President’s Message – March 2006

Posted On March 1, 2006

By Barbara Toy

The 2006 Board has been officially installed, and has had its first meeting, and the year already seems to be speeding by pretty fast – it’s close to mid-February as I write this, and we’ll be well into March when this issue of the Sirius Astronomer reaches you. As you might have noticed, I’m shifting my contributions to our newsletter to the President’s Message for the year – but may still produce further episodes of “Around OCA” as well if I find a topic that really doesn’t fit in a President’s Message.

Things continue to change around our club…

A Sad Farewell to Tim Hunt as Anza House Coordinator…

If you’ve spent much time around Anza House or the Football Field in the last couple years, you most likely know Tim Hunt. Even if you didn’t know him by name, you’ve probably talked to him – he’s the friendly and helpful gentleman who has kept things running smoothly at Anza House over the last year as the Anza House Coordinator. Partly because he was a regular at Anza House, he kindly agreed to take on the responsibilities of Anza House Coordinator when Larry Carr was no longer able to fill that position. The fact that Anza House has been running smoothly, with a minimum of disputes, complaints or other problems is a tribute to his efforts, and we are really grateful to him for taking on that position and for all he has done to keep Anza House functional as the coordinator.

Unfortunately for us, Tim has been transferred to a position in Tennessee – a bit far from Anza for him to continue looking after Anza House effectively. He has therefore had to give up his coordinator position, much to our regret. He tells me, though, that all of his family is in this area, and he’ll be back periodically. He intends to remain a club member, and to be as active in the club as the distance will allow – and he may even be able to make it out to Anza or to meetings on occasion when he is out here visiting family and friends. He’ll be most welcome at any event he can attend – and I look forward to hearing about his experiences with fellow astronomers in Tennessee!

…And We Now Need a New Anza House Coordinator

Since Tim has to leave us, we now need a new Anza House Coordinator. This is the person who keeps the Anza House supplies stocked up (primarily toilet paper, paper towels, trash bags and cleaning materials – the costs are reimbursed by the club), keeps sign-up forms available so people can reserve their rooms, along with pay envelopes, and collects the money paid for overnight stays to give to Charlie Oostdyk. The coordinator also arranges for the house to be kept clean – ideally, by coordinating volunteers to take care of different aspects of the cleaning rather than doing it all him/herself. Some past coordinators have also made repairs and improvements when they had the skills to do the work, or have obtained help from other members who had the necessary skills.

As anyone who has spent much time out at our Anza site knows, Anza House is a wonderful facility that makes our observing site much more comfortable to use than most other dark sites around. The Anza House Coordinator is vital to keeping Anza House running smoothly. If you spend time at Anza regularly, please consider taking this position on – it’s a great way to help keep our Anza site a great and comfortable viewing facility, which benefits the club as a whole as well as the people who use Anza. If you’re interested in this position or have questions, please contact me about it.

People Who Go Beyond the Call of Duty

We are a club of volunteers – all of the maintenance of our facilities and most of the actual construction is done by volunteers from within the club. At Anza, our major club facilities are Anza House, the club observatory, and the general use pads in the Football Field below Anza house. These all take maintenance, and we have members who have taken on official responsibility for this – besides the Anza House coordinator, Don Lynn as the Anza Site Custodian does a tremendous amount of repair and maintenance work around the site every star party weekend, and, as the Observatory Custodian, I’m generally responsible for the club observatory. Fortunately, we also have some club members who don’t hold any specific position in the club but who regularly go out of their way to clean things up and make repairs that they see need doing.

Marilyn Saeed spent a long time and put a lot of effort into cleaning Anza House at the star party at the end of January, and it was even cleaner than it was after the last special cleaning day by the time she finished. Marilyn often helps out when she sees a need – she was one of the people who helped keep the club booth running at the last RTMC, for instance. When Bob Bryant spends a few days out at Anza, he often takes care of repairs that nobody’s gotten around to doing yet – one that I found memorable, partly because I spend a lot of time in the observatory, was replacing the seat in the observatory restroom because the old one was in very poor condition. Bruce Waddington is another member who takes on projects when he sees a need – such as checking for damage to the electrical wiring after the fire that burned over part of our site two years ago, installing a dual white light/red light system in the observatory warming room, and leaving his electric weed whacker for general use in cutting back the weeds on site. John Castillo, Tom Kucharski, Tom Munnecke, Ray Stann, Bob Buchheim and others have helped to repair and paint the existing moving roof and support structure on the observatory to help it survive the winter. I know other members contribute time and effort to help out at Anza, and, like all of the members I mentioned, they do it without any fanfare. We are very grateful for all of those efforts, which are really needed to keep our site running well.

