New Horizons Pluto fly-by celebration – July 14th

Posted by as Special Events

Tuesday July 14 is going to be an historic day. The New Horizons spacecraft will make its long-awaited flyby of Pluto, obtaining the first closeup photos and data from this mysterious world.

In honour of this event, I am arranging an informal and fun event at Pluto’s Restaurant (“The Hottest Food from the Coolest Planet”) in Victoria, BC, Canada at 6 p.m. on July 14. This will be a dinner and celebration, including an update with the latest news from Pluto.

If you are interested in taking part, please let me know, so I can give the restaurant people an estimate of how many people they can expect. Once there, you can order off the menu and pay for your meal as usual.

About the time we sit down for dinner, the first transmission from New Horizons after its flyby is due to arrive on Earth. I am also trying to arrange for an expert speaker to give us a very brief update on the findings from New Horizons.

Pluto’s Restaurant is at 1150 Cook St., at the corner of View St. near downtown Victoria.

This flyby will be an historic event, no matter how you classify Pluto. This will be the last first-time flyby of what some call a “classical planet” and the first of one of the many smaller planets in the Kuiper Belt. Interestingly, the first flyby of a planet (other than Earth) was Mariner IV’s flyby of Mars on July 14, 1965, exactly fifty years before the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.

If you are planning to attend, please let me know or join the Facebook event. Family and friends are also welcome!

Chris Gainor


President’s Message, June 2015

Posted by as President's Message

PLEASE NOTE: due to the lack of darkness at this time of year, our Saturday Evening Star Parties at the Observatory are now on scheduled hiatus until July 18th.  Please join us then!

May was quite a month! The Victoria Centre was full-on at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Saturday evenings. Our wonderful volunteers educated and entertained hundreds of visitors in the Plaskett dome, in the Centre of the Universe building, and in the parking lot. Visitor numbers have been a bit low (probably because we opened early this year in May to take advantage of the darker evenings), but those visitors who did come up to take in the activities were extremely impressed with our efforts, even in spite of some iffy sky conditions. Very well done, everyone!
And now we take a break at the DAO for June. We decided there is little point opening up when it doesn’t get dark enough to see the night sky before it was time to send the public home. We’re back again on July 18th for six more Saturday evenings throughout the remainder of summer, so please spread the word!

Now, I have a favour to ask: the Victoria Centre may, or may not, be meeting the needs of our members. Perhaps we are completely wonderful (ha!), or maybe we need to be addressing things that we currently are not doing so well at. I’m going to try to get a feedback page up and running, where you may offer your opinions on this. Meanwhile, I encourage you to contact me directly by email or phone with your comments, complaints, or suggestions on how we are doing, and what we could be doing better. Don’t be shy: the RASC exists to promote astronomy at all levels, but it also exists to serve the needs of our members. It is our job on Council to make that happen. Please let us know – Contact info.

Although we are winding down a little for the shorter nights, there’s lots to look forward to this summer, including restarting at the DAO/CU on July 18, the Cowichan Valley Star Finders’ star party on the weekend of August 14-16, and, of course, the Victoria Centre Metchosin Star Party on the weekend of August 21-23. Please join us!

As this is my last message until September, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful summer, filled with soft sparkling clear nights, equipment that always cooperates, and perfect exposures!


Monthly meeting speaker: “Slicing & Dicing Galaxies to Understand What Built Them Up” – Dr. Joel Roediger (NRC/Herzberg)

Posted by as Meetings

June 10, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting – Event Info

Slicing & Dicing Galaxies to Understand What Built Them Up – Dr. Joel Roediger (NRC/Herzberg)

Joel Roediger
Joel Roediger

As best we can define them, galaxies are immense accumulations of gas, dust, stars, planetary systems, and dark matter, and as such, hold a revered place in the story of where we come from. That, coupled with the intriguing breadth of galactic entities and phenomena, makes it little surprising why many astronomers devote their careers towards filling the gaps in our understanding of the detailed physics that governs galaxy formation.

Observers and modellers (like myself) working in the field of extragalactic astrophysics are constantly finding new ways to challenge our current understanding through innovative measurements of galaxy parameters. One of the latest innovations takes advantage of technological improvements to study galaxies on a pixel-by-pixel basis. This new approach will enable a fuller appreciation of the complexity of galaxy structures, the growth histories of their components, and the amount and structure of dark matter within their visible extents.

Here in Victoria, we have the opportunity to capitalize on such important topics for a complete sample of local galaxies through a state-of-the-art imaging survey targeting the Virgo Cluster. In this talk, I will describe the survey itself and efforts presently underway to map, pixel-by-pixel, the mass in stars within the galaxies of this all-important cluster. This ambitious program promises to enable fundamental insights into the build up of stellar mass, a pillar of the galaxy formation process, within the present-day galaxy population.

Recorded streaming video of the meeting – speaker presentation starts at the 0:31 mark

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – May 30, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, May 30, 2015

 Event Info

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”

Auditorium Presentations:

7:45 pm “Vermin of the Skies: Near Earth Asteroids and other Feisty Interlopers” – Ivar Arroway- University of Victoria
8:15 pm “ Twenty-Five Years of Hubble” – Dr. Chris Gainor RASC Victoria Centre
8:45 pm “Vermin of the Skies: Near Earth Asteroids and other Feisty Interlopers” – Ivar Arroway- University of Victoria
9:15 pm “ Twenty-Five Years of Hubble” – Dr. Chris Gainor RASC Victoria Centre

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.

RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy won by Gordon Head girl at Canada-Wide Science Fair

Posted by as News

Janet Dawson
Janet Dawson

The Canada-Wide Science Fair was held in Fredericton in mid-May. The RASC sponsors two awards at the CWSF. The award is a $200 cash prize along with a certificate and a one year Youth membership in the Society (and a telescope?)

