A 501(c)(3) tax exempt social and education organization



<most recent posts at top>

SCAS August, 2018 Glacier Point Yosemite Trip - August 15, 2017

Thank you all for coming to support Sonoma County Astronomical Society at Yosemite Glacier Point 2017. 

We had a wonderful group who traveled many miles, braved torrential rains, camp ground flooding, no running water and septic issues at Bridalveil Camp Ground. We saw hang gliders, slack line walkers, fissures, whew what a trip.

The potluck was wonderful and we still ended up with six out of ten telescopes set up at the point on Saturday. It was a fabulous night!

We had a great group at the star party despite a partial cloudy and smoky valley guests were treated to Saturn, an amazing big beautiful moon (always a favorite if you have a good filter), the Fairy Cluster-a new one for me.. 

The Park Rangers that spoke were both very pleased with our group and send a big thank you.

With much appreciation and a wonderful group picture that unfortunately we are missing Angel, Marisol, Paul, Lisa, and Parker.

Christine France, SCAS President



The 2017 Striking Sparks telescope winners received their telescope awards at the Proctor Terrace Elementary School in Santa Rosa, California on March 8, 2017. This is the 32st year that the Sonoma Country Astronomical Society has awarded telescopes to Sonoma County Students. This year the 271st telescope was awarded to students that participate in the annual essay contest. Program information at: www.sonomaskies.org

The winners were accompanied by some very supportive teachers that parents that shared in the festivities.  A cake with astronomical decoration was served by June Ferguson for the group before the telescope winners were announced. Larry McCune provided a little history of how the program began in Bob Ferguson’s basement workshop where telescopes were fabricated to award to students as a way to stimulate an interest in science and astronomy. The winners, teachers, sponsors and mentors were brought to the stage for pictures with the telescopes.  We also had an opportunity to view some night sky after the awards.

The 2017 Striking Sparks Telescope Winners are:
Katie Kirkish, Sequoia Elementary, Grade 2
Isaac Matzner, Surfside Academy, Grade 6
Parker Stagnoli, Douglas Whited Elementary School, Grade 6
Jon Parkman, Kenwood Elementary School Grade 5
Connor Kempiak, Sequoia Elementary Grade 3

We want to thank the telescope sponsors: Madison and Jeff Parks, Kenneth Frank-AANC, the Hejtmanek Family annual fund, Larry McCune and Len Nelson as well as Orion Telescopes and Binoculars for providing a discount purchase of the telescopes. I would also like to thank the SCAS members that assemble telescopes and provide support for the Sparks event.

Image by Len Nelson.

The telescope winners were also invited to attend the March meeting of the Young Astronomers at Dunham Elementary School, Petaluma where the more experienced young astronomers and adult advisor Len Nelson will provide training on the use of their new telescopes, lens cleaning and planisphere star charts.  

Larry McCune,

Striking Sparks Coordinator


Golden State Star Party - March 1, 2017

Details and registration for the 2017 Golden State Star Party are here.

If you look carefully at the photo, you can see SCAS members John Whitehouse and Keith Payae to the far left about half way back.

Click on the photo for a larger view.


Young Astronomer Meeting - November 21, 2016

SCAS Board Members,

I had the pleasure of attending the November 18, 2016 Young Astronomers meeting held in the Petaluma Cyan Optics conference room.

The meeting was attended by seven young astronomers, their parents, June Ferguson and myself.

Three YAs: Madison Parks,Allegra Leyba, Andrew Presetya presented PowerPoint programs that they had preparedwith

Coach Len Nelson and YA Harry Praseta prepared a quiz on the subjects presented.

All of the presentations were excellent.

I talked with a number of parents and found only support for the Young Astronomer Program. The next YA meetingwill be at Petaluma Dunham Elementary School on December 16th.

Larry McCune

Striking Sparks Program


Ed Megill retirement party - October 31, 2016

Ed Megill is going to be retiring as SRJC planetarium director, and we're having a little retirement party onFri. Nov. 4th from 12-2pm in the Staff Lounge of Bertolini student center at SRJC.

Everyone is welcome to come, would you mind passing along this info to anyone who would be interested? You can direct them to me with questions.

If any of you might have any photos of Ed or know someone in SCAS who might have historical photos of him? I'm putting together a powerpoint of pictures to runduring the retirement party.


Laura Sparks Astronomy Instructor Department Chair

Earth & Space Sciences

Santa Rosa Junior College

(707) 778 - 360


SCAS General Meeting - Wednesday September 14th - August 16, 2016

Dr. Cominsky will on lecture Gravitational Waves from Merging Black Holes. Thumbs up to Lynn Cominsky, who is putting Sonoma State University on the interstellar map.

Cominsky, a physics and astronomy professor at the Rohnert Park campus for three decades, also works with NASA and other space exploration agencies on, among other things, the study of black holes. One of those agencies is Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, which confirmed a key piece of Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity by detecting gravitational waves emanating from the collision of two black holes in deep space.

Cominsky joined LIGO's program advisory committee for a three-year term in 2007, and she now chairs the education working group for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. "I am thrilled to be a small part of the LIGO outreach effort," she said in a statement issued after Thursday's announcement. "Studying black holes has been most of my life's work, and the discovery of gravitational waves using LIGO detectors will open an entirely new branch of astronomy." Sonoma State students should be learning all about it

More Details


RFO and Perseids - Beautiful - August 15, 2016

A beautiful photo of the Robert Ferguson Observatory during the Perseids meteor shower.

(photo credit: Len Nelson)


August Newsletter - August 3, 2016

The August SCAS newsletter is linked here.

In it you will find the announcement for the Star-B-Que and other important information. 

Thank you President Jim DeManche for writing the newsletter.


Wonderful article about Eric Swanson's love of Astronomy - August 2, 2016

http://www.petaluma360.com/entertainment/5855055-181/petaluman-shares-love-of-skies from the Argus Courier.


Yosemite Trip - July 25, 2016

I did not go on this year's SCAS Yosemite trip, but it looks like a great time was had by all!


16 Inch F6 Dob donated to SCAS - July 18, 2016

Last Friday I picked up a 16 Inch F6 Dobsonian telescope that was donated to SCAS by former member Louis Nordrum.  The scope was used on the streets of San Francisco by the Sidewalk Astronomers.  The following photos document its size and construction.

There is a triangular base with teflon bearings.  The lower half of the rocker box sits on top of the base.  There is a large hard drive disk mounted tot he bottom of the rocker box that slids on the teflon bearings.  A single wood screw service to keep the base and rocker box centered.

Teflon bearings are also part of the altitude bearing design.  The balance and tension of the various slip surfaces is just right.  There is a smooth and usable friction between the azimuth and altitude adjustments.

The mirror glass is from a salvaged WWII warship port hole.  It is clean, and slightly chipped on the backside in one location.  The donor advised me to position the chip downward when assembling the mirro in the mirror cell to recover the collimation from the last use.  The mirror is held only by a sling strap that wraps around the glass's bottom half and 2 wooden swivels that keep the mirro from falling out.

The diagonal - a cylinder with the secondary mirror glued to it.  The spider is wooden and is attached the the central wooden cylinder by friction fits.  The 3 legs of the spider just press into the inner wall of the tube thus holding the assembly in place in compression.

The eyepiece press-fits into a cardboard focuser and the cardboard focuser press-fits into a hole in the telescope tube..  The barrel is not standard as my 1,25 inch eyepieces did not fit in the focuser.  Adding a focuser to the design makes sense as well as a diagonal and spider assembly that is a little more rugged.


July 13 2016 General Meeting - July 2, 2016

July 13th , Wednesday 7:30PM – 9:00PM
1711 Bryden Lane

Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Program Schedule

7:30PM – Meeting Begins, General Business
7:45PM – Coffee Break
8:00PM – Program Topic Begins
9:00PM – Meeting Officially Ends

Lecture Topic:

Both Jim and Linda are SCAS members and RFO Docents.  They have spent countless hours and studying and photography our night sky.  If you have an interest in this exciting field, please come by and visit us.



