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August 2009 President's Message
By: Barbara Toy
August 14, 2009 8:51PM PDT
Views: 3169

A sad farewell to Trustee Sheryl Benedict, new dates for September and October general meetings, dangers of too much sun at Anza, SCAE revisited, and past club excursions and opportunities for the future...

August 2009 President’s Message

By Barbara Toy


For those who thought summer was a long time coming this year, what with that cold spell in June, July should have relieved those fears and August should continue the trend.  These warm nights are certainly nice (though the night of the July star party carried the “warmth” theme a bit far, as it never cooled below 77 degrees), wearing T-shirts instead of multiple layers of insulation against the cold, and with no worries about fogging your eyepiece by looking through it.  Unfortunately, the days are a lot less pleasant, unless you are one of those people who really enjoys sweating copiously, but that's the price we pay for the pleasures of the summer Milky Way.  


We tend to think of rain damage to the roads around Anza as a winter issue, but this is thunderstorm season, and the storms coming through can deliver a lot of water in a short period of time, which is not good for our equipment and can play havoc with dirt roads.  Overall, our roads have been pretty passable over the last few months, but don’t be surprised if you do find damage.


September And October Meetings – Dates Changed!


As a reminder, the September and October general meetings have been moved from our usual second Friday of the month to the third Friday of the month.  The September meeting will therefore be on September 18th, and the October meeting will be on October 16th.  If you come on the usual night for either of those meetings, you will find that Chapman University is having its own event in the auditorium that, regardless of what it might be, is extremely unlikely to have anything to do with astronomy.  So, please mark your calendars, and we’ll look forward to seeing you all at the re-scheduled meeting dates for September and October.


Also as a reminder – because of this change in the scheduling of the general meetings, the Astrophysics meetings have had to be moved as well.  The September Astrophysics meeting will be on the second Friday of the month, on September 11th, and the October meeting will be on the fourth Friday of the month, on October 23rd.  These changes are all noted on the club calendar on the website, so please check there for the latest on what’s happening when.


Anza Sun


Anyone who has been outside at Anza during the hot summer days knows how brutal the sun can be out there.  We had a reminder about how dangerous the midday heat can be on the day of the July Star Party.  A member was cleaning up weeds in the area around his pad and collapsed due to the heat; I don’t know if what happened was a full case of heat stroke, but, if not, it came far too close for comfort.  Fortunately, he was found by another member, Sam Saeed, who got him down to Anza house, where Marilyn Saeed and other helpful folk put him in front of the swamp cooler to help cool him down and gave him fluids to rehydrate him.  After a night’s rest, another member followed him home on Sunday morning and reported that he made it home without any problem.  He seems to have made a complete recovery without side effects from the experience, which we were all glad to hear, but we are really sorry this happened..


If you have to work out at Anza in the heat of the day (or any other hot location), please make sure you drink lots of water and other fluids (it’s a good idea to drink something as part of your fluids that will replace electrolytes lost to sweat).  If you start feeling at all abnormal, please stop what you’re doing and cool yourself down – and consider whether you really need to continue working right then or whether you can wait until it’s cooler outside.  And, while it’s important to keep the weeds under control at Anza, it’s not worth risking your health for that, or even your life if you collapse and nobody finds you in time.


A Sad Farewell To Trustee Sheryl Benedict


As a classic case of good news/bad news, Sheryl Benedict, who has been a club Trustee for the last two years and also has been looking for a job since she was laid off in December has finally found a new employer who values her many talents.  From what she’s told me, the position should be one that will give her a lot of opportunities to grow professionally, doing work she’s always been interested in, which is really great.  The down side of this is that the position is in Tennessee, and she will already have moved to her new home by the time you see this.


We will really miss her sense of humor and calm good sense on the Board, as well as her contributions to the GoTo Group and the AstroImaging group.  She’s taking her astronomical equipment with her – a very good thing – and has already investigated the local clubs around where she will be living. It looks like she may become a member of the Nashville club in addition to maintaining her membership in our club at long distance.  When she's had a chance to explore the dark sites and the local astronomy community out there, it’ll be interesting to get her perspective.  We expect that she’ll visit Southern California in the future, and hope that she’ll join us at whatever meetings, star parties or other events we may have going while she’s here.


Good luck with your new job and in your new home, Sheryl!  And we hope you’ll stay in touch….


Board Nominations Are Coming Up in October…


While we’re on the subject of Board members, it's not too early to begin thinking about running for the 2010 board, as we start taking nominations in October and continue through the end of the November general meeting.  You can be nominated by either e-mailing Bob Buchheim or me before the November meeting or by nominating yourself or having someone nominate you at the October or November general meetings.


Under our bylaws, you have to be a member for at least a year to be eligible to run for a general Trustee position on the Board or for Secretary or Treasurer.  For the position of President and Vice President, you have to have served on the Board for at least a year, though not necessarily the year before you run for those offices.


