Book: Light – The Visible Spectrum and Beyond

Posted by as Reviews

Light - The Visible Spectrum and Beyond book cover
Light – The Visible Spectrum and Beyond book cover

A beautiful book has just been published by two Chandra mission media specialists. It is available from all the usual online retailers, and would make a wonderful Christmas gift for yourself or others! It features an impressive collection of astronomical photographs, and the two authors have also chosen to blend artwork from Johannes Vermeer, van Gogh, Claude Monet, and a local Victoria artist Henri van Bentum!

A beautiful, fascinating, visual exploration of the power and behavior of light across the entire electromagnetic spectrum and how it affects life on Earth and everything in the Universe.

Buy on Amazon.ca

A visual exploration of the power and behavior of light, across the entire electromagnetic spectrum, and how it affects life on earth and everything in the Universe.

Light illuminates our world and allows us to see everything around us. But, in fact, humans can see only a sliver the full spectrum of light that governs life on Earth and everything in the universe, known as the electromagnetic spectrum. In this highly visual, original exploration, Megan Watzke and Kimberly Arcand present the subject of light as never before. Organized along the order of the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio waves to gamma rays, each chapter focuses on a different type of light, describing its particular properties, characteristics, and practical uses. From radio waves, which allow for TV and cell phone communication, to infrared light which makes thermal body scanning possible, to X-rays, which allow us to peer inside the human body, as well as view black holes and supernovae millions of light years from Earth, Watzke and Arcand show us all the important ways that light impacts life on Earth and beyond. An introductory chapter gives an overview of the electromagnetic spectrum and describes what light is and how it behaves, while hundreds of full-color photographs and illustrations demonstrate concepts and make for a stunning book that’s a joy to read and browse through.

Light is the perfect book for readers of all ages and anyone interested in the beauty of science of our visual world.

More details from the authors’ website.

Monthly meeting speaker: Dr. Roberto Abraham, UofT professor

Posted by as Meetings

October 14, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

“Exploring the ghostly side of galaxies with Dragonfly” – Dr. Roberto Abraham, University of Toronto professor, Dept of Astronomy & Astrophysics

Dragonfly multi-lens array
Dragonfly multi-lens array

Abstract: Bigger telescopes are usually better telescopes…. but not always. In this talk I will explore the ghostly world of large low surface brightness structures, such as galactic stellar halos, low-surface brightness dwarf galaxies, and other exotica such as supernova light echoes. These objects are nearly undetectable with conventional telescopes, but their properties may hold the key to understanding how galaxies assemble. I will describe why finding these objects is important, and why it is so devilishly difficult.

I will also describe a bizarre new telescope (the Toronto/Yale Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a.k.a. Dragonfly) which is now being used to explore the low surface brightness universe and is testing some of the most fundamental predictions of galaxy formation models. Dragonfly is comprised of multiple commercial 400 mm f/2.8 telephoto lenses which utilize novel nanostructure-based optical coatings that minimize scattered light and ghosting. I’ll showcase some our early results, mainly focusing on the properties of ultra-faint stellar halos. I’ll also report the discovery of gigantic stellar disks underlying nearby galaxies, and will describe the discovery of a new class of ghostlike galaxies that are as big as the Milky Way but have about 1/1000 of its mass.

Bio: Roberto Abraham is a Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto. He obtained his BSc from UBC and his doctorate from Oxford. His work is focused on observations of galaxy formation and evolution and the development of innovative instruments. He has been awarded the Canadian Astronomical Society’s P. G. Martin Award, the Canada Foundation for Innovation Career Award, the NSERC Steacie Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award, the University of Toronto Outstanding Teaching Award, and a bunch of other things, including recently becoming a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, thus making him officially over the hill.

Prof. Roberto Abraham
Prof. Roberto Abraham

His proudest moment is winning second prize in the Vancouver All-City Elementary School Grade 6 spelling bee, where he lost out for not knowing how to spell the word “satellite”, leading eventually to learning how to spell the word “ironic”. He’s presently Vice-President of the Canadian Astronomical Society. Being keen on outreach, he has served as Honourary President of the Toronto Centre of the RASC for many years. He is currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Gemini Observatory, on the Science Advisory Committee for the Thirty Meter Telescope, has advised NASA by serving as panel chair on the Hubble Space Telescope time allocation committee three times, and is currently by serving as Canada’s representative on the James Webb Space Telescope Advisory Committee.

