New in Our Telescope Library: Meade "Light Switch" Technology

New in Our Telescope Library: Meade "Light Switch" Technology

One of our most recent acquisitions is a Meade 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope (or SCT), with a new technology twist. Not only is it a GOTO telescope, but it is capable of aligning itself. We have numerous GOTO telescopes, and some that are "push-to", but the track the object, once it has been acquired. My experience with GOTO telescopes has been mixed; they work, mostly, but sometimes they don't, and the alignment process has to be repeated, eating into observing time.

The Meade ACF (for Advanced Coma Free) telescope, with "Light Switch" technology, ships with the claim that you can set it up, turn it on, and it will align itself correctly, every time. I am an old "Carefully align your equatorial mount" kind of observer, so naturally, I was skeptical. Before I put this in the collection, I wanted to make sure this technology actually worked. Lightswitch is an onboard CCD camera, which can be used for imaging. But the alignment system uses to to achieve a high level of accuracy in alignment, by matching the star field observed to what is expected, as the telescope visits alignment stars. I initially tried to align in mid-twilight, and the telescope informed me that it was not dark enough to complete alignment.

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Looking Forward: President’s Message

Looking Forward: President’s Message

2019 Star Party Schedule Now Available

In preparation for next year, we have posted our downloadable, printable star party schedule on our website.   There are several things that are new for 2019. 

  • Ten-day Messier Marathon at Maupin begins Friday, March 8 and goes through Sunday the 17th.  This event is not an OSP-style event.  It just means the field will be open, the sanitary facilities will be there, and we will have permission for those entire ten days to be on the owner’s field.

  • White River Sno-Park on Mt. Hood is an area that RCA used in the past. It’s close to Portland, has bathrooms, is very large and flat, and has an easy entrance. It doesn’t have the best horizons and there is a chance that drivers with headlights could pull in after dark, but it’s better than Stub Stewart on that score, and there are no light domes.

  • The general plan of our star parties is that on new moon weekends we have a weekend event, and the Friday and Saturday a week earlier, during last quarter moon, we have alternating star parties at Stub Stewart and Rooster Rock.  

  • Where we have indicated both Sky View Acres (SVA) and Maupin, we will determine where the star party will be as we learn more about the weather and the condition of the fields. Please watch the calendar, the Gazette, the Forum, our website, and the ppts from the general meetings for information on where these events will be.

  • We have scheduled alternative events for the Camp Hancock weekends for people who can’t take a full weekend off or drive so far.

  • The first joint Friends of Galileo/RCA Star Party on Mt. St. Helens is scheduled for Aug. 23.

  • We scheduled the Trout Lake Star Party to blend into OSP for those who want to do both. It could happen.

  • The OMSI public star parties are more spread out next year. They start in January with a total lunar eclipse and end November 11 with an exciting Mercury transit. And OMSI has plans for a major celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing.

  • Finally, because we live on hope, we’ve schedule two Bon Hiver (happy new year, good winter, season’s greetings) star parties because you never know: Sunday, Dec. 30 of this year and Thursday Dec. 26, 2019 at Stub Stewart and Rooster Rock. If the weather is with us, I’ll bring hot chocolate.

Interested in Volunteering for Youth Program Vice-President?

It’s election season everywhere, even at RCA. Consider this a plug for a volunteer for the Youth Program VP. Oddly, for this position, you don’t need to work with youth. What we need is someone to develop three or four modest programs, and give out money. If you have experience writing up goals and programs and setting them on their way, we need you. Mike McKeag, current Youth Director, will be on your team. He’s done an excellent job of developing our astronomy class for kids in partnership with Saturday Academy, but he’s willing to move to Youth Team member rather than to take on the task of developing more programs. Please volunteer by contacting Duncan Kitchin at secretary@rosecityastronomers.org.

Next year is going to be our best ever! There’s so much to look forward to. In the meantime, enjoy the winter as it comes.

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Telescope Inventory Hits 40: Including Spectacular New Binoculars

Telescope Inventory Hits 40: Including Spectacular New Binoculars

Our Latest Acquisitions: Our Telescope Library has had a great deal of traffic this year, and it is not over yet. Our peak season is summer, naturally, and activity is up over last year. Please note that we already have telescope reservations that go on into the winter, and we serve the membership year round. Recently, we reached something of a milestone: 40 telescope or binocular packages are now available for reservation via the website. The library may continue to grew slightly, but 40 is a good target. As new telescopes are introduced, we will be examining our collection much more critically, and retiring older instruments. Changes now will be toward newer gear, and more diversity.

