Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #21: February 3rd, 2008


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, phone: 623.465.7307 or email:


DFAC Events for 2008-2009:
Date   Time   Event   Location
Jan 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: Tom Polakis of SAC
Topic: The Transition from Film to Digital
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 27   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: Jeff Hester of ASU
Topic: Quantum Physics & Cosmology
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb-April   sunset - ? pm   DFAC + PAS Astronomy Night   High Desert Park in Black Canyon City (date to be determined)
Mar 9   6:00 pm - 8:00 pm   Astronomy Night (DFAC fundraiser)   JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort (north of Loop 101 on Tatum)
Mar 26   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: JD Maddy of AVV
Topic: A Personal Tour of Mauna Kea
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 30   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7
Speaker: Scott Loucks of DFAC
Topic: Minor Planet Astrometry
  Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   Boulder Creek High School, 40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Legends Sports Bar & Grill, 3655 W Anthem Way Suite D115, Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, February 27th, 2008
Our February meeting will feature ASU astronomer Dr. Jeff Hester. Dr. Hester never fails to enlighten and astonish, with his personal experiences within the professional astronomical community, his solid grasp of physics and cosmology, and his remarkable talent for explaining the (at first) incomprehensible. You don't want to miss this one! To learn more about Dr. Hester, visit his website at: http://eagle.la.asu.edu/hester/

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Dan Heim opened the meeting with about 10 minutes of club business, discussing upcoming fundraisers, science fairs, and the need to renew our domain name (www.dfacaz.org). Read more below in his State of DFAC section.

He then turned the lectern over to Tom Polakis, local astrophotographer extraordinaire. Tom Polakis spoke on the topic of "Basic Sky Photography," intending to show us that, even without guided tracking, anyone can shoot outstanding photos of the sky (night or day).

Tom's presentation was a retrospective, of sorts, documenting places he's been and things he's seen. It all started back in grade school, when he got his first scope. This image shows him at age 15, drooling over what appears to be a 6" Newtonian reflector (not a bad starter scope).

We learned that, simply by setting the aperture, exposure, and ISO, excellent sky photos can be had with just about any lens. If you have a digital SLR (Tom uses a Canon) with interchangeable lenses, owning a fisheye, wide-angle, and a few telephotos opens up a whole new realm of possibilities ... even (as we said) without guided tracking. Some of Tom's shots were tripod mount, others hand held. All demonstrated a keen eye and tested experience. Tom's repertoire included star fields, the Milky Way, planetary conjunctions, star trails, solar and lunar eclipses, and comets. Of special interest were shots of some daytime optical phenomena, like rainbows, glories, parhelia, and other arcane luminous displays. If you have an interest in daytime phenomena, the ultimate website is Atmospheric Optics at: http://www.atoptics.co.uk/

After the presentation, there was time for Q&A. Several members availed themselves of Tom's expertise with some great questions about techniques. Tom was more than happy to share what he's learned over the years. Thanks, Tom, for an enlightening evening! We hope to see you back next year with even more great photos. For those members who missed this excellent presentation, you can view Tom's photographic work at: http://www.pbase.com/polakis/

Membership turnout was low for what I thought was a beautiful evening. Seven members were in attendance. Below you see Tom & Jennifer Polakis at left, and new member Don Nelson seated third from right. Not shown are Roger Serrato (on camera) and Dan Heim (on bass).

