Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival

Posted by as Observing Highlights

By Reg Dunkley

On a mild July 4th evening about 10 RASCals assembled at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park for the Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival. Attendees were rewarded with spectacular views of two July Forth Fireworks shows. Between 10 PM and 10:15 PM Friday Harbour on San Juan Island took the stage. Terrain blocked some of the low level displays but the airborne clusters filled the field of view of most scopes. The main event occurred between 10:30 PM and 10:50 PM when Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island launched their salvo. Although slightly farther away we enjoyed an unobstructed view of the Lopez conflagration.

A variety of scopes were deployed including refractors, newtonian reflectors, spotting scopes, binoculars as well as an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain. In order to squeeze in the view RASCals resorted to lower magnifications. This confirmed that you do not need a big scope to enjoy the show.

It took about one minute 20 seconds for the muffled booms to arrive on the scene. This soundscape combined by the spontaneous whoops and ah’s from the RASCals added to the party atmosphere. It would have been nice if we were able to transition from the fireworks to star gazing … but clouds intervened.

Should we try again next year? Randy Atwood’s attached photo captured Chris Aesoph giving it two thumbs up! So I reckon that is a yes. It was a RASCal Worthy event.

The attention the photons received was well deserved.

Thanks to all the attendees.

SPEAKER: The Mysterious Death of Galaxies

Posted by as Meetings

By Dr. Joanna Woo

Wednesday June 13th, 2018 at 7:30 PM

In Room 124 Engineering and Computer Science Building, UVic

Please note the Room Change

Galaxies are vast collections of stars that evolve over billions of years. From surveys of a hundreds of thousands of galaxies, we can see that they fall into roughly two categories: those that are alive and forming new stars, and those that are dead, or no longer forming new stars. Gas is the fuel for star formation, and there is plenty of it in the universe constantly falling into galaxies, so why have some galaxies simply stopped turning gas into stars? This cessation of star formation, called “quenching”, is one of the biggest puzzles of galaxy evolution. Drawing upon my own research, I will give an overview of the different theories explaining the death of galaxies and what the observational evidence tells us.

Dr. Joanna Woo writes: I am an astrophysicist with a focus on galaxy evolution using a variety of cutting-edge observational and theoretical tools. While studying for a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy from UBC, I established and became the president of the UBC Astronomy Club which is still active to this day. I also held a part time job at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. Being the adventurous type, I decided to pursue graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, receiving my Ph.D. in 2014. Along with a rigorous physics education, I picked up two languages (Hebrew and Arabic). I then spent four years at the Institute for Astronomy of ETH Zurich, where, along with exciting research, I learned the basics of Swiss German. I am thrilled to be back in Canada where I am a postdoctoral researcher at UVic. (I am now trying to improve my French.)


SPEAKER: Peering through Nature’s telescope – Gravitational Lensing as a window into the distant universe

Posted by as Uncategorized

by Dr. Karun Thanjavur

Wednesday May 9th, 2018 at 7:30 PM Room A104 Bob Wright Centre UVic

Gravitational lensing, the “bending” of light in a gravitational field is one of the many awe inspiring phenomena predicted by Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, and which have since been unambiguously borne out by observations. Since the first confirmation of a gravitational lens in 1979 -nearly 45 years after it was hypothesized- the catalog of confirmed lenses now runs to a few hundreds. Aided by the rapid advances in telescope and instrumentation technologies, the magnification boost provided by gravitational lensing – Nature’s telescope – is now being harnessed to probe astrophysical processes in extremely distant, faint objects even in the very early universe with a level of detail that would otherwise be exceedingly challenging. My presentation aims to explain the principles of gravitational lensing using basic physics, trace its development as a powerful observational tool, and present two applications and related results drawn from my own research.

Bio: Karun Thanjavur: As an observational cosmologist, discovering new gravitational lenses and developing innovative techniques to harness them as observational tools are amongst my diverse research interests. As part of my doctoral thesis at UVic in 2009, I developed an automated technique to search for lenses in wide field, pan-chromatic imaging. These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born and raised in a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. After my PhD from UVic, I worked as a Resident Astronomer at CFHT in Hawaii for three years, before returning to UVic to accept a position as a senior lab instructor in astronomy. Even though undergraduate teaching is the focus of my current position, I continue to pursue various research projects. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through several outreach initiatives through the UVic observatory.

SPEAKER: Hot Jupiters, super-Earths, and mini-Neptunes! Oh my!

Posted by as Meetings

by Dr. Henry Ngo

Wednesday April 11th 2018 at 7:30 PM Room 167, Elliot Building

No, the lions and tigers and bears have not rebranded! These are categories of exoplanets (planets around other stars). At first, we only knew about a small handful of exoplanets, but they were nothing like the planets from our solar system. As our methods improved, the discoveries kept piling on and now there are several thousand known exoplanets from many different detection techniques. Tonight, I’ll give a summary of exoplanet search techniques and what we know so far about these planets. I’ll also talk a little bit about my own research and share some experiences from studying some of the largest exoplanets using telescopes on Maunakea and Palomar.

