Summer Star Parties 2016 at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory!

Posted by as Special Events

Back for 2016! The Victoria Centre will be hosting thirteen Saturday Evenings at the DAO, featuring guest speakers, solar and nighttime observing with telescopes provided by RASC-Victoria Centre volunteers, tours of the historic Plaskett telescope, and more! Rain or shine, we will have something for everyone to experience.

Dates begin with International Astronomy Day on May 14th. Here are all the dates:
May 14, 21, 28. June 4, 11. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30. August 6, 13, 20.

PLEASE NOTE: due to the extreme traffic congestion in previous years, admission is now by ticket ONLY. Tickets are FREE and will be available during the week preceding each Saturday evening from our EventBrite site: https://summerstarparties.eventbrite.ca

See you there!

poster_2016_SAUNDERS-page-001

LIGHT POLLUTION ABATEMENT: You can help!

Posted by as News, Uncategorized

                           Help get Light Pollution Abatement on the Federal Government’s Radar

The Federal Government Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019 is open for public comment until mid-June. http://www.letstalksustainability.ca/intro

The words Light Pollution and Outdoor Lighting occur nowhere in the current draft of this document. Here is an opportunity for each of us to help get light pollution’s impact on our planet onto the government’s radar! The more individual submissions addressing the destructive effects of lighting up the nocturnal environment, the greater the chance that the message will be heard and heeded. (There will be submission from RASC as well.)

Choose your ‘pet peeve’ (other than in ruining the night sky) about LP – e.g., its impact on ecosystems and the environment, health (all species), quality of life, biodiversity, greenhouse gases, sustainable natural resources, climate change, Indigenous Peoples, etc. (all key words in the Fed’s Development Strategy plan), go to the website, and contribute a few minutes to the planning of a sustainable future for Canada. More information and an explanation of the detrimental impact of bad outdoor lighting are at http://victoria.rasc.ca/night-lighting/ and http://www.rasc.ca/outdoor-lighting.

President’s message April 2016

Posted by as President's Message

Finally some nice weather! I hope you’ve been able to get out there and observe. I had a bunch of astrophotography targets lined up for when (or if!) we had a run of clear weather, but it was so lovely out the past few nights all, I could do was roll out a Dob and just do some good old-fashioned stargazing. It was wonderful.
And it isn’t just me. I’m happy to report that we have had several terrific observing sessions at our own Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO), too. It’s been a long and cloudy winter…we deserve some clear skies!

For our members -new and otherwise- who want to join us at the VCO, you have to be registered as an “Active Observer”. Just shoot me an email, and I’ll tell you how. The VCO is a very cool facility, and we’re fortunate to have it. I encourage you to join us there!

I’m also happy to report that plans for International Astronomy Day on May 14th are coming together nicely, thanks to Nelson Walker and David Lee, who have been working hard at getting volunteers and guest speakers together. Thank you, David and Nelson. You have no idea how much I appreciate you taking on these tasks! Many thanks also to Kim Gough at RBCM for her assistance with IAD.

We also have reached an agreement with the National Research Council and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory to run our summer Saturday public “star parties” for thirteen Saturday evenings, beginning on IAD, May 14. One major change this year will be the requirement for all visitors to have a free EventBrite ticket to get in. For the past couple of years, our summer public star parties at the DAO have been so tremendously popular (and with amazing volunteers like you, how could they not be?) that we have experienced traffic chaos at the main gate. So many visitors show up that traffic at the gate and on W.Saanich Rd has been uncontrollable. So this year, we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a ticketing system for entry is necessary.

So…if you are talking to friends, family, or the public, please mention they will need a free EventBrite ticket to get in. Our awesome tech guy Matt Watson (or one of our awesome tech guys) is putting the EventBrite site together. Details to come.

And I’m similarly pleased to report that the District of Metchosin has finally approved our request to use their cricket field for our RASCals Star Party again this year. So that’s officially a go for August 26-28.

Lots of happy stuff to report this month! And here are some other great things we have on that you won’t want to miss:
UVic observing session: Friday April 8, 7:45pm. All Victoria Centre members welcome.
Cattle Point observing session: date TBA. All are welcome.
April’s monthly general meeting: Wednesday April 13, 7:30pm ROOM ELL167.  Dr Helen Kirk will be speaking about “watching the birth of stars with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Herschel Space Telescope”. Sounds amazing!  (room ELL167 is in the smaller building directly behind the Elliott Building. That’s the building where we go for coffee and cookies after each monthly meeting. Go through the Elliott lobby and out the far doors to get to ELL167)
And just a reminder that we are still selling raffle tickets, the prize is a very cool Meade ETS-LX 6″ SCT telescope on a LightSwitch goto mount with some accessories. See Sid, and buy lots! The draw is at out June monthly meeting.

