President’s Message – February 2009

Posted On February 1, 2009

By Barbara Toy

Well, after all that great verbiage last month about going out and observing in winter in spite of cold weather, I have to admit that I didn't quite live up to that over the Christmas break. The December Anza star party was notable for following a storm that dropped several inches of snow on the Anza site, along with all the surrounding countryside, and conditions remained cold enough that there were still some patches of snow more than a week later. On the night of the star party, it was not only miserably cold but there was a stiff wind blowing, which bounced optics around as well as providing a significant wind chill factor. This was not a high turnout star party, though there were a number of determined imagers on-site, and I was recovering from a cold, so the upshot was that, using the wind and bad seeing as primary reasons (some might say “excuses”), I didn't even open the club observatory.

There were a number of us out there the following week for New Year's Eve and the following night. Conditions were much better; it was a bit warmer (high 30s/low 40s instead of 20s/low 30s), and the skies were very clear and very steady. Unfortunately, I was fighting a different bug, and spent both nights chewing Rolaids and sleeping, which was a sad waste of good conditions. Though the spirit may be willing, there are times that it just can’t overcome the microbes.

Given the realities of the winter flu and cold season, I would augment my previous comments with the observation that, if you are sick, it is probably better for you and everyone around you if you concentrate on getting better rather than heading out for observing or imaging. If you do decide to go even though your health is not at its best, you should be even more careful about keeping yourself warm. Although getting cold may not cause you to catch a cold, at least according to current theory, it can certainly depress the immune system and make a bad situation worse.


The results of the election of the 2009 Board are now final, thanks to Bob Evans, who verified that the ballots were from members in good standing and counted them. From his numbers, there were 66 valid ballots that were counted and 3 that could not be validated. He informed us that there were no write-ins, so the 2009 Board is:

President: Barbara Toy
Vice President: Craig Bobchin
Secretary: Bob Buchheim
Treasurer: Charlie Oostdyk

Trustees: Gary Schones, Tom Kucharski, Sheryl Benedict, Alan Smallbone, Steve Short, Shelia Cassidy, and our new member this year, Reza AmirArjomand.

We are very sorry that Steve Condrey wasn’t able to continue as a Board member, and wish him the best with his new studies as well as all of the other commitments he’s taken on in his busy life. And we are very grateful that he is continuing as the editor of the Sirius Astronomer and that he and his wife, Sandy, with the inquisitive assistance of their young son, Alex, are continuing as our Anza House Coordinators. Please let Steve and Sandy know how much their efforts are appreciated when you see them!

We are delighted to welcome Reza AmirArjomand to the Board this year, and appreciate his willingness to serve as a Trustee as well as his work as our new website editor. I’m looking forward to working with him in both capacities!

IYA 2009 Is Off To a Great Start!

Bob Buchheim, our esteemed Secretary, kicked off the International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009) by giving two talks at the “Galileo’s Legacy” conference in Hawaii in early January, “The Evidence of Things Not Seen” and “Double Star CCD Measurements at Altamira Observatory.” Bob is one of our members who is actively involved in astronomical research, and it’s not surprising he would be tapped as a speaker for an event like this, though, with his usual modesty, he didn’t mention that he was going to give these talks when he told us that he was going to the conference. In addition to receiving increasing recognition for his research efforts, he has written a book to help other amateur astronomers who want to get involved with research, The Sky is Your Laboratory, Advanced Astronomy Projects for Amateurs. If you have any interest in trying your hand at a research project, I’m sure Bob would be delighted to discuss it with you; he can be reached at

Another of our members, Wally Pacholka, participated in the Dark Sky Star Party at the Visitor Information Station on Mauna Kea on January 15, which was organized for IYA 2009 by the University of Hawaii Institute of Astronomy. This event included talks on the importance of protecting the night sky in addition to public viewing; for an account of the event, see Wally sent me the following account of his experience:

… [T]he 3 talks all promoted the importance of keeping the skies dark. Gary of UH [University of Hawaii] is actively promoting that as Hawaii's lights are growing with some of the top observatories nearby. I was introduced to Audrey of Chicago thru AWB Mike Simmons and Audrey added me to the speaker list here. It was an extremely fun event with the local astronomy clubs very enthusiastic. The skies from Mauna Kea are needless to say just out of this world.

The first evening she & husband Greg & I took a tour of the lava flowing into ocean – truly an experience of a life time. Got some pics of Scorpio over lava flow but the stars will be better next time when the moon is smaller. Movie camera would do more justice.

The picture Wally sent of the lava flowing into the ocean with Scorpio overhead should be in this issue.

If these events are indication of what we can expect for IYA 2009, it’s going to be a great year for astronomy!

The Local Scene for IYA 2009

Craig Bobchin, our Vice President, has generously agreed to be the IYA 2009 Coordinator for the club, and will undoubtedly be coordinating with Doug Millar, who is coordinating events for another club he is involved in and has offered to help with OCA’s involvement as well. Reza AmirArjomand is working on a page for the website for our IYA 2009 activities, so keep an eye out for that as he gets it launched!