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Lecture Series Update: We now have all dates for the remainder of our 2007-2008 Lecture Series booked! See the schedule here. Last scheduled was JD Maddy, President of The Astronomers of Verde Valley (see www.astroverde.org). They have a most impressive website. I've met JD at a few events, most recently at the Alamo Lake Astronomy Night. JD said he'd be interested in filling this last lecture slot, and will dazzle us with a recounting of his personal tour of the Mauna Kea observatories.
  • DFAC Treasury Grows: We received a check for $25.00 from the Carefree Kiwanis Club (presumably courtesy of member Jim Walborn) in gratitude for our participation in Way Cool Science Night at the Horseshoe Trails Elementary School back on November 26th. Given that we only had two scopes there, and the sky was largely clouded out, this was a generous donation from the Kiwanis. Our thanks for their support!
  • Save The Night Sky: Roger Serrato's new website is finally online! We put it up on GoDaddy's servers just before the Super Bowl. It's pretty basic right now, but Roger claims he'll start adding to his blog shortly. The name says it all ... he's going to do what he can, online and off, to save the night sky. We wish him well in this noble endeavor. I've added it to our Links page, but you can visit it now right here.
  • BCHSAC: I'm still waiting to hear back from November's speaker, Kathy Hill, Moderator of the new Boulder Creek High School Astronomy Club. Kathy reports 12 current members, and is looking forward to joining us at a future DFAC observing session. Collaboration between DFAC and BCHSAC will be a great opportunity for outreach to students. I look forward to our first mutual event, which will likely be at BCHS and fulfill our obligation to do an on-campus event in exchange for our use of their facilities for our monthly meetings.
  • DFAC Parade Float: Member Scott Loucks has suggested that we could improve our visibility by entering a float in the annual Veterans' Day Parade at Anthem (next year). We had some discussion about this after our last meeting, and several of our members feel it's a good idea. Scott can score the trailer, but we're undecided about just what should be on it. Transporting a deployed telescope would not be optically wise, but Roger suggested a dome tent with a sonotube sticking out to simulate an observatory, with the usual accompanying DFAC ID signs. We could also setup a table at the park where the parade ends, where more DFAC info would be available, along with my Takahashi and hydrogen alpha filter for solar viewing. Sounds like a plan to me. It would only cost us $25 to enter a float, and Jim Renn (who is the announcer for this parade) could grease the wheels and help us with the details. If you have any ideas for addition to the float (or a better idea than a dome tent and sonotube), let us know.
  • LPR Strategy for DFAC: Back at our October meeting I started distributing printed copies of the ARS and MCZO regulations on lighting. All DAFC 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.
  • Income Opportunity: I was contacted 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 $250 for DFAC. We'll still need 2 additional volunteers (plus Roger and I) 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 & M45 (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. If I get no responses by mid-February, I'll need to go to PAS and round up that other scope and pointer-person. Of course, that means splitting the take with them 50/50. Come on DFAC ... two more volunteers ... one with a scope and one who can point out the stars by name. Thanks.
  • An Evening at High Desert Park: The members present at our last meeting voted unanimously to accept an invitation from the Phoenix Astronomical Society to do a joint observing session up at High Desert Park in Black Canyon City. I've been to that site, and it's got darker skies than Heimhenge, about the same altitude (2500 ft there, 2200 here), and convenient parking and restrooms. I've added a map to this site on our Maps page. PAS rents the park for the night, so it'll cost us $2 per carload, but that's a smokin' deal for an evening of fine observing. Possible dates in the Feb-April window are: February 2, March 1, March 29, April 26 (all Saturdays, starting at sundown). Let me know your preferences here, and I'll coordinate with PAS.
  • Domain Name Renewal: Our internet domain name (www.dfacaz.org) comes up for renewal in March. The first two years, we only renewed one year at a time. Now that we know DFAC is here to stay, I proposed a 3-year renewal (at 30% savings) to the membership present at our January meeting. The decision was unanimous. So this weekend I renewed for three years. I also renewed our web hosting with GoDaddy for another three years (at a 20% savings). That's one of the many things you can do when you've got a little extra in the treasury. Your paid membership is a valuable resource, and we thank you for your continued support.
  • Thanks for reading Quid Novi. If you have feedback, you know where to reach me. Until next we meet, clear skies!

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Quote of the Month:
"We have your satellite. If you want it back, send 20 billion in Martian money. No funny business or you will never see it again."

— Seen on a bulletin board at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labs

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Space Debris:
The February 2008 issue of Discover magazine contains a fascinating article that I want to call your attention to. I'm sure you recall the famous experiments by Drs. Stanley Miller and Harold Urey at the University of Chicago back in the 1950s. They showed that, by replicating the chemical end electrical properties of Earth's early atmosphere, amino acids (the basic building blocks of life) would spontaneously assemble. Turns out that Miller placed in similar mixture of chemicals in ice, and had kept them frozen at -108 F for some 25 years. As his lab at UCSD was being disassembled, some of his former graduate students acquired those frozen vials. What they found was truly amazing, and bodes well for the emergence of life in environments previously discounted as "too cold." I highly recommend this article. This issue of Discover is still on the newstands, but better get your while supplies last.

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