April President's Message: Remembering Peter Abrahams

April President's Message: Remembering Peter Abrahams

We are all still saddened by the sudden loss of our friend and member, Peter Abrahams on March 4 to a heart attack while visiting his family in Los Angeles. The more I talk to his family and other club members, the more I learn about his wide range of talents and accomplishments.

Peter was probably the least self-promotional person I’ve ever met, yet he cast a wide net in both science and the arts. Fortunately, David Nemo, another past president, is working on preserving Peter’s works from his website, and already someone has stepped forward saying he’d like to take up some of the archival work that Peter was doing. There is a longer memorial article, including many comments from friends remembering Peter, in this article below.

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The Early History of RCA: Reprint of 2008 Article "RCA at 20"

The Early History of RCA: Reprint of 2008 Article "RCA at 20"

This article appeared in the Rosette Gazette in July, 2008. Dale Fenske is a past president of RCA and former liaison to the Astronomical League. Republished with his permission.

Has it really been 20 years? Time goes so quickly. It seems like only yesterday when I exchanged my 60mm Sears refractor for a giant 10“ Cave reflector with a German equatorial mount. (At that time a monster scope was 12 ½”.) I was anticipating some serious astronomy with the Messier list as the agenda. My new scope could view many deep sky objects that I had been missing with the 60mm telescope. Frustration is the word for what came next.

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Do You Have a Kids Scope to Donate?

Do You Have a Kids Scope to Donate?

RCA Youth Programs and Outreach are looking to put together a fleet of 6-8 telescopes for kids to use at various outreach events. In particular, we are looking for donations of table-top, alt-azimuth mount Newtonian telescopes such as the 114mm aperture, f/4, 450 mm focal length Orion Starblast, Meade Lightbridge Mini, or similar.

RCA participates in many events bringing astronomy to kids in the metro area. We would like to be able to provide an even more meaningful experience by giving them the opportunity to use the telescopes themselves.

If you have one these sitting in your garage or closet gathering dust, these telescopes would be put to excellent use by allowing kids a chance to observe through a telescope for the first time. We would be very appreciative of any and all donations of these telescopes. For telescope donations and questions, please contact Yara at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org or Mike at youth@rosecityastronomers.org.

Don't forget! If you are interested in volunteering at one of the many upcoming RCA outreach events, email Yara at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org.

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Brand New Developments in Portland Defy Basic Standards of Sustainable Outdoor Lighting

Brand New Developments in Portland Defy Basic Standards of Sustainable Outdoor Lighting

Support City-Wide Lighting Standard with Your Letter to Portland City Commissioners

Thomas Lovejoy, “The Godfather of Biodiversity” said, "If you take care of the birds, you take care of most of the big problems in the world." The same might be said about light pollution. Reduce light pollution and you reduce its harmful, biological effects to birds, fish, frogs, trees, and most forms of life that have evolved in sync with the clockwork of day and night --- including humans. Reduce light pollution and you reduce energy waste caused by unnecessarily lighting the sky or your neighbor’s bedroom. Reduce light pollution and we may make streets and neighborhoods safer. More studies are showing that certain outdoor lighting may invite crime, not deter it. More and more people are heard saying, “I avoid driving at night; the lights are blinding.”

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How Do I Become an RCA Volunteer?

How Do I Become an RCA Volunteer?

As you know, RCA is comprised of many amazing volunteers who generously give their time to share their passion and love for astronomy and science with the community. Whether it is setting up a telescope at a star party with students or a private event, working with kids in the classroom, or talking with people at a resource table at a maker fair or farmer's market - RCA volunteers are there!

The first question you may be asking yourself is "How do I volunteer?" Maybe you have never done astronomy outreach before. No problem! There are different ways to volunteer, depending on what you like to do. If you like to do star parties, but don't have a telescope? Let us know. We can find a way to get you connected with the equipment you need. Do you like to develop activities for kids? We can work on putting together content for different school requests. You don't have to know everything about astronomy to volunteer. We can bring you up to speed on what you want to know. Not sure how to work a telescope? We can partner you with someone who does and you can work together.

The next question you may be asking is "How do I sign up to volunteer?" It's easy! First, email me, Yara Green, at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org.

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February President's Message: Electronically Enhanced Observing?

February President's Message: Electronically Enhanced Observing?

The topic of technology and observing have come up again recently with the appearance of yet another technology that is likely to revolutionize observing: Electronically Enhanced Astronomy (EEA), such as is used by the recently Kickstarted Unistellar eVscope (image from their website).

This development is likely to stir up the kind of discussion and debate that the advent of GoTo technology brought up twenty years ago. There’s already lively discussion about it on our Forum and other amateur astronomy boards.

I propose to settle the debate from the start: technology always wins.  So let’s predict that EEA is going to revolutionize our hobby and I hope for the better.  But I am always the voice that says: don’t let the technology overtake our enjoyment of the sky and the stars that fill those gorgeous nights.

