How about this weather, eh?! I bet many of you wish you had taken up meteorology as a pastime! I can’t remember the rains coming this early, or this heavy, for a long time. I could quite easily float a boat in my backyard as I type this.
Oh well…what can you do? Cross our fingers and hope we get some nice, clear skies in time for winter observing. Or take up basket-weaving? Boat-building? At least our very popular Astronomy Cafe is going strong. if you’re bummer by the weather, why not stop by and spend some time with us? Astro Cafe has become a great event on pits own, thanks to the efforts of
John McDonald, Reg Dunkley, and Chris Purse. Thanks, guys!
It is November, however, and we should focus on the Annual General Meeting, coming up on Sunday, November 22nd. As I mentioned last month, it’s time for our board elections, and also to recognize our members in such fields as service to the Victoria Centre, astrophotography, and so on. Nelson tells me that as of today, we have 41 members registered for the dinner portion; the pub can accommodate 70, so we have room for another 29. Please contact Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-4820. Dinner is always yummy, our guest speaker and topic are terrific (Molecular clouds formed from interstellar gas – Dr Steve Mairs) so sign up soon.
As I mentioned last month, our AGM is also time for our board elections, and also to recognize our members in such fields as service to the Victoria Centre, astrophotography, and so on. Email reminders have been sent by Matt (astrophotography) and Bruno (Newton-Ball award). Here’s the page where you can peruse the outstanding astrophotos from several of our members, and cast your vote: http://tinyurl.com/ntxspq6
We really could use help with filling the following board positions:
Public Outreach Coordinator
Light Pollution Abatement
Still working on the pizza party. Given that there are so many conflicts with other events around the holiday season, it looks like January is a better month to host that. Stay tuned.
And stay dry!
A beautiful book has just been published by two Chandra mission media specialists. It is available from all the usual online retailers, and would make a wonderful Christmas gift for yourself or others! It features an impressive collection of astronomical photographs, and the two authors have also chosen to blend artwork from Johannes Vermeer, van Gogh, Claude Monet, and a local Victoria artist Henri van Bentum!
A beautiful, fascinating, visual exploration of the power and behavior of light across the entire electromagnetic spectrum and how it affects life on Earth and everything in the Universe.
A visual exploration of the power and behavior of light, across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and how it affects life on earth and everything in the Universe.
Light illuminates our world and allows us to see everything around us. But, in fact, humans can see only a sliver the full spectrum of light that governs life on Earth and everything in the universe, known as the electromagnetic spectrum. In this highly visual, original exploration, Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand present the subject of light as never before. Organized along the order of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays, each chapter focuses on a different type of light, describing its particular properties, characteristics, and practical uses. From radio waves, which allow for TV and cell phone communication, to infrared light which makes thermal body scanning possible, to X-rays, which allow us to peer inside the human body, as well as view black holes and supernovae millions of light years from Earth, Watzke and Arcand show us all the important ways that light impacts life on Earth and beyond. An introductory chapter gives an overview of the electromagnetic spectrum and describes what light is and how it behaves, while hundreds of full-color photographs and illustrations demonstrate concepts and make for a stunning book that’s a joy to read and browse through.
Light is the perfect book for readers of all ages and anyone interested in the beauty of science of our visual world.
“Exploring the ghostly side of galaxies with Dragonfly” – Dr. Roberto Abraham, University of Toronto professor, Dept of Astronomy & Astrophysics
Abstract: Bigger telescopes are usually better telescopes…. but not always. In this talk I will explore the ghostly world of large low surface brightness structures, such as galactic stellar halos, low-surface brightness dwarf galaxies, and other exotica such as supernova light echoes. These objects are nearly undetectable with conventional telescopes, but their properties may hold the key to understanding how galaxies assemble. I will describe why finding these objects is important, and why it is so devilishly difficult.
I will also describe a bizarre new telescope (the Toronto/Yale Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a.k.a. Dragonfly) which is now being used to explore the low surface brightness universe and is testing some of the most fundamental predictions of galaxy formation models. Dragonfly is comprised of multiple commercial 400 mm f/2.8 telephoto lenses which utilize novel nanostructure-based optical coatings that minimize scattered light and ghosting. I’ll showcase some our early results, mainly focusing on the properties of ultra-faint stellar halos. I’ll also report the discovery of gigantic stellar disks underlying nearby galaxies, and will describe the discovery of a new class of ghostlike galaxies that are as big as the Milky Way but have about 1/1000 of its mass.
