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October 2007 President's Message
By: Barbara Toy
November 4, 2007 1:57PM PDT
Views: 6953

The upcoming club election, plans to change lock combinations at Anza, changes in the AstroImage group and well-deserved tribute to Bill Patterson, some star party reminiscences, an intro to the Beginners Class... Just click on the title to get the details!

 President’s Message

By Barbara Toy


Starting with a bit of business – remember that we’ll start taking nominations for the 2008 Board of Trustees a month earlier than in the past, at the October general meeting.  If you want to run for a Trustee or officer position, you can be nominated at the October or November general meeting, or you can email Bob Buchheim (rbuchheim@earthlink.net) or me (btoy@cox.net) and we will be happy to nominate you. 


To run for Trustee or for Secretary or Treasurer, you need to be a member in good standing for at least a year.  To run for President or Vice President, you also need to have served on the Board for at least a year at some point, not necessarily the year before you decide to run.  There are a lot of you out there who have these qualifications and would do an excellent job for the club – do get your name on the ballot!


Changing Lock Combinations At Anza


Every so often we have to change the combinations on the locks that allow access to the facilities at Anza for security reasons.  We expect to do this in late October, after the work on the Observatory roof is finished.  We will try to notify those people who are known to use the site regularly with the new combination, but please check with Charlie Oostdyk, Don Lynn or with me for the number if you go out to the site from late October on and have not been notified of the new combination.  When you get the new number, please remember that it’s important to keep this confidential, and to be sure that it is not given to anyone who is not a current member in good standing in the club.


While we’re on the subject of locks, please make it a practice to put the keys back where they belong immediately after you use them, so they don’t get lost, and, when you lock any of the combination locks, please set all of the numbers to zero to make it more difficult for an outsider to figure out the combination.  After you use the key to Anza House, please replace the key and lock the lock box immediately after opening the door, as there is no need for it to remain open and locking it immediately will ensure that it’s locked when the property is closed up.  Unfortunately, often the last person to leave Anza House doesn’t think to check that lock on the way out – if it’s left unlocked, sometimes it could be a couple weeks or more before someone goes out there and can lock it.  


Thank you for your cooperation and understanding as we go through the combination-changing process, and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions concerning it.


Changes For the AstroImage Group – And Many Thanks to Bill Patterson


Our AstroImage group has been one of our largest and most active special interest groups for the last decade or more.  During most of that time, Bill Patterson has chaired the group.  He shared that position with Leon Aslan for a while, but has been the sole chair for a long time now.  While he was with Source Engineering, he arranged for the AI group to meet in the company’s conference room, and after he retired he oversaw the move to the group’s current meeting location at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher in Irvine, which we have courtesy of Joe Busch.  During the years he has been the chairman, he has worked hard and with a lot of creativity to keep the meetings interesting and relevant to the members, to involve more members in making presentations and in the other activities the group is involved with, and to keep the group moving in interesting directions.


Much to our regret, Bill has decided it is time for him to relinquish the position – after his years of hard work and being the main guy moderating the meetings, keeping them moving, and coming up with activities for future meetings, he wants to sit back and enjoy the meetings and other activities as a participant for a while.  He announced this at the September meeting, and has set the October AI meeting as the time when the new chairperson will be selected.


If you have any interest in the AstroImage group, even if you haven’t been to a meeting in a while, the October meeting is obviously an important meeting to attend, as whatever decision is made there about the leadership of the group will have a great impact on its activities and its future.  So please be sure to note it on your calendar and plan to come – October 16, 7:00 p.m. at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s new offices at 3161 Michelson Dr., 11th floor, Irvine. 


Bill had done a wonderful job leading the AI group – we all owe him a lot of thanks for the time, energy and imagination he has brought to the job.  He is leaving it a well-organized and vital group for his successor.  Even though he may be a hard act to follow, I hope that won’t discourage any of you who have an interest in seeing the AI group continue to flourish from stepping forward to fill this position.  The AI group is a great bunch of people, the meetings get people together to socialize and learn from each other as well and also provide a lot of good information to imagers at all experience levels from the various featured presentations, and these are particularly exciting times for the group – with the plans for an enhanced AI website, the ongoing hands-on workshops in Photoshop, plans for another intensive beginners class, work on another AI calendar featuring images from the group, and so on – leading the group will be exciting, interesting and fun for whoever takes on that position!  If you have any interest in being that person, please contact Tom Kucharski (Nominations Chair, TomRigel@aol.com), Bill Patterson (bill@laastro.com) or me.


Star Party Reminiscences – Anza…


Dark, dark skies, with the light domes blotted out, so you could see the Milky Way from horizon to horizon, dry, with rock-steady seeing – I'm told these were the conditions at Anza on the Friday night before the September star party, while many of us who went to that star party were enjoying the animated and well-illustrated account of the trip made by Gernot Meiser and Pascale Demy overland from Germany to the southern part of Africa to see a full solar eclipse from Zambia.  Fortunately, even though those who were at Anza on Friday kept saying that it was a lot better than on Saturday, conditions were good for the star party on Saturday, as well. 


