2020 AGM Service Awards

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Awards to members for service in 2019

Newton/Ball Award: Michel Michaud

  • Michel has made a major contribution to the Victoria Centre serving as Librarian and Observing Chair where he coordinated MIC’s for the VCO and scheduled Messier Marathons.
  • He is one of the few who are qualified to run the Plaskett Telescope and plays an essential role operating this instrument at DAO Saturday Star Parties and capturing images for RASC’als.
  • Michel’s quality binary star measurements in the Pleiades have been published in scientific databases and he serves as a role model for citizen science.
Reg presenting Michel Michaud with the Newton Ball Service Award
Reg presenting Michel Michaud with the Newton Ball Service Award

Ernie Pfannenschmidt Telescope Making Award: Ken Mallory

  • For his innovative stylish design of a viewing shield that will safely allow observers to direct solar binoculars at the Sun.
Ken Mallory using his innovative solar shield
Ken Mallory using his innovative solar shield

Award of Excellence in Astrophotography: Doug MacDonald

  • For his Excellence in capturing NGC 6992, The Eastern Veil in the Cyngus loop. Collecting 3 hours of Ha and OIII and one hour of RGB with a 5″ refractor in Victoria BC.
NGC6992 - Eastern Veil Nebula - by Doug MacDonald
NGC6992 – Eastern Veil Nebula – by Doug MacDonald

Certificate of Appreciation: Marjie Welchframe

  • For her Outstanding Support and Engagement for recruiting and scheduling RASC’als to tend the Centre of the Universe Welcome Desk.
Reg presenting Marjie Welchframe with a Certificate of Appreciation
Reg presenting Marjie Welchframe with a Certificate of Appreciation

Certificate of Appreciation: Chris Aesoph

  • For his Outstanding Support and Engagement for coordinating the RASC’s Stargazing event at Fort Rodd Hill.
Starting to observe from Fort Rodd Hill
Starting to observe from Fort Rodd Hill

Certificate of Appreciation: Bruce Lane

  • For his Outstanding Support in organizing the Victoria Centre Star Party at St. Stephens Anglican Church and his effective recruitment of RASC Volunteers.
Reg presenting Bruce Lane with a Certificate of Appreciation
Reg presenting Bruce Lane with a Certificate of Appreciation

Certificate of Appreciation: David Lee

  • For his vital contribution by stepping in as the Astronomy DayTeam Captain, recruiting Saturday Star Party Speakers and coordinating a Public Library Astronomy Display.
Reg presenting David Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation
Reg presenting David Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation

President’s Message February 2020

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The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing received the lions share of astronomical attention in 2019. There was another RASCal worthy milestone, however, that was overshadowed by this event. In October 2019 the Canada France Hawaii Telescope celebrated its 40th Birthday! In order to celebrate this momentous occasion the Victoria Centre has invited Mary Beth Laychak to deliver a presentation on the CHFT at our AGM banquet. Mary Beth is the author of the CHFT Chronicles, a very interesting column which appears in the RASC Journal. As the Director of Strategic Communications for the CFHT she is the ideal person to share stories of the science, staff, instrumentation, and adventure from this remarkable observatory that is brimming with Canadian content.

It should be noted that all Victoria Centre RASCals are welcome to attend this presentation. It will begin at 7:30PM on Saturday February 22nd at the Ambrosia Centre, located at 638 Fisgard Street. Participation in the banquet is not required but I encourage you to consider this savoury opportunity. The AGM was originally booked at the Cedar Hill Golf Course but in January a plumbing failure closed that venue for 6 months. In response to this crisis our intrepid Treasurer, Deb Crawford, went into overdrive and secured the Ambrosia Centre, which enjoys an outstanding culinary reputation. Since easy parking is available across the street we hope that you will join us for delicious cuisine, sparkling conversation, an interesting presentation and recognition of remarkable RASCals. There will also be a streamlined business meeting that will be so short that it will be painless. If you plan to attend please email Deb Crawford treasurer@victoria.rasc.ca by February 15th with your choice of entree.