Bio: Roberto Abraham is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He obtained his BSc from UBC and his doctorate from Oxford. His work is focused on observations of galaxy formation and evolution and the development of innovative instruments. He has been awarded the Canadian Astronomical Society’s P. G. Martin Award, the Canada Foundation for Innovation Career Award, the NSERC Steacie Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, the University of Toronto Outstanding Teaching Award, and a bunch of other things, including recently becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, thus making him officially over the hill.
His proudest moment is winning second prize in the Vancouver All-City Elementary School Grade 6 spelling bee, where he lost out for not knowing how to spell the word “satellite”, leading eventually to learning how to spell the word “ironic”. He’s presently Vice-President of the Canadian Astronomical Society. Being keen on outreach, he has served as Honourary President of the Toronto Centre of the RASC for many years. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Gemini Observatory, on the Science Advisory Committee for the Thirty Meter Telescope, has advised NASA by serving as panel chair on the Hubble Space Telescope time allocation committee three times, and is currently by serving as Canada’s representative on the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee.
Welcome to Autumn! I hope you’re all having a nice rest after such a busy summer. Personally, I love Autumn observing; although the balmy Summer nights are gone, they are replaced with crisp steady seeing, and longer nights. And you can observe both the Summer and Winter skies all in one night!
Did you see the Total Lunar Eclipse? Check out our members’ great photos!
Even though the DAO Summer Star Parties are over for the year, there are lots of fun things coming up. Here are a few:
Cattle Point observing in Victoria’s own Urban Dark Sky Park:
• Friday, October 16th at 7:30 pm
• Friday, November 6th at 6:00 pm
• Friday, December 4th at 6:00 pm
• Friday, January 15th, 2016 at 6:00 pm
• Friday, February 5th at 6:30 pm
• Friday, March 4th at 7:00 pm
UVic telescope observing. All welcome, not just VCO Active Observers!
All are weather permitting. Email notifications are sent out prior to each of these events, and you can find more info on the Victoria Centre website.
Our weekly Astronomy Cafe is an excellent, informal, way to meet us. Bring your coffee mug and join the chat!
And don’t forget our regular monthly meetings. Joe has lined up some terrific guest speakers, so
come on out for those.
And a reminder of our upcoming Annual General Meeting, which includes Victoria Centre Board
elections, Sunday November 22. A spouse, partner, or friend are welcome to attend
with you. Check the RASC Website for schedule, and menu:
Please contact Nelson with your meal choices as soon as possible. His contact information is provided on that page. The Moon Under Water pub is able to keep the cost the same as last year, so big thanks to them!
Speaking of the elections, we have a few spots we really need to fill. There is link to the Call for Nominations on the AGM event page. Remember: every paid Victoria Centre member in good standing is eligible to run for a Council position, whether or not there is an incumbent or nominee already listed. So give it some thought, and if you would like to be a part of Council, please let us know!
See you out there!
On Sunday, September 27th, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon rises already in partial eclipse as the Sun sets just after 7 pm PDT. After reaching totality the Moon will gradually regain its brightness over the course of 3 hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture some snapshots of the event. Read further to find out what happens during the eclipse and how to capture it photographically.
This will be the last total Lunar Eclipse visible in North America until January 2018!
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.
limb – the outer edge of the Moon
penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra
E C L I P S E T I M E L I N E
Moon below the horizon
Moon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra
5:11 pm PDT
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact
Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra
6:07 pm PDT
6:58 pm PDT (approx)
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact
Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
7:11 pm PDT
7:47 pm PDT
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact
8:23 pm PDT
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact
Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra
9:27 pm PDT
Moon leaves the penumbra
10:22 pm PDT
Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT) for the west coast of North America.
What do you need?
Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.
Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view of the east especially if you wish to view during the early stages.
Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.
Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.
Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.
The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon. For a 35mm camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconvertors to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.
Effective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
with 2x teleconvertor
To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope. The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.
Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium speed film and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed of film used and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.
Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
1/250 second at f/16
1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
*see table below
L = 4 :
8 seconds at f16
L = 3:
30 seconds at f16
L = 2:
2 minutes at f16
L = 1:
8 minutes at f16
2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
L = 1
dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
L = 2
deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
L = 3
brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
L = 4
very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim
Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.
Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.
The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at email@example.com.
David Lee – original image and text
Joe Carr – updated for 2015
Brenda Stuart – illustrations
The Total Lunar Eclipse of 2008 was very similar to this one in 2015. Here is the online gallery of some of our members’ photos of that event.