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Looking for Students to Apply for Young Astronomy Awards

Looking for Students to Apply for Young Astronomy Awards

If it’s October, then it’s time for another round of Young Astronomers Awards. In June RCA gave its first set of awards - - including cash - - to several budding scientists for everything from writing a software program to designing and building a telescope to running an eclipse summer camp for kids for an entire week to doing serious astronomical research at Pine Mountain Observatory. The summer has fled and it’s time to find another batch of applicants to encourage on their path to the sciences.

If any of our members knows a middle-school or high-school student in any public or private high school or a home school in Multnomah, Clackamas or Washington Counties, or in Clark County in Washington, who may be interested in applying for a certificate of recognition for a project of excellence and merit, plus a cash grant, please encourage them to submit an inquiry to Mike McKeag, our Youth Director as soon as possible, and to submit the project to RCA by October 31. We will announce the winners at the November meeting and hand out the awards at the December potluck.

The kinds of projects we are looking for can include science journalism, such as writing an article about a recent astronomical development, or an art project, such as making a video or creating a graphic story on an astronomical theme, or doing a major outreach project such as starting an astronomy club at their school, or once again, taking on a research project of their own.

If you do not know of any students in this age range, but know a science instructor in one of these locations, please ask them to contact us right away about these awards. We are sincere in our desire to reach a broad spectrum of students and encourage them to take on the challenge of STEM education, and even more, we are interested and excited to see what kind of creative projects students of today come up with.

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Send Us Your Best Images for Our 2019 Calendar

It's the time of year again when we need your help for the 2019 calendar! We are looking for your great astrophotos, so please send us any images you would like considered for inclusion to calendar@rosecityastronomers.org. Images for inclusion should be approximately 3300x2550 pixels (8.5x11 @ 300dpi) in a high-res jpg or a tiff. If the image is too big to send, please send a lower resolution, but high quality image and we will respond with a link to where you can upload the full resolution image. The deadline for submission of images is September 25th, so please send in any images you would like considered soon.

Thanks for helping to make the calendar great!

David Novotny
RCA Calendar Manager

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Geological Society to Bring Prominent Paleontologists to Camp Hancock Star Party

Geological Society to Bring Prominent Paleontologists to Camp Hancock Star Party

The Camp and Our Clubs' Intertwined Origins Go Back to 1951

When I first joined the club twenty years ago, RCA Camp Hancock weekends often had upwards of seventy people, with telescopes. We set up and spread out in a large field we called Dob Valley.  But we lost the use of this field a few years ago because it is not part of Camp Hancock; it is National Monument land belonging to the John Day Fossil Beds run by the National Parks Service. So we are limited to three observing locations within Camp Hancock itself. If everyone who signs up for Camp Hancock brings a telescope, we would have fifteen telescopes set up at each of our three smallish observing locations, and that’s enough. For that reason, for the last few years we’ve limited RCA registration at Camp Hancock to 45. It filled up really fast this time, the fastest it’s ever filled up. But there are no fewer “slots” for RCA members than there has been in recent years. We always create a waiting list. Already this time around we’ve had cancellations and some people have moved off the waitlist and are registered. At the moment, there are about ten people on the waitlist. That’s about normal.

At this Hancock event, we’ll have extra guests from the Geological Society of the Oregon Country (GSOC). They were half-invited and half-volunteered because there is such an overlap of interest between astronomy and the earth sciences, which are in fact planetary sciences. Camp Hancock was started in 1951 by OMSI and GSOC founding member/amateur geologist Lon Hancock and became the home to one of our two progenitor organizations, the OMSI Astronomers. Several members of RCA are also members of GSOC; that’s been true for a long time. I’ve gone on GSOC field trips myself, and taken Paul Edison-Lahm’s downtown geology walk, and have found them truly interesting.

The GSOC members are offering us three additions to the weekend that we don’t normally get: (1) they will take us on a hike through millions of years of geologic history, explaining all the cool things we’ve been looking at on our normal hikes but not knowing what they were; (2) they have invited Dr. Nick Famoso, Chief Paleontologist of the John Day Fossil Beds, to be a speaker/resource person; and (3) they have invited Dr. Bill Orr, the Grand Old Man of Oregon Geology, the Man Who Wrote the Book, to give us a presentation about John Day geology on Saturday night after dinner.  I am personally delighted that Dr. Orr said yes to our humble event. We are privileged to have him.
           
