President’s Message – June 2017

Posted On July 1, 2017

By Barbara Toy

Welcome to Pauline Acalin as Our New Editor for the Sirius Astronomer!

I’m happy to report that Pauline Acalin has volunteered to become the next editor for the Sirius Astronomer, and, as I write this, is working with Steve Condrey to make the transition go smoothly.

Among her other activities, Pauline writes on space and astronomy related topics, and you can find a number of her articles at She also has a lot of experience in page layout and other areas that would be helpful for putting the newsletter together and getting it out to the printer each month – all of which we hope will make the job easier for her. It is going to be interesting to see how the Sirius Astronomer develops with her as the editor, and I hope we’ll be seeing some of her articles in it, as well!

One constant challenge all of our editors have had is getting enough interesting content for each issue, and I expect that Pauline will have that challenge as well. We all would like to know about the astronomical activities and interests of our fellow club members, so do think about writing an article about something astronomical you are doing or that interests you for the Sirius Astronomer. That could include astronomy-related travels, viewing, imaging or research projects you are working on, pointers to help others, equipment reviews, experiences at RTMC, other regional star parties or astronomical events you may have gone to or participated in – amateur astronomy covers a wide range of interests, and I know a lot of you are involved in a lot of different types of astronomical activities, so please share them with us!

Many thanks to Steve Condrey for all of the hard work he’s put into the newsletter over the years he’s been our editor, and best wishes to him and his family in this new phase in their lives! And a warm welcome and many thanks to Pauline for volunteering to take on that position as our new editor!

Appreciating Our Southern California Latitude:

Alan and I spent the first two weeks of May in Northern Ireland, during a period when all the locals told us the weather was unusually clear, warm and dry. The last couple days we were there were overcast and rainy, much more typical of weather year round in those parts. Even though it was clear through most of our trip, we realized that, even if we’d been able to bring anything to view with, doing any viewing would have been difficult, as it didn’t get dark until after 11:00 p.m. – and that was over a month before the summer solstice. I was never awake early enough to see when morning twilight began there, but any period of true dark must have been quite short, and would be even shorter for most of the summer.

If you look at a map, you can see that Northern Ireland is around the same latitude as the southern tip of Alaska and central Canada – a long way north of Southern California. Actually, the British Isles, along with France and Germany and the countries alongside or north of them, are all quite a bit north of us, with France at about the level of the state of Washington. For countries where summer provides better weather for viewing (or imaging), the short nights make that more of a challenge, and the fact that they get much longer nights during the winter, when the weather is more severe, doesn’t seem to me to fully make up for it.

Our experience left me with even more respect for the challenges faced by European contributors to our body of astronomical knowledge (William and Caroline Herschel in England, Tycho Brahe in Denmark and Charles Messier in France are a few that come to mind). I always thought weather had to be a problem for them, but hadn’t really appreciated how much the lengthening days of summer would cut into the time they had for their work. It’s good to know that, despite the challenges of latitude and weather, both professional and amateur astronomy remain strong in Europe.

During our own summers, we grumble about our regular June Gloom (which hopefully won’t extend beyond June this year) and the thunderstorms that tend to show up in August and September, but generally our weather is pretty good and, most years, we can rely on having a lot of nights of clear skies, a benefit of living in a semi-arid environment. We may complain about how long it takes to get dark enough to see/image deep sky objects, particularly in June and July, but, thanks to our latitude, we do get several hours of darkness, even around the summer solstice. It’s not something most of us think about much, but is certainly a benefit of being an amateur astronomer in Southern California.

Weather permitting (we are, after all, coming out of an unusually wet year), I hope all of you will have many enjoyable nights under the stars this summer, taking full advantage of our latitude!


Last month I wrote a bit about RTMC but forgot to ask for comments from those of you who went on your assessment of it. The conference is attempting to evolve to meet the changing needs and interests of the amateur astronomy community, and I’d be interested in your comments on how you think they’re doing and what you think could be done to improve the experience for you. Please send any comments you have to me at

In Closing…

Generally when I’ve done these columns in the past, I’ve had the impression that I’d write them, they’d go into the Sirius Astronomer as mostly club-related filler, and that would pretty much be the end of it – they’d go into a some kind of literary black hole. After returning from my long vacation from writing for the newsletter, I’ve been pleased and touched by comments from several people that they find the columns useful for keeping them informed on various things going on in the club and are actually glad to have them back. For those who read these columns and those who have sent me comments – thank you! And, if there’s any topic that any of you think I should address in one of these Messages, please let me know, preferably by email to

© Barbara Toy, May 2017