Canadian France Hawaii Telescope Virtual Tour at UVic Observatory Open House
At 7:30PM on Wednesday November 25th, Cam Wipper, Remote Observer, at the CFHT will give us a virtual tour of the observatory and the telescope, as well as the start of night time observing operations from their control room. He will then give an overview of how a modern observatory conducts science operations, followed by his personal story from Nanaimo to the CFHT. If time permits, he will also present a brief history of Mauna Kea Astronomy from a geological and human perspective.
NAS Board member Bill Weller (retired astronomer and astronomy Prof) had been following (on Facebook) Pranvera and the Astronomy Outreach of Kosovo group she founded, and we’re grateful she accepted our invitation to present.
I’m grateful too for the wide-ranging and heartfelt tributes RASC Victoria members shared about Diane Bell at last week’s Astrocafe, and this invitation is made for that reason in fellowship with your group.
Janeane MacGillivray, Director-at-Large, Nanaimo Astronomy Society
UVic Observatory Open House – Lisa Wells, CFHT Remote Observer, talks about Supernovae
You are invited to a Zoom presentation by Lisa Wells at 7:30 PM on Wednesday November 18th 2020. In addition to talking about her research interest in Supernovae, Lisa will describe how she remotely uses the Canadian France Hawaii Telescope.
The talk will explain the current thinking of the star classes producing these bright events, why a star dies in such a spectacular way, and give insights into their classification and naming scheme. Next you will learn about the first of the major searches and how that led to the Nobel Prize.
The Research Legacy of the Lowell Observatory: Monday November 23rd at 5:30 PM PST
You are invited to a presentation on The Research Legacy of Lowell Observatory Presented by Klaus Brasch Sponsored by RASC History Committee Abstract: Percival Lowell founded his observatory in 1894 and commissioned the famed firm of Alvan Clark & Sons, to build a 24-in aperture refracting telescope among the largest in private hands at the time. Clark himself deemed it as one of his best. Both Lowell and his great refractor soon gained notoriety with reports of putative canals on Mars, allegedly the work of a dying civilization to channel water from the planet’s poles to its desert equatorial regions. Amid all the ensuing controversy, the Observatory’s many other scientific achievements are not as widely known as they should. This talk will review some of those and also current research and educational efforts at this historic institution. Bio: Klaus Brasch is a retired biomedical scientist and a volunteer at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. Born in Germany, his family emigrated to Canada in 1953, where Klaus got hooked on astronomy in his teens, joined the Montreal Center of the RASC in 1958 and has been an avid amateur ever since. He earned his BSc at Concordia and Ph.D. at Carleton University, before joining the biology faculty at Queen’s University in Kingston. In 1990 he joined California State University, where he served as department chair, dean of science and director of campus research. Klaus has translated popular French astronomy books into English, lectured widely on topics ranging from life in the universe to astrophotography and published articles in Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, Sky News, JRASC and elsewhere. Asteroid 25226 Brasch, was recently named for him by Lowell Observatory.
The Iris Nebula and Dust Clouds of Cepheus by Dan Posey
Your Invited to the FDAO Virtual Star Party 7:30 PM Saturday Nov 21st
SELENOPHILE OR LUNATIC? THIRTY YEARS OF OBSERVING AND LOVING THE MOON
Randy Enkin avidly followed the Apollo missions from when he was 8 years old, and had decided he would grow up to be an astronomer. With life’s turns, he ended up being an Earth Scientist working for the Geological Survey of Canada. But the moon always attracted his attention and he is now more than 30 years into a lunar observation time series. For 6 years, Randy has been posting an artistic image of the moon every day on
Image of Dumbbell Nebula From New VCO Telescope by John McDonald
Public Lecture on latest discoveries regarding cosmology: 7PM Tuesday Nov. 10th
Jim Hesser recommends this public lecture by Joel Primack, prof. emeritus UC Santa Cruz,:
Description: This lecture will discuss the current understanding and the latest discoveries regarding cosmology – the science of the universe as a whole – and galaxies and planets. There is overwhelming evidence that most of the density of the universe is invisible dark matter and dark energy, with atomic matter making up only about five percent of cosmic density. UCSC cosmologists helped to create the standard modern cosmological theory — but the latest high-precision measurements have revealed potential discrepancies that may require new physics. Galaxies were long thought to start as disks of gas and stars, but observations by Hubble Space Telescope show that most galaxies instead start pickle shaped. More massive galaxies have massive black holes at their centers, and matter falling onto these black holes causes outflows of energy that can strongly affect their host galaxies. Information about planetary systems is growing rapidly with new observations, and our own solar system seems increasingly to be unusual.