Garage Sale at RFO - June 27, 2016

The SCAS table at the recent telescope garage sale at RFO.


June 8 general meeting - June 3, 2016

See our "monthly speaker" page here: http://www.sonomaskies.org/This_Months_Speaker.shtml for information about our June general meeting.


Transit of Mercury - May 9, 2016

From Nasa's Youtube channel, enjoy it.


Nasa recognition for SCAS - April 4, 2016


Ed Megill article from the PD - March 25, 2016

Here is a nice article about Ed McGill and the SRJC Planetarium


Getting ready for the annual SCAS Yosemite trip - March 16, 2016

Preparations are underway for the annual SCAS Yosemite trip. 

This is a great opportunity to present Astronomy to the public and view from a stunning location. 

The event occurs during several nights this summer - date TBD - at Yosemite's Glacier Point. 

Contact Christine France for more information


Username / Nickname: Christine France


We have our date for the Yosemite trip !!!

July 22 & July 23 at Glacier Point viewing.

Camping @ Bridalveil passes and park entry is limited number

and only granted to SCAS members with telescopes :-)

Please email me @ france_christine@yahoo.com to get on list

and  or further information. 

7/22/2016 88% Waning gibbous Moon rising 10:21pm

looking forward to an amazing trip 




Username / Nickname: Christine France

We have our date for Yosemite July 22 & July 23 

SCAS members with telescopes are invited to camp

At Bridalveil and bring telescopes to Glacier Point for viewing.

There are a limited number of passes so please email to 

Reserve your spot or if you just need more information :-)

7/22/2016 88% waning gibbous Moon rising 20:21PM 


RFO Yard Sale - February 21, 2016

RFO Yard Sale – Announcement

Previous Event - June 2013

RFO will be having a yard sale on Saturday, June 25, 2016, to dispose of unneeded RFO property currently clogging up the Project Room, and possibly raise a little cash for the general fund. This includes a number of donated telescopes, telescope parts, eyepieces, filters, tripods, telescope making materials and accessories in various states of repair and disrepair.

The sale is open to the public. Note that June 25 is a Public Day with both Solar Observing and evening Star Party, so please spread the word and bring your friends.

An inventory of the items will be published on the RFO website approximately 30 prior to the sale.

Date, Time & Venue

Saturday, June 25, 2016  -  Sales from 11:00 to 4:00.

RFO Observatory, Sugarloaf State Park, 2605 Adobe Canyon Road, Kenwood, CA.

Sales will be outside on tables set up in the upper parking lot just outside the observatory.

In the event of rain, we will move into the class room, or other rooms as needed.


Upcoming School Telescope Events - January 20, 2016

Community Outreach Coordinator Lynn Anderson announces the following School telescope events.  SCAS members may choose to volunteer at these events.  Parents of students at these school may contact Lynn via email at: Membership(at)sonomaskies.org

Friday Jan 29 Goldridge State Preschool Rohnert Park 6:00
Tuesday Feb  2 Meadow Elementary  Pet    6:30
Wed/Thu Feb  3/4  Oak Grove   Graton  6:30
Tuesday     Feb  9    Thomas Page  Rohnert Park    6:30
Friday   Feb 12  St. Lukes   Santa Rosa 6:30
Friday    Mar  4   La Tercerra   Petaluma    6:30
Mon/Tue    Mar  7/8    Corona Creek Petaluma     6:30
Friday    Mar 11  Matanzas Creek   Santa Rosa 6:30
Tuesday    Apr 12    Tech Middle School   Rohnert Park      8:00
Saturday    Apr 16     Mark West Science Fair   Larkfield         10:00-2:00


January 2016 Newsletter - January 4, 2016

The January 2016 issue of the SCAS newsletter is available now.

You may view it by visiting the archive of all SCAS newsletters here

or by clicking this link.


November SCAS Newsletter - October 26, 2015

The November issue of the SCAS newsletter is available now.

You may view it by visiting the archive of all SCAS newsletters here

or by clicking this link.


Morning Moon and Planets - October 26, 2015

Larry McCune's photos of the morning Moon and Planets - taken in San Rafael.


RFO Project 40 - October 21, 2015

On Tuesday, October 20, 2015 the team at Viavi Solutions (JDSU, Optical Coating Labs) led by Charles Kennemore put a coating of aluminum and their patented anti-reflection coatings on the 40-inch mirror for the VMOA Project 40 telescope, which will be installed at the Robert Ferguson Observatory at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park later this year.

Project 40 team members Steve Follett and Mark Hillestad were present during the operation.

Viavi Solutions donated the costs of preparing and applying the coating to this mirror which will be used by the public visitors to the Robert Ferguson Observatory as a community service. The new telescope will open to the public in early 2016.


November Telescope Nigths - October 21, 2015

Here are the November Telescope night dates:

Thursday, 11/5 - Rincon Valley Middle School

Friday, 11/6 - Cali Calmecac Academy (Windsor)

Tuesday, 11/17 - Brook Haven (Sebastopol)  -  (Backed up with Wed. 11/18)

Wednesday, 11/18 Old Adobe (Petaluma)  -  (Backed up with Thurs, 11/19)

(If Brook Haven occurs on schedule <11/17> then we will be at Old Adobe on Wednesday the 18th. If Brook Haven gets clouded out and then does happen on on the 18th, Old Adobe will occur on the 19th - or in other words, what ever needs to happen to make it work...)

Thanks, Lynn Anderson


The AIC Conference - October 13, 2015

Join the global astrophotography community in San Jose to share ideas, learn from experts and see the latest technological advancements. AIC has over 20 workshops for beginners, novices and advanced astrophotographers that will show you how to produce amazing deep space, planetary, cometary, solar and TWAN style astronomical pictures.

The AIC Conference commences this Friday Oct 16.  If you have not registered, it is not too late to participate.

There is an option this year to attend the product showcase - see attached PDF


Incredible Hubble Video of the Veil Nebula - October 13, 2015


RFO Project 40 - October 3, 2015

The 40 inch primary mirror for the new telescope was delivered to JDSU in Santa Rosa today.  

You can see in the photo that the team learned that all this time we should have had a forklift to move the mirror around – doh!!  

The JDSU team moved it safely into the house and we are now waiting for a call from them to let us know when it will be coated.

I can’t express how EXCITED we are and grateful to JDSU for donating their premier work for this telescope which will be used to bring the night sky to our community for many years to come!

Larry McCune


September General Meeting - September 10, 2015

Had a wonderful dinner, visit, and lecture with Dr. Adrienne Cool from the San Francisco State University Astronomy department.

She shared some of her latest research into the mysteries of 'Globular Clusters' that surround our Milky Way galaxy.

Lot's of new research into such things as "Blue Stragglers" and "Binary White Dwarf" stars!


What's up with this Telescope, Larry? - September 8, 2015

Larry McCune stands next to an impressive Truss Reflector at the SCAS Star-B-Que in August. 

Come to the September meeting to find out how Larry was involved refurbishing this telescope.


September General Meeting - September 1, 2015

We are very privileged to have Dr. Adrienne Cool, San Francisco State University Astronomy Department visit with us!

More details HERE


Sonoma Skies Newsletter - new edition - September 1, 2015

The September edition of the SCAS newsletter is AVAILABLE HERE


Mayacamas Modini Preserve Star Party - August 15, 2015


Here are 2 photos from the SCAS-supported event Thursday night August 13 2015. 

Loren Cooper, Jim Goodenough, and Linda Sinkay represented SCAS. 

This resulted from a request from Audubon Canyon Ranch Biologist Sherry Adams to SCAS President Mike.

The location is in the foothills above the Alexander Valley.

VERY dark skies and great viewing.