Clear skies!
Sherry.

APRIL’S MONTHLY MEETING GUEST SPEAKER: Dr. Helen Kirk: Watching the birth of stars with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory.

Posted by as Meetings, Uncategorized

Have you ever wondered how stars are born? In this presentation, we’ll dive
deep into the hearts of molecular clouds, vast reservoirs of gas and dust which
are the birthplace for stars. Our tour will include stunning recent results from the
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, facilities
where Canadian astronomers have been making major strides in revealing clues
as to how and why stars form.
Bio:
Dr Helen Kirk is a Research Associate with the Herzberg Astrophysics program
at the National Research Council of Canada. She has previously worked as a
researcher at McMaster University and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, and prior to that, obtained her MSc and PhD from the University of
Victoria. Helen is thrilled to have been honoured with two awards associated
with the RASC: in 2010, she received the Plaskett medal, a joint CASCA-RASC
award for the best Canadian astronomy thesis in the past two years, and in 2003,
she received the RASC Gold Award from the Toronto Centre of the RASC for
high achievement as an undergraduate in astronomy at the University of Toronto.

NOTE ROOM CHANGE TO ELL167 IN THE ELLIOTT LECTURE THEATRE (small building behind the Elliott Building where we meet after monthly meetings)

March Monthly Meeting Guest Speaker: Dr. James DiFrancesco- The Secret Sits.

Posted by as Meetings

“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”

“I will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sgr A*.  This curious object is our closest Galactic Nucleus, and will soon  be observed at extraordinarily high resolution (~15 micro-arcseconds) using a world-wide network of high-frequency radio telescopes in a very coordinated effort to detect accretion disk close to its event horizon.”
James Di Francesco is an RASC member who works at the NRC Herzberg Programs in Astronomy and Astrophysics.  He was born in Ontario and received his BSc in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toronto in 1990, and his PhD in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.  After completing postdoctoral appointments at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA and the University of California, Berkeley, James joined NRC in 2002.

President’s Message March 2016

Posted by as President's Message

Rain rain, go away……good grief, will it ever stop? Sure would be nice to see some interstellar photons again, wouldn’t it?

Fortunately, the Victoria Centre has within it’s membership many volunteers who are very good at indoor activities. Take Lauri Roche and Sid Sidhu, for example. These two dedicated RASCals have gone into our local schools 48 times in the last few months, and educated some 1800 students. These involve classroom talks, and night sky viewing. Pretty amazing! And they have more planned. And what about Bruce Lane, our capable Treasurer? He organized and facilitated a very successful Hobby Show at Westshore Town Centre Mall in February, where we had 843 visitors stop by our display. Thanks, everyone, and well done!
Next major event is International Astronomy Day, on May 14th. Nelson Walker is taking the lead on the daytime segment at the Royal British Columbia Museum, then we continue on to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory for the evening portion. Hope you can volunteer a few hours at one of these. The evening portion also kicks off our immensely popular Summer Saturdays at the DAO. More below.

Meanwhile, though, we have our normally scheduled observing events for our members, all weather dependant:
-RASCals at Cattle Point on March 4th. Bruce Lane’s popular observing get-together at Victoria’s own Urban Dark-Sky park.
-UVic observing on March 11th. Another popular RASCals event. Observing on the 32” telescope is amazing!
-Messier Marathon on March 12th at the Victoria Centre Observatory. A long but fun observing run: try to see all 110 Messier objects in one night. Many have tried, few have succeeded! Contact Michel Michaud if you’d like to participate: VP@victoria.rasc.ca
And don’t forget our weekly Astronomy Cafe, every Monday in Fairfield. John, Reg, and Chris are your hosts for a fun, informal evening, often with great guest speakers. Astro Cafe is a great way for newcomers to RASC or astronomy to meet us! victoria.rasc.ca/events/astro-cafe/

Our monthly meeting is on Wednesday March 9th, 7:30pm, in room B150 in the Bob Wright building. This is a change from our regular room A104. B150 is in the same building, but on the far side of the main lobby. March’s guest speaker is Dr. James DiFrancesco, who whose presentation is:
“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”” James will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A.
James is a Victoria Centre member, and a professional astronomer at the DAO. His talks are very popular, so don’t miss it!

