President’s Message – August 2008

Posted On August 1, 2008

By Barbara Toy

By the time you read this, the Starbecue at the August our party will probably be behind us, as the star party is August 2nd. I hope you were able to come and that you had a good time. If you happen to read this before the star party, please do come and I look forward to seeing you there!

Anza Weather

Historically, August is in the heart of our monsoon season, which has a much greater effect at Anza than back in Orange County, bringing all of the issues that come with lots of thunderstorm activity, including lightning strikes and flash floods. The high currents from lightening strikes in the area caused us a lot of problems in the past with our on-site network, which is the main reason Vance Tyree installed fiber optic cable as the backbone of the system a couple years ago (and thanks again to Vance and everyone else who helped out with that project – that was a lot of hard physical labor!). While we’re still working out some issues with the network and with our Internet access, the new cable has been a great success in stabilizing the system, particularly during the summer months.

Now, the main effect these storms have on us is from all the water they drop, usually in heavy cloudbursts that do a lot of damage to the dirt roads. In more severe cases, they can cause flash floods, so, if you see water crossing the road when you’re driving around Anza when there’s any storm activity in the area, please be very careful about crossing it, as it can pack a lot more power than you might think and can rise very fast. High winds associated with the storms can also cause a lot of damage. If one of the storms hits our Anza site during a star party – which has happened – it can mean a lot of wet equipment. However, these storms move through pretty quickly, and even when the clouds look grim during the day, they usually clear up an hour or two after sunset, rewarding those who have the patience to outwait them – even when we’ve had rain from one of the storms during the day.

More Parking Changes at Chapman University

About a year ago, Chapman University changed the parking arrangements on campus, so we were only able to park in two lots for our general meetings. The closer of these was the underground parking below the athletic field, which has stairs that exit near the Commons, just a couple buildings away from where we meet in the Hashinger Science building. The university gave us parking permits, however, so we could park in these two lots without paying any charges.

I'm sorry to report that they have changed their parking policy again, and that we can no longer get free parking permits. Parking is still restricted to the two lots we’ve been using, but, per the information given to Charlie Oostdyk, anyone who parks in either of the lots will have to pay a small charge on entering the parking structure. At this point, I don’t know what the charge will be, but we believe it is on the order of a couple dollars.

People with handicapped stickers can still park in the parking lot next to Hashinger Hall in the handicapped parking spaces without charge. People can also park on the campus side of Center and Palm without charge. Parking on the residential side of those two streets will result in a ticket, as will parking anywhere on campus other than the two designated lots. You can also park on Glassell south of the campus without charge, and there may be areas in the residential community around Chapman University where street parking is available without a restriction to permit only that would still be within reasonable walking distance from where we meet – that used to be the case, but I haven’t had a chance to check the current situation with residential parking since I learned of this change.

While this change in policy is a serious inconvenience, Chapman has been very generous in allowing us to use its facilities without any charge and in allowing us free access to parking for so many years. I don't know what concerns the University had that led to this new policy, and it’s hard to believe that this will bring in enough money to make much difference to the University or its programs, but it would be ungracious and probably counterproductive on our part to try to fight it too aggressively. Of course, we will do what we can to change their minds on this, but right now we expect that this will be the policy we’ll have to work with.

To those of you who asked me about the new permits at the July meeting, my apologies – at the time, I thought that we would be getting new permits on the same terms that had been in effect since our parking was restricted to the two parking structures. We didn’t get the information about the new requirements until after the July meeting. Charlie posted the information about this on the website when he found out about it, and we’ll put any further information we receive on the website, as well.

Please don't let the concerns about parking keep you away from the meetings – even if you have to pay a small fee for parking, the meetings are well worth it!

Farewell to Matt Ota

Up to a couple years ago, when he moved to Gardena in Los Angeles County due to his job, Matt Ota was very active in our Outreach program, the GoTo group, the AstroImage SIG and the Astrophysics SIG, as well as regularly attending our general meetings and star parties at Anza and Silverado (our Orange County site before it was moved to Black Star Canyon). If you were around in the club back then, you are probably familiar with him, and, even if you didn’t know him personally, you’ve probably benefited from his many contributions to the club. Among his more tangible contributions – he designed the new signs we have out at Anza and had the work to produce them donated to the club, he repainted many of the older signs to make them more legible, put in reflectors along many of the roadways and pathways on site to make it easier to move around the site at night (with assistance from Bill Hepner, who also helped install the signs), provided the site maps that are installed in Anza House and the club observatory, designed and made the banners that we used for AstroImage 2002, 2004 and 2006 (and modified them as needed), and designed the club buttons and bumper stickers. He also served as a Trustee on the OCA board, helped put together the “Astronomy Jeopardy” games that gave us a lot of amusement at a couple of club meetings, and generally helped out in any way he could whenever he saw a need.

His brother was severely injured a few weeks ago, and Matt is moving to New Hampshire to take care of him. This is likely to be a permanent move, because of the severity of the injuries, though Matt is hoping he’ll be able to revisit Southern California periodically. This has all happened very suddenly, and completely changed Matt’s expectations of how he would be spending his life – although there are a lot of friends and activities that Matt is leaving behind him here in California, I am happy to report that, when I talked to him about his plans at the July Astrophysics meeting, he’d had a chance to learn more about the astronomical activities available in the area where his brother lives, and was making plans for becoming active in that community.