Total Lunar Eclipse – Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Observing Report

The weather was clear for this total Lunar Eclipse. RASC Victoria Centre members were observing from various locations around Victoria, including Cattle Point, Mt. Tolmie, Clover Point, and Esquimalt Lagoon. It was a beautiful clear Sunday night with mild temperatures, so thousands of members of the public came out to see the apparition as the Moon rose in the east around 7PM. Many missed the first minutes of the eclipse since the Moon was obscured by low clouds along the SE horizon, however once it cleared the clouds, it was a spectacular sight! By 9PM, the show was over and police at the various locations directed traffic as people returned home.

Several of our members captures excellent photos. Please browse the gallery or watch the slideshow below.

Total Lunar Eclipse in full eclipse
Total Lunar Eclipse in full eclipse

Introduction

On Sunday, September 27th, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon rises already in partial eclipse as the Sun sets just after 7 pm PDT. After reaching totality the Moon will gradually regain its brightness over the course of 3 hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture some snapshots of the event. Read further to find out what happens during the eclipse and how to capture it photographically.

This will be the last total Lunar Eclipse visible in North America until January 2018!

What’s Happening

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.


Glossary

  • limb – the outer edge of the Moon
  • penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
  • umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
  • partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
  • total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra

 

 E C L I P S E   T I M E L I N E
Moon below the horizon Moon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra 5:11 pm PDT
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra 6:07 pm PDT
Moon rises 6:58 pm PDT (approx)
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
7:11 pm PDT
Totality 7:47 pm PDT
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact 8:23 pm PDT
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra 9:27 pm PDT
Eclipse ends Moon leaves the penumbra 10:22 pm PDT

 

Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Daylight Saving Time (PDT) for the west coast of North America.


Observing Tips

What do you need?

Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.

Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view of the east especially if you wish to view during the early stages.

Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.


Photographic Tips

Equipment
Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.

Settings
Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.

Technique
The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon. For a 35mm camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconvertors to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.

Example:

 

 Focal Length  Aperture Effective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
Effective Aperture
with 2x teleconvertor
 180mm  2.8  360mm  5.6
 480mm  6.8  960mm  13.6

 

To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope. The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.

Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium speed film and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed of film used and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.

 

Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
Full Moon  1/250 second at f/16
1st Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
2nd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
Totality
*see table below
L = 4 : 8 seconds at f16
L = 3: 30 seconds at f16
L = 2: 2 minutes at f16
L = 1: 8 minutes at f16
3rd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
4th Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
 L = 1 dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
 L = 2 deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
 L = 3 brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
 L = 4 very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim

 

Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.

Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.

The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at davidflee7331@gmail.com.


David Lee – original image and text
Joe Carr – updated for 2015
Brenda Stuart – illustrations


The Total Lunar Eclipse of 2008 was very similar to this one in 2015. Here is the online gallery of some of our members’ photos of that event.

Victoria Centre AGM & Dinner – Nov 22, 2015

Posted by as Meetings

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Victoria Centre

Annual General Meeting and Dinner

Sunday, November 22 2015

at the Moon Under Water Brewpub, 350 Bay St, Victoria, BC

Call for Nominations

6:00pm – Drinks, conversation

  • No host bar

6:30 – Dinner

Payment -Cost of the fixed, sit-down dinner is $35.00 per person, inclusive of all taxes and gratuities. Alcoholic beverages not included.

  • Payment is only required for the meal.
  • Attendance at both the speaker presentation and the business meeting is free of charge.
  • The total number of dinners must be confirmed by Friday, November 13th. Please look over the menu and send your choice of First Course and Main Course to:
    • Nelson Walker: 250-477-4820 or by email to pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca
    • Payment at the door – by cheque (preferred) or cash
    • Meals will be pre-ordered and must be paid for, whether you show up or not

Menu: fixed sit-down meal. Choices:

First Course – choice of soup or salad

  • Potato bacon soup
  • House salad

Main Course – choice of one entrée

  • Roast beef dinner with seasonal vegetables, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.

  • Grilled salmon fillet with dill sauce, seasonal vegetables and rice.

  • Vegetarian stuffed mushroom cap with seasonal vegetables and mashed potatoes.

  • Dessert: stand-up dessert buffet.

  • Coffee and Tea included.

7:30pm – Speaker – Where Baby Stars Come From, and Why it’s Important to Know! – Steve Mairs

In this talk, I will examine the birth of a sun-like star and introduce some of the research being performed here in Victoria to further our knowledge on this subject. My main focus will be on the Orion Molecular Cloud, a giant star-forming region in the Milky Way which encompasses the famous Orion Nebula. I will present images of what the Orion Nebula looks like at submillimetre wavelengths and show how these often overlooked observations can provide vital information into the young lives of stars. By studying “where baby stars come from”, we can make links to present day observations of star clusters, supernova explosion rates, the formation of planets, and, in effect our very own origin story.

