President’s Message – November 2003

Posted On November 1, 2003

The year races on, and those of us who persist on being up at “O-dark-thirty” (to borrow Chris Butler’s popular phrase) have our own ways of telling that winter is on its way – as I write this, the day after the final “Explore the Stars” program for 2003, the Orion nebula was high enough to show a nice amount of detail around 1:00 a.m., and we were having fun with Saturn when the remnants of the group decided we were all too tired to continue. The bright winter constellations are rising earlier, and, by the time you see this, we’ll be off daylight savings time. Here’s hoping all the darkest nights this winter are also clear!

Farewell to Liam as Webmaster…

We’ve been very fortunate in the time I’ve been associated with the club to have had two excellent webmasters. Liam Kennedy took over responsibility for what was already a good site from Russ Sipe in 1999, and, as anyone who’s visited the site recently knows, has since built it up in ways and added capabilities to it that nobody even imagined us having when he took it over. His most recent innovations include ways members can upload their own pictures to the Image Album and can upload their own announcements and other documents through the new Articles feature.

Unfortunately, even with these features that allow members to upload content directly, with minimal involvement of the webmaster, overall maintenance and updating of the site takes time and energy. With all the other calls on his time, Liam had to make some tough decisions about where he needs to limit some of his club activities, and he decided that the time had come for him to pass on primary responsibility for the website to someone else. He remains an important resource for advice and technical assistance, which is very much appreciated.

We are, of course, extremely sorry that he found it necessary to leave the webmaster position, and very grateful for all that he’s done to make the club website so useful to us as members as well as such a good introduction to the club for those who aren’t familiar with us. And I’m happy to report that he intends to remain active doing Outreach activities as well as his video work – and maybe he’ll even be able to do some observing!

...and Welcome to Russ Sipe as Interim Webmaster

As I said, Russ Sipe was our webmaster before Liam, and he made a lot of changes to the site himself, professionalizing it, adding a lot of content, and establishing a solid foundation for Liam’s many innovations. As many of you may know, he was involved in a major renovation to the website for Sky and Telescope during the time he was their webmaster, and he’s worked on websites for a number of different organizations he’s been associated with, as well, in addition to building and maintaining his own multi-faceted site that reflects the wide range of his interests (

Needless to say, I was delighted and relieved when Russ decided, due to an otherwise unfortunate change in his own circumstances, that he would be both interested in and able to step in as at least Interim Webmaster. In the discussions that took place during this transition, we realized that we really need a new approach to managing the website, as it takes a lot of specialized knowledge and time to deal with the technology that keeps the site running, and it also takes a lot of very different skills as well as time to deal with the content side, including organizing it, keeping current information updated, developing and posting new information, and so on. Russ’s expertise and main interests are with website content (along with his past webmaster-type activities, he’s done a lot of Internet publishing), and I am happy to report that we have a couple of members who have volunteered to work on the technical side of the site. We are definitely in a state of transition here, and, if all goes well, the details of how the different responsibilities associated with the site will be handled will be worked out before the next President’s Message is due, so I’ll be able to share them with you then.

If you’re wondering what happened to change Russ’s circumstances, his long association with Sky and Telescope has, to the sorrow of both sides, come to an end. He assures me, however, that he remains on excellent terms with Rick Feinberg and the others he worked with at S&T, and that this was purely the result of current economic realities, so those of us who subscribe needn’t feel guilty about enjoying the magazine. And the bright side for us is that he now has the time to take on the website during this transitional period and to spearhead the reorganization of the overall site management – it would be hard to find anyone who has better qualifications for seeing that job through to a successful conclusion.

So, thank you, Russ, for taking this on – and good luck in finding a new position that will allow you to continue working with our website!

More Changes - Telescope Loaner Program

One of the more unusual member benefits offered by the club is through the Telescope Loaner Program. For those who may not know about this, we have a group of telescopes owned by the club that are available for club members to borrow without any charge. This gives people a chance to get some hands-on experience using a telescope without having to buy one. Different people have used this in different ways – some to help them decide what kind of telescope to buy when they’re ready to make a purchase, some to try out different types of telescopes from what they otherwise use, and some who can’t afford to own one to have the ability to do some viewing on their own without having to “borrow time” on other people’s equipment.

Henry Fry has been the coordinator of the Loaner Program for a number of years now, and can take full credit for building it into the successful program we currently have. When he became the coordinator, the program had been inactive for a long time. He started off by tracking down and recovering the telescopes that were supposed to be in the program, which took a lot of determination and detective work. He’s added several new scopes, made a lot of repairs, and added equipment such as eyepieces, Telrads and Barlows, and he also developed a tracking system for each telescope in the program. The result of his efforts has been a very active program that has given a lot of people a tremendous amount of enjoyment and experience – a great service to all concerned and to the club as a whole.

Henry has now decided that it’s time for him to retire as Coordinator of the program, so we’re now looking for someone to take over this position. We are very sorry to be losing Henry as Coordinator, and we are very grateful for all that he’s done with the Loaner Program. He assures us that he’ll still be available to his successor by telephone or email.

