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.

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

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.

Time: 7:15 pm to 10:45 pm

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 and 24th
  • 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.

Lauri Roche awarded the RASC Service Award for 2019

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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

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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

President’s Message March 2019

Posted by as News

Normally at the beginning of March Victoria Centre RASCals are trudging through cherry blossoms. Snow is not an option. So just imagine your puzzled president when he arrived at the VCO on February 27th. The observing pad was covered with 6 inches of white stuff topped with an icy crust. This unseasonably cold weather tormented tender West Coast RASCals throughout February and almost derailed the Mini AGM of February 13th. 

Mini AGM you say? This administrative AGM resulted from trying to make others happy. To streamline financial procedures the Canadian Revenue Agency wanted the Victoria Centre to move our fiscal year end from September 30th to December 31st. When we did that the BC Societies Act insisted that we hold an AGM in 2019. So this “administrative AGM” which covers the three month interval extending from October to December 2018 was scheduled to coincide with the February monthly meeting. This would make the CRA happy and the BC Societies people happy … but there was a problem.

It all has to do with our bylaws. When the bylaws were recently updated the quorum was boosted from 3 to 25. The architects of these new bylaws never envisioned that the “Garden City” would be paralyzed by snow. Since North Saanich was buried under 2 feet and many members were trapped in unplowed cul de sacs it was looking like the Mini AGM was toast.  Fortunately these very same bylaw architects included a provision for proxy votes. At the last minute your desperate president e-mailed the membership with a plea for proxies. The first proxy arrived from Tasmania! Nearby RASCals also rallied to the cause. A quorum was established and the first Mini AGM in the 104 year history of the Victoria Centre went ahead. Let us hope that it will also be the last Mini AGM in history as this bureaucratic process is more complicated than astrophysics.

Speaking of “astro” things let’s talk about AstroFest 2019. This event, the first of its kind, was held in Nanaimo on February 28th. It was extremely well organized and hosted by the Nanaimo Astronomy Society. The idea was to bring Island astronomers together to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. This mid island rendezvous was well advertised and over 120 attended the event. Nelson Walker, Bill Weir and I manned the Victoria Centre table while Lauri Roche and Ben Dorman represented the FDAO. Victoria Centre RASCal Francois Pilote led a contingent of 5 from the Comox Valley and Victoria member Mike Krempotic came from Port Alberni. Dennis Crabtree set up the very popular virtual reality system and captivated many.

There were a number of presentations. I provided info on the  Victoria Centre while Nanaimo President Chris Boar described the activities of the Nanaimo Society. In addition to talks at their monthly meeting they hold many outreach events and like Victoria are swamped by the curious public during eclipses. They also take time to have fun and schedule an annual Beer and Burger night. The Cowichan Valley Starfinders promoted their star party and Nigel Mayes from  Shawnigan Lake School described their facility and active astronomy program. John and Carol Nemy delivered a spectacular visual presentation of the night sky which featured their Island Stars Observatory located on Hornby Island. The members of the Nanaimo Astronomy Society were very friendly and hospitable. Several members had roll off roof observatories. Many of the attendees were newbies looking for ways to get involved in Astronomy. Bruce Lane from Quarky Science donated a nice pair of binoculars as a door prize. There was great enthusiasm for this event and it is hoped that it will be repeated. Special thanks must go to Chris Boar, Tony Puerez and Janeane MacGillivary for magically making it all happen. 

Snowless Days

Cloudless Nights

Reg Dunkley

Speaker: Exploring a new world on the Edge of the Solar System, New Horizons and 2014 MU69

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Dr. J.J. Kavelaars

7:30 PM Wednesday March 13th

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre at UVic

On January 1st, 2019 NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft executed a flawless encounter of the small world provisionally known as 2014 MU69.  Our understanding of the nature of the outer solar system and processes of planet formation have been transformed by the very first resolved images of 2014 MU69.  Now, 2 months after encounter, the imaging and spectroscopy from 2014 MU69 continue to trickle in.  I will describe the processes that enable this historic encounter to occur and the initial results from the spacecraft imaging.
Dr. JJ Kavelaars received his Ph.D. from the Department of Physics at Queen’s University in Kingston ON in 1998.  He is an Astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria and is a member of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre. His areas of interest include the outer solar system including the Kuiper belt. This specialty enabled him to assist in selecting a followup target for the New Horizons spacecraft after it flew by Pluto. While studying irregular planetary satellites JJ and his team discovered 23 moons surrounding Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. In 2016 he discovered the sixth dwarf planet in the solar system.