Steve Mairs
Steve Mairs

Bio: Steve Mairs is a 4th year PhD student in astronomy at UVIC. In 2012, he completed his Bachelor of Science degree with honours, majoring in Physics, from the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.

Throughout his undergraduate career, he was involved in a variety of astronomy projects including researching remnants of supernova explosions at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, studying pulsars in an effort to make a detection of gravitational waves at UBC Vancouver, and investigating the evolution of the physical properties of giant star-forming regions in the Triangulum Galaxy.

Steve’s PhD thesis is centred on the formation of stars in the Orion molecular cloud. Specifically, he is using sub-millimetre data collected using the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Combined Array for Research in Millimetre Astronomy to examine how large scale gas and dust structures in our own galaxy relate to the small scale structure which gives rise to the formation of young stars and stellar clusters.

8:30-9:30 pm Annual General Meeting

The agenda.

Monthly meeting speaker: The Search for Alien Life in the Universe – Dr. Jon Willis

Posted by as Meetings

September 9, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

“The Search for Alien Life in the Universe” – Dr. Jon Willis, UVic professor

Abstract: Do aliens exist and how are scientists proposing to find them? No, not a journey into the X-files of science fiction but a presentation of the science of astrobiology: the scientific search for life beyond Earth. However, within a 45 minute talk we have to get our priorities straight. This talk will not offer a reduced Shakespeare company-style overview of astrobiology. Instead I will focus on my top two picks for future success and discuss these in detail.

Streaming broadcast and later recording of meeting, including presentation (on Youtube)

Dr. Jon Willis
Dr. Jon Willis

Bio: Jon Willis is an Associate Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria.

  • BSc. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Glasgow (1995).
  • PhD in Astronomy from the University of Cambridge (2000).
  • Post-doc at the Catholic University in Santiago, Chile. (2000-2002).
  • Science Fellow at the European Southern Observatory, Chile (2002-2003).
  • Professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy, UVic (2003-present).

Summer Star Party at the DAO – Sept 12, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, September 12, 2015

The last summer star party at the DAO this season!

 Event Info

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory is open from 7:30 to 11:00 pm with last entrance at 10:00 pm

In the Centre of the Universe:

  • Exhibits Open: 7:30 to 10:45 pm
  • Planetarium Shows – every half hour from 7:45 to 9:45 “Constellation Stories”

Auditorium Presentations:

7:45 to 8:30PM and again at 9:15-10:00PM – Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope’s Outreach Odyssey – Mary Beth Laychak

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope serves a diverse audience of astronomers and the general public in six countries: Canada, France, Hawaii (US), Taiwan, Brazil and China. The recent hiring of a full time public outreach manager gives CFHT the opportunity to expand its outreach presence in each of these nations while simultaneously reaching our local Big Island community. The observatory’s goals are ambitious; unlike other multi-national institutions pursuing a dynamic outreach presence, CFHT is a smaller facility with fewer staff fully devoted to public outreach. In this talk, I will discuss who we are at CFHT and our plans to connect to the people of Canada, France and Hawaii.

Speaker: Mary Beth Laychak

Bio

Mary Beth Laychak is the Outreach Program Manager at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii. Mary Beth has an undergraduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics and a Masters degree in educational technology. Her passions include astronomy, sharing astronomy with the public and astronomy based crafts.

8:30 to 9:15PM – Adaptive Optics and the Thirty Meter Telescope – How Victoria will Widen our View of the Universe -Paolo Turri

Since the invention of the astronomical telescope in the 17th century, astronomers have pushed the technology to build larger lenses and mirrors to observe fainter and more distant objects. But for a long time, optical telescopes haven’t been able to improve their resolution because of the limit imposed by the turbulent atmosphere. Adaptive optics is a new technique that corrects the atmospheric aberrations on telescopes and opens new horizons in astronomy. I will discuss how adaptive optics performs its magic and I will show some of the results that can be achieved with it. We’ll give also a look at the future adaptive optics system for the Thirty Meter Telescope that will be built in the next decade. This instrument is part of the Canadian contribution to the telescope and it will be assembled in Victoria on the very same hill of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

Speaker: Paolo Turri

Bio

Paulo is from Italy and he graduated in Padua and Trieste (respectively for his Bachelor and Master degrees in Astronomy). He is a PhD student in Astronomy at the University of Victoria and his field of research is adaptive optics. This year at the Annual CASCA Conference he won an Award for Best Student Talk at the conference.

