President’s Message – July 2006

Posted On July 1, 2006

By Barbara Toy

It’s hard to think of July as a month when the nights are getting longer, especially when dawn shows up so fast when the viewing is good, but that is truly the case – the Summer Solstice in June marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year, and after that the days get shorter even as they get hotter with the full heat of summer. On the brighter side, the heat of summer makes July and August months when we can observe comfortably all night without bundling up in anything heavier than a light jacket (if that), which feels almost luxurious compared to winter.

If you’ve ever thought that spending a night viewing celestial delights is something that only the physically hardy can enjoy, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a summer night of viewing out at Anza, where the comforts of indoor plumbing, Internet access and ready access to such conveniences as refrigerators and microwaves on top of comfortable night temperatures make viewing a good experience for even the least hardy among us. So I hope all of you who haven’t yet made it out to Anza will plan to give it a try this summer – and be sure to visit the club observatory at some point when you’re out there!

Meeting Alert! The August General Meeting will be the First Friday in August!

If you are one of those people who goes on autopilot when it comes to club meeting dates – please reset that autopilot for the August general meeting! We usually have our meetings on the second Friday of the month, but, unfortunately, that conflicts with our AstroImage 2006 Conference (which is August 11-13). The first and second weekends in August were our best options for the conference (we didn’t want to conflict with dark sky weekends), and the Curtis Theatre in Brea, where we’re holding the conference, wasn’t available for the first weekend in August – so we had to take the weekend we could get, even though that meant moving the general meeting. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but for those of you who will really miss going to a meeting on the second Friday in August – the conference makes a very nice alternative!

So, the schedule for August is: General Meeting on August 4, 2006; AstroImage 2006 Conference on August 11-12, with the optional Palomar tour on August 13. The August star parties and the Special Interest Group meetings will remain on their regularly scheduled dates.

Please note, however, that the August session of our regular Beginners Class, which would normally be held on August 4, has been cancelled because of this change of schedule.

Why You Really Want to Attend AstroImage 2006!

Back when we were ramping up for AstroImage 2004, members of the planning committee came up with a list of reasons people should come to the conference – it didn’t include every possible reason, of course, but we did come up with a bunch of good reasons and had fun doing it. I was looking at that list recently, and found that (Big Surprise!) it basically applies to our 2006 conference, as well. So, here’s an updated list, with commentary, of some excellent reasons to come to AstroImage 2006:

  • Seven great speakers – talks from some of the best in the field to help hone your skills!
  • Learn advanced Photoshop techniques from Tony Hallas Friday night – his class at RTMC sold out early, with reason!
  • Learn the basics on using DSLRs for astrophotography along with DSIs and other new low-cost CCD cameras at the Beginners’ session Friday night!
  • Reception and social hour Friday night to kick things off!
  • Great pictures! (We’re expanding the print gallery, which was spectacular in 2004, and we’ll also have a digital gallery slideshow running continually on multiple computer monitors.)
  • Show your stuff in the gallery, see what others are doing! And reserve space for your own prints early – though expanded, space is limited!
  • Chance to meet “big name” speakers in person! (Ron Dantowitz, Tony Hallas, Rob Gendler, John Laborde, Robert Reeves, Chuck Vaughn – they don’t get much bigger in astrophotography circles!)
  • Talk “shop” with new imaging buddies over lunch and dinner! (And meet people in person you know from imaging email groups at the reception Friday night!)
  • Catch up on what your tried and true imaging buddies are doing! (RTMC isn’t the only place to catch up with old friends!)
  • Demonstration display of telescopes and imaging equipment – see how it all goes together! (And this time we’ll be giving you a chance to ask the owners about their setups – check your program for times!)
  • CD of conference proceedings – catch what you missed the first time through! (With speakers covering so much information, it’s hard to catch it all – and don’t forget, thanks to Liam Kennedy, we’ll have a DVD of the talks available for purchase, as well!)
  • Great vendors of scopes, mounts, cameras and other fun equipment! (We’ve got a great set of sponsors who’ll be there demonstrating their products, with great things for you to look at, talk to them about, and to buy – our thanks to Quantum Systems, Astro Hutech, Oceanside Photo and Telescope, Diffraction Limited, Yankee Robotics, Advanced Telescope Systems, SoCal Astro and WAA for helping to make this conference possible!)
  • Show specials! (Thanks to our great sponsors!)
  • Good food! (We’re working with the same caterer as in 2004 – their food was really great! And this time we’re arranging for vegetarian meals, as well.)
  • Special astroimaging tour of Palomar, with Scott Kardel – only a limited number can go, so register and reserve your spot early!
  • Order your own size of conference Astro-wear – T-shirts, polo shirts and baseball caps (but do that by 8/1!)
  • Free parking! (And it’s even covered!)
  • Doorprizes!
  • Show support for your club!
  • “Early bird” discount – sign up by 8/1 and save $15! (almost 15% off the price at the door!)

And, best of all – it’s fun!

That, of course, is just a short overview. For more information on the speakers, their talks, and the other aspects of the conference, and to register, sign up for the Palomar tour, order conference Astro-wear, etc., please check out our conference webpage – /astroimage/2006/ (or you can link to it from the club’s homepage by clicking on the banner at the top of the homepage). If you have questions about the conference, feel free to email me or ask any of the members of the conference planning committee. And, if you’d like to volunteer some time to help out with the refreshment table, the club’s booth, setting things up or taking things down, or for any of the other areas where we find a helping hand is needed, please let me know!

