President’s Message – June 2017

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Another year of Astro Café has concluded. I would like to thank Barb, Reg, and John for the great series of topics, photos, videos, and of course, snacks we shared. With the installation of the larger television screen earlier this year, it is much improved for the sharing of astrophotography, videos, and the like. Astro Café continues to be a well-attended centre event and we look forward to another year starting in September. If you have not been to Astro Café recently, or ever, I encourage you to come by one Monday evening. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

The 2017 Summer Star Parties at the DAO are in full swing and we have had some good observing weather. As we enter summer, the emphasis will be on solar astronomy and targets that can be seen while the sky remains light. If you are not already on the volunteer’s list, and want to help out, please send me an email at president@victoria.rasc.ca. There are many more Saturdays on the calendar and new volunteers are most welcome.

As space exploration is in the news frequently, we have some great conversations at the star parties. I really enjoy sharing that time at the telescope that is often someone’s first time seeing a solar prominence or looking at the moon through a telescope. We’ve even had astronomical events that centre members have not seen before. For example, on 3 June, we saw the double shadow transit of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Io during the evening. That was a first for me and something I will look out for in the future. The shadow transit coincided with the Great Red Spot being visible so that was great all around!

With general interest in astronomy, I have long thought it is under represented in the school curriculum. Considering the major contributions of Canadian astronomers, it is surprising that our students do not have more exposure to space science and, in particular, the opportunity to take a senior level course in astronomy. I was very happy to learn that teachers at Victoria High School are working to correct that with the introduction of an Astronomy 11 course. The course launches in the 2017 – 18 school year and the initial impressions are that quite a few students are interested in taking this new course. That is a great step forward and I hope it proves to be a great success. As part of the launch of this new course, Victoria High School is hosting a Star Party on Saturday 17 June starting at 8:30 p.m. If you are in the area why not attend? Please see cuyeda.weebly.com/star-party.html for more information.

Finally, as a reminder, our RASCals Star Party will be held on weekend of 28 – 30 July on the District of Metchosin municipal grounds. Information will be posted on our website once we have more details about the events that day. Saturday 29 July has been identified as the National Star Party day with events taking place across Canada as part of the sesquicentennial. I hope many members will come to the party again this year.

Speaker: Radio and Microwave Astronomy – Dr. Lisa Locke

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June 14th, 2017, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

Radio and Microwave Astronomy – History, Canadian Involvement, and Interesting Tidbits – Dr. Lisa Locke, NRC Herzberg

Dr. Lisa Locke
Dr. Lisa Locke

Radio astronomy started in the early 1930s as an electrical engineering project and it took many years for the optical astronomy community to include it under the gilded Astronomy umbrella. Early experimentalists had a field day with surplus World War II equipment and the increased world-wide collaboration between researchers. I will explain and guide through this history up to the present, contrasting the new radio astronomy with the classic well-understood optical ideas, highlighting Canada’s significant role in the growing field. Details on current instrumentation projects and observatories will also be presented.

Bio

Dr. Lisa Shannon Locke was born north of the 60th parallel in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada and received the B.Sc (Alberta, 1997), M.Sc. (Cape Town, 2001) and PhD (Victoria, 2014) degrees all in electrical engineering specializing in low-noise microwave astronomy instrumentation.

As a student, she worked at the Canadian Space Agency, CalTech’s Owens Valley Observatory and at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, WV. After graduating, she spent five years as a receiver engineer at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. Then in 2005 she joined the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Socorro, NM building cryogenic receivers for the expanded very large array (EVLA).

Her PhD degree was advised by Prof. Dr. Jens Bornemann and the late Dr. Stéphane Claude of NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria, BC. Her thesis investigated the design and construction of a K-band (18 – 26 GHz) coherent 5×5 phased array feed for use on large radio astronomy reflectors. She is currently employed with NRC Herzberg and leads a multi-disciplinary project to build a S/C-band (2.8 – 5.18 GHz) cryogenic phased array feed receiver system.

President’s Message – May 2017

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I will start with a riddle this month. Question: What do you call the rainy day between 2 sunny days? Answer: Astronomy day.