As mentioned above, The evening portion of IAD also kicks off our Summer Saturdays at the DAO. Plans are well underway to hold 13 Saturday evening public openings this year, but without as many breaks as last year, which was a little confusing to the public. I will provide more details as they are worked out between RASC, NRC/DAO, and FDAO. And speaking of FDAO (Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), here is an update on their progress, kindly provided by Chair Ben Dorman. RASC and FDAO will be the main collaborators on upcoming events at the DAO:

1) FDAO’s fundraiser at the Bateman Centre last November “Science and Culture in the Inner Harbour” was sold out and raised just over $5000. The money from this and the Indiegogo Fundraiser [August-Oct], which  raised an additional $3400, is being put towards a pilot programme for schools which is being actively worked on, plus enabling administration for the society. (As an aside, our AGM at which we will present financial reports is to be held before the end of our first year of operation, which is the beginning of June). It is expected that the school programme to start in a  very limited fashion either later in the spring or [more likely] in the fall.
2) FDAO’s current membership list has 183 names including family members.
3) FDAO held an event for members of FDAO and RASC on 2016 Feb 13 at DAO, including [unfortunately] cloudy skies, but a great presentation from NRC astronomer JJ Kavelaars.
4) FDAO is shortly to conclude an agreement with NRC which is a ‘License to Occupy’ both the Centre of the Universe Building and the Plaskett Dome – naturally, for public science outreach purposes. The net effect of this for RASC is intended to be no extra paperwork and hopefully some of the administrative load for Saturday nights being taken on in future by FDAO. RASC will continue to determine Saturday night dates and programming as for the last few years.
Current state is that an agreement approved by NRC in Ottawa has been reviewed by FDAO and NRC/DAO and is awaiting final revisions. We expect to sign the agreement sometime in March.
5)   FDAO has been working on other potential public tours with cruise line operators. For 2016 this programme will be limited to a few [possibly only one] selected dates.
6) FDAO is shortly going to start a program to attract volunteers for various roles on the Hill. This will ultimately assist with guides on public tours and possibly also on Saturday nights as required/requested.

Lots of great stuff coming up at RASC-Victoria! I hope you will join in as a volunteer, or a participant. See you out there!

Clear skies,
Sherry.

president@victoria.rasc.ca

February Monthly Meeting speaker: Sebastien Lavoie-How to Build a Universe.

Posted by as Meetings

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.

President’s Message February 2016

Posted by as President's Message

Writer’s block! Gosh…I’ve been wracking my (admittedly tiny) brain for days, trying to come up with a positive message. I was hoping to report that we had good crowds at Cattle Point, a great turnout at the UVic observatory, great times at the VCO, that Comet Catalina looked amazing…but I only recall all the crummy weather and cancelled observing sessions lately. I can’t remember such a dismal period as this last few weeks. Even my cats have their paws crossed for better weather; they know mommy’s getting grumpy!
Still lots to look forward to, though! Have a look:
Hobby Show: Feb 6, 7, 8 at Westshore Town Centre mall.
Monthly meeting: Feb 10 (see below)
UVic observing: Feb 12. We will be visiting Orion and the area.

And longer term: International Astronomy Day (May 14th) is also confirmed as the start of our Summer Saturdays at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. Still lots of details to work out, but the dates this year are:
May 14, 21, 28. June 4, 11. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30. August 6, 13, 20.
I know I can count on our faithful volunteers to bring telescopes for parking lot duty, but we also need:
-two or three people to train in, and operate the indoor planetarium (it’s fun!)
-one or two people to train on, and operate the Plaskett telescope as a backup to Dave Balam.
-two or three people to give talks in the Plaskett dome.
Please contact me asap is you’re interested in any of these cool opportunities!

In other news: I’ve started an email list for the total solar eclipse in August 2017. At January’s meeting and at Astro Cafe, an interest sheet was passed around, and enough interest was shown to make it feasible to put together some sort of expedition to central Oregon for Victoria Centre members. If you missed the interest sheet but want to join in, please email me at:  popokinui@shaw.ca
I may make a Facebook group for this purpose as well, so stay tuned.
For our February monthly meeting on the both, we are excited to have Sebastien Lavoie as our guest speaker:
How to Build a Universe.
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.
Don’t miss it!

Clear (hopefully) skies!
Sherry.