Skyrocketing cases of Covid and disturbing developments south of the border have stoked our levels of anxiety. As an antidote to these concerns it is high time for a good news story. Let’s revisit a happy moment in 2017 when a number of Victoria Centre RASCals attended the Great Solar Eclipse Afterparty. We gathered to share images, swap eclipse adventures and relive the magic of this event. Many of these stories were captured in the October 2017 issue of Sky News. A highlight of this joyous occasion was the unboxing of our new TPO 16 inch Ritchey Chretien reflector telescope. This was performed with great fanfare by Matt Watson and Dan Posey.
In September and October of 2017 Matt and Dan installed the new scope on the Victoria Centre Observatory Paramount ME mount and took great care neatly wiring the scope to connect the cameras, an off axis guider and an electronic focuser to the computer. Official first light occurred on October 28th 2017 (See November 2017 Sky News for early images). Dan Posey’s gallery on zenfolio contains a series of beautiful images taken with the TPO 16 Inch RC between late October 2017 through October 2018 including my favourite, the Fireworks Galaxy (See page 10 October 2018 Sky News). These photos are a testament that the scope was performing well during that interval.
Sadly, no decent images were captured with that scope after October 2018. The TPO 16 Inch seems to have drifted off collimation and the cause remains a mystery. The collimation of a Ritchey-Chretien scope is a tricky business and Dan and Matt spent countless hours researching and trying to re-collimate this instrument over the next year. They even enlisted the help of former DAO member Les Disher. In the spring of 2020 Les demonstrated that collimation could be achieved when the scope was pointed towards the zenith but it went out of collimation as soon as it was slewed to a lower altitude. This indicated that there may be flexure somewhere in the truss or mirror supports of the telescope. It was Victoria Centre’s good fortune that Matt Watson opted to purchase a lifetime warranty on the scope and Council approved to return it to the Los Angeles vendor, OPT, for repair.
By this time Observatory Hill was in lockdown due to Covid. NRC kindly granted permission for special access to the VCO and on June 4th, 2020 four masked men (Dave Robinson, Mike Nash, Dan Posey and your President) furtively removed the TPO 16 inch RC, boxed it up and sent it to OPT via Fedex. In October OPT informed us that they could not fix the scope and offered to send us a new TPO 16 Inch RC … but without a lifetime warranty. The Tech Committee was not comfortable with this arrangement and instead John McDonald negotiated an “in store credit” for the value paid for the scope.
While the TPO scope was off for repairs, Garry Sedun learned about a used research grade scope that was for sale at an attractive price in Arizona. John McDonald and I bought this scope with the idea that it might be a replacement for the VCO if the repair of the TPO scope did not succeed. Garry Sedun kindly delivered this 12.5 inch OGS Ritchey Chretien scope to Victoria when he returned from Arizona this summer. OGS stands for “Optical Guidance Systems” and they manufacture high quality instruments for NASA, universities and research facilities. Although the optical tube is not in pristine condition the primary mirror is figured to a precision of 1/31st of a wavelength and it has a very stout built quality.
On September 21st, when limited access to the VCO was restored under strict Covid protocols this scope was attached to the VCO mount. Results were encouraging when the first image was obtained on October 3rd using an improvised focuser. When a helical focuser was attached to the scope on October 30th results were even better. Star field images were crisp with round undistorted stars right out to the corners. Although Dan Posey detected that the primary mirror was just a tad out of collimation, he felt that it was performing better than the old Meade 14 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope.
