Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #12: April 2nd, 2007


About Quid Novi

Past Issues

DFAC Events

State of DFAC

Last Meeting

Next Meeting

Quote of the Month

Space Debris

Contact the Editor: Dan Heim, phone: 623.465.7307 or email:


DFAC Events:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Sep 27   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 25   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 30   5:30 pm - 8:00 pm   Ladies Guild Astronomy Night   6609 E. El Sendero Drive, Cave Creek, AZ 85331 (contact Dan Heim for gate code)
Nov 28   5:30 pm - 7:30 pm   Student Astronomy Night   Foothills Academy College Prep, 7191 E. Ashler Hills Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Nov 29   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 18   5:30 pm - 8:00 pm   Student Astronomy Night   New River Elementary School, 48827 N. Black Canyon HWY (Exit 232 east to frontage north)
Jan 31   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 10   6:00 pm - ?   DFAC Observing Session   Heimhenge
Mar 21   6:30 pm - 8:30 pm   Student Astronomy Night   New River Kiwanis Community Park CANCELLED DUE TO WEATHER
Mar 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 25   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

Back to Top

State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • DFAC History Update: I updated the history page to reflect the fact that we finally had our first DFAC observing session (more below). It was never my intention to make this a complete record of our activities. The Quid Novi archive serves that purpose. But this event was a significant enough milestone that I felt it belonged in the record. I expect the next two entries will be: ratification of our Constitution, and our first deep-sky members-only observing session. Roger and I will be checking out a deep-sky site on Stoneman Lake Road (off I-17) later this month, and we'll let you know what we find.
  • DFAC Constitution: Yes, it already exists in "rough draft" form. I've posted it here your perusal. Please send me your feedback. Our "Constitutional Convention" can be held, essentially, online. We'll have time to discuss it at our May business meeting too, and it would be nice to ratify some time next season.
  • Officer Duties: One of the main reasons I wanted to get moving on this Constitution was to clarify the duties of DFAC officers. I expect any member considering a position would want to know what their duties will be. As I've explained before, the one position we really need to fill is Vice President. Roger and I are willing to continue our provisional positions next year, but the need for a VP was made clear to me these last couple months as I dealt with a family medical emergency. I was able to make all the meetings, but just barely. So if you want to help out, and contribute to the stability and continuity of DFAC, read the VP job description and think about it. And don't forget that, as an officer, you'll get an unlimited supply of really cool, glossy, DFAC business cards. See mine here.
  • DFAC Observing Session: After two unsuccessful attempts that were cancelled by weather, DFAC held its first members-only observing session on March 10th, 2007. The event coincided, almost to the day, with the one year anniversary of our founding. There was no cake, but there were seven scopes, four members, and three guests. We met at Heimhenge in New River. This location is still great for lunar and planetary observing, though the deep sky view is starting to become compromised by the northward expansion of Phoenix and its outlying communities. We had a great look at Venus (still gibbous) and Saturn, as well as a few of the brighter Messiers. As always, the conversation and exchange of ideas added another enjoyable dimension. Clear skies and shirt-sleeve temperatures prevailed until about 10 pm, when the wind shifted to north and some high clouds moved in. We had all packed it in by 10:30 pm, but not before discussing the potential for an outing to a truly dark site, perhaps 30-40 miles north of here up on the Rim. Photos from this event are in our Space Debris section below.
  • Galactic Gavel? Fellow stargazers, we have a group decision to make. We need to decide what to do with that fine meteorite donated to DFAC by our last speaker Bob Holmes. We can either sell it in a raffle to raise funds, or turn it into a Galactic Gavel. Email or phone your vote to me. Voting deadline is the day before our next meeting. Majority rules. I'm voting for the Gavel since, according to Bob, the market value of that specimen is only about $25. I'd rather "spend" the meteorite establishing a cool tradition. Your opinions may vary. You can get more details in the Last Meeting section below.
  • Astronomy Night: Our planned Astronomy Night for the Eastside Explorers HomeSchool Group was cancelled by weather. Sigh ... and so it goes. I am, as of this writing, attempting to reschedule for April 19th (Thursday) or April 21st (Saturday). It would again be at the New River Kiwanis Community Park (map available here). When I know our options, I'll email all of you soliciting your preferences and availability. Like the Ladies Guild event, this one will feed our treasury. A donation, amount unspecified, has been promised. This could be a large group (40-50) of adults and children, so we'll really need some scopes there. If you can volunteer for this, please let me know as soon as possible. Setup will be 6:00 pm, sunset at 6:30 pm, and observing from then to 8:30-9:00 pm. We will park and deploy in the parking lot just north of the Kiwanis Meeting Hall (the original Senior Center). The ground is flat there, and electricity is available if needed, but bring your own extension cord. The restrooms will be open.
  • BCHS: Our agreement with BCHS includes our doing an Astronomy Night for their community. I have communicated to Kevin Imes, Principal, that the lack of a faculty liaison, student astronomy club, and time remaining in the school year, preclude our doing this event. Instead, DFAC will make a donation to their future astronomy club, which Imes assures me will happen. Hopefully next year some faculty member will step up and moderate their student astronomy club. At that point, student attendance at our meetings, and collaboration between BCHS and DFAC should increase.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. You know where to send your feedback. Clear skies!

