June Speaker: Going Interstellar: When and How Will We Travel to the Nearest Stars?

Posted by as Meetings

Matthew Williams

7:30PM Wednesday, June 12th 2019

Room A104 Bob Wright Centre, UVic

The dream of traveling to the nearest stars is one that has haunted the public imagination for centuries. But it has only been in the past few decades that we have been able to contemplate what such a journey would look like. And in recent years, the desire to send missions to neighboring planets – and also neighboring stars – has reemerged with a vengeance. There are many reasons for this: the Voyager 1 and 2 probes recently joined each other in interstellar space, the discovery of exoplanets (including one next door) has inspired scientists to look for life on them directly, and emerging technology has been making space travel cheaper and more accessible. But how (and when) will we “go interstellar”? As with most things having to do with space exploration, the simplest answers are: “How fast do we need to get there?” and “How much are we willing to spend?”

Matthew S Williams is a professional writer for Universe Today and Interesting Engineering. His articles have been featured in Phys.org, HeroX, Popular Mechanics, Business Insider, Gizmodo and IO9, Science Alert, Knowridge Science Report, and Real Clear Science, with topics ranging from astronomy and Earth sciences to technological advances, environmental issues, and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI). He is a former teacher, a science-fiction author, and a 5th degree Black Belt Tae Kwon-Do instructor. He lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and family.

President’s Message: June 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

The final Astro Cafe of the season ended in fine form on Monday May 27th with an epic cookie fest. Astro cookie architect Diane Bell kindly brought tasty replicas of the M87 Black Hole. Meanwhile there were concerns that the emergency biscuit stockpile may not fair well over the summer break. So RASCals rallied to the challenge and by evenings end there was not a Viva Puff to be found. Thanks must go to Astro Cafe hosts Barbara and Kurt Lane, John McDonald and Chris Purse for maintaining such a welcoming and informal tone to the gatherings. This encouraged attendees of all ages to showcase their stunning images and projects, demonstrate techniques and gear, ask and answer questions, discuss breaking news, and share their enthusiasm and passion for all things astronomical. Thanks must also go to the presenters who made these evenings so informative and entertaining. If you have not made it to an Astro Cafe yet, doors will re-open at 7:30 PM on Monday September 9th in the Portable at Fairfield Community Centre … and oh yes … please bring a reusable mug.

We still have one more monthly meeting to go before the summer intermission. On Wednesday, June 12th, science journalist Matt Williams will give a talk on Interstellar Exploration. With the growing alarm about global warming, the search for exoplanets seems to have morphed into a “house hunting” mission. Even if we identify a suitable new planet, can we get there? Matt will explore the challenges involved and assess the feasibility. Maybe it will be easier to take better care of our home planet.

While many organizations take a break over the Summer, Victoria Centre RASCals will remain in high gear. Observing sessions are scheduled at the Victoria Centre Observatory every Friday evening. If you have not yet peered through our recently commissioned Obsession 20 Inch Dobsonian you are in for a treat. In order to participate you must be a member of the Active Observers list. Send an e-mail to membership@victoria.rasc.ca for details.

We will continue to co-host Saturday Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory with our “cousins”, the Friends of the DAO. A record 22 Star Parties will have been held by the time this program winds down on September 7th. The combination of Plaskett tours, astronomical lectures, planetarium shows and night sky viewing through RASCal scopes makes these evenings unusually rich outreach offerings. We have recently redeployed our old 20 Inch Walton Dobsonian to the Centre of the Universe. When we roll this scope onto the adjacent patio it will help boost views of the planets during the twilight zone around the solstice and reveal deep sky objects when darker skies return near Summer’s end. If you would like to become more engaged in the Victoria Centre we are still looking for volunteers. Perhaps you would like to help Martin Caldwell operate the 20 inch Walton Dob or “person” our Welcome Desk. Maybe you have a short presentation you would like to deliver in the Black Hole Theatre. Please email me at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to contribute.

A number of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing are still in the planning stage both on and off Observatory Hill. Announcements will be emailed when details are finalized. Be sure to read Chris Gainor’s excellent article about the Canadian contribution to the Apollo mission in the July-August issue of the Sky News Magazine.

