President’s Message October 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

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.

Stay well …
And Useable Skies

Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Cafe – Monday October 5th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Meeting video transcript

Latest Mars image on September 30th by John McDonald

Mars almost at opposition. Details 2020 09 30 at Ross Place Victoria BC 8″ Edge SCT on AVX mount. ZWO ASI120MM-S camera with filter wheel and TV Powermate barlow to give focal ration f/25. Captured 2000 frames in each of R,G,B and IR filters and stacked best 59% in Astrostakkert, sharpened in Registax, and enhanced in Photoshop.

Latest Mars image from Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar

Andur writes: I was using a C11 EDGE at f30 with an ASI1600MM camera. I took 18 videos of 90s through each filter for this sequence and stacked them in Autostakkert. I then applied wavelets in Registax and de-rotated the images in Winjupos. This is the first time that I have actually gotten some detail in the south pole. (Date Uncertain)

Unquiet Slumbers Aurora from Edmonton RASCal Alister Ling

To savour Alister’s wonderful time lapse crank up the volume and click on the link: https://youtu.be/AE7Jr6Dh4bk

Recommendations from Jim Hesser

Jim writes “This McGill public lecture on gravitational waves was dynamic, quite accessible and right up to date.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqmnq65MjKk

Also Jim alerts us of another presentation in the series Golden Webinars in Astrophysics

Makoto Yoshikawa from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS) on
“Challenges of the Asteroid Sample-Return Mission Hayabusa2”

on October 9th, at 20:00 CLT (UTC-3h) Click the following to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/6416016640027/WN_gIS63X00S8qWg1no-drEyA

Astronomy Cafe – Monday September 28th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Transcript video of the meeting

Dr. James di Francesco speaks at UVic Open House this Wednesday

Join this Zoom Meeting at 7:30 PM PDT this Wednesday by following the link below.
https://uvic.zoom.us/j/93596786035?pwd=SytMSzRlZERrdjFTM0V4bytNTWtoZz09

Meeting ID: 935 9678 6035
Password: 566494​

From Baby Planets to Black Holes: Lecture by Dr. Schieven

The Vancouver Island Engineering Society invites you to a lecture by Dr. Gerald Schieven on Friday October 2nd at 11:30 AM. The focus of his talk is ALMA and the New Horizon Telescope. Find details at the following link: https://viengsoc.ca/events/from-baby-planets-to-black-holes-alma-and-the-event-horizon-telescope/

The Quantum Physicist as Causal Detective

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.

Follow this link to learn more: https://insidetheperimeter.ca/quantum-physicist-causal-detective-live-webcast/

Astronomy Cafe – Monday September 21st 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of meeting

  • 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

Sharpless 2-171: NGC 7822 and Cederblad 214. By Arnold Rivera on September 14
Arnold writes: These two objects have been on my imaging list for a while for two reasons:
They were the first objects on the Observer’s Handbook Deep-Sky Challenge List I visually observed when I started tackling the list and they are well-placed in our northern skies in the fall. These are ‘large’ (60’X30’) but faint emission nebulae well suited for the type of imaging equipment that I typically use. My image was flipped and rotated to reflect its true orientation in the sky when the image was taken.
Celestron RASA8 & ZWO ASI294 MC Pro (-16 C) Astronomik CLS CCD light pollution filter
50 subs, 11m 45s total integration time (uncropped) Processsed in Deep Sky Stacker and PixInsight
Mars by Abdul Anwar on Sept 14
Abdul Anwar tested out his new C11 on Mars and got impressive results. Abdul writes: After carefully collimating it, I spent a few hours imaging Mars. I took 18 x 2 min videos through each filter (total of 108 minutes of footage) and stacked 84,000 out of 337,000 frames I captured. It took a few evenings to process everything but I am sure it’ll get faster as I learn to optimise the process. The equipment used was as follows:
C11 Edge at f20 (5600mm) EQ6R mount ASI1600MM camera with RGB filters.
Images were captured in 16 bit SER format using Sharpcap. Processing was done in Autostakkert, Registax, Siril, and GIMP.

Astronomy Cafe – September 14th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Transcript video of meeting – Phil Groff portion

This is a special edition with guest speaker Dr. Phil Groff, the Executive Director of RASC. Phil gave an overview of RASC from a National perspective and took questions from Victoria Centre members.

