RCA Board Positions Open; Presidential Mentorship Available

It's October. It's time for officer elections, so it's time for another call for volunteers. There are eight officer positions open for nomination: President, Secretary, Treasurer, VP Programs, VP Observing, VP Membership, VP Communications, and VP Outreach. Position descriptions can be found on our website here. We have a tradition in RCA of people stepping forward to take up some volunteer work for a year or two or more, then stepping back to let someone else have a chance but staying in the club, then later volunteering for another activity. This gives us a lot of institutional memory, and makes the club stronger. If you've been thinking about it, now's your chance.

When I took the position of President, I told myself I'd do it for three years. I am now closing in on the end of my fourth year. I hereby announce publicly and officially that I will serve a fifth year, and will resign this position as of December 2020. That means we need someone to step forward for the President's position now. (Job description here.)

The President is the only club officer who needs to have served on the Board for a year before taking up the lead position. In the interests of a smooth transition, we're sending out a call for volunteers for any position on the Board, including the ones that are by appointment. I will mentor you through the year so that by December 2020, you will be prepared and able to take the club the direction you want it to go.

If you are interested, please contact me at president@rosecityastronomers.org or our Secretary Duncan Kitchin at secretary@rosecityastronomers.org. I will be glad to meet with you to discuss RCA's past and future. Let's make it a Go!

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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 September, then it’s time for another round of Young Astronomers Awards. 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 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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RCA Membership Reaches 800

Last month Rose City Astronomers passed another milestone in our membership: we're over 800! We don't know exactly what's driving our fairly rapid growth these last two years, but we have some ideas. Portland itself is growing; we have a strong web and social media presence; there's growing awareness of dark sky issues; and we've done a lot of outreach. Also we continue to offer great speakers and lots of support for observers and telescope users.

But we know that these changes in numbers are going to make changes in the club. We're going to need more support for new members. We will no doubt find more modern ways to manage our membership databases and our communications systems. We want to offer more workshops and classes for members in all areas of interest. And of course,we will need more volunteers. Lots more volunteers. While the Board works to stay ahead of our growth curve, our members can contribute by offering their time and talents in any area of the club they feel comfortable.

Welcome everyone, new members and veterans! We have a lot of work to do.

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Submit Your Best Astro-Images for Our 2020 Calendar

Submit Your Best Astro-Images for Our 2020 Calendar

We have now set up a google email account for the 2020 calendar images. At first, please send a low-res image to Bhavesh Parekh at pdxastronomy@gmail.com. (Once all the images are finalized, your high-res images can be sent to the same email.) Send Bhavesh a personal message if your image file size exceeds gmail and/or your email limits. Thanks to all who have already submitted their images. Please keep them coming!!!

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Dark Sky News: Artificial Satellites, Dark Sky Places

Dark Sky News: Artificial Satellites, Dark Sky Places

Artificial Satellite Constellations: A New Threat to Astronomy and Dark Skies? International Dark Sky Association (IDA) has gone on record opposing satellite clusters. An urgent response is needed before more clusters are launched. With many astronomers on break or otherwise tied up for the summer, help is being sought from amateur astronomers and astrophotographers. One thing you can do to help the effort to curb the proliferation of these clusters is to post time and location data and photos of the cluster to the RCA forum (I will start a thread for Starlink under the imaging SIG). I will get these photos to the active members of the committee assigned to respond to SpaceX. RCA and IDA will also conduct social media outreach using these images. If you are interested in assisting with modeling efforts, let me know and I will put you in touch with the appropriate team member. Stay tuned for more information.

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Status of International Dark Sky Places

By far, the most effective advocacy tool that IDA has found in its tool box is designating International Dark Sky Places (IDSP). As of June 2019, there are 122 IDSP’s world-wide totaling 22 million protected acres. Fifteen more IDSP’s are expected to be designated by the end of 2019. Because IDSP’s draw so much attention to dark sky issues as well as providing dark sky preservation, RCA’s Board has made helping to designate “Oregon’s First IDSP” one of its goals in the next two years. There are a few candidate sites where RCA has confirmed that the land managers are in favor of designation and where required studies in support of an application have either been initiated, nearly completed, or can be quickly conducted.

