Total Lunar Eclipse – Jan 20, 2019

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Total Lunar Eclipse on Sep 27, 2015 from Victoria
Total Lunar Eclipse on Sep 27, 2015 from Victoria – photo by Joe Carr

On Sunday, January 20th, 2019, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon (weather permitting). The Moon will be in partial phase after rising from the eastern horizon, and move into full eclipse in evening hours as it climbs in altitude and moves to the southeast. The Total Lunar Eclipse will develop over the course of about 3 hours, will be in Totality for about an hour, and will end just before midnight.

This is a perfect opportunity to visually observe this beautiful celestial event, and possibly capture some photographs from a location with an unobstructed view to the east and south.

ECLIPSE TIMELINE
Eclipse beginsMoon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra6:36 pm PST
Partial eclipse begins – 1st ContactMoon’s eastern limb enters the umbra7:33 pm PST
Total eclipse starts – 2nd ContactMoon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
8:41 pm PST
Totality9:12 pm PST
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact9:43 pm PST
Partial eclipse ends – 4th ContactMoon’s western limb leaves the umbra10:51pm PST
Eclipse endsMoon leaves the penumbra11:48 pm PST
Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Standard Time (PST) for the west coast of North America, and are calculated from UT as presented in the Observers Handbook 2019, pages 127-29.

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.


h

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

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 to the east and south especially if you wish to view during the late 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.

A good observing project for this long-lasting eclipse will be to observe the craters on the Moon as the eclipse progresses. Craters will be immersed and emerge from the Earth’s shadow on the Moon at times specified in the Observers Handbook 2019, page 129.

Totally eclipsed Moon over the Salish Sea from Cattle Point – Sep 27, 2015

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 for smartphone cameras

Smartphone cameras typically do not support manual settings, so using them to capture a lunar eclipse will be less rewarding than using more capable cameras. That said, smartphone cameras can be held up to a telescope eyepiece to capture an image of the Moon. Aligning the tiny lens to the eyepiece can be tricky, however there are platforms made to clamp onto an eyepiece barrel which will hold smartphones steady enough to take acceptable photos of the Moon, including the eclipsed Moon.

Technique for interchangeable lens cameras

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 full frame camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconverters 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 teleconverter will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconverter 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.

Note for the smaller sub-full frame sensors of some digital cameras you gain an extra advantage as the focal length of the lens is effectively magnified by a factor. For example a Nikon DX body your 200mm lens would be effectively 300mm.

  • APS-C Nikon DX, Pentax : 1.5x
  • APS-C Canon EF-S : 1.6x
  • Four Thirds : 2x

Example:

 Focal Length ApertureEffective 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 ISO setting 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 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 Moon1/500 second at f/16
1st Contact1/250 second at f/16 see note 1.
2nd Contact1 second at f/16 see note 2.
Totality
*see table below
L = 4 : 4 seconds at f16  L = 3: 15 seconds at f16  L = 2: 1 minute at f16  L = 1: 4 minutes at f16
3rd Contact1 second at f/16 see note 2.
4th Contact1/250 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
 L = 1dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
 L = 2deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
 L = 3brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
 L = 4very 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 text
Joe Carr – updated for 2019
Brenda Stuart – illustrations


More information:

President’s Message – January 2019

Posted by as President's Message

In 2018 it seems like members of the Victoria Centre spent nearly as much time looking backward as they did looking up. Their focus was directed to the past as they celebrated the Plaskett Telescope as it completed 100 years of service. The Centre was involved in every aspect of the Plaskett Centennial including the unveiling of a national historic site plaque, the “first light” re-enactment on May 5th and the participation with the FDAO in the Victoria Day Parade. They were also invited to attend CASCA 2018, the astronomical conference which had several sessions devoted to the history of the DAO.

