Messier Marathon – March 20 or 21, 2015

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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.

Members-only Event

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!

Monthly meeting speaker: Galaxy mergers in the nearby Universe – Dr. Sara Ellison, Professor, UVic Physics & Astronomy

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This large “flying V” is actually two distinct objects — a pair of interacting galaxies known as IC 2184. Both the galaxies are seen almost edge-on in the large, faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), and can be seen as bright streaks of light surrounded by the ghostly shapes of their tidal tails.
This large “flying V” is actually two distinct objects — a pair of interacting galaxies known as IC 2184. Both the galaxies are seen almost edge-on in the large, faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), and can be seen as bright streaks of light surrounded by the ghostly shapes of their tidal tails.

March 11, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

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.

Sara Ellison’s website

Video of the presentation live and online.

Presentation slide deck (pdf)

President’s Message March 2015

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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: michelmichaud@shaw.ca.
So, apart from the time change, March brings plenty to look forward to!

Clear skies,
Sherry.

Presidents Message February 2015

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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: obschair@victoria.rasc.ca 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!

Clear skies, everyone.

Sherry.

Jan 14, 2015 Speakers: John McDonald & Reg Dunkley – Rare Meteor Manifestations

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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.

Meteor Plume – online gallery

Video of meteor plume
RASC Victoria Centre: Recent Astrophotos &emdash; Meteor smoke plume expanding

President’s message, January 2015

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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,

Sherry.

Speaker: The Construction of the DAO – Dan Posey

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RASC Victoria Monthly Meeting – Dec 10, 2014, 7:30PM at University of Victoria, Bob Wright Building B150

 

’Astronomers’ Work is of Great Value’: The Construction of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Foundations of the Modern Canadian Astronomy Program, 1905-1930 by Dan Posey

 

daoThe Canadian astronomical program rapidly expanded under the guidance of William King and John Stanley Plaskett at the turn of the twentieth century. The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, constructed between 1914 and 1918 was considered an engineering marvel in its time, that radically departed from traditional designs, and was briefly the world’s largest operating telescope upon its completion. This presentation will examine how the construction of the observatory represented a shift in the commitment to scientific programs by the Canadian federal government, and the observatory’s place within a growing national identity during the First World War. Further, it will assess the cultural implications of the project for British Columbians and the establishment of an astronomical tradition for the province.

Dan Posey is a second-year graduate student in the University of Victoria’s History program. He completed his undergraduate degree from the same institution in 2012. His thesis focuses on the history of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and its contributions to both Canadian Astronomy and British Columbia throughout the twentieth century.

President’s message December 2014

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I would first like to start off by thanking the previous Victoria Centre Council and committees for their outstanding work during their terms, and to welcome the new Council to their positions for the upcoming one. Looking at the names of those who served before us makes me realize we have some pretty big shoes to fill, but we definitely are ready for the challenge.
The coming year looks exciting, and we are already working on events such as our own summer star party, Saturday night public observing at the DAO, various outreach events, and even the total solar eclipse in 2017. It will be a fun year!
There is, however, something you can help me with. We are now just at around 200 members, and many of those are new to the RASC, and astronomy. I would like to know what we can do for you to make your experience in astronomy positive, and enjoyable. This is YOUR Centre. Please always feel free to bring your ideas and comments to Council by email, phone, or at a Council or general meeting.
So let’s make the beginning of the Victoria Centre’s second century as great as its first!

Clear skies,
Sherry.

AGM, Awards & Elections

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Victoria Centre’s Annual General Meeting and dinner was held on Nov 16, 2014 at Moon Under Water Pub in Victoria, BC, Canada.

After enjoying a delicious dinner, and a fascinating presentation by Dr. James Di Francesco on the latest discoveries coming out of the Atacama Large Meter Array in Chile, awards were presented, reports were given, and an election of officers was held.

Nelson Walker presented Certificates of Appreciation to the whole key General Assembly 2014 team:

  • John McDonald – Registration
  • Chris Purse – Registration
  • Reg Dunkley – Registration
  • Deb Crawford – Hospitality
  • Nelson Walker – Finance
  • Lauri Roche – Papers and Presentations
  • Jim Hesser – Papers and Presentations
  • David Lee – Audio / Visual
  • Sherry Buttnor – Audio / Visual
  • Charles Banville – Transportation

David Lee was presented with the Award of Excellence in Astrophotography for his photos of the Partial Solar Eclipse Oct 2014.

Jim Stillburn was presented with the Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making for the fabrication of his custom 10 inch Optical/Reflector Tube Assembly

Mark Bohlman and Paul Schumacher were presented as co-winners of the Newton – Ball Service Award 2014 for their management of the 2014 National General Assembly.

Outgoing President Nelson Walker was presented with a Certificate of Excellence for his excellent leadership of Victoria Centre.

A new slate of officers were all elected by acclamation. Congratulations to all!  See list here.

President’s Message – November 2014

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Of the organizations that I have belonged to in my life, professional associations, sports clubs, conservation groups, and neighborhood associations, this one, RASC Victoria Centre, has been one of the best, if not THE best. I am honored that for two years I have been its president.

Let me explain why. In my experience, most such groups feature an impenetrable inner circle, a leadership that cannot separate its own interests from the group’s interests, and a mission that is largely ignored in practice. Not so with Victoria Centre. Its leadership positions are easily available to all, and rotate regularly. Its culture is one of inclusion, not exclusion. Best of all, its mission, public outreach, modest though it may seem when compared to the more important sounding missions of larger, but less successful groups, is front-and-center, and is practiced with enthusiasm by most of the members.

This last year stands as a testament to this club’s strength: an enviable national convention held at a first-class university, an astronomy day event held in a downtown Victoria landmark, and the successful resurrection of public tours and night-sky viewing from the DAO after they appeared to be lost among government budget cuts which seem to have become so common today. Most remarkably, these “signature” events were held in addition to our usual array of outreach events.

I could go on, but I won’t. Thanks to everyone in the club that makes its success possible. The energy and competence of our members is, well, amazing.