Monthly meeting speaker: ALMA, low mass star formation, and the SOLA project – Dr. Lewis Knee, NRC Herzberg

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May 13, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

“ALMA, low mass star formation, and the SOLA project” – Dr. Lewis Knee, Radio Astronomy Program Programme, Millimetre Technology Group, NRC Herzberg


ALMA array in the Atacama desert
ALMA array in the Atacama desert

Abstract: ALMA, the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array, has begun science operations after more than a decade of development and construction. Although the observatory has not yet reached its full capability, it is already making important new discoveries. In the area of low mass star formation, ALMA offers very high angular resolution and high sensitivity observations of nearby molecular clouds, the most well-studied of which are in the northern hemisphere. However, it is for studies of the less well-known clouds of the southern sky that ALMA will excel.

One of these molecular cloud complexes lies in the Lupus constellation, and an international consortium of ALMA scientists have begun an effort, the SOLA program, to probe the star formation activity in this region. It turns out that the clouds in Lupus and its star formation has some unique characteristics that make of of great interest for studies of star formation in different environments, particularly for the formation of very low mass stars and brown dwarfs.

Bio: Lewis Knee is a radio astronomer at NRC Herzberg in Victoria. He received his PhD in Radio and Space Science at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden in 1991. Since then he has worked in radio astronomy observatories in Europe, Canada, and Chile, most recently six years at ALMA in the Atacama Desert. His main scientific interests are in spectroscopy, star formation, molecular clouds, and the interstellar medium of our Galaxy.

Video of the business meeting and presentation – Youtube

Presentation – pdf (77 Mb), pptx (69 Mb) – please right click and “Download link as…”

Monthly meeting speaker: Frontiers in Adaptive Optics and Stellar Spectroscopy: Searching for the First Stars Ever Formed – Dr. Masen Lamb

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Adaptive Optics & Spectroscopy
Adaptive Optics & Spectroscopy

April 8, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre B150 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Frontiers in Adaptive Optics and Stellar Spectroscopy: Searching for the First Stars Ever Formed – Masen Lamb, PhD student at the University of Victoria working in Astronomy and Telescope instrumentation

To compete with space telescopes such as Hubble, current (and future) optical ground based telescopes employ a technology called Adaptive Optics. This technology uses mirrors to cancel out the affects of the atmosphere and provide near diffraction-limited images. One application of Adaptive Optics in astronomy is to resolve dense regions of stars in the centre of our Galaxy. When this application is combined with infrared spectroscopy we can start to hunt for the oldest stars in our Galaxy. I will talk about the latest technologies in both Adaptive Optics and stellar spectroscopy and discuss some of their astronomical implications.

Masen Lamb is a PhD student at the University of Victoria working in Astronomy and Telescope instrumentation. His astronomy work is done at the university while his instrumentation work is at NRC – Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics (HIA). Masen Lamb’s website


Recorded streaming video of the whole meeting, including Masen’s presentation ( 1 hour Youtube video)

Monthly meeting speaker: Galaxy mergers in the nearby Universe – Dr. Sara Ellison, Professor, UVic Physics & Astronomy

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This large “flying V” is actually two distinct objects — a pair of interacting galaxies known as IC 2184. Both the galaxies are seen almost edge-on in the large, faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), and can be seen as bright streaks of light surrounded by the ghostly shapes of their tidal tails.
This large “flying V” is actually two distinct objects — a pair of interacting galaxies known as IC 2184. Both the galaxies are seen almost edge-on in the large, faint northern constellation of Camelopardalis (The Giraffe), and can be seen as bright streaks of light surrounded by the ghostly shapes of their tidal tails.

March 11, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Despite the emptiness of space, mergers between galaxies are surprisingly common. Around 1% of galaxies in the nearby Universe are currently experiencing an interaction of some kind. I will describe research that uses both observations and computer simulations to trace the dramatic effect of these interactions on a galaxy’s history: how the interaction can lead to massive bursts of star formation, alter the interstellar chemistry and even provide fuel for the central supermassive black hole.

Sara Ellison’s website

Video of the presentation live and online.

Presentation slide deck (pdf)

Jan 14, 2015 Speakers: John McDonald & Reg Dunkley – Rare Meteor Manifestations

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RASC Victoria Monthly Meeting – Jan 14, 2015, 7:30PM at University of Victoria, Bob Wright Building A104


Speakers: John McDonald & Reg Dunkley – Rare Meteor Manifestations


While photographing the Geminid meteor shower this year, John McDonald managed to capture part of a very bright meteor track and smoke plume near the Orion Constellation. Subsequently, John and Reg Dunkley have analyzed the data and speculated on this rare phenomena.

Meteor Plume – online gallery

Video of meteor plume
RASC Victoria Centre: Recent Astrophotos &emdash; Meteor smoke plume expanding

Speaker: The Construction of the DAO – Dan Posey

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RASC Victoria Monthly Meeting – Dec 10, 2014, 7:30PM at University of Victoria, Bob Wright Building B150


’Astronomers’ Work is of Great Value’: The Construction of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Foundations of the Modern Canadian Astronomy Program, 1905-1930 by Dan Posey


daoThe Canadian astronomical program rapidly expanded under the guidance of William King and John Stanley Plaskett at the turn of the twentieth century. The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, constructed between 1914 and 1918 was considered an engineering marvel in its time, that radically departed from traditional designs, and was briefly the world’s largest operating telescope upon its completion. This presentation will examine how the construction of the observatory represented a shift in the commitment to scientific programs by the Canadian federal government, and the observatory’s place within a growing national identity during the First World War. Further, it will assess the cultural implications of the project for British Columbians and the establishment of an astronomical tradition for the province.