The attention was not just confined to the telescope. John Stanley Plaskett the driving force behind the scope was also celebrated in fine style. His achievements were captured in the new biography “Northern Star J.S. Plaskett” by Peter Broughton. What I found impressive was that Plaskett did not rest on his laurels with the design and acquisition of the scope. Five years after the 72 inch went into service Edwin Hubble proved that Andromeda was a galaxy rather than a nearby nebula. After learning of this discovery, Plaskett embarked on an ambitious observation program. During a 10 year period radial velocities of strategic stars were acquired with the 72 inch telescope. These measurements were employed to accurately determine our distance from the centre of the Milky Way as well as to calculate the rotation period about our galaxy. With his vision and long term commitment Plaskett and the DAO made a major astronomical contribution.

In 2018 we also celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. As we enter 2019 do not expect this historical focus to wane. The International Astronomical Union are all set to kick off their centennial. That party, however, may be drowned out by the 50th anniversary of Apollo which will resonate much more strongly with the boomers who lived through that era.

Speaking of boomers I recall a vivid memory from Christmas Eve, 50 years ago. I was just exiting the Odeon Theatre, my mind abuzz after watching Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “2001 A Space Odyssey”. When I looked up I glimpsed the Moon over Yates Street. I was stunned! Just think … at that very moment Apollo 8 was in orbit around the Moon. It was mind blowing and made “Space Odyssey” much more credible. When the astronauts recited from “In The Beginning” that Christmas Eve it reverberated around the globe.

Excellent documentaries on Apollo 8 recently appeared on NOVA and the BBC5Live while “The First Man” a new movie about Neil Armstrong has been playing on the big screen at the IMAX. Expect the Apollo drumbeat to continue to get louder as we approach July 20th, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing.

In stark contrast to the massive “Big Science” “Moon Shot” team efforts of NASA, the almost solitary contributions of Plaskett and Hubble seem quaint these days. Is there still a role for the individual in this brave new world? I definitely think so. As proof let me remind you of my favourite story of the past year. It involved the Argentine amateur Victor Buso who managed to capture the shock breakout phase of a star the instant that it went supernovae (See the March 2018 edition of SkyNews). It does not get better than that!

Tired of looking back? Maybe it is time to peek outside and if weather permits try to look up.

Wishing you all the best and many cloudless nights in 2019.

Reg Dunkley

Holiday Greetings!

Posted by as News

Christmas 2018 at Astro Cafe
Christmas 2018 at Astro Cafe – photo by Wyman Lee

Please note that Astronomy Cafe will be closed on both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve but will reopen at 7:30 PM on Monday January 7th 2019.

The next Monthly Meeting of the Victoria Centre will occur at 7:30 PM on Wednesday January 9th, 2019 at the University of Victoria.

Happy Holidays to all our members and friends!

President’s Message – December 2018

Posted by as President's Message

When I returned to Victoria 6 years ago I had no idea that I would become so deeply involved in the local astronomical community. My bulging shelves of Astronomy books reflect my long term interest in the topic. I was briefly a member of the Vancouver Centre of RASC but due to the time, energy and expense to attend their widespread gatherings I remained on the periphery of that group.

In contrast the ideal scale of Victoria makes it much easier to get out and participate. When I attended my first Victoria Centre meeting at UVic I was struck by the high level of energy and enthusiasm in the room. I was also amazed by the many Astronomical activities that the Centre was supporting. Shortly after when I attended my first Astro Cafe I was made to feel so welcome that I kept coming back and that deepened my engagement. I have learned and enjoyed so much in the process. And now that I find myself President of this great Centre I am humbled, excited and a bit overwhelmed. I will give it my best shot but may not reach the high bar established by my predecessors like Chris Purse. The Centre made great strides while Chris was at the helm..

Recently, I delivered a presentation on Astronomy to a local organization. I attempted to explain the activities and appeal of Astronomy for the amateur community. I grouped our activities is three main categories:

1) Observing:
At the core we are, as David Lee so aptly describes, tourists of the night sky. The act of stepping outdoors on a crisp, clear evening instantly rewards us as we escape the clatter of civilization. Most amateurs usually chose to extend their vision with binoculars and telescopes. Some have turned observing into a sport, star hopping and honing their vision to locate a host of faint celestial objects. On page 8 of the November SkyNews Bill Weir has described several observing lists that encourage us to expand our hunt for more targets and greatly increase our knowledge of the night sky. The process of sketching celestial objects can further engage the visual observer.