Snow and fierce winds forced us to reschedule our Victoria Centre Council Meeting to January 22nd. Council focused on upcoming events.
– Astronomy Day will occur on Saturday April 25th at the Royal BC Museum. David Lee has once again kindly volunteered to organize this event. It serves as the kickoff of our ambitious 2020 outreach season. The first of 21 scheduled Saturday Night Star Parties at the DAO commence that evening and will continue until September 12th.
– From April 15th to May 2nd Langham Court Theatre will be performing Silent Sky, a wonderful play featuring the life of Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the luminosity-period relationship of Cepheid variables. Potential outreach possibilities are being explored.
– The 2020 RASC General Assembly in Metro Vancouver June 5th to 7th. Early bird registration discount ends February 15th.
– Fort Rodd Hill Stargazing event on Friday August 7th.
– The 25th Annual Island Star Party at Bright Angel Park on August 22nd and 23rd.
– Saanich Fair Epic Outreach Event September 5th to 7th.

You might notice that no Victoria Centre RASCal Star Party is planned for 2020. During a lengthy discussion it was noted that in order to select a star party date that did not conflict with the Island Star Party, Saturday Night at the DAO and the Saanich Fair, the Victoria Centre event would have to be held in late September. Both star parties held in September at St Stephens Church were rained out and demonstrated the unreliable nature of September weather. A significant majority of council felt that it was not worth the time, energy and expense to organize a star party when the likelihood of success was marginal. The idea of a “downsized” event that would provide both social benefits and encourage communal stargazing had a certain appeal. The option of a casual “Picnic at Pearson” might fit the bill and a late summer pot luck event at Pearson College is actively being explored. We may also hold a couple of casual observing sessions at Cattle Point during a favourable weather window. We will see how this works this year and revisit the Star Party option next year. When you remember that we also have the weekly events at the Victoria Centre Observatory we have plenty of activities for a busy season ahead.

Useable Skies
Reg Dunkley

February 2020 Speaker: 40 Years of Astronomy at the Top of the World

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Mary Beth Laychak, Canada France Hawaii Telescope

7:30 PM Saturday February 22nd 2020 The Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard Street

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT’s Director of Strategic Communications will share stories of the science, staff, instrumentation, and adventure from CFHT.

Mary Beth Laychak is the Director of Strategic Communications at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii. She also runs the Maunakea Scholars program, an innovative astronomy outreach program for Hawaii public high school students. Mary Beth has an undergraduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics from Penn State University and a masters degree in educational technology from San Diego State. Her passions include astronomy, sharing astronomy with the public, astronomy based crafts, and running. She lives in Waimea, Hawaii with her husband and cat.

Notice of Election at 2020 AGM

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Barbara Lane, Secretary, RASC Victoria Centre

There will be an election for the Victoria Centre council at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre, being held on February 22, 2020 at 7:30PM. Location: The Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard Street, Victoria, BC, Canada.

Here is the list of nominees.

President: Reg Dunkley
First Vice President: VACANT
Second Vice President: Marjie Welchframe
Secretary: Barbara Lane
Treasurer: Deb Crawford

Librarian: Diane Bell
Membership Coordinator: Chris Purse
National Rep: Nelson Walker, Bill Weir
Observing: Jim Stilburn
Outreach Coordinator: Mandy Lee
Past President: Chris Purse
Progressive Lighting Policies: Dave Robinson
Schools Program & Telescopes: Sid Sidhu
SkyNews Editor: Bruce Lane
Technical Committee Chair: Matt Watson
Webmaster: Joe Carr

Directors:

    James Di Francesco (DAO Liaison)
    Chris Gainor
    Jim Hesser
    David Lee
    John McDonald
    Bill Weir (Pearson College Liaison)
    Jim Nemec (Camosun College LIaison)
    Dan Posey
    Lauri Roche (Friends of the DAO Liaison)
    Alex Schmid (University of Victoria Liaison)

RASC Victoria AGM 2020

Posted by as Events, Meetings

You may have heard that the venue we had booked for our AGM, the Cedar Hill Golf Club was flooded and will be closed for the next 6 months. We are very fortunate to have found an alternative and excellent venue: The Ambrosia Centre at 638 Fisgard Street. The building is currently dressed up in tarps (it is being re-wrapped to make it more energy efficient) but the interior is just fine. There is lots of parking on the street, as well as in the City Parkade directly across the street, and Douglas Street offers a major bus route with stops in the same block. When entering the building, use the left door and walk straight ahead into our lovely room.