The Tech Committee will continue to evaluate this scope with further star field tests. If it is determined that it will meet the needs of the membership, John McDonald and I are prepared to permanently loan the scope to the Victoria Centre. If Victoria Centre members are dissatisfied with this scope we will deploy it elsewhere. The OPT store credit gives us the flexibility to consider an alternate scope.
Remember that there is also a high quality 20 inch Obsession Dobsonian telescope at the VCO. Argo Navis digital setting circles will be soon added to this scope and make it easier for visual observers to find objects in the sky. So when you consider that access to the VCO has been restored with a functioning scope for astrophotography and an excellent instrument for visual observers that qualifies as a good news story!
UVic Observatory Open House: “Messy Stellar Siblings”
You are invited to a Zoom presentation at 7:30PM on Wednesday November 4th by Dr Melissa Graham from the Vera Rubin Observatory. The title is “Messy Stellar Siblings” and the future of Supernovae studies with the Vera Rubin Observatory. Zoom session
Fast Radio Bursts – by Victoria Kaspi
Jim Hesser highly recommends this UVic Physics and Astronomy Colloquia on Fast Radio Bursts: by Dr. Victoria Kaspi, from McGill which takes place at 3:30pm PST on Wednesday November 4
“Fast Radio Bursts” Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are short (few millisecond) bursts of radio waves observed from cosmological distances. Their origin is presently unknown, yet their rate is many hundreds per sky per day, indicating a not-uncommon phenomenon in the Universe. In this talk, I will review the FRB field and present new results on FRBs from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME). Zoom session
Electronically Assisted Astronomy – David Lee
As discussed at the meeting tonight let me know (email) if any member has an interest in or any questions about Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA). There’s also some talk about developing a national certificate around the skills involved in this activity, likely revolving around its use in projects. As this evolves I’ll keep members informed. For details about David’s presentation about EAA, view the transcript video at the 0:39:15 mark.
Learn about the second industrial revolution as Karun Thanjavur demonstrates the amazing power of artificial intelligence. The future is here today!
Abstract: Artificial intelligence (AI), specially Deep (Machine) Learning applications are already ubiquitous in everyday use, and have been called the second industrial revolution. Deep Learning algorithms, called Neural Networks, thrive on Big Data, the happy ‘problem’ we now face of enormous amounts of data available in astronomy and in almost all fields of human endeavour. Piggybacked on the impressive recent advances in high performance computing, neural networks are trained on these available large datasets to then perform a variety of human-like tasks, such as realtime decision making, identifying subtle patterns in the data, forecasting, making recommendations based on experience, and so on. In this presentation I aim to provide an overview of this rapidly burgeoning field, explain in simple terms the construction and working of a neural net, and illustrate these principles with a few examples drawn from literature and from my own research.
How to Talk to a Science Denier:
Jim Hesser attended a recent UVic Physics colloquium by Dr. Lee McIntyre (Boston U.) was on the topic, “How to Talk to a Science Denier: What I learned at the Flat Earth Convention”.
Jim reports that the key take away message was that the best way he’s found to help a science denier is through real conversation that leads to building a relationship of trust between the denier and the scientists; once there is trust, the stage is set for the denier to look at alternate views and evidence the scientist provides. People interested in the science denial challenge might enjoy exploring this presentation.
David Lee’s First Light With Borg 55FL and ASI183MC
David writes: For those who can’t wait for the winter objects and you’re willing to stay up late you can catch objects like the Orion Nebula. This was also first imaging light for the Borg 55FL and the ASI183MC.
