Have you noticed that the red planet has received the lion’s share of planetary press coverage lately? In July 2020 three Martian space missions were launched: The United Arab Emirates mission will place an advanced weather satellite, called Hope, in a Martian orbit. The Chinese mission Tianwen-1 will deliver an orbiter, lander and rover to the planet. NASA and JPL will land Perseverance and Ingenuity on Mars. Perseverance is similar to the phenomenally successful Curiosity rover and will drill and deposit caches of samples for a possible retrieval mission. Ingenuity is a small helicopter that will take short three minute missions that will scout for interesting objects for Perseverance to examine. All three missions will reach Mars in February 2021, just in time for the Victoria Centre AGM! What a great time to become the Centre President!
Martian enthusiasts will also be excited to learn the Hilary Swank and her brave team of astronauts in the Netflix Martian exploration drama AWAY will likely be renewed for another season. Keen observers of this program may, like me, be puzzled by the intermittent nature of weightlessness in this drama. I wonder if special effects budgets are a factor.
The big event this month, however, is the opposition of Mars which takes place on October 13th. At this time, only 0.41 astronomical units away, the Martian angular diameter reaches 22.4 arc seconds. In anticipation of this event some keen RASCals like John McDonald have been perfecting their planetary photography techniques. You may remember that during the last opposition in the Summer of 2018 a major dust storm prevented us to savour the surface details. Although weather patterns have been favourable of late, smoke from the major wildfires in Northern California have introduced a new element of uncertainty. We should keep in mind that the crescendo of the Martian angular diameter is a gradual event and let’s hope for usable skies and wonderful images.
Right in the middle of this Martian jamboree, however, I was happy to hear that our much neglected sister planet, Venus, crashed the party. On September 14th, a paper announced that “Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus”. In 2017 the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope detected the spectral signature of the molecule phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere. This was followed up by higher resolution data from ALMA in 2019. This created great excitement because phosphine is considered a bio-signature in rocky planets and offers the intriguing possibility of life in the Venusian atmosphere. This may inspire future missions to Venus … which maybe a good thing since those wildfires are ringing alarm bells about global warming. Maybe we should spend more effort studying the planet next door which provides an outstanding illustration of a runaway greenhouse effect. We have much more to learn.
A Perimeter Institute Public Lecture on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7 at 4 pm PDT
What do data science and the foundations of quantum theory have to do with one another? A great deal, it turns out.
Causal inference is a branch of data science that focuses on a common problem across many disciplines: disentangling correlation and causation in statistical data. Meanwhile, quantum physicists have pondered this problem as part of a continuing effort to make sense of puzzling quantum phenomena.
In the first talk of Perimeter’s 2020/21 Public Lecture Series, Robert Spekkens and Elie Wolfe will explore what is happening at the intersection of these two fields and how thinking like a quantum physicist leads to new ways of separating cause and effect from correlation patterns in statistical data.
Overall Winners 2020 – Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition – presented by Barbara Lane
Telescope installation at Victoria Centre Observatory – time lapse video and photo gallery – Sep 21, 2020 (for higher quality than the Zoom presentation version)
FDAO Virtual DAO Star Party Saturday September 19th 2020
The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory are hosting a Virtual Star Party on Saturday September 19th at 7:00PM. Robert Conrad and Andrew Krysa from the Vancouver RASC are speaking on Mars.
UVic Observatory Open House program for this Fall begins!
UVic invites you to their Observatory Open House program for this Fall. Zoom sessions will begin next Wednesday, Sept 23 at 7:30pm. They will continue weekly at the same time and day till December. This week the Director of CFHT, Dr. Doug Simons presenting ‘Celebrating 40 years of discovery at CFHT’.
This link to join the Zoom Meeting will work for all of UVic’s Astronomy’s Open Houses going forward.
Meeting ID: 935 9678 6035 Password: 566494
Images from Edmonton RASCals relayed by Dave Robinson
I don’t know about you but I am not ready to change the calendar to September just yet. The uncertainty introduced by the pandemic and the political drama unfolding south of the border distracted me from making the most of the Summer. The restrictions of Covid 19 produced a Star Party deficit and deprived the Victoria Centre of the social interaction enjoyed when sharing the night skies with others. But the constellations march on and they are indifferent to our plight. So enough snivelling and it is time to count our blessings.
On the Covid front, whether it was our favourable geography, good governance or good fortune, so far Vancouver Island has experienced relatively few cases when compared to other areas. On the weather front, relatively cool conditions have reduced wild fire smoke and presented favourable observing and imaging opportunities. On the technological front, Zoom and our tireless hosts, Chris Purse, Barbara and Kurt Lane and John McDonald have kept the doors to Astro Cafe open during the summer months. This allowed us to remain connected and share our techniques, images, sketches and enthusiasm. These sessions were all captured on video by the kindness of Joe Carr and posted on the Astronomy Cafe web page. One antidote to the pandemic was the visit by the beautiful comet C/2020 f3 Neowise. Editor Bruce Lane went the extra mile and prepared bonus issue #420 of the Victoria Centre newsletter, SkyNews, that showcased images and sketches of comet Neowise and conveyed the joy it generated. Bruce also provided a colourful history of comets of yesteryear and their relationship leaders of the day.
The National RASC response to Covid was remarkable. There were so many web offerings that they have developed a very useful weekly email entitled “What’s happening at The RASC?” which alerts you to regional and national presentations. If you are not already receiving this email then I encourage you to subscribe here. In particular they had developed a series of Zoom webinars related to the Explore the Universe program. These and other presentations have been captured and are available on the RASCanada YouTube channel for viewing at your convenience.
