“Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life ” – Prof. Sun Kwok, Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong
How did life originate on Earth? For over 50 years, scientists believed that life was the result of chemistry involving simple molecules such as methane and ammonia cooking in a primordial soup. Recent space observations have revealed that old stars are capable of making very complex organic compounds. The stars then ejected the organics and spread them all over the Milky Way Galaxy. There is evidence that these organic dust particles actually reached the early Solar System. Through bombardments by comets and asteroids, the early Earth inherited significant amounts of star dust. Was the development of life assisted by the arrival of these extraterrestrial materials? In this talk, we describe discoveries in astronomy and solar system science over the last 10 years that resulted in a new perspective on the origin of life.
Kwok, S. The Synthesis of Organic and Inorganic Compounds in Evolved Stars, Nature, 430, 985 (2004)
Kwok, S. and Zhang, Y. Mixed aromatic/aliphatic organic nanoparticles as carriers of unidentified infrared emission features, Nature, 479, 80 (2011)
Kwok, S. Complex organics in space: from Solar System to distant galaxies, A&A Rev., 24, 1-27 (2016)
About the speaker
Prof. Sun Kwok’s research areas are astrochemistry and stellar evolution. He is best known for his theory on the origin of planetary nebulae and the death of Sun-like stars. His recent research has been on the topic of the synthesis of complex organic compounds in the late stages of stellar evolution. He is the author of many books, including The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae (Cambridge, 2000), Cosmic Butterflies (Cambridge, 2001), Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium (University Science Books, 2007), Organic Matter in the Universe (Wiley, 2012), and Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life (Springer, 2013).
He has been a guest observer on many space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Infrared Space Observatory. He currently serves as President of IAU International Astronomical Union (IAU), Commission on Astrobiology. Previously, he has served as the President of IAU Commission on Interstellar Matter (2012-2015) and chairman of IAU Planetary Nebulae Working Group (1994-2001).
August 13, 2016 Star Party at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Observatory Hill, Victoria, BC, Canada
The Hon. Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor looking through Chuck Filnesss’ telescope
The Hon. Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor and her Aide de Camp with Sherry Buttnor and Jim Hesser
What a night at the DAO! If you thought it was extra busy, you are right: we wowed 257 visitors this evening! That’s the highest attendance of the year, and they loved it. And our special guest, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC was absolutely thrilled with her visit, with our programs, and most importantly, with your knowledge and enthusiasm. Her Honour was so impressed with you all, she stayed *four* hours; one hour past her planned visit
I can’t say this enough: RASC-Victoria volunteers are the BEST. Thank you, everyone.
Last evening the amazing volunteers of the RASC, Victoria Centre and Friends of the DAO – Dominion Astrophysical Observatory hosted another summer star party with a quite special lady, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC (The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia) in attendance. I was honoured to be invited by Lauri Roche and Sherry Coastal Cats to assist and thus to be able to appreciate her reactions to all she experienced, including the “wow!” moments of seeing the Sun and many sunspots through so many different types of telescopes, as well as the Moon and Saturn where in particular the 0.4m telescope was giving spectacular views when she was in that dome. Greg Fahlman, the General Manager of Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics, accompanied Her Honour during the evening, as well, including for Aria and Aaron’s unforgettable planetarium show and Christian’s lecture on the search for exoplanets around Alpha Cen. He, too, left with a renewed appreciation for all that the volunteers contribute each Saturday open house.
Living on a ranch in the Nicola Valley Her Honour has enjoyed incredible dark-sky views of the stars, but through the generous efforts of everyone last evening has a new-found appreciation that she will share with her granddaughter (who recently acquired a telescope). She promised to return. Thank you everyone!
We had one of the best nights up at the Centre of the Universe and the Observatory last night! Her Honour, Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, joined us for three hours – to take in the telescopes and sun views, a lecture, a tour of the Plaskett telescope, and a planetarium show. I was quite happy to show her my own telescope as well. We had an extra hour of darkness and in spite of the brighter moon, the skies were excellent and the crowds very happy. A few of us closed out the evening – and early morning at Tim Hortons – after 12 midnight !!
“Exploring exoplanetary systems with the Gemini Planet Imager” – Zach Draper, UVic Astronomy
The Gemini Planet Imager is an instrument designed to directly image exoplanets and circumstellar disks around nearby stars. Partially built here in Victoria, it is now conducting a 600 hour survey at the Gemini-South observatory in Chile. I will discuss how the instrument works and highlight some of its recent discoveries.
