistro. There's a lot of photos here, but it was a fun and interesting weekend. Photos courtesy of Randy & Pam Shivak, and Dan & Sandi Heim.

Members arrived 6ish, and we soon ran out of chairs at the kitchen counter. Overflow went to the kitchen table, but hey ... that's where all the food was set out.

El Presidente Dan begins the meeting with his usual meteoric impact. Ron wanted to hear the story of the Galactic Gavel again, but I sprayed him with bottled water and told him to be quiet.

Here's a group photo of our newly elected DFAC officers. Jay Chatzkel (Treasurer), Dan Heim (El Presidente) and Diann Smith (Media Liaison). The new officers were elected unanimously, and were presented with a starter set of 10 of our nifty glossy business cards.

Roger Serrato, outgoing Treasurer, DFAC co-founder, and now Flagstaff resident, was presented with a token of appreciation for his 7 years of service. It was a book titled "The Sky Is Not The Limit" by Neil deGrasse Tyson, an autographed photo of same, and a really cool lenticular hologram astronomy bookmark. Thank you Roger for your many years of excellent service to DFAC.

After the formal meeting, we all pretty much did want we wanted to do. It started with an on-the-deck vieweing of a triple conjunction of Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus. Randy had his tablet along, with an app that shows the sky you point it at. That helped us spot Mercury, the dimmest of the trio, since there were a few clouds along the horizon.

If you'd like to see a shot of that triple conjunction, with Picacho Peak in silhouette, click here for an outstanding photo by local astrophotography expert Tom Polakis.

After that, the guys retired to the kitchen counter to talk astronomy. Fine beer stimulated the conversation.

The ladies decided to shoot a game of Asteroids Snooker. Here Pam and Diann cross cues after the break before their duel begins. Below, Diann points out an obscure rule to Pam. Diann, an avid gamer, knows the rules as well as I do, and I invented the game! Afterward, with Diann victorious be several points, you can see she and Pam are still amigos.

One of the things we discussed during out Business Meeting was potential future activities for DFAC, given our lack of a regular meeting place for the foreseeable future. I suggested that on Sunday, the day following our Business Meeting, we attend Star Trek: Into Darkness (3D) at the Harkins Norterra 14 on Happy Valley Road. Most all in attendance voiced their agreement, and we made it so.

Here's our group photo outside the theater. The movie, imho, was outstanding. Everyone enjoyed the show. And the popcorn (though expensive) was delicious.

Not sure why Raul loved that steel pole so much, but it was a great photo. Maybe it reminded him of his scope pillar at Star Veil Observatory, though his isn't quite that tall..

Dan and Sandi return from the concession stand with their goodies for the movie. Since it was his birthday weekend, Dan sprung for a "large" with the "extra butter flavor" option.

Also present were Bob & Peggy, and Jay & Barb (and many others). A good time was had by all.

After the movie, most of us walked to a local Italian bistro for food and libation. Below are some shots from tha patio tables where we parked our group. The food was excellent.

Here Pam provides a fitting closing to our weekend activities. Live long and prosper!

Attendance at the Business Meeting was 18. Attendance at the movie was 14. It was a great turnout for both, given it was a holiday weekend and some members were out of town. As you'll read in State of DFAC below, much was decided about the future of DFAC. Read on, fellow stargazer.

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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 January 2013. As explained in an earlier email update, email is just more efficient for shorter communications. And if members diligently check the Events page on our website, they'll be apprised of upcoming activities. Note there is an update time-stamp in yellow near the top, so you can tell how current that events list is.

Item 2: As it stands, our formal Lecture Series will continue on hold at least till early 2014, when the new Anthem Community Center opens with classroom available. I've been in contact with the several times, and there is still no set opening date, and no idea what it would cost to rent a classroom, but they assure me multimedia facilities will be available (projection screens, white boards, etc.). But we'd have to bring our own projector (as we've done in the past), because that item would cost us additional fees beyond the room rental.

If you want to see the meeting venues I've explored, check out State of DFAC in the previous issue of Quid Novi. At our May 25 Business Meeting, Peggy Biegler suggested another possible venue: The Crossroads Christian Fellowship Church at 42425 N. New River Rd, New River, AZ 85086. That's on 7th St./New River Road about 5 miles north of Carefree Highway. I have yet to check with the contact Peggy provided, but will do so if the Anthem Community Center doesn't pan out. The Anthem venue, just off I-17, is more easily accessible by speakers, so that's still our first choice.

