Summer Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory 2017

Posted by as Special Events

The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO) and RASC Victoria Centre will be hosting nineteen Saturday evenings at the DAO, featuring guest speakers, solar and nighttime observing with telescopes provided by RASC Victoria Centre volunteers, tours of the historic Plaskett telescope, and more! Rain or shine, we will have something for everyone to experience.

Dates begin with International Astronomy Day on April 29th. Here are all the dates:

  • May 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th
  • June 3rd, 10th, 17th, and 24th
  • July 8th, 15th, 22nd, and 29th
  • August 5th, 12th, 19th, and 26th
  • September 16th and 23rd

PLEASE NOTE: due to the extreme traffic congestion in previous years, admission is now by ticket ONLY. Tickets are FREE and will be available during the week preceding each Saturday evening from our EventBrite site:

See you there!

Site Line Work Only

Summer Star Parties at the DAO run every Saturday evening from April 29th to September 23rd with some exceptions as noted in the schedule above. To enhance your experience please note the following venues before you arrive. Activities are broken up in to seven main areas,

  1. Lecture Hall – This summer we have a full slate of topical presentations from the astronomy community which includes researchers, authors and passionate amateurs. There are possibilities of surprise guest speakers. Come early most presentations start at 8 p.m. and some though not all repeat in the evening.
  2. Plaskett Dome – The dome is a heritage site, and not to be missed. Tours are approximately 45 minutes long and start at 7:45 p.m. Two other tours start at 8:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.
  3. Planetarium – Planetarium shows run 6 times during the evening and are approximately 30 minutes in length. Come inside and learn about the constellations, and even a little sky lore!
  4. 16” Telescope – This research-grade telescope was originally located on Mt Kobau near Osoyoos for site testing towards potentially building an observatory there. It was then moved here to the DAO, and then from another area on the DAO property to this site when the Centre of the Universe building was constructed in the early 1990s. It is now available for viewing “live” through an eyepiece. The telescope is open subject to weather conditions most of the evening.
  5. RASC Member Telescopes – Royal Astronomical Society of Canada members have been long standing participants at Saturdays nights at the DAO for nearly 100 years. Weather permitting, members will take you on a telescopic tour of the evening sky.
  6. Information Area – There are volunteers available to help you with your evening visit and if you’re interested they can let you know how you can get involved in astronomy activities in Victoria. Look for kid friendly displays from Science Ventures in this same area.
  7. Interpretive Centre Displays – The displays from the former interpretive centre show Canada’s role in astronomy and contain a number of historical artifacts of interest.


Summer Star Parties at the DAO 2017 Presentations

Summer Saturdays’ Children’s Programmes

7:45-8:00 p.m. “Out of this World” Interactive Presentation – Auditorium

8:00-8:15 p.m. “Stories in the Skies” – Planetarium

8:15-8:30 p.m. “Meet the Telescope” Tour – Plaskett Dome

8:30-10:00 p.m. Children’s Activities – Information Area

  • Make and Take Craft Tables
  • Family Scavenger Hunt
  • IPad Interactives
  • Night Sky Viewing


August 12th, 2017 – Falling through space – Dr. Gordon Walker

8:15 – 9:15 p.m.

Abstract: Isaac Newton gave the first clear illustration of how space travel from Earth was possible while, later, Einstein predicted the gravitational deflection of light.  I shall explore the remarkable implications of these two ideas and how we are all `falling through space’.

Bio: UBC Prof Emeritus Astrophysics (ret 1997), PhD Cambridge (1962). Life long interest in astronomical instruments, particularly low light level detection and  pioneered a number of new techniques, notably in the search for extra-solar planets.  Current interests: large interstellar molecules, interstellar dust, extra-solar planets and brown dwarfs, and the possibility of putting a spectroscopic telescope at the lunar south pole.


August 12th, 2017 – Opening New Eyes on the Cosmos – Dr. Luc Simard

9:15 – 10:15 p.m.

Abstract: Canadian scientists and engineers have been building ever more powerful telescopes for almost a century. This tradition of opening new eyes on the cosmos is alive and well with plans for new, cutting-edge telescopes covering a wide swath of the electromagnetic spectrum from the ultraviolet to radio waves. This talk will go over the new technologies needed for these telescopes with a look at the wonderful and exciting scientific discoveries ahead.

Bio: Dr. Luc Simard is an astronomer at the National Research Council of Canada. He obtained his B.Sc. from Queen’s University in 1990 and his Ph.D. from the University of Victoria in 1996. From 1996 to 2002, he held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California, Santa Cruz and the University of Arizona, Steward Observatory. He joined NRC-HIA in 2002. His research interests include galaxy formation and evolution, image processing and astronomical instrumentation. He worked on developing instruments for the Thirty Meter Telescope from 2005 to 2017. He is now the Director of the Astronomy Technology Program at NRC Herzberg.


August 19th, 2017 – Big data, little data, or (Help!) no data – Dr. Elizabeth Griffin

8:15 – 9:15 p.m.

Abstract: A talk delivered recently at the Rascals Star Party in Metchosin. Find out what there is to know about data.