If you have any interest in how our club is governed, or in the possibility of running for office, I strongly recommend that you come to at least one Board meeting, to see what happens at the meetings, the types of issues that we discuss and the decision-making process in general.  I’ve been on the Board in different capacities for nine of the last 10 years, and, while there have been tensions on occasion, I have generally found that the group (even with changes in personnel over the years) is congenial, respectful of one another, and generally a really good bunch of people to socialize with as well as work with.  Every year, we have had at least one or two new people on the Board, which helps keep us from stagnating and gives us new perspectives.  Besides enjoying getting together with other Board members for our meetings (the formal meetings are every odd numbered month, starting in January, and we sometimes have additional sessions – though rarely), I always enjoy seeing them at events other than board meetings as well.  The reason for pointing this out is that one good reason to join the Board is to meet and work with a really great group of people.


The classic reason most people give about why they join the Board is to “give back to the club.”  That may sound a bit trite, but I think it genuinely expresses the feelings of the people who have served on the Board during the time I’ve been involved with it – and I’m sure it’s true of prior Boards, too.  It does give you a great sense of satisfaction to help meet the challenges that face the club at different times.  Our biggest long term challenge is to keep the club strong and viable, and help it change where needed to meet the needs and interests of its members.  One way to help us recognize where changes may be needed or where needs of members may not be adequately met is to continue to have new people join the Board every year – which is where you come in.  Seriously – do consider running for the Board this year, and let Bob and me know that you want your name on the ballot.


SCAE 2009


The Southern California Astronomy Expo, which has been organized and run by Oceanside Photo and Telescope for the last four years, took place on two Saturdays in July.  I'm sorry that I wasn’t able to attend either day this year, and that the second Saturday of the event was the same day as our star party and Starbecue – which meant that a quite a few people who were out at Anza weren’t able to attend.


The first Saturday featured a swap meet and other activities.  Wally Pacholka kindly agreed to be responsible for the booth, and brought a number of his pictures and items to sell, giving the club a 10% commission on his sales, which was a great way to make the booth unique and interesting and also bring in a bit of money.  We had a short-term member, an astronomy professor from Northern California named Sandy Bumgarner, who brought some equipment he wanted to sell, so the booth had a respectable inventory.  There may be a picture of the booth on that first Saturday somewhere in this issue, courtesy of Sandy, who sent it via his phone.


The other members that I know helped out over the course of the day included Liam Kennedy, Mike Burton and Vince Laman; Stan Slonkosky was also prepared to help if needed, but wound up helping the following weekend instead, with Tom Drouet.  I'm told that attendance was not very heavy for the swap meet, which may be because this was the first time they tried this.  I don’t know how attendance on the second Saturday compared with past SCAEs, but it seems that Tom and Stan were kept busy.


Many thanks to all these great people for giving us a good presence at this event!  And, if I’ve left anyone out – my apologies, and I hope you’ll let me know so I have a better picture of who all was there.




Some people have asked whether we’ll be having another club night at Mount Wilson, using the 60 inch.  If you would be interested in being part of a night up there, please send me an email letting me know (the address is btoy@cox.net).  Even more important – if you would be willing to act as the coordinator for the group, that would be wonderful and would help get such an event up and running.


When you email me about your interest in a Mt. Wilson night, please also let me know if you’re mainly interested in a night of viewing or a night of imaging – groups doing viewing can be bigger than groups doing imaging, which means that the cost can be spread among a greater number of people.


Some of the people who wanted to go to Dennis Mamana’s Night Sky Photography class last year but couldn’t make it, and other club members as well, may be interested in having a class with Dennis this year.  If we get enough people (14 is the minimum), he would be willing to schedule a special class for the group.  If you’re interested in the class, please email me.  We would also need a coordinator for the group, to make sure we have the 14 people and to take care of gathering the payments and getting information about the class to the people who sign up for it.  If you can take on that role, please at me know.


Based on the class we had last year, Dennis provides around five hours of lecture instruction, filled with helpful information, and he encourages questions; his interest is in seeing that everyone who attends truly understands the material and can use it in the field.  The lecture part is followed by dinner and then a hands-on session under the stars.  These classes are usually before first-quarter moon, so the moon is bright enough to illuminate the landscape but not so bright that it blots out the stars. I found last year’s class very informative and a lot of fun, and, while I have no pretensions of ever reaching the skill level of night sky photographers such as Dennis or Wally Pacholka, I have certainly had a lot of fun playing with the techniques Dennis showed us – and fun is the reason for doing it.


I’ve heard that, in past years, the club had a number of field trips that included a trip to a major observatory, though I don’t know which one, and at least one eclipse trip, by what I've been told.  If you have an idea for an excursion that would be fun to do on a club basis, please feel free to organize it.  We'll be happy to help you get the word out about it, and give you what assistance and support we can to help you bring it together.


Come to think of it, we have some insiders at Palomar – maybe a club excursion for a special tour of the Palomar observatories could be arranged...

© Barbara Toy, July 2009

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