In the longer term be aware that the Victoria Centre plans to set up outreach tables at both the Saanich Fair on Labour Day Weekend and at Fall Fairfield on Sept 21st. Our Victoria Centre Star Party will take place at St Stephens Anglican Churchyard between September 27th and the 29th. Be sure to guard those dates. It is shaping up to be an action packed Summer. Enjoy!

Cloud Free Nights
Reg Dunkley

New Horizons Mission to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt – a public talk

Posted by as Events

May 14, 2019 – 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Victoria Conference Centre
Lecture Theatre, Level 1

Click here to register

ABOUT THE TALK
In July of 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto system, completing humanity’s reconnaissance of the classical planets. Pluto turned out to be a world of remarkable geologic diversity, and its surfaces display a range of ages, suggesting geologic activity of various forms has persisted for much of Pluto’s history. Images looking back at the sun through Pluto’s thin atmosphere led to the discovery of numerous haze layers, and it turns out Pluto has a blue sky. Pluto’s large moon Charon was active early in its life, with a very large cyrovolcanic event that covered large areas of the moon.

On January 1st of 2019 (yes this year!) New Horizons encountered its second target, a smaller Kuiper Belt Object approximately 30 km across that is 43 times farther from the sun than the Earth is. This is the farthest planetary body ever explored in detail by a spacecraft. We are in the beginning stages of understanding this unique world, but I will highlight what we have learned so far and present the latest images.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Dr. Kelsi Singer is a senior research scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO and a Deputy Project Scientist on NASA’s New Horizons mission. Dr. Singer’s graduate work focused on the geology and geophysics of the icy moons around Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. She also studies impact cratering across the solar system (from Mercury to the Kuiper belt!).

President’s Message: May 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

April was a momentous month for the Astronomical community. On April 10th an image of the shadow of a black hole at the centre of the enormous galaxy M87 was released to the public. The image itself looked like a glazed donut sitting in a Tim Horton’s display case. It was the donut hole that generated the buzz. This was the first direct visual evidence of the existence of a black hole. It was obtained by the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of 8 facilities distributed around the globe that simultaneously collected data for the same object. The signals, collected at the millimetre wavelength were combined together using Very Long Baseline Interferometry, a technique first pioneered in Canada in 1967. This array, almost spanning the diameter of the earth, has a remarkable resolution and could detect a grapefruit lying on the lunar surface. Extraordinary precision was required to pull this off and the fact that it actually worked is cause for great jubilation. It is also a wonderful example of what can be achieved when nations around the globe agree to work together. This is just the first of many remarkable objects that the Event Horizon Telescope will examine. Rumour has it that the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way will be the next target.


April was also a great month for the Victoria Centre. On Saturday the 27th, RASCals rallied at the Royal BC Museum for Astronomy Day 2019. Together with RASC, eight other organizations joined in this celebration of Astronomy. The smooth roll out was a tribute to the excellent planning effort by David Lee and the wonderful cooperation of the The RBCM. Four speakers delivered interesting presentations in the adjacent Newcombe Conference Hall. In the evening Victoria RASCals gathered together with their “cousins” in the FDAO to co-host the first Saturday Star Party of the season. The weather was wonderful and there was an impressive array of RASCal telescopes assembled in the parking lot adjacent to the Plaskett Dome. A heartfelt thanks to all the RASCal volunteers who helped make Astronomy Day a wonderful success. It was a great launch to the 2019 Outreach Season.


One tireless RASCal, Lauri Roche could be found setting up on Friday, hosting the Children’s Activity table at the Museum on Astronomy Day and playing a lead role at the Star Party that evening. This is just one of many examples of Lauri’s passion for and devotion to astronomical public outreach and education. Victoria Centre Rascals were thrilled to learn that Lauri will be receiving the prestigious RASC Service Award when she attends the General Assembly in Toronto in June. There have only been two Victoria Centre winners in the last 31 years and Lauri richly deserves this honour!