For all those of you who have already placed orders, you need do nothing more than show up at the new venue on February 22, 2020. If you have yet to sign up, please contact our Treasurer Deb Crawford by email no later than 7 days before the event (Feb 15th). Please specifiy how many in your party, and their choice of entree. Cost for dinner is $40 per person (including tip and tax).

Members who wish to skip the dinner but attend the AGM and presentation, please arrive at 7:30PM. There is no cost to attend, in this case.

Pre-dinner drinks and chat - 2018 AGM and dinner
Pre-dinner drinks and chat – 2018 AGM and dinner

The menu will be much the same as publicized before, however the chicken option is no longer offered, and a new vegetarian dish is added.

Entrees:

  1. Steak – state rare, medium or well-done when ordering
  2. Baked Wild Salmon – choice of sauce
  3. Vegetarian Lasagna – grilled vegetables layered with tomato sauce & noodles topped with cheese

Salads:

  • Caesar salad
  • Mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing
  • Marinated vegetable pesto
  • Traditional coleslaw

Side: Roasted Rosemary Baby Potatoes

Desserts:

  • Assorted mini pastries with fruit garnish
  • Homemade cheesecake
Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT
Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT

Schedule – Feb 22, 2020

  • 6:00 p.m. Doors Open – No Host Bar
  • 6:30 p.m. Buffet Style Banquet
  • 7:30 p.m. Presentation: The Canada France Hawaii Telescope: The First 40 Years by Mary Beth Laychak
  • 8:30 p.m. Annual General Meeting and Awards – Notice of Election

President’s Message January 2020

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Happy New Year RASCals! As we slide into a brand new decade it is a good time to reflect on astronomical accomplishments and events that have taken place over the last 10 years. It has been an amazing period for the field of Astronomy and I will list some of the significant stories that enjoyed widespread attention:

Within the Solar System: In 2011 the Messenger spacecraft went into orbit around Mercury while in July 2016 Juno went into orbit around Jupiter. In September 2017 Cassini crashed into Saturn ending an amazing 13 year exploration around the ringed planet. A number of other spacecraft went into orbit around Mars, comets and and asteroids during the decade. The New Horizons spacecraft captured fascinating imagery as it whizzed by Pluto in 2015 and managed a followup flyby of Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69 (Arrokoth) on Jan. 1 2019. In August 2012 the Curiosity Rover made a spectacular landing on Mars and detected evidence of ancient stream beds and the potential conditions for life. It continues a fascinating survey on the slopes of Mount Sharp.

On February 15th 2013 a large meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk Russia and caused significant damage.

Beyond the Solar System: The Kepler mission discovered over 2600 exoplanets and the TESS satellite is currently conducting a wider search for more nearby exoplanets. ALMA, the Atacama Large Microwave Array became operational and detected protoplanetary debris disks around nearby stars. ALMA also combined forces with other instruments as the Event Horizon Telescope and in 2019 captured the shadow of the supermassive black hole in M87.

In 2016 the LIGO interferometer measured gravitational waves for the first time and in August 2017 it detected the collision of neutron stars that was also confirmed by optical instruments.

In 2014 the GAIA Space telescope began a remarkable survey which has already mapped the position and brightness of 1.7 billion stars with precedented accuracy and measured the parallax and proper motion of 1.3 billion stars. The survey may continue until 2022 and has already had a major impact in many astronomical fields.

Within the Victoria Centre: The membership grew from 166 in 2010 to over 280 in 2018 and is currently around 265. Why the significant increase? Well the membership began to skyrocket in 2014. Two major things occurred that year. In June 2014 the Victoria Centre hosted the RASC General Assembly which celebrated the centenary of the Victoria Centre. President Nelson Walker rallied the RASCals and Mark Bohlman and Paul Schumacher organized a wonderful event which re-energized the membership. The Victoria Centre also hosted 7 Summer Star Parties at the DAO that year. This was in response to the closure of the Centre of the Universe in August 2013. The strong public interest in these star parties fostered the formation of the Friends of the DAO in 2015 and the number of star parties increased to 12 in 2015, 13 in 2016 and 20 events in 2017, 2018 and 2019. These Saturday night gatherings provided a rich outreach experience and also presented a great opportunity to recruit new members. During the past 3 years, star parties were also held at Fort Rodd Hill to coincide with the August Perseid meteor shower. The public were welcome to pitch tents in the field and this contributed to a joyous atmosphere for astronomical outreach.