In particular, the clouds kept the western light domes down more than usual, and, for some reason, the light domes from San Diego in the south and the domes to the northeast of us seemed to be much smaller than usual or nonexistent even though there were no visible clouds or fog in those directions.  As a result, the eastern and southern sky in particular was very dark most of the night and viewing was good.  We had a number of new people who were making their first trip to Anza that weekend, and at least three "old-timers" who hadn't been able to make it to Anza for quite some time – Russ and Stephanie Tanton, and Jeff Gortatowsky.  Although some of the regulars were away on vacations, many who were out of town at various times over the summer were back.  It was a great time for catching up with people as well as viewing or imaging, and a great welcome to the fall viewing season.


…And Black Star Canyon


It's been a while since I've been able to make it to the Black Star Canyon star party, but Steve Short tells me that they had a lot of people at the September party, and everyone had a good time.  The people he works with at the Irvine Co. regarding the site have been showing a lot if interest in what we are doing out there, and he had at least one attend the star party as a guest.  They are now interested in bringing some small groups out on occasion, which is great because it helps them see our use of the site as something positive that they should encourage.  We are hoping that at some point we may be allowed more access to the site than once a month, on terms closer to those we had while we were using the Silverado site, and building closer ties like this can only help that effort.


Although Steve took on the position of Black Star Canyon Coordinator in part because of the convenience of having an observing site reasonably close to his home, he has not had a chance to do much observing himself out there for the last couple years.  This is mainly because of activities he has taken on as our informal ambassador to the Nature Conservancy when they were managing the site and now to the Irvine Co. personnel who have taken over for them, and because he has been doing a lot with beginners who attend the star parties.  Some of these are people who come out to Black Star Canyon as guests of the club because they are attending the Beginners Class, others are new club members or other guests who are new to our hobby. 


He usually starts with a sky tour, and spends a lot of time with new people and visitors over the course of the evening to ensure that they have a good experience.  Quite a few of these people become members, and even those that don’t leave with a better understanding of the sky and of our hobby than they had before.  We owe him many thanks for all he does to keep Black Star Canyon going strong, and for his efforts to inform people outside the club of what we do and of the benefits of astronomy as a hobby.


Beginners Class


As I write this, we just finished our September Beginners Class.  This was a week later than usual; it is usually held the first Friday of each month, but because we had to move the general meeting to the first Friday in September, it was moved to the second Friday.  In spite of this, we were delighted to have a large turnout – 39 people – which filled our current classroom on the ground floor of the Coach House/administration building at the Centennial Heritage Museum.  I was pleased to see a group of people who have come to some of our general meetings and who joined the club’s September trip to Mount Wilson.  They had a wonderful time at Mount Wilson – I understand that conditions were particularly good that night – and the grand finale of the show was looking at the Great Orion Nebula in the 60-inch.  The field of view for that telescope is quite small, so I believe they were looking at the area immediately around the Trapezium, not the broader expanse of nebulosity, but whichever part they saw, they said it was stunning.


Dave Pearson is the current instructor for the Beginners Class, and Steve Short and I generally help out, as well.  For those who may not be familiar with the class, it is a series of six sessions, one each month.  The first session covers general astronomy topics – what's up there, what it looks like, why it won't look like a Hubble shot through even the best amateur equipment, and so on.  The second session is on telescope optics, the third on mounts and other equipment, the fourth on how to find what's up there, the fifth is our hands-on "bring your telescope" class, and the last session is now on the basics of astrophotography.  The sessions are independent of each other so you can attend them in any order, or you can attend just the classes that interest you at a particular time.


There are materials for many of the sessions that can be downloaded from our website, which were drafted by Antonio Miro, the prior instructor.  Although Dave doesn’t follow these these materials exactly, they do provide a good general background on the various topics covered.  All of the classes are free and open to the public, and we invite the people who attend to come to one of our star parties as guests of our club, so they can get a more direct experience with observational astronomy and the types of equipment that we use.  Naturally, we hope that they will join the club, and many of them do.


If you would like to come to any of these classes, you would be more than welcome.  If you would like to help out with the class, please contact David Pearson (astrodwp@dslextreme.com), Steve Short (NightSkyTours@hotmail.com ) or me.




We have a new year coming up, with new hopes and challenges, and we need new people to join the leadership of the club to help give us the energy and flexibility that keeps our club strong.  Running for the Board is one way to do this, but that isn’t the only way to contribute.  Volunteers can help us out in a lot of areas – keep your eyes open for opportunities that meet your interests, and you’ll be surprised how many there are.  And don’t forget that contributing articles and pictures to the Sirius Astronomer is a great way to help us out, too!

© Barbara Toy, September 2007

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