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October 2003 President's Message
By: Barbara Toy
October 7, 2003 11:40AM PDT
Views: 8795

Mars Mania in Orange County, the OCA Banquet, the OCA elections, and more OCA on TV.

President’s Message

By Barbara Toy


October, already!  It hardly seems possible that we’re going into the tenth month of the year…however, starting with THE astronomical topic of August and September…


Mars Mania


We had some great outreaches related to Mars – the one of historic proportions being the outreach we did with the UCI Observatory on the night after closest approach (i.e. August 27).  Fortunately, Irvine Valley College had a viewing event the night before, and was totally swamped by more than 1000 people who wanted to see Mars through the eyepiece for themselves.  Liam Kennedy was there and so was able to warn UCI that the turnout was likely to be huge.  The university did an excellent job of putting together a parking and traffic control plan in less than a day, but even so they were overwhelmed by the public response to the event.  We were told afterward that they estimated that around 10,000 people came to the observatory area over the course of the evening.  Volunteers from OCA and from the UCI Astronomy club brought 15 to 20 telescopes in addition to the 24-inch telescope in the UCI observatory, and there were long lines for all of them until well after 1:00 a.m.  When I left after 2:00 there was still a long line for the 24” – somewhat ironic since the views through that telescope weren’t any better than through our smaller telescopes.


In spite of the long waits, the crowd at the UCI event was very courteous and well-behaved, and many asked questions that showed a genuine interest in learning more than what they’d seen in the popular press.  A lot of people seemed disappointed in their initial view through the eyepiece, and I quickly learned that they could see a lot more when I gave them a description of what was in view and where it was located on the planetary disk – the fact that they could pick out the polar cap caused more incredulity and excitement than picking out any other feature, for some reason.    


The Mars outreach we did at the Discovery Science Center on September 7 was a lot different.  It was one of our rare daytime outreaches, and ours was one of a number of special Mars-related events going on in the museum.  We had a table surrounded by several telescopes and my binoculars on a parallel mount, and we also had a continuous slide show of the Mars pictures taken in the last few months by different club members (along with a good selection of other images).  We answered a lot of questions about telescopes and how to use them, about the club, about astronomy in general and the objects shown in the slide show (including Mars) – and spend a lot of time putting the scopes back on the objects we’d found to focus on because the children coming through were so used to touching and playing with the exhibits that they inevitably grabbed and moved the telescopes before we could stop them.  In spite of that, a good time was had by all, and we even had a visit from Mars in person, along with one of his moons.  Here he is with Craig Bobchin on the left, Mike Bertin on the right and (I believe) Deimos to the left of Craig (Antonio Miro was behind them, demonstrating his small Newtonian telescope): 


The Orange County Space Society was very much involved in this event, and this proved a great opportunity to get to know them as well as to get to know people at the Discovery Center.  I’m happy to report that we have a lot of interests in common with both entities, particularly our mutual interest in community education and in encouraging children to take an interest in science and to learn about the universe around them.  I hope to see some interesting joint projects develop with them both in the future.


So, the final conclusion on Mars Mania – yes, there was a lot of media hype, but it did spark a lot of genuine interest in our sister planet.  I think there are a lot of people out there now who look up at the sky with a new perspective – they have actually seen detail on another planet for themselves, and seen it as a genuine world.  In the weeks after Opposition, they should have been able to pick it out in the sky for themselves – and maybe just being able to do that will trigger a greater interest in finding and looking at the other wonders that are out there.


Upcoming “How to Use Your Telescope” Class


Since so many people went out and bought telescopes so they could take a look at Mars, we expect our next “How to Use Your Telescope” class will be well-attended.  This is now a regular part of our Beginners Class, and this session will be on November 7 at 7:30 p.m.  We need volunteers to help out, as this is very much a “hands on” class, where we help people learn to set up their equipment and find some objects with it.  It’s set in November as this is the first class session after Daylight Savings ends, so the sky should be better for viewing.


The class is at the Heritage Museum, which is about one block west of Fairview on Harvard in Santa Ana, between Warner and Edinger.  These classes are a lot of fun, and are a great way to help people who are new to astronomy through the early frustrations of our hobby, so please plan to come and help out.  And, if you have equipment you’d like some help with yourself – this is the class to attend!  You can contact Antonio Miro (tycmiro@aol.com or 714/898-967) or me (btoy@cox.net or 714/606-1825) for more information.


The OCA Banquet


In hopes that this reaches you before the Banquet – tickets are on sale, and we’d love to see you there!  The banquet is on Sunday, October 12, at 6:00 p.m., at the Orange County Mining Co.  Contact Charlie Oostdyk for tickets – he can take reservations, or make whatever arrangements are necessary to have you and your tickets meet up so you won’t miss out on this great event.