The GSOC people will rideshare to Hancock, so will limit the number of cars they add to our parking situation; they will not bring telescopes, so will  not be crowding us on the field; we have arranged for some Telescope Helpers to introduce the use of a telescope to them and introduce the sky; they will have assigned cabins because they will be going to bed fairly early and we do not want to be waking them up at 3 a.m.; they will have dimmable red Celestron LED flashlights.

I am happy that they are coming and think that they will enrich our experience at Hancock a great deal. Rest assured, no RCA member has lost a chance to register for Hancock because GSOC members will be there, and attendance will be no more than we’ve had at Hancock in the past. GSOC is what I call a “natural ally,” since we are all amateurs interested in the sciences and willing to go out and do field work.  I expect we will find that they are as interesting to get to know as anyone else we meet on the observing field. Please make them feel welcome!

Looking forward . . .  Margaret

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Electronically Assisted Observing (EAA) Presentations Are Now Available

Electronically Assisted Observing (EAA) Presentations Are Now Available

Did you miss Mark Lowenthal and Jeff Lee's talk on how to image or do EAA with a DSLR? Their full presentation is now available containing links to the programs you can use to use your DSLR and telescope for either imaging and "near live" viewing (EAA).

The presentation also explains which basic programs are needed (free or commercial) and contains links to explanations about laptop installation and usage. EAA and imaging are exactly alike except that EAA normally depends on very short exposures and you can watch the view be developed in near real time on your laptop screen. Whereas imaging (astrophotography) normally uses 30 to 60 second images, which are then stacked to become an astro-photograph. Bring any questions you have to our EAA online forum. Mark and Jeff's presentation slides are also available on our website.

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Last Chance to Order 30th Anniversary Jackets! *** Order by Oct 1st! ***

Last Chance to Order 30th Anniversary Jackets! *** Order by Oct 1st! ***

We once again offering the popular RCA Anniversary Jacket with our RCA 30th Anniversary Logo embroidered on the upper left of the front of the jacket.

Available in Men’s or Women’s sizes, X-Small through 4X-Large (they run a bit large)

  • Black, Royal Blue and Red

  • Made by Port Authority: All-Season-II jackets

  • Nylon exterior, jacket body lined with microfleece, sleeves and hood lined with polyester

  • Removeable zippered hood

  • Front zipper zips both ways; wind flap covers the zipper

  • Three exterior zippered pockets; two interior pockets

  • Draw cords and toggles on hood and waist

  • Velcro adjustable cuffs

  • $60 each

  • Pre-order and payment needed by October 1st so that we can have the jackets available at the October 15th General Meeting.

  • $5 extra for shipping for those not picking up their pre-ordered jackets at the meeting.

  • Submit your pre-paid orders now.

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LIGO Registration Open

LIGO Registration Open

For several months now, members have been asking when we are going to take another trip to LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, at Hanford, Washington) especially since we found such a great campground nearby when we went last year. Good news! We’ve set the date for Saturday, October 13. It’s going to be a great trip, but we are going simple this time. Trip details ➡

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RCA Virtual Star Party for August

RCA Virtual Star Party for August

Weather permitting, Mark Lowenthal will be broadcasting another live streamed EAA powered RCA virtual star party on YouTube this Friday, August 3rd starting at 10:30pm. The first broadcast back in May was a bit on the experimental side, with live-chat and audio problems, but the 2nd broadcast in June went more or less as planned with most of the kinks ironed out. Ten deep sky objects were observed, including some requested via live text-chat over the course of the two hour broadcast.

How to Watch Mark’s Virtual Star Party ➡

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New Committee Seeks Potential Observing Site Partners

Board Takes “Fee Title” Purchase Option Off the Table

Do you or anyone you know own property in a dark sky area within 45 minutes to 4 hours from Portland that might be willing to “partner” with RCA as a suitable observing site? Do you have any affiliations with public landowners, such as rural schools, city, county, or state parks? If so, we want to hear from you. A standing Observing Site Committee, chaired by Margaret McCrea, has been formed to review sites that come before the Board for acquisition consideration. We’ll be posting a site form on the website to give you an idea of the basic information needs beyond observing suitability.

What Kinds of Observing Sites Are We Considering? ➡

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Call for Volunteers

Hi Everyone! We have a few upcoming outreach events that could use a few more RCA volunteers with their telescopes. If you are interested, please email me, Yara Green.

