Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #18: November 5th, 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 for 2007-2008:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Sep 26   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 31   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Nov 3-4   2:00 pm - overnight   A Night Under the Stars   Alamo State Park
Nov 26   6:00 pm - 9:00 pm   Way Cool Science Night   Horseshoe Trails Elementary School, 5405 E. Pinnacle Vista Drive, Scottsdale, AZ 85262 (read more below)
Nov 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Lecture Series Update: We now have all but one date (March 26th) for our 2007-2008 Lecture Series booked! See the schedule here. I've got a few ideas for that last slot, some received from members. This date is a ways off, so no rush, but if you have any suggestions for a speaker on that date, let me know. We want our Lecture Series to reflect member interests as well as general public interests. Of course, member interests always get priority. Thanks to those who have provided input.
  • IDA Membership: With a generous $50.00 joint donation from two members, DFAC joined the IDA last week. You'll notice we've added the IDA logo to our home page. Given our mission to fight light pollution, it was a logical next step for DFAC. We also receive their quarterly newsletter Nightscape. The current issue (#70) was included with our "welcome packet." For each issue of Nightscape, we have permission to post a scanned version of the feature article to our website. This issue's feature article is titled "The Art of the Ordinance - Community Lighting Regulations," and you can download a grayscale PDF version suitable for onscreen reading or printing here (1017k). Please read this article, as it contains advice relevant to DFAC's mission. By joining IDA, we not only support a good cause dear to the hearts of all astronomers, but we also tap into a vast resource of information and expertise. For an example of what I mean by "tap into," keep reading ...
  • LPR Update: I received a callback from Pete Strasser of IDA today (one day too late for our meeting). He called VOIP from London, where he's giving some talks on light pollution, and we spoke for some time regarding the questions I had emailed him. To see a copy of that email, click on either of the following links: IDA.doc (335k) or IDA.pdf (22k). Here's a summary of his answers. First, low pressure sodium vapor lights (LPS) are indeed being phased out across the board. Except in areas identified as essential to professional astronomy (hence the Pima County ordinance), LPS has been shown to be not economically feasible, due to the greater number of lights required to achieve safe ground lighting levels. A second reason for this move away from LPS is complaints about traffic control sign visibility, which are cited in many police accident reports. The color shift caused by LPS reduces contrast on some signs, and causes uncertainty in the identified color of suspect vehicles. It's likely the fear of liability has caused cities like Glendale to begin the transition from LPS to HPS. Second, the new generations of LED and induction lights are being watched closely by IDA. They like the energy efficiency and balanced spectra of these sources, and expect that improvements in both of these technologies will shortly supplant the standard HPS streetlight, with LED being the stronger contender due to its inherent solid-state longevity. This is good information. The only weakness with LED is their tendency to fail in high temperatures, but with proper heat-sinking this can be avoided. We will continue to tap IDA for their technical expertise in our fight against light pollution.
  • Arizona Indicator Project: I first read about this in the Sunday (Oct 28) edition of the Arizona Republic. The Arizona Indicator Project (http://www.asu.edu/indicators) is a joint effort of ASU, the Arizona Department of Commerce, and others. AIP is creating a database of "indicators" that range from precipitation to crime to interest rates. The idea is to provide a mineable database of significant trends that can help planners better engineer the future of our state. When I visited their website, I found "light pollution" not listed as an indicator. The person responsible for content in the sustainability database is Dr. Patricia Gober at ASU. I emailed her suggesting that light pollution is a trend worth tracking. She replied within an hour and asked for further info. Of course, I directed her to photometric databases at the three major observatory complexes in our state. This is a key opportunity to raise the level of awareness on light pollution. Take a look at their website, and send your similar request to: gober@asu.edu.