The first photo shows Sherry Adams conversing with Linda Sinkay.

The second photo shows Jim Goodenough and Loren Cooper's scopes.

Approximately 20 guests viewed.


SCAS Community Activities - August 12, 2015

Greetings SCAS members,

It has been a while since I have asked for volunteers from the general SCAS membership. I used to include a request when we had a more extensive bulletin and I submitted a monthly article of the volunteer's activities. Even so, the public outreach of our organization has not been idle since the last school telescope night on May 15th in Geyserville. I have presented a solar system activity on July 15th at the Healdsburg Community Center's youth "Space Camp." On Friday, July 17th, Loren Cooper, David Simons and I set up telescopes at the Charles Schulz Museum. Madison Rose (and her mom,) Loren Cooper, Rachael Freed and I provided solar and Saturn viewing at a conference held at the Fairmont Inn in Sonoma on Sunday, July 26th (earning a $500 donation to each SCAS and the RFO.) And this Thursday evening Loren Cooper, Jim Goodenough and Linda Sinkay will be providing telescope viewing and Perseid information to a group at the Modini Mayacamas Preserves - a dark sky site off of the Pine Flat Road, east of Healdsburg.

In May I send out a list of proposed telescope night dates to all of the school teachers with whom I have had contact over the past couple of years to give our "repeat customers" first choice. So far i have already booked several dates. September 15th has us at Sequoia, and at Windsor State Preschool on Friday the 18th. October also has 2 dates booked. Also in October is the annual Tolay Fall Festival, near Petaluma on the Saturdays and Sundays of October 17 & 18, and 24 & 25. And just to make live interesting the North Bay Science Fair (Sonoma County Fairgrounds) is also being held on Saturday the 24th. These last two events involve solar viewing, as well as people to interact with the public with information and answering questions.

Interacting with, and educating the general public about the Sun, the Moon, the planets, and all we can see at night, to me, is one of the most meaningful aspects of amateur astronomy. One does not need to have a telescope to be an astronomy educator and I invite all SCAS members to join the volunteer email list. If yo would like to be included in all future announcements of upcoming community astronomy events (school or general public) please send me your preferred email address and I will add you to the volunteer list.

Thank you,

Lynn Anderson

SCAS Director of Community Activities


August issue of Sonoma Skies - August 3, 2015

The August issue of Sonoma Skies is available here.


Tolay Fall Festival - July 27, 2015

The Tolay Fall Festival is coming again. This will be our fourth year. A big change this time. Instead of having our Solar booth open for the grueling full nine days of the Festival, we will only be there for a leisurely four days, two weekends; October 17 and 18 and 24 and 25. Set up time will be 10 AM and all four days will be from 11 AM to 5 PM. Each Saturday morning we will put up the tent and display and each Sunday afternoon we will take them down.

We need volunteers to help the public understand our nearest star, both at the telescope and also with the literature. You don’t have to have a solar friendly scope to be of great service, but one would ease the crunch. You don’t have to be there all four days, whatever time you can come will be appreciated.

If you have any questions and want to sign up, please call me at 762.3118.

Thanks, Eric Swanson


August Star B Que - July 21, 2015

Annual Sonoma County Astronomical Society Star B Que (SCAS members and their guests only)

Where: Robert Ferguson Observatory
When: August 15, 2015
Time: Larry McCune will be there at 5:00PM to start the coals for the Star B Que


Username / Nickname: Mike880

Jim, thanks for putting this up on the blog. This is always a fun event. I encourage all members to put it on their calendar!


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

You are welcome Mike - unfortunately I can not attend this year.


June 2015 Reflector Magazine - July 16, 2015

Here is a link to the June 2015 copy of the Reflector Magazine.

My printed copy came in July and was past many of the event deadlines, so I wrote to Reflector and got a very nice return email.

They had printing problems last month so that the issue was delayed.


December 1993 Newsletter - Robert Ferguson Obituary - July 16, 2015

The following copy of a 1993 SCAS Newsletter was submitted by Larry McCune.


2016 Striking Sparks Application - July 15, 2015

The application for the 2016 Striking Sparks program is available here.


Lights of Sunset - taken by RFO Docent Christine Churchill - July 2, 2015


Jupiter and Venus Conjunction - June 30, 2015

Here is a beautiful photo of Jupiter and Venus in conjuntion taken by SCAS member Jim DeManche.

Jim did an excellent job capturing all four of Jupiter's moons - hard to do without over-exposing the two planets.

This is a good example of astrophotography that can be done with just a camera - no telescope.


July SCAS Newsletter - June 30, 2015

The July SCAS newsletter is available here: http://sonomaskies.org/Newsletters.shtml


SCAS 2016 Yosemite Trip - June 23, 2015

Photo by Len Nelson


July 8 - SCAS General Meeting - June 15, 2015


Please join us for our July 8 2015 General Meeting. 

The program details are HERE.

Visitors and Guests are welcome free of charge.


Astronomical League June 2015 --SPECIAL ALCON 2015 REMINDER - June 5, 2015


Orion Catalog features Striking Sparks - June 4, 2015

The current Orion Telescopes and Binoculars catalog features the SCAS Striking Sparks program. 

We should all be proud to see the good work of SCAS in a full page article - see page 63.



June 10 2015 Meeting - June 1, 2015

Please join us Wednesday June 10 2015 at Proctor Terrace School for our general meeting featuring Mr. Martin Bradley of the Ukiah Latitude Obsevatory.  Click HERE for details.


SCAS Star Academy May 2015 - May 31, 2015

We had an excellent STAR ACADEMY this evening; Wednesday May 27th up at the RFO.

Three planets; Venus in 1/4 waxing, Jupiter with it's four Galilean moons, and Saturn flying through Scorpius.

Randy Jones got a free laser collimation for his 10" Dobson along with alignment of his spotting scope.

Mike Dranginis completed the threesome with his Schmidt-Cass.

Not a cloud or fog in the evening sky.


SCAS Camping at Liberty Glen - May 15-17 - May 18, 2015

Here is a collection of photos from the SCAS camping trip/star party this weekend at the Liberty Glen Campground above Lake Sonoma.

16 members and guests participated.  Skies were beautiful Friday night.  Although there was quite a bit of haze Saturday, viewing was still good Saturday night. 

Some participants camped both nights, others stayed for just Friday night.  We also had a few people come up just for the viewing, and they chose not to camp.  The flexibility of the arrangements worked out well for everyone.

It was nice to see all skill levels of Astronomy.  For some, it was the first time their scopes were aimed at targets.  It was fun to hear the "ooows" and "aaahs",  For others, attempts at Astrophotography are still in the post-processing mode.  It will be nice to see those results.  Look here later this week.



Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

Wonderful pictures!  I am going next time for sure.  Thanks Jim and Linda for putting this event together, very much appreciated.

Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

Thanks Jim.  It worked out really well.  Good attendance and really clear skies the first night.  The campsite is large, and remote from the rest of the campground.  I am sure we will want to go back.


Timelapse Video - afternoon clouds - May 17, 2015

We took this timeplapse video of the afternoon clouds - looking west from our campsite at Liberty Glen. 

There are 252 images in this sequence, one taken every 30 seconds for a total capture of 2 hours and 6 minutes.

Thank you SCAS for hosting this event.


Telescope to be auctioned - May 10, 2015

Here is another good reason to attend the May SCAS General Meeting

Along with the educational and entertaining speaker, the chance to socialize with fellow astronomers, we’re going to have a silent auction for a well cared for Orion Telescope.

We will be taking bids, starting bid, $220 on this  Orion SkyQuest XT8 Classic during our May and June General Meetings and awarding it to the highest bidder. Show up and bid on this nice package. This telescope is easy to transport and set up.


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

The highest bid for the telescope in the May meeting was $300.


May issues of Sonoma Skies - April 30, 2015

The may issue of our newsletter, Sonoma Skies, is available here.