Fort Stevens (Oregon Coast)

August 17th & 18th (Fri. & Sat. ) 8:00 pm - til.

The observing location will be the Peter Iredale shipwreck parking lot (upper area). We need a couple of volunteers for each night with their telescopes. If you are in the area or will be camping at Fort Stevens, this would be an excellent event to volunteer. This is a Park Ranger-approved event. The sky on the Oregon coast, when clear, can be fun to observe!
 
Thank you for volunteering!
Yara Green, VP of Outreach

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Beware Blindingly Bright LEDs

Beware Blindingly Bright LEDs

Good weather means star parties and with star parties comes the issue of good light management, so it never hurts to review basic field manners. Stargazers do try valiantly to manage their red lights, but LED manufacturers are making their lights brighter and brighter. Given that with modern technology more is always better, we can assume that these lights are going to continue to get even brighter. I did a check for “dimmable red LED flashlight” on Google and came up with these items: Mini Strong Brightness, Energizer Industrial LED, Military Tactical LED, Bulbrite, Brite LED Headlamp... you get the picture. However, a much better choice would be one of the many dimmable astronomical flashlights that are available. We recommend the Rigel Systems Starlight.

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Our First Thirty Years, and the Next Thirty!

Our First Thirty Years, and the Next Thirty!

On Saturday, June 23rd, RCA celebrated the 30th anniversary of its merger with the Portland Astronomical Society with a picnic at Gabriel Park, where RCA and OMSI used to have their public star parties many years ago. The picnic was a rousing success. People who hadn’t seen each other for decades came together with their memories and their memorabilia. We created a timeline, an In-Memoriam page and an “I remember when” page on large sheets of paper for members to write their contributions. There were few marks on the pages, but an amazing amount of conversation and stories bubbled through our conversations.

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Eyepiece Donations

Eyepiece Donations

As you may remember, we recently collected a variety of telescopes for a kids' observing program to provide telescope access to kids of all ages. We are now looking for eyepieces to round out the telescope kits. If you have an eyepiece that you no longer use or has been sitting in the back of a case for longer than you can remember, please consider donating it to the Outreach and Education Committee. Right now, we welcome any and all eyepieces. Please email Yara Green to arrange the donation. Thank you!

Yara
VP Outreach and Education

outreach@rosecityastronomers.org

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Telescope Library Locations: OMSI vs. TMS

The Telescope Library has two locations where it normally operates: OMSI, before and after our monthly general meeting, and the Telescope Workshop, which currently convenes monthly at TMS on Swan Island. We work fairly hard to make sure that we honor reservations; the locations for each item you see on the website are accurate and timely, and making sure that any telescopes reserved to go out are at that location when they are to be checked out. The collections are different, and that difference is intentional.

In general, the telescopes at OMSI are somewhat smaller and less complex. But there are exceptions and there is some overlap — and that's intentional.

Read more about making your reservation ➡︎

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30th Anniversary Jacket: Get Them While You Can!!

30th Anniversary Jacket: Get Them While You Can!!

For a limited time, we are offering an RCA 30th Anniversary Jacket with our RCA 30th Anniversary Logo embroidered on the upper left of the front of the jacket.

  • Available in Men’s or Women’s sizes, X-Small through 4X-Large (they run a bit large)

  • Black, Royal Blue and Red (women’s red available only in X-Small, Medium, Large and 3XL)

  • Made by Port Authority: All-Season-II jackets

  • Nylon exterior, jacket body lined with microfleece, sleeves and hood lined with polyester

  • Removeable zippered hood

  • Front zipper zips both ways; wind flap covers the zipper

  • Three exterior zippered pockets; two interior pockets

  • Draw cords and toggles on hood and waist

  • Velcro adjustable cuffs

  • $60 each

  • Make your pre-paid order now.

  • Order by June 30th for pick-up at July 16th General Meeting.

  • $5 extra for shipping for those not picking up their pre-ordered jackets at the meeting

  • RCA 30th anniversary Jackets will not be available after June 30th.

