President’s Message – December 2017

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With 2018 on the horizon, we have two events to celebrate in the New Year.

The first is the sesquicentennial of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. RASC commissioned a history of the society, Looking Up: A History of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada that was written by R. Peter Broughton and published in 1994. It is available on the RASC website at rasc.ca/looking for those who would like to know more about the history of our society.

The society traces its roots to the year after confederation when a group of friends formed the Toronto Astronomical Club in 1868. The club was renamed as a society in 1869. Around 1884, the name of the society was changed to The Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto; the society was formally incorporated in Ontario in 1890. In 1900, the name reverted to the 1869 version, namely, The Toronto Astronomical Society. Two factors resulted in this name only being used for three more years. The first was that astronomical clubs were forming in other Canadian cities and a number of clubs elsewhere in Ontario had affiliated with the Toronto society. It was realized that having Toronto in the name was too restrictive. The second was the 1901 visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, later to become King George V and Queen Mary. Their visit increased interest in the monarchy and led to the suggestion that the society become a royal society. After much debate, the society decided to petition King Edward VII for The Toronto Astronomical Society to become the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The formal request to change the name of the society was granted on March 3, 1903.

Additional centres formed over the years with our own centre being founded in 1914. If you look at the centre list, that does make us one of the original six! Much has happened in the 150 years since a group of friends with an interest in astronomy decided to form a club. A wonderful logo has been created to help celebrate this anniversary drawing on highlights of Canadian astronomy. Make sure you have a look at the RASC sesquicentennial site, rasc.ca/2018, to learn more.

There will be a number of celebrations during 2018 in honour of this anniversary. The first will be held on Saturday, January 27. The RASC 2018 committee is proposing a cross-country Star Party that will combine solar and lunar observing (weather permitting), starting on the Atlantic coast and reaching westward and northward to encompass all Centres as the afternoon progresses. The logistics of the local Star Party will be at each Centre’s discretion but the committee proposes a start time of 3 p.m. local time. Technology permitting, the Star Parties will be linked via Google Hangouts and the link will be shared publicly allowing anyone to witness the sun, moon, and the local celebrations. We are looking at holding our event at the University of Victoria as that would provide us with the technological support and space needed. More details will be announced as they become available.

The second anniversary of note is the centennial of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. It was announced in 1914 that the observatory would be built on Little Saanich Mountain but it would take 4 years for the observatory to see first light on May 6, 1918. There are plans underway to celebrate this historic anniversary and further details will be shared as they become available.

On behalf of the Council of the Victoria Centre, I wish each of you a happy holiday season and all the best for 2018!

 

 

Speaker: Supernovae and the Meaning of Life: Dr. Chris Pritchet

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Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, University of Victoria

RASC Victoria Centre’s Monthly Meeting

Supernovae are among the most energetic, extreme and interesting objects in the Universe. This talk will focus on the nature of supernovae, their cause and properties, and especially on how supernovae affect our very existence.

Bio: Chris Pritchet is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria, where he has been a faculty member since 1982. He studies supernova explosions across vast reaches of the Universe, and was the Coordinator of the “Supernova Legacy Survey” – an observational quest for the nature of the mysterious “dark energy” that fills the Universe. Outside astronomy, his passions are music, canoeing, back-country skiing, and film.

Victoria Centre’s AGM 2017

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Members soclalizing over dessert
Members socializing over dessert

Victoria Centre held our Annual General Meeting on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course in Victoria, BC, Canada. An excellent dinner was served by the golf course staff and some pre-dinner drinks; a fascinating speaker; awards were given to members for outstanding service and noteworthy accomplishments; and an election was held for the 2017-18 Victoria Centre Council (Executive).