Read more about potential Dark Sky locations ➡

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Electrifying News From the Telescope Library

Electrifying News From the Telescope Library

The Telescope Library has acquired two 7-amp hour Power Tanks which can supply 150 watts of AC power. Increasingly, telescopes are coming to rely on electricity, and as we move to more contemporary telescopes in the library, one deficiency of our collection that is becoming clear is the lack of electric power supplies that we can loan out with telescopes. While many of our instruments can operate on AA or D size batteries, is this expensive, either for RCA, or for each borrower. Not only is the cost high, but the lifetime of batteries is small, some telescope really draw power. Some scopes can draw all the power out of the batteries they operate with in a single night of observing, maybe less. By acquiring power supplies with more capacity, we provide reliable sources of power for our telescopes, and the payback time for these power sources is rapid — under a year, given the number of loans we are making.

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Register Now for "Intro to Observing" Class!

Register Now for "Intro to Observing" Class!

Date: Saturday, August 31, 2019
Time: 8:30 pm - 11:00 pm
Location: Stub Stewart State Park

Are you new to observing? Have you always wanted to take a telescope out but didn't know where to start? Our second Intro to Observing class of the 2019 season is coming up in August! Come learn about how telescopes work, how to find constellations in the sky, and how to point a telescope for a closer look at deep-sky objects. 8 slots are available. Please email outreach@rosecityastronomers.org to reserve your spot and for further details.

This class is ideal for members who have never or rarely used a telescope and would like to become more comfortable observing the night sky. You do not need to have a telescope to attend and participate. We will be providing and observing with Dobsonians, so if you have a Dobsonian with a Telrad or dot finder, you are welcome to bring it (please check with us first!). Everyone will be able to work with a telescope throughout the evening. Responses exceeding the 8 available slots will be placed on a waiting list.

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Fire Preparedness at Maupin Star Party

Fire Preparedness at Maupin Star Party

The Juniper Flats Fire Department, which protects our observing site at Maupin, is now requiring us to do what we do at Oregon Star Party: carry five gallons of water dedicated to fire suppression, a shovel and an ax. This is going to affect us when we use the Wapinitia Airfield (Maupin) for an RCA star party. The policy is based on regulations set forth by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry which are similar to the US Forest Service requirements enforced at OSP.

We don't expect our members to fight wildfires, but to use common sense and have the water and capabilities to be able to extinguish a very small spot fire before it gets out of control and becomes a safety hazard. More than once, we've actually used our five gallons and shovels and axes at OSP. Your goal will be to protect yourself long enough to get packed up and out of the area. Please find the attached flyer. As the rules change, we will update you.

Download Fire District Flyer

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Exciting Volunteer Opportunities for July Outreach!

July has been an incredibly busy month for outreach! Many, many thanks to everyone who has volunteered for our June and July events thus far. We still have a few more events that are a bit bigger than can still use volunteers. If you haven't volunteered before, we'd love to have you! These star parties don't require expert levels of observing. If you can find a couple of your favorite objects in your telescope, that is all that is necessary to show to a very eager and enthusiastic public. And, there's the bonus of you get to do some observing in some relatively dark sites! If you are interested in helping out in any of the events below, please email me outreach@rosecityastronomers.org.

July 13th (Saturday, 9pm -12am) - Star Trek and a Star Party - Stub Stewart Park - We are partnering with Hollywood Theater to show Wrath of Khan at Stub Stewart and then also have a star party for the audience afterwards. We are looking for 10 more volunteers with telescopes. I'm not sure what could be more fun that combining Star Trek with being under the stars!

July 13th (Saturday, 8:30pm - 10:30pm) - Portland Metro Star Party at Glendoveer Park- This is an annual event in which we partner with Portland Metro and Portland Audobon to provide a star party. We need 10 volunteers with telescopes.

July 20th (Saturday evening) - OMSI Star Party - Stub Stewart Park - This is one of OMSI's annual star parties, and it's on the anniversary of the Apollo landing. This is a busy weekend for OMSI. We have wonderful volunteers signed up already to help during the day, and then this star party is to end the celebration of the moon landing. OMSI needs at least 10-15 volunteers with telescopes.

July 20th (Saturday evening - Sunday morning) - Maryhill Museum Star Party - Each year, RCA partners with Maryhill Museum to provide a star party on their beautiful grounds. Volunteers will be able to camp overnight on the Museum grounds and will be treated to a lovely breakfast on Sunday morning. We are looking for 8 more volunteers with telescopes.

