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October 2008 President's Message
By: Barbara Toy
October 24, 2008 8:50PM PDT
Views: 3522

First PATS Conference a great success, OCA elections and call for candidates for the 2009 Board, a sad farewell to OPTAS and welcome to former OPTAS members, and a look at our busy Outreach program.

October 2008 President’s Message

By Barbara Toy



Besides Octoberfest and Halloween, October used to be known as the month when Daylight Savings Time went off and we went back to standard time. The Powers That Be have decreed that Daylight Saving Time now ends in the early morning of November 2nd, too late to benefit the trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  The main practical effect on those of us with computers or other devices that make the switch to standard time automatically is that they may stick to the old schedule and make the change the weekend before Halloween, which could cause some difficulties. So, if you notice equipment acting strangely near the end of October, you might want to check the time, and check again after November 2nd.


Considering that astronomy deals with vast reaches of time and space, it seems odd that local time can be so important, but, if your local time is off, it sure makes it hard to find things in all that vastness!


The First PATS Conference Was a Success!


The first annual Pacific Astronomy and Telescope Show was held on September 13 and 14 (close to the full moon, not a calendaring accident), and was preceded by a one-day astroimaging conference on September 12.  I hope you made it at least to the main conference – it was a great event!  And they are planning an even better one for next year, so make sure you calendar it when they announce the dates!


I spent most of my time on Saturday in the vendor area (though I did make it to the Story Musgrave talk on the Hubble repair, which turned out to be different than I expected – more philosophical and artistic than technical, but interesting and enjoyable, and it featured a lot of excellent photographs he’s taken over the years).  There were a lot of raffles by different vendors over the course of the day, and I’m happy to report that we had several club members who won some very nice items, but, of course, there were even more of us who didn’t, though we always have hopes for next time….


The OCA booth was a genuine joint effort, and was one of the most elaborate booths we’ve had.  We taped one of the banners that Matt Ota made for us around the front of the table, where it made an eye-catching identifier for the club. Bob Buchheim put together a slideshow from parts of shows he’s done for the general meetings.  Instead of showing this on a computer screen as originally planned, we ran it through a projector that Dave Radosevich donated to the club several years ago and projected it onto a “screen” that was part of a poster that Alan Smallbone put together, featuring pictures of different club activities around the area where the slides were shown.  This sat on a table behind the main table, and the projected slide show was much more visible than if we had just played it on a computer screen. 


Several imagers (Don Lynn, Ray Stann, Dave Kodama and Craig Bobchin) loaned us prints of some of their images, which we put in portfolio book to protect them, and we also had the portfolio of some of Alan’s prints that we used at the OPT event.  Wally Pacholka generously loaned us several of his mounted prints, most notably his spectacular shots of the Milky Way from Maui and over the Grand Tetons.  We used one to shield the computer and projector from general view and make our main table more interesting, and others we displayed on an easel or mounted against the back wall – and they did attract a lot of attention!  Fortunately, Wally was at the Hutech booth with even more of his pictures, so we could send folks over there for answers to questions about his images and possibly to buy some.  Besides the pictures, we had club brochures and cards, and many people picked them up after being drawn to the booth by the display.  Alan, Craig, Sheryl Benedict and I handled the booth on Saturday, with help from Bob Buchheim while he was there, and Craig, Sheryl and Shelia Cassidy handled it on Sunday.


Overall, the conference was a great success for OCA as well as in general – and hopefully we’ll be able to get even more prints together for the next time we have this kind of booth, to show off the skills of even more of our imagers.  It would be nice to show some interesting prints of different club activities, as well, so if you have any good pictures of outreach events, star parties, meetings, or other club events that you would be willing to let us use, please send me a copy.


Many thanks to everyone who helped make the OCA presence at PATS such a success!


OCA Elections


Although whenever someone says “election” right now, the assumption is that the reference is to that bit of national business set in November, we have our own election season coming up.  As you might note, our season is only about three months long, and is free of career politicians – two refreshing differences from some of the other contests going on as I write this.  We often have to invite or encourage people to run for club positions, though, as our members seem to be a bit diffident about taking on a leadership role.  Please consider this my encouragement to you to run for club office, which I am sure you would handle very capably.  One of our greatest strengths as a club is that we have such a wide range of talents among our members, and this has given us a lot of diversity on our Boards over the years and made them more effective as different members have served as trustees and officers of the club.


To run for a trustee position, you need to be a member in good standing and to have been a member for at least a year. With those credentials, you could technically run for secretary or treasurer as well. If you want to run for president or vice president, you also need to have served at least one year on the board at some point (but not necessarily this year).


There are a lot of good reasons for serving on the board, such as “giving back" to the club and wanting to help the club move forward and develop in the best way possible.  Some slightly less noble reasons are that it really is a lot of fun to develop and work on projects you believe in at the board level, and there’s a lot of enjoyment in getting to know and work with the other board members. Also, as a board member, you would be closer to information sources in the club, and could enjoy knowing more of what's going on than most members as well as being an information source (where appropriate) to other club members.


