Here we are in July, with summer observing
in full swing - unless this year's exceptionally heavy "June
gloom" stays with us, that is! For those who do their
observing from Anza, the cloud cover can mean darker skies
when it covers the light domes from the cities to the west
of us. For those of us trying to do any viewing from Orange
County this June, however, the "gloom" has been
Our July Star Party on July 26 is
also our annual potluck "Starbecue," which is set
around 5:00 up at the club observatory. For those who haven't
been to one, the club has a gas barbecue that gets hauled
up to the observatory for the event, so people can grill whatever
they bring with them. Please bring enough to share (aim for
enough for around six people besides whoever's in your party
- we don't expect you to feed the entire crowd!). Besides
standards like hamburgers and hotdogs, I've seen (and eaten
my share of) all kinds of interesting skewered items, including
some particularly memorable salmon a couple years ago - we
welcome imaginative entries on the grill!
The club supplies paper plates, cups,
flatware, napkins and soft drinks. All the food is brought
by the people who come, so salads, chips and dips, other side
dishes, deserts - all are welcome! There's a microwave in
the observatory warming room, so you can warm things up if
necessary. Plan to bring your own chair for seating, though
a lot of people eat while standing or wandering around and
talking to people. It's definitely not planned as a sit-down
dinner! If you have a folding table you could bring, we can
usually use more than the three club tables. As to parking,
space around the observatory is limited, so please park at
the levels below it and walk up.
We do need volunteers to help set
up for the party and to clean up afterward; if you're willing
to help out, please contact me (714/606-1825).
Also, if you bring something and it isn't all eaten, please
make sure you take the leftovers with you when you leave the
Starbecue. We hate to see leftover food spoil, and we hate
even more to attract the local wildlife with an easy dinner!
Another great activity we're planning
for that night is a "Member Observatory Open House."
If all goes well, the member observatories on the Anza site
will be open to visitors for a couple of hours after sunset,
to give people a chance to see what they're like inside and
how they work - so plan to visit them, see the different approaches
people have taken, and learn about how they're being used.
Still Some Time To Name An Asteroid:
The deadline to propose names for one of the asteroids discovered
by Minor White and Myke Collins is July 31, 2003. This is
a great chance to honor someone in a unique way - for details,
Thanks again to all of you who have
sent me the information I requested about when you received
your copies of the Sirius Astronomer. In the time I've been
on the board, I've heard a lot of complaints about late deliveries,
and the information you sent has helped give us a better picture
of what is happening after each issue goes to the Post Office.
As a brief overview of the process,
the editor chivies, cajoles and otherwise pries material for
each issue out of the contributors, ideally by the 20th of
each month, and then does what needs to be done to assemble
the pieces into the newsletter, which can take several days.
It then goes to the printing company, which prints it up,
center-staples and folds each issue, and delivers the lot
to Charlie Oostdyk, a process that usually takes about a week.
He then prints the mailing labels, edge-staples and labels
each of about 750 issues, organizes them into the required
groupings, and delivers them to the post office, a process
he usually manages to complete within 48 hours. The post office
then does its thing, and they eventually wind up in your mailboxes.
The purpose of my survey was to figure out where any problems
are after the SA gets to the post office.
We changed the office we mail from
in March, and April was the first issue this really affected.
That month, everything went unusually well - Darren Thibodeau
was able to finalize the SA and get it to the printer earlier
than usual, the printer was very fast in doing the run and
getting it to Charlie, and Charlie was able to do his part
right away (even though he works full time) and to get it
all to the post office on 3/27, about a week earlier than
usual. The result - most people got their copies on 3/29 or
3/31, 2 to 4 days after they got to the post office. Besides
the early deliveries, the biggest change from before was that
even the more distant recipients, who had been getting them
8 to10 days after delivery to the post office, got them within
4 days. The latest delivery reported to me was in Garden Grove
on 4/7, though another Garden Grove delivery was reported
on 4/2 and most of the surrounding cities reported deliveries
on 3/29. (55 reports total)
Things on our end worked out pretty
well for the May issue, which went to the post office on 5/1.
