For safety reasons, we are limited to hosting 200 visitors at the Observatory at a time. If you arrive and are turned away, please try again later, or on another Saturday evening. We are open twelve Saturday evenings this summer to help accommodate you. Our apologies for any inconvenience.
Please note there is absolutely no stopping or parking along West Saanich Road adjacent to the Observatory entrance. Smoking anywhere on Observatory grounds is also prohibited.
If you require assistance while at the Observatory, please ask any of the Commissionaires, or RASC members on site. RASC members can be identified by their safety vests.
Busy busy busy! Lots of progress to share on various Victoria Centre projects this month. International Astronomy Day is April 25th this year, and once again we will be hosting a daytime public event at the Royal British Columbia Museum downtown, with our usual lineup of exciting displays and public-outreach activities. And we continue IAD at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory later that evening with more public activities.
We have just received approval from Dr. Greg Fahlman at the NRC for our Summer Saturday public evenings at the DAO. The first evening will be part of International Astronomy Day, then we begin in earnest on Saturday, May 2nd. We have expanded the number of Saturday evenings over last year’s program, but have skipped a few Saturdays around the summer solstice due to the lack of darkness. We have also set up protocols to help avoid the barely-controlled chaos we experienced on certain evenings last summer! Many thanks to Lauri Roche, Jim Hesser, Nelson Walker, and Don Moffatt on the RASC side, as well as Greg Fahlman, Kevin Farris, and Morrick Vincent of the NRC, all of whom worked very hard to make this program happen. Volunteers are gratefully needed for the above events; I hope you will consider offering a few hours of your time.
And a little more good news from the Hill: we have been granted two nights on the Plaskett telescope. Active Observers, mark your calendars: May 15 and June 19. You do need to be on the Active Observers list for Plaskett nights, so if you want to become an Active Observer, contact us and we’ll tell you how. Other RASC observing sessions upcoming (where you don’t need to be an Active Observer) are UVic; Friday April 10, and Cattle Point; Friday April 24. Email reminders will be sent in advance of these sessions.
Despite uncooperative weather for the Messier Marathon, the last UVic and Cattle Point sessions, hope springs eternal. Keep those fingers crossed for better weather as we swing into high gear!
Frontiers in Adaptive Optics and Stellar Spectroscopy: Searching for the First Stars Ever Formed – Masen Lamb, PhD student at the University of Victoria working in Astronomy and Telescope instrumentation
To compete with space telescopes such as Hubble, current (and future) optical ground based telescopes employ a technology called Adaptive Optics. This technology uses mirrors to cancel out the affects of the atmosphere and provide near diffraction-limited images. One application of Adaptive Optics in astronomy is to resolve dense regions of stars in the centre of our Galaxy. When this application is combined with infrared spectroscopy we can start to hunt for the oldest stars in our Galaxy. I will talk about the latest technologies in both Adaptive Optics and stellar spectroscopy and discuss some of their astronomical implications.
Masen Lamb is a PhD student at the University of Victoria working in Astronomy and Telescope instrumentation. His astronomy work is done at the university while his instrumentation work is at NRC – Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA). Masen Lamb’s website
The Messier Marathon will be held on Saturday, March 21, 2015 here in Victoria, hosted by Michel Michaud, our Observing Co-Chair. If the weather looks poor for Saturday, Michel may move the event ahead a day to Friday night (the 20th). RASC members should be designated Active Observers, since this event will be held at our observatory (and other locations) on Observatory Hill, which is behind a locked gate. Michel will send out go/no go notifications on our email list for Active Observers.
RASC Victoria Centre also encourages the general public to participate in your own Messier Marathon. All you need is a dark site to observe from with an unobstructed view of the souther half of the horizon. Click on the above event for useful information about how to observe celestial objects in an efficient manner, so you have a chance to see all 110 objects on the list!
Despite the emptiness of space, mergers between galaxies are surprisingly common. Around 1% of galaxies in the nearby Universe are currently experiencing an interaction of some kind. I will describe research that uses both observations and computer simulations to trace the dramatic effect of these interactions on a galaxy’s history: how the interaction can lead to massive bursts of star formation, alter the interstellar chemistry and even provide fuel for the central supermassive black hole.