Attendance at our informal weekly Astro Cafe increased from about 10 to 25 or 30 over the decade. The acquisition of a large monitor facilitated the display of astrophotos and presentations and may have helped boost attendance.
A review of past issues of SkyNews suggests that the Transit of Venus on June 5th 2012 and the Solar Eclipse of August 21st 2017 were the premiere observing events of the decade. At the Victoria Centre Observatory the 14 inch SCT and 127 mm refractor were sold in 2018 and replaced by a 16 inch RC reflector. The family of Jan James generously donated his wonderful 20 inch Obsession dobsonian telescope. The performance of the 16 inch scope continues to be refined and digital setting circles will be added to the 20 inch scope. So as we move into the next decade the VCO will be well equipped to support both visual and photographic astronomy.

During the last decade the Victoria Centre grew and become more engaged in promoting astronomy. In order to maintain this momentum as we enter the next decade please consider stepping up as the Vice President or Second Vice President at the February 22nd AGM. It will help share the load and provide a source of both enjoyment and satisfaction.

Useable Skies

Reg Dunkley

January 2020 Speaker: From Baby Planets to Black Holes: ALMA Explores the Cold Universe

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Dr. Gerald Schieven, NRC Herzberg

7:30 PM Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

The ALMA Observatory is a billion dollar multi-national astronomy facility located at high elevation in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Its 66 antennas work together as if one giant telescope 16 km in diameter, to give us unprecedented images of the cold, dark universe, including the birth of planets around other stars, organic molecules in the early universe, and the first image of the event horizon of the super-massive black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy. Gerald will talk about the observatory, what it’s like to work there, and some of the astonishing discoveries being made by this facility.

Dr. Gerald Schieven has been a staff astronomer at NRC – Herzberg for 24 years (11 of them in Victoria), and is responsible for managing Canada’s support of the ALMA Observatory. After obtaining his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, Gerald worked at Queen’s University in Kingston, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii before moving to Victoria.

The picture of the ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain was taken a few days before the start of ALMA Early Science. Nineteen antennas are in operation, 5000 m above sea level.

December Speaker: The lives and deaths of galaxies — more than just a metaphor

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Dr. Marcin Sawicki

7:30 PM Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Astronomers often say that galaxies were “born” soon after the Big Bang, that they “live” while they are forming new stars, and that they “die” when they turn into quiescent “red and dead” ellipticals. Surely, these biological terms are just an interesting metaphor, aren’t they? No! It turns out that there is a deep connection between the pathways galaxies take through time and those that we humans take through our life cycles. In this talk I will show you how the fates of these two very different populations – galaxies and people – are connected at an underlying, fundamental level that lets us better understand the one by understanding the other.

Dr. Marcin Sawicki is an observational astronomer who studies how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time. He is especially fond of very large samples of galaxies that span multiple epochs, and uses data from ground-based telescopes such as CFHT, Gemini, and Subaru, and space-based observatories such as HST, Spitzer and (soon) JWST. He is Canada Research Chair in Astronomy and Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, and is currently on sabbatical leave visiting NRC-Herzberg in Victoria.

President’s Message December 2019

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Neither history nor society is generous to those who come in second place. Buzz Aldrin knows this all too well and I do not believe there is a movie in the works called “The Second Man”. A similar fate has fallen on the Apollo 12 mission. I bet most of you would have to refer to Bruce Lane’s November SkyNews issue to come up with the names of the Apollo 12 crew. I will spare you the effort; Pete Conrad and Alan Bean climbed into the Lunar Module “Intrepid” and landed on an area of the Ocean of Storms on November 19th 1969. Richard Gordon remained aboard Command Module “Yankee Clipper”. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing was celebrated with great hoopla around the globe. There were a series of special events at the DAO culminating with Dr. Chris Gainor’s Moon Walk presentation. In contrast the 50th for Apollo 12 barely received a mention.

Apollo 12, however, is memorable for a number of reasons. First of all it was struck by lightning within a minute of launch and the command module immediately lost it’s fuel cells and instrumentation. It was the quick thinking of a brilliant Nasa engineer and Alan Bean’s remarkable memory of an obscure switch which prevented the abortion of the mission.