Bio:  Born & bred in the UK, I studied Astronomy at London and Cambridge Universities.  I have worked on binary stars for most of my career, and for some 25 years I worked photographically because that was all there was (oh dear, that does date me!).  Having thus experience in both photographic and electronic data, I feel well placed to help those who seek to recover astronomy’s own nearly-lost heritage of photographic data.  I emigrated to Canada 15 years ago, and live quite near the DAO, where I’m a keen gardener and grow my own food.


August 19th, 2017 – Knowledge Network Space Suite I and II and Trailer for Space Suite III – Two Story Productions Inc.

9:15 – 10:00 p.m.

Knowledge Network and Two Story Productions Inc. have kindly provided us with the ability to show the spectacular astronomy themed series Space Suite I and II. Composed of 10 short clips for each suite it combines astronomy imagery with classical music. On the same evening we hope to have the trailer for the new Space Suite III.


August 26th, 2017 – Gas Falling Into Black Holes: A Surprising Discovery – Dr. Patrick Hall

8:15 – 9:15 p.m.

Abstract: A black holes is inferred to exist at the center of every massive galaxy, including our own Milky Way. We cannot see such a black hole directly, but we can see light from hot gas orbiting the black hole. This gas forms a disk larger than the Earth’s orbit around the Sun and hotter than the surface of the Sun, putting out enough light to be seen across the universe; we call this light a quasar. For 50 years we have known that some quasars have part of their light absorbed by gas streaming AWAY from the black holes, in winds lifted from the surface of these disks. A few years ago, I discovered some cases of absorption which may come from gas streaming INTO the black holes. It is difficult to explain the speeds at which the gas appears to be falling into the black holes in these quasars; some of them may instead be cases of winds in systems with two black holes orbiting each other.

Bio: Dr. Patrick Hall is an astronomer and Professor in York University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, currently on sabbatical in Victoria.  Born in California to Canadian parents, he double-majored in Physics and Astronomy at U. C. Berkeley and obtained a doctorate in astronomy at U. Arizona (even if it took 7.5 years). He then studied galaxies as a postdoctoral fellow at U. Toronto and quasars as a postdoc at Princeton and the Universidad Catolica de Chile before joining the faculty at York. He splits his time between research on quasars (and anything else astronomical that catches his fancy), teaching astronomy, and outreach.


August 26th, 2017 – A Star Is Born: Unveiling the Turbulent Birth of Stars – Dr. Doug Johnstone

 9:15 – 10:15 p.m.

Abstract: The birth of stars remains shrouded in mystery. They 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, the ALMA Observatory in Chile, and the soon to be launched JWST, the JCMT has transformed our understanding of stellar birth. Join me on an adventure to uncover nearby stellar nurseries.

Bio: Dr. Doug Johnstone is a Principal Research Astronomer at NRC’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics. For two years he was the Associate Director of the James Cleark Maxwell Telescope, a 15-m telescope on Maunakea devoted to observations of the sky at sub-millimeter wavelengths. Doug’s main research interests follow the formation of stars and planetary systems. He began his professional life as a theorist at the University of California, Berkeley, working on the evolution of circumstellar disks around young stars, back before extra-solar planet detections were common.  Today, Dr. Johnstone’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of structure in molecular clouds, attempting to disentangle the physical processes through which a molecular cloud sheds into individual stars.


September 16th, 2017 – Exoplanet Travel Agency – Dr. Henry Ngo

 8:15 – 9:15 p.m.

Abstract: There are 8 planets in our solar system, but what about all the other stars in our Galaxy? Astronomers now know that almost every star is expected to have its own planets. Through telescopes on the ground and in space, scientists have discovered and catalogued many thousands of worlds. Most of these worlds are very different from what we are used to in our own solar system. This presentation will be a guided tour through the surprising and diverse worlds we’ve found around other stars.

Bio: Dr. Henry Ngo recently joined NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics in July 2017 as a Plaskett postdoctoral research fellow. Henry was born in Mississauga, Ontario but grew up in Richmond, BC. He finished a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Astronomy at UBC and a Masters degree in Astronomy at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Henry just graduated with a PhD in Planetary Science from Caltech earlier this year. His current research involves using large telescopes on Hawaii to try to find new giant planets around nearby stars.


September 16th, 2017 – Planet 9 or Planet Nein? Discoveries in the Distant Reaches of the Solar System

 – Dr. Samantha Lawther

9:15 – 10:15 p.m.

Abstract: To date, over 2,000 small icy worlds have been discovered in the Kuiper Belt.  By carefully studying their orbits, we can reconstruct the history of planet formation and migration in our Solar System.  We can also use Kuiper Belt orbits to learn about the most distant reaches of the Solar System.  I’ll talk about results from our recent Kuiper Belt survey using the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope, and what it tells us about whether there is likely to be an undiscovered giant planet lurking on the edge of the Solar System.

Bio: Dr. Samantha Lawler is a Plaskett Fellow at NRC-Herzberg.  She studies the orbits of Kuiper Belt Objects, exoplanets, and dust disks around other stars.  When she’s not busy with running simulations on a supercomputer, she indulges her farming addiction.