 

On the Centre of the Universe Deck:

New! Live, through the lens viewing with the 16“ telescope.

Friends of the DAO – Sign up as a new member! We need your support to bring educational programs back to the DAO during the year and to upgrade the exhibits. Popcorn, Hot Chocolate and Light-Up wrist bands available by donation.

In the Dominion Observatory:

Historical Tours of the Plaskett Telescope, the computer room and the Dome – new tours begin every twenty minutes from 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Plaskett Telescope will open (weather permitting) at approximately 9:45 and presentations that show what the telescope is seeing will be given on an ongoing basis until 10:45 pm

In the Parking Lot:

Telescopes will be set up for Solar Viewing and for Night Sky viewing by members of the RASC all evening.


A reminder that there is NO SMOKING on the hill at any time.

Please dress warmly as it gets very cool after it gets dark.

There is limited parking for those with mobility issues at the top of the hill. Please ask the Commissionaires when you arrive if you need one of these spaces. We cannot guarantee a spot at all times but visitors may be dropped off and picked up if necessary.

There is limited parking at the top of the hill. Most of the parking is in the lower lot. Please be advised that there are a number of stairs to climb to get to the entrance to the Centre of the Universe building and the DAO.

For safety reasons, no foot traffic is permitted on the road to the top. Visitors may not park on W.Saanich Rd and walk to the top.

CANCELLED – Summer Star Party at the DAO – Aug 29, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, August 29, 2015

 Event Info


Sorry everyone, with no power and no idea of when it may be back on, tonight’s public star party at the DAO is CANCELLED.


 

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory is open from 7:30 to 11:00 pm with last entrance at 10:00 pm

In the Centre of the Universe:

  • Exhibits Open: 7:30 to 10:45 pm
  • Planetarium Shows – every half hour from 7:45 to 9:45 “Constellation Stories”
  • “Science in Space: Educational Fun for Kids of All Ages”: 7:30 to 10:00 pm Virtual Reality with Science Venture from UVIC and sponsored, in part, by the UVIC Alumni Association.

Auditorium Presentations:

8:00-8:30 – How to build a Universe – Sebastien Lavoie

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.

Dwarf galaxy
Dwarf galaxy

8:30-9:00 – What dwarfs teach us about galaxy formation – Azadeh Fattahi

The standard model of cosmology has been very successful in explaining the galaxy formation and structures in large scales, but observations on smaller scales raised potential questions about the validity of the model. Studying faint galaxies (dwarfs), therefore, has become more important for understanding the galaxy formation framework.

Bio: Azadeh was born and raised in Iran. She studied Physics for her BSc in Tehran-Iran at the Sharif University of Technology. In 2011 she moved to UVic for her MSc in Astronomy, transferring into a PhD program in 2013.

9:00 and 9:30 – Live from Gemini is a video field trip to the Gemini North telescope. People experience Gemini’s latest science and discover the excitement of scientific exploration of our universe and interact with a Gemini astronomer in Hawaii.

Host: Dr. Dennis R. Crabtree, A/ Director Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics

On the Centre of the Universe Deck:

New! Live, through the lens viewing with the 16“ telescope.

Friends of the DAO – Sign up as a new member! We need your support to bring educational programs back to the DAO during the year and to upgrade the exhibits. Popcorn, Hot Chocolate and Light-Up wrist bands available by donation.

In the Dominion Observatory:

Historical Tours of the Plaskett Telescope, the computer room and the Dome – new tours begin every twenty minutes from 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Plaskett Telescope will open (weather permitting) at approximately 9:45 and presentations that show what the telescope is seeing will be given on an ongoing basis until 10:45 pm

In the Parking Lot:

Telescopes will be set up for Solar Viewing and for Night Sky viewing by members of the RASC all evening.


A reminder that there is NO SMOKING on the hill at any time.

Please dress warmly as it gets very cool after it gets dark.

There is limited parking for those with mobility issues at the top of the hill. Please ask the Commissionaires when you arrive if you need one of these spaces. We cannot guarantee a spot at all times but visitors may be dropped off and picked up if necessary.

There is limited parking at the top of the hill. Most of the parking is in the lower lot. Please be advised that there are a number of stairs to climb to get to the entrance to the Centre of the Universe building and the DAO.