Edmonton Contributions relayed by Dave Robinson

The Cygnus Wall, a portion of the North American Nebula (NGC 7000) in Cygnus. By Abdur Anwar Sept 6
Using ASI1600MM Pro with ZWO LRGBHa filters RGB: 30 mins each L: 74 mins Scope: 8″ f3.9 reflector
Abdur writes: Capturing the Cygnus wall was one of my goals for this year since Cygnus is almost overhead right now. Really happy with how it turned out. I didn’t take any Ha subs for this target as I prefer the more natural colours of RGB. Due to a lot of Ha emissions, the red would overpower everything else with Ha data.
Above Neptune with Triton: total exposure about 1 hour
both photos by Massimo Tori using a 10″ Newtonian f/4.7 and a Canon XSi.
Below Moons of Uranus: total exposure about 2.5 hours

Great Martian Details by John McDonald

At 2AM on September 11th John McDonald captured amazing surface details on Mars. Using his C-8 SCT with a Barlow he used lucky imaging – 1000 frames in R, B, G and IR(for luminance) with a ZWO ASI120MM camera.

President’s Message September 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

I don’t know about you but I am not ready to change the calendar to September just yet. The uncertainty introduced by the pandemic and the political drama unfolding south of the border distracted me from making the most of the Summer. The restrictions of Covid 19 produced a Star Party deficit and deprived the Victoria Centre of the social interaction enjoyed when sharing the night skies with others. But the constellations march on and they are indifferent to our plight. So enough snivelling and it is time to count our blessings.

On the Covid front, whether it was our favourable geography, good governance or good fortune, so far Vancouver Island has experienced relatively few cases when compared to other areas. On the weather front, relatively cool conditions have reduced wild fire smoke and presented favourable observing and imaging opportunities. On the technological front, Zoom and our tireless hosts, Chris Purse, Barbara and Kurt Lane and John McDonald have kept the doors to Astro Cafe open during the summer months. This allowed us to remain connected and share our techniques, images, sketches and enthusiasm. These sessions were all captured on video by the kindness of Joe Carr and posted on the Astronomy Cafe web page. One antidote to the pandemic was the visit by the beautiful comet C/2020 f3 Neowise. Editor Bruce Lane went the extra mile and prepared bonus issue #420 of the Victoria Centre newsletter, SkyNews, that showcased images and sketches of comet Neowise and conveyed the joy it generated. Bruce also provided a colourful history of comets of yesteryear and their relationship leaders of the day.

The National RASC response to Covid was remarkable. There were so many web offerings that they have developed a very useful weekly email entitled “What’s happening at The RASC?” which alerts you to regional and national presentations. If you are not already receiving this email then I encourage you to subscribe here. In particular they had developed a series of Zoom webinars related to the Explore the Universe program. These and other presentations have been captured and are available on the RASCanada YouTube channel for viewing at your convenience.

As we head into September, the number of Covid cases are on the rise and the rooms at UVic will remain closed. Instead of having a special monthly meeting on Zoom, we plan instead to have one Astro Cafe session each month with an invited speaker. The first presenter, Dr. Phil Groff, executive director of RASC, will attend our Astro Cafe Zoom meeting on Monday September 14th at 7:30 PM. It is a great opportunity meet Phil and share your thoughts with him.

As the nights continue to lengthen I do hope that you will find time to step out, look up and marvel.

Useable Skies

Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Cafe – August 31st 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of meeting

Sketch of fading Comet Neowise by Bill Weir

Bill writes: Using Stellarium as a guide, with my 15X70 binoculars it was an easy long star hop from Arcturus to the precise area where I should be able to see the comet. Due to the 1/4 Moon being maybe only 25° away and even though I had the Moon blocked by a tree the comet was invisible through binoculars so on to the f/3.3 508 mm Dobsonian scope. Bill’s persistence allowed him to glimpse and sketch comet C/2020 f3 Neowise.

What’s happening at The RASC?

Not all members of the Victoria Centre have been receiving this valuable email which provides information on weekly RASC online offerings such as the Explore the Universe and some regional Zoom presentations. To subscribe to this interesting message click here.

Impressive Images of Mars from Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar

Abdur Anwar dusted off his old Celestron 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope and put it to good use using a lucky imaging technique to capture some amazing images of Mars. On August 25th Abdur experimented with the program WinJupos which can remove the blurring effect caused by rotation. Check out the before and after images below.

Mars on August 25th Image uncorrected for rotation
Same image as above with “derotation” corrections from WinJupos applied
Abdur’s derotated image of Mars taken on August 28th using Celestron C8 with 2X barlow and an ASI600MM camera with zwo RGB filters and a CG5 mount using 1/60s exposure time and a gain of 175. Images were stacked in Autostakkert, wavelets applied in Registax, and derotated in Winjupos.

Speaking of Mars check out this 4K video

The video in this link displays a collection of high resolution images taken on a number of Martian space missions. It is 12 minutes well spent.

Observing

Astronomy Cafe – August 17, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

Robotic Telescope Editing Contest

Want to put your image editing skills to the test? Now you can, with the RASC Robotic Telescope image editing contest.