I have a lot of great memories of club events where Matt and I were both participants. One of the first was a solar observing event at the Tanabata (or star) Festival in Long Beach, which was the first daytime outreach I attended, and which Matt organized. My particular memories of that event are of Matt handing out an account of the Japanese legend that is the basis for the festival, involving Vega and Altair as lovers separated by the Milky Way, and of seeing the sun through hydrogen alpha filters for the first time and developing an intense case of equipment-envy (always a hazard in our hobby!). Another memory is from a later daytime event, this time a youth festival at the Orange County Fairgrounds, which was capped by Matt demonstrating unequivocally that he is an astronomer first and foremost – somehow, his telescope fell, and he managed by purely reflex action to put his body between it and the ground. As I recall, he had some pretty big bruises after that, but he brushed off our expressions of concern and was most worried about whether his telescope had been damaged by the fall (thanks to the fact it landed on him rather than the ground, it wasn’t). More miscellaneous memories include him giving tips on where to get astronomy-grade milar for solar filters and how to make a cell to hold it in place along with many other practical tips, and learning about the Telescopes In Education program that he participated in for several years at Mt. Wilson.

Thanks for all the hard work, and for your enthusiasm for astronomy and for our club, Matt! We’ll miss you, and hope you’ll be back at least to visit now and then, and that you’ll let us know what goes on with the astronomy community in your new home!

Southern California Astronomy Expo

As I mentioned last month, Oceanside Photo and Telescope had its fourth Southern California Astronomy Expo in July. I wasn’t able to go for the first day, but can say from my own observation that the second day was a great success – even though I didn’t win anything in the raffle (several club members did, however, and there were a lot of really great prizes!).

We had a booth there, but I didn’t have a lot of time to come up with anything fancy for it. There were also booths for the San Diego Astronomical Association (SDAA) and the Riverside Astronomical Society (RAS), and one of the fun features of the day was having a chance to visit with members of those two clubs. They were on the upper level of booths and we were on the lower level, which proved to be a good thing, as both of those organizations were much better organized than we were and had great displays showing different aspects of their clubs. However, when we were headed out the door to go down to OPT for the Expo, we decided to take a portfolio of astroimage prints that Alan Smallbone put together for past AstroImage group meetings, and that proved to be a great attention-getter, especially his sequence of pictures of a rocket launch taken from Mt. Wilson a couple years ago. I’m really sorry we didn’t have any prints there from our other talented imagers, as the people who came to the Expo were obviously very interested in them, both for subject matter and in learning more about how they were done. I lost track of the number of people who came up and looked through the book, asking questions about the pictures, about the equipment used and where they were taken – and, along the way, also asking a lot of questions about the club.

The lesson in this is that we need to collect a portfolio of prints from as many of our imagers as we can, to use for future events, such as the PATS conference coming up in September. One way our club stands out from the others in the area is in the level of expertise many of our imagers have, so we should showcase that area a bit when we are trying to show off our club a bit to the general public. Of course, after seeing the displays from the other clubs, I’d also like to have some pictures or other displays showcasing things like our various outreach activities, our other interest groups, and other things that make belonging to our club so worthwhile – fortunately, we have some time before the PATS conference…

Many thanks to Craig Bobchin, Sheryl Benedict and Alan for helping out with the booth all day on July 19th – it wouldn’t have been nearly the success it was without your help!

Carpooling to Anza

With the skyrocketing gas prices, it's not surprising that more people are expressing interest in carpooling to get out to Anza for star parties and other events. As a club, we don't have a way of matching people up with potential partners for carpooling purposes. In general, people who carpool to Anza have been doing that on an informal basis, by private arrangement.

My best suggestion for people who have not been able to find someone to team up with on a carpool arrangement is to put an e-mail out on our two main e-mail groups, and, inquiring about whether anyone is interested in carpooling. It would be best to keep personal information off of the email groups, as we can’t insure that it would remain private – the details of any carpooling arrangements would most safely be made between individual members off-line, after initial contact through the email groups. If anyone has a suggestion for what could be done to make it easier for people to form carpools, please let me know. In particular, if you are interested in organizing such a service for the club, that would be extremely helpful, as I don’t believe that anyone on the board or any of our regular volunteers has additional time and energy that they could devote to such a project.

Most people who go out to Anza take equipment of some sort with them, as well as whatever else they feel they might need to have a comfortable stay while out there; the more a person brings, the harder it is to arrange for a carpool. One idea I have thought about in the past that might make even more sense now is to provide some sort of storage at the Anza site for people who don’t have observatories or storage associated with a pad. How this might be done in a way that would balance the security of individual members with the needs and interests of the club is unclear, but, if there is interest among the members who use the site regularly in having storage of that type, we could certainly explore the options. Please let me know if this is something that would be of interest to you – it would be best to do that by e-mail to, so I can keep track of responses more easily. Please include any comments you have about the kind of storage you think would be useful and any ideas you have for how we could provide this.

© Barbara Toy, July 2008