Although the weather did not cooperate, this year’s Astronomy Day was a fantastic event. Thank you to everyone who contributed and especially Ken Mallory for getting all of us organized. I was pleased to see that there are a more organizations participating with us making it an even better. For example, Knowledge Network of BC approached us this year about showing Space Suite I and Space Suite II. If you have not seen these short videos they are very enjoyable; both are available on the Knowledge Network website. The Royal BC Museum is an excellent host so I would like to acknowledge their outstanding support.

Despite the rainy weather, we did have quite a good turnout on the hill for our first Summer Star Party so it can only get better with clear weather. As we have such a great facility on our doorstep it is wonderful that we can share it with the public. One of the goals with having more evenings this year is to have more visitors so I do hope we can achieve that goal.

At a recent Astro Café we were talking about apps and websites that we enjoy. One iOS app I shared, that is also available as a website, is called The Scale of the Universe 2. Based on a continuing progression of sizes centred on 1 metre, the user scrolls in either direction to see examples of things that are that microscopic and beyond all the way to some of the largest known objects. There are a number of named astronomical objects included so this is a tool that can be used to show comparative sizes. Did you know that Jupiter would fill more than a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon? If you look around the 108.5 m zone you will see this comparison. The Sun appears around 109 m but you don’t see Antares until 1012 m. It is quite fascinating. If you are interested in the miniature world, great examples of the very small are there as well. Check it out; it is very well done.

A reminder that we are back in our normal room, Bob Wright Centre A104, for our monthly meeting on 10 May.

Meetings

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SPEAKER: Imagining New Worlds – Benjamin Gerard

 

Wednesday, May 10th 2017 at 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre Room A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s Monthly Meeting

The past 20 years has seen the dawn of a new field in astronomy: extrasolar planets, or exoplanets for short—planets orbiting around stars in other solar systems. We now know that the Universe is teeming with exoplanets, thanks largely to the help of the Kepler space telescope, which finds exoplanets by seeing their shadow on its much brighter host star. Although there are a number of different methods of finding exoplanets, my research focuses on an exoplanet detection technique called direct imaging, which as the name suggests is designed to directly image these other worlds. But this is not as simple as it sounds, and it ultimately requires the use of our most powerful telescopes and specially designed optical systems in order to distinguish an exoplanet from the overwhelming glare of its host star. In light of the upcoming total Solar eclipse in August 2017, I’ll describe one of these instruments, called a coronagraph, which was first used to observe the Solar Corona without the help of the Moon! After outlining these challenges, both in engineering and in physics, and how they can be overcome, I will highlight the main instruments and detections in this field of direct imaging, and also compare the advantages direct imaging has over other techniques. Come prepared to see real pictures of other worlds!

Bio

Benjamin Gerard is a 1st year PhD student in Physics and Astronomy at UVic. He did his Bachelors in Physics and Astronomy at University of Colorado at Boulder and is originally from San Francisco, CA. His research, supervised by Dr. Christian Marois, focuses on optical design and image processing algorithms for instruments made to directly image exoplanets.

Summer Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory 2017

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The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO) and RASC Victoria Centre will be hosting nineteen 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 29th. Here are all the dates:

  • May 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th
  • June 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th
  • July 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th
  • August 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th
  • September 16th and 23rd

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: http://daostarparties.eventbrite.ca

See you there!

Site Line Work Only

Summer Star Parties at the DAO run every Saturday evening from April 29th to September 23rd with some exceptions as noted in the schedule above. To enhance your experience please note the following venues before you arrive. Activities are broken up in to seven main areas,

  1. Lecture Hall – This summer 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 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 45 minutes long and start at 7:45 p.m. Two other tours start at 8:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.
  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 most of the evening.
  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. Look for kid friendly displays from Science Ventures in this same area.
  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.

 

Summer Star Parties at the DAO 2017 Presentations

 

June 17th, 2017 – Jupiter and the Juno Mission – Reg Dunkley

8 – 9 p.m.

Abstract: Jupiter, the largest planet in the Solar System, will occupy a prominent position in the night sky in June. After providing an overview of the planet, this talk will focus on the Juno satellite which is currently orbiting Jupiter. This sophisticated spacecraft is uniquely positioned to probe the Jovian atmosphere. Uncertainty about it’s propulsion system, however, has placed the mission in jeopardy. Hear all about this drama and marvel at the close up imagery that has already been captured by this satellite.

