Newsletter of the Desert Foothills Astronomy Club
Issue #27: September 14th, 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
Sep 24   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #1
Speaker: Dan Heim
Topic: Light Pollution Update
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Oct 29   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #2
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Nov 8   12:00 pm - 4:00 pm   Veterans Day Parade
DFAC booth & scopes
  Anthem Community Park
Nov 26   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #3
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Jan 28   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #4
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Feb 25   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #5
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Mar 25   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #6
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
Apr 29   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Lecture Meeting #7
Speaker: TBA
Topic: TBA
  North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
May 27   7:00 pm - 9:00 pm   DFAC Business Meeting   North Valley Regional Library, 40410 North Gavilan Peak Parkway, Anthem, AZ 85086
(later adjouring to)
Legends Sports Bar & Grill, 3655 W Anthem Way Suite D115, Anthem, AZ 85086

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Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
As has become our tradition, the first meeting of the year will feature DFAC President Dan Heim. Dan will update us on developments and club activities relating to light pollution abatement, one of DFAC's main missions. He is, at present, personally focused on a new subdivision planned for just east of Heimhenge, and spreading 270 degrees around Gavilan Peak (a prominent mountain in the area). The developers, Gavilan Peak Estates, are applying for rezoning from R43 (one house per 43,000 square feet, which is one acre, maximum density) to R1-35 (one house per 35,000 square feet. R1-35 zoning also allows second stories, with a height limit of 30 feet (though only single story structures are planned). This will be a private HOA community with their own sewage treatment plant, and two deep wells with storage tanks for their water system. Main access will be along a private road extending from 29th Avenue, with connections to 33rd and 35th Avenue. There will be no street lighting, and all residential lighting will be fully shielded, with no up-lighting. At least that's what they say now. To view a detailed map of the proposed development, click here (675 k). The project was only recently brought to his attention, and there is more to be learned, but expect a grass-roots resistance to arise against that rezoning request. More to come at the meeting. Hope to see you all there!

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Last Meeting: NA
Technically, our last meeting was the DFAC Summer Social. We've already covered that. If you're interested, you can read about it in the previous issue of Quid Novi.

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State of DFAC: By Dan Heim, President
DFAC Lost in Space: Over the summer, a drama unfolded that threatened the stability of our club. When I returned from vacation in July, and applied for our usual meeting dates at BCHS, I was informed that the faculty member who moderated the BCHS Astronomy Club had resigned. District policy had been revised to require the presence of same at our meetings in order to secure use of the BCHS Career Center at no charge. With no new moderator in sight, we were in danger of losing our meeting room. Simply renting the room without a moderator would cost us over $400/year, which is impossible on our budget. So we explored some alternatives, including the Anthem Community Center, the New River Elementary School, the Anthem VFW and New River Kiwanis meeting halls, and the North Valley Regional Library (on the BCHS campus). As I write this, our first meeting is scheduled in the NVRL, right across the way from the BCHS Career Center. In fact, we already have our first three meetings booked at that venue. Maps, if you need them, are already posted on our website. But all of that may still change. Read on ...

We actually do have a new faculty moderator for the BCHS Astronomy Club. Her name is Kristin Strempel, but she is unavailable on Wednesday nights. This brings up the possibility of changing our meeting day to accommodate her schedule, something I cannot do without member input. Hence the email that went out today (Tuesday, Sep 16) requesting your input on same. We've been scrambling trying to resolve this, right up to the last minute. And it may yet be resolved today, but with one week until our first meeting, I felt it was necessary to publish Quid Novi just to get the word out on other matters of importance to DFAC. My apologies for this late publication.

As a further result of this uncertainty, we've been unable to schedule our guest speakers for this season, something usually done in August. However, as we expect this whole meeting puzzle to be resolved shortly, we'll still have time to start booking speakers before our October meeting.

North Sky News: We've added a new page to our website titled North Sky News. It will be used to highlight current events in the north Valley that impact matters of concern to astronomy. Several items were added over the summer. If you haven't already seen it, be sure to check it out. It will be updated as needed, independent of the publication schedule of Quid Novi.