Thank you Jim DeManche for putting this together for us every month.


Advanced Imaging Conference - April 15, 2015

Join over 300 of the worlds most accomplished astrophographers for three intensive days that feature techniques from the leading experts, over 25 exhibitors offereing the latest technology and a chance to network and form friendships that will propel your images to new heights.

October 16 - 18, 2015
San Jose Convention Center, San Jose,CA



Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

The AIC has announced the registration details for the conference - see http://aicccd.com/2015/2015_pricing.html


April General Meeting Photos - April 10, 2015

Thank you Dr. Michelle Selvans for your special and interesting presentation on Mecury.

Here are some photos from the meeting.



Username / Nickname: Linda

Mercury is shrinking~!  Who knew?  :D


Is the Sky Falling? Asteroids and the Earth a conversation with Astronaut Ed Lu - April 10, 2015

Dangerous collisions between asteroids and our planet, which occur at least twice every year, are the only natural disaster that we have means of stopping. However, despite our advanced solutions to preventing catastrophic impacts, we face a more basic problem: We don’t know where in our solar system most asteroids are, or, more important, when they will hit Earth.

Dr. Lu – profiled on 60 Minutes and in a PBS Nova episode – and the B612 Foundation are committed to meeting this challenge. The foundation’s Sentinel Mission, the first privately-funded interplanetary venture, will map and catalogue near-Earth asteroids, helping to ensure that we are aware of potential asteroid strikes. Join Lu to hear more about why the mission matters and what technological innovations will make it possible.

The Commonwealth Club of California will be hosting this conversation at the Outdoor Art Club in Mill Valley on Wednesday, May 6. 

See www.commonwealthclub.org/marinconversations​​​​


Nice Youtube series on Astrophotography by Forrest Tanaka - March 29, 2015


Goldridge State Preschool - March 23, 2015

On Friday evening, March 20th, Lynn Anderson, and Eric Swanson were joined by 3 of our 2015 Striking SPARKS winners (James Kurniawan, Chris Giudice and Madison Parks) to provide telescope viewing for the families of the Goldridge State Preschool in Rohnert Park.

The weather was not fully cooperative, but there was just enough open sky to provide views of Venus and Jupiter.

It was a busy night as around 200 of the school's family members came out to celebrate the school's Vernal Equinox party - which also included a generous pot-luck dinner before the telescope viewing.


Project 40 - March 17, 2015

There is a nice continuing BLOG article here covering some exciting recent developments on the 40 inch telescope for the Robert Ferguson Observatory!


Striking Sparks Update - March 16, 2015

There is a nice write-up HERE covering the recent General Meeting where 5 telescopes were awarded.


New focuser for Orion 12 inch Dob - March 15, 2015

This is a set of parts used to create a focuser that will allow an Orion 12 inch Newtonian Reflector to focus for astrophotography.

Newtonian Reflectors are notorious for NOT being able to be used for astrophotography since it is hard to get a DSLR close enough to the focal plane.

This very low profile set of parts allows a DSLR to focus.

Comment here if you'd like help taking photographs with your telescope.


SCAS Field Trip/Camping May 15/16 - March 13, 2015

Please see the details about the SCAS May 15/16 star gazing field trip to the Liberty Glen Campground near Lake Sonoma by visiting this link.


Striking Sparks General Meeting - March 13, 2015



Chieftains, astronaut to play at UMass - March 12, 2015

AMHERST — Six-time Grammy Award winners The Chieftains return to the University of Massachusetts’ Fine Arts Center Sunday at 7 p.m., with their traditional Irish music, and with guests that include astronaut Cady Coleman of Shelburne.

Coleman, an amateur flutist, took Chieftain founder Paddy Moloney’s whistle and Chieftain Matt Molloy’s flute “out of this world” when she traveled to the International Space Station in 2010. And while in space, she also played an Earth-space “duet” with flutist Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.

“As cultural ambassadors, (The Chieftains) performances have been linked with historic events, such as being the first Western musicians to perform on the Great Wall of China,” said UMass spokeswoman Shawn Farley. Also, they had participated in Roger Waters’ 1990 performance of “The Wall” in Berlin, commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2012, the group celebrated its 50th anniversary.

The Chieftains marked their anniversary with the release of an album, “Voice of Ages,” which includes a tract called “The Chieftains in Orbit,” featuring a recording Coleman made while in space. 

Coleman, a University of Massachusetts-Amherst graduate, is married to Shelburne glass artist Josh Simpson of Shelburne. She has been with NASA since 1992. A few years ago, Coleman played with the Houston Symphony, in a concert that featured The Chieftains.

Tickets for the UMass show range from $20 to $50, with student prices ranging from $10 to $20. For more information, call the Box Office at 413-545-2511.


Feb 25 2015 - Star Academy - February 25, 2015

SCAS will host its second "Star Academy" tonight at the Robert Ferguson Observatory - see http://sonomaskies.org/Events.html


Conjunction of the Moon, Venus, and Mars - February 21, 2015

The Moon, Venus, and Mars over Rio Nido!

It was too foggy at the coast near Bodega or Jenner so we went inland.

We shot this photo near the Rio Nido Theatre. 

The Moon was near the foothills horizon so we headed up River Road to near Korbel Winery.


February General Meeting - February 12, 2015

We had a great meeting last night.  Thank you Linda Sinkay for taking these photos.

We heard from Mike Stevenson, who returned a former Striking Sparks telescope to the club.  The telescope's owner is now involved in the Nasa Mars rover program.

Thank you Keith Payae for the interesting program, "A Brief History of the Sun"



Google gift to the Lick Observatory - February 12, 2015

It's official -- Google made a gift to Lick Observatory through UC Berkeley.  See the attached press release, or the online article at http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2015/02/10/google-gives-lick-observatory-1-million/


February E-Newsletter - January 30, 2015

The February SCAS e-newsletter is posted here: http://sonomaskies.org/Newsletter/SCAS%20February%202015%20E-Bulletin.pdf


HELP WANTED! - January 28, 2015


If you are a member of the Sonoma County Astronomical Society you might consider helping us in our mission introduce our community to the wonders of the Universe.

SCAS Needs Your Help! A small contribution of your time will go a long way in helping us out.

Special Events Coordinator

Occasionally we get requests from various organizations to provide astronomical events like star parties, and other presentations. We’re looking for someone who would be willing to “coordinate” these events. That person would not be in charge of the event but would help SCAS review the potential participation, work with the person requesting the event to see if we could find a SCAS volunteer to be the point person for SCAS for the event and to provide the SCAS Board with short reports on the event.

This would be a good position for someone interested in finding out what our community is doing to promote astronomy.


We need someone to help our current Membership Chairperson. She could use help in representing the Membership Committee at  some of the General Meetings, and help during the annual membership drive.

This would be a good position for someone who is interested in meeting more of our members and willing to welcome new people to our Monthly General Meetings.


Jim DeManche has hospitality running like a clock. It’s been greatly improved and simplified. He’d be happy to show someone how it works and could use the help in setting up and taking down before and after the meetings.

This would be a good position for someone who wants to be involved in helping provide one of the most popular services that our club offers. Oh, did I mention free cookies?

SCAS Yosemite Starparty Campground Host

Each year SCAS participates in a  Weekend Glacier Point Star Party Event. We won’t find out the actual dates this year until March. This year we will need a Campground Host to get there a bit early and identify the campsites designated for SCAS and mark them assign them to SCAS participants. This is a fun weekend in one of the most beautiful areas you’ll ever see. This is a good position for someone who would enjoy FREE CAMPING in Yosemite National Park and wants to help SCAS in a way that would commit him or her to only one weekend.

Young Astronomers Coordinator

Our current Coodinator, Len Nelson, has done a great job developing this group of Young Astronomers into a well run, dynamic group of youngsters into accomplished astronomers and program presentors. He’s looking to step down in May so this would be a great time for an interested party to get involved and benefit from his expertise.