Speaker: Planet Nine or Planet Nein? Discoveries in the Outer Solar System

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Dr. Samatha Lawler

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

At 7:30 PM In Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Abstract:Over the last couple of years, there have been many headlines about the possibility of an undiscovered giant planet in the outer reaches of our Solar System.  But is it real?  Dr. Sam Lawler will lead you through the wilds of the distant Kuiper Belt with a surprisingly digestible (we promise!) discussion of orbital dynamics, observation biases, and dwarf planet discoveries.  She will show you the latest discoveries from a large international collaboration, including astronomers right here in Canada, and you can decide for yourself whether or not you believe in Planet 9.


Sam Lawler received her B.S. in astrophysics from Caltech, followed by 2 years of research work at Caltech’s IPAC facility on early Spitzer data of debris disks.  She then received her M.A. from Wesleyan University before coming to Canada for her PhD work at UBC.  She has been in Victoria ever since her PhD, initially as a UVic postdoc/lecturer, and since 2015 as a Plaskett Fellow at NRC-Herzberg.  Her work utilizes dynamical simulations of the effects of planets on debris disks and on the structure of the Kuiper Belt.  Several of her recent projects involve dynamically testing the existence of reported planets.  She has shown tau Ceti’s reported planet system is allowed by its wide debris disk, Fomalhaut b is likely a catastrophically disrupted icy body, and the structure of the Kuiper Belt does not require an additional distant planet in the Solar System.  While her dynamical simulations are running on the computer cluster, she likes to play with her kids and grow food.


President’s Message February 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

For much of the astronomical community 2019 came barreling in at 50000 km/h. It was like they were riding in the back seat of New Horizons urging it to capture great shots of Ultima Thule as it whizzed by on New Years Day. The data slowly trickled in as the feeble signal completed its 6 hour journey home. To the amazement of all a strange snowman like feature emerged. During January this image became crisper as more data was accumulated. This technological triumph was a great way to begin the year.

One of the team members that selected this Kuiper belt object, officially named 2014 MU69, was Victoria astronomer Dr. JJ Kavelaars. He is the scheduled speaker at our March monthly meeting and JJ will have the latest information to share. At our February monthly meeting Dr. Samantha Lawler will deliver a presentation on even more remote Kuiper belt objects and she will examine the evidence for a mysterious Planet Nine or maybe that should it be Planet Nein?

January is not renowned for great observing conditions. During the late afternoon of Sunday January 20th, however, skies magically cleared in the Victoria area and set the stage for a beautiful lunar eclipse. A fireball and a fleeting impact on the lunar surface were also witnessed by a lucky few. Due to its brightness I generally avoid observing the full moon but at this phase the ejecta rays of craters like Tycho and Copernicus were prominent. I adjusted my camera to highlight these striking features during the event. My optimum settings with a 127 mm refractor varied from 1/1250 second at ISO 100 at the beginning to 4 seconds at ISO 800 during totality. This remarkable reduction in intensity enabled one to enjoy a rich star field during totality. I observed the eclipse at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full. The atmosphere was joyous with occasional outbreaks of wolf howls to honour the Super Wolf Blood Moon. It was wonderful to share this event in community.

This eclipse has inspired a number of RASCals to attempt the RASC lunar observing programs. These in include an introductory program entitled Explore the Moon and a more comprehensive program called the Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program. So far only 18 RASCals nation wide have completed the Isabel Williamson challenge. Perhaps you will want to join Victoria’s own Nelson Walker in this elite group. Check it out!

Some changes have been made at the Victoria Centre Observatory. The Victoria Centre recently received a generous donation of a 20 Inch Obsession Dobsonian telescope. In order the accommodate this scope at the VCO the existing 20 inch Dobsonian has been relocated to the Center of the Universe. This scope was beautifully crafted by Guy Walton in 2003 using a mirror from Jack Newton. In addition to serving as a museum piece this scope will be rolled out on the patio and used for public outreach events.

