By Barbara Toy
Well, 2006 is now behind us and I hope that it was a year that brought all of you more good times than bad, and that you are much better off at the end of the year than you were at the beginning. 2007 is now upon us, and this is the time of year when we all feel hopeful about what the new year has in store for us. I certainly wish you and your loved ones all of the very best in the new year!
Of course, January also marks the beginning of true winter, when temperatures tend to hover in the 30s most observing nights, and can even get down to the 20s or below on occasion. The compensation, of course, is the wonderful array of wintertime objects to view and/or image. As I've said before, winter viewing can be really enjoyable when you are properly prepared. Fortunately, there are many helpful products to keep you comfortable during those long cold nights, and I hope you'll take full advantage of them so you can really enjoy the winter skies.
The OCA Election, and a Sad Farewell to 2006 Trustees Matt Ota and Leon Aslan
As a reminder Ė January is when we elect the new Board of Trustees for the coming year. You should find a ballot in the January issue of the Sirius Astronomer, or you can download one from the website, or get one at the January general meeting. Statements provided by the candidates should also be posted on the website. You can send in your ballot at any time before the January general meeting, which is January 12, 2007. The specific directions (including the mailing address) are on the ballot itself, and the process is quite easy, so please do vote! And, although you can vote at the January meeting, itís a good idea to vote by mail well before then, so you can be sure your ballot gets to Bob Evans in time even if youíre unexpectedly unable to make it to the meeting.
The election of the new Board generally means that we have to say goodbye to Board members who are not returning, and this year is no exception. Having new Trustees join the board each year is good for the Board and for the club as a whole, as it brings in new perspectives and energy, but it is always sad to say goodbye to those who are not coming back as Board members. At this point, we already know that Matt Ota and Leon Aslan will not be rejoining us in 2007, as they both had too many other commitments to allow them to serve on the board for another year and so decided not to run again.
Matt has been one of our regular volunteers in the outreach program for many years now Ė thatís where I first got to know him Ė and, when he was living in Orange County, he was also a regular participant in our GoTo group, our astrophysics group and our AstroImaging group. Heís a designer of business signs by trade, and has been very generous to the club over the years in using his skills and connections to get us such things as banners for the AstroImage Conferences, the informational signs that are posted in several areas at our Anza site, and the Anza site maps that are posted in club observatory and at Anza House. These maps are particularly helpful, as they allow people to locate specific observatories and pads on the site and identify the responsible licensee, which helps when someone wants to confirm that a particular pad will be available for use or when there is a condition on a particular pad or observatory that should be brought to the licenseeís attention. We have needed something like this for a long time, but nobody was able to come up with a workable way to do it until Matt came up with his design, and also came up with a way of mounting them that allows us to update the maps pretty easily as needed.
Besides his OCA activities, Matt has been an active volunteer at Mt. Wilson, particularly with the Telescopes in Education (TIE) program in the past, and now with running the 16-inch telescope that is located in a small observatory near the 60-inch. He recently moved to LA County, and has become an active member of the South Bay Astronomical Society Ė even though he tells me his primary loyalty will always be to OCA, I know heís doing good work with the South Bay group and on Mt. Wilson, and itís not surprising that he is finding himself so busy with these other activities that he has had to cut back on some of his OCA activities, including participation on the Board. We will certainly miss his enthusiasm and willingness to take on new projects!
Leon has been very active in the AstroImaging group Ė for a time he was co-chair of the group with Bill Patterson. He also spends a lot of time at Anza and is very familiar with the site, and he has experience as both a pad licensee and an observatory licensee, so he brought useful insights to the 2006 Board. However, besides working a full-time job, he started his own business a couple years ago making astronomical fittings and accessories, and that business has grown substantially over the last year. We're very lucky that he was both willing and able to devote a year to serving on the Board in 2006, and we will miss his unique perspective as well as his sense of humor on the 2007 Board.
We want to thank both Matt and Leon for their participation on the Board and their ongoing activities as active members of OCA, and we wish them both the best of luck in their future endeavors!