  • StarGeezer: I received an email from a "grumpy old man" who wants to generate serious discussion on the fight against light pollution. Jack Troeger, a retired science teacher, has started a website called "Dark Sky Initiative." I've added it to out Links page but you can get it directly here: www.darkskyinitiative.org/. Jack doesn't believe in traditional light pollution abatement strategies. He doesn't have any specific strategies to advocate, but he's started a forum for "thinking outside the box" on this issue. It's worth a look. Imagine a class-action suit against billboard companies! Read his stuff for motivation and ideas.
  • LPR Strategy for DFAC: At the last meeting I started distributing printed copies of the ARS and MCZO regulations on lighting. All DFAC members should be familiar with these documents. I'll continue to distribute copies until all members have them. Please read them carefully. I understand that reading legal documents is about as much fun as going to the dentist, but they aren't that long or difficult, and this is stuff we need to know as a group. We need to generate internal discussion about our long-term strategy for fighting light pollution. I want DFAC to be effective, but we must also be pragmatic. It's time to start thinking about how we can have the greatest impact against light pollution. Your input is sincerely solicited.
  • Way Cool Science Night: DFAC received an invitation to participate in this event from the Carefree Kiwanis through (new DFAC member) Jim Walborn. Jim's an avid advocate of science here in the north Valley, and his Kiwanis group is now in its second year of hosting a North Valley Science Fair open to grades K-12. WCSN will feature area science teachers and other professional demonstrating some of their favorite phenomena. DFAC will be outside with telescopes, providing yet another dimension of the science experience. Thanks to members Roger Serrato, Jay Chatzkel, and Scott Loucks for volunteering their scopes at this event. We won't earn any donations from this one, but it's a great cause and promises to be a fun night. Plus, any exposure DFAC can get generates potential new members.
  • Income Opportunity: I was contacted today by Laura Leroy of ZOHAR Productions regarding a paying event for DAFC. On Sunday, March 9th, there's a convention of marketing professionals at JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort (just north of the 101 off Tatum). They're looking for a 2-hour astronomy presentation, and we can earn $200-$300 for DFAC. We'll need 3 additional volunteers (plus me) to handle the show. One person with a green laser pointer (mine is available) to show constellations and bright stars, one person with binocs on M42 (that's me), and two telescopes (for Saturn and the Moon). Details are being worked out now, but if you can commit to this event, it will help our treasury grow. Let me know if you're interested ASAP. Thanks!
  • An Invitation to High Desert Park: Last week I was contacted by Jerry Belcher of PAS regarding a joint PAS-DFAC observing session at High Desert Park in Black Canyon City. PAS regularly uses this for their "dark sky" site, it's conveniently located, and there are restrooms available. Their next scheduled event there is November 10th, which is too soon for us to react, but there will be more scheduled after the first of the year. If you'd like to participate in an event at this venue, let me know. I told Jerry I'd get an interest count and get back to him. I'm interested anyway, so lets get a group together and do this.
  • New DFAC members: I'm pleased to welcome several new members to our club. Gerry Samos and Jim Walborn joined our ranks in October. And Raul Espinoza will be sending his membership application shortly. These are all talented individuals with much to share. I look forward to getting to know them better, and thank them for supporting our efforts. By the way, that brings our number to 18 members, three over the critical mass of 15 needed to pay our bills — an auspicious start for our second year. One of the most stressful things about starting an organization like DFAC is the fear that it will flounder. As our numbers grow (along with the population of the north Valley), we become stronger, more resilient, and more effective in our mission. Thanks to all our members for their support. We couldn't do it without we.
  • Change in Meeting Date: It has come to my attention that "the last Wednesday of the month" may no longer be the best time to meet. In fact, at this point, only half of our members were those that voted on this meeting date, and it wasn't unanimous. We're locked into our current date for the rest of the BCHS school year, but this is the time to start talking about a possible change for 2008-2009. Let me know your preferences, if any. As always, such issues will be decided by majority rule.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. You know where to send your feedback. Until we meet again, clear skies!