For some, glimpsing faint fuzzies serves as an appetizer and they embrace the technical challenge of mastering astrophotography. The collection of Victoria Centre astro-photos on zenfolio is amazing and inspiring. But why bother photographing a celestial object when a beautiful Hubble image is only a click away? To me the difference between looking at an image and capturing and processing an image is similar to music. One can enjoy music just by listening but a much deeper involvement occurs when one masters an instrument and plays the music. Some observers are also devoted to taking measurements and analyzing the data. For example Michel Michaud (p6) has spent years discovering double stars in the Pleiades and his observations are published in the professional double star scientific database.

2) Learning:
We are on a quest to improve our understanding of the Universe. Amateurs find ourselves in a golden age as Astronomy makes headline news weekly. Knowledge is accumulating faster that we can digest it. The miracle of the internet makes it much more feasible for amateurs to keep abreast of developments as we attempt to answer the following:
-What do we know?
-How do can we say that? (Scientific Method and History of Discovery)
-Why does it behave that way? (Laws of Physics and Allied Sciences)
-What don’t we know? (The Ongoing Mystery)

3) Sharing:
Amateurs are very active in sharing our knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm:
-Within our amateur community: In-Reach
-With the Public and the Next Generation: Out-Reach

I am both proud and a little concerned about the energy we devote to sharing. I think it is important to aim for a better balance between In-Reach and Out-Reach activities. If we fail to nourish ourselves with in-reach activities we will deplete our capacity to deliver out-reach. It could resemble a stellar “core collapse.” So as we go forward let’s give ourselves permission to ease off a bit. We don’t want the Victoria Centre to go Supernova!

Cloudless Nights!

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message – November 2018

Posted by as President's Message

As my term as centre president draws to a close, I thought I would look back at some of the noteworthy events from the past 2 years.

  • Centre member Brenda Stuart provided the illustrations for the new edition of the RASC publication Explore the Universe Guide.
  • We had longer seasons of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO in both 2017 and 2018. These started with Astronomy Day at the Royal BC Museum. The stat parties continued to be well attended.
  • Centre member Terry Ryals volunteered his carpentry skills to build a security cabinet so we could install our new monitor in the portable where we hold Astro Café.
  • Victoria High School proposed and launched an Astronomy 11 course.
  • In partnership with Parks Canada, observing evenings were held at Fort Rodd Hill and Gulf Islands National Park.
  • Members who had remained in Victoria hosted public eclipse viewing for the solar eclipse on August 21, 2017. Many members travelled to the US to see the total eclipse.
  • The centre purchased a new telescope for the VCO and sold the surplus equipment.
  • In 2018, RASC celebrated its sesquicentennial with a number of special events, a commemorative Royal Canadian Mint coin, and a pair of commemorative stamps issued by Canada Post.
  • Centre members Lauri Roche and Jim Hesser organized and coordinated a national contest in honour of the sesquicentennial called Imagining the Skies.
  • The centenary of the Plaskett Telescope was celebrated on May 3, 2018 with the National Historic Site plaque unveiled.
  • RASC members were invited to attend sessions at the Canadian Astronomical Society annual meeting held in Victoria during May 2018.
  • Centre member Chris Gainor was elected National President at the 2018 General Assembly.
  • Centre members David Lee, John McDonald, and Jim Hesser assisted with a second concert of the music of William Hershell. The event in November 2018 was supported by a grant from the RASC special projects fund.
  • David Lee and Dan Posey offered a workshop on PixInsight to a group of astrophotography enthusiasts.
  • Astro Café continues to be well attended and our monitor is well used.
  • Centre members continue to volunteer countless hours for the schools program, Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair, and other outreach events.

I have enjoyed my term as president. It has been my honour to serve the centre and I thank all our members for their contributions. It has been a great experience to work with such an enthusiastic group of people and I look forward to my next role as past president.

