President’s Message September 2015

Posted by as President's Message

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!

Clear skies,

Sherry.

CANCELLED – Summer Star Party at the DAO – Aug 29, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, August 29, 2015

 Event Info


Sorry everyone, with no power and no idea of when it may be back on, tonight’s public star party at the DAO is CANCELLED.


 

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”
  • “Science in Space: Educational Fun for Kids of All Ages”: 7:30 to 10:00 pm Virtual Reality with Science Venture from UVIC and sponsored, in part, by the UVIC Alumni Association.

Auditorium Presentations:

8:00-8:30 – How to build a Universe – Sebastien Lavoie

Our representation of the Universe has evolved throughout the ages. From the first men to Ptolemy, we have always tried to understand the skies. Modern astronomers have access to tools that their ancestors did not even dream of. This lead to multiple big and small revolutions in our understanding of the Universe in the last centuries. We retrace some of these moments that shaped our knowledge of the Universe.

Bio: Sebastien Lavoie is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria. Prior to that he obtained his MSc in Quebec City. He studies the evolution of massive galaxies in clusters.

Dwarf galaxy
Dwarf galaxy

8:30-9:00 – What dwarfs teach us about galaxy formation – Azadeh Fattahi

The standard model of cosmology has been very successful in explaining the galaxy formation and structures in large scales, but observations on smaller scales raised potential questions about the validity of the model. Studying faint galaxies (dwarfs), therefore, has become more important for understanding the galaxy formation framework.

Bio: Azadeh was born and raised in Iran. She studied Physics for her BSc in Tehran-Iran at the Sharif University of Technology. In 2011 she moved to UVic for her MSc in Astronomy, transferring into a PhD program in 2013.

9:00 and 9:30 – Live from Gemini is a video field trip to the Gemini North telescope. People experience Gemini’s latest science and discover the excitement of scientific exploration of our universe and interact with a Gemini astronomer in Hawaii.

Host: Dr. Dennis R. Crabtree, A/ Director Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics

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.

RASCals Star Party – Aug 21-23, 2015 in Metchosin

Posted by as Special Events

August 21-23, 2015

Metchosin Municipal Grounds behind the Metchosin Fire Hall, 4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada – on beautiful Vancouver Island

The weather was near perfect for our RASCals Star Party this year for both nights, Friday and Saturday. There were some bleary-eyed observers leaving the Metchosin Cricket Field on Sunday! Many people camped on the field and setup their telescopes to take advantage of the nice dark skies at this rural site. RASC members and the public enjoyed a great two days of everything to do with astronomy. There were some very nice door prizes give away this year, including laser pointers, books, toys (for grownups and kids), binoculars and a telescope!

Schedule of Events

Friday 21st

  • 12:00pm – Gates open.
  • 8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes.
  • 8:30pm – Presentation- Hubble History, Dr Chris Gainor.
  • 9:30pm –Guided Telescope Walk , followed by viewing of the night sky.
  • 10:00pm until dawn: observing!

Saturday 22nd

  • Solar viewing – all day.
  • 3:00pm – Workshop (gazebo): Astronomy Apps for desktop and Mobile, David Lee.
  • 4:00pm: Introduction to Astronomy, Sherry Buttnor.
  • 8:00pm – Door prizes.
  • 8:30pm – Speaker- Exploring Mars: a Cartographer’s View, Dr. Phil Stooke.
  • 9:30pm – Guided Telescope Walk, followed by viewing of the night sky
  • 10:00pm until dawn: observing!

Sunday 23rd

  • Cleanup
  • 12 noon – departures

Photos from the Star Party


Our speakers start their talks just after sunset each evening.

August 21, 2015 speaker: Hubble History by Dr. Chris Gainor

Chris Gainor
Chris Gainor

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. This talk will summarize that quarter century of astronomical advances that has changed how we look at the universe and how astronomy is done. HST had a difficult start when it was discovered that its main mirror suffered from spherical aberration, a problem that was overcome by a crew of space shuttle astronauts that installed new instruments on Hubble. When a later shuttle repair mission was cancelled in 2004, an outcry from astronomers and the public led to the mission being restored. Today Hubble is still going strong with its new instruments. Chris will tell the story of Hubble’s operations in orbit based on the research he is doing for a book telling the history of HST.