Observing Survey: If you haven’t filled out the survey regarding our observing site choices, time is getting short. We appreciate hearing from everyone who fills it out.

Astro-Imaging Class: Registration for the Astro-Imaging Class is still open.  The cost of the class is $20, and class is limited to forty people. It’s filling rapidly so if you want to start at the very beginning and move into the mid-weeds of imaging, this is the class for you.

Camp Hancock: Registration for Camp Hancock is open until March 10. We are limited to 45 RCA members and guests and registration is filling up for this popular event.

Youth Astronomy Class: The Youth Astronomy Class registration is still open. Classes start in March, so if you know of a youth who wants to learn about astronomy and observing, we encourage our members to point them this direction.

Youth Award: We’re still interested in awarding money to young people who do something of merit regarding astronomy and the sciences. Contact our Youth Director if you know of a project that might qualify.

Until the skies clear, I hope we all get to enjoy our winter days!

— Margaret

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Take the Observing Program Survey — We Want to Hear From You!

Take the Observing Program Survey — We Want to Hear From You!

It’s been over 13 years since the RCA Board officially surveyed the membership about its astronomical observing needs. Quite a bit has changed since the last survey, including the size and composition of our membership, the type and number of our available observing sites, the rise in light pollution (particularly from LED lights), the popularity of astrophotography, and the increase in traffic congestion in the metro area. So, it’s time that the Board hear from the membership again. Starting December 16th and running for a month or two, you can take the survey online or, if you'd prefer, take it using in hard copy at our general meetings. Both formats will be on-hand at the Holiday Potluck on December 18th to make it easier for you to contribute to this important survey campaign.

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Register Now for Spring Youth Astronomy Class

Register Now for Spring Youth Astronomy Class

Registration is now closed. Ever looked up into the night sky and wondered what’s up? Experts from Rose City Astronomers will prepare you to explore the universe. Learn the fundamentals of observational astronomy, how to use binoculars and telescopes to explore the night sky, to observe planets, star clusters, nebula, galaxies. Learn about objects astronomers study, how and why our view of the night sky changes through the night, and with the seasons, how telescopes work and how to use them, and how to find your way in the night sky. We will finish with practical advice on how to prepare for a night exploring the universe. In addition to the classroom sessions, telescope observing opportunities under the night sky will be offered. Students and their families will be invited to a end optional star parties with Rose City Astronomers after this class.

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The Telescope Library: What's Next for 2018

The Telescope Library: What's Next for 2018

In 2017, we have started to transform our Telescope Library to increase the value we deliver to our group. This is a good time to look back and appreciate the changes we've made, and the challenges we faced in the past year:

1. Recruiting volunteers has made greater borrowing volume and high quality service a reality, and we will continue to improve in 2018. We also continue to look for people with talent and skills to help maintain and improve our collection. If you like to work with telescopes, we have a place for you!

2. We are modernizing our collection and responding to your demands, by donations and planned acquisitions of newer gear, and retirement of older, less or non-borrowed items.

3. We experimented with multiple-month loans, and customized orders. We will apply these ideas and lessons learned in 2018; expect to see more of this.

4. Introducing web-based reservations has changed how telescopes are borrowed, improving planning for everyone. Most of our borrowing is now done by reservation, but you can still borrow a telescope on-the-spot, at any meeting, year-round. We already have reservation as much as 6 months in advance for 2018.

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Astro-imaging Faint, Mysterious Smudges in NGC 7331

Astro-imaging Faint, Mysterious Smudges in NGC 7331

Digital cameras are more sensitive than the human eye or photographic film when it comes to detecting faint astronomical objects. As an astro-imager, I sometimes see very dim “smudges” in the background of some of my images. I never investigated them until recently. I got the idea as I was working on an image of NGC 7331, the so-called Deer Lick galaxy group. Looking carefully, I noticed lots of small faint objects all over the background. I wanted to know if they were stars or galaxies and I wanted to know their magnitudes and any other information I could find.

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Supermoons Herald the New Year

Supermoons Herald the New Year

How lucky can we be, starting a new year with a full moon — a supermoon no less — on the first day of the year? A supermoon happens when a full moon falls at or very near the moon’s perigee, meaning its nearest brush with Earth, during the month. To add icing to the cake, there will be another full moon on January 31st. That’s a Blue Moon. To have a blue moon and a supermoon in the same month, and to have one on January 1, is rare indeed. Probably a computer could figure out the probability of this kind of lineup, which is so rare it deserves its own color.  How about a Mauve Moon? 

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Wrapping Up the Year

Wrapping Up the Year

In 1988, the OMSI Astronomy Club and the Portland Astronomical Society merged. In the coming year, we will be celebrating our 30th anniversary as RCA. Our printed 2018 calendar (on sale now) has a lovely 30th year logo on it and it includes, among the usual awesome imaging done by our very own members, some striking black-and-white photos of astronomy in Portland that goes back well more than thirty years. The strength of interest in astronomy in cloudy, rain-sodden Oregon shows the staying power of hope over experience, doesn’t it?

