Date/Time: Wednesday March 13, 2024 starting at 7:30PM
Location: University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre, Lecture Theatre A104. Park in Lot 1 (pay parking) and cross Ring Road.
The new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) brought upon us a golden era for the study of distant galaxies. For the first time, we are capable of seeing the visible light of galaxies during the first billion years of the Universe. Understanding their shapes and forms, and how they changed since this epoch, reveals not only how they formed and evolved, but how our own Universe evolved as well. This talk will highlight groundbreaking discoveries made with JWST and illustrate how they alter our understanding of the cosmos compared to the pre-JWST era. We will also address misconceptions that have arisen in the mainstream media regarding these new insights into cosmology and how our concept of galaxies has evolved dramatically since 1920.
Biography: Leonardo Ferreira was born in Brazil and pursued an undergraduate degree and master’s degree in physics at the Federal University of Rio Grande, where he first began his work on the morphology of galaxies. He then moved to the UK for his PhD studies in Astronomy, focusing on how galaxies evolved across cosmic time. In 2023, Leonardo joined the University of Victoria as a Postdoctoral Fellow, working within Prof. Sara Ellison’s group on the topics of galaxy evolution through merging interactions. Leonardo has led pioneering studies on the morphology of distant galaxies using JWST and remains actively involved in this research area.
This message marks my return to the presidency of the Victoria Centre after nearly 20 years away from the job. While it is not unprecedented for someone to serve separate terms as President of the Victoria Centre, it has only happened a handful of times in our 110 years of existence.
The Victoria Centre and the RASC in general have just gone through four very difficult years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its after-effects.
We had to give up in person meetings and events for much of that time. Many in person activities returned in 2022, and last year, our monthly meetings at the University of Victoria and our annual banquet came back. One very positive legacy of the pandemic for our centre is the set of changes to our weekly Astronomy Café gatherings, which kept us going through the difficult days of lockdowns and can now can be attended in person or by Zoom.
Many people made it possible for the Victoria Centre to get through the past four years – including Reg Dunkley and Randy Enkin, who both served as President during that time, including an unprecedented three years in that office for Randy. They had help from many other people, many of whom still serve on the Centre Council. I would like to thank them all.
I’m very pleased to note that one of those members who has worked quietly and effectively in the background for many years – Alex Schmid – is receiving a long overdue recognition this year in the form of the Newton-Ball Award.
It can be argued that the Victoria Centre is now stronger and better than it was when the pandemic started in 2020. There’s Astronomy Café, much-needed updates to our constitution and governance, and continued improvements to the Victoria Centre Observatory. And many of our members, notably Lauri Roche, have worked hard to get the Friends of the DAO and the Centre of the Universe through the pandemic years.
I deserve very little credit for this great work at the Centre level, since I have been volunteering mainly at the National level over the past decade. As we all know, the pandemic landed a few direct hits on the National society that are still being absorbed, and I am continuing to help out there as Chair of the Editorial Board. Lauri and our National Reps are also doing a great job ensuring that our Centre is prominent in National affairs.
This year we can look forward to exciting events such as the April 8 solar eclipse and International Astronomy Day on May 18 at the Royal BC Museum, as well as challenges like our Star Party this summer.
I’m glad to be rejoining my many friends in the Victoria Centre as we carry on our work sharing astronomy with our community and with our own explorations of the universe.
Certificates of Recognition and Excellence for 2023
Congratulations to all the award winners who were announced at the RASC Victoria Centre Annual General Meeting held Feb 12, 2025!
Chris Purse – Certificate of Appreciation – Since the outbreak of the Covid Pandemic in 2020, Chris helped implement Astro Cafe Zoom sessions and has scheduled, hosted and coordinated these meetings. This contribution ensured that the Victoria Centre remained active and connected during a challenging interlude and has emerged as a preferred way for many to attend sessions.
David Payne – Certificate of Appreciation – FOR organizing, coordinating, and executing a very successful 2023 Island Star Party at Bright Angel Park. Dave navigated bureaucratic hurdles and logistical challenges along the way. As a result, the many who attended will fondly remember this special event.
David Lee – Token of Appreciation – the Victoria Centre “renaissance Man” – in recognition of his many and wonderful contributions.
Lauri Roche – Token of Appreciation – the Victoria Centre “Energizer Bunny” – in recognition of her many and wonderful contributions.