Event Photos – online gallery opens in a new window

 

Speaker

Chris Willott speaking about his research and the James Webb Space Telescope
Chris Willott speaking about his research and the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope: the countdown is on – Chris Willott

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the prestigious Hubble Telescope. With a diameter of 6.5 m, this infrared telescope will be launched 1.5M kilometres from Earth for a scientific mission lasting 5 to 10+ years. Canada, one of the main partners in this project with the United States and Europe, provides one of the four scientific instruments and the guiding system. The development of Webb is well underway and the world astronomical community is actively preparing for the planned launch in early 2019. This presentation will provide an update on the state of the development of the telescope and give an overview of the scientific program of the Canadian science team that includes observations to detect galaxies in the early universe and determine the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets similar to Earth.

Chris Willott is a research astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria. He studies the most distant galaxies in the Universe to understand how stars and black holes formed soon after the Big Bang. In addition to research, he works at the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope archive scientist and is the Canadian Project Scientist for the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope.


Awards

The evening started with the award of past outstanding Certificates, due to absent recipients at past AGM’s.

From 2014

Certificate of Appreciation to Charles Banville for 2014 RASC General Assembly Victoria. Charles efforts in managing the logistics in transportation of our visiting members and guests.

From 2016

Certificate of Appreciation to Lauri Roche for Public Outreach at the DAO, for her outstanding support and engagement in the role of ” Person in Charge ” and volunteer coordinator.

Certificates and Awards for 2017

Certificates of Appreciation were presented to the many volunteers “For Public Outreach, Solar Eclipse 2017” for their outstanding support and engagement in Solar Viewing at numerous location in Victoria, including Mount Tolmie, the Royal BC Museum and Metchosin.

Recipients included : Ken Mallory, Jean Mallory, Jennifer Bigelow, Deb Crawford, Dan Posey, Sid Sidhu, Jim Stillburn, Li-Ann Skibo, Michael Wheatly, Marjie Welchframe, Prem Chainani, Fatimah Al Sharyah, Erin Britton, Sherry Buttnor, Michel Michaud and Bruce Lane.

President Chris Purse receiving the Ernie Phanneshmidt Award from Vice-president Reg Dunkley
President Chris Purse receiving the Ernie Phanneshmidt Award from Vice-president Reg Dunkley

Centre Certificates and Awards

Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award for Amateur Telescope Making 2017  presented to Mr. Chris Purse, for his outstanding achievement in designing and the building of a custom Field Power Pack c/w innovative digital and analog features.

Award of Excellence in Astrophotograohy 2017 presented to Mr. John McDonald, for his excellent photography of the Milky Way at the Vista Point of the Caves Creek Canyon, Portal AZ. Captured with a Canon 6D, Ioptron Sky Tracker, Sigma 15mm lens @ f / 2.8.

Certificate of Excellence 2017 presented to Reg Dunkley, in appreciation of his organization, leadership and guidance so capably rendered as the Skynews editor and Astronomy Café host.

Special Awards and Plaques.

Special Award Plaque of Excellence presented to Terry Ryals, for the design and fabrication of the Astro Café TV Cabinet. 2 Plaques were awarded with one to be mounted on the cabinet and the second as a keeper.

Award of Appreciation Plaque was presented to Michel Michaud, for his contributions as Plaskett Telescope Operator for the Summer DAO Star Parties and including the Active Observers viewing sessions.

Newton / Ball Award 2017

Matt Watson and Dan Posey receiving the Newton Ball Service Award from President Chris Purse
Matt Watson and Dan Posey receiving the Newton Ball Service Award from President Chris Purse

This year’s award went jointly to Matt Watson and Dan Posey for their distinguished service to the Victoria Centre. A certificate of appreciation was also delivered stating the following :

A major milestone was reached this year for the RASC Victoria Centre VCO, with the installation of it’s new 16 inch RC truss telescope. Technical planning and installation was a joint effort of Matt Watson and Dan Posey.
For years Matt and Dan have exercised the equipment at the VCO acting as MIC’s tending to the maintenance and creating some of the most beautiful images our centre has seen.

Congrats to both.