What a way to end the DAO Saturday star parties! I’m told we had 409 visitors on the hill, with 300-350 more who had to be turned away. Amazing. And apart from a few tech (and other) glitches, it was a magical evening for visitors and volunteers alike. The same can be said for every public outreach event that each of you helped out with this year, and in years past.
THANK YOU all so much for your dedication. Your enthusiasm, knowledge, and generosity with your time over all RASC public events are appreciated more than I can possibly convey here.
I would like to host a volunteer appreciation party a bit later this year (probably December; it takes time to plan, and I’m a little inept!) I’m thinking a pizza party might be fun, either as part of a monthly meeting, or (preferably) a separate event. This is open to all members who have volunteered an any Victoria Centre event, not just the DAO ones.
I need to know how many people would attend, so I know what size a venue to reserve.
Please reply to this email, or to me privately, if you would like to attend. Spouses welcome, too. Please let me know by September 30th, so I can make the arrangements.
Again, thank you all so much. You are truly a remarkable group!
Payment at the door – by cheque (preferred) or cash
Meals will be pre-ordered and must be paid for, whether you show up or not
Menu: fixed sit-down meal. Choices:
First Course – choice of soup or salad
Potato bacon soup
Main Course – choice of one entrée
Roast beef dinner with seasonal vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.
Grilled salmon fillet with dill sauce, seasonal vegetables and rice.
Vegetarian stuffed mushroom cap with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes.
Dessert: stand-up dessert buffet.
Coffee and Tea included.
7:30pm – Speaker – Where Baby Stars Come From, and Why it’s Important to Know! – Steve Mairs
In this talk, I will examine the birth of a sun-like star and introduce some of the research being performed here in Victoria to further our knowledge on this subject. My main focus will be on the Orion Molecular Cloud, a giant star-forming region in the Milky Way which encompasses the famous Orion Nebula. I will present images of what the Orion Nebula looks like at submillimetre wavelengths and show how these often overlooked observations can provide vital information into the young lives of stars. By studying “where baby stars come from”, we can make links to present day observations of star clusters, supernova explosion rates, the formation of planets, and, in effect our very own origin story.
Bio: Steve Mairs is a 4th year PhD student in astronomy at UVIC. In 2012, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree with honours, majoring in Physics, from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.
Throughout his undergraduate career, he was involved in a variety of astronomy projects including researching remnants of supernova explosions at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, studying pulsars in an effort to make a detection of gravitational waves at UBC Vancouver, and investigating the evolution of the physical properties of giant star-forming regions in the Triangulum Galaxy.
Steve’s PhD thesis is centred on the formation of stars in the Orion molecular cloud. Specifically, he is using sub-millimetre data collected using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Combined Array for Research in Millimetre Astronomy to examine how large scale gas and dust structures in our own galaxy relate to the small scale structure which gives rise to the formation of young stars and stellar clusters.
“The Search for Alien Life in the Universe” – Dr. Jon Willis, UVic professor
Abstract: Do aliens exist and how are scientists proposing to find them? No, not a journey into the X-files of science fiction but a presentation of the science of astrobiology: the scientific search for life beyond Earth. However, within a 45 minute talk we have to get our priorities straight. This talk will not offer a reduced Shakespeare company-style overview of astrobiology. Instead I will focus on my top two picks for future success and discuss these in detail.
The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory is open from 7:30 to 11:00 pm with last entrance at 10:00 pm
In the Centre of the Universe:
Exhibits Open: 7:30 to 10:45 pm
Planetarium Shows – every half hour from 7:45 to 9:45 “Constellation Stories”
7:45 to 8:30PM and again at 9:15-10:00PM – Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope’s Outreach Odyssey – Mary Beth Laychak
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope serves a diverse audience of astronomers and the general public in six countries: Canada, France, Hawaii (US), Taiwan, Brazil and China. The recent hiring of a full time public outreach manager gives CFHT the opportunity to expand its outreach presence in each of these nations while simultaneously reaching our local Big Island community. The observatory’s goals are ambitious; unlike other multi-national institutions pursuing a dynamic outreach presence, CFHT is a smaller facility with fewer staff fully devoted to public outreach. In this talk, I will discuss who we are at CFHT and our plans to connect to the people of Canada, France and Hawaii.
Speaker: Mary Beth Laychak
Mary Beth Laychak is the Outreach Program Manager at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mary Beth has an undergraduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics and a Masters degree in educational technology. Her passions include astronomy, sharing astronomy with the public and astronomy based crafts.