Bio: Dr Henry Ngo is currently a Plaskett Postdoctoral Fellow working for the National Research Council of Canada at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. He was born in Mississauga, Ontario but grew up in Richmond, BC. He studied at UBC for his bachelors, Queen’s University in Kingston, ON for his Masters and just finished his PhD in Planetary Science at Caltech last summer. Henry and his family are happy to be back in BC and they are loving life on beautiful Vancouver Island!

Astronomy Day 2018 in Victoria

Posted by as Events

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the Royal BC Museum present

International Astronomy Day

at the Royal BC Museum

Saturday, April 21, 2018 10AM to 4PM

Amazing Astronomical Activities for all Ages!

Poster (408k PDF) – please spread the word and stick a reminder on your fridge

Gallery of photos from Astronomy Day 2018

All Astronomy Day activities are FREE and available to the general public. Membership in RASC is not required.

Regular admission applies to the Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre.

Telescope at Astronomy Day 2017

Royal BC Museum – 10AM to 4PM

675 Belleville Street, Victoria

  • Interactive activities and displays both inside and outside
    • View the Sun safely through solar telescopes on the plazaa
    • Telescope mirror grinding – inside
    • Astrophotography – inside
    • Hands-on activities for the kids – inside
  • Presentations in Newcombe Auditorium
    • 11:00 AM – Speaker: Dr. Samantha Lawler, NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre
      Title: Planet 9 or Planet Nein? Discoveries in the Distant Solar System
    • 12:00 PM – Knowledge Network Space SUITE I
    • 1:00 PM –
      Speaker: Dr. Patrick Coté, NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Research Centre
      Title: CASTOR: A Flagship Canadian Space Telescope
    • 2:00 PM – Knowledge Network Space Suite II
    • 3:00 PM – Knowledge Network Space Suite III

Centre of the Universe and the Observatory – 7:30PM to 11PM

The Hon. Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor looking through Chuck Filnesss' telescope

Observatory Hill, 5071 West Saanich Road, Saanich

  • Plaskett telescope tours
  • Observing through telescopes
  • Lectures
    • 8PM-
      Speaker: Daniel Posey
      Title: Gateway to the Stars: Science, Civic Identity, and Tourism at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO), Victoria B.C. 1903-1941
  • Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
  • Click Here to Reserve Your Tickets 

SPEAKER: The Hunt for Black Holes in Globular Clusters

Posted by as Meetings

by Dr. Vincent Hénault-Brunet

Wednesday March 14th 2017 at 7:30 PM

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre

Globular clusters have long been used to test theories of stellar evolution, stellar dynamics, and galaxy formation. In recent years, these old clusters have emerged as fertile grounds to search for black holes and understand their formation. “Intermediate-mass” black holes have been proposed to lurk in their centres and could represent seeds from which super-massive black holes grow in the early universe. Dynamical formation of stellar-mass black hole binaries in the dense cores of globular clusters has also been suggested as a main formation channel for the sources of gravitational waves recently detected by the LIGO experiment. I will give an overview of the recent successes (and failures) of astronomers’ exciting hunt for black holes in globular clusters.

Bio: Vincent Hénault-Brunet recently joined NRC Herzberg as a Plaskett Fellow. He was born in Montreal, where he completed his BSc in physics from McGill and MSc in astrophysics from Université de Montréal. He then obtained his PhD from the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh (UK), and was a research fellow at the University of Surrey (UK) and Radboud University (Netherlands) before moving to Victoria. His research focuses on stellar populations and globular clusters, in particular on the dynamics of stars in these systems.

SPEAKER: The Mystery of Dark Matter. by Dr. Guillaume Thomas

Posted by as Meetings

Wednesday February 14th 2017 at 7:30 PM Room A104, Bob Wright Centre.
During the past two decades, the standard model of the cosmology ΛCDM has commonly been accepted by the astrophysical community and successfully reproduced and even predicted many observational effects. I will discuss about one of the principal components of this model: dark matter and I will describe why we need it and what are the current hypotheses of its nature.
Bio: Guillaume Thomas is a new postdoctoral NRC fellow who joined Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics in October. He was born in Epinal France and obtained his Master and PhD at the Strasbourg Observatory. Thomas is interested in the formation and the dynamical evolution of spiral galaxies. He is also interested in exploring alternative theories to the model ΛCDM. You can follow him on Twitter at @Thomas_gft.

Speaker: Quasars: Black Holes That You Can “See” by Dr. Patrick Hall

Posted by as Meetings

Monthly Meeting of RASC Victoria Centre

7:30PM Wednesday January 10th 2018

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Quasars are the brightest objects in our Universe.  A quasar is a rotating disk as big as our solar system and hotter than the Sun, formed when matter spirals into a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy.  I will discuss these fascinating objects and how they tap the strong gravity of black holes.

Bio: Patrick Hall is an astronomer and Professor at York University. Born in California to Canadian parents, he was an undergraduate at U. C. Berkeley, a graduate student at U. Arizona, and a postdoc at U. Toronto, Princeton, and the Universidad Catolica de Chile. He divides his work time between research on quasars (and any object with a sufficiently odd spectrum), teaching astrophysics, and outreach. You can follow him on Twitter at @patrickbhall

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

Posted by as Uncategorized

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.

Speaker: Historical Supernovae: Wendell Shuster

Posted by as Uncategorized

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!