June! It started off more like Juneuary, but as I write this, it’s full-on summer heat outside, and
the first clear Saturday evening for our summer star parties at the DAO since we opened.
Despite the first three Saturdays being clouded out, we still had more than one hundred visitors
join us at the DAO for our terrific indoor activities. Nice! That’s due entirely to the efforts of
volunteers from RASC-Victoria, and also FDAO, and UVic-Science Venture, and our guest
I take a break from writing this report, and head off to the DAO; it was wonderful! Warm, clear,
evening, lots of visitors, and of course RASC members to wow them with their enthusiasm and
knowledge. We needed a night like that! It also gave us our first real test of our new EventBrite
ticketing system and gate procedures, which worked as planned. Let’s hope the rest of the
series goes as well. We have an incredible lineup of guest speakers this summer, so if you
can’t help out as a RASC volunteer, tell your friends and family and come on up as a visitor!
One more Saturday evening on the hill before we take a break for two weeks, due to the lack of
darkness in the evening. This is where I’d really like to see a return to Standard Time all year;
most people like the lingering light in the evening, but it’s a bane to astronomers, and especially
for public outreach events. Also, for the same reason, most of our scheduled events for RASC
members are -or will soon be- on hiatus for the summer.
Of course, one highlight of the year is the RASCals Star Party, which will be on the weekend or
August 26-28 this year, and again will be held on the cricket field behind the district offices here
in Metchosin. I’m pleased to report Maan Hani and Dr. Rita Mann will be reprising their
presentations at the star party, and we will also have our usual activities and door prizes. There
is never a fee to attend, and you can camp on the field all weekend, or drop in as you wish.
Our Victoria Centre member Dr Chris Gainor reports that at the recent RASC National General
Assembly, Dr. Alan Batten (past President of the Victoria Centre, past President of RASC
National, former director of the DAO, and many, many other professional accomplishments) was
proclaimed a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Warmest congratulations to
Dr. Batten for this well-deserved honour!
This is my final monthly message until September. It’s been quite a year so far, marked by
frustrating weather, amazing public outreach (in spite of the frustrating weather!), terrific
meetings and guest speakers. Thank you all so much for all you do for RASC-Victoria and
astronomy in Victoria, and I wish you all a gentle summer filled with clear, sparkling skies.
Back for 2016! The Victoria Centre will be hosting thirteen 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 May 14th. Here are all the dates:
May 14, 21, 28. June 4, 11. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30. August 6, 13, 20. Special encore September 24.
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: https://summerstarparties.eventbrite.ca
See you there!
Summer Star Parties at the DAO run every Saturday evening from July 2nd to Aug 20th. To enhance your experience please note the following venues before you arrive. Activities are broken up in to seven main areas,
- 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 8:15pm and most do not repeat in the evening.
- Plaskett Dome – The dome is a heritage site, and not to be missed. Tours are approximately 45 minutes long and start at 7:45pm. Two other tours start at 8:30pm and 9:15pm.
- 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!
- 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 1990’s. It is now available for viewing “live” through an eyepiece. The telescope is open subject to weather conditions most of the evening.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
September 24th 8:00pm – 9:00pm and 9:15pm – 10:15pm The ISU (International Space University) and the Mission to the Asteroid Osiris-Rex
Dr. Geoff Steeves is a physics professor at the University of Victoria in Canada and a faculty member at the International Space University. He conducts research on Mars analogue environments and tele-robotic exploration. At the International Space University he chaired the SSP Space Science Department from 2012-2014 and now co-chairs the Space Humanities Department 2015-present. Geoff is an experienced SCUBA diver and pilot with a commercial pilot’s license and multi-engine instrument rating.