July 31st (Wednesday, 7pm - 10pm) - OMSI After Dark - This month's OMSI After Dark event is all things astronomy. We are looking for 5-6 people to do a virtual star party and tabling activities. Yes, virtual! Welcome to the future! A virtual star party is where you share view of the sky using your favorite astronomy app. We will also have lunar-based activities at a table setup. Since sunset is at 8:40 pm, there won't be a lot of opportunity for dark skies.

Thank you again to everyone who has volunteering and makes these outreach events possible. If you have any questions or would like to help out at one of these events, please email outreach@rosecityastronomers.org

Thanks! — Yara

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Classes and Star Parties for Our New Observers This Summer

Classes and Star Parties for Our New Observers This Summer

This year, we will be hosting a series of star parties and classes for new observers. Whether you have just joined the club or have been a member for years, if you are ready to start your adventure observing, we are here to help! We will have two series this summer:

New Observer Star Parties - Do you have a telescope and are wanting to take it out to a star party, but need a little extra guidance? In our New Observer Star Parties, we will have mentors to help answer all your questions as your guide your telescope around the night sky. We will also have a "Kids with Scopes" section in which kids may also learn to observe on Orion Starblasts provided by RCA. Our first new observer star party will be on Saturday, July 6th, at Stub Stewart. If you are interested, please email Yara Green at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org to reserve your spot. Space is limited. We are also looking for mentors for this event, so please let me know if you would like to help out by emailing outreach@rosecityastronomers.org

New Observer Classes - In these classes, we will be providing telescopes to help you learn how to use a telescope and navigate the night sky. We will also go over star party etiquette as well as how to stay warm into the early morning hours. Dates for these are coming soon. If you would like to be on our email list for the new observer classes, please email Yara Green at outreach@rosecityastronomers.org

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What’s the Difference Between a Public Star Party and a Club Star Party?

What’s the Difference Between a Public Star Party and a Club Star Party?

It’s Complicated!

One of the funniest Mad magazine comic strips I ever read was their explanation of how to keep score in bowling.  Had me in stitches. I can’t help but think of the arrows and rule changes and exceptions and footnotes as I tackle the job of explaining the difference between our various star parties, locations and policies, especially for members who haven’t been here for the last couple of decades to watch our policies unfold.  So, with all the confidence of Alfred E. Newman, here is an attempt to clear up some questions.

Public Star Parties

Public star parties are sponsored by OMSI. They are advertised to the public by OMSI and they aim for the non-observing public. They are meant to be family events for entertainment and education.  Think kids and dogs.  RCA members bring their own telescopes to these events without hope of getting any of their own observing done; we go only to serve and inform.  OMSI events are held at Stub Stewart and most of the time at Rooster Rock State Parks, though occasionally there might be a change in location based on various contingencies.  Be sure to watch for OMSI announcement by email to our membership or on the Forum.  We have information on our website for folks who are attending their first star party here, and who are volunteering at a public star party here

Club Star Parties

            A club star party is for “members only,” though of course we allow and expect that members sometimes come with family members and/or guests.  Club star parties are meant to be smaller events, quieter and more focused.  Perhaps the word “party” is misleading; if you’re a true night sky nerd, then being out in the countryside under a dark canvas of sky with a telescope and a few friends is a party.  We offer these events so members can get some serious observing done. We do not go with the intention of providing a program. We expect that everyone attending will have their own equipment and observing plan, and will have at least basic good manners when it comes to managing light on the observing field. We have information on our website for members attending one of our club star parties here and a general Code of Conduct for all RCA events here.  One major difference between a public and a club star party is who provides the insurance. At RCA club parties, we do. Also, RCA club star parties are not advertised to the public or announced on Facebook.

What’s the difference between an Sky View Acres (SVA) and a Maupin star party?  ➡

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Please Don't Drive Into This Ditch

Please Don't Drive Into This Ditch

Ditches at Maupin Airstrip Are an Important Water Management Tool

The owner of the property that we call Maupin, i.e. the Wapinitia Air Strip, is very clear that the newly dug ditches along his property cannot be driven in, on, or through by us or anyone else. The reason is that ditches are a water management tool. They drain water out of land that is marshy with snow melt.  They also direct water runoff into a channeled flow, helping to mitigate flooding or roaring spring rivers.  They also are an environmental protection tool. Water-logged land becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Draining the land helps to cut down on marshy mosquito marathons. Considering that we have experienced those mosquitoes ourselves, we should be glad to help keep the ditches in good repair. Please help us find ways to self-enforce our landowner’s request, or we are in danger of losing this location altogether.