Bio: Zack Draper is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria, where he also received his Masters in 2012. His focus of study are debris disks (collisionally active, asteroid belts) around other stars. He is also member of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey.
All Astronomy Day activities are FREE and available to the general public. Membership in RASC is not required.
Regular admission applies to Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre. A Beautiful Planet – an IMAX® 2D and 3D Experience – Take a Journey on the International Space Station! – starting at 11AM (every 2 hours).
Royal BC Museum – 10AM to 4PM
675 Belleville Street, Victoria
Interactive activities and displays both inside and outside
View the Sun safely through solar telescopes on the plaza
“Walk Among the Planets” display on the plaza
Telescope mirror grinding – inside
Astrophotography – inside
Historical displays – inside
Hands-on activities for the kids – inside
1PM – Death Stars in the Orion Nebula: Recent Observations of Planet Formation – Dr. Rita Mann
2:30PM – Baby Galaxies in a Grown-up Universe – Maan Hani
Centre of the Universe and the Observatory – 7:30PM to 11PM
Observatory Hill, 5071 West Saanich Road, Saanich
Plaskett telescope tours
Observing through telescopes
8PM – Journey to the Edge of the Solar System. New Horizons: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt – Ivar Arroway
9PM – The Greatest Show on Earth: Solar Eclipses – Michael Webb
Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
What a day! Absolutely first-rate effort by RASC-Victoria members for a successful International Astronomy Day at the Royal BC Museum and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
Huge thanks to our incredible RASC volunteers, as well as those who generously donated their time and knowledge from NRC, FDAO, UVic, Pearson College, the Planetary Society, and our guest speakers Rita Mann, Maan Hani, Ivar Arroway and Michael Webb. Special thanks go to David Lee and Nelson Walker who arranged the volunteers and guest speakers, and made the whole event look amazing.
We had fun, and the public LOVED it.
Well done, and THANK YOU everyone!
Sherry Buttnor, President, RASC Victoria Centre
Congratulations and thanks to everyone from RASC, FDAO, Science Ventures, Planetary Society, NRC-HAA, and the RBCM who made two extraordinary events possible. The community commitment to engaging, quality outreach and to support of the work of the Herzberg staff at DAO is phenomenal. That we have come so far since CU closure is the result of sustained effort by so many people, for which my gratitude is boundless!
Jim Hesser, former Director of the DAO
Thanks to all the volunteers during the day and at night at the DAO who made it a very worthwhile day.
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to Other Galaxies” – Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy
Since the earliest civilizations, we have been trying to understand the night sky. In the past century, following the Great Debate over the nature of “spiral nebulae” (known today as spiral galaxies), we witnessed the rise of extra galactic astronomy. Today, our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution is on the rise owing to revolutionary progress in observations and theory. In this talk, I will share our current understanding of galaxies and their exciting lives.
Maan H. Hani is a Astronomy PhD student working with Prof. Sara Ellison at the University of Victoria. After completing a Bachelor of Science with honours in Astrophysics at Saint Mary’s university in 2013, Maan continued working under the supervision of Prof. Rob Thacker and completed a Masters in Science in Astronomy in 2015. Maan is particularly interested in understanding the big picture of how galaxies form, evolve, and interact with each other and their environment. His past research has focused on modelling star formation and BH activity in galaxy simulations. Both, star formation and black hole activity, are thought to be closely tied to galaxy evolution making proper models of such processes essential to our understanding of how galaxies evolve.
It is with sadness that we announce the sudden passing of RASC Victoria member Timo Markkanen on Dec 29th 2015. Timo was frequently found perched on a special stool at Astro Cafe. He made many interesting contributions to the discussion and he was looking forward to mastering the use of his recently acquired telescope. The stool at the Cafe, now vacant, will remind us of Timo. He will be missed by his many friends in the Astronomy Community.
John McDonald, Chris Purse, Reg Dunkley and Joe Carr attended Timo’s Celebration of Life, held on Jan 16, 2016.
Timo H. Markkanen (April 09, 1951 – December 29, 2015)
Timo Henrik, (Kylmaniemi) born 1951-04-09 in Helsinki Finland.
Timo passed away Dec. 29th, 2015 at RJH with friends at his side. Survived by half bother Teuvo Kylmaniemi and half sister Vappu Koivuniemi in Finland. Timo had many friends in Victoria and abroad. He was an avid sportsman with natural athletic ability and excelled, in his early years, at many sports including tennis, golf and darts. His early working career in the hospitality industry allowed him to take many trips abroad where he developed many lifelong friendships. His later working career was with the provincial public service.