Imaging Camera: ZWO ASI183MC
Imaging Optics: Borg 55FL f/3.6 Astrograph
Filtration: Hutech Night Glow IDAS NGS1
Tracking Mount: Astrotrac
Exposure: 50 light frames of 30 seconds for a total exposure of 25 minutes
Processing: Pixinsight Core Version 1.8 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2021
Have you noticed that the red planet has received the lion’s share of planetary press coverage lately? In July 2020 three Martian space missions were launched: The United Arab Emirates mission will place an advanced weather satellite, called Hope, in a Martian orbit. The Chinese mission Tianwen-1 will deliver an orbiter, lander and rover to the planet. NASA and JPL will land Perseverance and Ingenuity on Mars. Perseverance is similar to the phenomenally successful Curiosity rover and will drill and deposit caches of samples for a possible retrieval mission. Ingenuity is a small helicopter that will take short three minute missions that will scout for interesting objects for Perseverance to examine. All three missions will reach Mars in February 2021, just in time for the Victoria Centre AGM! What a great time to become the Centre President!
Martian enthusiasts will also be excited to learn the Hilary Swank and her brave team of astronauts in the Netflix Martian exploration drama AWAY will likely be renewed for another season. Keen observers of this program may, like me, be puzzled by the intermittent nature of weightlessness in this drama. I wonder if special effects budgets are a factor.
The big event this month, however, is the opposition of Mars which takes place on October 13th. At this time, only 0.41 astronomical units away, the Martian angular diameter reaches 22.4 arc seconds. In anticipation of this event some keen RASCals like John McDonald have been perfecting their planetary photography techniques. You may remember that during the last opposition in the Summer of 2018 a major dust storm prevented us to savour the surface details. Although weather patterns have been favourable of late, smoke from the major wildfires in Northern California have introduced a new element of uncertainty. We should keep in mind that the crescendo of the Martian angular diameter is a gradual event and let’s hope for usable skies and wonderful images.
Right in the middle of this Martian jamboree, however, I was happy to hear that our much neglected sister planet, Venus, crashed the party. On September 14th, a paper announced that “Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus”. In 2017 the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope detected the spectral signature of the molecule phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere. This was followed up by higher resolution data from ALMA in 2019. This created great excitement because phosphine is considered a bio-signature in rocky planets and offers the intriguing possibility of life in the Venusian atmosphere. This may inspire future missions to Venus … which maybe a good thing since those wildfires are ringing alarm bells about global warming. Maybe we should spend more effort studying the planet next door which provides an outstanding illustration of a runaway greenhouse effect. We have much more to learn.
A Perimeter Institute Public Lecture on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7 at 4 pm PDT
What do data science and the foundations of quantum theory have to do with one another? A great deal, it turns out.
Causal inference is a branch of data science that focuses on a common problem across many disciplines: disentangling correlation and causation in statistical data. Meanwhile, quantum physicists have pondered this problem as part of a continuing effort to make sense of puzzling quantum phenomena.
In the first talk of Perimeter’s 2020/21 Public Lecture Series, Robert Spekkens and Elie Wolfe will explore what is happening at the intersection of these two fields and how thinking like a quantum physicist leads to new ways of separating cause and effect from correlation patterns in statistical data.
Overall Winners 2020 – Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition – presented by Barbara Lane
Telescope installation at Victoria Centre Observatory – time lapse video and photo gallery – Sep 21, 2020 (for higher quality than the Zoom presentation version)
FDAO Virtual DAO Star Party Saturday September 19th 2020
The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory are hosting a Virtual Star Party on Saturday September 19th at 7:00PM. Robert Conrad and Andrew Krysa from the Vancouver RASC are speaking on Mars.
UVic Observatory Open House program for this Fall begins!
UVic invites you to their Observatory Open House program for this Fall. Zoom sessions will begin next Wednesday, Sept 23 at 7:30pm. They will continue weekly at the same time and day till December. This week the Director of CFHT, Dr. Doug Simons presenting ‘Celebrating 40 years of discovery at CFHT’.
This link to join the Zoom Meeting will work for all of UVic’s Astronomy’s Open Houses going forward.
Meeting ID: 935 9678 6035 Password: 566494
Images from Edmonton RASCals relayed by Dave Robinson