Welcome to March, the month with the most annoying time change of the year. At least for some of us old souls, who have enough trouble staying awake at night. Not only do we lose an hour of sleep, we lose an hour of evening observing time. What a rip! But to make up for that, there’s lots of pleasant news to share with you this month.
First off, join me in welcoming our new Media Liaison officer, Edward Wiebe. With all the events we have planned and all the media enquires we receive, Council felt it wise to create a Media Liaison position to help manage the flow of information to the public. Thanks, Ed!
Next up on the list of positive developments: Metchosin District Council has agreed to waive the fee for the star party field again this year, so the event can proceed. And at the same meeting on February 23rd, Metchosin Council also officially passed their Dark Sky Policy. Thanks to Mayor Ranns and Councillors on both counts.
The DAO Saturday Night public observing nights committee has worked hard at developing a proposal for the upcoming season, which has been submitted to the HIA for consideration. There was a lot to consider! Opening up the DAO to the public entails a lot of work, with many, many details to be worked out. Huge thanks to Lauri Roche, Don Moffatt, Dr Jim Hesser, and Melisa Yestrau for all your efforts. Now we await the results.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pleasant -and quite unexpected- email from Dave Balam at the DAO, offering three evenings in the next quarter on the 72” Plaskett telescope, for Victoria Centre members. Nice! I hope we can make that work, and I’ll let you know how that turns out. Meanwhile, don’t forget our next scheduled session on the UVic 32” telescope on March 13. We will send a reminder email prior to that date. And the Messier Marathon for Active Observers, on the evening of March 23rd. If you want to participate, email Michel at: email@example.com.
So, apart from the time change, March brings plenty to look forward to!
How about that comet, eh? Nothing like a lovely comet to make winter skies seem less gloomy, and Comet Lovejoy put on quite a show over the last few weeks. I think, after auroras, comets are my favourite night-sky things to observe and photograph, and we were lucky to have three separate arctic outbreaks this winter, bringing clear sparkling skies for observing. I hope you were able to get out and enjoy them.
As you may know, March is Messier Marathon month; this year the new moon is on March 20, so that weekend should be great for anyone who wants to try this challenging event. If you do, please let our Observing Chairs, Jim Stilburn or Michel Michaud know as soon as possible by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will set up a session. If there isn’t the interest, we will let it pass for this year.
Plans are well underway for various upcoming events, such as Astronomy Day, and the RASCals Summer Star Party in Metchosin. We will pass along details as they become available.
We have good news for those of you you cannot make the monthly meetings, yet would like to see them: we will begin broadcasting them live over the Web starting immediately with February’s meeting. . After a false start, much discussion about privacy and personal comfort levels -not to mention many emails in favour of live broadcasts- Council has decided to give it a try. Our Admin will send out an email to the Skynews email list each month with instructions on how to view these broadcasts. See you at the meetings. Or at least, you will see us!
RASC Victoria Monthly Meeting – Jan 14, 2015, 7:30PM at University of Victoria, Bob Wright Building A104
Speakers: John McDonald & Reg Dunkley – Rare Meteor Manifestations
While photographing the Geminid meteor shower this year, John McDonald managed to capture part of a very bright meteor track and smoke plume near the Orion Constellation. Subsequently, John and Reg Dunkley have analyzed the data and speculated on this rare phenomena.
Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2015, the International Year of Light. We are working on a number of public events to celebrate IYL 2015, in collaboration with Natasha Van Bentum. You may remember Natasha; she and her husband Henri participated with us in IYA 2009. I know we’re all looking forward to working with her again!
John McDonald (Victoria Centre) and Russ Robb (UVic) have reinstated the UVic observing sessions, so watch for upcoming email announcements and mark your calendars; they’re scheduled for Jan 16, Feb 13, Mar 13, Apr 10, and May 8. These sessions are primarily visual (although you’re welcome to bring a camera to try a little focal photography). We will be able to view and study lots of great celestial objects with the university’s 32” telescope. These sessions are open to ALL Victoria Centre members, not just those on the Active Observer’s list. Big thanks to John and Russ!
And speaking of great celestial objects: don’t forget Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Rising rapidly in the south, it will pass just to the west of Orion, Taurus, and into Perseus this month. It’s a little brighter than predicted and is already a lovely sight in binos and backyard telescopes. Go out and have a look!
Wishing you clear skies, and a wonderful year ahead,