Bio: Reg Dunkley is a meteorologist whose pursuit of all things astronomical is adding much joy to his retirement. He is vice president of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and is the editor of the local newsletter SkyNews.

 

June 24th, 2017 – Dark Matter: Small scales, Big problems – Kyle Oman

8 – 9 p.m.

Abstract: There are several lines of evidence pointing to the existence of an as yet elusive dark matter which is more abundant in the Universe on average than the ordinary stuff of gas, stars and planets. Despite the ongoing difficulty in identifying the dark matter particle, the cold dark matter cosmological theory has been remarkably successful in describing the large scale structure of the Universe. The biggest current challenges to this theory appear at the scale of dwarf galaxies. How can we measure a substance we cannot see? What can a handful of puny nearby galaxies tell us about the Universe as a whole? These are the questions I’m tackling with the help of the cutting-edge APOSTLE cosmological simulation suite and observations taken on the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Bio: Kyle Oman is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. He has worked on topics in theoretical extragalactic astronomy ranging from the smallest dwarf galaxies to the largest galaxy clusters. He completed his BSc and MSc at the University of Waterloo.

 

President’s Message – April 2017

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April will see the start of the centre’s outreach season. A major event in our calendar is Astronomy Day that will be held on Saturday 29 April at the Royal BC Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will be followed by the first of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO.

Please contact Ken (outreach@victoria.rasc.ca) to volunteer to help out with the outreach events that will be occurring this year. We would like to have solar telescopes and people at the table to answer questions. One of the first of these events is Esquimalt Buccaneer Days on 13 and 14 May.

We are looking forward to another set of Summer Star Parties on Observatory Hill. One change this year will be that the Friends of the DAO (FDAO) will lead these evenings. There will be a longer season this year including the Saturdays closest to the solstice. Due to the high demand in past years, we have decided to try opening to visitors even on the evenings when it will not be astronomically dark by closing time. Assuming clear skies, we should have some good solar viewing on those evenings so that could make up for the lack of a night sky!

With the FDAO leading, this will allow evenings to continue on the Saturdays when RASC members are involved with other events. One example of this is Saturday 29 July that coincides with the RASCals Star Party in Metchosin. As you may recall, RASC has designated that Saturday as the national star party day in honour of the sesquicentennial. This means there will be 2 star parties in Greater Victoria that day giving members of the public the option to go to the observatory or the Metchosin municipal grounds.

The Summer Star Parties will occur on Saturday evenings from Saturday 29 April 29 to Saturday 23 September with a few exceptions. There will not be a star party on Saturday 1 July so that everyone can enjoy Canada Day and the 150th anniversary of confederation. We are going to skip the Labour Day weekend and there is also an evening in September when there is a concert in the dome instead.

A reminder that due to April exams being scheduled in our regular meeting room, our monthly meeting on Wednesday 12 April will be in the Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167.

Astronomy Day 2017 in Victoria

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

International Astronomy Day

at the Royal BC Museum

Saturday, April 29, 2017 10AM to 4PM

Amazing Astronomical Activities for all Ages!

Poster (425k PDF) – please spread the word and stick a reminder on your fridge

Event photo gallery


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

Regular admission applies to Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre.

Royal BC Museum – 10AM to 4PM

675 Belleville Street, Victoria

  • Interactive activities and displays both inside and outside
    • View the Sun safely through solar telescopes on the plazaa
    • Telescope mirror grinding – inside
    • Astrophotography – inside
    • Hands-on activities for the kids – inside
  • Presentations in Newcombe Auditorium
    • 11:00 AM We Are Not Alone: The Search For Alien Life In The Universe by Dr. Jon Willis
    • 12:00 PM Space Suite I: A series of short space videos accompanied by music. Produced by the Knowledge Network
    • 1:00 PM The Greatest Show On Earth by Eclipse Enthusiast Michael Webb
    • 2:00 PM Archaeology With The Stars by Dr. Kim Venn
    • 3:00 PM Space Suite II: A series of short space videos accompanied by music. Produced by the Knowledge Network

