Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #24: May 5th, 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
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
April 12   7:00 - ? pm   DFAC + BCHSAC Astronomy Night   Heimhenge [CANCELLED AND RESCHEDULED FOR MAY 10th]
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 10   7:00 - ? pm   DFAC + BCHSAC Astronomy Night   Heimhenge
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, May 28th, 2008
Our May meeting is the annual DFAC business meeting. We have much to discuss, and perhaps even vote on. Our agenda is detailed in our State of DFAC section below. As with last year, we expect to finish early and adjourn to Legends Sports Bar and Grill for further "discussion." Also as with last year, Dan will buy the first round. Not a bad tradition. We hope to see you all there.

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Last Meeting: Wednesday, April 30th, 2008
Dan Heim opened the meeting with about 10 minutes of club business, discussing our upcoming "rent payment" of a private Astronomy Night for the BCHS Astronomy Club on May 10th at Heimhenge. He also filled us in on the status of his weekly Sky Lights column, currently still in search of a new home-base newspaper. Read more details in our State of DFAC section below.

Our speaker for the evening was DFAC member Scott Loucks, talking on the topic of astrometry. This was essentially the same presentation he gave last year, when (for whatever reason) attendance was a measly 4 members. But it's an entertaining and educational presentation, so we asked him to repeat it this season. Scott's been actively engaged in small body (aka "minor planet") astrometry since the mid-90s when Dennis di Cicco's [pronounced "dee-cheek-oh] ground-breaking article "Hunting Asteroids" ran in the magazine CCD Astronomy. It was this article that really launched the amateur quest for minor planets. Scott had a copy of this article for all in attendance, along with other related materials. After some background on the astrophysics of minor planets, he described his own efforts, his observatory (labeled G88 by the MPC) and equipment, and the trials and tribulations of actually doing astrometry.

After the talk we had time for Q&A, where Scott elaborated on several points. He explained that the amateur quest for minor planets was sadly in its last years, as several large automated sky surveys are now probing down to 20th magnitude or fainter. Chances of an amateur discovery a dropping rapidly, except for those with apertures of 16" or more (+CCD). Fortunately, Scott got into the game early enough to have contributed useful data to the IAU Minor Planet Center at Harvard [see: http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/iau/mpc.html]. He is now considering a move to photometric observations, useful for asteroid shape determination and exo-planet discovery [see our Quote of the Month below]. Perhaps next year he'll speak to us on that topic.

Turnout was good this meeting, with 10 members in attendance. Thanks again to Scott for an outstanding presentation!

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
  • Agenda for May Business Meeting: We have many items up for discussion, and member input is essential to shape DFAC in your image. Here are the topics:

    1. President's Report
    2. Treasurer's Report
    3. Election of Officers (or re-election, as the case may be)
    4. Creation of a "public relations" or "media contact" Officer position: Do we need it, and if so, what should we title it?
    5. Light pollution strategy for DFAC: What can we do to make a difference?
    6. Veterans' Day parade float for DFAC: Do we want to do one, and if so, what should it be?
    7. DFAC meeting dates: Is the last Wednesday of the month still good, or do we want to change this?
    8. DFAC Summer Social hosted by member Rob Walker: What's a good date for this year?
    9. Other business?
  • Call for a Vice President: We really need to fill this position. There have been two occasions when I almost wasn't able to attend our monthly meeting, and sooner or later it will happen for whatever unpredictable reason. It would be good to have a stand-in for times like that. We have the two most critical positions filled (President and Treasurer), and Roger and I are happy to continue in those positions, but we do need someone to step up and take the Vice-Presidency. I've been acting as President, Editor, and Webmaster since the start, and I'm OK with that for awhile yet, but having a VP would take a few responsibilities off my desk. Here, from our Constitution, is a summary of the VP responsibilities:

    Article 2b. Vice President: The Vice President shall assist the President in the performance of all duties, and assume full responsibility of those duties should the President be unable to do so. The Vice President shall maintain a current listing of local media contacts, and provide timely notification to these media of upcoming DFAC meetings and events.

    If we decide to create a "media contact" officer position, half of the aforementioned VP duties would be eliminated, and the VP position would become more a symbolic position (except for the rare stand-in when I can't make it to a meeting). Further, it would look good on our website's Contact page to have a few more names listed ... makes us look a little less "new," if you know what I mean. And as far as "assisting the President" goes, that would mean we'd have two people looking for potential speakers
    also a good thing. Finally, if someone new is trying to get in contact with DFAC, having another official contact point with both phone and email ensures we make things easy for them. So if you think you are the person for this job, please step up at our business meeting and be voted in. Thanks!
  • Dues are Due: Our dues cycle begins again on June 1st. Regular membership is still only $25 per household ($30 for postal newsletter delivery), and the bill from the Astronomical League has been on my desk since last week. You can bring your check to our May meeting, or mail it to Roger Serrato at: PO Box 71458, Phoenix, AZ 85050. If your contact information has changed, please include a revised membership application form, available on our website here: http://www.dfacaz.org/join.html.Thank you for your continued support!
  • Astronomy Night for BCHSAC: Kathy Hill, Moderator of the new Boulder Creek High School Astronomy Club, says 5-6 of her students are interested in attending this event. Our originally scheduled April 12th event was cancelled due to student activity conflicts. It is now set for Saturday, May 10th, sunset (7:15 pm) to whenever, at Heimhenge, with equipment setup starting at 7 pm. This will fulfill DFAC's obligation to do an on-campus event in exchange for our use of BCHS facilities for our monthly meetings. If you can reserve that night in your plans, it would be good to have at least 3-4 scopes up here. We have 3 for sure (mine, Roger's, and Jay's). We could use one more. Of course, all DFAC members are invited, and after the students leave, it becomes our own event. Let me know if you can help out on this. Collaboration between DFAC and BCHSAC will be a great opportunity for outreach. Thanks.
  • Sky Lights Still on Sabbatical: My public soapbox is still in limbo. The good news is, I have received a verbal commitment from Jason Stone, Editor of the Foothills Focus, to include my column when they next add another sheet. For those of you unfamiliar with the newspaper business, you can only add pages in multiples of 4 (one sheet). The Focus is currently at 32 pages, but has plans to expand to 36. In order to make a profit, newspapers typically comprise 25% content and 75% advertising. As their circulation and advertising demand continues to grow, scooping business from the now-essentially-defunct Desert Advocate, that expansion will eventually happen, and Sky Lights will be part of that expansion. You may see Sky Lights back in print soon. Wish me luck.
  • 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:
"A time will come when men will stretch out their eyes. They should see planets like our Earth."

— Christopher Wren [architect and contemporary of Sir Isaac Newton]

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Space Debris: Galaxies in Collision
The Hubble Space Telescope recently acquired some striking (no pun intended) images of galaxies in collision. It might be more correct to describe them as "galaxies merging," but whatever you call it, it's a fascinating look at dynamics on a very large scale. When galaxies "collide," individual star collision are rare since galaxies are 99.9% empty space. But collision of gas clouds leads to new star formation, and gravitational interactions result in large-scale disruption of the original galactic shapes. Member Jay Chatzkel shared this URL with us: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24282959/. Thanks Jay!

Also, Shareen Goodroad, President of the New River / Desert Foothills Community Association [http://www.newriver-deserthillscommunityassociation.org/], who's group I have spoken to on the topic of light pollution, shared this URL to an informative USN&WR article on the health effects of light pollution. Read it at: http://www.usnews.com/articles/science/2008/03/14/turning-out-the-lights.html.

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