If you are interested in the position or want more details about the program, please contact me at or Henry Fry at

Explore the Stars

As still another change in the club lineup, Richard Cranston, who has been the Coordinator for Explore the Stars for the last few years, is finding that the travel required in his current job makes it very hard for him to continue doing the work required for the position, so he’d like to hand that responsibility over to someone else. Richard has been doing a great job under circumstances that have been increasingly difficult for him, and we are very grateful for all he’s done for the program, as Coordinator and as a volunteer himself.

Explore the Stars was started by Russ Sipe and Fred Coe of the Forest Service as a joint program to introduce people visiting Palomar Mtn. to various aspects of astronomy (through talks and other activities) and to give them a chance to see objects for themselves through volunteer telescopes. Although the organizations that have been most actively involved have been OCA and the Forest Service, we’ve had a lot of participants from other clubs, as well. The program has received an additional boost this last summer through the active support of Scott Kardel, who is now in charge of Public Relations for the Palomar Observatories, and by the arrival of Chris Nyce as the new Ranger for the area. For more information about the background of ETS, check out its website:

This is a truly unique program, and one with a tremendous ability to educate the public about the importance of protecting the skies in the Palomar area (which – not to be too selfish – is a significant concern to us for our own Anza site) as well as to educate members of the general public about astronomy. If you are interested in the position of Coordinator for the program or want more information about it, please contact Richard Cranston (, Russ Sipe ( or me.

Upcoming “How to Use Your Telescope” Class

In the hope that this reaches you before November 7, this is a reminder about the upcoming “How to Use Your Telescope” class. We’re getting flyers out to all of the local astronomy stores as well as to the customer support people at Meade and Celestron, and expect that it will be well-attended, especially as all of the people I’ve talked to at all of the places I’ve left flyers have confirmed that a lot of the people who bought new telescopes to see Mars keep calling them for assistance with them. So, any of you who can come out as volunteers – we need you! And, any of you who’re having problems with your own equipment – here’s your chance to get some help with it!

This session is on November 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the Centennial Heritage Museum, which is in the first block west of Fairview on Harvard in Santa Ana, between Warner and Edinger. For more information, please contact Antonio Miro ( or 714/898-967) or me.

The “How to Use Your Telescope” class is now a regular part of our Beginners Class, and we’ll be doing it again in April. It’s always a lot of fun – I hope to see you there!


Another reminder – we’ll be taking nominations for the Board and officer positions at the November and December meetings, and the election itself ends at the end of the January meeting. Running for the Board is a great way to get more involved with the club – speaking from my own experience, it’s amazing what that simple step can lead to!

Stephen Eubanks kindly pointed out that I made a significant misstatement in the last President’s Message as to the qualifications for people to run for the officer positions – the requirement about serving for one year on the Board applies only to the offices of President and Vice President, not to the offices of Secretary and Treasurer. As to the positions of President and Vice President – I know there are a lot of people out there who have that qualification, so don’t feel shy about throwing your hat in the ring and running for those offices!

For those who weren’t at the October General Meeting, or who didn’t take notes, the members of the current Board who’ve confirmed that they’ll be running again are:

For Trustee: Bob Buchheim, Dave Radosevich, Gary Schones, Joel Harris.

For Officer positions: Charlie Oostdyk (Treasurer), Bruce Crowe (Secretary), Barbara Toy (President).

At a minimum, we need at least one candidate for Vice President, and some candidates for Trustee – so, if you’ve any interest in the club and its future at all, please do consider running!

The OCA Banquet

Well, the 2003 OCA Banquet is now behind us, and I hope the other people who attended had as good a time as I did! Stephen Edberg gave us an excellent talk on the Cassini Project and what they hope to find when they get to Saturn (with the warning that all of the information he was giving us about Saturn itself would probably be found to be incomplete or totally wrong in six months). We were also honored by having Galileo Galilei as a guest. Besides proving to be a charming and interesting conversationalist, he favored us with some comments about the optics in the telescopes he used, comparing them with modern telescopes of similar size.

We are very grateful to Celestron for the generous donation of a refractor telescope as a door prize, which Galileo delivered for them. We are also very grateful to Scope City for the generous donation of two $50.00 gift certificates and a 2” Parks ALP filter. Pam Brandt, who, with Tom Drouet, arranged for Galileo’s visit, also generously donated several very nice books. The drawing for the door prizes capped a great evening – if you missed it, do plan to come next year!

A special thanks is due to Joel Harris, who worked very hard on all of the arrangements needed to make this event the success it was, and to his wife, Patti, who helped with general advice and such important touches as decorating the tables.


Although there’s a lot more that I could add – for instance, our venture into a group purchase of tickets for the performance of “Sun Rings” – I’ll close here, so Steve Condrey, our new editor, has a fighting chance of fitting it all in… I hope there won’t be quite so many changes in the club to report on next month!