We’ve still got a ways to go and a lot to do before the conference, but I’d like to thank the other members of the AI 2006 Planning Committee for all of their hard work in putting this conference together – Dave Kodama, Garth Buckles, Jim Windlinger and Tom Kucharski. Dave has been instrumental in getting our speakers, Garth has done a wonderful job working with our sponsors, Jim made the arrangements for the Astro-wear and has put tremendous amounts of hard work and creative energy into improving the equipment for the print gallery, and Tom has been working hard at getting information about the conference out to other clubs – and they’ve all done a whole lot more than that to make this conference a reality.

In addition, I’d like to thank the group who might be considered “sleeping” members of the planning committee – Charlie Oostdyk (who has provided a lot of information and advice and handled such things as mailing out the conference flyers, and who deals with all of the registration matters, among other things), Liam Kennedy (who will be videotaping the conference and setting up the video streaming), Alan Smallbone (who is the speaker for the Beginners session and who has contacted potential sponsors, helped with publicity, and drafted the conference ads for the Sirius Astronomer, among other things), and Bill Patterson (who chaired the planning committee for 2004, and who has provided information and advice, as well as his support as the Chair of the AstroImage SIG). As you can see, organizing this conference is a joint effort by a lot of talented and very helpful people!

So – another good reason to come – seeing all of you there, learning and having a good time, is what makes the effort worthwhile. So, get your registrations in, and I look forward to seeing you all out by the Curtis Theatre in Brea on August 11, for a truly great AstroImaging conference!

Pad and Observatory Lists

Now for a complete switch in topics – for the past three or four years, I’ve been the keeper of the club’s Pad and Observatory Interest lists. These are the lists of people who are interested in building pads or observatories when we are finally able to open new areas of the Anza site for construction. In case there are people who think they are on the list but who have somehow been missed, I am setting out both of the current lists below; if you want to be added to (or deleted from) either list, please email me at

Observatory Interest List

1. Ashton Kaidi

2. Tom Kucharski [and John Castillo]

3. Dan Bonis

4. Jim Windlinger

5. Jerry Floyd

6. Joe Culver

7. David Pearson

8. Kyle Coker

9. Mike Cater

10. Leonard Vorhis

11. Alan Smallbone

12. Paul Brewer

13. Chuck Edmonds

14. Bill Hall

15. Kyle Coker

16. Bruce Waddington

17. Ted Ishikawa

Pad Interest List

1. Alan Smallbone

2. Ray Stann

3. Tim Arden

4. Tom Houseworth

5. Joe Culver

6. Bill Patterson

Being on either list doesn’t commit you to anything at this stage, but it lets us know who among our members is interested in taking advantage of the upcoming chances for new construction on our Anza site. Since one has to be a member in good standing to hold an observatory or pad license, we take people off the list if their membership expires and is not reinstated within a reasonable period – if they later rejoin, they could choose to go back on the list, but their names would go to the end of the list (in other words, they would lose any priority they might have had on the list). So, if you are seriously interested in having a pad or observatory out at Anza, it’s a good idea to keep your membership current!


As I write this, RTMC was only a couple of weeks ago – and a fine event it was! The weather posed some challenges, as it was really windy Friday night through Saturday (and it was still breezy on Sunday), and clouds moved in for the early parts of Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, though things cleared up later on. It was nice being so high under moonless skies, and a certain amount of imaging did take place (as you might have noticed from pictures posted on the website).

Karen Schnabel came up with a great addition to our usual book-selling activities in the club booth – an astronomy-related beanbag pitching game that proved to be harder than it looked. A lot of people apparently enjoyed the challenge, and it looked like there were a number of repeat customers (if you got a certain score, you got a prize, and she had different prizes for different scores). Besides some revenue, it added a lot of interest to the booth, and was certainly different from what anyone else was doing!

We got a bigger group together this year than last for the club’s annual RTMC group photo, which we set up in front of the club’s booth this time instead of down by the meeting hall. For fun, copies of the final version of the group photo and of the precursor photo should be somewhere in this issue – how many changes can you find? Our photographer this year, Alan Smallbone, responded to a complaint from one of the participants that he wasn’t looking toward the camera in the precursor photo by doing some serious editing work, taking advantage of having multiple exposures and knowing how to use Photoshop…

In Closing

Just a reminder – both Anza and Black Star Canyon harbor a lot of local wildlife. This includes poison-delivering creatures such as rattlesnakes, black widows and scorpions, as well as a full range of creatures that can bite or scratch or be otherwise unpleasant, such as rats, mice, squirrels, skunks, rabbits, coyotes, and so on. So please exercise reasonable caution – stick to open roads and paths, especially when walking around the sites at night, keep a wary eye out for critters (and other hazards) whatever time you walk around the sites, don’t put your hands, feet, or any other part of your body into holes, crevices or anywhere else that you haven’t checked first for occupants, don’t leave clothing or bedding where the local wildlife can take refuge in them and check them for occupants before using them if they’ve been left in the open or on the ground where something could have crawled in. A bit of caution is all it takes to be safe in both locations, so be safe and have a really good time whenever you go to either viewing site!

And don’t forget the Starbecue at the Anza star party in July – see you there!

© Barbara Toy, June 2006