Speaking of outreach, the Victoria Centre has just acquired a new 40 inch monitor that is ideal for displaying astrophotography at events. During most of the summer it will be situated next to our Victoria Centre Welcome Table at the Centre of the Universe. This offers a great opportunity to enhance our visual offerings at the Welcome Table. In addition to showcasing Victoria Centre astro photos it could be employed demonstrating a host of astronomical topics or sharing those amazing video clips with the public. This could be a lot of fun and all you need is a thumb drive or a lap top to put on a show. Give it your consideration. It could be the next big thing!


Those who attended the presentation by Dr. JJ Kavelaars on Astronomy Day are aware of the important contribution that JJ and the Canadian team made when selecting Ultima Thule for the New Horizons followup mission. A professional conference on the New Horizon’s mission will be at held at the Victoria Conference Centre in May. At 7PM on Tuesday, May the 14th, Dr. Kelsi Singer will be delivering a free public lecture entitled, The New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Beyond. The Victoria Centre will have a table at the Victoria Conference Centre that evening. We hope to see you there!


Reg Dunkley

Cloudless Nights

Astronomy Day 2019 in Victoria

Posted by as Events, Special Events

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the Royal BC Museum present

International Astronomy Day

at the Royal BC Museum

Press Release

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Amazing Astronomical Activities for all Ages!

Astronomy Day 2019 in Victoria poster
Astronomy Day 2019 in Victoria (printable poster – 201k PDF) – please spread the word and stick a reminder on your fridge

All Astronomy Day activities are FREE and available to the general public. Membership in RASC is not required.

Regular admission applies to the Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre.
Astronomy Day 2019 photo gallery

Telescope at Astronomy Day 2017

Royal BC Museum – 10AM to 4PM

675 Belleville Street, Victoria

  • Interactive activities outside on the plaza
    • View the Sun safely through solar telescopes (weather permitting)
  • Interactive activities inside in Clifford Carl Hall (Museum main level)
    • Telescope-making – grind a mirror and build your own telescope
    • Telescope show-and-tell – try out telescopes and ask questions
    • Astrophotography – take photos of the night sky with your own camera
    • Children’s astro crafts – kids make their own astronomy and space souvenirs
    • Ask an Astronomer – find answers to those questions about astronomy and space you always wanted to ask
    • Light-based Science – light is energy, and energy is a big part of our Universe
    • Responsible Lighting – get pointers on how to reduce your own light pollution, and feel better for it
    • Planetarium – cruise the night sky during the day while sitting on a couch

Presentations in Newcombe Auditorium

  • 11:00AM – Exploring a New World on the Edge of the Solar System, New Horizons and 2014 MU69 – by famed solar system expert JJ Kavelaars of the NRC. Poster (837kb pdf)
  • 12:00 Noon – Space Suite I – Our wondrous universe set to a timeless score – presented by Knowledge Network and Two Story Productions. Poster (837kb pdf)
  • 1:00PM – Observing Planet Formation around Young Stars – planetary researcher Ruobing (Robin) Dong from U Vic. Poster (577kb pdf)
  • 2:00PM – Space Suite II – Our wondrous universe set to a timeless score – presented by Knowledge Network and Two Story Productions. Poster (837kb pdf)
  • 2:30PM – Science & Storytelling: How discoveries of new worlds help tell stories of family – Elizabeth Tasker and Ria Voros. The two authors will discuss how they came to work together unexpectedly through Ria’s novel. Poster (2Mb pdf)
    • Elizabeth Tasker is an Astrophysicist at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Her forthcoming popular science book is “The Planet Factory”, on planet formation and exoplanets. The updated paperback edition comes out in Canada late April.
    • Ria Voros is a local Young Adult novelist whose forthcoming book is coincidentally titled “The Centre of the Universe”. In this story 17 year old Grace’s mother is missing. Grace is obsessed with exoplanets and she meets Elizabeth a few times in the book.

Centre of the Universe and the Observatory – 7:30PM to 11PM

The Hon. Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor looking through Chuck Filnesss' telescope

Observatory Hill, 5071 West Saanich Road, Saanich

  • Plaskett telescope tours
  • Observing through telescopes
  • Lecture – 8:30PM & 9:30PM – Science & Storytelling: How discoveries of new worlds help tell stories of family – Elizabeth Tasker and Ria Voros
  • Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
  • Click Here to Reserve Your Tickets – currently sold out, but click the link to check back later!