Speakers for this season
May 14th – Journey to the Edge of the Solar System, New Horizons The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt (Ivar Arroway)
May 14th – The Greatest Show on Earth: Solar Eclipses (Michael Webb)
May 21st – Introduction to the Night Sky (David Lee)
May 28th – The Night Sky Hitchhiker’s Toolkit: A Guided Tour of Observing Equipment (RASC Members)
June 4th – Imaging Other Worlds (Benjamin Gerard)
June 11th – Monsters in the Dark: Black Holes and Their Messy Habits (Nicholas McConnell)
July 2nd – Introduction to the Night Sky (David Lee)
July 9th – Where Baby Stars Come From: A Look Behind Orion’s Dusty Veil (Steve Mairs)
July 16th – Gravitational Waves and a New Era of Discovery (Nicholas McConnell)
July 23rd – The Birth, Life, and Death of Stars (Jared Keown)
July 23rd – The Story of the Hubble Space Telescope (Chris Gainor)
July 30th – What is Dark Matter? (Kyle Oman)
August 6th – Observing Planning and Logging Panel Discussion (RASC Members)
August 13th – Light and Life, Sculptors of Earth: The First 2 Billion Years (Dorothy Paul)
August 13th – Voyage to Alpha Centauri (Christian Marois)
August 20th – The Moon, Meteorites, Monks and Me (or MMMM… !) (Leslie Welsh)
August 20th – Astrophotography: Imaging the Sky Panel Discussion (John McDonald, Dan Posey and David Lee)
August 24th – Talk from the Victoria Chapter of the Planetary Society (topic to be announced) (Geoff Steeves)
Help get Light Pollution Abatement on the Federal Government’s Radar
The Federal Government Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019 is open for public comment until mid-June. http://www.letstalksustainability.ca/intro
The words Light Pollution and Outdoor Lighting occur nowhere in the current draft of this document. Here is an opportunity for each of us to help get light pollution’s impact on our planet onto the government’s radar! The more individual submissions addressing the destructive effects of lighting up the nocturnal environment, the greater the chance that the message will be heard and heeded. (There will be submission from RASC as well.)
Choose your ‘pet peeve’ (other than in ruining the night sky) about LP – e.g., its impact on ecosystems and the environment, health (all species), quality of life, biodiversity, greenhouse gases, sustainable natural resources, climate change, Indigenous Peoples, etc. (all key words in the Fed’s Development Strategy plan), go to the website, and contribute a few minutes to the planning of a sustainable future for Canada. More information and an explanation of the detrimental impact of bad outdoor lighting are at http://victoria.rasc.ca/night-lighting/ and http://www.rasc.ca/outdoor-lighting.
Please note: for April 13th’s general meeting we will be meeting in room ELL167 in the lecture hall directly behind the Elliott Building.
Have you ever wondered how stars are born? In this presentation, we’ll dive
deep into the hearts of molecular clouds, vast reservoirs of gas and dust which
are the birthplace for stars. Our tour will include stunning recent results from the
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, facilities
where Canadian astronomers have been making major strides in revealing clues
as to how and why stars form.
Dr Helen Kirk is a Research Associate with the Herzberg Astrophysics program
at the National Research Council of Canada. She has previously worked as a
researcher at McMaster University and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, and prior to that, obtained her MSc and PhD from the University of
Victoria. Helen is thrilled to have been honoured with two awards associated
with the RASC: in 2010, she received the Plaskett medal, a joint CASCA-RASC
award for the best Canadian astronomy thesis in the past two years, and in 2003,
she received the RASC Gold Award from the Toronto Centre of the RASC for
high achievement as an undergraduate in astronomy at the University of Toronto.
NOTE ROOM CHANGE TO ELL167 IN THE ELLIOTT LECTURE THEATRE (small building behind the Elliott Building where we meet after monthly meetings)
“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”
“I will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy. At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sgr A*. This curious object is our closest Galactic Nucleus, and will soon be observed at extraordinarily high resolution (~15 micro-arcseconds) using a world-wide network of high-frequency radio telescopes in a very coordinated effort to detect accretion disk close to its event horizon.”
James Di Francesco is an RASC member who works at the NRC Herzberg Programs in Astronomy and Astrophysics. He was born in Ontario and received his BSc in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toronto in 1990, and his PhD in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997. After completing postdoctoral appointments at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA and the University of California, Berkeley, James joined NRC in 2002.
Our representation of the Universe has evolved throughout the ages. From the first men to Ptolemy, we have always tried to understand the skies. Modern astronomers have access to tools that their ancestors did not even dream of. This lead to multiple big and small revolutions in our understanding of the Universe in the last centuries. We retrace some of these moments that shaped our knowledge of the Universe.
Bio: Sebastien Lavoie is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria. Prior to that he obtained his MSc in Quebec City. He studies the evolution of massive galaxies in clusters.