By Barbara Toy
For those who may be missing the hyperactivity of the November-December holiday season – fear not! We’ve got busy times ahead as we move into spring: the Messier Marathon’s in March, specifically the March Anza star party. Astronomy week is coming up on April 15-21, ending with Astronomy Day on April 21, and National Dark Sky week is April 17-24. The club banquet is on Saturday, April 28, and RTMC is coming up on Memorial Day weekend, at the end of May. Along with all this, we have our regular meetings, outreaches, star parties and other activities – there’s a lot to do, even if you don't happen to have a graduation, wedding or other life-changing event going on in your family!
However, on the subject of life-changing events…
Jim Benet Retires!
Jim Benet has been a long-time member of the club, and was a member of the club’s Board as Trustee for several years. When he left that position, he volunteered to be the Coordinator for the Outreach Program, which he’s done very capably since at least 1999 (I happen to know because he was the coordinator when I joined the club). The program has grown steadily since then, thanks to the efforts of Jim and his outreach crew, and it’s still one of the easiest ways for new members to really get involved in the club. Beyond that, of course, it’s a great resource for us, the schools and our general community.
At the beginning of February, Jim began a new phase of his life, when he formally retired from his position as an engineer for Boeing. As anyone who has spent much time around him knows, Jim is very energetic, and most unlikely to sit around wondering what to do with his time. It was therefore no surprise to find that he already had a lengthy list of plans for what to do in his retirement well before the big day actually arrived – these include such diverse items as learning Adobe Photoshop, learning more about classical music, creating a website for a friend, and, of course, doing more astronomy!
We in the club are getting a direct benefit from this change in Jim’s life, as he has kindly agreed to take on the job of organizing the club banquet, in addition to all of his other astronomy and outreach activities. So, regarding the banquet…
The 2007 OCA Banquet
Calendar April 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the Orange County Mining Company for the 2007 Orange County Astronomers banquet – we have only around 70 spots available, so be sure to get your tickets early!
Why should you come to the banquet? Well, of course there are the standard reasons – they’re a lot of fun, they give you a chance to socialize with fellow club members and their families in very convivial surroundings, they give you the chance to bring your own loved ones to a club event they may find more appealing than many of our activities, the food at the Mining Co. is excellent, the view from there is great, there are door prizes, it’s a way to show support for your club, and so on. This year, we have the additional excellent incentive that this is the club's 40th anniversary and this banquet will in part commemorate the club’s history and the people who helped make it the great organization it is today. And, of course, the evening includes a really good speaker – Dr. Laura Woodney, whose research specialty is comets, talking about current comet science and what they learned from Deep Impact (that’s the very successful project where they sent a probe into the core of a comet to learn about what it was made of and how it was held together).
Tickets are only $45.00 dollars each, and you can get them from Charlie Oostdyk. Don't delay – you don't want to miss out on this year’s banquet!
OCA's 40th Anniversary
As I mentioned earlier, 2007 marks the 40th anniversary year of Orange County Astronomers as an organization. The club started in 1967 and was formally incorporated as an educational nonprofit corporation under its original name, the Orange County Amateur Astronomers Association (OCAAA) in 1972. The name was changed to Orange County Astronomers (OCA) in 1974. I’ve been told that the legal side of the incorporation was overseen by Byron Groves, and we all have good reason to thank him for getting the club off on a good footing.
Even though they were among the original members of the club forty years ago, we still have three charter members on our membership list: Tim Hogle, Arthur LeBrun and Chuck LeBrun. We have a lot of other long-time members – Chris Butler joined in 1983, Wayne Johnson in 1984, and Dave Kodama in 1993, to give a few better-known examples; the membership list doesn’t give the dates when people joined before 1981, so I don’t have the years when club luminaries such as John Sanford, Charlie Oostdyk and Don Lynn actually joined, but it looks like they and many others who are still active members joined in the 1970s. It’s great to know that we still have a lot of members who have been with the club for over two decades!
A glance at our calendar confirms that we have a lot of different activities going on in the club these days. That was true in times past, as well, but I understand that there were some significant differences. For instance, several people have suggested in the last few years that we have a telescope-making group in the club – no one has volunteered to organize such a group, but I’m told that we once had an active telescope-making group that even had a mirror-grinding/optics lab thanks to some donated space that is no longer available. For many years, the club also held a lot of activities in space we were allowed to use at the Boys Club, and held meetings and other activities in a shed at what was then the Discovery Museum (now the Centennial Heritage Museum). Groups from the club went on eclipse trips to Catalina and Chile (and probably other places as well), and there was at least one club field trip to Kitt Peak. Past outreach activities included showing astrophotos at various malls and bringing telescopes to the Orange County fair. Club meetings in the early days were held at the Santa Ana library, though we have been fortunate to have had the use of the auditorium at Chapman University for many years now. Before we had access to the current storage for the club library at Chapman, it had to be brought to every meeting – a major inconvenience, which undoubtedly helped keep the collection small!