Banner Design Contest

We need better visual displays! We’ve decided to get three retractable banners printed to use for outreach events. We’re asking imagers to put their wonderful work to good use on what we hope will be stunning banners. Create something beautiful using astronomy images with, at a minimum, our name, logo and our url address. If your design is chosen, we’ll award you with a copy of the book Skyglow. Any member can create a design, but astro-images should be done by an RCA member and have their permission for use. The final size will be 33" x 78." A high-resolution PDF would work well. We’d like to have these ready for next year’s events, so the deadline is Dec. 31 for submitting your entry. To get the logo, contact the president, communications v.p. or the calendar v.p. and we can send you one for incorporation in your creative, attractive, informative, communicative representation of our club.
 

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Results of Our 2018 Election & Introducing Our New Social Media Coordinator

Results of Our 2018 Election & Introducing Our New Social Media Coordinator

RCA welcomes Yara Green to the board as our 2018 Vice-President of Outreach and Education. We're also happy to announce that Kathy Kerner, who has been doing such fantastic work on our Twitter and Facebook pages, has joined our Communications Team as our new Social Media Coordinator.

Since Steve Weiler is stepping down after many years of diligent service in his essential role as Observing VP, that position is now open for 2018, so please let us know if you are interested!

The following slate of officers was elected at our November 27 General Meeting:

President: Margaret McCrea
Secretary: Duncan Kitchin
Treasurer: Larry Godsey
VP Membership: Ken Hose
VP Observing: Position Open
VP Outreach & Education: Yara Green
VP Program: Mark Martin
VP Communication: Paul Edison-Lahm

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Street Light Shield Success Story

Street Light Shield Success Story

For many moons I’ve been advising RCA members that if they are having trouble with glare from a nearby street light, that they call their local bureau of transportation and tell a representative that “the glare from the street light outside my house is trespassing into my home and I’d like the lamp shielded.” Happily, I’m now able to report on a success story. An RCA member in Portland shared this account of his experience: "Ever since the new street light was installed on our corner lot in Northeast Portland, I've been trying to get it shielded. I was unsuccessful in two earlier attempts. But someone at the last meeting mentioned that the city has changed its policy, so I tried again..."

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Hunting for Dark Skies Within a 12 Hour Drive in Nevada, CA, and Eastern Oregon

Hunting for Dark Skies Within a 12 Hour Drive in Nevada, CA, and Eastern Oregon

By RCA Member Charles Fichter

I had the luxury this past year to get out and explore Eastern Oregon and Nevada for observing locations. My extended family lives in Las Vegas, so I made several trips by vehicle and hauled the gear and tents with me to see what I could find, and I purposely diverted further Eastward in Oregon to have a look at a few spots. I was rewarded with several great locations for adventurers with time and hunger to get to really dark skies. Other unexpected treats were in store as well.

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Milankovitch Cycles Part 1: Orbital Cycles and Earth’s Ice Ages

Milankovitch Cycles Part 1: Orbital Cycles and Earth’s Ice Ages

This is the story of the imprint of Earth’s orbital cycles on the climate of our planet. Scientists now believe that certain features of Earth’s orbital motions act as a trigger for Earth’s long-term climate cycles, including the cyclical planet-wide glacier cover, popularly called the “Ice Ages” — and termed by science glacial epochs. Scientists first discovered the glacial cycles in the middle of the 19th Century. But the theory linking the glacial epochs to variations in solar radiation caused by cyclical changes in certain of Earth’s orbital motions, had to wait until the first years of the 20th Century.

This is first in a series by RCA Member David Horne.

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Milankovitch Cycles Part 2: Agassiz’s Boulders and Earth’s Orbital Cycles

Milankovitch Cycles Part 2: Agassiz’s Boulders and Earth’s Orbital Cycles

For hundreds of years, people in northern and central Europe had been noticing large, out-of-place boulders that seemed to have been dropped in a field, or popped up from underground. “Erratics”, they came to be called. Legends attributed the boulders to giants, trolls, and the Devil. By the early 1820s many natural history philosophers, scientists, came to focus on ‘ice’ as the likely mechanism of transport. But the source of all the ice was a mystery.

This is second in a series by RCA Member David Horne.

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Milankovitch Cycles Part 4: Adhemar, Le Verrier, and Croll

Milankovitch Cycles Part 4: Adhemar, Le Verrier, and Croll

By the mid-1800s a few scientists were beginning to explore a possible relationship between Earth’s orbital cycles and Earth’s Glacial Epochs and Ice Ages. Their first step was to develop a working model linking Earth’s cyclical orbital changes to corresponding changes in the amount of solar radiation received by earth. Among scientists to begin the exploration before Milutin Milankovitch, three are of special importance for this article: Joseph Adhemar, Urbain Le Verrier and James Croll. In fact, the Milankovitch cycles are sometimes referred to as the Croll-Milankovitch cycles.

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