President’s Message – February 2008
Posted On February 1, 2008
By Barbara Toy
The 2008 OCA Board
This is the time of year we welcome the new OCA Board and say a sad farewell to those past members who, unfortunately, will not be returning for another year on the Board. Every year, it seems there are at least one or two people who cannot continue on, and we are always sorry to see them go, even though one of our strengths as a club is in having regular additions of new members to the Board.
In 2008, the officers will remain the same as they were in 2007: I will continue as president, Craig Bobchin as vice president, Bob Buchheim as secretary and Charlie Oostdyk as treasurer. The general trustees will be the same except for the addition of Sheryl Benedict and the loss of Bill Hepner. In addition to Sheryl, the 2008 trustees will be: Tom Kucharski, Alan Smallbone, Steve Condrey, Gary Schones, Steve Short and Shelia Cassidy.
I've known Bill Hepner for about seven years now, and have had the pleasure of working with him at many outreaches, particularly in my first few years as a member of the club. When I started going out to Anza and set up in the Football Field, he was one of the regulars who set up there, as well. As a Board member for the last three years, he has brought a valuable perspective as a club member and active astronomer who has a certain amount of physical disability to deal with, which gives him a good understanding of the needs of other members and visitors with disabilities. One of his particular interests has been improving the access from the Football Field to Anza house, which was has been put on “hold” until we are certain of the changes we will be making to the Football Field as part of the overall Anza site development. A ramp or stairs from the Football Field to Anza House is definitely needed and I hope we will be able to address that before too much longer.
We will miss Bill’s perspective in the Board’s discussions in these and other areas, and I hope he will continue to work on the issues he is concerned about and that, in particular, he will continue to keep the Board aware of what could be done to make our facilities more accessible. He has continued to be active in our outreach program, and I look forward to seeing him at outreach and other events in the future.
The other two candidates who will not be on the 2008 Board are Leonard Vorhis and Sam Saeed, who were both running for a Board position for the first time. They both would have been excellent additions, and I hope that they will consider running again next year. There have been a number of good Board members in the past who were not elected the first time they ran, but persevered until they were elected, and that could happen with any of these candidates. Both Len and Sam have expressed interest in participating in Board meetings this year as visitors, and I’m looking forward to their contributions.
Sheryl Benedict has been a frequent visitor to the Board over the last year, and was interested in running a year ago, but couldn’t because she hadn’t yet been a member of the club for a year. I’m looking forward to having her as a Board member this year and to working with her and the other Board members in 2008.
Hollywood Comes to Anza
We had an unusual event out at Anza on December 29, as an interesting close to 2007. A film crew from the History Channel came out to film people setting up and interview them about their favorite nebulas and about photographing nebulas, which was the subject of the program they were working on (the powers that be at the studio insisted this had to be on “nebulas” rather than “nebulae,” much to the distress of the producer), with particular reference to the Orion Nebula. This was for the 14th episode of the series, "The Universe," which is currently running on the History Channel. It is supposed to air about ten weeks after the filming session, which would be in late February or early March, so, if you get the History Channel, keep an eye out for this particular episode.
Even though Darryl Rehr, the producer and writer for the episode, had extensive telephone conversations and e-mails exchanges to set things up for the shoot with Dave Kodama, Alan Smallbone and me, and possibly others, it turned out to be quite a bit different than what we expected. Besides filming people setting up their telescopes and cameras on the pads, we understood that they were going to be doing some shooting in Dave's and Alan's observatories, and maybe some of the other member observatories, depending in part on who could be out there. Darryl also expressed interest in filming the Kuhn in action, so I was looking forward to having Pat Knoll demonstrate the imaging set-up he has been working on for the Kuhn. They did do some shooting of people setting up on the pads, but it seemed that everything else we’d discussed got changed.
The first bit of surprise for us was that the film crew arrived a lot later than they planned. We were starting to worry, thinking that they had gotten lost, but it turned out that they had stopped along the way to shoot some of the scenery. By the time we found this out, a number of members had shown up to help out, so there was a certain amount milling around while people decided whether to set up, where to set up, and wondered exactly what the crew was going to do, when they were going to get there and just how cold it was going to get (it was a cold day, and got a lot colder as the afternoon wore on).
While we were setting things up for this event, Darryl had talked to Alan about how and why astroimagers use filters, which came up in one of the interviews he did for another part of the program, and he wanted Alan to repeat the information on film, showing sample filters and how they were used in a camera. This was to be done at Alan’s observatory, but, when Darryl arrived, he decided (without any discussion) that it would be better to do the filter demonstration in the club observatory instead, and then he decided that he would also take some sequences of Alan moving the telescope and doing some other activities that might be associated with taking images – if you ignore the minor facts that the equipment wasn’t fully set up the way it would be in a real imaging session on the Kuhn, the telescope wasn’t moved through its control computers, the telescope’s mirrors were covered, and the roof was closed during the entire proceeding.
The upshot of all this is that, if that footage makes it into the final program, please keep in mind that this was a dramatization, not a demonstration of an actual imaging session, and the different sub-sequences were shot over and over and over and over and over and over again with the camera in different positions and Darryl asking the same questions in slightly different ways until he got enough variations on one sequence and moved on to the next. Watching the camera crew and Darryl in action during that session gave me a very different perspective on how documentaries are put together – I suspect now that most are filmed in ways similar to what we observed, with the director and camera crew playing a very active role in setting up what you see and dramatizing the subject matter instead of being an unobtrusive recorder of what is taking place. This may make the final product more visually interesting, but accuracy seems to suffer in the process.