Saturday Star Parties at the DAO 2019

Posted by as Events

Click Here to Obtain Free Saturday Star Party Tickets

Time: 7:15 pm to 10:45 pm

The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO) and RASC Victoria Centre will be hosting twenty 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 April 27th . Here are all the dates:

  • April 27th
  • May 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th
  • June 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th
  • July 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th
  • August 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st
  • September 7th
Site Line Work Only

Saturday Star Parties at the DAO run every Saturday evening from April 27th to September 7th To enhance your experience please note the following venues before you arrive. Activities are broken up into seven main areas,

  1. Lecture Hall – This season we have a full slate of topical presentations from the astronomy community which includes researchers, authors and passionate amateurs. There are possibilities of surprise guest speakers. Come early most presentations start at 8:30 p.m. and some though not all repeat in the evening.
  2. Plaskett Dome – The dome is a heritage site, and not to be missed. Tours are approximately 30-45 minutes long and start at 7:45 p.m. (30 min) Two other tours start at 8:45 p.m. (45 min) and 9:30 p.m. (45 min). Special Kids Tour 8:15 p.m. (30 min)
  3. Planetarium – Planetarium shows run 6 times during the evening and are approximately 30 minutes in length. Come inside and learn about the constellations, and even a little sky lore!
  4. 16” Telescope – This research-grade telescope was originally located on Mt Kobau near Osoyoos for site testing towards potentially building an observatory there. It was then moved here to the DAO, and then from another area on the DAO property to this site when the Centre of the Universe building was constructed in the early 1990s. It is now available for viewing “live” through an eyepiece. The telescope is open subject to weather conditions on many of the Saturday nights.
  5. RASC Member Telescopes – Royal Astronomical Society of Canada members have been long standing participants at Saturdays nights at the DAO for nearly 100 years. Weather permitting, members will take you on a telescopic tour of the evening sky.
  6. Information Area – There are volunteers available to help you with your evening visit and if you’re interested they can let you know how you can get involved in astronomy activities in Victoria. Kid friendly programming is available in this same area. FIRST Robotics BC will be in attendance several times during the summer.
  7. Interpretive Centre Displays – The displays from the former interpretive centre show Canada’s role in astronomy and contain a number of historical artifacts of interest. This year the displays will be enhanced with the addition of new kiosks that will feature Knowledge Network’s Space Suite series and other programming. Stay tuned for their debut.

Saturday Star Parties at the DAO 2019 Presentations

Saturdays’ Children’s Programmes

7:45 – 8:00 p.m. “Out of this World” Interactive Presentation – Auditorium

8:00 – 8:15 p.m. “Stories in the Skies” – Planetarium

8:15 – 8:45 p.m. “Meet the Telescope” Tour – Plaskett Dome

8:45 – 9:30 p.m. Children’s Activities – Information Area

  • Make and Take Craft Tables
  • Family Scavenger Hunt
  • IPad Interactives
  • Night Sky Viewing

Speakers

April 27th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm


Science & Storytelling: How discoveries of new worlds help tell stories of family – Elizabeth Tasker and Ria Voros

Abstract: 

Ria and Elizabeth seem to be authors of a very different type: Ria is a “Young Adult” novelist, while Elizabeth writes popular science. The first part of this talk will tackle a crucial question: why are they presenting together? The two authors will discuss how they came to work together unexpectedly through Ria’s novel. Ria will then explain the process and research for her novel, The Centre of the Universe and how the use of space metaphors help explain relationships between the characters. Elizabeth will then cast a scientific eye over these same metaphors, before moving on to talk in more depth about her own research and book, The Planet Factory.