Award of Excellence in Astro-Imaging – TO Ken McGill FOR his black and white image of the Horsehead Nebula and Neighbourhood.
Award of Excellence in Astro-Sketching – TO Bill Weir FOR his Comet C/2022 E3(ZTG) sketched on Feb 15, 2023 Using a Televue NP101 Refractor at 90x.
RASC National Ken Chilton Prize in recognition of a significant piece of astronomical work carried out or published recently – TO Chris Gainor. His book Not Yet Imagined, documents the history of the Hubble Space Telescope. Citation
Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award for Telescope Making – TO Miles Waite FOR many improvements to the VCO 20 Inch Obsession Telescope including attaching digital setting circles and designing bumpers to safeguard these delicate sensors, as well as devising a customized system to stabilize the platform.
Newton-Ball For Distinguished Service to the Victoria Centre RASC – TO Alex Schmid – Alex has been an active member of the Victoria Centre for over 30 years. Accompanied by his iconic handmade Newtonian telescope, Alex has been introducing treasures of the night sky to the Public at DAO Star Parties for decades. His custom crafted tray at the VCO allows eyepieces (to be) safely stowed and readily available. As the Victoria Centre librarian he also prepares coffee, cookies, and wonderful cakes for monthly meetings at UVic. Alex also provides technical support at the Astro Cafe and serves as a Director at Large on Council. The Victoria Centre is very appreciative for the many contributions Alex has made over the years.
A Total Solar Eclipse is a rare astronomical event (2017 was the last one), and it is even rarer for one to occur in locations that are easy to travel to. Although only a partial eclipse is observable from western Canada, the eclipse tracks diagonally across North America (southwest to northeast) on April 8, 2024. In fact, everyone in North America is within striking distance of being able to observe this amazing event, where the Moon slides in front of the Sun for a few brief minutes, suddenly and totally obscuring the Sun.
If you haven’t observed a Total Solar Eclipse, this is your chance!
The eclipse tracks diagonally across North America, starting in Mazatlan, Mexico, across Texas and other states in the middle of the USA, tracking across southern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Dedicated eclipse chasers are seeking the best prospects of clear skies by travelling to Mexico, but there are lots of Canadians planning to observe from locations near home, despite the chance of clear skies being poor at that time of year.
Time and Date’s 2024 Total Solar Eclipse site gives all the facts and figures required to find and enjoy the eclipse, including an interactive zoomable map showing the eclipse track and links to livestreams if you want to experience this eclipse from the comforts of home.
What if you can’t travel to the track of totality?
You can still see a partial solar eclipse from anywhere in North America. Use Time and Date’s interactive eclipse map to get the calculated timing for the eclipse in the area you plan to observe from. Click and zoom to your area, then click on your observing spot to see a popup telling you how long the eclipse will last and what you will see.
From our location in southwest BC in Canada, a small notch out of the solar disk will appear on eclipse day – obscuring about 17% of the Sun. Not exciting compared with the dramatic Total Solar Eclipse observed from the centreline, but still an interesting apparition to observe, assuming the 76% chance of cloud cover doesn’t prevail!
Weather always plays a big part in any solar eclipse, so being mobile is key to improving the odds of actually seeing the event should clouds threaten to obscure the Sun at the critical moment. Our very own Jay Anderson (former RASC Journal editor) is a weather expert, and specializes in forecasting weather for solar eclipses. His Eclipseophile website offers sage advice backed up with maps and charts depicting weather prospects for each eclipse happening in the world for the next several years. Read Jay’s analysis of the area you propose to observe from, so you understand how the weather might behave on eclipse day. Topography, elevation changes and local factors play into how the weather evolves throughout the day for a particular locale. Become a local weather expert, and you increase your chances for success!
Observing a Total Solar Eclipse is pretty easy, however that said, if you haven’t done it before, it’s nice to have experienced eclipse observers around to help you get the most out of your time under the Moon’s shadow. Obviously the time of total eclipse is the main event, however other things happen beforehand, afterwards, and during an eclipse that are worthwhile.
Although the eclipsed Sun is the main target, look around in the darkened sky for planets and other bright celestial objects. There is a good chance eclipse observers will be able to see: Uranus, Jupiter, Comet Pons-Brooks (12P), Mercury, Venus, Neptune and Saturn! Of course, the sky only darkens for the observer if they are in the path of totality, so anyone observing a partial eclipse won’t see any solar system bodies (except the Sun itself).