It’s easy and rewarding to get involved, just email me, Mike Dranginis, President, Sonoma County Astronomical Society. My email is mjd880@att.net




Telescope Nights - by Lynn Anderson - January 25, 2015

We were 3 for 3 with school telescope nights this past week. Tuesday night Ted Judah, Eric Swanson and Lynn Anderson set up telescopes at oak Grove Elementary School, where there were about 85 students and family members taking in views of the 2-day old moon, Orion Nebula, the Perseus double cluster (NGC 869 & 884) and Jupiter. A follow up email from the organizing teacher gave the volunteer astronomers high praise mentioning a lot of follow up feedback from the students and parents who had attended. Lynn returned to the school on Friday to give Mr. Genolio's third graders a slide show about the moon. The class will be going to the SRJC Planetarium on January 27th.

Len Nelson headed up a viewing night at Petaluma's Meadow Elementary School on Wednesday night. His report is below.

Friday had another clear night of viewing in Sonoma at the El Verano Elementary School campus where there were over 100 viewers, who were provided views by Loren Cooper, Lynn Anderson and Eric Swanson. Again, the crescent moon, Orion Nebula, the double cluster and a few other targets were featured. A bit of wispy moisture started to come in just as Jupiter got above the trees to the east.

The volunteer crew will get a couple of weeks of rest before the next batch of school telescope nights. Tuesday, February 10th has us scheduled to be at Austin Creek Elementary in Rincon valley; Thursday the 12th is the Evergreen Elementary School's Science Night - an event that has brought out from 200-300 viewers in recent past years; The following week has us at La Tercera in Petaluma on Feb. 18th, and at the Windsor Creek Elementary School's Solar System Night on the 19th - This is another event that brings our over 200 viewers; Unless we get another booking, we finish out the month of February in Sebastopol at Brook Haven Elementary on Monday the 23rd. This event is backed up with Tuesday the 24th in the event that Monday is clouded out.

Looking ahead, we have two evening events on the calendar for March and solar viewing at the Mark West District Science Fair on Saturday, April 11th. (See the list of upcoming Telescope Nights below - dated Jan 22)

If you are not already on the list of SCAS volunteers and would like to be notified of upcoming volunteer opportunities, send Lynn an email at and ask to be included on future postings.


Username / Nickname: mike880

Thanks, Lynn , for keeping us updated on the School Astronomy Nights. My thanks to the volunteers who showed up.  I'm happy to see such a big turnout at the schools and some clear skies to view the wonders of the universe.


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

My thanks to Lynn as well.  I had no idea how many School Astronomy nights there were.


Linda Sinkay's Comet Lovejoy - Jan 24 2015 - January 25, 2015

Taken at Ferguson Vineyards, Freestone with an Orion 10" Astrograph and a Canon T5i


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

Nice photo - big and bright and beautiful


Len Nelson's comet Lovejoy - January 23, 2015

Taken Jan 20 at the Robert Ferguson Observatory

The comet covers quite a large FOV so Len used a 300mm F4 telephoto lens set to F4. In retrospect, Len wishes he had used f5.6 or less but that would have lengthened the exposure time. This is a 3 minute (184 second) exposure shot at asa 1600. Len polar aligned his mount quite well and this is an unguided image.   


Len Nelson's report on STAR PARTY AT MEADOW ELEMENTARY 1/22 - January 23, 2015

The light pollution was pretty bad, especially with all the water moisture we have in the air...but that sure made for some great green laser light displays!

Volunteering tonight were: Loren, Eric, me and the YA contingency of Nora & Phillip Hebenstreit, Harry & Andrew Prasetya,and Sparks candidates: Tobin Vaske and  Rony (dad) and James Kurniawan. There may have been another ...Eric may know one other party that came.

What did we see: A fabulous crescent Moon with Venus near by. Also present with great effort and ideal spot to locate it was Mercury....rather lower.

Also, there, thought I did  not believe Loren, was Mars near the Moon. I just checked out the location of Mars and it was indeed in the western sky but I am quite sure it was not the body that was pointed out as being mars. In any case...it must be very dim.

We had a brilliant –7 Iridium Flare at 7:04 PM and I had decided that it would be to the left of Orion though earlier I I told myself it would be to the right.

In any case, I had a speaker system with me and gave the mike to the teacher in charge and we drew everyone's attention to the left side of Orion...waiting, waiting, until someone shouted that it was to the right side and we all looked there and there it was at full brilliance and a marvelous sight to behold!

We also looked at the Pleiades, M42, and Nora & Phillip found Comet Lovejoy. No one else had it so with the mike we drew the attention of all to migrate to Nora & Phillips's scope to see that fine sight.

125 were expected to come and I'd guess that we had probably had 100-125.  I forgot to ask anyone else for their opinion.

We entered the gate at 5:35 and packed up about 7:40 when the last of our guests left.  Tobin & I locked the gate as we left at 8:10.

The teachers expressed total delight with the event and our fine performance and offered us hot chocolate.

They want to know more about the Young Astronomers club and I'll be forwarding that info to a teacher to put in their weekly newsletter.

It was fine night and I am glad I was there.




Triple transit of Jupiter's moons tonight - January 23, 2015

With a telescope may be able to see a transit of three of Jupiter's moons, with each casting a shadow over the surface of the planet tonight.

Times in the image are MST, so subtract an hour,


Upcoming School Telescope Nights - January 22, 2015

For more information contact Lynn Anderson

Thursday, January 22 - Meadow (Petaluma)

Friday, January 23 - El Verano (Sonoma)

Tuesday, February 10 - Austin Creek (Rincon valley)

Thursday, February 12 - Evergreen (Rohnert Park)

Wednesday, February 18 - La Tercera (Petaluma)

Thursday, February 19 - Windsor Creek (Windsor)

Monday/Tuesday, Feb. 23/24 - Brook Haven (Sebastopol)  (The 24th is the back-up date)


Tuesday, March 10 - Monet Rio/p>

Friday, March 13 - Alexander Valley

Saturday. April 11 (Solar) - Mark West Science Fair (10:00 - 2:00)


Trip to the Lick Observatory - January 20, 2015

Jim DeManche and I had a chance last night to tour the Lick Observatory. This was a "thank you" event hosted by Alex Fillipenko of UC Berkeley. Alex hosted about 30 people for a tour and dinner as a thank you for donations made to help "Save the Lick"

Below is the view from the main parking lot,  The 4 buildings are astronomer housing.

This is the 3 meter reflector telescope used for Super Nova research

Sunset after dinner near the 36 inch Refractor telescope dome

Alex doing Q and A with donors and students on the tour.


We had a great SCAS meeting Wednesday evening! - January 16, 2015

This evening's meeting at the Santa Rosa Junior College Planetarium was outstanding. My personal thanks again to Mr. Ed Megill, Director and all his staff who put the program together for us. I counted over 45 attendees and we had 3 new members join as well!

I also want to thank all of you out there who came. SCAS is only as good as those who participate in the fun and education of astronomy. From youngsters to oldsters, we all have fun and enjoy this passionate adventure into the universe.


Venus and Mercury timelapse - over Bodega Bay - January 15, 2015

Approximately 400 photos taken by Linda Sinkay near the Estero

Timelapse processing by Jim Goodenough

The various lights at the bottom of the images are crab boats and helicopters.


Venus and Mercury over Bodega Bay - January 8, 2015

Venus and Mercury over Bodega Bay Tuesday Jan 6 - photo taken by Linda Sinkay.

2.5 second exposure at ISO3200 with a Canon T2i.



What does Solstace mean? - January 8, 2015


The winter solstace is actually a point in space where night is the longest and day is the shortest, in contrast to the notion that it is a date on the calendar.

I’ve learned that it is another thing.