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A Visit to CERN: Fast Particles, Deep Underground

A Visit to CERN: Fast Particles, Deep Underground

by Dr. Katherine Kornei

An unseasonably late snowstorm was pummeling Geneva International Airport when I arrived in early April. I pulled my suitcase through snow, dusted off my knowledge of French from high school, and rode tram #18 to its endpoint, a stop simply labeled “CERN.”

I had traveled over 8,000 kilometers to one of the world’s foremost physics research facilities. The European Council for Nuclear Research—the French translation, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, is the origin of its acronym—was founded in 1954. Perhaps most well known for the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, the sprawling campus spanning two countries is justifiably famous.  

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RCA Paints Curbs at Stub Stewart

RCA Paints Curbs at Stub Stewart

Special thanks to Alison and her volunteers Roger and Merle for painting the parking curbs at Stub Stewart State Park. They present a tripping hazard that we have to warn everyone about every time we go out there, but with the new paint job, they should show up better even in the dark to help make things safer. Alison, I'm amazed at how quickly you got this done. First she was looking for volunteers, then it was done.  Just like that.  Love it, love you, love the bright white curbs!

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Charter Member Jim Todd Receives Galileo Award

Charter Member Jim Todd Receives Galileo Award

At our April meeting, RCA charter member Jim Todd received the highest honor that our club bestows: the Galileo Award. Jim has been the Director of Space Science Education at OMSI for the past 35 years and was a key figure when our club was founded in the merger of two smaller clubs over 30 years ago. He provides our facilities at the museum, paying for us to use spaces at the museum from his own budget, which sometimes means venues such as the Empirical Theater when we need extra seating for special events. Aside from meeting rooms, such as the auditorium we’re currently in tonight, this includes storage space for our telescope and book libraries, our sales inventory, and other supplies. He cares so much about the club that he’s willing to risk tripping over all of that stuff while he’s working at his day job in the Planetarium. He even provides a mailbox for our official mail.

As if that wasn’t enough, Jim has also provided us with special programs, such as movies, planetarium shows, and special speakers, which has occasionally meant astronauts. As you will see a bit later tonight, he has always been ready and willing to fill in with a high-quality sky report whenever we have needed. He advocates and mediates for us with OMSI, championing our cause as the OMSI administration has changed over the years. He has advocated for us with city officials, such as the fire marshal, sometimes absorbing additional costs that we would otherwise have to pay. Jim has also gone out of his way to make our holiday events special, providing decorations, music, and presentations highlighting events important to the club or to the wider world. He is always flexible and works with us to meet special requests or when we need to adjust to unusual circumstances. Altogether, Jim has probably supported the club more than any other individual in ways both large and small and continues to be a very valuable and deeply appreciated member of the RCA family.

Jim’s generosity allows us to use our resources to reach more people and to provide more services to our members than would ever be possible otherwise. In return, we do our best to provide volunteers to help with official OMSI events, such as the OMSI star parties, Astronomy Day, the Makers’ Fairs, and significant events, like the Venus transit. But having the opportunity to participate in these events is yet another benefit for our members. Providing a kid’s first view of Saturn, Jupiter, or a globular cluster is a magical experience and sharing our passion for and knowledge of astronomy with other people is a lot of fun. If you haven’t volunteered yet, we strongly encourage it.

We owe a great deal to Jim and we would be a very different club without him!

Remarks by Vice-President of Programming, Mark Martin

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Welcome Our New At-Large Directors: Angele Mott Nickerson and Kelsey Yocum

Welcome Our New At-Large Directors: Angele Mott Nickerson and Kelsey Yocum

We are pleased to announce the addition of Angele Mott Nickerson and Kelsey Yocum (nominee) to the RCA board in our At-Large Director positions. Angele recently moved back to Oregon after living in Vermont where she was very active with the Vermont Astronomical Society, particularly with outreach, public speaking, and membership activities.  She is a librarian who also spends time helping out with her family's business, volunteering at her son's school, and being outdoors as much as possible. We welcome Kelsey to the board after her excellent work with the Outreach Team. She is a product designer with 14 years experience as a volunteer and seasonal staff member at the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver. We look forward to both of their contributions and leadership!