Be sure to try out any gear you propose to take with you before you leave. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars (or your eyes), camera lenses and telescopes you are bringing along. Remember, you only have a few minutes to see totality!
Finally, relax and enjoy the day. Arrive early. Try to manage your stress level. Just sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses handy, and enjoy!
If this is your first time experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse, don’t risk missing the eclipse by fiddling with cameras! Observing through (filtered) binoculars is a low risk way to capture the moments of totality in your memory.
For dedicated photographers, using their gear to capture a Total Solar Eclipse can be a right of passage, and has the potential to either be a highlight of your lifetime photography experience (if you succeed) or end up being a point of shame you never want to talk about again (if you fail). Take test photos of the Sun weeks beforehand, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. Always have a backup plan for when (not if) gear breaks, or you simply can’t get it to work properly. Here are some scenarios for consideration for those who are brave enough to want to multitask during totality – a once-in-a-lifetime event (least difficult listed first):
Use a smart phone on automatic mode to take photos or videos of the scene around you
Use a camera and wide angle lens mounted on a tripod to record the landscape, people and the eclipsed Sun (and perhaps stars and planets) in the sky. Take a random series of shots or set the camera to shoot automatically at regular intervals to create a time lapse series.
Use a camera and moderate telephoto lens on a tripod to shoot video of the eclipse in the sky. Keep the telephoto lens short (80mm to perhaps 135mm) to let the eclipsed Sun pass through the frame.
Use a camera and long telephoto lens on a tripod to shoot photographs of the eclipsed Sun. Take photos of the eclipse at the important moments: plasma streamers, Bailey’s Beads, Diamond Ring, totality, and partial eclipse phases.
Use a telescope on a tracking mount with a camera on the back to capture closeup details of the eclipse events such as Bailey’s Beads and the Diamond Ring.
Dedicated eclipse chasers and tour operators have made reservations at least two years ago at all the prime locations for this eclipse along the centreline where the weather is best. That’s not to say last-minute travellers are shut out from experiencing this eclipse – by planning carefully and compromising a bit, it can still work. Flights to hotspots like Mazatlan a couple of days before to a couple of days after April 8th will be fully booked, as will hotels and guest houses. Flying to nearby airports and staying in accommodation outside the centreline can make sense. Driving into the track of totality early on eclipse day can work for many who have not planned ahead.
Many of the USA states the eclipse track runs through will not have crowds of people once you are on country roads. With careful planning using the interactive eclipse and weather maps, it is certainly possible to observe the eclipse from the side of the road, parking lots, campsites, or farmer’s fields. Interstate highways which are in the track of totality will experience congestion, depending on how close to civilization the location is. When driving, expect long delays even for 24 hours or so after an eclipse as all those eclipse chasers try to get home! To avoid that anxiety, plan to stay a day or two longer near your observing site before commencing your road trip home.
If this will be your first time observing a total solar eclipse, no doubt you have many questions and concerns, and don’t know where to start. The resources presented here may be overwhelming. Please ask any questions you might have about eclipses at Astronomy Cafe, held each Monday evening by RASC Victoria Centre. Your fellow RASC members have observed solar eclipses before…they can help!
If you are reading this from other locations, find your local RASC Centre in eastern Canada which have posted eclipse events and information – Eclipse 2024 RASC.
Date/Time: Wednesday January 10, 2024 starting at 7:30PM
Location: University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre, Lecture Theatre A104. Park in Lot 1 (pay parking) and cross Ring Road.
Radio astronomy has been around for nearly a hundred years. In that time, we have only managed to see a glimpse of the Universe’s many hidden secrets that can be revealed at radio wavelengths. With recent advances in computing, we have seen an explosion of new radio telescopes, including the upcoming Square Kilometre Array for which Canada has officially announced its intention to become a full member. With these telescopes comes a wealth of new and upcoming data. I will discuss some of the things that we hope to learn, the challenges we still face, and the new technology that comes with it.
Jennifer West is currently a Covington Fellow at the Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre, National Research Council of Canada. She is interested in magnetic fields in supernova remnants and the Milky Way Galaxy, using data from large surveys using cutting edge radio telescopes. Previously she was at the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto and prior to that she completed her PhD at the University of Manitoba.