President’s Message – December 2018

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When I returned to Victoria 6 years ago I had no idea that I would become so deeply involved in the local astronomical community. My bulging shelves of Astronomy books reflect my long term interest in the topic. I was briefly a member of the Vancouver Centre of RASC but due to the time, energy and expense to attend their widespread gatherings I remained on the periphery of that group.

In contrast the ideal scale of Victoria makes it much easier to get out and participate. When I attended my first Victoria Centre meeting at UVic I was struck by the high level of energy and enthusiasm in the room. I was also amazed by the many Astronomical activities that the Centre was supporting. Shortly after when I attended my first Astro Cafe I was made to feel so welcome that I kept coming back and that deepened my engagement. I have learned and enjoyed so much in the process. And now that I find myself President of this great Centre I am humbled, excited and a bit overwhelmed. I will give it my best shot but may not reach the high bar established by my predecessors like Chris Purse. The Centre made great strides while Chris was at the helm..

Recently, I delivered a presentation on Astronomy to a local organization. I attempted to explain the activities and appeal of Astronomy for the amateur community. I grouped our activities is three main categories:

1) Observing:
At the core we are, as David Lee so aptly describes, tourists of the night sky. The act of stepping outdoors on a crisp, clear evening instantly rewards us as we escape the clatter of civilization. Most amateurs usually chose to extend their vision with binoculars and telescopes. Some have turned observing into a sport, star hopping and honing their vision to locate a host of faint celestial objects. On page 8 of the November SkyNews Bill Weir has described several observing lists that encourage us to expand our hunt for more targets and greatly increase our knowledge of the night sky. The process of sketching celestial objects can further engage the visual observer.

For some, glimpsing faint fuzzies serves as an appetizer and they embrace the technical challenge of mastering astrophotography. The collection of Victoria Centre astro-photos on zenfolio is amazing and inspiring. But why bother photographing a celestial object when a beautiful Hubble image is only a click away? To me the difference between looking at an image and capturing and processing an image is similar to music. One can enjoy music just by listening but a much deeper involvement occurs when one masters an instrument and plays the music. Some observers are also devoted to taking measurements and analyzing the data. For example Michel Michaud (p6) has spent years discovering double stars in the Pleiades and his observations are published in the professional double star scientific database.

2) Learning:
We are on a quest to improve our understanding of the Universe. Amateurs find ourselves in a golden age as Astronomy makes headline news weekly. Knowledge is accumulating faster that we can digest it. The miracle of the internet makes it much more feasible for amateurs to keep abreast of developments as we attempt to answer the following:
-What do we know?
-How do can we say that? (Scientific Method and History of Discovery)
-Why does it behave that way? (Laws of Physics and Allied Sciences)
-What don’t we know? (The Ongoing Mystery)

3) Sharing:
Amateurs are very active in sharing our knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm:
-Within our amateur community: In-Reach
-With the Public and the Next Generation: Out-Reach

I am both proud and a little concerned about the energy we devote to sharing. I think it is important to aim for a better balance between In-Reach and Out-Reach activities. If we fail to nourish ourselves with in-reach activities we will deplete our capacity to deliver out-reach. It could resemble a stellar “core collapse.” So as we go forward let’s give ourselves permission to ease off a bit. We don’t want the Victoria Centre to go Supernova!

Cloudless Nights!

Reg Dunkley

Speaker: History of the Hubble Space Telescope

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Dr. Chris Gainor, President of RASC

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

At 7:30 PM in Room 116,
Engineering and Computer Science Building, UVic
Note Room Change

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 28 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 HST based on a history book the speaker is writing for NASA.

Dr. Chris Gainor is an historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books. He is also President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and editor of Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly.

