President’s message – APRIL 2003
Posted On April 1, 2003
by Barbara Toy
Last month's President's Message was of somber tone, befitting somber times. Sadly, events on the world stage have not improved since then. The painstaking work of piecing together what happened to Columbia continues, the remaining shuttles are still grounded, and family and friends still mourn the departed. The current economic downturn has directly affected many of our members, and, as gas prices rise sharply, layoffs continue, and governmental budgets are slashed at all levels, with education and research programs taking heavy cuts, the economy shows few signs of improving in the near future. And now we are at war, with all of its possible consequences.
When times are hard, looking up into the heavens and observing the wonders of the universe around us can give both solace and perspective. I remember the star party at Anza the weekend after 9/11, which was surprisingly well attended. Losing ourselves in viewing and talking about normal star party topics gave a real sense of stability, even as we marveled at how empty the skies were without the usual constant air traffic. The sky beyond our atmosphere, its rhythms marked out in the slow dance of the planets and the steady march of the constellations, gives a welcome sense of certainty in uncertain times, and serenity in times of trouble.
Whatever these times hold for us, may all of you and those dear to you come through them safely.
And since our hobby is meant to provide us with at least a brief escape from distress, let us turn our attention for a while to some lighter topics…
Looking at the OCA calendar…
As you might have noticed, we had a very busy calendar in March - twenty formal OCA events were calendared, including three star parties, four Special Interest Group meetings, the Board meeting, and eleven outreach events. I found the second week of the month particularly memorable - we had outreach events set Monday through Thursday, the general meeting on Friday, and the board meeting on Sunday. I don't know if anyone made it to all five weeknight events. I missed Thursday's outreach, but found that each of the others was memorable in its own particular way. There's no monotony in doing outreaches - each one is unique!
Have you ever wondered how OCA events are set? A lot of people don't seem to notice, but there is a pattern to most of our regular events. The easiest ones to track are the general meetings, the Beginners Class, and the main SIG's. Except on those rare occasions when Chapman University preempts our use of Hashinger Hall, the general meetings are the second Friday of each month. The Beginners Class is on the first Friday, and the SIG meetings are on the third occurrence of their particular day - AstroImagers is on the third Tuesday of the month, Electronically Oriented Astronomers (EOA) is on the third Wednesday, and Astrophysics is on the third Friday. Often the SIG's all fall in the same calendar week, but if, say, the month starts on a Wednesday, both the EOA and Astrophysics meetings will be before the AstroImagers meeting.
Star parties are set according to the phase of the moon. The Anza parties are on the Saturday closest to the dark of the moon, and the Black Star Canyon parties are the weekend before, at third quarter. If the dark of the moon falls in the exact middle of the week, we get two Anza parties, the Saturdays before and after, and usually the earlier one will also be the day of the Black Star Canyon party. Because they're set by the phase of the moon, we don't always get one of each party every month. This March, for instance, we had two Anza parties, on the second and the twenty-ninth, and in April we have no Anza parties at all. Then, in May, we get two Anza parties again - due to the vagaries of the lunar calendar.
Regular Board meetings are set on a Sunday evening every other month, beginning in January, so they're in the "odd-numbered" months. There the pattern breaks down - at each meeting, we set the next meeting within the next "odd" month based on what else is going on and on board member availability. And just in case you wanted to know, the next one is set on May 18, 2003.
Speaking of the Board…
The last Board meeting was on March 16, and I'm pleased to report that we actually had two members who came to observe the meeting, and who gave us some helpful comments during the discussions. We really welcome members at our meetings - it's great to know people care about what we're doing! We try to post the proposed agenda in the Members section of the website in advance of the meeting, so people will have a better idea of the issues we expect to discuss. Please check it out before the next meeting, and plan to join us. However, if you do plan to join us, please let me know in advance, both so we know to expect you and because of the security concerns of the company that allows us to use the facilities. And, if you have an issue you want to raise to the Board, please let me know that, as well, so I can put you on the agenda.