Bio:

Elizabeth Tasker is an Astrophysicist at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Her forthcoming popular science book is “The Planet Factory”, on planet formation and exoplanets. The updated paperback edition comes out in Canada late April. https://tinyurl.com/ya32gxld

Ria Voros is a local Young Adult novelist whose forthcoming book is coincidentally titled “The Centre of the Universe”. In this story 17 year old Grace’s mother is missing. Grace is obsessed with exoplanets and she meets Elizabeth a few times in the book. https://tinyurl.com/yap2rtaq

May 4th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:15pm


Why Astronomy?Reg Dunkley President, Victoria Centre RASC

Abstract: 

I will describe early influences that captivated my interest in Astronomy and examine the activities and appeal that makes this subject so compelling to the Amateur community. The merits of visual observing and photography will be debated and techniques to image planets will be briefly demonstrated. Astro images captured by Victoria Centre members will be showcased and some of recent and remarkable developments will be discussed.

Bio:

Reg Dunkley’s visit to the DAO at the age of 10 captured his imagination. He has had a life long fascination with Astronomy and after retiring as a Meteorologist he now has the time and the technology to explore the Universe.  

May 11th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:15pm


Introduction to the Night Sky – David Lee

Abstract: 

The night sky can be a bewildering maze of disconnected dots, flashing streaks of light and predictable events that appear just like clockwork. But most of all it is filled with mystery and beauty. Come and learn what’s up in the sky and how best to view it.

Bio:

David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

May 18th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:15pm


Observing with Binoculars – Chris Purse

Abstract:

Using binoculars is a good way to get started in looking at the night sky in more detail. The talk with cover some observing hints and targets that work well for binoculars.

Bio:

Chris started his professional life as a teacher. He was later an educational administrator and currently a business analyst. He has been a member of RASC since 2010. He is the Victoria Centre’s current past president and membership coordinator.

May 25th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

History of the Hubble Space Telescope – Dr. Chris Gainor
President, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Abstract:

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 29 years ago in 1990. After overcoming problems caused by a defective main mirror, Hubble has made discoveries that have revolutionized our view of the universe we live in. This talk will cover the history of Hubble based on a book the speaker is writing.

Bio:

Chris Gainor is a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books and is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

June 1st 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Sketching the Cosmos 

Dr. Dorothy Paul and RASC Victoria Centre Members

Abstract:

Humans have been observing and recording for over 17,000 years as evidenced by the drawings in the Lascaux Caves. Science is inherently linked to observation and recording. Today science uses digital methods for recording, is there still a reason to use analog methods like pen, pencil and paper?

This evening we learn about the motivation behind sketching astronomical objects and some of the tools used for this documentation method and artform. RASC Victoria members will be present to show sketches that they have done.

Diane Bell, Dr. Dorothy Paul, Nelson Walker

RASC Victoria Centre is part of a national organization (The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) that is dedicated to public outreach in the sciences with an emphasis on astronomy.

June 8th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

The Bigger the Better

Lauri Roche and RASC Victoria Centre Members

Abstract:

Join us for a presentation on how the telescope developed from the early days of optical astronomy. Learn about how they work and what they are good at. There will be plenty of time for hands on demonstrations of modern examples of the telescope such as refractors, Dobsonian Newtonians and Schmidt-Cassegrains.

RASC Victoria Centre is part of a national organization (The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) that is dedicated to public outreach in the sciences with an emphasis on astronomy.

June 15th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Beyond the 30 Second Barrier – Astrophotography with Star Trackers

David Lee

Abstract:

Simple astrophotography can be accomplished with short exposures up to 30 seconds on tripods. However exposures without star trailing are usually accomplished using extreme wide-angle lenses where the motion is not readily noticeable at these exposures.

Getting beyond the 30 second barrier and using longer lenses will afford the astrophotographer images of star clusters such as the Pleiades and beautiful nebula such as the North America, Orion, and Rosette Nebulas. Exposures of up to several minutes are possible allowing for more advanced processing techniques and superior detail.

Bio:

David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

June 22nd 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

The Co-evolution of Planets and Life

Dorothy H Paul, PhD

Abstract:

Planets, like people, have finite lifespans. Planets’ lifespans are set at ‘birth’ by the mass of their sun, whereas human longevity is variable because it derives from two interacting factors, genetics (~9% contribution) and assorted external variables.  How each changes with age is also partially understood, and for planets is influenced by whether or not they harbor life, a conclusion drawn from what we’ve learned so far by studying the only known planet with life!  We need a larger sample size before we can begin to answer the age-old questions: Why do we reside on the 3rd of the four rocky planets of the solar system? Did terrestrial life originate here? Does (or did) life exist on any of our neighbours? If so, is (or was) it genetically related to us?  Recent data from several lines of research are deepening our understanding of the earliest stages in Earth’s evolution and the appearance of life.  I will highlight some of these in the context of what we might find when searching for signs of life on other planets, and how (or whether) we might recognize them.  

