President’s Message – November 2017

Posted by as President's Message

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

Posted by as Meetings

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

Posted by as President's Message

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.

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.

Solar Eclipse – August 21, 2017

Posted by as Observing Highlights, Special Events

Victoria will experience a 90% solar eclipse on the morning of Monday, August 21, 2017 with the maximum at 10:20 a.m.

IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION: Approved eclipse glasses or approved eclipse filters must be used at ALL times when looking at the sun. Serious and irreversible eye damage may result from looking at the sun without approved safety equipment.

Important eclipse planning information

Press Release


Here are the public viewing sites in the Capital Region that have been identified:

Mount Tolmie Park – RASC members will be at the summit with solar telescopes and eclipse viewers.

Royal BC Museum area – RASC members will be near the museum with solar telescopes and eclipse viewers.

University of Victoria Observatory – UVic is hosting a special public open house at the UVic Observatory (Bob Wright Building – 5th floor) on Monday, August 21, 2017 from 9 to 11:30 a.m. to view the solar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible at 90% coverage from Victoria. The eclipse begins at 9:08 a.m., reaches maximum coverage at 10:20 a.m., and will end at 11:38 a.m.We will have eclipse glasses for the public to use and share, as well as special solar telescopes which will project an image of the Sun on a small white screen (attached to the telescope) to clearly show the eclipse. Looking at the Sun directly, even during maximum coverage, is damaging to your eyes. We request the public to leave the eclipse glasses behind after use. The event is free and no preregistration is necessary. The observatory will be open for the duration, and you are welcome to come and go as you wish. Please contact the Physics & Astronomy main office (250-721-7700) if you need any further information. Please note, pay parking is in effect on the University campus. The Bob Wright Building is easily accessible by bus.

Continue to check this site for additional sites as they are added.

 


Useful links:

NASA eclipse site – includes important safety information and an interactive map so you can determine the eclipse times at your location

Mr Eclipse – a lot of good information from eclipse viewing experts

American Astronomical Society – list of reputable vendors of solar viewers and filters

President’s Message – June 2017

Posted by as President's Message

Another year of Astro Café has concluded. I would like to thank Barb, Reg, and John for the great series of topics, photos, videos, and of course, snacks we shared. With the installation of the larger television screen earlier this year, it is much improved for the sharing of astrophotography, videos, and the like. Astro Café continues to be a well-attended centre event and we look forward to another year starting in September. If you have not been to Astro Café recently, or ever, I encourage you to come by one Monday evening. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

The 2017 Summer Star Parties at the DAO are in full swing and we have had some good observing weather. As we enter summer, the emphasis will be on solar astronomy and targets that can be seen while the sky remains light. If you are not already on the volunteer’s list, and want to help out, please send me an email at president@victoria.rasc.ca. There are many more Saturdays on the calendar and new volunteers are most welcome.

As space exploration is in the news frequently, we have some great conversations at the star parties. I really enjoy sharing that time at the telescope that is often someone’s first time seeing a solar prominence or looking at the moon through a telescope. We’ve even had astronomical events that centre members have not seen before. For example, on 3 June, we saw the double shadow transit of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Io during the evening. That was a first for me and something I will look out for in the future. The shadow transit coincided with the Great Red Spot being visible so that was great all around!

With general interest in astronomy, I have long thought it is under represented in the school curriculum. Considering the major contributions of Canadian astronomers, it is surprising that our students do not have more exposure to space science and, in particular, the opportunity to take a senior level course in astronomy. I was very happy to learn that teachers at Victoria High School are working to correct that with the introduction of an Astronomy 11 course. The course launches in the 2017 – 18 school year and the initial impressions are that quite a few students are interested in taking this new course. That is a great step forward and I hope it proves to be a great success. As part of the launch of this new course, Victoria High School is hosting a Star Party on Saturday 17 June starting at 8:30 p.m. If you are in the area why not attend? Please see cuyeda.weebly.com/star-party.html for more information.

Finally, as a reminder, our RASCals Star Party will be held on weekend of 28 – 30 July on the District of Metchosin municipal grounds. Information will be posted on our website once we have more details about the events that day. Saturday 29 July has been identified as the National Star Party day with events taking place across Canada as part of the sesquicentennial. I hope many members will come to the party again this year.

President’s Message – May 2017

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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.

President’s Message – April 2017

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April will see the start of the centre’s outreach season. A major event in our calendar is Astronomy Day that will be held on Saturday 29 April at the Royal BC Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will be followed by the first of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO.

Please contact Ken (outreach@victoria.rasc.ca) to volunteer to help out with the outreach events that will be occurring this year. We would like to have solar telescopes and people at the table to answer questions. One of the first of these events is Esquimalt Buccaneer Days on 13 and 14 May.

We are looking forward to another set of Summer Star Parties on Observatory Hill. One change this year will be that the Friends of the DAO (FDAO) will lead these evenings. There will be a longer season this year including the Saturdays closest to the solstice. Due to the high demand in past years, we have decided to try opening to visitors even on the evenings when it will not be astronomically dark by closing time. Assuming clear skies, we should have some good solar viewing on those evenings so that could make up for the lack of a night sky!

With the FDAO leading, this will allow evenings to continue on the Saturdays when RASC members are involved with other events. One example of this is Saturday 29 July that coincides with the RASCals Star Party in Metchosin. As you may recall, RASC has designated that Saturday as the national star party day in honour of the sesquicentennial. This means there will be 2 star parties in Greater Victoria that day giving members of the public the option to go to the observatory or the Metchosin municipal grounds.

The Summer Star Parties will occur on Saturday evenings from Saturday 29 April 29 to Saturday 23 September with a few exceptions. There will not be a star party on Saturday 1 July so that everyone can enjoy Canada Day and the 150th anniversary of confederation. We are going to skip the Labour Day weekend and there is also an evening in September when there is a concert in the dome instead.

A reminder that due to April exams being scheduled in our regular meeting room, our monthly meeting on Wednesday 12 April will be in the Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167.