Bio: Chris Gainor is a historian of technology and writer specializing in space exploration and aeronautics who is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is the author of four books, and his writings have appeared in various specialty publications and Canadian newspapers. He holds a PhD in the history of technology from the University of Alberta, and has taught history at the University of Victoria and at CFB Esquimalt for the Royal Military College of Canada. He is First Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a former president of the Victoria Centre of the RASC. Chris is also International Space Programs Editor for Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly, and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. He is also known for bringing history alive through his appearances as Sir Winston Churchill.

Phil Stooke with his Mars Atlas
Phil Stooke with his Mars Atlas

August 22, 2015 speaker: Exploring Mars – a Cartographer’s View – Dr. Philip Stooke

Abstract: This talk will summarize the history of Mars exploration with many illustrations from Phil’s books. The story will begin with telescopic views and the earliest NASA and Soviet missions, and will extend to recent activities by the rovers Opportunity and Curiosity. Much more than just a collection of press releases, the presentation will delve into many unfamiliar aspects of Mars exploration. How were the various landing sites chosen? Where was the Soviet Mars 7 supposed to land? What was underneath Viking 1? And how do we know where Opportunity is on any given day?

Bio: Phil Stooke grew up in England and eventually attended U. Vic, where he completed a B.Sc. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in 1988. Since then he has taught cartography and planetary science at the University of Western Ontario. Phil’s Ph.D. topic was mapping methods for non-spherical objects such as asteroids, and many of his maps are now available through NASA’s Planetary Data System. He continues to work in that area, most recently compiling digital maps of comets Borrelly and Hartley 2 and asteroids Eros and Itokawa. Phil has also written on the history of lunar and planetary cartography, and he has compiled several large reference works on lunar and Mars exploration. His International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and International Atlas of Mars Exploration are available in the U. Vic. Library, and a second volume on Mars exploration, covering the current rover missions, is in press.

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – Aug 8, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, August 8, 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”
  • “Science in Space: Educational Fun for Kids of All Ages”: 7:30 to 10:00 pm Virtual Reality with Science Venture from UVIC and sponsored, in part, by the UVIC Alumni Association.

Auditorium Presentations:

8:00 pm “The Gemini Planet Imager, A New Era of Imaging Exoplanets has begun” – Dr. Christian Marois, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria.

Bio: Dr. Marois is a National Research Council astronomer and a pioneer in the field of imaging exoplanets. He started the field a decade ago as a graduate student, and he is now deeply involved in the Gemini Planet Imager campaign, the thirty meter telescope, and space observatory concepts to push the boundary of the field to one day take images of another Earth.

9:00PM “What’s up in the Sky Tonight” – David Lee, RASC Victoria Centre.

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.

TONIGHT ONLY: A “Mars Rover” Robotic Demonstration from the FIXIT 3491 team that went to the World Robotic Championships in St. Louis Missouri earlier this year.

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.

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – Aug 1, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, August 1, 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:

8:00 pm “Climate Change – Where are the Essential Data?” – Dr. Elizabeth Griffin, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria.

Bio: Elizabeth Griffin carries out research into binary stars, using data obtained at the DAO with the smaller (1.2-m) telescope. Her work sometimes needs to incorporate historical data from photographic plates, and that connection has led to a broader involvement with “Data Rescue” in other sciences worldwide and what “old data” mean for them too. She has also studied the Earth’s ozone using astronomical data, and is a passionate speaker on the role of science, as well as technology, in addressing climate change.

9:00PM “What’s up in the Sky Tonight” – David Lee, 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.

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.

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – July 25, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, July 25, 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:

8:00 pm  & 9:00PM “Apollo: Astronauts Explore the Moon” – 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.

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.

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – July 18, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, July 18, 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:

8:00 pm  & 9:00PM “Pluto: Once a Dot of Light, Now a World” – Dr. Michele Bannister, University of Victoria

Bio: Dr Michele Bannister is a planetary astronomer at the University of Victoria and NRC Herzberg who specialises in the study of the outer Solar System. She is the postdoctoral fellow for the Outer Solar System Origins Survey, a Canadian-led effort to discover hundreds of new icy worlds in the Kuiper belt.

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.

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!

~Sherry.

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