The Board meets every other month starting in January, and our practice is to set Board meetings for the convenience of as many board members as possible, though always on a Sunday evening. We start with a potluck around 5:00 p.m. on the meeting dates, then the actual meetings start at 5:30.  We try to end by around 8:30, as almost everyone on the board has to be at work Monday morning.  The Board actively administers the club, and is far from a rubberstamp entity, which also makes being a Board member more interesting and meaningful.


We start taking nominations in October, and take the final nominations at the November general meeting.  The final ballot goes out with the December Sirius Astronomer and will also be available on the website and at the January general meeting.  You can vote by mail (instructions are on the ballots), or at the January general meeting. The election ends at the end of the January general meeting, which will be on January 9, 2009.


So, get ready to throw your hat in the ring and join in the governance of the club!  If you want to run, getting nominated is as simple as giving your name to Bob Buchheim or me between now and the November meeting date (November 14), volunteering to run at the October or November general meetings, or having someone else do a formal nomination at either of these meetings.


Looking forward to seeing your name on the ballot….


A sad farewell to OPTAS


Those of you who have done business with Oceanside Photo and Telescope are most likely aware of OPT's astronomy club, OPTAS (the OPT Astronomical Society), and some of you may be past or present members. The club has provided a lot of people with their first star party experiences, and given a lot of people the opportunity to use their equipment under dark skies and with a congenial group of folks who could help them get the best use out of it. It's also encouraged people to get involved with astronomy or stay involved when their initial enthusiasm waned, and it has been a significant factor in the local astronomy scene for many years.


Unfortunately, when you see a paragraph framed in those terms, it generally means bad news about the subject of the paragraph.  This is no exception – due to a number of factors outside their control, OPTAS has made the reluctant decision to disband, and it will be very much missed.  They have a number of members who still have some time left on their OPTAS membership, and other local clubs, including OCA, have agreed to allow them to transfer the remaining portions of their memberships to those clubs if they choose to do so.  So, you may meet some new members who have come to us through the transfer of their OPTAS membership to our club. 


If so, please make them welcome and help show them the ropes.  If you are one of these new members, welcome to OCA!  And please feel free to call me or other people on our Contacts list (see the back of the Sirius Astronomer or the OCA website, www.ocastronomers.org) if you have questions or would like more information about any of the club's different activities. In fact, that goes for any new members, and for any existing members who may have questions that they've never had answered about the club.




Now that school is back in session, our regular outreach program for the winter months is gearing up. Jim Benet, our Outreach Coordinator, has been sending out e-mails about upcoming outreaches – if you are not on his mailing list, please contact him at jimbenet@pacbell.net to be put on the list so you get the most current information about upcoming events.


If you ever find yourself trying to excite friends or family members about what you can see in the eyepiece, or try to explain the planets, the moon, or any other astronomical subject to non-astronomers, or answer questions in those areas, you’re a natural for the outreach program. The objective of the program is to make the night sky more accessible to people who otherwise might never look to see what's up there through a telescope or binoculars. Amazingly, even though many people will tell you that they have a long-standing interest in astronomy, very few of them have actually looked through a telescope.  At an outreach event, you can demonstrate that they can see many wonderful objects in the eyepiece without exorbitantly expensive equipment or extremely dark skies, which can be a real revelation.  Along the way, you can show them why they should care about the negative effects of unnecessary lighting on the night sky, and that there are fun things to do in the evenings that don’t involve watching the television.


So what happens at a typical outreach event?  The winter events are generally set up with classes at different schools, and volunteers take telescopes or other observing equipment, such as astronomical binoculars, and let the students and their families and friends take a look at whatever is visible for themselves. As you may recall from when you first looked through the eyepiece, seeing an object alone is not generally as satisfying as seeing an object while learning something about it.  Outreach volunteers regularly give their viewers information about the objects in view, and answer questions, though seldom at a very advanced level, so there’s no need to feel intimidated about that aspect of these events.  Questions are often about equipment as much as about the objects being viewed.


A typical event starts with the volunteers arriving and setting up their equipment, ideally well before the viewing is scheduled.  Since most of these events are scheduled during the week, and most volunteers have day jobs, many can’t make it before the viewing starts, but come anyway and set up without undue problems even though there may be a lot of people milling around expectantly, waiting to look through what they’ve brought. 


Depending on the school or other location, sometimes the event starts with some type of presentation, which may be provided by one of volunteers, by Jim, or by the school itself.  The major event for most of the volunteers and the people attending, however, is the viewing session that follows any presentation. Generally, viewers will look through as many different scopes as they can, and the size of the scope is not necessarily the most attractive feature. A lot of kids, in particular, seem to relate better to the smaller scopes, so don't feel that you need to bring big equipment to have a success in an outreach event. New viewers are also amazingly impressed by bright objects, so the moon and bright planets are always favorites – fortunate, because they are usually pretty easy to find and often can be seen even when there are thin clouds or haze.  Bright clusters such as the Pleiades and the Hyades are also popular in binoculars.  And, since winter is coming on, Orion is often available – a showstopper even when there’s light pollution!


If you haven’t yet tried volunteering for an outreach event, please do – you’ll most likely find that it’s a lot more fun than you ever imagined!


© Barbara Toy, September 2008

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