Next time you go out to Anza, you may notice that the brush around the club observatory and Russ Sipe's Star Cruiser has been cleared. This was necessary for fire protection for the two buildings, and we originally expected it to be done last fall. The good news is that, because the work got delayed, the gentleman who did it happened to be doing it after the series of big storms hit the area and did a lot of damage to the roads on our site and the dirt roads leading to the site. He was therefore able to repair the worst of the damage without delay, including reburying one of our telephone lines that was exposed by the storm runoff and repairing the serious damage to the road adjacent to the site.
Our neighbors near the Anza site have been repairing the worst damage to the dirt roads, which, among other work, required filling a lot of washed-out areas. Please drive those roads with special care in the next few months, as those areas will be softer than usual and more easily damaged by excessive speed. We want to show our Anza neighbors in as many ways as possible that we are good neighbors. Many of them are very concerned about the traffic the club brings to the roads in that area and the damage that can cause. Please keep that in mind and keep your speed on the dirt roads down to around thirty to thirty-five miles an hour to reduce the dust that blows onto the neighboring properties. And please take the corners with particular care, especially on the last turn before you get to our property, to help keep them from getting so heavily rutted and dug out.
March was the first month we mailed out the Sirius Astronomer under our new permit, using a different post office than in the past. To help us track whether this will make a difference in delivery times and also help us pinpoint problem areas, I'm monitoring delivery dates for at least the next couple months. When you get this edition, please let me know your name, the date you received it, and your city and zip code, and please do the same for the next couple months(through June). The easiest way to do this is by email to email@example.com. If you don't do email, please drop me a postcard with the information at: P.O. Box 1762, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.
This newsletter is meant not just to give our members information about the club and astronomical matters, but to provide a forum for members to share their knowledge and experience with the rest of us. I know from talking to people at star parties, meetings and other club events that we have an incredibly diverse membership, and that there are a lot of you out there who have done and seen fascinating things that would make a great story for the Sirius Astronomer. Darren Thibodeau, our worthy editor, is always looking for more material for the paper, so, please, write up your astronomical experiences. Tell us about your equipment, how you use it, and how you get it to do what you want it to do. Describe astronomical highlights of trips you have taken. Perhaps you have a funny anecdote or two with an astronomical twist - tell us about them. Maybe you have a viewing or research plan - share how you developed it, your goals, and how the plan is working out in practice. These are just a few of the possibilities, and I'm sure that you can think of many others areas to explore.
Stories can be emailed to Darren at firstname.lastname@example.org. In order to put the paper together, he needs the stories in electronic form so, if you can't email yours, please contact him about the best way to get your story to him. To avoid potential problems in converting formats, it's easiest if you get him your story in Word format, and include any illustrations with the Word file.
The annual Riverside Telescope Makers Conference, now known as the RTMC Astronomy Expo, will soon be upon us. That's Memorial Day weekend (May 23 through 26), at Camp Oakes, about five miles from Big Bear City. It may have started for telescope makers, but, as its current name indicates, it now has something for everyone who has any interest in astronomy - not least because it is the largest and broadest-based regular gathering of amateur astronomers in these parts, so you can meet an incredible array of people there as well as catch up with old friends. It is also a major astronomical swap-meet and bargain-hunter's delight during the day and star party at night. This year it occurs at third quarter moon, so (if the weather cooperates) the viewing should be much better than last year. And, since telescope making still is important to the conference, part of the viewing fun is looking through the various telescopes that people have made - and talking to the makers about how and why they did what they did in building their telescopes.
OCA will have a booth, as usual, and will be selling various items, most of them donated by members and others. If you have any books, magazines (of any type, not just astronomy-related) or other items you want to donate to the club to sell at RTMC, please contact our librarian, Karen Schnabel (Karen@schnabel.net) or me, or bring them to the general meeting in April or May. And, if you'd like to help out at the booth for a couple hours (or more - we don't want to limit you!), please let me know at email@example.com.
For more information about RTMC, please see its website: http://www.rtmc-inc.org/.
Some closing thoughts on lighting…
My thanks to those who have given me their comments and, even better, volunteered to help in the efforts to deal with light pollution in response to last month's column. We need many more volunteers, though, so don't be shy - let me know the areas you're most interested in working on, and let's get started!