One event that we’ve been invited to join is being organized by Irvine Valley College as part of the 100 Hours of Astronomy (which runs April 2-5). One of the astronomy professors at IVC, Roy McCord, provided the following information about what they are planning at this point:

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is an international, year-long celebration of the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of the telescope for astronomy. Irvine Valley College Astronomy will host public observing sessions in Orange County, CA as an official IYA 2009 event. In collaboration with Astronomy Outreach Network, Astronomers Without Borders and the Orange County Astronomers Club, and using college telescopes, IVC students will host an extended viewing session for the public. In this one day period, we aim to introduce telescope viewing to at least 1000 new citizen astronomers.

The plan is to hold this in a busy public location, such as a shopping center in the Irvine area, as the IVC campus is too quiet on weekends. They plan to advertise the event at local schools and other areas, using student energy and imagination to help foster interest in the event, including acting as “hawkers” during the event to let people know it’s going on and encourage them to check out the telescopes.

They want to have solar observing from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m., and lunar observing (it’ll be First Quarter moon, so a crescent in good position for viewing in the early evening) from 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., most probably on April 4, the Saturday of the 100 Hours of Astronomy event. They are hoping that, among other support, we can provide volunteers for the solar viewing with H-alpha scopes, as IVC doesn’t have any scope with that capability. They think they can supply 5 to 10 observing instruments of their own operated by Honors students, and would welcome additional equipment and volunteers from the club.

As I write this, we are working on the specific location for this event, and we will get that information on the IYA 2009 page on the website when arrangements are final. If you can help out with the viewing, please let Craig or me know. And, of course, please let anyone you know who might be interested in viewing the sun or moon (and other objects) about this event and encourage them to come look through a scope for themselves!

Phase Change at the Astrophysics SIG…

One of the central activities at the monthly meetings of the Astrophysics SIG is viewing lectures from series of interest to the participants. For the last year or so, our lectures of choice have been a series by Sean Carroll at Cal Tech on Dark Energy and Dark Matter, which were very interesting and well-delivered. Alas, they have now come to and end – we saw the last two at the January meeting, followed by a spirited group discussion.

So, we’re starting a new sequence with the February meeting, and plan to view the parts of the newest general astronomy series by Alex Filippenko that deal with Relativity and other astrophysical topics, and also a lecture from a different series on superstring theory. If you went to the RTMC Astronomy Expo in 2007, you may recall Dr. Filippenko as the keynote speaker that year – he does an excellent job of presenting complex topics in terms that are understandable to the interested lay person, and we think that pairing it with a lecture from the more specialized series on superstring theory should give us a nice balance and trigger a lot of interesting discussions. The group runs as a democracy, and the decision about what lectures we want to view next was made by the group as a whole at the January meeting after a fruitful discussion of various alternatives.

If you have any interest in why the universe is the way it is, how it developed, the laws that govern it, the various theories out there that attempt to explain all this, and related matters, now is an excellent time to come to one of the Astrophysics meetings, as we start off on this new direction. The meetings are on the third Friday of each month, in the classroom at the Heritage Museum of Orange County (formerly the Centennial Heritage Museum), 3101 W. Harvard, Santa Ana, CA, starting at 7:30 p.m. and generally running to around 9:30 p.m. If you have any questions about the group, please feel free to contact Chris Buchen, Lorna Pecoraro, Terry Kirschner or me – or any of the other regulars, such as Don Lynn.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our meetings!

New AstroImage SIG Website

A while back, the members of the OCA AstroImage SIG decided that they needed a separate website to meet the group’s needs. Bruce Waddington and Kevin Nelson designed the site and have it up and running and you can find it at

The aspect of the site that is most used and most visited is the images section, which was probably the most important feature driving development of the new site. The Image Gallery on the OCA website does a good job of showing the imaging talents in our club, but it is limited in the size of files that can be uploaded, which limits the display resolution. The images our imagers are producing have been growing in size and sophistication due to such things as use of cameras with larger chips that produce more data, longer collection times to capture fainter details, and development of mosaics and other techniques for combining images, and they need to be displayed at much higher resolution than can be done on the main OCA website to be fully appreciated.

As you explore the AI SIG site, you’ll notice that there’s a lot more there than pictures. Some of the other features include providing an easy way to post tutorials and files needed for tutorial sessions for members to download, along with documentation from various presentations at the SIG meetings, a location for people to get comments or advice on problems they were having with a particular image, and a way to share information related to imaging beyond what is done in the email group. The new site does all of these things and more, including agendas for upcoming AI meetings, which are posted about a week before each meeting. For a full description of its features, go to the Using the SIG web site link on the homepage.

The new website is a great addition to the resources available to OCA members, and Bruce and Kevin did a wonderful job in putting it all together. It’s well worth visiting regularly, even if you aren’t an imager yourself, if only to see the images produced by our imagers in their full glory. I hope you’ll visit it often and enjoy it thoroughly! And, if it inspires you with a desire to get involved more with the AI group, that’s wonderful too, and you’ll be most welcome!

© Barbara Toy, January 2009