Many thanks for this opportunity to serve as awards coordinator, Bruno Quenneville


Minutes of 2016 Annual Meeting (available to Members Only) – Chris Purse

Centre Annual Report for 2017 (14Mb PDF slideshow) – Reg Dunkley

Treasurer’s Financial Report  (available to Members Only) – Bruce Lane

National Representative’s Report – Nelson Walker

Awards – see above

Election of Victoria Centre Council Members: Sherry Buttnor

RASC Council positions for Victoria Centre 2017 – 2018 – no elections required – all acclaimed or appointed

Executive Positions

  • President – Chris Purse
  • First Vice President – Reg Dunkley
  • Second Vice President – Deb Crawford
  • Secretary – VACANT
  • Treasurer – Bruce Lane

Other Positions

  • Past President – Sherry Buttnor
  • National Representative – Nelson Walker
  • Librarian – Michel Michaud, Diane Bell (assistant)
  • Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu
  • Public Outreach – Ken Mallory
  • Skynews Editor – Reg Dunkley
  • Light Abatement –  Dave Robinson
  • Membership – Chris Purse
  • Webmaster – Joe Carr
  • Observing Chair – Jim Stilburn
  • Systems Administrator & Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson

Members at Large

  • Jim Hesser
  • Lauri Roche (FDAO Liaison)
  • James DiFrancesco (DAO Liaison)
  • Alex Schmid (UVic Liaison)
  • Jim Nemec (Camosun Liaison)
  • David Lee
  • John McDonald (Astro Cafe)
  • Li-Ann Skibo
  • Chris Gainor (National Officer)
  • Dan Posey

Door Prizes were awarded.

President’s Message – November 2017

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Another Victoria Centre milestone was reached in the past month with the installation of our new 16″ Ritchey-Chrétien telescope at the Victoria Centre Observatory. So far, it is exceeding our high expectations and my initial impression is it was the right choice.

I was part of the group of active observers who met on the hill on Saturday, October 28 for its first light at a VCO evening. We had a look at a number of targets with varying magnifications and the views were impressive. A number of the group, including Charles Banville, Joe Carr, Bruce Lane, and John McDonald, took photographs through the telescope which turned out very well. Some of these were shared at Astro Café on Monday, October 30 and a number are posted to our Zenfolio site. The moon was in the waxing gibbous phase and proved to be a great subject for photography. A couple of the Messier objects, M13 and M57, were photographed as was Uranus. As there were so many members at the VCO, the photographers were taking fewer exposures than normal to give everyone a chance to use the telescope. The quality of the results from last week show the great potential for our new telescope. Just imagine the detail that will be captured with even more photographs being stacked into a single image!

As a new member on one of my first visits to the VCO, I remember being told that the 14″ Meade was a temporary scope. I wondered a bit about that as the 14″ is an impressive telescope. It has a large primary mirror which reaches far into the dim night sky. How could that be surpassed except by an even larger telescope? As I have learned more, I can see why the telescope design matters as well. A Schmidt-Cassegrain, like the 14″ Meade, is a good telescope and served us very well. However, a Ritchey-Chrétien telescope is an even better choice for an observatory such as ours. The advantage of a larger field without optical distortion is why most of the large, professional telescopes favour this design. Our 16″ does not match the professional scopes in size but it does provide us with the same optical design.

A heartfelt thank you goes to the our technical committee for their efforts to research and choose this telescope. I look forward to using our new telescope on future visits to the VCO!

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 18. The doors open at 6 p.m.

The dinner consists of a buffet with a pre-ordered entree. The entree choices are charbroiled chicken breast or Pacific salmon with dill & lemon butter or vegetarian ravioli with a herb cream or grilled AAA sirloin steak. The buffet will include 4 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. The deadline for ordering your entree was Friday, November 10.

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.

The James Webb Space Telescope: the countdown is on – Chris Willott

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the prestigious Hubble Telescope. With a diameter of 6.5 m, this infrared telescope will be launched 1.5M kilometres from Earth for a scientific mission lasting 5 to 10+ years. Canada, one of the main partners in this project with the United States and Europe, provides one of the four scientific instruments and the guiding system. The development of Webb is well underway and the world astronomical community is actively preparing for the planned launch in early 2019. This presentation will provide an update on the state of the development of the telescope and give an overview of the scientific program of the Canadian science team that includes observations to detect galaxies in the early universe and determine the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets similar to Earth.