Crisis in New River: I have often said, "Trust that we will fight to preserve dark night skies in the north Valley." Although I already have many irons in the fire, I recently became aware of a major development planned for just east of Heimhenge. You can read the details in the Next Meeting section at the top of this page. Suffice it to say this is where I must focus my efforts at this time. The official rezoning application has not yet been filed, but before that happens, I must mobilize the area residents. If I ever want to build my observatory, I need to minimize the impact of lighting for this development. According to the development consulting company (Coe & Van Loo), "we're looking at a 2-5 year time frame." So I still have time to act, but no time to waste. My intentions are to fight this under the auspices of DFAC, not only for myself, and for other DFAC members in the New River area, but also for the residents of New River, astronomers or not, who came here to enjoy the beauty of the dark night sky. Expect to be updated at our first meeting this Fall, and perhaps have a legislator/zoning planner/or other county official present to respond to our concerns.

Upcoming Speakers: Other than myself for Lecture #1, nothing else it locked in. Committed, but not yet scheduled, are Fr. George Coyne of the Vatican Observatory, Dr. Jeff Hester of ASU, and our own Roger Serrato (who knows more about astronomy hardware and methods than you may suspect from his humble demeanor). By the time our Lecture Series is underway, we expect to have the usual plethora of outstanding speakers. Scheduling is only now underway. As discussed above, the uncertainty surrounding our meeting time & location precluded our usual August scheduling efforts.

Veterans Day Parade: With the help of VP Jim Renn, planning for this event is proceeding nicely. We decided to forego the idea of an actual float in the parade. Instead, we'll be setting up a table and a few scopes in the park area to educate residents after the parade. This daylight event will allow for the following astronomical sights: the Sun through my H-alpha filter, hopefully showing a solar flare, the Sun through a neutral density or mylar filter hopefully showing some sunspots (Roger has this one covered), a well aligned scope with an orange or yellow filter to try and spot Saturn, Venus, or Jupiter, all of which will be up and at least 30 degrees away from the Sun (the 1st Quarter Moon doesn't rise until 3 pm), and yet a fourth scope (Jim Renn has this one covered) simply focused on a distant mountain peak. We also need at least one person to staff the table/booth, to answer questions and distribute club info brochures. This event is planned for Saturday, November 8th, Noon - 4 pm. The parade ends at Noon, so setup will be from 11-11:30 am.. If you can help out at any of these two remaining positions:

1. A well aligned scope with an orange or yellow filter to view Saturn
2. Run the table, hand out DFAC brochures, and answer questions

please let me know. Running the table should be easy and fun. Spotting Saturn in the daytime takes a bit more skill, but we know it can be done with the right equipment. This is a fantastic PR opportunity. We expect to generate some great publicity for DFAC, and hopefully pull in some new members. Jim & Jean Renn have graciously offered to fund a parade sponsorship on behalf of DFAC, so we will have maximum visibility for this event. Thanks to Jim & Jean!

Mike Fuller Essay Contest: Most of you never met him, but Mike joined DFAC right at the end of our first year. You'll see him listed as one of our charter members. He never made it to a meeting or other event, because shortly after joining he was diagnosed with cancer, and had to begin his long, and ultimately losing battle. I knew Mike from way back in my PAS days, when we were both members of that club. I have been discussing the idea of establishing a Mike Fuller Essay Contest in his memory. Details are still being worked out, but we're looking at something like a "Why I Want a Telescope" essay competition open to north Valley middle-school (grades 6,7,8) students, with the prize being a "starter" telescope. His wife Debbie has asked me to help sell Mike's telescope and accessories, the funds from which will seed a separate DFAC bank account, the interest from which will cover the prize. We will soon be adding another page to our website to feature this contest. If you'd like to donate to the fund, send your check to Roger, and be sure to label it "Mike Fuller Essay Contest." Thanks.

Dues are Past Due: Our dues cycle began anew on June 1st. Regular membership is still only $25 per household ($30 for postal newsletter delivery). We just sent in our dues to the Astronomical League, and our insurance premium (a total of $415), so we can use some cash to replenish our treasury. You can still mail your check 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. Thank you for your continued support!