Although I didn’t see that part of the filming myself, I was told that they interviewed Bruce Waddington, Sam Saeed., Craig Bobchin and Sheryl Benedict on camera, and maybe others, showing how they set up and answering questions about nebulas and what they liked about viewing and photographing them, and so on. They also took a nice time-lapse sequence of the sunset as seen over the dome of Star Cruiser, which is next to the club observatory, taken from the slope across the road from the two observatories. It'll be interesting to see how much of all of this makes it into the final program, and how they fit all these bits and pieces into the finished episode – and how much information they actually provide about nebulas in the program!
January at Anza
For the second month in a row, the Anza Star Party fell victim to the weather in January. It rained a lot on the day of the star party, so I don’t think anyone actually went out to the site that day. The next Saturday, however, the weather was much better – and quite a few people showed up to enjoy it. It was cloudy in the afternoon, but cleared up by dark, and, even though there was some moonlight, the sky was nice and steady during the first few hours of the night. The wind kicked up around 10:00, so it got a lot colder and the seeing deteriorated, but it was still a nice evening under the stars.
Besides about 20 members on site, we had about 30 students from Biola University, who were there for a field trip until around 11:00. They spent most of their time in the club observatory, viewing through the Kuhn and the four-inch refractor attached to it, as well binoculars for such things as Comet Holmes (still very visible in Perseus – at this point, it was an enormous fuzzy ball that was too large to see well in the telescope but was a great binocular object). Near the end of the evening, they were invited over to the observatory across the street, where John Kerns and Don Lynn showed them a number of objects in the 24-inch Newtonian and a refractor, and Dave Radosevich showed them the images he was capturing (I understand that their warming room, which has a very efficient heater, was also very popular on that chilly evening!). What struck all of us about these students was how enthusiastic they all were about what we were showing them, as well as how nice and exceptionally polite they all were, to each other and to us. I always enjoy the classes that visit Anza at different times, and they all have students who are enthusiastic about being there, but it is unusual to have every student in the class genuinely thrilled about seeing things through the eyepiece, especially on a cold night.
Our Anza site is available to members 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and I’m happy to report that more people seem to be taking advantage of this all the time, so there are few times now when we don’t have someone at the site at least once a week. We have a number of members who are able to use it during the week, and even a weekend close to the full moon can bring out a surprising number of members – on January 19, which was almost a full-moon Saturday, JV Howell and Gene Kent were there to work on the club’s remote telescope, Bob Peck, Bruce Waddington and Alan Smallbone were there, each working on his own observatory, Dave and Jean Kodama were there to do some imaging, and I was in the club observatory working on this President’s Message. I’m glad this great club asset is so well used, and the fact that members are showing up there at unexpected times also helps with site security. If you can’t make it out there for a star party but can at other times – please do! Chances are that you’ll find at least one or two other members out there, too, if the weather’s good, especially on a weekend.
A lot of our club facilities operate with equipment donated by generous club members – Joe Busch, for example, donated the computer we currently use to control the Kuhn telescope as well as the forkarm mount for the 12-inch LX200 in the club observatory, and a 5-inch refractor that we are hoping to use as the guide scope for the Kuhn, John Hoot donated the 12-inch LX200 that is currently in use as our remote-controlled telescope and the CCD camera that is also in use with the finderscope on that telescope, as well as other equipment over the years, Vance Tyree and Jerry Mulchin donated a lot of the components that keep our Anza site network running, and various people have donated furniture, vacuum cleaners, TVs and other things to make Anza House more comfortable and to help maintain it. We are very grateful for all those times people saw that the club had a need for certain items and provided them – we wouldn’t be able to do as much as a club without that kind of help!
Sometimes our need for certain items isn’t obvious, and I’ve been thinking we should periodically circulate a club wish list to give all of you a better idea of what we need in different areas. I won’t put up a comprehensive list here, but here are a few things we could put to good use:
Our Telescope Loaner Program needs accessories such as 1 Ľ inch eyepieces, Barlows, 1 Ľ inch diagonals, and finders for smaller telescopes – please contact Mike Myers, the Loaner Program Coordinator, at email@example.com, 714/240-8458;
Karen Schnabel, our Librarian (firstname.lastname@example.org, 949/887-9517), can use any astronomy-related books you might want to get rid of, either for the collection or to sell for funds to help support the library;
The OCA remote controlled telescope project could use a large flat-screen TV that can connect to a computer so we can show images as they are captured to groups in Anza House, and it could also use an electrically-controlled flip mirror so we can switch from a deep sky camera to a planetary camera remotely. We also need cameras, particularly a main camera, as we are currently using JV Howell’s personal Canon Rebel, which is only available when he’s running the telescope. Please contact Del Christiansen, the EOA Liaison, DelmarChris@earthlink.net, 714/895-2215, or me.
If you can donate any of these items, you can be assured that you will be helping us out a lot and that they will be very much appreciated!
© Barbara Toy, January 2008