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

Observatory Hill, 5071 West Saanich Road, Saanich

  • Plaskett telescope tours
  • Observing through telescopes
  • Lectures
    • 8PM – The Newly Discovered Trappist-1 System & the Quest to Finding Habitable Planets in the Solar Neighborhood by Dr. Christian Marois
    • 9PM – TBA
  • Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
  • Reserve your tickets (one week prior to the event)

 

SPEAKER: Dark matter: Small scales, big problems – Kyle Oman

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April 12, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

“Dark matter: Small scales, big problems” – Kyle Oman, PhD candidate, UVic

Dwarf galaxies
Dwarf galaxies

Abstract:
There are several lines of evidence pointing to the existence of an as yet elusive dark matter which is more abundant in the Universe on average than the ordinary stuff of gas, stars and planets. Despite the lack of a plausible particle candidate, the LCDM cosmological theory has been remarkably successful in describing the large scale structure of the Universe. The biggest current challenges to this theory are manifest on the scale of dwarf galaxies. How can we measure a substance we cannot see? What can a handful of puny nearby galaxies tell us about the Universe as a whole? These are the questions I’m tackling with the help of the cutting-edge APOSTLE cosmological simulation suite and observations taken on the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Bio:
Kyle Oman is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. He has worked on topics in theoretical extragalactic astronomy ranging from the smallest dwarf galaxies to the largest galaxy clusters. He completed his BSc and MSc at the University of Waterloo.

President’s Message – March 2017

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Spring is nearly upon us and I am hoping for a distinct change in weather. We have had very few observing sessions at the VCO through the winter and I think the last RASCals of Cattle Point evening that actually went ahead was in 2015. Clouds, clouds, go away!

Thanks to Reg for coordinating the purchase and installation of the new monitor for the Astro Café building. Its first light saw a record attendance with 27 people there. A very special thank you goes to Terry Ryals for building the cabinet for the television; it looks just great.

Due to April exams being scheduled in our regular meeting room, our monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 12 will be in the Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167.

My heartfelt thanks to His Worship Mayor Ranns and councillors of the District of Metchosin who approved our request to hold the RASCals Star Party on the weekend of July 28 – 30 with the rental fee waived. That will be proceeding at the Metchosin Municipal Grounds on Happy Valley Road; more information will be provided as it becomes available. Our Star Party will coincide with the National Star Party day of Saturday, July 29. The plan is for as many centres as possible to have public events on that day in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. We hope there will be clear skies so we can show off the sky!

We are also in the process of finalizing our agreement with the Friends of the DAO to hold another series of Summer Star Parties on Saturday evenings. We are planning to have those every Saturday from Astronomy Day on April 29 to September 16. If you have NOT been involved in past years and would like to volunteer please let Ken know at outreach@victoria.rasc.ca and we will add you to the email list.

Please be reminded to let me know at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to participate in a bulk purchase of the Explore the Universe Guide as I introduced in my January message.

SPEAKER: Bugs in Space – Astrobiology and the Habitable Zone – Dr. Julia Foght

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March 8, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

Bugs in Space!? A Microbiologist’s View of Astrobiology and the Habitable Zone – Dr. Julia Foght

Dr. Julia Foght
Dr. Julia Foght

As astronomers discover myriad planets in distant solar systems and find evidence of water on planets and moons in our own solar system, astrobiologists seek to answer the question “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?” But nested within these few words are many other questions: If life exists or previously existed beyond Earth, would we even recognize it? How can we detect life at astronomical distances without collecting physical samples?

What ‘biosignatures’ could we use, remotely or in place, to locate, confirm and/or examine such life, especially if it was microscopic? Where are the best places to look for life nearby in our solar system? Can sites on Earth serve as analogues to refine our questions and future exploration? Can the search for extraterrestrial life illuminate theories about the origins of life on Earth?

Dr. Foght will present some of the factors that potentially influence the distribution of life in the universe and the colonization of exoplanets, based on our current understanding of earthly analogues and ‘extreme’ microbes, but be prepared to leave with more questions than answers.

Video of presentation

Biography: Dr. Julia Foght, Professor Emerita in the Biological Sciences Department, University of Alberta, is an environmental microbiologist and a past member of the Canadian Space Agency’s Astrobiology Discipline Working Group. Her interest in the field of Astrobiology arose from her fieldwork in Antarctica and research into microbes that live beneath glaciers from Nunavut and Alaska to New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Transantarctic Mountains.