Dan Posey is a second-year graduate student in the University of Victoria’s History program. He completed his undergraduate degree from the same institution in 2012. His thesis focuses on the history of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and its contributions to both Canadian Astronomy and British Columbia throughout the twentieth century.

AGM, Awards & Elections

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Victoria Centre’s Annual General Meeting and dinner was held on Nov 16, 2014 at Moon Under Water Pub in Victoria, BC, Canada.

After enjoying a delicious dinner, and a fascinating presentation by Dr. James Di Francesco on the latest discoveries coming out of the Atacama Large Meter Array in Chile, awards were presented, reports were given, and an election of officers was held.

Nelson Walker presented Certificates of Appreciation to the whole key General Assembly 2014 team:

  • John McDonald – Registration
  • Chris Purse – Registration
  • Reg Dunkley – Registration
  • Deb Crawford – Hospitality
  • Nelson Walker – Finance
  • Lauri Roche – Papers and Presentations
  • Jim Hesser – Papers and Presentations
  • David Lee – Audio / Visual
  • Sherry Buttnor – Audio / Visual
  • Charles Banville – Transportation

David Lee was presented with the Award of Excellence in Astrophotography for his photos of the Partial Solar Eclipse Oct 2014.

Jim Stillburn was presented with the Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making for the fabrication of his custom 10 inch Optical/Reflector Tube Assembly

Mark Bohlman and Paul Schumacher were presented as co-winners of the Newton – Ball Service Award 2014 for their management of the 2014 National General Assembly.

Outgoing President Nelson Walker was presented with a Certificate of Excellence for his excellent leadership of Victoria Centre.

A new slate of officers were all elected by acclamation. Congratulations to all!  See list here.

Victoria Centre AGM & Dinner – Sunday, Nov 16, 2014

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Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Victoria Centre

Annual General Meeting and Dinner

Sunday, November 16, 2014

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

6:00pm – Drinks, conversation

  • No host bar
  • If interested there may be a chance to tour the brewery

6:30 – Dinner

Payment -Cost of dinner is $35.00 per person, inclusive of all taxes and gratuities

  • 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 Monday, November 10th. Please look over the menu and send your choice of First Course and Main Course to:
    • Lauri Roche – 250-652-2361 or text to 250-893-5277 or
    • By email to
    • 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

  • Carrot Ginger Soup
  • House salad

Main Course – choice of entrée

  • Grilled Pacific salmon filet, served with fresh seasonal vegetables and risotto
  • Roast beef served with a Yorkshire pudding, gravy and fresh seasonal vegetables
  • Stuffed Portobello mushroom caps, served with Yorkshire pudding, country cream gravy and fresh seasonal vegetable – vegetarian option

Tea, Coffee (regular and decaffeinated) and Dessert buffet service. Specialty coffees available at cost

7:30pm – Speaker – Dr. James Di Francesco

Dr. Francesco will be describing the newest research that is coming out of ALMA, the Atacama Large Meter Array, down in Chile and the latest advances in planetary formation and will bring us up to date with the James Webb Space Telescope. This talk should not be missed!

8:30 pm Annual General Meeting

The agenda will be sent out closer to the meeting date.

Monthly meeting – Oct 8, 2014

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Date/time: October 8, 2014 7:30PM

Venue: University of Victoria, Bob Wright Bldg Lecture Theatre B150

(Note we are still using B150 instead of our usual A104 in Bob Wright Bldg)

Nelson Walker will be the evening’s speaker with “How Can You Become a
Better Observer?

“How can you become a better observer? How can you do something other than look at the same fifteen objects every time you go out? Can you learn to star hop to IC 289? What equipment works best for visual observing? What charts are best for visual observing? Do you need finder charts? Should you keep a logbook? Learn the answer to these and other burning questions next Wednesday night.”

A great topic, especially for those newcomers to astronomy who have joined us recently!

As usual, we’ll meet afterwards in the astronomy lounge on the fourth floor of the Elliot building for chat and coffee.

Mathematics and understanding our universe – Nazim Açar

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Monthly meeting speaker

Feb 12, 2014 7:30PM, A104 – Bob Wright Building, University of Victoria

Event info

Presentation – 6.3Mb pdf

Bio: Nazim was born in a perfect astronomy center: a remote Anatolian village with no electricity. For the summers he slept on the roof and fell asleep watching the sky. He teaches Math and Theory of Knowledge at Pearson College and enjoys living on campus.

Jan 8, 2014 – “A brief update on modern physics” – W. John McDonald

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From the smallest constituents of atoms to the largest structures in the Universe nothing is as it seemed in 1900 just before relativity and the quantum revolutionized science. My aim is to give a broad-brush picture of the material world that emerges from observations of systems ranging in size from quarks, leptons and the Higgs boson to stars, galaxies and universe itself. It is a picture that differs greatly from our common sense ideas. Those ideas evolved historically based on interpreting information we got from our human senses. With the development of modern instruments that let us see further and deeper into nature’s secrets a picture of a very different reality is evolving. It is an incomplete picture but rich and compelling nevertheless.

Presentation (4.1MB pdf)