Item 3: Given Item 2, it seems that the best thing to do for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season (at least the first half) is continue our Lecture Series hiatus. In the interim, alternative activities will include:

  • Private observing sessions at members' homes
  • Social events at members' homes (I'm always up for a game of Asteroids Snooker), or at a restaurant or sports 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, movies, or museums
  • Member-presentation meetings, with members scheduling for whatever block of time they need. Presentations would be on whatever topic the member chooses, and could include multimedia, hardware show&tell, observation of a celestial object they particularly like, or simply a talk about whatever interests them. These meetings could be held at Heimhenge, or wherever works best given the content. This suggestion was made by Randy & Pam Shivak, who believe it would be a nice interim replacement for our Lecture Series, and perhaps even after our Lecture Series resumes. I tend to agree, and will be sending out a "call for papers" sometime in the near future.

Item 4: On the topic of field trips, we have a date chosen for our inside tour of Lowell Observatory, courtesy of docent Roger Serrato. That date is June 22. It will likely be a day trip, carpooling from Heimhenge sometime in the afternoon. Watch our Events page for updates. If you're interested in making the trip let me know, and I'll coordinate the carpooling. FYI, DFAC contributed $100 to the Clark Refractor restoration project. If you go to this link, and scroll down to the "one month ago" section, you'll see recognition of our donation.

Item 5: New Officers: At our May 25 Business Meeting, Roger Serrato gave up his Treasurer position which was taken over by Jay Chatzkel. Jay relinquished his position as Media Liaison, which was taken over by Diann Smith. Dan Heim remains as President, Webmaster, and Editor. There were no takers for the position of Vice President, which remains vacant. The VP position is responsible for scheduling speakers for our Lecture Series (which is on hold as described above), as well as standing in for El Presidente if he/she [hey, the "she" will happen eventually] can't make it to a meeting. So DFAC can still operate just fine despite that "missing cylinder." But as 2014 approaches, expect some arm-twisting to fill that VP position. Here again is the VP job description from our DFAC Constitution:

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 want to see our agenda for that Business Meeting, click here.
If you want to see our current Treasurer's Report, click

Item 6: DFAC now has a Facebook page courtesy of Facebook guru Pam Shivak. We're still in the process of building it, but if you have a Facebook account, go to:

check it out, and "Like" us. Given our current lack of outreach events, Pam suggested this might be a good idea in terms of "visibility" for DFAC. Our Yahoo Newsgroup, moderated by Scott Loucks, is another such attempt at outreach. Since both Facebook and Yahoo cost us nothing, continuing this online presence only makes sense. I just re-activated my Facebook account and checked it out. Our page looks great!

Thanks to Pam for creating our Facebook page! And she did it all overnight. I would suggest we create a new officer position: Social Media Manager (? I'm open to suggestions). It would require a vote at our next meeting, since it would amend our Constitution by adding a new officer position. Easy enough to do, and then Pam could get a set of those nifty DFAC business cards. I always carry a few in my wallet, just in case the topic of astronomy ever comes up somewhere. Easy publicity, and publicity never hurts.

Item 7: We will continue our website as an internet presence, and are paid up with GoDaddy through March 2014, at which time we'll purchase another 3-year block of domain name and website hosting. Our treasury account will remain intact at Wells Fargo, since we do have occasional fees more easily paid by check or cash. We will also continue our liability insurance, at the recommendation of Sandi Heim (our insurance expert), since even private club events could generate liability issues that members' own personal liability insurance would otherwise have to cover. And we will continue our Astronomical League membership, which gets us a group discount on the insurance, as well as their quarterly magazine Reflector for all club members.

Item 8: DFAC lost several members and our VP this last season. Dues were due on May 31. Our current membership roster lists only 12 members (we had 7 non-renewals this year). We are now below "critical mass" in terms of meeting our annual operating costs without raising dues. But our treasury is in fine shape (balance = $969.51 + whatever dues came in at the Business Meeting), and we currently have no meeting room rental fees, so we're good for a couple years at least. Our current dues structure will continue unchanged. And so, as I predicted, DFAC has now transitioned to a "core coalition of stargazers." Not like that's a bad thing, as we do have some great future activities planned. But if we want to continue as a force for astronomy education and enlightenment in the North Valley we'll need to continue to evolve and adjust to constraints, and do what we can in terms of public events. Working on an event now, with NVRL, but this time under our conditions. Watch for updates on that.

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:

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Cosmologist, Director of Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History

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Space Debris: Squirrel Discovered on Mars?
I say it's just a classic example of pareidolia. You be the judge.

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