A reminder that this month’s meeting is our Annual General Meeting that will take place on Saturday, November 17 at the Cedar Hill Golf Club with doors opening at 6 p.m. The evening starts with a dinner so if you have not booked a seat please do so by Sunday, November 11. The meal costs $40 and is a buffet with a pre-selected entrée. The entrée choices are chicken, salmon, steak, or vegetarian ravioli. If you wish to attend, send me your entrée selection at president@victoria.rasc.ca. Please see below for more information. If you cannot attend the dinner, the speaker and meeting portion are open to everyone at no charge.

Due to exams at the University, our monthly meeting on Wednesday, December 12 will be held in the Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) building room 116. This is near the room where the June 2018 meeting was held.

A final note and a concern. Our centre is not alone in having issues finding members willing to put their names forward for the leadership positions. We rely on a group of members to coordinate activities, make decisions, and keep the centre running in accordance with the relevant regulations. Despite a membership over 270, nominations have not been forthcoming for the incoming centre executive and this is a major problem. The centre cannot run without the council members. If we do not have leaders the centre is not viable and we really must question if we can continue to exist. That would be a sad occurrence after a history of 104 years. So, this is a final appeal before the AGM. We do need some more nominees for people to lead the centre.

President’s Message – October 2018

Posted by as President's Message

Thank you to everyone who was involved in the RASCals Star Party this year. We tried out a new venue in Central Saanich and it looks to have a lot of potential. If only the weather had cooperated! A number of centre members have observed from the site in the past with success. Despite the rainy weather, we did have some great talks and our first attempt at a star party barbecue went well.

I am pleased to report that our application for special project funding was approved. Jim Hesser, John McDonald, and David Lee will be putting together a visual display for the second concert of William Herschel’s music. The application sought funding from the RASC special project fund to cover the costs of some of the equipment needed for the concert. This concert will be part of the fourth season of the explorations in 18th century music. This year’s offering is called On the Construction of the Heav’ns and will feature a Baroque chamber orchestra. The venue is Christ Church Cathedral again this year and the concert will take place on Friday, November 16. There will be a pre-concert talk at 6:45 p.m. followed by the concert at 7:30 p.m. More information is available on the Christ Church Cathedral website and tickets are $30 each available from Ticket Rocket.

Save the date for our Annual General Meeting on the evening of Saturday, November 17. Evening festivities include a dinner, speaker, annual awards, and election of council. Please let me know if you by email at president@victoria.rasc.ca if wish to attend the dinner. The cost is $40.

We are now accepting nominations for the annual awards. In particular, we are seeking nominations for the Newton-Ball Award. Please see the website for details of the award and how to nominate a member to receive the award.

We will be looking for members to join the council this year. It has been a great experience for me to become part of the council and I encourage everyone, even if you’ve just joined, to consider putting your name forward. Sherry, our past president, will be coordinating the nomination process so please contact her at pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like more information and to put your name forward.

September 17 2018: 21P Comet Giacobini-Zinner

Posted by as Observing Highlights

From an email post to RASC Victoria on September 17 2018: 21P Comet Giacobini-Zinner

It was clear enough last night to get a quick snapshot of the comet from the driveway. I had to get the light stand out with a large sheet of black foamcore to block the streetlight nearby. Light pollution was a challenge but I was able to collect 16 one minute images and do a simple stack in Maxim DL. It’s nicely framed by the open cluster M35 just underneath Auriga, IC443 a supernova remnant in Gemini and NGC2174 a HII emission nebula in Orion. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a better shot from darker skies this week :-)

David Lee

A response from Bill Weir:

That’s really nice David. In the early morning when the comet was within M35 I took the chance and drove to the cricket pitch in Metchosin even though 90% of the sky was cloud. This is my write up of the event.