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$1000 in RCA Youth Astronomy Awards to Be Announced at June Meeting

At our June meeting the Rose City Astronomers will announce the names of the seven (7) recipients who will receive awards for their astronomy related projects. The awards are made as part of the Rose City Astronomers’ ongoing Youth Awards Program. The seven middle and high school aged students will receive awards varying from $100.0 to $200.00 dollars. If you are a student or have a student, come to the meeting to find out more. The awards are given out twice a year for astronomy related projects from astronomical research to science-based science fiction and astronomical art. These are our Spring Award Winners:

  1. Avital (Tali) Emlen and Diana Herrera, 12th Grade, Wilson High School, Portland, mentored by RCA member Ken Hose: "Calculating the Distance to Star Cluster M52, Telescopic Spectroscopy, Pine Mt., Oregon"

  2. Sasmitha Purushothaman, 7th Grade, Meadow Park Middle School, Beaverton, Teacher Susan Duncan: "Science Fair Presentation: Detecting Gravitational Waves: Laser Interferometer (LIGO)"

  3. Wilson High School Astronomy Club, Alec Sautter reporting, Wilson High School, Joseph Minato teacher: "The Big Eclipse Camp: Public Education Eclipse Gathering"

  4. Sofia Solares and Kate Kelly, 12th Grade, Woodrow Wilson High School, Tom Calderwood mentor: "The Vega Project, Part 1:  Is Vega a Variable Star?"

  5. Quinn Brown, 9th Grade, Wilson High School, Rob Brown, father/mentor: "Tensegrity Telescope: Building a Portable Telescope"

  6. David Fang, 11th Grade, Oregon Episcopal School, Peter Langley mentor: "Modeling the Orbit of Asteroid NEA 2003 QB90"

  7. Mitchell Simmons, 12th Grade, Woodrow Wilson High School, Chris Bartlow, mentor: "Program to Predict Lunar Eclipse."

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Volunteers: Thanks for Stepping Up!

We're Recruiting for a Picnic Coordinator and a Sales Table Assistant

President’s Message:
For the last several months I have been in the throes of downsizing from twenty-seven years of home-ownership to a smaller, simpler living situation; at the same time, I've had a family health situation to deal with. So to keep the club on track while I've been swamped, I began to ask people to step in and help me, and to my great delight, they did. The Board has taken on more tasks; we got not one but two volunteers for the New Member Orientation position; when I called someone and told her I just didn't have time for a project, she took it on. It has been gratifying and has offered me great relief.

Sales Table Assistant Needed

Now I have another need for someone to step up.  Robin Baker (pictured above) after many years of faithful assistance at the Sales Table, needs to step away for a while and we need someone else to help Craig Hlady every month. It involves coming to the general meetings, helping people find the right resource, being especially helpful to new members, and being able to multi-task while keeping track of the money.  If you want to help the club in this way, please contact me at president@rosecityastronomers.org or Craig Hlady at sales@rosecityastronomers.org.  

Picnic Coordinator Needed for Our 30th Anniversary Picnic June 23

And don't forget that we have a special event coming up in June: our 30th anniversary picnic, June 23rd at Gabriel Park, SW 45th Ave. and Vermont St. We choose this place because it's where the club used to have star parties, back in the day when it was a tiny club and light pollution wasn't so bad. We have plans to recognize the accomplishments of past presidents of the club and to remember some members we have lost. Beyond that, to tell the truth, I've been so flooded over with responsibilities and tasks related to downsizing and moving that I haven't put much effort into planning this affair. So if someone would like to step up at this late hour and help us put on a terrific event, plan a timeline and get the word out, I would very much appreciate it and so will the members who come out to enjoy our unique day together. if you have ideas or energy for making the picnic a great time, contact me at president@rosecityastronomers.org.  I know the the exact right person will step forward. They always do.

Our (New) New Member Director

We welcome our new New Member Director Alexe Mastanduno. Alexe completed an Astronomy-Physics Degree at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, and is now happily back in the Portland area where she grew up. She is a Museum Educator with the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Thank you, everyone, for being there, front and center, and keeping our club as good as it is.

Looking forward . . .  Margaret

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Jill Tarter's Cosmic Perspective

Jill Tarter's Cosmic Perspective

Article courtesy of Seattle Astronomy.

Jill Tarter thinks that Craig Venter and Daniel Cohen may not have been bold enough when they declared in 2004 that the 21st Century would be the century of biology. “I think the 21st Century is going to be the century of biology on Earth—and beyond,” Tarter declared during a talk at last month’s meeting of the Rose City Astronomers in Portland, Oregon. Tarter, the Bernard M. Oliver Chair for SETI at the SETI Institute and former director of the Center for SETI Research, thinks there are many ways we might find extraterrestrial intelligence.

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