Speaker: The Formation of Planets around Stars: What We Know and What We Still Need to Learn

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Dr. Doug Johnstone

Saturday November 17th, 2018:~7:30 PM

 

Following Victoria Centre AGM Banquet

at Cedar Hill Golf Course, 1400 Derby Road Victoria

 

Over the last few decades we have uncovered a great deal about the formation of stars. We have also undertaken an extensive census of planets and planetary systems around other stars. We are confident that the typical young star begins life surrounded by a gaseous yet dusty orbiting disk of material and that this circumstellar disk is the birth site of planetary systems.  Nevertheless, it is still almost impossible to witness the formation of planets and instead we must settle for indirect circumstantial evidence of the planet formation process when comparing observations against theoretical ideals and numerical simulations.  For this reason, astronomers have been developing ever more powerful telescopes and instruments to peer deeply into the cloudy environs of star formation and uncover planets in formation. I will discuss some recent observations that suggest planets may form during the earliest stages of star formation. I will also describe planned and anticipated (space) telescopes that will provide new ways of searching for planets in formation.

Dr. Doug Johnstone is an astronomer at the National Research Council’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria, BC. From 2012-2014 Doug was the Associate Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, a 15-m telescope on Mauna Kea devoted to observations of the sky at sub-millimeter wavelengths. Doug’s main research interests follow the formation of stars and planetary systems. He began his professional life as a theorist at the University of California, Berkeley, working on the evolution of circumstellar disks around young stars, back before extra-solar planet detections were common. He has spent time at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, the University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada. Today, Dr. Johnstone’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of structure in molecular clouds, attempting to disentangle the physical processes through which a molecular cloud sheds into individual stars and planetary systems.

President’s Message – November 2018

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As my term as centre president draws to a close, I thought I would look back at some of the noteworthy events from the past 2 years.

  • Centre member Brenda Stuart provided the illustrations for the new edition of the RASC publication Explore the Universe Guide.
  • We had longer seasons of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO in both 2017 and 2018. These started with Astronomy Day at the Royal BC Museum. The stat parties continued to be well attended.
  • Centre member Terry Ryals volunteered his carpentry skills to build a security cabinet so we could install our new monitor in the portable where we hold Astro Café.
  • Victoria High School proposed and launched an Astronomy 11 course.
  • In partnership with Parks Canada, observing evenings were held at Fort Rodd Hill and Gulf Islands National Park.
  • Members who had remained in Victoria hosted public eclipse viewing for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Many members travelled to the US to see the total eclipse.
  • The centre purchased a new telescope for the VCO and sold the surplus equipment.
  • In 2018, RASC celebrated its sesquicentennial with a number of special events, a commemorative Royal Canadian Mint coin, and a pair of commemorative stamps issued by Canada Post.
  • Centre members Lauri Roche and Jim Hesser organized and coordinated a national contest in honour of the sesquicentennial called Imagining the Skies.
  • The centenary of the Plaskett Telescope was celebrated on May 3, 2018 with the National Historic Site plaque unveiled.
  • RASC members were invited to attend sessions at the Canadian Astronomical Society annual meeting held in Victoria during May 2018.
  • Centre member Chris Gainor was elected National President at the 2018 General Assembly.
  • Centre members David Lee, John McDonald, and Jim Hesser assisted with a second concert of the music of William Hershell. The event in November 2018 was supported by a grant from the RASC special projects fund.
  • David Lee and Dan Posey offered a workshop on PixInsight to a group of astrophotography enthusiasts.
  • Astro Café continues to be well attended and our monitor is well used.
  • Centre members continue to volunteer countless hours for the schools program, Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair, and other outreach events.

I have enjoyed my term as president. It has been my honour to serve the centre and I thank all our members for their contributions. It has been a great experience to work with such an enthusiastic group of people and I look forward to my next role as past president.

A reminder that this month’s meeting is our Annual General Meeting that will take place on Saturday, November 17 at the Cedar Hill Golf Club with doors opening at 6 p.m. The evening starts with a dinner so if you have not booked a seat please do so by Sunday, November 11. The meal costs $40 and is a buffet with a pre-selected entrée. The entrée choices are chicken, salmon, steak, or vegetarian ravioli. If you wish to attend, send me your entrée selection at president@victoria.rasc.ca. Please see below for more information. If you cannot attend the dinner, the speaker and meeting portion are open to everyone at no charge.