Timo had many life interests. He was a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada -Victoria, Member of HTML Writers Guild, he loved books and was a punster extraordinaire creating many laughs and even more groans to the joy of those who knew him. For thirty years Timo suffered from Ankylosing Spondylitis. As was his nature he met the challenges this presented in a positive manner and became a founding member and Web administrator for www.kickas.org a source of support and information for those suffering from this chronic arthritic condition. His friends admired his resilience and courage in this battle.
As per Timo’s wishes a Celebration of Life will be held on Saturday Jan. 16th at Smugglers’ Cove Pub, 2581 Penrhyn St. from 1:00Pm to 4:00PM. Timo would be honoured by donations in his memory to www.kickas.org.
“What dwarfs teach us about the galaxy formation” – Azadeh Fattahi, PhD Department of Physics and Astronomy at UVic
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.
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.
A Total Solar Eclipse is a rare astronomical event, and it is even rarer for one to occur close to where you live. Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest of North America will be favoured with such an event happening near us on August 21, 2017. In fact, everyone in North America is within striking distance of being able to observe this amazing event, where the Moon slides in front of the Sun for a few brief minutes, suddenly and totally obscuring the Sun.
If you haven’t observed a Total Solar Eclipse, this is your chance!
The eclipse tracks across Oregon and Idaho, making it easy to get to the eclipse totality track from Victoria, British Columbia with one day’s drive. The major cities of Portland and Eugene in Oregon are obvious targets for those of us who are eclipse chasers. I-5, an Interstate highway, crosses the eclipse centreline at the city of Salem, Oregon as the eclipse tracks eastward across the U.S.A. So you might decide to stay in Portland or Eugene, but you will have to drive to the centreline, otherwise you will miss the eclipse!
NASA’s Eclipse website gives all the facts and figures required to find and enjoy the eclipse, including an interactive zoomable map showing the eclipse track.
At the intersection of I-5 and the eclipse path near Salem, Oregon, these are the characteristics of the eclipse:
Lat.: 44.803° N
Long.: 123.0318° W
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 0 seconds
Start of partial eclipse (C1) : 09:05:18AM Altitude=27.8° Azimuth=101.2°
Start of total eclipse (C2) : 10:17:13.0AM Altitude=39.8° Azimuth=116.8°
Maximum eclipse : 10:18:13AM Altitude=40.0° Azimuth=117.0°
End of total eclipse (C3) : 10:19:13AM Altitude=40.1° Azimuth=117.3°
End of partial eclipse (C4) : 11:37:50AM Altitude=51.0° Azimuth=140.1°
Why this location? Well, if you look at the weather predictions and the track maps, you will see this location is easiest to get to from Victoria, and offers a decent chance of clear skies. Simply take a ferry to the mainland, and drive down I-5 to Oregon. This location is away from the coastal clouds, even though there is better weather available if you drive eastward through Oregon and possibly into southern Idaho. You can also seek out more scenic locales such as Wyoming, however now you will be traveling much further.
What if you can’t travel to the track of totality?
You can still see a partial solar eclipse from anywhere in North America. Use NASA’s Interactive Eclipse Map to get the calculated timing for the eclipse in the area you plan to observe from. Click and zoom to your area, then click on your observing spot to see a popup telling you how long the eclipse will last and what you will see.
Weather always plays a big part in any solar eclipse, so being mobile is key to improving the odds of actually seeing the event should clouds threaten to obscure the Sun at the critical moment. Our very own Jay Anderson (former RASC Journal editor) is a weather expert, and specializes in forecasting weather for solar eclipses. His Eclipse website offers sage advice backed up with maps and charts depicting weather prospects for each eclipse happening in the world for the next several years. Read Jay’s analysis of the area you propose to observe from, so you understand how the weather might behave on eclipse day. Topography, elevation changes and local factors play into how the weather evolves throughout the day for a particular locale. Become a local weather expert, and you increase your chances for success!
Observing a Total Solar Eclipse is pretty easy, however that said, if you haven’t done it before, it’s nice to have experienced eclipse observers around to guide you through the process. Obviously the time of total eclipse is the main event, however other things happen beforehand, afterwards, and during an eclipse that are worthwhile.
You should try out any gear you propose to take with you before you leave. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars, camera lenses and telescopes you are bringing along. Take test photos of the Sun weeks before you leave, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. Always have a backup plan for when (not if) gear breaks, or you simply can’t get it to work properly. Remember, you only have a couple of minutes to see this event!