Sky Lights Still on Sabbatical: Still no good news here. I had received a commitment from Jason Stone, Editor of the Foothills Focus, to include my column when they next add another sheet. That never happened. In fact, Jason Stone no longer works for the Foothills Focus, and they've dropped several pages since. Apparently it's a bad time to be in the newspaper business. At this time I'm still considering my options. Sky Lights might appear online as a blog, or it might appear in the Anthem weekly In&Out. I really want this "soapbox" as a venue for our fight against light pollution, but other issues have taken priority of late. Hopefully I can pursue this later in the year. I'll keep you posted on developments.

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:
"In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual."

— Galileo Galilei

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Space Debris:
On Saturday, September 6th, three of our members (Dan Heim, Roger Serrato, Scott Loucks) attended a photometry and spectrometry conference held at Stan Gorodenski's Blue Hills Observatory in Dewey, AZ. Stan organized this event because of the growing use of spectrometry and photometry apparatus by amateurs, and felt there was valuable information to share regarding hardware, software, and technique. So he called for abstracts via his Yahoo Group: http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/SW-Astrophysics/. Six papers were submitted, with authors including Dan Heim or DFAC, Jeff Hopkins of Hopkins Phoenix Observatory, Gene Lucas of SAC/EVAC, and two by Stan Gorodenski himself. Ten people were in attendance. Photos below are by Roger Serrato, except where noted ...


PHOTO BY STAN GORODENSKI

If you've never been to Blue Hills Observatory, you have missed out on one of the nicest personal domes I've seen in the state. Stan Gorodenski (a colleague form my early PAS days) has a 16" Meade LX200R mounted inside, and does some serious astronomy there. You can visit his website at: http://users.commspeed.net/stanlep/HomePageNS.html

Attendees left to right (with an uncertainty of 1position): Scott Loucks, Dan Heim, Gene Lucas of SAC/EVAC, (back wall) Mark Trueblood of TAAA, Bill McDonald of PAC, Steve Gifford of EVAC, Jennifer Polakis VP of SAC.


PHOTO BY STAN GORODENSKI

Before the first presentation, Dan and Gene chat about computer multimedia. Jeff Hopkins of Hopkins Phoenix Observatory (http://www.hposoft.com/Astro/astro.html), one of the scheduled speakers, stands at far left, pondering the competition.

Dan started the conference with a review of the physics of diffraction gratings, and images of the spectra of some experimental streetlights. He and Roger Serrato photographed the spectra of a new "white-light" LED lamp, and a mercury vapor induction lamp, now being tested by the City of Phoenix. The LED lamp wins in terms of energy efficiency and an astronomy-friendly spectrum.

Host Stan Gorodenski followed with a tutorial on spectrometric pre-processing and flux calibration. Stan is using a Lhires III spectrometer with his scope, and had some amazing spectra to share with us. There's a bit of a learning curve to using this device, and Stan helped us to understand how he mastered the process. He returned to the podium later for a second presentation about the mathematical methods for determining the equivalent width of an absorption line, and we all got a lesson in basic calculus.

Gene Lucas had a mixed bag of topics, but ended up focusing on asteroid occultation measurements. He'll be traveling this month to the Mohave Desert to participate in an occultation timing for the asteroid 9 Metis (the ninth asteroid discovered, and hence fairly large). Metis will occult a 6th magnitude star on September 11-12. Accurate GPS-based timing of the occultation by multiple geographically distributed observers can provide the data needed to determine the size and shape of the body.

Jeff Hopkins anchored the conference with a talk about calibration of spectra using the well-known hydrogen alpha line. Also a Lhires user, Jeff has authored several works on spectrometry. He shared with us the details of calibrating a raw spectrum, and moving to the point where real data is obtainable.

The conference ended around 5 pm, when we all adjourned to the yard for a BBQ, drinks, and conversation about all matters astronomical. Thanks to Stan Gorodenski for hosting this event, and to the participants who gave it content. We hope to see this become an annual event, as more amateurs move into the realm of spectrometric astronomy.

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