For safety reasons, no foot traffic is permitted on the road to the top. Visitors may not park on W.Saanich Rd and walk to the top.

RASCals Star Party – Aug 21-23, 2015 in Metchosin

Posted by as Special Events

August 21-23, 2015

Metchosin Municipal Grounds behind the Metchosin Fire Hall, 4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada – on beautiful Vancouver Island

The weather was near perfect for our RASCals Star Party this year for both nights, Friday and Saturday. There were some bleary-eyed observers leaving the Metchosin Cricket Field on Sunday! Many people camped on the field and setup their telescopes to take advantage of the nice dark skies at this rural site. RASC members and the public enjoyed a great two days of everything to do with astronomy. There were some very nice door prizes give away this year, including laser pointers, books, toys (for grownups and kids), binoculars and a telescope!

Schedule of Events

Friday 21st

  • 12:00pm – Gates open.
  • 8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes.
  • 8:30pm – Presentation- Hubble History, Dr Chris Gainor.
  • 9:30pm –Guided Telescope Walk , followed by viewing of the night sky.
  • 10:00pm until dawn: observing!

Saturday 22nd

  • Solar viewing – all day.
  • 3:00pm – Workshop (gazebo): Astronomy Apps for desktop and Mobile, David Lee.
  • 4:00pm: Introduction to Astronomy, Sherry Buttnor.
  • 8:00pm – Door prizes.
  • 8:30pm – Speaker- Exploring Mars: a Cartographer’s View, Dr. Phil Stooke.
  • 9:30pm – Guided Telescope Walk, followed by viewing of the night sky
  • 10:00pm until dawn: observing!

Sunday 23rd

  • Cleanup
  • 12 noon – departures

Photos from the Star Party


Our speakers start their talks just after sunset each evening.

August 21, 2015 speaker: Hubble History by Dr. Chris Gainor

Chris Gainor
Chris Gainor

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. This talk will summarize that quarter century of astronomical advances that has changed how we look at the universe and how astronomy is done. HST had a difficult start when it was discovered that its main mirror suffered from spherical aberration, a problem that was overcome by a crew of space shuttle astronauts that installed new instruments on Hubble. When a later shuttle repair mission was cancelled in 2004, an outcry from astronomers and the public led to the mission being restored. Today Hubble is still going strong with its new instruments. Chris will tell the story of Hubble’s operations in orbit based on the research he is doing for a book telling the history of HST.

Bio: Chris Gainor is a historian of technology and writer specializing in space exploration and aeronautics who is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is the author of four books, and his writings have appeared in various specialty publications and Canadian newspapers. He holds a PhD in the history of technology from the University of Alberta, and has taught history at the University of Victoria and at CFB Esquimalt for the Royal Military College of Canada. He is First Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a former president of the Victoria Centre of the RASC. Chris is also International Space Programs Editor for Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly, and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. He is also known for bringing history alive through his appearances as Sir Winston Churchill.

Phil Stooke with his Mars Atlas
Phil Stooke with his Mars Atlas

August 22, 2015 speaker: Exploring Mars – a Cartographer’s View – Dr. Philip Stooke

Abstract: This talk will summarize the history of Mars exploration with many illustrations from Phil’s books. The story will begin with telescopic views and the earliest NASA and Soviet missions, and will extend to recent activities by the rovers Opportunity and Curiosity. Much more than just a collection of press releases, the presentation will delve into many unfamiliar aspects of Mars exploration. How were the various landing sites chosen? Where was the Soviet Mars 7 supposed to land? What was underneath Viking 1? And how do we know where Opportunity is on any given day?

Bio: Phil Stooke grew up in England and eventually attended U. Vic, where he completed a B.Sc. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in 1988. Since then he has taught cartography and planetary science at the University of Western Ontario. Phil’s Ph.D. topic was mapping methods for non-spherical objects such as asteroids, and many of his maps are now available through NASA’s Planetary Data System. He continues to work in that area, most recently compiling digital maps of comets Borrelly and Hartley 2 and asteroids Eros and Itokawa. Phil has also written on the history of lunar and planetary cartography, and he has compiled several large reference works on lunar and Mars exploration. His International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and International Atlas of Mars Exploration are available in the U. Vic. Library, and a second volume on Mars exploration, covering the current rover missions, is in press.