It is the date on which the light from the morning sun is so low and direct that it hits the sensor on my garage door and prevents it from closing.  The sunlight in the early morning at a low angle hits the LED sensor and is just intense enough on the solstace date and just perpendicular enough just on that date to cause the safety sensor to overload and think there is an obstruction.  The door comes about a quarter of the way down and goes back up.  I know it is the sunlight because when I get out of my car and stand in the path of the sun and block the sunlight to the sensor, the door closes normally.

Go figure.


January SCAS General Meeting - January 5, 2015

SCAS January 14 2015 General Meeting

Santa Rosa Junior College Planetarium - Lark Hall

7:30pm - 9:00pm

1501 Mendocino Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(Parking is in the Bech parking lot. See Map below)
* Please note that we will NOT be meeting at Proctor Terrace Elementary School this month.

7:30pm - Meeting starts
7:45pm - Coffee and Snack Break
8:00pm - Special Planetarium Program
with Ed Megill, Director
9:00pm - Meeting concludes


Maiden Launch of ORION - December 7, 2014

On Friday December 5th, ORION took the first step in what hopes to be a huge advancement in space exploration!


UC confirms continued support of Lick Observatory - November 7, 2014

The University of California Office of the President has reversed a previous decision to pull funding from Lick Observatory by 2018



Eric Swansons photo of the Solar Eclipse - November 6, 2014

This photo of the recent solar eclipse was taken by Eric Swanson. 

This was a partial eclipse.  Notice the sunspots.

Very nice photo Eric!


Rosetta will deploy Philae on November 11 - November 5, 2014

Rosetta will deploy Philae on November 11 at 11:35 PM PST. Confirmation of the landing will arrive at ground stations around 8:03 AM PST.

See http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov/


Landing on a Comet - The Rosetta Mission - November 5, 2014


About the James LIck Observatory - October 17, 2014


Partial Solar Eclipse - October 15, 2014

There will be a partial solar eclipse (where the Moon blocks part of the Sun's disk) visible from the entire region next Thursday (October 23).

The eclipse will begin 1:51 pm PDT (Thursday afternoon). Mid-eclipse, where 43% of the Sun will be covered, will be at 3:15 pm. The eclipse will end at 4:32 pm.

Since this is only a partial solar eclipse, You CANNOT OBSERVE IT DIRECTLY WITH THE NAKED EYE! You should never try to look at the Sun with the naked eye, unless using a properly approved solar filter. However, you can make a pinhole to project it onto a surface, or look at the Sun's images projected  on a wall/surface from the "pinholes" created from the spaces between leaves on a tree.


Dr. Filippenko Event - October 10, 2014

Congratulations SCAS and special thanks to Jim DeManche for the very successful event Wednesday night featuring Dr Alex Filippenko, astrophysicist and professor of astronomy at the University of California, Berkeley.  The event was held at Sonoma Academy and was presented to a nearly full house in the Academy auditorium. 

SCAS President Mike Dranginis lead off the evening outlining the contributions of SCAS as this is its 40 year anniversary.  Mike then introduced SCAS Vice President Jim DeManche who recited Filippenko's impressive resume.

Dr Filippenko presented topics ranging from super novae, exoplanets, and the expansion of the universe.  All of his remarks were accompanied by a Powerpoint presentation showing students, scientists, and the public enjoying the power of the various telescopes at the Lick Observatory.  We were also treated to a brief biography of James Lick's life including his arrival in Yerba Buena in the 1850s and his eventual gift of the Lick Observatory years later.

Filippenko's ongoing point was the need for "Huge amounts of time (months or years) on modest-sized telescopes" and it was clear to us all that the equipment at Lick fits the bill.  Other astronomical equipment such as Hubble and Keck were mentioned and Filippenko told us each minute of access on these machines was virtually priceless.  In contrast the legacy of Lick has become its accessibility to astro physicists for ongoing work.

Filippenko is captured here by SCAS member and photographer Linda Sinkay throwing an apple up in front of the projection screen showing us again and again in a hands on manner how theories of the expansion of our universe are theorized and tested.

As the evening concluded, Dr Filippenko conducted a question and answer session.  His manner and approach were delightfully enthusiastic.  This man loves his work.  The audience of students, family, SCAS members and RFO Docents were treated to an evening we will never forget.




Nice collage of nebulae in Sagittarius - August 28, 2014

SCAS member Linda Sinkay captured these images during the New Moon


Choosing Your First Telescope with J. Kelly Beatty - August 21, 2014


Username / Nickname: Mike880

Thanks for putting this on the Blog. It is a good introduction to different types of telescopes and what you might use to view the night sky. Those  interested in purchasing a telescope would also benefit by attending a SCAS Star Academy event to actually talke a look through some telescopes at the night sky to get a view of the night sky and be able to compare various scopes in a real life situation. 


SCAS STAR-B-Que - August 19, 2014

The "gang" at the 2014 SCAS Star-B-Que.

It was a great event with good fellowship and food, and stargazing afterward.


Beautiful Video - August 13, 2014


SCAS STAR-B-Que - August 11, 2014


Hello SCAS members and friends,

You are invited to a night under the stars.  Saturday, August 16th is our annual Sonoma County Astronomical Society Star B Que at the Robert Ferguson Observatory.

John Whitehouse has graciously agreed to start the Grill at 5:30 and will welcome you to bring whatever you plan to grill. The rest is pot luck so please bring some picnic items to share. It is also important to bring your own plates & utensils.

We’ll be there for a star party afterwards so please bring you scopes, especially if you need help in setting them up or figuring out how to operate them. You will also be welcome to look through scopes brought up by other members. I’ll be there with my Meade LS -6 and a half homebrewed 5” Dobsonian. There will be lots of other scopes as well. It will be a good chance to take a look through a lot of different scopes in case you are in the market for a new scope or a possible upgrade.

Those interested in camping overnight are welcome as well. Please let me know if you are, so that we can get an area prepared for your needs.

If you have any questions or need any further information please email me at mjd880@att.net. I’m looking forward to seeing you Saturday, August 16th.

Mike Dranginis – President

Sonoma County Astronomical Society



Username / Nickname: joey

hello, my name is Joey

since about July, some of my friends and I have been noticing these bright white red and blue flashing what appeared to be geo synchronistic satellites in the night sky of Northern California.we are baffled as to what they are.they are usually scene from right after dark on.The flashing red and blue and white lights are most easily seen from the horizon to approximately 9 PM in the sky.after that they become almost indistinguishable from a star except for their size, although they still strobe they appear to look like a star.do you know what they are?

          thank you, please contact me 

Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough
Hello Joey -What direction are you facing when seeing the flashing object?


Comet Jacques - August 4, 2014

SCAS members Linda Sinkay and Jim Goodenough drive to Lake Sonoma early Saturday morning to photograph Comet Jacques

As dawn approached, they struggled to get enough exposures to expose the comet's tail, but only were able to capture the head of the comet.


Moon Set over Mt Shasta - July 16, 2014

This is not a SCAS member video - it was "stolen" off Youtube



I just bought 4 tickets to the Professor Filippenko Lecture Benefitting Lick Observatory - June 30, 2014

I am excited to have secured my seats for the October 8 Alex Filippenko Lecture Benefitting Lick Observatory.

If you want to purchase tickets, go here: http://www.rfo.org/filippenko-event.html


Doors open at 6:30PM, Program starts at 7:00PM
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Sonoma Academy, 2500 Farmers Lane, Santa Rosa


July meeting - June 23, 2014

Dr. Mandeep S.S. Gill Will be speaking on the topic: "Cosmology and Gravitational Lensing"

Dr. Mandeep S. S. Gill's Overview


Observational Cosmologist at SLAC/CBPF


Observational Cosmologist at OSU
Postdoc at LBNL
Grad student / postdoc at SLAC


The Ohio State University
Stanford University
Univerity of California, Berkeley

Location: Proctor Terrace Elementary School Auditorium
Time: 7:30pm - 9:00pm


Telescope Donation to the Ukiah Latitude Observatory - May 12, 2014

From Facebook (facebook.com/UkiahLatitudeObservatory)

We are grateful to the Sonoma County Astronomical Society for donating a restored 6" Dobsonian Telescope to the Ukiah Latitude Observatory for our "Earth and Skies" public viewing nights. Jim DeManche brought up to the Parks Dedication Day on April. It is one of the original telescopes that were built by SCAS.