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, October 31st, 2007
Our second lecture of the 2007-2008 season featured local expert, and SAC co-founder, Gene Lucas speaking on the topic of binocular astronomy. Gene has been a fixture in Valley astronomy for decades, with experience across the astronomy spectrum (pun intended). Some months ago, up at Blue Hills Observatory, he offered to do a presentation for DFAC. We took him up on that offer this season.

Dan started the meeting by blessing all the binoculars in attendance. Actually, this was just a bad pose Roger caught when shooting pics for Quid Novi. After a small amount of club business, not the least of which was an announcement that DFAC was now a member of the IDA, he turned the meeting over to Gene.

Gene had some 19 pairs of binocs displayed for show & tell, including some cool 25x100s (visible at right). He spoke about the historical development of binocular optics, their evolution over the last 200 years, and many obscure details about binocular optics and applications. He never ceases to amaze with his encyclopedic knowledge in virtually all areas of astronomy. He also brought along a stack of useful reference books and charts that work well with binocular observing. His presentation was punctuated by many questions and comments from the audience. His goal was to convince us that one can do real astronomy with binocs, and in that he succeeded well. He also had some useful advice for novices, primarily "forego the apartment store refractor, and spend your money on some decent binocs, at least 7x50s, and learn the sky at low mag first."

Here you see just a few of the binocs Gene brought with him. They were all passed around the room for inspection. The people at this table deserve some note. At left, Keith Parizek, also a long-time fixture in Valley astronomy, who lives near Gene and carpooled to our meeting. It was at Keith's home in Paradise Valley, way back in 1980, that this astronomer was first introduced to the Valley astronomy scene. What followed was my 20+ years of involvement with PAS, until the eventual founding of DFAC. Keith was President of the Phoenix Observatory Association back in the 60's, and later served an extended tour as PAS Treasurer. At right is yet another icon of the Valley astronomy community, Raul Espinoza, 1984 PAS President, who in a cosmic example of synchronicity (or karma?) will soon be a member of the club I'm privileged to preside over. At middle is Jim Walborn, local science promoter and astronomy enthusiast. I met Jim through the Kiwanis Science Fair at Cactus Shadows High School. Jim joined DFAC at this meeting. Lest I seem remiss, in the background are DFAC charter members Bob Biegler and Scott Loucks.

Here Jim tries out Gene's vintage WWII Japanese trench binoculars. Jim complained that he could only get channel 3.

Member George Kantarges (right) tries out one of Gene's mini-binocs. George brought his misaligned 7x50s, and was finally able to get an answer to his re-collimation question: bottom line, it would cost more to repair them than to buy a new set. My suggestion ... give them to Goodwill and at least take a tax write-off. Or donate them to a school .. they'll probably never notice the misalignment. At left is one of several guests from the Anthem / Tramonto area who came to check us out. Our meetings are always open to the public, and we welcome all who share our interest in astronomy!

Attendance at this meeting was 13 (4 members and nine guests - three of whom are now new members). BCHS students were conspicuously absent, likely due to the fact that this was also Halloween night. The meeting adjourned at 9:15 pm.

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, November 28th, 2007
Our November Lecture features Science Teacher Kathy Hill (and two of her students) from Boulder Creek High School. Kathy and her team were selected to work on NASA's Phoenix Mars Mission, on course to arrive at the Red Planet about seven months from now. You can read the official press release on this collaborative project below:

release.doc (26k)
release.pdf (44k)

Kathy and her students will talk about their experiences to date in this ongoing project. If you're not familar with the Phoenix Mars Mission, check it out here: http://phoenix.lpl.arizona.edu/

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Quote of the Month:
"After I give lectures - on almost any subject - I am often asked, 'Do you believe in UFOs?' I'm always struck by how the question is phrased, the suggestion that this is a matter of belief and not evidence. I'm almost never asked, 'How good is the evidence that UFOs are alien spaceships?'"

— Carl Sagan, "The Demon Haunted World"

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Space Debris:
Dan & Sandi Heim, their dogs Astro and Beta, and Roger Serrato headed up to Alamo State Park 50 miles NW of Wickenburg on Saturday, November 3rd. The park was hosting an Astronomy Night for all AZ clubs in celebration of their 50th anniversary, and we decided this was a good opportunity to see some really dark skies (and get in a little camping).

Two images were spliced together here to provide a wide view of Alamo Lake. It's a popular state park in this area, with plenty of campsites, several boat ramps, good fishing, and dark skies.

Camping would be better in a trailer or RV, as the ground is rock hard. We got our tents pitched, but bent several stakes in the process.

There were about a hundred people present for the daytime festivities. Verde Valley Astronomy Club had a booth set up. Dan made contact with JD Maddy (of VVAC), who may be filling in that last slot as our speaker for the April DFAC meeting. JD and I have had several discussions on the AZ-Observing list server.

This is the handout Alamo provided for guests. Inside is a checklist of astronomical objects they hope to see.

Page 2 of same.

Embry-Riddle had a team of robotics specialists there to give a presentation on their robotics program.

Lowell Observatory sent two interns down to give a presentation on how to make a comet (the usual dry ice + H2O demo).

Educational displays were all around. A lot of work went into this event. Congrats and thanks to Park Superintendent Elizabeth Enriquez for organizing and planning "A Night Under The Stars." There were around 15-20 scopes deployed. Sunset was 5:30 pm, and with the clear sky, it cooled off rapidly. A small amount of haze from CA fires seemed to be present all night, but it was nonetheless dark with excellent seeing.

As sunset approached, Roger and I kicked back for a cigar and beer. All we need now is darkness.

Dan observes Comet Holmes through binocs. It was an easy naked-eye object, and looked even better with some magnification.

Roger brought his 8" Celestron CAT along. At 200x, Comet Holmes showed filamentary detail in the coma, and a bright nucleus.

Phoenix is about 100 miles (as the buzzard flies) from Alamo Lake. Comet Holmes and M31 were visible to the naked eye. The skies were indeed dark, yet the sky glow from Phoenix was still visible. This 10 second exposure captures about how it looked to the eye. It exemplifies the far-reaching impact of light pollution.

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