Chris Willott is a research astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria. He studies the most distant galaxies in the Universe to understand how stars and black holes formed soon after the Big Bang. In addition to research, he works at the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope archive scientist and is the Canadian Project Scientist for the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope.

Annual General Meeting Agenda

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

Minutes of 2016 Annual Meeting: Chris

Centre Annual Report for 2017: Reg

Treasurer’s Financial Report: Bruce.

National Representative’s Report: Nelson

Awards:

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

List of RASC Council positions for Victoria Centre 2017 – 2018

Executive Positions

President – Chris Purse (incumbent)
First Vice President – Reg Dunkley (incumbent)
Second Vice President – Deb Crawford (incumbent)
Secretary – VACANT
Treasurer – Bruce Lane (incumbent)

Other Positions

Past President – Sherry Buttnor
National Representative – Nelson Walker (incumbent)
Librarian – Michel Michaud (incumbent) Diane Bell (assistant, incumbent)
Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu (incumbent)
Public Outreach – Ken Mallory (incumbent)
Skynews Editor – Reg Dunkley (incumbent)
Light Abatement –  Dave Robinson (incumbent)
Membership – Chris Purse (incumbent)
Webmaster – Joe Carr (incumbent)
Observing Chair – Jim Stilburn (incumbent)
Systems Administrator & Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson (incumbent)

Members at Large
Jim Hesser
Lauri Roche (FDAO Liaison)
James DiFrancesco (DAO Liaison)
Alex Schmid (UVic Liaison)
Jim Nemec (Camosun Liaison)
David Lee
John McDonald (Astro Cafe)
Li-Ann Skibo
Chris Gainor (National Officer)

New Business

Door Prizes

Adjourn

President’s Message – October 2017

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Another season of Summer Star Parties at the DAO has come to an end. We had more evenings this year with a star party most Saturday evenings from the end of April through late September. We will be meeting with our partners, the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, to review this season and start planning for next year. As always, I am interested in hearing feedback, ideas, and suggestions. Please send me your ideas at president@victoria.rasc.ca.

For me, the highlight of the star parties are the many conversations I have with our visitors. Every evening there were great conversations about what we were seeing, the night sky, travel, life in the universe, etc. There were many gasps of amazement especially when we were looking at Saturn. Saturn really is a highlight of the night sky; it was the first object I recall seeing through a telescope when I was in high school. I still enjoy looking at it all these year later!

Many of the visitors were amazed to learn the telescopes they were looking through are personally owned. So many said how much they appreciated the opportunity to see the night sky and our generosity. The time we donated to the star parties was greatly appreciated and I, too, thank all the members who were involved this year.

Next year, we have two major anniversaries. The first is the centenary of first light of the Plaskett Telescope. Already a National Historic Site of Canada, there are some events being planned in order to celebrate. One of the ideas being considered is submitting an application to have a float in the Victoria Day Parade. We are looking for a couple of centre members who would be interested in helping with the design, planning, and execution of a float. Please let me know if you would like to join the parade committee. The second anniversary is the sesquicentenary of RASC. There will be some celebratory events happening in honour of this anniversary.

Save the date: Shortly, I will be sending out information about the November AGM including pre-ordering your entree. The entree choices are salmon, chicken, vegetarian ravioli, or steak. The AGM will be held on the evening of Saturday, November 18 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course. Doors will open at 6 p.m.

Speaker: Historical Supernovae: Wendell Shuster

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Wednesday, October 11th, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, University of Victoria

RASC Victoria Centre’s Monthly Meeting

This talk will focus on how various cultures around the world were influenced by the sudden appearance of Supernovae. Further discussion includes where supernovae were seen, how bright they were and how they were identified by modern scientists (archaeologists, geologists, paleo-astronomers and astrophysicists).  The final segment goes briefly into the astrophysics of the two main Supernovae types tying in how we know the distances and what the Supernovae may have looked like to these cultures even though historical records are very scant at best.
There will also be a short presentation on the outreach program at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, (DRAO) which is located near Penticton.