In collaboration with SkyNews, each month the RASC Robotic Telescope team will release the data for an image for the public to edit. Judges from the team will pick a winner out of those submitted. Click here to learn more: https://skynews.ca/introducing-the-rasc-robotic-telescope-editing-contest/

Deep Sky Images from an Edmonton RASCal

Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar Captured the Cacoon and Bubble on August 9th

Abdur writes: Finally had a clear night last week and I spent most of my imaging time on the Cacoon Nebula (IC 5146) and the Bubble nebula. I got about 2 hours of data on the Cacoon and about 1.5 hours on the Bubble nebula using an ASI1600mm and an 8″ reflector. Really happy with how they turned out 🙂

Equipment and capture details for each target in order:
ASI1600MM Pro
ZWO LRGBHa filters
Ha: 12 mins (Cacoon) / 27 mins (Bubble nebula)
RGB: 20 mins each / 10 mins each
L: 60mins / 30 mins
Scope: 8″ f3.9 reflector
Mount: EQ6R Pro

Cacoon Nebula (IC 5146)
The Bubble Nebula NGC 7635 …Caldwell 11

Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex by Dan Posey

Bill Weir encouraged Dan Posey to visit the Pearson Site. The result was at stunning photo at this link: https://rascvic.zenfolio.com/posey/head1949f#hebe220b7 This file is large but the click is worth it! Check it out.

Dan writes: “Thanks to Bill kindly hosting last night, as the conditions at Pearson provided that opportunity I have been waiting for. The result isn’t perfect but that just means I’ll need to revisit in the future; I know where I need to be to take a longer stab at this target next year. This is 48.5 minutes (97x30s) using my Sigma 105 at f1.4 and my Canon Ra at iso 640.”

A Lunar Album from Mike Nash

Victoria RASCal Mike Nash captured images of the Moon 9 nights in a row. Watch the features change as the terminator crawls across the surface. Check it out in mouth watering detail at the following link: https://www.westcoastcaptures.com/Lunar-and-Planetary-Imaging/Aug-7-Aug-16-9-days-of-Luna/n-8j7f2Z/

Dr Doug Johnstone Presents at UVic Open House this Wednesday

You are invited to the UVic Open House which starts at 7:30PM on Wednesday August 19th. The zoom guest link (with password embedded) is:
https://zoom.us/j/97173236268?pwd=V2hhYTAwVVY5cXl5eEFoOUxSYmZGdz09

Title: Peering Into the Darkness with the JCMT: Witnessing the Birth of Stars

The birth of stars remains shrouded in mystery. Stars 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, and the ALMA Observatory in Chile, the JCMT has transformed our understanding of stellar birth. Join me on an adventure to uncover nearby stellar nurseries.

Astronomy Cafe -August 10, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of the meeting

Presentations and Discussions

  • Mars and the Moon – David Lee
  • Colour Filters for lunar observing – Randy Enkin
  • Yellow Filters and how human sight works for lunar observing, then seeing colour when observing nebula – Dorothy Paul
  • Space Educator’s Institute -3-day online conference – Lauri Roche & David Lee
  • Perseid meteor shower and other observing hints – Chris Purse
  • Discord chat service being used by RASC National for Perseids observing group – Bill Weir

A Medley of Lunar Images by many RASCals

Edmonton RASCal Alister Ling recorded a wonderful Coho Salmon Moonrise time lapse on August 3rd-4th. Enjoy the YouTube video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=28&v=jC8eZOwmEnk&feature=emb_logo

Victoria RASCal Mike Nash captured 70% Waning Moon on August 9th. Check out the following link: https://www.astrobin.com/rbewkl/0/?real=&nc=WestCoastCannuck If you Zoom in you can glimpse Hadley Rille.

David Lee captured the conjunction of the Moon and Mars on August 8th together with a wonderful foreground shot taken from Rithet Bog.

Some Great Planetary Detail

On August 4th Edmonton RASCal Arnold Rivera captured martian suface details. Arnold writes: I managed to observe and image Mars this morning starting at around 6:00 am from north Edmonton. Seeing conditions at the time were above average and the surfacefeatures on Mars included the dark prominent area of Syrtis Major on the north hemisphere and the rapidly shrinking south polar cap:
Equipment and details: Celestron CPC1100 (in alt-az mode)
Camera: ZWO ASI120MC-S 9.7ms, 2500 frames, processed in Registax
John McDonald captures Jupiter, this time in fairly good seeing shows fair detail. Date 08-08-2020. 8″ Edge SCT on AVX mount. ZWO ASI120MM-S camera with filter wheel and TV Powermate barlow to give focal ration f/25. Captured 1000 frames in R,G and B filters. Stacked best 45% in Astrostakkert. Post processing in Images Plus and Photoshop.
John McDonald writes: My best image of Saturn to date. I had fairly good seeing as the image shows. Date 08-08-2020. 8″ Edge SCT on AVX mount. ZWO ASI120MM-S camera with filter wheel and TV Powermate barlow to give focal ration f/25. Captured 1000 frames in R,G and B filters. Stacked best 45% in Astrostakkert. Post processing in Images Plus and Photoshop.