Anza gets a lot of use, and it’s located in a pretty harsh environment, so things can deteriorate pretty fast without ongoing effort to defeat the forces of entropy. We really need everyone who uses our Anza site to contribute at least a little toward keeping it up – at a minimum, please make sure that you leave whatever area you use in at least as clean a condition as when you arrived. Even simple steps beyond that will help – such as picking up any litter you see, doing a quick rinsing or wiping of a sink, counter or other area that you notice is dirty, taking a trash bag out with you when you see someone else forgot to take it (and please remember to take your own trash, too – we can’t get trash service out there at this point, so this is really important!). Beyond this, we could also use people vacuuming at least the common areas of Anza House (living/dining rooms, bathrooms, kitchens) at the end of every star party, and taking on such tasks as filling in holes that appear in the roadways or walkways on site (especially as the local burrowing animals get more active with the approach of spring). As the weather warms, particularly if we get much more rain, we’ll have a thick crop of grass and weeds that will need to be cut back, and we’ll need help with the weeds around Anza House, around the pads in the Football Field, around the club observatory, and along the roadways on site.

So, there are plenty of opportunities for you, too, to be one of those members who go beyond the call of duty and actively contribute to making Anza one of the best observing sites around. Give it a try – I think you’ll find that the sense of satisfaction and achievement you get from doing something active to improve things at Anza will make your time there even more enjoyable. If you want suggestions on what you could do out there, please feel free to email me ( or talk to me about them in person or by phone.

And thanks again to all of you who are already contributing your efforts out at Anza – the site wouldn’t be the same without you!

Messier Marathon:

We have a pretty long-standing tradition now of having a Messier Marathon in the spring, during the period when (at least theoretically) all of the Messier objects can be seen in one night. We’re doing it again this year, at the March Anza Star Party, March 25. Bring whatever you generally view through, and come on out for a night of real fun!

We’ll have the club observatory open, and I expect to be doing the Marathon with the Kuhn – which will be available for general viewing of the Messier objects as we find them. We also have two LX200’s in the observatory that can be used by others for the Marathon – thanks to the generosity of John Hoot, who donated a 12-inch GPS LX200 for the Mocat project, the 12-inch that he donated earlier has now been returned to the observatory, and should be available in addition to the 10-inch (I say “should” because, as I write this, the telescope has been placed on its pier but hasn’t yet been fully connected up for use. I’m hoping to get that done at the February star party).

If you’re interested in using one of our LX200’s, please let me know – it’s particularly fun doing the Marathon in the observatory when all three scopes are in action!

For all of you imagers out there, we’re also doing the imaging version of the Marathon again this year. Last year, Leon Aslan did a great job capturing all of the available objects up to the point the fog moved in, showing that it can definitely be done. I don’t know how many people actually tried to do it photographically last year – I hope that there’ll be many times that number this year!

What do you need to do the Marathon? Not much – something to do your viewing with, a form to keep track of what you’ve seen, and a way of finding the different objects. The real hard-core people find all of the objects the old-fashioned way, essentially by starhopping to the right location when it can’t be distinguished through a telrad or finderscope (one doesn’t really need to starhop to find M42/the Great Orion Nebula, for instance), and they most likely do it with a non-motorized Dobsonian. I have great respect for them, especially when I see them picking their way accurately through the Virgo galaxy cluster and other crowded and confusing sectors of the sky, but I admit that I have little desire to join their ranks. I’m one of those who’ve been charmed by the benefits of goto systems, and that’s how I expect to be doing the Marathon myself – taking full advantage of the computer system controlling the Kuhn. Doing the Marathon without that kind of assistance is definitely more difficult and deserves special recognition – so, when people fill in their forms, we would also like them to tell us what kind of finding system they are using as well as what they were using for viewing.

We’ll have the form posted on the website, so you can download it, and we’ll also have copies of the forms available at Anza House and the club observatory at the star party. I’ll try to bring some to the March general meeting, as well. The forms set out a suggested order for viewing the objects, which is most important at the beginning and end of the Marathon, when you have to catch objects just before they set or just after they rise, fighting to see them in twilight skies. There are a lot of resources on the Internet if you want more information about what to do and how to do it – a couple of sites where you can get more information and variations on the forms are at and

Doug Millar, who has coordinated the Messier Marathon for the past few years, won’t be able to do it this year. If any of you would like to act as coordinator for this event, please let me know – that would help for getting the forms distributed and for arranging for the certificates for those who participate, but we’ll be going through with the event, whether or not we have a formal coordinator. You don’t need to be at Anza to participate – so, whether you can be out at Anza or not for the March star party, get a copy of the Marathon form and do the Marathon wherever you are! You can give the forms whoever our coordinator is or to me, or send them to the club’s address, P.O. Box 1762, Costa Mesa, CA 92628.

In Closing

It looks like we’re off and running with another interesting year at the OCA – it certainly should be an eventful one, with AstroImage 2006 coming up in August in addition to all of our regular events. Here’s hoping that 2006 features a lot more clear nights near the dark of the moon than we’ve seen in the last few years!

© Barbara Toy, February 2006