Wendell Shuster has been a member of RASC for 37 years, first in Vancouver and since 2000 in Penticton. He is currently the Tour Guide at the DRAO. He has served on executive positions of the Okanagan Centre of RASC as well as it’s predecessor the Okanagan Astronomical Society. Wendell has made numerous astronomical presentations on a wide variety of topics. His devotion to the science is truly astronomical. Who else do you know that has the entire collection of 1872 glass plates from the Palomar Sky Survey in his basement? Don’t miss this one!

SPEAKER: The Formation, Development, and Geology of the Moon – Ted Stroman

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Wednesday, September 13th, 2017 at 7:30 p.m., University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre Room A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s Monthly Meeting

The Apollo program boosted our understanding of the Moon. However the latest robotic missions and new research has brought new data and our view of the Moon has been transformed. The Moon has complex geochemical history, amazing formations and hold the keys to knowledge of how the Earth and the Solar System developed. With new missions and technological progress a lot has changed over the last 50 years, yet many questions and mysteries remain.

Come and hear the dramatic story of how the Moon was formed, how it developed and how new approaches are unveiling its secrets. Knowing this you may find a better understanding of what future Moon missions may accomplish and some of the challenges of a permanent Moon base.

Ted Stroman is a long standing member of RASC Vancouver.  His 1st Moon Landing Program was started in the 1990s and have brought the excitement and awe of the Apollo missions & and the Moon to many classrooms and public events throughout the province.

He is an avid reader/researcher on the Moon’s development, geology, and future space missions. The moon is his favourite observation target on a night but also follows the planets and DSOs with his Giant Binoculars & 4.5″ reflector.

He has a background in Health Sciences and works for WorkSafeBC. He is married and has one daughter.

President’s Message – September 2017

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The summer of 2017 will be noted for a relatively rare event, a solar eclipse visible across North America. Many Victoria Centre members travelled to see totality including me. That was my first total eclipse and it was an extraordinary experience. I now understand why many members of the club make it a priority to view total solar eclipses. The totality was all too short but even that 2 minute experience made the trip worthwhile.

I viewed the eclipse at the home of friends in western Idaho; in all, 22 of us set up to watch the eclipse. We put chairs in front of their garage as that faces east and got ready for the eclipse to begin. With the garage door open, we had a shaded space where we could get out of the sun’s heat as needed. As the eclipse progressed, we noticed that we did not need that shade as the sun’s rays no longer felt hot. That happened some time before the amount of light was reduced so it was an interesting sensation.

We looked around for objects projecting the sun and it was great to see the effect of the spaces between leaves as the sun became an increasingly narrow crescent. We had my solar telescopes set up to provide a view of the sunspots and prominences. I noticed that the progress of the eclipse was more evident with the magnification of the telescope than though eclipse glasses. We also put out a white sheet to see if we could see the shadow bands. We did see them at both ends of totality.

Totality was amazing. Having that all too brief diamond ring and then the sudden appearance of the sun’s corona was magical. I had a good look to see if I could see some of the stars but I only saw Venus. As the seconds ticket by, we knew it would soon be over, but did our best to enjoy the spectacle. Sure enough, another diamond ring appeared and the light started coming back. It was a letdown that it was over but the experience is not to be forgotten.

Now we are back into the “regular” time of the year monthly meetings resume on Wednesday, September 13  at 7:30 p.m. in room A104 in the Bob Wright Centre at UVic. Astro Café resumes at 7:30 p.m. on Monday, September 11 in a temporary location while our regular room is renovated. We will be posting the schedule of other events as they are completed. As a reminder, the November meeting is our AGM. That will be held on the evening of Saturday, November 18 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course. Please keep an eye on the website for details about upcoming events.