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – Aug 8, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, August 8, 2015

 Event Info

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory is open from 7:30 to 11:00 pm with last entrance at 10:00 pm

In the Centre of the Universe:

  • Exhibits Open: 7:30 to 10:45 pm
  • Planetarium Shows – every half hour from 7:45 to 9:45 “Constellation Stories”
  • “Science in Space: Educational Fun for Kids of All Ages”: 7:30 to 10:00 pm Virtual Reality with Science Venture from UVIC and sponsored, in part, by the UVIC Alumni Association.

Auditorium Presentations:

8:00 pm “The Gemini Planet Imager, A New Era of Imaging Exoplanets has begun” – Dr. Christian Marois, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria.

Bio: Dr. Marois is a National Research Council astronomer and a pioneer in the field of imaging exoplanets. He started the field a decade ago as a graduate student, and he is now deeply involved in the Gemini Planet Imager campaign, the thirty meter telescope, and space observatory concepts to push the boundary of the field to one day take images of another Earth.

9:00PM “What’s up in the Sky Tonight” – David Lee, RASC Victoria Centre.

On the Centre of the Universe Deck:

New! Live, through the lens viewing with the 16“ telescope.

Friends of the DAO – Sign up as a new member! We need your support to bring educational programs back to the DAO during the year and to upgrade the exhibits. Popcorn, Hot Chocolate and Light-Up wrist bands available by donation.

TONIGHT ONLY: A “Mars Rover” Robotic Demonstration from the FIXIT 3491 team that went to the World Robotic Championships in St. Louis Missouri earlier this year.

In the Dominion Observatory:

Historical Tours of the Plaskett Telescope, the computer room and the Dome – new tours begin every twenty minutes from 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Plaskett Telescope will open (weather permitting) at approximately 9:45 and presentations that show what the telescope is seeing will be given on an ongoing basis until 10:45 pm

In the Parking Lot:

Telescopes will be set up for Solar Viewing and for Night Sky viewing by members of the RASC all evening.


A reminder that there is NO SMOKING on the hill at any time.

Please dress warmly as it gets very cool after it gets dark.

There is limited parking for those with mobility issues at the top of the hill. Please ask the Commissionaires when you arrive if you need one of these spaces. We cannot guarantee a spot at all times but visitors may be dropped off and picked up if necessary.

There is limited parking at the top of the hill. Most of the parking is in the lower lot. Please be advised that there are a number of stairs to climb to get to the entrance to the Centre of the Universe building and the DAO.

For safety reasons, no foot traffic is permitted on the road to the top. Visitors may not park on W.Saanich Rd and walk to the top.

Summer Star Parties at the DAO – Aug 1, 2015

Posted by as Special Events

Summer Saturdays at the DAO
Program for Saturday, August 1, 2015

 Event Info

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory is open from 7:30 to 11:00 pm with last entrance at 10:00 pm

In the Centre of the Universe:

Exhibits Open: 7:30 to 10:45 pm
Planetarium Shows – every half hour from 7:45 to 9:45 “Constellation Stories”

Auditorium Presentations:

8:00 pm “Climate Change – Where are the Essential Data?” – Dr. Elizabeth Griffin, Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Victoria.

Bio: Elizabeth Griffin carries out research into binary stars, using data obtained at the DAO with the smaller (1.2-m) telescope. Her work sometimes needs to incorporate historical data from photographic plates, and that connection has led to a broader involvement with “Data Rescue” in other sciences worldwide and what “old data” mean for them too. She has also studied the Earth’s ozone using astronomical data, and is a passionate speaker on the role of science, as well as technology, in addressing climate change.

9:00PM “What’s up in the Sky Tonight” – David Lee, RASC Victoria Centre.

In the Dominion Observatory:

Historical Tours of the Plaskett Telescope, the computer room and the Dome – new tours begin every twenty minutes from 7:30 to 9:30 pm
Plaskett Telescope will open (weather permitting) at approximately 9:45 and presentations that show what the telescope is seeing will be given on an ongoing basis until 10:45 pm

In the Parking Lot:

Telescopes will be set up for Solar Viewing and for Night Sky viewing by members of the RASC all evening.


A reminder that there is NO SMOKING on the hill at any time.

Please dress warmly as it gets very cool after it gets dark.

There is limited parking for those with mobility issues at the top of the hill. Please ask the Commissionaires when you arrive if you need one of these spaces. We cannot guarantee a spot at all times but visitors may be dropped off and picked up if necessary.

There is limited parking at the top of the hill. Most of the parking is in the lower lot. Please be advised that there are a number of stairs to climb to get to the entrance to the Centre of the Universe building and the DAO.

For safety reasons, no foot traffic is permitted on the road to the top. Visitors may not park on W.Saanich Rd and walk to the top.