Bio:

Dorothy Paul is a biologist and amateur astronomer. Prior to retirement from the University of Victoria, her research was in neuroscience and evolutionary neurobiology. She now spends much of her time in pursuing and sharing her interests in biology and astronomy, and when possible, with her telescope under dark skies, hunting down distant objects in and beyond our Milky Way galaxy.  


June 29th 2019 8:30 and 9:30

Astronomy at Shawnigan Lake School

Nigel Mayes

Abstract:

Shawnigan Lake School is a co-educational independent boarding school located on Vancouver Island. The donation of telescopes and a mount to the school brought with it several opportunities including student participation in the Pacific Astronomy and Engineering Summit in Hilo Hawaii and the eventual construction of a campus observatory. Over the last five years, Nigel has constructed, debugged and automated the observatory. The facility is used to support curricular goals in both science and art. Special events such as eclipses and transits have brought 500 or more guests to the campus and the observatory. This has become a meaningful way in which he school connects with its community. Recently, full automation has enabled long unattended observing runs on clear nights. Student artwork created from this data is breathtaking. Future development includes supporting student research and contributing to collaborative research projects.

The presentation will touch on observatory automation and the main goals of the observatory that include: supporting the science curriculum, supporting student research and imaging projects, hosting community events, hosting the Cowichan Valley Starfinders.

Bio:

Nigel Mayes is a chemistry and robotics teacher at Shawnigan Lake School. In his 18 year career at the school he has been involved in many projects that have either supported staff or added to the student experience. He is passionate about the outdoors and he loves mountain biking, kayaking and backcountry skiing. Astronomy is a relatively new endeavor for Nigel and he is becoming a self-taught enthusiast.

July 6th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

The Voyages of Apollo

Dr. Philip Stooke

Abstract:

A summary of the Apollo Program including its origins, steps along the way to the Moon, the choice of landing sites and a pictorial look at each mission.  

Bio:

Phil Stooke is a planetary scientist and cartographer with a PhD from UVic.  He taught in the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in London, Ontario until his recent retirement.  He has published The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and similar books on Mars, and is currently revising his lunar atlas.  

July 13th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

“Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects”

Randy Enkin

Abstract:

In 1969, at age 8, the Apollo missions motivated me to become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know.  In this presentation, I will present my 30-year time series of lunar phase observations, and my lunar sketches from the past year which earned me the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada “Explore the Moon Observing Certificate” (https://www.rasc.ca/observing/explore-the-moon-observing-certificate). And you will be introduced to “Enkin’s Daily Moon” (https://www.facebook.com/EnkinsDailyMoon/), where images of the moon explore “the passage of time, illumination, the feminine, and world unity”. 

Bio:

Randy Enkin did not become a professional astronomer.  He is a Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, working on earthquakes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

July 20th 2019 – 7:45pm to 10:45pm

The Apollo 11 Moonwalk

Dr. Chris Gainor

Abstract:

This presentation will show the entire Apollo 11 moonwalk as it was televised on the evening of July 20, 1969, along with descriptive slides. Chris Gainor will discuss the flight of Apollo 11, the symbolic aspects of the first walk on another celestial body, and the scientific work carried out by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The presentation will begin shortly before 8 p.m., just as it did in real time in 1969, and will continue for the two hours and 40 minutes of this historic event.

Bio:

Chris Gainor is a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books and is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

July 27th 2019 – 8:30pm to 10:45pm

Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite IV and Space Suite Apollo

Producers – Imagine Create Media

Space Suite IV

A series of 10 short films that explore the infinite wonders of our universe and our interactions with the cosmos.

Space Suite Apollo

Trace the history of NASA’s Lunar missions from Mercury to Gemini, to the Apollo Missions that ultimately landed a man on the moon. Set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Space Suite Apollo gives viewers an unflinching look at the raw footage that continues to capture the world’s imagination.