Over the past twenty nine years the "Striking Sparks" program has given away 256 telescopes to students in Sonoma County. The program began in Sonoma County's pioneer amateur astronomer Bob Ferguson's basement workshop where telescopes were fabricated to award to students as a way to stimulate an interest in science and astronomy. The one given to was built in 1994. It has been cleaned up and it's optics aligned.


May 14 2014 General Meeting - May 7, 2014

SCAS Guest Speaker for May 2014 General Meeting

Mr. Travis Job
Physics Student & SRJC Planetarium Presenter

Travis is very well know to those of you who visit the SRJC Planetarium at the Santa Rosa Campus. He is a physics student, and both presents and plans programs for the planetarium each semester. He learned his skills at the Master Control Panel by our very own, and long time pillars of SCAS - Mr. Ed Megill.

How does a planetarium show work, how do all those stars get projected onto the domed ceiling?, and how does he know all that astronomy stuff, we be part of his program. Plus, he's just a very good guy and friend of SCAS.

So come and join us Wednesday May 14th. at 7:30pm for an enlightening talk and fun time.

Location: Proctor Terrace Elementary School Auditorium
Time: 7:30pm - 9:00pm


Lunar Eclipse Collage - April 21, 2014

SCAS member and RFO Docent Linda Sinkay gave us this nice collage of the lunar eclipse taken at the Robert Ferguson Observatory Monday April 14/15.  Thanks Linda


Username / Nickname: Mike880

Linda, thanks for the great pictures. Just the way it was. I'm looking forward to the next one in October.


Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

Had a great time during 'Eclipse Night' with you Linda and my buddy Jim.  Excellent images,..so jealous.


Beautiful Eclipse - April 15, 2014

It was a beautiful eclipse last night.  Lots of visitors and Docents at the Robert Ferguson Observatory.  Although it looked early on that the clouds might ruin the show, we actually had decent views until just after midnight.

The color of the moon during the eclipse is something you have to see to believe and to behold,  Just beautiful.


Username / Nickname: Linda

Last night was a night I will always remember...The way the Moon was dressed in red with the jewels of orange Mars and ice blue Spica framing the sight.  It was truly, 'other-wordly'.  The best part was that it was shared with my Orion telescope buddies: Jim DeManche, Rob Davis, Dickson Yaeger, and Jim Goodenough.  I had my Orion scope too, and we had them all lined up in the parking lot.  Jim G. and I did astrophotography, and the visitors to the observatory were delighted for sharing this unique experience.    I met a fellow, Mitch - I think, who was extremely knowledgeable about photography, and shared a lot of terrific suggestions for ISO and exposure settings as we captured the eclipse.  In astrophotography, my favorite thing is to capture a special and unique moment in time, while contemplating how infinite the universe is.   I am so grateful for SCAS and for the Robert Ferguson Observatory, the friends I have made, and the memorable experiences we share.


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

The Press Democrat article with comments by SCAS Vice President Jim DeManche is here: Blood Moon puts on show


Striking Sparks Awards - April 14, 2014


The Proctor Terrace meeting room was full of excitement when we celebrated the awarding of five Striking Sparks telescopes to deserving students that had entered the 2014 essay contest. This is the 29th year of the STRIKING SPARKS program where 256 telescopes have been awarded to Sonoma County students.The applicants attended Robert Ferguson Observatory events or SCAS meetings and wrote essays about their interest in astronomy to win telescopes. They also attend the Young Astronomers meeting for an introduction on how to use their telescopes.  The winners were accompanied by some very supportive teachers and proud parents that shared the festivities. Kenneth Frank, President of AANC provided a life history of John Dobson and how he played a great role in amateur astronomy with telescope building and sidewalk astronomers.   Len Nelson, Young Astronomers Adviser, provided a PowerPoint program on the upcoming night sky events and the Young Astronomers activities as well as future opportunities.  At break time June and Colleen Ferguson served the traditional Striking Sparks cake decorated with moon and planet images. There was a lot of competition for a slice of Mars or Jupiter.

Following the break Larry McCune, Striking Sparks Coordinator,  gave a little history of how the program began in Bob Ferguson’s basement workshop where telescopes were fabricated to award to students as a way to stimulate an interest in science and astronomy. He also had one of the 200 hand built telescopes that were fabricated by SCAS members on display. When the stage curtain opened revealing the telescopes the excitement really kicked in. Larry assembled the telescope winners on the stage for their awards followed by teachers, sponsors and mentors for pictures with the telescope winners.  We quickly reassembled outside with the views of the Moon and Jupiter with its observable moons through a partly cloudy sky.

The following images were provided by Photographer Len Nelson.

The 2014 winning students are from left to right are:
Julian Peay, Grade 1, The Healdsburg School, Healdsburg
Elena Selva, Grade 5, Douglas Whited Elementary, Santa Rosa
John 'Joey' Barrett, Grade 5, Douglas Whited Elementary, Santa Rosa
Phillip Hebenstreit, Grade 4, Orchard View School, Sebastopol
Drew Haley, Grade 2, Grant Elementary School, Petaluma

2014 Group Image, left to right:
Lynn Anderson, Leo Bleier, Julian Peay, Eric Swanson, Elena Selva, Richard Ross, John Whitehouse, Joey Barrett, Lisa Loughran, Phillip Hebenstreit, Jim DeManche, Kenneth Frank and Drew Haley.

We want to thank the following sponsors that support the Striking Sparks Program:
Astronomical Association of Northern California, Threshold Studios, Frank Hejtmanek Family, Jim DeManche, Leo Bleier and Lynn Anderson.
We also want to thank the Sonoma County Teachers for their nominating excellent students and Orion Telescopes and Binoculars is also assisting us with the purchase of the telescopes.

Larry McCune
Striking Sparks Coordinator


The genesis of the Robert Ferguson Observatory - April 9, 2014

By Larry McCune


In the 1980s Bob Ferguson arranged for SCAS to install some concrete viewing pads for monthly star parties on the Palmeri Ranch on a Mayacamas Mountain ridge near the Geysers. Other members built their own custom designed pads. This was an excellent dark sky site as fog rolled into the valleys below. 

Many hours were spent there by our astrophotographers carefully guiding their telescopes using film cameras for deep sky images.  Many also just attended the star parties to enjoy the night sky with other members. Bob even started a foundation for a small observatory but the site became bullet riddled by hunters discouraging any permanent installation. Len Nelson also organized the annual weed whacker parties to trim the annual growth. 

The ranch eventually was passed to other owners that were not supportive of amateur astronomers.  The closing of the Palmeri Ranch site lead to building the Robert Ferguson Observatory at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.


Striking Sparks telescope builders 2014 - April 9, 2014

Here is the Striking Sparks telescope build team of Steve Follett, Mark Hillstad, Dickson Yeager, Larry McCune, and Len Nelson.

Thank you to Orion Telescopes and Binoculars for supporting this program.


The Hubble Deep Field Experiment - April 2, 2014


Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

There is a reported new Nova in the Constellation of Cygnus, also know as the 'Northern Cross'.  Here is the link to the article from Astronomy Now magazine.  Hope you enjoy!

Link: www.astronomynow.com/news/n1404/02nova/

Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

I love and support the Santa Rosa Junior College Planetarium.  This evening was the (Free First Friday Night) for April.  Ed McGill was the presenter who did a great job as always.  Ed was also one of the original members of the Sonoma County Astronomical Society.  Please visit our Facebook page to see my post and pictures following this evenings program. 