Finally, relax and enjoy the day. Arrive early. Try to manage your stress level. Just sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses handy, and enjoy!
If this will be your first time observing a total solar eclipse, no doubt you have many questions and concerns, and don’t know where to start. The resources presented here may be overwhelming. Please ask any questions you might have about eclipses at Astronomy Cafe, held each Monday evening. Your fellow RASC members have observed solar eclipses before…they can help!
Perhaps you prefer to leave it to someone else to organize for you, and take a tour. Tour organizers will ensure you are on the centreline for the event, will do their very best to seek clear skies (no guarantees though!), and will supply you with eclipse glasses and ensure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the event. Some suggestions:
RASC Eclipse 2017 – a scenic holiday to the midwest USA, a solar eclipse, and sponsored by RASC!
Sky & Telescope – overland to Nashville, seeing rockets and observatories along the way…and the eclipse
Travelquest – a tour company specializing in eclipses who are offering five different experiences for the 2017 eclipse
NASA’s Eclipse – a great starting point for information gathering and predictions
Eclipsophile– Jay Anderson’s weather predictions are a must to select a location that will likely have clear weather
Great American Eclipse – comprehensive information about this specific eclipse – where to go and what you will see
Eclipse 2017 – lots of home-grown advice about where to be and what to do
First off happy holidays! We have only had small windows of clear sky this month in Victoria, but I managed to gather a little bit of data about two weeks ago. I picked Orion as a test for a new light pollution filter for the Victoria RASC, and gathered an hour of ten minute subs with my unmodded 6D. It turned out quite nice, so I found some old data and made a project of it.
All of the subs were shot with the same Np127is. This image consists of 6×10 minutes at iso 400 with an umodified Canon 6D, 7×10 minutes (OSC) with a QSI 583c, 59×1 minutes (OSC) with the same QSI for the core, and 4×20 minutes of hydrogen alpha data with a 3nm filter. All of the files were calibrated and stacked using Pixinsight.
I created a synthetic luminance frame and red channel using a blend of the hydrogen alpha and 6D/QSI data through pixelmath. Unfortunately some high moisture/thin cloud left a bit of a noisy halo on the lower right stars in the data from the 6D, but it added so much to the image overall I left it in. I did my best to regulate the noise down there, but it is what it is.
This time, we will be offering a study of star clusters. We will have the big telescope trained on many of the various types of beautiful star clusters visible at this time of year, and offer a study session of each. A great learning opportunity, especially newcomers to astronomy, or to anyone who simply loves the beauty of star clusters!
32″ (0.8m) DFM Cassegrain telescope, Bob Wright Building, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Finally! We caught a well-deserved break in the weather for the UVic observing session last night. John, Chris, and I were joined by Miles, Reg, Les, Barb, Diane, Lauri, and David for a tour of and dozen interesting open clusters, finishing off with a lovely view of M42. Despite the ridiculously bright (unshielded) lights from Centennial Stadium and some significant mist, the viewing was terrific.
Or, maybe it’s just that we haven’t seen stars for so long it just *seemed* terrific?
Nah. It was great! Thanks for coming out everyone, and thanks to John and Chris for helping host these sessions, and to Reg for his weather prognostications. You nailed it!
We will announce the next session, hopefully in January.
We had a good session at the UVic Observatory last evening observing open clusters across the Milky Way. A list of the clusters and photo of the observers are attached. We also had a look at Pleiades and M42.
Those attending were David Lee, Diane Bell, Reg Dunkley, Miles Waite, Lauri Roche, Leslie Welsh and Barbra Wright.
It was Sherry’s idea to follow a theme for the evening and that seemed to go down very well with those present. The hosts, Chris, Sherry and I plan to do this again with galaxies being the focus next time.
There’s something nice about a clear night in the middle of a December “wind and rain” parade !! Several members joined John McDonald and Sherry Buttnor for a lovely evening under the 0.8 meter reflector at U-Vic’s Bob Wright Building. We enjoyed our “tour” of several open clusters; many of them were Messiers. The icing on the “cake” was a view of M42 in Orion, with the Trapezium….My favourite was M103, the Christmas Tree cluster – in the constellation of Cassiopeia. Very pretty through the ‘scope. Thanks to John, Sherry and Chris for organizing it; also a good commentary shared on each target!!
Ready to target another Messier.
About ten of us came up to the Dome to enjoy the show.
Before the white lights were turned off….a view of the 0.8 Reflector
At the control centre – ready to move the big ‘scope into position