Due to exams at the University, our monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 12 will be held in the Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) building room 116. This is near the room where the June 2018 meeting was held.

A final note and a concern. Our centre is not alone in having issues finding members willing to put their names forward for the leadership positions. We rely on a group of members to coordinate activities, make decisions, and keep the centre running in accordance with the relevant regulations. Despite a membership over 270, nominations have not been forthcoming for the incoming centre executive and this is a major problem. The centre cannot run without the council members. If we do not have leaders the centre is not viable and we really must question if we can continue to exist. That would be a sad occurrence after a history of 104 years. So, this is a final appeal before the AGM. We do need some more nominees for people to lead the centre.

Annual General Meeting & Dinner

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The November meeting of the Victoria Centre is the Annual General Meeting and Dinner. It will take place at the Cedar Hill Golf Course on Saturday, November 17. The doors open at 6 p.m.

The dinner consists of a buffet with a pre-ordered entree. The entree choices are chicken breast or Pacific salmon or vegetarian ravioli or grilled AAA sirloin steak. The buffet will include salads, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, steamed vegetables, and artisan bread, followed by assorted cakes and squares, coffee, and tea. Payment is by cheque (payable to RASC Victoria Centre) or cash.

After the meal at around 7:30 p.m., there will be a speaker, the presentation of our annual report, and centre awards. That portion of the evening is open to everyone at no cost. If you cannot attend the dinner please consider dropping by for the meeting. There is ample free parking.

Speaker – The Formation of Planets around Stars: What We Know and What We Still Need to Learn – Dr. Doug Johnstone

Approximate Call to order: 8:30 p.m.

Minutes of 2017 Annual Meeting: Chris

Centre Annual Report for 2018: Joe

Treasurer’s Financial Report: Bruce.

National Representative’s Report: Nelson

Awards: (The following may be awarded)

Award of Excellence in Astrophotography

Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making

Newton Ball Service Award

Special Awards

Election of Victoria Centre Council Members: Sherry

Nominees for RASC Victoria Centre Council for 2018 – 2019 (nominees indicated in bold; incumbents are shown without bold text)

Executive Positions

President – Reg Dunkley
Vice President –
Second Vice President –
Secretary – Barb Lane
Treasurer – Deb Crawford

Other Positions

Past President – Chris Purse
National Representative – Nelson Walker
Librarian – Diane Bell
Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu
Public Outreach –
Skynews Editor – Bruce Lane
Light Abatement – Dave Robinson
Membership – Chris Purse
Webmaster – Joe Carr
Observing Chair – Jim Stillburn
Systems Administrator & Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson

Members at Large

Jim Hesser
John McDonald
Lauri Roche – FDAO liaison
James DiFrancesco – DAO liaison
Jim Nemec – Camosun liaison
Alex Schmid – UVic liaison
David Lee
Dan Posey

New Business

Door Prizes

Adjourn

President’s Message – October 2018

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Thank you to everyone who was involved in the RASCals Star Party this year. We tried out a new venue in Central Saanich and it looks to have a lot of potential. If only the weather had cooperated! A number of centre members have observed from the site in the past with success. Despite the rainy weather, we did have some great talks and our first attempt at a star party barbecue went well.

I am pleased to report that our application for special project funding was approved. Jim Hesser, John McDonald, and David Lee will be putting together a visual display for the second concert of William Herschel’s music. The application sought funding from the RASC special project fund to cover the costs of some of the equipment needed for the concert. This concert will be part of the fourth season of the explorations in 18th century music. This year’s offering is called On the Construction of the Heav’ns and will feature a Baroque chamber orchestra. The venue is Christ Church Cathedral again this year and the concert will take place on Friday, November 16. There will be a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m. followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m. More information is available on the Christ Church Cathedral website and tickets are $30 each available from Ticket Rocket.

Save the date for our Annual General Meeting on the evening of Saturday, November 17. Evening festivities include a dinner, speaker, annual awards, and election of council. Please let me know if you by email at president@victoria.rasc.ca if wish to attend the dinner. The cost is $40.

