President’s Message – May 2017

Posted by as President's Message

I will start with a riddle this month. Question: What do you call the rainy day between 2 sunny days? Answer: Astronomy day.

Although the weather did not cooperate, this year’s Astronomy Day was a fantastic event. Thank you to everyone who contributed and especially Ken Mallory for getting all of us organized. I was pleased to see that there are a more organizations participating with us making it an even better. For example, Knowledge Network of BC approached us this year about showing Space Suite I and Space Suite II. If you have not seen these short videos they are very enjoyable; both are available on the Knowledge Network website. The Royal BC Museum is an excellent host so I would like to acknowledge their outstanding support.

Despite the rainy weather, we did have quite a good turnout on the hill for our first Summer Star Party so it can only get better with clear weather. As we have such a great facility on our doorstep it is wonderful that we can share it with the public. One of the goals with having more evenings this year is to have more visitors so I do hope we can achieve that goal.

At a recent Astro Café we were talking about apps and websites that we enjoy. One iOS app I shared, that is also available as a website, is called The Scale of the Universe 2. Based on a continuing progression of sizes centred on 1 metre, the user scrolls in either direction to see examples of things that are that microscopic and beyond all the way to some of the largest known objects. There are a number of named astronomical objects included so this is a tool that can be used to show comparative sizes. Did you know that Jupiter would fill more than a third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon? If you look around the 108.5 m zone you will see this comparison. The Sun appears around 109 m but you don’t see Antares until 1012 m. It is quite fascinating. If you are interested in the miniature world, great examples of the very small are there as well. Check it out; it is very well done.

A reminder that we are back in our normal room, Bob Wright Centre A104, for our monthly meeting on 10 May.


Posted by as Meetings

SPEAKER: Imagining New Worlds – Benjamin Gerard


Wednesday, May 10th 2017 at 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre Room A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s Monthly Meeting

The past 20 years has seen the dawn of a new field in astronomy: extrasolar planets, or exoplanets for short—planets orbiting around stars in other solar systems. We now know that the Universe is teeming with exoplanets, thanks largely to the help of the Kepler space telescope, which finds exoplanets by seeing their shadow on its much brighter host star. Although there are a number of different methods of finding exoplanets, my research focuses on an exoplanet detection technique called direct imaging, which as the name suggests is designed to directly image these other worlds. But this is not as simple as it sounds, and it ultimately requires the use of our most powerful telescopes and specially designed optical systems in order to distinguish an exoplanet from the overwhelming glare of its host star. In light of the upcoming total Solar eclipse in August 2017, I’ll describe one of these instruments, called a coronagraph, which was first used to observe the Solar Corona without the help of the Moon! After outlining these challenges, both in engineering and in physics, and how they can be overcome, I will highlight the main instruments and detections in this field of direct imaging, and also compare the advantages direct imaging has over other techniques. Come prepared to see real pictures of other worlds!


Benjamin Gerard is a 1st year PhD student in Physics and Astronomy at UVic. He did his Bachelors in Physics and Astronomy at University of Colorado at Boulder and is originally from San Francisco, CA. His research, supervised by Dr. Christian Marois, focuses on optical design and image processing algorithms for instruments made to directly image exoplanets.