As we head into September, the number of Covid cases are on the rise and the rooms at UVic will remain closed. Instead of having a special monthly meeting on Zoom, we plan instead to have one Astro Cafe session each month with an invited speaker. The first presenter, Dr. Phil Groff, executive director of RASC, will attend our Astro Cafe Zoom meeting on Monday September 14th at 7:30 PM. It is a great opportunity meet Phil and share your thoughts with him.
As the nights continue to lengthen I do hope that you will find time to step out, look up and marvel.
Not all members of the Victoria Centre have been receiving this valuable email which provides information on weekly RASC online offerings such as the Explore the Universe and some regional Zoom presentations. To subscribe to this interesting message click here.
Impressive Images of Mars from Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar
Abdur Anwar dusted off his old Celestron 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope and put it to good use using a lucky imaging technique to capture some amazing images of Mars. On August 25th Abdur experimented with the program WinJupos which can remove the blurring effect caused by rotation. Check out the before and after images below.
Speaking of Mars check out this 4K video
The video in this link displays a collection of high resolution images taken on a number of Martian space missions. It is 12 minutes well spent.
Hawaiian Nights: A Personal Journey from Vancouver Island to Maunakea, with Cam Wipper
Don’t miss this interesting Zoom presentation at 4:00 PM PDT on Friday August 28th. Growing up in Nanaimo, Cam never imagined he would spend nearly a decade living in Hawai’i and working on Maunakea, the best place on Earth for astronomical observations.
In his talk, Cam will tell the story of how he found himself on Maunakea, from his days as a student at Vancouver Island University, to his first night up on the summit of Maunakea, nearly 14.000 feet (4200m) above sea level. This will include a brief history of astronomy in Hawaii, as well as an exploration of how a modern astronomical observatory conducts scientific observations. All will be told from the perspective of a telescope operator and scientific observer; a position Cam has held at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope since 2015. Click here to register.
Lagoon & Trifid Nebulae – Dan Posey
Moon shadows on Jupiter – John McDonald
A Poetic Pelican by Doug MacDonald
A wonderful bird is the Pelican. His beak can hold more than his belly can. He can hold in his beak enough food for a week! I’ll be darned if I know how the hellican.
Dixon Lanier Merritt
Shot this Aug. 9 – 13 with Bortle 6 skies. This bird lives in Cygnus, not too far from Deneb. I processed it in the SHO palette; it represents just over 8 hours of narrowband exposure with a 5″ refractor at f/5.5.
Final UVic Open House of the Summer is a Block Buster!
Cosmic Collisions Abstract: What happens when galaxies collide? Right now, the Andromeda Galaxy is hurtling towards us, on a direct collision course with our galaxy. Surely the Milky Way will not escaped unscathed? For almost a century astronomers have been trying to figure out what happens when galaxies clash, and from that investigation a harrowing tale of starvation, cannibalism, and complicated acronyms has arisen. With today’s massive telescopes and high-tech simulations, we can hope to understand what happens when the largest objects in the Universe go face-to-face. And perhaps we can predict how our galaxy will be changed for the better (or the worse)
Robotic Telescope Editing Contest for August: M82 the Cigar Galaxy
Edmonton RASCals Focus on the Deep Sky: relayed by Dave Robinson
Press Briefing on Starlink and other mega-constellations
At 11AM on Tuesday August 25th the American Astronomical Society (AAS) and NSF’s NOIRLab will have a press briefing on the SATCON1 LEOsat mega-constellations workshop report. SATCON1 gathered astronomers, satellite operators, dark-sky advocates, policy makers, and other stakeholders to discuss, understand, and quantify the impacts of large satellite constellations on ground-based optical and infrared astronomical observations as well as on the human experience of the night sky. The briefing will be live-streamed on the AAS Press Office YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/c/AASPressOffice)
Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar Captured the Cacoon and Bubble on August 9th
Abdur writes: Finally had a clear night last week and I spent most of my imaging time on the Cacoon Nebula (IC 5146) and the Bubble nebula. I got about 2 hours of data on the Cacoon and about 1.5 hours on the Bubble nebula using an ASI1600mm and an 8″ reflector. Really happy with how they turned out 🙂
Equipment and capture details for each target in order: ASI1600MM Pro ZWO LRGBHa filters Ha: 12 mins (Cacoon) / 27 mins (Bubble nebula) RGB: 20 mins each / 10 mins each L: 60mins / 30 mins Scope: 8″ f3.9 reflector Mount: EQ6R Pro
Dan writes: “Thanks to Bill kindly hosting last night, as the conditions at Pearson provided that opportunity I have been waiting for. The result isn’t perfect but that just means I’ll need to revisit in the future; I know where I need to be to take a longer stab at this target next year. This is 48.5 minutes (97x30s) using my Sigma 105 at f1.4 and my Canon Ra at iso 640.”
Title: Peering Into the Darkness with the JCMT: Witnessing the Birth of Stars
The birth of stars remains shrouded in mystery. Stars form inside thick puddles of gas and dust located primarily along the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Astronomers use infrared and radio telescopes to peer into and through these murky puddles to witness the birth of stars. For over 25 years the JCMT has been leading investigations to uncover the formation of stars in the Galaxy. In collaboration with the Spitzer Space Telescope, the Herschel Space Observatory, and the ALMA Observatory in Chile, the JCMT has transformed our understanding of stellar birth. Join me on an adventure to uncover nearby stellar nurseries.