We are now accepting nominations for the annual awards. In particular, we are seeking nominations for the Newton-Ball Award. Please see the website for details of the award and how to nominate a member to receive the award.

We will be looking for members to join the council this year. It has been a great experience for me to become part of the council and I encourage everyone, even if you’ve just joined, to consider putting your name forward. Sherry, our past president, will be coordinating the nomination process so please contact her at pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like more information and to put your name forward.

October Speaker: Coronal mass ejection evolution and their effects on galactic cosmic rays and planetary magnetospheres.

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Dr. Reka Winslow
Wednesday October 10th, 2018 at 7:30 PM

Room A104 Bob Wright Centre UVic

 

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are large eruptions of plasma and magnetic field into interplanetary space originating in the Sun’s atmosphere. CMEs interact with the environment that they propagate through; for example, they are the most common cause of planetary space weather, and they also modulate the flux of galactic cosmic rays. Because CMEs can be associated with strong southward magnetic fields of long duration, high velocities, enhanced dynamic pressures, and solar energetic particles, they are strong drivers of geomagnetic storm activity at Earth. The effects of CMEs on Earth’s magnetosphere have been studied for many decades; on the other hand, studies of CME effects on other planets are only now becoming possible with a number of spacecraft in orbit around inner solar system planets. This new data enables us, for the first time, to directly observe how CMEs cause space weather on other planets, and also how CMEs change during propagation from the Sun to Earth. In this talk, I will present efforts to investigate how CMEs evolve as they propagate outward from the Sun, in order to better predict their effects on planetary magnetospheres. I will also showcase how CMEs affect Mercury’s magnetosphere as well as the flux of galactic cosmic rays in the inner solar system.

Dr. Reka Winslow is a research scientist in the Space Science Center at University of New Hampshire, where she also conducted her postdoctoral work. She holds a Ph.D. in geophysics, having specialized in space physics and planetary science at UBC. She has over 10 years of experience conducting research in space physics. Her work bridges the fields of heliophysics and planetary science, by focusing on observational studies of coronal mass ejections, interplanetary shocks, galactic cosmic rays, and solar energetic particle events to better understand their evolution in the inner heliosphere and their interaction with different planetary magnetospheres in the solar system. She is a member of the science team for the CRaTER instrument onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and was a member of the MESSENGER science team while the spacecraft was orbiting Mercury.

September 17 2018: 21P Comet Giacobini-Zinner

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From an email post to RASC Victoria on September 17 2018: 21P Comet Giacobini-Zinner

It was clear enough last night to get a quick snapshot of the comet from the driveway. I had to get the light stand out with a large sheet of black foamcore to block the streetlight nearby. Light pollution was a challenge but I was able to collect 16 one minute images and do a simple stack in Maxim DL. It’s nicely framed by the open cluster M35 just underneath Auriga, IC443 a supernova remnant in Gemini and NGC2174 a HII emission nebula in Orion. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a better shot from darker skies this week :-)

David Lee

A response from Bill Weir:

That’s really nice David. In the early morning when the comet was within M35 I took the chance and drove to the cricket pitch in Metchosin even though 90% of the sky was cloud. This is my write up of the event.

Well that was fun and reconfirmed to me the value of being prepared. Around 0030hrs PDT I was putting the dogs out and looked up and saw a clear patch of sky heading to the east. I grabbed my eyepiece case, jumped in the car and headed to the cricket pitch as the 6 inch dob had already been in the car for days. It took over an hour for the clearish patches to make their way across the sky but that was OK as it gave me a chance to collimate the scope and check out various deep sky objects along the way. Eventually the left toe of Gemini (their toe) peaked through the clouds and I was able to pick out M35 with the 15X70 binos. No comet was visible so I panned about but couldn’t make out anything. Through the scope at 38X with a 31N it was a beautiful view of M35 and NGC 2158 but no comet was visible in the area. I upped the power to 60X and focused on M35 still nothing until I began to notice a fuzziness within the eastern side of the cluster to the SE(?) of a beautiful curving chain of stars. As I advanced though 120x and then finally to 200X it became apparent this was the comet fully within this beautiful cluster! It was similar to this image except move the comet a bit down and to the left.

http://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=148036&PHPSESSID=mkimbs7bfvk4n5pikdrfkqtpk3

In the end it reminded me in a way of the planetary nebula NGC 2438.