Our speaker, Stephen Edberg of JPL, is currently the Remote Sensing Discipline Scientist for the Cassini Project, and he’s obviously in a position to know a tremendous amount about that entire mission.  His talk is titled “Cassini – Mysteries of Saturn,” and he will be filling us in on what is happening with the Cassini Project and what they are hoping to find when Cassini reaches Saturn.  It’ll be an exciting and very timely talk – one you won’t want to miss!


As of this writing, Joel Harris and others have already obtained some very nice door prizes for the banquet.  Just having the chance to win one of these great prizes (I’m told that one is a refractor – and I’m not saying that it’s the grand prize!) is worth the price of admission! 


And then there’s the mystery guest…who, I’m told, has a great interest in the subject of Dr. Edberg’s talk.  And, of course, the banquet is an ideal time to visit with fellow members and their Significant Others over good food and drink, meet new people, exchange war-stories, and generally have a wonderful time.   


The cost is just $45.00 per person, and it would help us a lot if you contact Charlie about getting them well before the October meeting.  We have to give the restaurant a firm count of people attending a week before the banquet, so, if you wait until the October meeting, we’ll have a real logistics problem.  Charlie can be reached at 714/751-5381 or Charlie@CCCD.EDU.


And, if you don’t see this until after October 12, and if you weren’t at the banquet – well, we all had a great time, and I’m really sorry you weren’t there with us!




Our election may be overshadowed by what’s going on at the state and federal levels, but at least we don’t have any problem with voting machines or hanging chads…  Unless the 9th Circuit decides otherwise, our election schedule is:  At the October meeting, we will announce which members of the current Board are running for reelection.   Nominations from the membership will then be taken at the November and December general meetings.  The nominations will close at the December meeting, and the candidates will each give a brief statement (I expect that we will post written statements by each candidate on the website again, too).  You will be getting ballots and instructions either in the January Sirius Astronomer or by a separate mailing in early January.  You can cast your vote by mail before the January meeting or at the January meeting – the voting ends at the end of that meeting.


If my own experience is any guide, serving on the Board can be a lot of fun, and can give you a real sense of satisfaction.  It’s also a great way to learn more about the many facets of the club, and to contribute to its development.  Whether you’ve been on the Board in the past or not, I hope you’ll seriously consider running – the club needs your enthusiasm and expertise.  The requirements are simple – you have to be a member of the club for at least one year to be eligible to run for a Trustee position, and you have to have served on the Board for at least one year to be eligible to run for any of the officer positions (President, Vice President, Secretary or Treasurer).


We’re looking forward to seeing your name on the ballot – and if you need someone to do the nominating for you, let me know and I’ll be happy to find you a nominator!


More on OCA on TV…


Those of you in South Orange County have (hopefully) seen the Public Access show that Liam Kennedy started and that he’s now doing with the help of the other members of the OCA-TV group.  For those who have Cox Cable and haven’t seen it yet, it’s “Look Up Tonight” and it now has a regular broadcast time: Channel 31, Tuesdays, 11:00 p.m.  And I now know first-hand that Liam has an excellent reputation at Cox – I happened to spend some time with a crew that does filming for Public Access programs for Cox, and they all knew who Liam was and had nothing but good things to say about him and the program.  In fact, they told me about an incident where a wrong connection had been made so Channel 31 had no sound – this was discovered and corrected before “Look Up Tonight” came on because one of the techs is a real fan of the show and tuned in early so he wouldn’t miss it. 


Now, the reason I spent some time with the Public Access people is that there is another program, called “Orange County Hidden,” produced and hosted by Curtis Weigel, which features interviews with people about various things in Orange County that people might not know about.  Someone told him about OCA, and he wanted to do a segment on the club.  Somehow this was deemed to fall within my presidential responsibilities, and I duly showed up to be interviewed about the club on the show.  This was a live-to-tape production with only one take, so what we said and how we said it was exactly how it wound up on the tape. 


Curtis filmed two episodes that night, and ours was the last segment done – he has my utmost respect for maintaining his enthusiasm and focus through the entire process.  We don’t yet know when our part will be aired, but it will probably be late November or even December.  Our segment is about 10 minutes, which is only enough time to scratch the surface of what could be said about the club.  Curtis made a game attempt to cover a lot of territory, and showed some pictures from the website for visual interest and read part of Matt Ota’s account of the UCI Mars outreach – so hopefully the flavor of the club and its variety of people and activities comes through.  And I think I can chalk this up as yet another of those unexpected experiences the club provides…

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