About the Opposition of Mars - April 2, 2014

From Jim DeManche - Great little YouTube video on the upcoming Mars Opposition!


Eric Swanson's Observatory - March 20, 2014

SCAS Board Members meet briefly before the March board meeting in Eric Swanson's Observatory.

Left to right: SCAS Treasurer Eric, SCAS President Mike Dranginis, and Dickson Yeager


Santa Rosa clear sky chart - March 17, 2014

Larry McCune reports that Attilla Danko has received SCAS' payment to sponsor the Santa Rosa clear sky chart.

See cleardarksky.com/c/SntRsCAkey.html


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

If you click on the chart and look carefully when the page comes up, you will see credit given to the Sonoma County Astronomical Society.


Nice article about RFO - March 15, 2014

See http://www.californiareport.org/archive/R201403141630/e for a nice write-up on the Robert Ferguson Observatory

Here's a link to an audio file covering the article:


March meeting photos - Thank You Linda Sinkay - March 13, 2014



Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

We had a wonderful meeting Wednesday evening.  Both Laura and Keith really got the members involved.  Thank you Linda for all the great photos.

Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

I think the photos are good for potential new members.  It shows us having fun.  It also shows that we are not just a group of men since there are shots of Laura, June, Colleen and Mary.


Tolay Alert - March 13, 2014

This is a special year for the Tolay Festival

Dickson Yeager, the instigator of SCAS and RFO involvement will be out of town and not be able to oversee the event as it is going on.

He has documented everything that has to be done and recruited Jim DeManche who will be in charge of the Pop Ups tables and illustrations for the event.

We need a volunteer or volunteers that would be willing to take charge of communicating with the Sonoma County Parks and recruiting and communicating with volunteers to staff the event.

Here’s your chance to step up and help out with this popular event. Dickson will be a great mentor to get anyone who steps up and will make this position easy and rewarding.


Larry McCune spotted at the John Dobson Memorial - March 10, 2014

I not sure of the details of the memorial, but here is a photo of SCAS member Larry McCune at the John Dobson memorial event held in San Francisco this past Saturday.

Perhaps Larry will update us at the SCAS general meeting this Wednesday March 12.


Telescope Collimation Webpage - March 7, 2014

I found this site menitoned in an Astronomy Forum.  See http://legault.perso.sfr.fr/collim.html

Very good informaiton, photos, and graphics on the effects of collimating your telescope well.


How large can a telescope be? - February 25, 2014

This is an interesting explanation of the physical limitations of making larger and larger telescopes.


Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series - February 24, 2014

On Wednesday, February 26th, 2014, at 7 pm, Dr. Alex Filippenko (of the University of California, Berkeley) will give a free, illustrated, non-technical talk on: 

Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes, and the Crisis at Lick Observatory in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College, in Los Altos.  The talk is part of the Silicon Valley Astronomy Lecture Series, now in its 14th year.

Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos.  For directions and parking information, see: http://www.foothill.edu/news/transportation.php

For a campus map, see: http://www.foothill.edu/news/maps.php

The lecture is co-sponsored by:
* NASA Ames Research Center
* The Foothill College Astronomy Program
* The SETI Institute
* The Astronomical Society of the Pacific.

We expect large crowds, so we ask people to try to arrive a little bit early to find parking.  The lecture is free, but there is a charge of $3 for parking on campus and exact change is appreciated.


Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

I've heard recordings of these presentations - all are very good.  Unfortunately, I can not attend the speech this week.  It would be nice to go as I used to live one exit down 280 from Foothill College in the 60s and 70s.


February meeting photos - February 13, 2014

Thank you Linda Sinkay for submitting photos from the February general meeting.

See this page for a little slideshow.


Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

Thanks so much Linda for taking these images from the meeting. Your contributions of homemade 'Valentine's Cookies' was both beautiful and very tasty! You're so appreciated


Save Lick Observatory - February 13, 2014

There is a big red link to the "Save Lick Observatory" effort mentioned by Dr Tenn in last night's program.

Click here


Sugarloaf Campground flooding - February 9, 2014

This video was taken by Jim DeManche.

This is the entrance to the Sugarloaf campground after the rains of February 8th.

I am pretty sure I would not drive through that.


Username / Nickname: Linda Sinkay

Wow..that looks to be just beyond the gate.  I wouldn't cross that, even with the big red Chevy Flatbed!

Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

I had no idea it was that bad!!  It was quite a shock.

Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

I drove my Ford Explorer through the flooded portion of the Rohnert Park Expressway years ago.  Another vehicle passed me going in the other direction and as it passed, the "wave" of water from its motion caused my car to rock like a boat slightly from side to side,  In that instant, I was nearly afloat.  I am more leery now about such crossings.


A memorial and celebration of the life of John L. Dobson - February 5, 2014

Kenneth Frank, President of AANC contacted Larry McCune regarding a memorial celebration of the life of John Dobson, Sidewalk Astronomer to be held on March 8, 2014.

Saturday, March 8th, noon, @ Lands End, San Francisco

A Celebration of John Dobson



This event coincides with  International Sidewalk Astronomy Night (ISAN 7) in memory of John:



Besides the Lands End tribute to John, we plan future sidewalk astronomy events at:

9th & Irving

22nd & Sanchez

Fisherman's Wharf/Ghirardelli Square

The Randall Museum

Mt. Tam - Rock Springs

Arnold, CA

and Yosemite NP


Username / Nickname: Jim DeManche

I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. Dobson, but I do have a telescope that's named after him.  I find often the simpliest ideas that bring both science and the stars to people is the best!  Thank you and 'Rest in Peace' Mr. Dobson, your legacy lives on.

Username / Nickname: Jim Goodenough

Yes - me too - I am a "Dob" owner.

My only experience with John Dobson is watching the videos of him on the sidwalks of San Francisco, calling out "come see the moon"!


Horsehead Nebula - February 4, 2014

At the January meeting, we presented the topic of Astrophotography.  At that time, my equatorial platform was broken and I did not have an autoguiding solution. 

The platform is repaired and I returned the origional autoguider I'd purchased and bought another one. 

Here's the result

This is 20 one minute exposures at ISO 1600 and 20 dark frames stacked using Deep Sky Stacker. 

The photo was taken with a Canon T2i in Sebastopol with a waxing crecent moon.

Conditions were not perfect, but I am happy with the result.

Jim Goodenough


Welcome - January 31, 2014

Welcome to an information site of the Sonoma County Astronomical Society. We are a non-profit organization formed to promote interest in astronomy. Our members are all ages and from all walks of life. We are enthusiastic about introducing our community to the wonders of the night sky and solar viewing.

 We serve the community by holding educational and fun meetings once a month, hosting local Star Parties, organizing Field Trips to areas of interest and places with Dark Skies.

We have a special focus, promoting astronomy and providing education to the youth in our community. Our tradition of Striking Sparks by providing deserving students with astronomical quality scopes along with continuing encouragement through our Young Astronomers program has become a national model for astronomy education.

We hope you enjoy this site and are encouraged to join us in our pursuits.

Mike Dranginis
Sonoma County Astronomical Society


Welcome to the SCAS BLOG - January 31, 2014

Welcome to the Sonoma County Astronomical Society BLOG.  Webster's defines a BLOG as "a Web site on which one writes about opinions, activities, and experiences."

We hope to see a lot of activity here.  It is hoped that the BLOG may serve to replace the award winning SCAS newsletter.  I am not sure that is possible, but we can try as the SCAS printed newsletter is an award winner.

If you'd like to be trained on the use of the BLOG, feel free to contact Jim Goodenough.  Entries are controlled via password as we want to avoid the introduction of SPAM or worse.  Comments can be left by anyone, but must be approved or moderated before they can be visible.



Top of Page