March Monthly Meeting Guest Speaker: Dr. James DiFrancesco- The Secret Sits.

Posted by as Meetings

“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”

“I will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sgr A*.  This curious object is our closest Galactic Nucleus, and will soon  be observed at extraordinarily high resolution (~15 micro-arcseconds) using a world-wide network of high-frequency radio telescopes in a very coordinated effort to detect accretion disk close to its event horizon.”
James Di Francesco is an RASC member who works at the NRC Herzberg Programs in Astronomy and Astrophysics.  He was born in Ontario and received his BSc in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toronto in 1990, and his PhD in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.  After completing postdoctoral appointments at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA and the University of California, Berkeley, James joined NRC in 2002.

President’s Message March 2016

Posted by as President's Message

Rain rain, go away……good grief, will it ever stop? Sure would be nice to see some interstellar photons again, wouldn’t it?

Fortunately, the Victoria Centre has within it’s membership many volunteers who are very good at indoor activities. Take Lauri Roche and Sid Sidhu, for example. These two dedicated RASCals have gone into our local schools 48 times in the last few months, and educated some 1800 students. These involve classroom talks, and night sky viewing. Pretty amazing! And they have more planned. And what about Bruce Lane, our capable Treasurer? He organized and facilitated a very successful Hobby Show at Westshore Town Centre Mall in February, where we had 843 visitors stop by our display. Thanks, everyone, and well done!
Next major event is International Astronomy Day, on May 14th. Nelson Walker is taking the lead on the daytime segment at the Royal British Columbia Museum, then we continue on to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory for the evening portion. Hope you can volunteer a few hours at one of these. The evening portion also kicks off our immensely popular Summer Saturdays at the DAO. More below.

Meanwhile, though, we have our normally scheduled observing events for our members, all weather dependant:
-RASCals at Cattle Point on March 4th. Bruce Lane’s popular observing get-together at Victoria’s own Urban Dark-Sky park.
-UVic observing on March 11th. Another popular RASCals event. Observing on the 32” telescope is amazing!
-Messier Marathon on March 12th at the Victoria Centre Observatory. A long but fun observing run: try to see all 110 Messier objects in one night. Many have tried, few have succeeded! Contact Michel Michaud if you’d like to participate:
And don’t forget our weekly Astronomy Cafe, every Monday in Fairfield. John, Reg, and Chris are your hosts for a fun, informal evening, often with great guest speakers. Astro Cafe is a great way for newcomers to RASC or astronomy to meet us!

Our monthly meeting is on Wednesday March 9th, 7:30pm, in room B150 in the Bob Wright building. This is a change from our regular room A104. B150 is in the same building, but on the far side of the main lobby. March’s guest speaker is Dr. James DiFrancesco, who whose presentation is:
“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”” James will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A.
James is a Victoria Centre member, and a professional astronomer at the DAO. His talks are very popular, so don’t miss it!

As mentioned above, The evening portion of IAD also kicks off our Summer Saturdays at the DAO. Plans are well underway to hold 13 Saturday evening public openings this year, but without as many breaks as last year, which was a little confusing to the public. I will provide more details as they are worked out between RASC, NRC/DAO, and FDAO. And speaking of FDAO (Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), here is an update on their progress, kindly provided by Chair Ben Dorman. RASC and FDAO will be the main collaborators on upcoming events at the DAO:

1) FDAO’s fundraiser at the Bateman Centre last November “Science and Culture in the Inner Harbour” was sold out and raised just over $5000. The money from this and the Indiegogo Fundraiser [August-Oct], which  raised an additional $3400, is being put towards a pilot programme for schools which is being actively worked on, plus enabling administration for the society. (As an aside, our AGM at which we will present financial reports is to be held before the end of our first year of operation, which is the beginning of June). It is expected that the school programme to start in a  very limited fashion either later in the spring or [more likely] in the fall.
2) FDAO’s current membership list has 183 names including family members.
3) FDAO held an event for members of FDAO and RASC on 2016 Feb 13 at DAO, including [unfortunately] cloudy skies, but a great presentation from NRC astronomer JJ Kavelaars.
4) FDAO is shortly to conclude an agreement with NRC which is a ‘License to Occupy’ both the Centre of the Universe Building and the Plaskett Dome – naturally, for public science outreach purposes. The net effect of this for RASC is intended to be no extra paperwork and hopefully some of the administrative load for Saturday nights being taken on in future by FDAO. RASC will continue to determine Saturday night dates and programming as for the last few years.
Current state is that an agreement approved by NRC in Ottawa has been reviewed by FDAO and NRC/DAO and is awaiting final revisions. We expect to sign the agreement sometime in March.
5)   FDAO has been working on other potential public tours with cruise line operators. For 2016 this programme will be limited to a few [possibly only one] selected dates.
6) FDAO is shortly going to start a program to attract volunteers for various roles on the Hill. This will ultimately assist with guides on public tours and possibly also on Saturday nights as required/requested.

Lots of great stuff coming up at RASC-Victoria! I hope you will join in as a volunteer, or a participant. See you out there!

Clear skies,