Back to Top

Last Meeting: Wednesday, March 28th, 2007
Provisional President Dan Heim opened the meeting with a few items of club business, reminding members that we still need a VP for next season, and how this is the most critical position to fill. That was followed by a brief report on our first DFAC members-only observing session, successfully held at Heimhenge on Saturday, March 10th (read more in Space Debris, below). Next up was our speaker for the evening: Meteorite Man Bob Holmes. Bob noted how, back in 1981 he was a student in Dan's physics class at Brophy College Prep. Bob recounts how Dan came in one day and excitedly asked if anyone else had stayed up until 3 am to see a meteor shower. At the time, Bob had no interest in meteors and couldn't comprehend anyone staying up that late just to see some shooting stars. How much of a personal catalyst this was is unknown, but Bob now has one of the finest Arizona meteorite (his specialty) collections in the world. He was also recently appointed by the Governor as one of five Board Members at the Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources. He spoke first of the basic distinction between "meteoroid," "meteor," and "meteorite." From there, he went on to explain the various categories of meteorites, and how they are found, identified, classified, and valued. Bob also shared some interesting stories about his personal finds, and those of a a few others (including the "renegade" collectors).

Part of Bob's collection was on display for members to view and handle. The thinly sliced pieces were cut from their originals to better show interior structure. Slices are usually polished on one or both sides to more readily reveal the internal nature, such as chondrules or inclusions, of the meteorite. Slices of iron meteorites, in addition to being polished, may also be etched with acid to reveal Widmanstatten patterns, if present. Bob slices his own, unless they are metallic which requires special equipment. During the Q&A part of his presentation, members learned about the intricacies of finding and identifying meteors on their own. He offered his assistance in specimen identification, should any of us be lucky enough to make our own find.

After the lecture, Bob was available for more Q&A from members and guests. As always, there was plenty of after-hours discussion on a variety of topics. We thank Bob for spending time with us, and enlightening us on a topic of great general interest. It was a fascinating lecture, filled with information, anecdotes, hands-on activity, and practical advice for would-be collectors.

There's one other thing we can thank Bob for. He donated this 166.3 gram iron-nickel meteorite to DFAC! It's part of the Campo del Cielo fall, which hit central Argentina about 5000 years ago. You can read more about the Campo fall here. Bob said it wasn't a particularly valuable specimen, worth perhaps $25 on the market, but felt it would be a nice thing to award to our new club. He said we were free to raffle it off to raise funds, or do whatever else we wanted with it. Dan Heim has an idea for the "whatever else." The specimen measures about 2 inches in length, and has a flat side (not visible below) where it could be drilled and threaded to accept a metal handle. The idea is to turn it into a "Galactic Gavel." Read on ...

Below is a photo of the first Galactic Gavel, created by Dan Heim and Roger Serrato (Roger did the woodworking part), for the Brophy Prep Astronomy Club back in the 90s. It is symbolic of the authority of the President, and passed on from officer to officer over the years. Club meetings were started and ended with a "big bang" as the gavel was brought to bear on the hard teak inset (dark circular disc) inside the carrying case. While our case need not be this fancy, the gavel idea is now open for discussion. The alternative is to raffle it off for fundraising, but Bob likes the gavel idea too. Coincidentally, the original gavel used an iron-nickel meteorite that had a similar mass and shape, but was part of the Canyon Diablo fall.

Turnout was slightly down for this meeting. We had seven members in attendance. But we also had five guests, hosted by Kim Lindvig (our former BCHS faculty liaison). Kim is now working with a home-school group and brought four of her charges along for the presentation. It was nice to see Kim again, and the home-school students enjoyed both the lecture and the chance to handle "rocks from space."

The doors closed around 9:30 pm, ending a fine hands-on lecture experience. Thanks again to Meteorite Man Bob Holmes.

Back to Top

Next Meeting: Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
Our March speaker was to be Dr. David Burstein or ASU. Unfortunately, I recently received an email from Dr. Burstein's daughter informing me that, due to health issues, he would be unable to attend. Our best wishes for Dr. Burstein's quick and full recovery. Our own Scott Loucks has graciously consented to fill in for Dr. Burstein. Scott will be speaking to us on the nuts & bolts of imaging and tracking small bodies, his own area of experience and expertise. He'll have images and animations showing some of his recent work. Come and learn how to discover your very own asteroid! See you there.

Back to Top

Quote of the Month:
"The universe is like a safe to which there is a combination, but the combination is locked up in the safe."

— Peter De Vries, American satirist, 1910-1993

Back to Top

Space Debris:
DFAC held its first members-only observing session at Heimhenge on March 10th, 2007. We present here some photos and commentary on this historic event. Dan Heim (below) deployed his 17" Coulter Dob for its first light since mirror cleaning and recollimation. Thanks to Ken Reeves for the loan of his laser collimator. Performance was definitely improved, but the mirror is still going to need resurfacing. Still, views of the Double Cluster in Perseus were breathtaking.

Roger Serrato set up his Celestron 8" CAT and got some really nice views of Saturn and Venus.

Here's Scott Loucks doing his polar alignment. After the camera flash, it took him another 10 minutes to relocate Polaris. Sorry 'bout that, Scotty.

Ken Reeves eschewed his large open-truss Dob for his more portable 12" Dob, and still found some cool multi-colored double stars in Canis Major that most of us had never seen.

We had three guests that night who found us through Roger's roommate. Here are Roger Rohback and friend Bob, who drove up from north Scottsdale just get some time at the eyepiece in a relatively dark locale. And it was very dark that night, except for a couple of mercury vapor yard lights about a quarter mile north of us. Dan is working on that. Bob had a collimation problem with his Dob, but eventually got some viewing done.

Our other guest was Elisa, a retired teacher and friend of Bob. She had a small refractor that was great on those double stars.

It was a glorious night of observing until clouds moved in around 10 pm. We all packed it in by 10:30 pm. Next outing will be at a deep sky site north of here, around Stoneman Lake Road. Watch for details.

Back to Top