8:30 to 9:15PM – Adaptive Optics and the Thirty Meter Telescope – How Victoria will Widen our View of the Universe -Paolo Turri
Since the invention of the astronomical telescope in the 17th century, astronomers have pushed the technology to build larger lenses and mirrors to observe fainter and more distant objects. But for a long time, optical telescopes haven’t been able to improve their resolution because of the limit imposed by the turbulent atmosphere. Adaptive optics is a new technique that corrects the atmospheric aberrations on telescopes and opens new horizons in astronomy. I will discuss how adaptive optics performs its magic and I will show some of the results that can be achieved with it. We’ll give also a look at the future adaptive optics system for the Thirty Meter Telescope that will be built in the next decade. This instrument is part of the Canadian contribution to the telescope and it will be assembled in Victoria on the very same hill of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
Speaker: Paolo Turri
Paulo is from Italy and he graduated in Padua and Trieste (respectively for his Bachelor and Master degrees in Astronomy). He is a PhD student in Astronomy at the University of Victoria and his field of research is adaptive optics. This year at the Annual CASCA Conference he won an Award for Best Student Talk at the conference.
On the Centre of the Universe Deck:
New! Live, through the lens viewing with the 16“ telescope.
Friends of the DAO – Sign up as a new member! We need your support to bring educational programs back to the DAO during the year and to upgrade the exhibits. Popcorn, Hot Chocolate and Light-Up wrist bands available by donation.
In the Dominion Observatory:
Historical Tours of the Plaskett Telescope, the computer room and the Dome – new tours begin every twenty minutes from 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Plaskett Telescope will open (weather permitting) at approximately 9:45 and presentations that show what the telescope is seeing will be given on an ongoing basis until 10:45 pm
In the Parking Lot:
Telescopes will be set up for Solar Viewing and for Night Sky viewing by members of the RASC all evening.
A reminder that there is NO SMOKING on the hill at any time.
Please dress warmly as it gets very cool after it gets dark.
There is limited parking for those with mobility issues at the top of the hill. Please ask the Commissionaires when you arrive if you need one of these spaces. We cannot guarantee a spot at all times but visitors may be dropped off and picked up if necessary.
There is limited parking at the top of the hill. Most of the parking is in the lower lot. Please be advised that there are a number of stairs to climb to get to the entrance to the Centre of the Universe building and the DAO.
For safety reasons, no foot traffic is permitted on the road to the top. Visitors may not park on W.Saanich Rd and walk to the top.
I hope you all had a great summer! The Victoria Centre sure did! We hosted six Saturday evening “star parties” in July and August at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (the seventh was cancelled due to a power outage), during which many hundreds of guests paid us a visit. Rain or shine, the public loved what we had to offer. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the RASC volunteers who gave of their time and knowledge, the guest speakers who educated us, the Commissionaires who kept us safe and helped keep the traffic under control, all the NRC staff who made these popular events possible in the first place. Thank you, everyone!
Also over the summer, Victoria Centre member participated in the Saanich Strawberry Festival and Symphony Splash and were as well-received as usual. Any why not? Our volunteers are amazing!
Our annual summer RASCals Star Party in Metchosin was also a hit, with approximately 92 people (public and RASC members) attending to take in the awesome presentations by Dr. Chris Gainor, David Lee, and Dr. Phil Stooke. Those, combined with terrific door prizes and great weather made for a very enjoyable weekend. Thanks to everyone from RASC who helped out, as well as Metchosin Council and staff, and Metchosin Fire Department.
And now we’re back into our usual routine of monthly events and meetings; I know you will enjoy the upcoming guest speakers which our Acting VP Joe Carr has lined up for us.
This brings me to an issue that has been on my mind for a while: how are we doing? Is the Victoria Centre meeting your astronomical needs? It seems to me that our meetings and events (e.g. Victoria Centre Observatory, UVic telescope sessions, etc) may not be as well-attended as they could be, and I would really like to know if there are things we could be doing better, or at least differently.
In the Members Only section of the Victoria Centre website (login required), you will find a very short survey form where you can give your feedback, criticisms, and/or suggestions. It’s completely anonymous; you do not need to identify yourself unless you want to, and everything you offer will be read and considered. You can use it as a new member, continuing member, or even as an exit survey if you are leaving us. Please be as specific as you wish.
I really encourage Victoria Centre members to use the survey, or contact a Council member, to let us know what we’re doing right, and what we could be doing better to meet your needs!
Finally, don’t forget our next general meeting on September 9th, 7:30 in room A104 in the Bob Wright building. Our guest speaker is Dr. Jon Willis & his new book – The Search for Life in the Universe. Interesting!