Shortly after drinking in the view clouds moved in and the show was over. It wasn’t my best comet observation by far due to low altitude in the sky and being over Victoria to the south east. That was OK though because my feet were freezing as good footwear was the one thing I neglected as I raced out the door. Drove off the field at 0215 PDT and was soon tucked in bed. Many like the phrase “make hay when you can” but I prefer,”you can’t dance at the party if you don’t show up”. This means go out even if the weather doesn’t seem optimal or you won’t see things at all.

Bill in Metchosin

President’s Message – September 2018

Posted by as President's Message

I hope everyone had an enjoyable summer and had many opportunities to enjoy the night sky.

I am pleased to announce that our very own Dr. Chris Gainor was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at the General Assembly in Calgary. It has been 40 years since another Victoria Centre member, Dr. Alan Batten, was the national president. Please join me in congratulating Chris on his election.

The Victoria Centre had a great summer of outreach events in 2018. Thank you to all everyone who organized and participated. We had another successful season of summer star parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory; there were a total of 19 well-attended Saturday evenings offered. A group of RASCals were at the Saanich Strawberry Festival with solar viewing in July. For the second year, members had their telescopes at the Fort Rodd Hill Star Gaze in August. There was an event on Pender Island on the same evening. And, there was the annual participation at the Saanich Fair over the Labour Day weekend. Some members also participated in a number of special events such as instruction and observing offered to guides and cadets. It was a busy and rewarding summer!

It was unfortunate that the Fort Rodd and Pender Island events coincided with the worst viewing conditions that I have experienced. In looking at Saturn, it was a fuzzy football-shaped object instead of its normally stunning planet with a fabulous ring. As I recall, that was one of the first evenings when forest fire smoke was in the skies above us. That really had a major impact and I am concerned that an increase in the severity of our forest fire seasons will make smoke a regular part of our summer.

With the arrival of September, we return to our normal schedule of weekly Astro Cafés starting on Monday, September 10 and monthly meetings resuming on Wednesday, September 12. As a reminder, we will be voting on our revised bylaws at the September 12 meeting.

We have another major event in September this year and that is our annual star party. It is taking place at our new venue on the grounds of St. Stephen’s Church in Central Saanich. That takes place September 7 to 9 and I hope many members are able to attend. Please see the website for the schedule.

Save the date for our Annual General Meeting on the evening of Saturday, November 17. Evening festivities include a dinner, speaker, annual awards, and election of council. We will be posting information about the meal options and cost once that is finalized.

We are now accepting nominations for the annual awards. In particular, we are seeking nominations for the Newton-Ball Award. Please see the website for details of the award and how to nominate a member to receive the award.

We will be looking for members to join the council this year. It has been a great experience for me to become part of the council and I encourage everyone, even if you’ve just joined, to consider putting your name forward. Sherry, our past president, will be coordinating the nomination process so please contact her at pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like more information and to put your name forward.

September Speaker – Planets Under Construction: How to Study a Million-Year Process

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By Dr. Nienke van der Marel

Wednesday September 12th, 2018 at 7:30 PM

Room A104 Bob Wright Centre UVic

Exoplanets are everywhere! In the last 25 years, thousands of exoplanets have been found throughout the Milky Way. But if they are so common, why is it that we still don’t know how they are formed? With the ALMA telescope we can now finally zoom into the birth cradles of planets: dusty disks around young stars. The spectacular images have given us new insights, but also raised many more questions regarding the process of planet formation.

Dr. Nienke van der Marel is an NRC postdoctoral research fellow at the Herzberg institute. She received her PhD in 2015 at Leiden University in the Netherlands, her country of birth. After that, she spent two years at the University of Hawaii as Parrent research fellow, before joining the Herzberg institute in November last year.