The winner of the junior RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy was Janet Dawson from Gordon Head Elementary School in Victoria, BC for her project “Goodnight Sun!”

Abstract: I photographed sunsets over thirteen months and recorded sunset direction and time. During that time, I built formulae to predict sunset direction and time from the top of PKOLS, a park on Vancouver Island. My formulae are accurate within plus or minus five degrees and plus or minus five minutes. In comparison, computer algorithms predict sunset time within plus or minus one minute.

More info on Science Fair website

DAO Summer Star Party – May 23, 2015

Posted by as Events, Special Events

Summer Saturday Star Party Activities

In the Dome:

Tours of the historic dome and the Plaskett computer room begin every 20 minutes from 7:45 through to about 9:45 pm. After this the Plaskett telescope will be opened and visitors are welcome to come up to the second floor to see in real time what the telescope is looking at. Volunteers from the RASC and the Friends of the Observatory will be on hand to give information about the images that are being screened on the dome walls.

In the Centre of the Universe Building:

Exhibits are open from 7:30 to 11:00 pm.

Planetarium shows will be ongoing from 7:45 through to 10:15 pm. These are 15 to 20 minutes in length. Approximately 25 people can be accommodated at any one time in the little dome.

Astronomy presentations are in the Auditorium from 7:30 through to 9:30.

Here are this weeks lectures for May 23rd

  • 7:30 pm An introduction to the Night Sky David Lee
  • 8:00 pm “Shine on Silver Moon” Lauri Roche
  • 8:30 pm An introduction to the Night Sky David Lee
  • 900 pm “Shine on Silver Moon” Lauri Roche

On the Deck:

RASC Volunteers will have their solar telescopes out until the sun goes down and then will put up their nightsky telescopes for viewing the moon, the planets and the stars. This is ongoing from 7:30 to 11:00 pm

Please come and join us. We invite you to share our information on social media.

A reminder to Dress Warmly! It cools down after the sun goes down up on the hill.

Event Info

Monthly meeting speaker: ALMA, low mass star formation, and the SOLA project – Dr. Lewis Knee, NRC Herzberg

Posted by as Meetings

May 13, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

“ALMA, low mass star formation, and the SOLA project” – Dr. Lewis Knee, Radio Astronomy Program Programme, Millimetre Technology Group, NRC Herzberg


ALMA array in the Atacama desert
ALMA array in the Atacama desert

Abstract: ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array, has begun science operations after more than a decade of development and construction. Although the observatory has not yet reached its full capability, it is already making important new discoveries. In the area of low mass star formation, ALMA offers very high angular resolution and high sensitivity observations of nearby molecular clouds, the most well-studied of which are in the northern hemisphere. However, it is for studies of the less well-known clouds of the southern sky that ALMA will excel.

One of these molecular cloud complexes lies in the Lupus constellation, and an international consortium of ALMA scientists have begun an effort, the SOLA program, to probe the star formation activity in this region. It turns out that the clouds in Lupus and its star formation has some unique characteristics that make of of great interest for studies of star formation in different environments, particularly for the formation of very low mass stars and brown dwarfs.

Bio: Lewis Knee is a radio astronomer at NRC Herzberg in Victoria. He received his PhD in Radio and Space Science at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in 1991. Since then he has worked in radio astronomy observatories in Europe, Canada, and Chile, most recently six years at ALMA in the Atacama Desert. His main scientific interests are in spectroscopy, star formation, molecular clouds, and the interstellar medium of our Galaxy.

Video of the business meeting and presentation – Youtube

Presentation – pdf (77 Mb), pptx (69 Mb) – please right click and “Download link as…”

May 9, 2015 – Presentations at the CU

Posted by as Special Events

Presentations in the Centre of the Universe Auditorium

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Speaker: Garry Sedun, HIA

Presented as part of the Summer Star Parties on Observatory Hill event

8:15 pm – Weird Things in Space

1) Come and see how big the universe is
2) Look though a real time machine
3) How can you make your friends look blue or red by travelling really fast
4) How could you grow old way slower than your friends by travelling in space
5) How far apart are the stars?
6) What happens when galaxies hit each other?

And please come up with your own “Weird Things” and we’ll see if we can find them.

9:15 pm – Up Close to REALLY BIG THINGS in Space

1) What do the rings of Saturn look like really close up?
2) What does a comet look like really close up ?
3) What does our sun look like really close up?
4) What does a back hole look like? ( How close can we go?)
5) What can swallow 300 million suns and not even have indigestion? Open up……

President’s Message, May 2015.

Posted by as President's Message

Way to go, Victoria Centre! Astronomy Day on April 25th was a great success once again, thanks to the hard work of the organizers and volunteers. We entertained 800 visitors at the Royal BC Museum during the day, and another 177 at the DAO later that evening. That makes a total of 5,416 “Galileo Moments”, or individual guests we have informed and entertained over 42 separate events since September 1st. We’re pretty popular!

Our Saturday evening Summer Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory have begun again for the second year, with the support of the DAO/NRC and a great many RASC, FDAO, and UVic volunteers. This year, we have the Centre of the Universe building open as well, with its exhibits, and we even have the planetarium open. The May 2nd evening was a little slow, but I expect things to pick up, as we get the word out. You can find out more about these great public events on our main page at: You can help spread the word by telling your friends, co-workers, and so on, and by printing out our poster and putting it up in public places.

I’d like to mention the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO); a newly-formed partner group to RASC-Victoria, who are working on a long-term plan to keep the DAO open for summer public visits. Track their progress.

And, don’t forget to check our calendar for upcoming RASC events such as observing on the UVic telescope, and Bruce’s popular Cattle Point sessions.

Clear skies,