One of the club's early viewing sites was from a location reached from the Ortega Highway. The club actually owned another piece of property before it purchased the Anza property; I'm told that it was a smaller piece of land in the San Bernardino Mountains that wasn’t as suitable overall for observing as our Anza site has proved to be. When we got the Anza property, the surrounding area was very sparsely populated, and it took a lot of effort to put in the well, pump, cistern and associated plumbing that gives us water and such amenities as flush toilets on site, to bring in power and telephones, and to build the club Observatory (and, of course, the Kuhn telescope it houses) and everything else that has made the Anza site the convenient and comfortable viewing site it is. Those who, like me, joined the club long after all this was done owe a lot to the members whose efforts made it all a reality!
This just touches the surface of our club’s history. I am very happy to report that one of our newest board members, Shelia Cassidy, plans to write a history of the OCA so that we will have a better record of all that has gone before. She needs names, dates, stories and other information, as well as pictures – if you can provide any of these things, please contact Shelia at email@example.com or 951/360-1199.
Since this is our 40th anniversary year, we want to commemorate and celebrate the past as well as plan for future. If you have ideas for what we can do to properly commemorate our past, or would like to be involved in the planning and organizing such activities, please contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org or 714/606-1825). In particular, we would like to salute our past at our banquet, and could really use any pictures or other things you might have relating to the club and its activities in past years, as well as anecdotes of prior times. If you can help out with any of these things, please let me know. If you want to donate items from our past, we would appreciate them as valuable additions to the club archives; if you want to keep them but are willing to make them available, we would be happy to scan or photograph them and return the originals to you.
Changing gears a bit, there are two periods each year, right around the equinoxes, when all 110 Messier objects can be seen in one night – at least theoretically. The lineup in the spring seems better than the fall, and the spring equinox is the traditional time for the Messier Marathon. This is an event where people try to see as many of the 110 Messier objects as they can in one night, starting as soon as objects can be seen after sunset and ending when the dawn sky becomes too bright to see anything else.
This year's Messier Marathon will be the night of the March Anza star party. That's the club's formal marathon, but you don't have to be at Anza to participate, and you don't have to do it on the night of the Anza star party. What you need is a place to view from, which could be your back yard or driveway, and something to view with, which can range from binoculars through small telescopes to the largest telescopes in the club, and your list of objects that you mark off as you find them, to keep track of them, and you need to do your marathon over a single night.
There are a lot of marathon lists available on the Internet and in books, listing the Messier objects in an order that makes it easier to see all of them in one night. Different lists order things slightly differently, but they all start with objects furthest to the west right at sunset and end with the objects coming up in the east at dawn. The club has a Messier Marathon list that was originally compiled by Doug Millar and has recently been revised by Jim Benet to correct some errors and add more information. We will be posting this list on our website and will have copies available at Anza at the March star party, as well. We generally have some available Anza house and in the Observatory, so please check at either location if you need a copy.
Please be sure to fill in your name and the other information requested on the form, and turn it in at the Observatory or Anza house, or at the next general meeting. We want to give certificates to those who do the marathon – even if you don’t get all 110 objects this year, please turn your form in so we’ll know people are interested in doing this! After all, you can always try for all 110 objects again next year....
The e-Bay Fundraiser Continues!
This is the time of year when a lot of people clean out closets, garages and storage units, and find that they have a lot of things they no longer need. If you are one of these people – and to give you a nudge if you might on the verge of becoming one of these people – our e-Bay fundraiser is alive and well and can help you get rid of unwanted items in a way that gets you a tax exemption and gives the club some needed income, benefiting all concerned.
Larry McManus continues to coordinate this program, and you can make arrangements to turn donations over to him at the club's general meetings or at other events he plans to attend. He can also pick up bulky items, and he's open to working out other arrangements as needed. You can call him at 714/731-5542 or e-mail him at email@example.com to make arrangements that work for both of you.
Donations can be anything that is likely to sell on eBay, not limited to astronomical goods. If you have a question about whether a particular item is appropriate for a donation, please call Larry to check it out. In the past, people have donated various types of sports and other memorabilia, office equipment, computers and related items, cameras, antiques, sports equipment, tools, pictures, and all kinds of other items. A visit to the eBay site will show you what a wide variety of items offered for sale there – it seems that anything that someone that might find some use for or want to collect has some type of market through that website.
So, you can be rid of all those items that are no longer useful to you and are taking up needed space, get a tax deduction, and help the club get some income – truly, a winning situation for all concerned!
Astronomy Week and Dark Sky Week
International Astronomy Day is April 21, 2007, the last day of International Astronomy Week, and National Dark Sky Week overlaps it, running from April 17 through 24. We haven’t done much to celebrate either of these in the past, mainly because it seems we forget about them until they’re just around the corner, and then people are too busy to come up with good activities and there’s too little time to get the word out. We’re hoping to do better this year – as one of the largest astronomy clubs in the world, we really should be at the forefront of local activities to raise public consciousness about astronomy and the many benefits of eliminating excessive outside lighting.
Please let me know if you would like to be involved with organizing some activities for these two events and/or participating in them – wouldn’t having a great set of programs for this period in April be a wonderful way to celebrate our club's 40th anniversary?
© Barbara Toy, January 2007