OCA on Mt. Wilson
Several months ago, the OCA AstroImage SIG decided to arrange for two or three nights on the 60-inch telescope at Mt. Wilson, with the cost of each night to be shared among the participants who signed up for that night. Dick Greenwald generously volunteered to make the arrangements and to coordinate these nights. There were originally three nights that were decided on by the group, and the plan was to limit the number of people in each group so each person in the group would have more time at the eyepiece Ė most of the people who signed up for this from the AstroImage group were interested in trying to capture images through the 60-inch, which would take more time per person than if they were just using the telescope visually.
Well, the first night got clouded out, and the second night was canceled due to the fires in the vicinity. The third night, which was in November, was a rousing success, and several people on the trip managed to bring back some very interesting pictures taken through the 60-inch. These really whetted the appetites of those of us who were signed up for the last available trip in 2006 (which was added on when the first two were cancelled), on December 16. I was one of the people scheduled to be on that trip, and I heard a lot of plans being made for using different equipment to improve on the images that the November group captured Ė videocams for Saturn, and other cameras for nebulas, galaxies, etc. From the November pictures, even very short exposures with hand-held digital cameras were capturing some amazing details in such objects as the Blue Snowball, and everyone was really looking forward to capturing even more. Those of us who werenít planning on imaging were really looking forward to the great views you can get in the 60-inch, which bring out unexpected detail in even familiar objects (such as those beautiful inner rings and the central star in the Blue Snowball, which is generally a blue disk in smaller telescopes, even the Kuhn)
As the week leading up to December 16th advanced, the weather got worse, and the trip finally had to be cancelled. This, alas, is part of our regular experience as astronomersÖours is a hobby that is often victimized by bad weather, though many of us have been known to head out to our favored viewing areas in spite of bad forecasts, in hopes that the forecasts are wrong. In this case, they werenít, as the winter storm that was forecast came through that Saturday and brought wind, rain and heavy clouds with it. Fortunately, when a night on Mt. Wilson is called off because of weather (or fire), the group can either reschedule or their money is returned.
Those who were at the December meeting may recall that Dick Greenwald gave us a very nice presentation about the nights that were planned for Mt. Wilson, and particularly the very successful visit in November (complete with some of the pictures that were taken through the 60-inch). Itís too bad we had such bad luck the other nights, but Dick has volunteered to set up some additional OCA nights in 2007. If any of you are interested in joining a group of fellow OCA members for a night on the 60 inch in the coming season, please contact Dick Greenwald, or send me an email and Iíll send it on to Dick.
During the time I've been in the club, there have been a lot of suggestions about the club organizing nights when groups of members could use the 60-inch, but nobody has been willing to take on the job of organizing these events before Dick Greenwald stepped in. We really appreciate his efforts, and hope that all of the nights heís able to organize in 2007 will be like the November trip in 2006!
Recent Developments on the Club Observatory:
As I write this, Dave Radosevich has just emailed the Board to let us know that work has started on the replacement of the observatory roof. The current plan is to start with replacing and reconfiguring the flat roof over the warming room (which is an asphalt roof that I understand hasnít been replaced since the observatory was built), replacing the badly-weathered structure that supports the moving roof when itís open with a steel support structure, and then work on the moving roof itself. Dave has generously donated money to help fund the project, and, even more importantly, is donating his time, energy and expertise to move the project forward, for which we are very grateful indeed. Besides Dave, Jim Hannum, John Kerns and Gary Schones are heavily involved in this project, and we are very grateful for the work that all of them are doing.
Vance Tyree put in a temporary line so the access point for the Anza on-site network that is located at the observatory was back in service. That has now been moved, as the structure it was attached to was removed as part of the roof project (the steel in that structure is actually providing some of the structural steel we need for the roof supports, which is saving us a lot of money Ė structural steel is pretty expensive these days). It is still functioning, but the coverage isnít as good as when it was on the antenna structure, so donít be too discouraged if you canít pick it up. Itíll ultimately be relocated to a new mast at the northern end of the observatory, after the roof work is completed.
© Barbara Toy, December 2006