Lucky Imaging of Planets and the Moon

If you want to learn how to capture wonderful images like the above perhaps you should attend the following webinar!

Tuesday, August 11th – 7:00pm ADT / 6:00pm EDT / 3:00PM PDT
Nova East 2020 – Lucky Imaging: Astrophotography of the Moon and Planets
Lucky imaging is a technique used to capture high resolution images of the Moon and planets. It involves taking as many images as possible, often several thousand, with a high-speed “video” camera and using specialized software to identify and stack only the sharpest images. The talk, presented by David Hoskin, will cover the equipment, software and processing workflow used in lucky imaging.

Click the following to register: https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcvd-isqDopGNaC-bUKGBgFgl2NkMkVl4hv

Noctilucent Hummingbirds from Edmonton

Edmonton RASCal Mark Zalik – captured this remarkable sequence on August 4th which closely resembles hummingbirds. All Edmonton content kindly relayed by Dave Robinson.
Mark writes:
Wonderful NLC display tonight! Nice arrays of billows formed way down near the horizon, where the twilight imparted a beautiful cinnamon colour on the NLC. A bit earlier in the display, the clouds formed an ethereal hummingbird.

Observing

Astronomy Cafe – July 6, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video

Views from Doug Hardy’s Deck

Doug used a Canon 60Da and a Sigma 10-20 zoom at 10mm looking eastward from his deck in Downtown Victoria. He captured a nice conjunction of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn. A red light from Trial Island is visible.
Doug then turned around and looked almost straight up there were very interesting clouds tangled up with the dipper. Since the shot was taken at 1:30 AM those clouds are not illuminated by the sun. They might resemble noctilucent clouds but are probably much lower cirrus cloud illuminated by the Moon.

David Lee’s Creamsicle Moon

Could Creamsicles overtake Viva Puffs to become the favourite Astro Cafe summer treat? Penumbral Eclipse July 4. 2020 Billed as a subtle eclipse the penumbral shadow is subtle. What David didn’t expect was the orange ball that emerged from the horizon. A nice creamsicle colour! Camera: Nikon Z6 with FTZ adapter Lens: Nikkor 300/4 AFS with 1.4 x TC Effective 420mm cropped. Sensor ISO: 1600. Exposure: 1/100 sec at f/5.6
Processing: Adobe Photoshop CC 2020

Martian Citizen Science: Zoom Webinar at 11AM Tuesday

Meg Schwamb (Queen’s University Belfast) will be speaking about “Exploring Mars with 150,000 Earthlings.”

Planet Four (http://www.planetfour.org) and Planet Four: Terrains (http://terrains.planetfour.org) are citizen science projects mining Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) images to explore how the south pole of Mars is sculpted by the never-ending cycle of freezing and thawing of exposed carbon dioxide ice. In the summer, carbon dioxide jets loft dust and dirt through cracks in the thawing carbon dioxide ice sheet to the surface where winds blow the material into the hundreds of thousands of dark fans observed from orbit. Planet Four enlists over 136,000 volunteers to map the sizes, shapes, and orientations of these fans in high resolution images. Planet Four is creating an unprecedented wind map of the south pole of Mars in order to probe how the Martian climate changes over time and is impacted year to year by dust storms and other global-scale events. Planet Four: Terrains, aims to study the distribution of the jet process across the south pole and identify new targets of interest for MRO. Over 12,000 people have helped identify the channels and pits (dubbed araneiforms) carved during the jet formation process. In this talk, I’ll give an overview of Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains and present the latest results from these projects.

Zoom info: Meeting ID: 954 6636 7375 password: DAOseminar

Please click this URL to start or join. https://monash.zoom.us/j/95466367375?pwd=cVJpdEZjVW1kaHAyWGo4Um9NOWxkZz09

Astronomy Poem inspires Mystery Novel: from Marjie Welchframe

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too truly to be feaful of the night.”

From poem The Old Astronomer
Sarah Williams/S.A.D.I.
English poet/novelist, 1868

Novelist Ian Rankin titled his Inspector Rebus novel Set in Darkness after these lines. The poem is written from the perspective of an aged astronomer on his deathbed bidding his student to continue his humble research. The lines have been chosen by a number of professional and amateur astronomers as their epitaphs. Entire poem:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Twilight_Hours_(1868)/The_Old_Astronomer