President’s Message – May 2017

Posted On May 1, 2017

By Barbara Toy

Still Looking for the Next Editor for the Sirius Astronomer…

As I write this, in mid-April, we don’t yet have a new editor for the club’s newsletter, the Sirius Astronomer, and time is growing short before the sad day (for us) when Steve Condrey and his family will be leaving California. We are hoping that our new editor will be on board before Steve prepares the June issue to take advantage of that training opportunity. Steve tells me that what he does to put the newsletter together isn’t really difficult with the computer programs he’s been using. He plans to give to the new person the templates and other information to help make the job go smoothly. [Per Steve, he has been using Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe Pagemaker was used in the past.]

The Sirius Astronomer is a vital part of our club, and for many members who aren’t able to come to our meetings, star parties or other events very often, it’s a particularly important link to the club and our local astronomy world. We’ve been fortunate to have a series of dedicated editors over the years, and each has added his or her own touches and improvements to the process of putting the newsletter together as well as to layout and content. Back in the early 2000s, when Chris McGill was our editor, the finished issues were hand-delivered to the company that did the printing – I recall her telling me about making mad dashes to the printer to get it there by the deadline, and I think she said she delivered it as a print-ready paper copy, not in electronic form at all. The technology has certainly made things easier since then, and now the newsletter is put together entirely electronically and emailed to the printer when it’s finished, which can be done at any time, not just during business hours.

The editor’s job is basically to gather the articles, pictures and other things that go into each issue, figure out how that material should be arranged and set it up in final form, then send it to the printer and to others on the emailing list, including our webmaster, who posts it on our website. Charlie Oostdyk takes care of mailing the newsletter out to the membership, so once a finished issue is emailed out, the editor’s work on it is generally finished.

If you want to make a tangible contribution to the astronomical community as well as the club, editing the Sirius Astronomer is a great way to do that. Our mailing list includes other clubs, organizations and institutions across the country and even overseas. Editing the newsletter also gives a great justification – if you need one – for checking out various astronomical websites and other sources of astronomical information, and a great connection to interesting people in the club. If you like to write, providing editorials is an option – most of our editors have chosen not to include many of their own writings, but I understand that some in the past, such as John Sanford, regularly contributed content to the newsletter. There are lots of ways to be creative in this position, which is another good reason for taking it on.

If you have any interest in becoming our next editor, please contact Steve Condrey, particularly if you have any questions about what is involved, or me.

A Sad Farewell to Tom Drouet:

For those who knew him and may not have heard yet, long-time member Tom Drouet passed away on April 8, 2017. Tom was an active Outreach volunteer for many years, and that is where I first got to know him. He was a man of many interests, and we were fortunate that astronomy was among those that he devoted himself to in retirement. Birdwatching was another passion of his, and he was also an active member of the Sea and Sage Audobon Society, headquartered at the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary in Irvine. I know there was at least one time he was able to combine those two interests with an astronomy viewing session at the wildlife sanctuary. Another of his passions was music, and he played with many different groups over the years, among them the Los Angeles Police Band, UCLA Alumni Band and Covina Community Band, and he sometimes had to miss a star party or club meeting because of a performance.

According to the membership roster, he joined the club about a month before I did, in 2000, though I didn’t get to know him until probably a year or two after that. I was a relative newbie to observational astronomy at the time, and he was one of the helpful, knowledgeable Outreach folks who gave me pointers on finding my way around the night sky as well as interesting bits of information about different objects we would be seeing during these events to share with people who would be looking through our scopes. He had spent about 40 years as a math professor, most of it at East Los Angeles Community College, and he never lost his love of teaching, which is a great asset when doing outreach. There were a number of times when he and another friend, Pam Beach, would carpool out to Anza for star parties, and the three of us had some very enjoyable viewing sessions up at the Kuhn telescope, with interesting conversation and fun objects in the eyepiece – and his kind assistance when we had other visitors come up to the observatory.

Unfortunately, Tom had a number of health problems and became rather frail in the last few years, so he was no longer able to come out to Anza or to participate in many other club activities. I think the last club event he attended was the banquet last January, which was after a long absence from club activities, and he seemed to enjoy it. He was 85 when he passed away, though his many interests made him seem much younger, certainly in spirit. He will be very much missed by those of us who knew him.


For long-timers in the Southern California amateur astronomy world, Memorial Day Weekend is pretty much synonymous with RTMC, our local regional star party, held at Camp Oaks on Big Bear Mountain. This started life at the end of the 1960s as the Riverside Telescope Makers’ Conference, in a time when building your own telescope was still the most cost-effective way to get one that was of good quality for many people – and, of course, there were always those who took great joy in coming up with innovative designs or building unique telescopes that were as much works of art as tools for viewing.

Well, times and markets change, and by late 1990s when it was occurring to me that it might be fun to actually look at things for myself in the night sky rather than just read about them, more reasonably priced decent telescopes were coming into the market, and that accelerated in the 2000s. With all the good scopes that are available now, there’s a lot less incentive for people to build their own. RTMC changed as well, in response to changes in the hobby, and became the RTMC Astronomy Expo, covering a much wider range of astronomical interests, though telescope making still has a significant place there and, amazingly, people are still building new and unique telescopes to show off to their fellow enthusiasts.

RTMC is a landmark event in our local astronomy world, and if you’ve never gone, it’s well worth checking it out. For directions and other information, their website is: As I write this, they are still in the selection process for the various talks that will be given during the day on Saturday and Sunday. The keynote speaker this year is Dr. Fred Espenak, aka “Mr. Eclipse,” who will discuss the total solar eclipse that will cross the US on August 21 – definitely a timely topic! They’ll also have their usual vendor area, the swap meet (where people bring their own stuff to sell), and, of course, viewing – vendors generally set up equipment in the telescope field, particularly on Saturday night, so you can try it out for yourself, and participants also set up their own equipment for viewing, sharing and even some imaging. And, if it follows the pattern of past years, there will be some very nice items raffled off on both Saturday and Sunday nights….

Well, for those who can’t make it to RTMC, our Anza star party is that Saturday night – we won’t have vendors, speakers or raffle prizes, but it should still be fun. Wherever you go that weekend, may your skies be dark, clear and steady!

© Barbara Toy, April 2017