The largest number of reported deliveries was on 5/3 (Sat.,
at 2 days), and there was another cluster of reported deliveries
on 5/9 (at 7 days), from Los Angeles and Riverside Counties,
most of which had received their April issue in 2 days. The
latest reported delivery that month was 5/10 (8 days), in
Whittier. (35 reports total)
Bringing us to June. Darren had work
problems that ultimately made it impossible for him to put
the SA together, so he turned it over to Liam Kennedy, unfortunately
very late in the schedule. Many, many thanks to Liam for stepping
in, putting the SA together, and getting it to the printer
within 24 hours of getting the contents from Darren. Even
though Charlie was very busy at work himself, he managed to
do his processing and get them to the post office within about
48 hours of receipt, on 6/5. Most people reporting from Orange
County received it 2 days later, and the deliveries after
that were pretty spread out, with no real second cluster as
in April and May. The latest report I've received is for delivery
in San Jose on day 13, much worse than in the prior two months.
Even sadder, places like Duarte and Palos Verdes, which both
got their April issues on Day 2, slipped to Days 7 and 9,
respectively, for June. There were no reports of deliveries
outside of Orange County before Day 6, and Seal Beach and
La Habra, both of them within OC, reported receipt on Days
9 and 10. (30 reports total)
Conclusions? Unfortunately, the reporting
samples overall are quite small, given that we mail out well
over 700 issues each month. However, I had several people
who reported in all of these months, which gives one way of
checking for patterns, and there weren't many zip codes with
more than one person reporting each month, which maximized
the geographic distribution of the sample. If the delivery
pattern we saw for April held up in later months, I'd say
our post office problems were resolved. Unfortunately, that
didn't happen, though most people who reported to me got deliveries
within 6 days, even in June, and most people in OC that reported
to me got their copies in 2 days. I suspect that the difference
in delivery patterns is due to when the SA was delivered to
the post office each month - different flows of mail at different
times of the month would change the resources available for
processing bulk mailings all along the route. If any of you
have inside knowledge about the post office and its operations
that would help us understand what's going on, we'd appreciate
your thoughts on the subject.
As to the future - we haven't totally
solved the delivery issues yet. What we can potentially control
most easily is when the SA gets to the post office, but, to
get real control over that, we need more people helping out
with the process. As we saw with Darren's problems in June,
having the full burden of producing the SA each month fall
on just one person creates a major problem if there's an emergency
and that one person can't get it done. Put simply, Darren
needs help with the job of editing and producing the SA. We
need some volunteers - if you can help us out with any aspect
of the Sirius Astronomer, please contact Darren, Liam or me.
In case any of you think that Griffith
Observatory is out of action simply because it's closed for
renovation, it has an extensive program of Mars-related events
over the summer and fall. Anthony Cook, Astronomical Observer
for Griffith Observatory, has notified us of the schedule,
and wants to know if any of you would be willing to bring
your telescopes for public viewing at any of these events.
It's a great opportunity to reach a lot of people and educate
them about the wonders of the night sky, with Mars as the
well-advertised center of attention. If you can make it to
any of these, please contact Mr. Cook at Griffith Observatory
or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The scheduled events are:
Special Mars observing sessions, all
Saturdays in August (2, 9, 16, 23, and 30); star party starting
each Saturday at 8 p.m. with Mars viewing from 11 p.m to 1
a.m. Location: Griffith Observatory Satellite at the south
end of the Los Angeles Zoo parking lot in Griffith Park. There
will be Mars related presentations in the mini-planetarium
until 10 p.m., with workshops on observing Mars by Tim Robertson,
Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers (ALPO).
Tuesday, August 26, for closest approach
(at 2:51 a.m.), an all night observing session until approximately
3 a.m. Location: South lawn of the Gene Autry Museum of Western
Heritage adjacent to the Observatory Satellite.
September and October, nightly viewing
all nights except Mondays from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Observatory
Satellite. There will also be public viewing on Labor Day,
Monday September 1.
These should be a lot of fun - I hope
you can make it to at least some of them!