Lauri Roche awarded the RASC Service Award for 2019

Posted by as News

I’m pleased to announce that our own Lauri Roche has won the RASC Service Award.

The Service Award is a major award of the Society given to a member in recognition of outstanding service, rendered over an extended period of time, where such service has had a major impact on the work of the Society and/or of a Centre of the Society.

We all know the many things Lauri does in the Victoria Centre, and at the national level she has also made major contributions, including her work with education programs.

Congratulations Lauri!

Chris Gainor, Ph.D.
President
Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Lauri Roche

Lauri Roche has been a member of RASC since 1995. She was an elementary and middle school teacher for many years, using her Masters of Education from Carlton effectively to support kids with a wide range of disabilities as a special education teacher. Lauri switched to teaching grade 7-8 math and science through to her retirement, and she continues to substitute teach those subjects, and tutors students as well.

Lauri has been active in Victoria Centre, volunteering for or leading countless public outreach events, including: International Astronomy Day, public nights at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO), International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), Vancouver Island Regional Science Fairs, numerous public observing events, and bringing astronomy to the very popular Saanich (agricultural) Fair.

RASC booth at the Saanich Fair – 2009

Lauri is also active at the National level of RASC, contributing to the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) committee. During 2018, she co-hosted a national contest in honour of the RASC sesquicentennial called Imagining the Skies. This online contest highlighted astronomical media through photography, sketching, art and crafts.

Serving terms on Victoria Centre’s Council as Treasurer, Vice-president, and President, Lauri has shown great leadership through collaboration with many Centre members. Her past efforts to involve RASC members in public outreach have resulted in many members who continue to support this most important mission to engage the public in science and especially astronomy. Her support of others’ leadership of events speaks to her excellent collaborative approach to public outreach, and using volunteerism as a fun, social activity to get members involved in RASC’s main mission.

Lauri Roche introducing Nathan Gray at the 2014 General Assembly. Photo by Real Roi

As one of the lead members of the Victoria Centre’s School Telescope Program, Lauri has lent her considerable expertise in interacting with students of all ages (kindergarten to high school), and has helped make this program the most sought after by teachers beyond the local area schools.  In the 2017-2018 school year more than 2,000 students took advantage of this program, involving 80 presentations and night sky viewing sessions.

Lauri’s support of astronomy outreach to the public on Observatory Hill through Saturday night events during the summer months at the Centre of the Universe and the historic Plaskett telescope predates her involvement in the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO). That said, she joined the board of the FDAO very soon after its inception and has been one of its strongest resources for outreach and education ever since, as the FDAO strives to revitalize EPO on Observatory Hill.

Ben Dorman, Lauri Roche & Don Moffatt – Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Lauri has almost single-handedly kept FDAO’s fledgling volunteer daytime tours program running, not only by being lead presenter and educator, but also by organizing other volunteers to participate. She has also been a mainstay of regular Saturday Star parties for the public every summer, and unstintingly gives her time on other evenings of the week to give talks on basic astronomy and about Canadian observatories around the world  to all ages and levels of knowledge. Finally, Lauri is a strong advocate on the board for enhancing public outreach offerings and their accessibility to the widest possible public.

Collaborating with and encouraging RASC members to get involved has been the hallmark of Lauri’s approach to public outreach. Lauri’s contagious enthusiasm for astronomy and science, and her active support outside the classroom of young women choosing science careers can’t help but support astronomy being more inclusive. There is no doubt that her outreach in the classroom has helped younger people to consider scientific endeavours as cool and desirable career choices.

