Around OCA for July, 2005

Posted On July 2, 2005

To start off with, here's a correction and an update to last month's column

Correction as to AI 2006:  It turns out that the City of Brea has a conflict on the weekend I thought we had the Curtis Theatre, which I didn't find out about before the June SA went to press.  The dates to mark for the AstroImage 2006 conference are now the following weekend, Friday, August 11 and Saturday, August 12, 2006 - and keep an eye out for further developments! 

Update on Antonio Miro:  Antonio was doing much better after his surgery, and, as this was originally written, he was released to continue his recuperation at home.  Although he was doing well, he wasn't well enough to come to the June general meeting, so Joe Ewach, a long-time friend, was present on his behalf to accept the plaque that was presented to him by the Board, honoring him for his contributions to the club, and especially for his effectiveness in introducing people to the basics of astronomy and to the pleasures of our hobby.


Centennial Heritage Museum

OCA has had a long-standing relationship with the Centennial Heritage Museum (which was the Discovery Museum until about three years ago).  We originally had a small building on the museum grounds that we used for various club-related activities and meetings (I'm told the Board and the EOA used to meet there, and that's where the Beginners' Class was originally held).  When that building deteriorated too much to be used, we were allowed to use the museum's classroom, and that's where we now have our monthly Beginners' Class and Astrophysics SIG meetings. 

For those who may not be familiar with it, the museum actually consists of several buildings, most notably two historic Victorian houses, the Kellog House (built in 1898, moved to the museum grounds in 1981, and currently the museum's centerpiece) and the Maag House complex (which includes the house, built in 1899, the carriage house and the water tower, which were also moved to the museum site around 1981.  Maag House is still being restored, but the other two buildings are in active use).  The area around the houses contains formal gardens and an orchard, with a blacksmith's shop behind them, and that part of the museum shows what life in Orange County was like a century or more ago.

The back part of the museum has a different focus.  That part of the grounds includes a nature walk and restored swamp area, with observation areas so people can see what these environments were like and can observe local wildlife.  The classroom is used for teaching about local wildlife, ecology, and other scientific topics - and our meetings there fit in well with that general concept.  They get a lot of students coming through both sides of the museum on field trips during the school year, and they have programs for children during the summer, so a lot of young people in particular are exposed to the information the museum provides.

I've been actively involved with both the Beginners' Class and the Astrophysics SIG for quite a while now, so I've become the museum's designated contact person within the club.  As one result, I've been talking with museum personnel about expanding the astronomy side of what they do.  They are very interested in having a scale model of the solar system on their site, similar to the one that Don Lynn has been setting up at Anza, and have expressed a lot of interest in working with us to develop astronomy-related exhibits, events or programs.  This could be a great opportunity to develop an active astronomy program for children, which the club currently lacks, and it could also give us a way of teaching people, particularly young people, about the value of dark skies, as well more typical astronomical topics.  If you are interested in working in any of these areas or on any other type of program with the museum, please contact me - or 714/606-1825.

The museum has been going through some major changes recently, including the loss of part of their property to the high school that's now under construction behind it, which forced them to move the museum classroom to a new location and to redevelop part of the nature walk, and the loss of a major funding source.  They really need an influx of new members - in view of the support they've given to our club over the years and the prospect of an even stronger relationship with the museum in the future, I hope that many of you will consider joining the museum.  The cost is only $25 per year for an individual membership, $40 for a family membership, and $100 for a Pioneer membership.  For more information about the museum, its programs and facilities, and the benefits that come with different levels of membership, please see the museum's website, .


And if you happen to be down in that vicinity while the museum is open, by all means give it a visit!  The gardens are really lovely, and the nature walk makes a very nice stroll - so, even if Kellog House is closed, there's quite a bit to see.


Memories of RTMC 2005

As I write this, RTMC is still a recent memory.  As usual, there was a lot more going on than any one person could do - and there was decent viewing both Friday and Saturday nights (that's not always the case, unfortunately).  Sunday night was so windy that not many people were viewing - though the antique Clark refractor (built in 1875 for the Venus transit of that era, as its owner kindly advised me) was still operating and demonstrating the fine quality of its optics on the available planets (Saturn was pretty low but still looked good) and a few other bright objects.  It's a beautiful instrument to look at as well as through, and really made me appreciate why Clark refractors are held in high regard.

Sunday night is always quieter than the other nights - almost all the vendors are gone by then, a lot of people have left, and those who remain seem a lot more relaxed.  It's a good time for longer conversations with people, and for a bit of quiet contemplation.  After the Sunday night raffle and closing festivities, I intended to do a circuit around the Telescope Field and surrounding areas to see what was going on, then grab a last cup of hot chocolate and head for home.  Of course, it didn't work out that way - after a number of very interesting encounters and conversations, and a lot more hot chocolate than I drink the rest of the year put together, it was suddenly around two in the morning and I realized that I'd better take a nap before hitting the road.  Maybe next year I'll have sense enough to leave my tent up so I can sleep in comfort and just plan to leave Monday morning

That was the end of the event - before that, of course, things were a lot more hectic, at least up to early afternoon on Sunday.  Although I'd originally planned otherwise, most of my time was spent at the OCA booth, which had certain advantages (including good camping and parking spots near the booth).  Scott Kardel's Palomar booth was next to ours, so we were able to visit with him quite a bit.  The Kool Space Science Productions booth was on the other side of Scott; KSSP is an alter ego of long-time RTMC volunteer Charles Morris, who I was at least theoretically assisting in the Annex.  A lot of the activities of the RTMC Doorprize Collection Committee were centered at the KSSP booth, and Jean Mueller, a member of that committee and the operator of the 200-inch at Palomar, among many claims to fame, helped run that booth.  There was a lot of interaction and cooperation among the three booths (and with the one on our other side), and one of the real plusses for me in this arrangement was the chance to get to know Jean a bit, as she's someone I've heard a lot about and always thought she'd be interesting to know.  In fact, she volunteered to covered our booth a while on Sunday to give me a chance to go look at the pictures in the imaging contest and to vote - for which I'm very grateful.

Most of the club members who came to RTMC came by the booth at least once, so those of us running the booth probably saw more of them than we would have if we'd just been roaming around among the vendors, etc., and going to the talks.  And we also saw a lot of non-club members, as we were strategically located on the side people seemed to gravitate to naturally as they went from the meeting and eating facilities to the Telescope Field, where most of the big vendors and big telescopes were located.  So we sold some books and magazines, and talked to a lot of different people about a lot of different things - a nice way to spend the weekend!

There were many people who helped make the OCA booth a success this year.  These are the ones I remember (and please let me apologize up front if I've forgotten anyone or if I get some of the attributions wrong - you can blame it on an aging memory and lack of sleep, or, as we say in my profession, to inadvertence and excusable neglect, certainly not to lack of appreciation!):  Bob Buchheim brought the canopy and tables to RTMC, got them set up, and provided the money pouch and seed money that made running the booth a lot easier than it would have been otherwise.  Vince Laman and Larry Arnold ran the booth on Friday, and organized the books and magazines that had arrived by then.  Vince had to leave by the time I got there Friday, but Larry helped out with the booth until we closed dow