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Reserving Tables for Our May 20 Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet

Reserving Tables for Our May 20 Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet

The RCA general meeting of May 20th will be our annual Astronomy Day Fair and Swap Meet, in the OMSI auditorium where we usually met.  Sellers who want a space at a table in the Swap Meet area (the center of the auditorium), please let me know before April 25 at president@rosecityastronomers.org.  Let me know if you need a full table, or can use a half table to share with another seller.  Also, please include your contact information.

Set up will begin at 5:30 p.m., no exceptions. Remember that the load/unload area in front of OMSI allows only 15-minute parking. After that you are blocking a city fire lane and could get a ticket. Also, parking will be tight that night because there will be another event going on at OMSI that same night. Finally, there is no electrical service to the Swap Meet area and OMSI will not permit stretching a cord across the room, even taped down. Especially taped down

RCA will have several tables around the perimeter of the Auditorium and the Swap Meet tables and chairs will be set up in the middle. Right now there are twelve tables for a total of 24 spaces. If we need more, we can rearrange the tables to get more spaces. There will also be at least two tables out in the lobby area reserved for our vendors. Sunriver will, as usual, be in the lobby outside the main door to the Auditorium.

RCA will also have its own tables along the back wall for Sales, Membership and Book Library, as usual.  We will NOT have New Member Orientation that night.  RCA will have workshops in Classroom One and shows in the planetarium, but we will have no workshops or presentations in the Auditorium, for noise reasons. However, there will be a Kids with Scopes area between the Swap Meet area and the Main Stage.

If you contact me by April 25, I will assign you a space and put your name on it. If you contact me after April 25, you will have to use one of the "extra" tables I plan to have on hand, if I can find room for them.

We'll make it work; we always do.

I'm truly looking forward to this.

Yours, Margaret

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Dark Sky Preservation Collaboration is Mounting!

Dark Sky Preservation Collaboration is Mounting!

RCA launches campaign to identify Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Place

Last month RCA initiated its campaign to help designate Oregon’s first International Dark Sky Place (IDSP). Such places are certified under a program developed by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), the only organization solely dedicated to protecting night skies for present and future generations. About a dozen RCA members volunteered to support this effort. This is a big effort and one that will require sustained support from many other people across the state. Getting the word out that “dark skies matter” and fending off the trend of brighter and more pervasive outdoor lighting is no easy feat. Drum roll….statewide citizen support may be just around the corner!

Oregon chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association is forming

IDA is working with active IDA members in several states to help them form statewide IDA “chapters.” Oregon is one of those states. Bend, OR has a few active IDA members who are carrying the gauntlet on this new IDA chapter formation. With the establishment of an Oregon Chapter, IDA members in Oregon can coordinate and pool their efforts, and tax-free donations will come directly to IDA Oregon to support projects in Oregon. A “boot-strap committee” of Oregon IDA members is working with IDA staff to make chapter formation a reality. Two RCA members, Dawn Nilson and Mike McKeag, are on that committee. If you are an IDA member/donor, you will soon be receiving a letter of invitation to participate in this new chapter. If you aren’t an IDA member, join now during International Dark Sky Week which runs from March 31 – April 7. If you can’t contribute time, you can contribute tax-free dollars to support the work of the Oregon Chapter. Collaboration is mounting and you can be part of it.

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Spring Astro-Imaging Class Registration Now Open

Spring Astro-Imaging Class Registration Now Open

We have scheduled another series of astro-imaging classes for beginners. The goal of the series is to give all the information necessary for the beginner to understand what equipment is needed, how to use it, and how to make good pictures with a digital camera.

Classes will be held at Clackamas Community College over 4 weekends (Saturday mornings). The classes will be similar to past classes. See below for schedule and topics. Please note that we have reserved a larger room this time and it is located in the Pauling Center (Room 101) at the south side of the campus.

You can register at this link. The fee is $20 total. For those that register, email reminders and updates will be sent out. There will be handouts for each session. Send me an email at membership@rosecityastronomers.org if you have questions.

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