Nominators

Reg Dunkley, President, RASC Victoria Centre
Chris Purse, Past President, RASC Victoria Centre
Dr. Chris Gainor, President, RASC National
Sid Sidhu, RASC Victoria Centre
Dr. Ben Dorman, Chair, Friends of the DAO and RASC member
Joe Carr, RASC Victoria Centre

Speaker: Deep (Machine) Learning with Neural Networks – the second industrial revolution

Posted by as Meetings

Dr. Karun Thanjuvar

7:30 PM, Wednesday, April 10th; 2019 in Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Artificial intelligence (AI), especially Deep (Machine) Learning applications, are already ubiquitous and in everyday use, and have been called the second industrial revolution. Deep Learning algorithms, called Neural Networks, thrive on Big Data. The happy ‘problem’ we now face of enormous amounts of data available in this digital era. In astronomy too,telescopes will soon routinely produce terabytes of data every night. Piggybacked on the impressive recent advances in high performance computing, neural networks are trained on these available large datasets to then perform a variety of human-like tasks, such as real-time decision making, identifying subtle patterns in the data, forecasting and making recommendations based on experience, and so on. In this presentation I aim to provide an overview of this rapidly burgeoning field, explain in simple terms the construction and working of a neural net, and illustrate these principles with a working model.

Dr. Karun Thanjuvar: As an observational cosmologist, discovering new gravitational lenses and developing innovative techniques to harness them as observational tools are amongst my diverse research interests. As part of my doctoral thesis at UVic in 2009, I developed an automated technique to search for lenses in wide field, pan-chromatic imaging. These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born andraised in a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies; first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. After my PhD from UVic, I worked as a Resident Astronomer at CFHT in Hawaii for three years, before returning to UVic to accept a position as a senior lab instructor in astronomy. Even though undergraduate teaching is the focus of my current position, I continue to pursue various research projects. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through several outreach initiatives through the UVic observatory.

President’s Message April 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

The Victoria atmosphere has finally acquired some Spring like qualities. This means that it is almost time to launch the 2019 Public Outreach Season. The official kick off takes place on Saturday April 27th with Astronomy Day. From 10AM to 4PM the Victoria Centre will be hosting the session at the Royal BC Museum. Numerous tables devoted to all things Astronomical will be located in the Clifford Carl Hall. Three lectures will be delivered in the adjacent Newcombe Conference Hall. David Lee, the captain of the Astronomy Day Team has recruited leaders to organize the various tables and things are coming together nicely. From 7:30PM to 11PM, our cousins, the Friends of the DAO, will be hosting the first Saturday Star Party of the season at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. RASC members will be in force with their telescopes to act as tour guides of the Universe. RASC will also have an information table in the Centre of the Universe. Star Parties at the DAO will be held every Saturday until September 7th.

Victoria Centre usually hosts another type of Star Party each year. The main focus of this event is an observing session directed toward the community of amateur astronomers rather than the general public. Selecting the date of a Star Party can be a challenge. It should meet the following criteria: fall near a New Moon, have a sufficient amount of darkness, avoid conflict with other nearby Star Parties and … oh yes … enjoy favourable weather conditions. This year the Mount Kobau Star Party, near Osoyoos will take place between July 31st and August 4th and the Island Star Party, held at Bright Angel Park in the Cowichan Valley, will occur on the Labour Day weekend. Many Victoria RASCals are loyal attendees of the Island Star Party so it is best to avoid that weekend. The New Moon and amount of darkness are easy to predict. It is, however, a bit trickier when it comes to the weather.

The saying goes that climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. While climate statistics can let you down it does reveal that the atmospheric dice are loaded. One rudimentary statistic which has proven useful in this area is the chance of 5 consecutive days without rain. The premise is that if there is no rain during a 5 day interval it suggests the presence of a ridge of high pressure that is diverting weather systems away from the area and suppressing afternoon shower activity. Using 50 years of quality controlled precipitation data from Victoria International Airport I calculated that the chance of 5 consecutive days without rain varied from 65% on Aug 1st to 47% on Sept 1st to 29% on Sept 28th. These values suggest that favourable weather conditions may be more than twice as likely on August 1st than during the New Moon interval near Sept. 28th. During the last three summers, however, smoke from wildfires has frequently obscured the night skies during July and August. Also astronomical twilight ends at 8:43 PM on Sept. 28th compared to 11:13PM on Aug. 1st. As a consequence the Council is leaning towards holding the Victoria Centre Star Party from Friday Sept. 27th to Sunday Sept. 29th. The location will once again be the yard of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Central Saanich … which was rained out on Sept. 7th last year. Be wary of those climate statistics!

Cloudless Nights

Reg Dunkley