Apollo 11 was also very nearly aborted during the final descent to the Moon. The relaxed drawl of capsule communicators concealed the alarm that was felt during the last 13 minutes to the Moon. This has been richly captured by an outstanding and immersive BBC podcast https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xttx2/episodes/downloads. Apollo 11 came in too fast and overshot the planned landing area. Neil Armstrong was confronted with rough terrain and had to use up all but 20 seconds of fuel to find a suitable landing spot. In contrast the Apollo 12 mission executed a pinpoint landing and Pete Conrad just had to make a minor intervention at the end to avoid some rubble. They landed within 1000 feet of the Surveyor 3 landing probe. The improvement of the landing accuracy has been attributed to adjusting for local variations in gravity introduced by mountains.

There was concealed drama at the end of the Apollo 12 mission. Remember those lightning strikes? There was concern that they may have damaged the explosive bolts that release the parachutes during the November 24th return to Earth. NASA decided it was better not to share these concerns with the astronauts. They had enough to think about! Even though this was the “second” landing it was a fascinating voyage, rich with history and certainly worthy of celebrating and revisiting. The next 50th anniversary will be in April with Apollo 13 … and there was no shortage of drama on that mission!

For the Victoria Centre Monthly Meeting at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, December 11th we will be changing focus from the solar system to the evolution of galaxies. Visiting Astronomer Dr. Marcin Sawicki will deliver an interesting presentation entitled “The lives and deaths of galaxies — more than just a metaphor”. We hope you can make it to Room A104 in the Bob Wright Centre.

In the past the Victoria Centre held its Annual General Meeting in November. Due to a change in our fiscal year end this year the AGM will be held on February 22nd 2020 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course. We will be circulating the banquet menu for you consideration in the near future.

Please note that doors to Astro Cafe will be closed on December 23rd and December 30th. I would like to end by wishing all Victoria RASCals a very Happy Festive Season and Useable Skies in 2020.

Reg Dunkley

2019 Transit of Mercury

Posted by as Observing Highlights

2016 Transit of Mercury - prize-winning photo by John McDonald. Mercury is the tiny dot just above the trees, not the big sunspot in the middle of the Sun!
2016 Transit of Mercury – prize-winning photo by John McDonald. Mercury is the tiny dot just above the trees, not the big sunspot in the middle of the Sun!

This transit of Mercury will be well underway when the Sun rises at 7:00AM on November 11th. Observers in our location on the west coast of Canada will need to get up early and setup in the dark or pre-dawn, so familiarize yourself with your chosen observing location a few days before this event!

2019 Mercury Transit – gallery of photos and sketches from RASC Victoria Centre members.

Transit timing for Victoria, BC, Canada – Nov 11, 2019 – Pacific Standard Time (PST) – 2 hours & 45 minutes long

  • First contact (ingress, exterior): sun below horizon
  • Second contact (ingress, interior): sun below horizon
  • Sunrise – 7:00AM in the SE
  • Greatest transit: 7:20:26 AM PST
  • Third contact (egress, interior): 10:03:02 AM PST – Sun Altitude 19°
  • Fourth contact (egress, exterior): 10:04:43 AM PST
2019 Mercury Transit world map - Fred Espenak
2019 Mercury Transit world map – Fred Espenak

Observing

2019 Mercury Transit diagram - Fred Espenak
2019 Mercury Transit diagram – Fred Espenak

You should try out any gear you propose to use before Nov 11th. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars, camera lenses and telescopes you will be using. Take test photos of the Sun well before this event, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. 

Unlike a total solar eclipse, there is no safe time to take off your solar filters when observing a planetary transit across the Sun. Solar filters must be used the whole time you are looking at the Sun for this event!

Choose a location that has a clear view to the east and southeast, since the transit will be in progress as the Sun rises. Being located on a hill will be an advantage for observing the Sun (and transit) sooner.

Mercury is too small to see without using some magnification, so at a minimum, use solar filters on binoculars or a small telescope to observe with. Mercury will be impossible or extremely difficult to see with unaided eyes or pinhole projectors.

Timing and azimuth of sunrise from Victoria on Nov 11, 2019
Timing and azimuth of sunrise from Victoria on Nov 11, 2019

Finally, relax and enjoy this event. Sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses and filtered binoculars or telescope handy, and enjoy!

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