RASCals are reminded that during our February 13th Monthly Meeting there will be a very short administrative “Mini AGM”. This meeting is required as a result of the recent change of our fiscal year end from September 30th to December 31st. This could take less than 5 minutes so bring your stop watches!

Cloudless Nights! Reg Dunkley

Total Lunar Eclipse – Jan 20, 2019

Posted by as Observing Highlights

RASC Victoria members’ photos of the 2019 Total Lunar Eclipse

On Sunday, January 20th, 2019, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon (weather permitting). The Moon will be in partial phase after rising from the eastern horizon, and move into full eclipse in evening hours as it climbs in altitude and moves to the southeast. The Total Lunar Eclipse will develop over the course of about 3 hours, will be in Totality for about an hour, and will end just before midnight.

This is a perfect opportunity to visually observe this beautiful celestial event, and possibly capture some photographs from a location with an unobstructed view to the east and south.

ECLIPSE TIMELINE
Eclipse beginsMoon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra6:36 pm PST
Partial eclipse begins – 1st ContactMoon’s eastern limb enters the umbra7:33 pm PST
Total eclipse starts – 2nd ContactMoon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
8:41 pm PST
Totality9:12 pm PST
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact9:43 pm PST
Partial eclipse ends – 4th ContactMoon’s western limb leaves the umbra10:51pm PST
Eclipse endsMoon leaves the penumbra11:48 pm PST
Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Standard Time (PST) for the west coast of North America, and are calculated from UT as presented in the Observers Handbook 2019, pages 127-29.

What’s Happening

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.


h

Glossary

  • limb – the outer edge of the Moon
  • penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
  • umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
  • partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
  • total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra

Observing Tips

What do you need?

Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.

Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view to the east and south especially if you wish to view during the late stages.

Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.

A good observing project for this long-lasting eclipse will be to observe the craters on the Moon as the eclipse progresses. Craters will be immersed and emerge from the Earth’s shadow on the Moon at times specified in the Observers Handbook 2019, page 129.

Totally eclipsed Moon over the Salish Sea from Cattle Point – Sep 27, 2015

Photographic Tips

Equipment

Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.

Settings

Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.

Technique for smartphone cameras

Smartphone cameras typically do not support manual settings, so using them to capture a lunar eclipse will be less rewarding than using more capable cameras. That said, smartphone cameras can be held up to a telescope eyepiece to capture an image of the Moon. Aligning the tiny lens to the eyepiece can be tricky, however there are platforms made to clamp onto an eyepiece barrel which will hold smartphones steady enough to take acceptable photos of the Moon, including the eclipsed Moon.

Technique for interchangeable lens cameras

The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon.

For a full frame camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconverters to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconverter will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconverter will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.

Note for the smaller sub-full frame sensors of some digital cameras you gain an extra advantage as the focal length of the lens is effectively magnified by a factor. For example a Nikon DX body your 200mm lens would be effectively 300mm.

  • APS-C Nikon DX, Pentax : 1.5x
  • APS-C Canon EF-S : 1.6x
  • Four Thirds : 2x

Example:

 Focal Length ApertureEffective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
Effective Aperture
with 2x teleconvertor
 180mm 2.8 360mm 5.6
 480mm 6.8 960mm 13.6

To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope.

The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.

Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium ISO setting and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.

Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
Full Moon1/500 second at f/16
1st Contact1/250 second at f/16 see note 1.
2nd Contact1 second at f/16 see note 2.
Totality
*see table below
L = 4 : 4 seconds at f16  L = 3: 15 seconds at f16  L = 2: 1 minute at f16  L = 1: 4 minutes at f16
3rd Contact1 second at f/16 see note 2.
4th Contact1/250 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
 L = 1dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
 L = 2deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
 L = 3brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
 L = 4very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim

Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.

Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.

The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at davidflee7331@gmail.com.


David Lee – original text
Joe Carr – updated for 2019
Brenda Stuart – illustrations


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