Well that was fun and reconfirmed to me the value of being prepared. Around 0030hrs PDT I was putting the dogs out and looked up and saw a clear patch of sky heading to the east. I grabbed my eyepiece case, jumped in the car and headed to the cricket pitch as the 6 inch dob had already been in the car for days. It took over an hour for the clearish patches to make their way across the sky but that was OK as it gave me a chance to collimate the scope and check out various deep sky objects along the way. Eventually the left toe of Gemini (their toe) peaked through the clouds and I was able to pick out M35 with the 15X70 binos. No comet was visible so I panned about but couldn’t make out anything. Through the scope at 38X with a 31N it was a beautiful view of M35 and NGC 2158 but no comet was visible in the area. I upped the power to 60X and focused on M35 still nothing until I began to notice a fuzziness within the eastern side of the cluster to the SE(?) of a beautiful curving chain of stars. As I advanced though 120x and then finally to 200X it became apparent this was the comet fully within this beautiful cluster! It was similar to this image except move the comet a bit down and to the left.

http://spaceweathergallery.com/indiv_upload.php?upload_id=148036&PHPSESSID=mkimbs7bfvk4n5pikdrfkqtpk3

In the end it reminded me in a way of the planetary nebula NGC 2438.

Shortly after drinking in the view clouds moved in and the show was over. It wasn’t my best comet observation by far due to low altitude in the sky and being over Victoria to the south east. That was OK though because my feet were freezing as good footwear was the one thing I neglected as I raced out the door. Drove off the field at 0215 PDT and was soon tucked in bed. Many like the phrase “make hay when you can” but I prefer,”you can’t dance at the party if you don’t show up”. This means go out even if the weather doesn’t seem optimal or you won’t see things at all.

Bill in Metchosin

President’s Message – September 2018

Posted by as President's Message

I hope everyone had an enjoyable summer and had many opportunities to enjoy the night sky.

I am pleased to announce that our very own Dr. Chris Gainor was elected president of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada at the General Assembly in Calgary. It has been 40 years since another Victoria Centre member, Dr. Alan Batten, was the national president. Please join me in congratulating Chris on his election.

The Victoria Centre had a great summer of outreach events in 2018. Thank you to all everyone who organized and participated. We had another successful season of summer star parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory; there were a total of 19 well-attended Saturday evenings offered. A group of RASCals were at the Saanich Strawberry Festival with solar viewing in July. For the second year, members had their telescopes at the Fort Rodd Hill Star Gaze in August. There was an event on Pender Island on the same evening. And, there was the annual participation at the Saanich Fair over the Labour Day weekend. Some members also participated in a number of special events such as instruction and observing offered to guides and cadets. It was a busy and rewarding summer!

It was unfortunate that the Fort Rodd and Pender Island events coincided with the worst viewing conditions that I have experienced. In looking at Saturn, it was a fuzzy football-shaped object instead of its normally stunning planet with a fabulous ring. As I recall, that was one of the first evenings when forest fire smoke was in the skies above us. That really had a major impact and I am concerned that an increase in the severity of our forest fire seasons will make smoke a regular part of our summer.

With the arrival of September, we return to our normal schedule of weekly Astro Cafés starting on Monday, September 10 and monthly meetings resuming on Wednesday, September 12. As a reminder, we will be voting on our revised bylaws at the September 12 meeting.

We have another major event in September this year and that is our annual star party. It is taking place at our new venue on the grounds of St. Stephen’s Church in Central Saanich. That takes place September 7 to 9 and I hope many members are able to attend. Please see the website for the schedule.

Save the date for our Annual General Meeting on the evening of Saturday, November 17. Evening festivities include a dinner, speaker, annual awards, and election of council. We will be posting information about the meal options and cost once that is finalized.

We are now accepting nominations for the annual awards. In particular, we are seeking nominations for the Newton-Ball Award. Please see the website for details of the award and how to nominate a member to receive the award.

We will be looking for members to join the council this year. It has been a great experience for me to become part of the council and I encourage everyone, even if you’ve just joined, to consider putting your name forward. Sherry, our past president, will be coordinating the nomination process so please contact her at pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like more information and to put your name forward.

Mars Opposition 2018

Posted by as Observing Highlights

On Friday July 27th 2018 Mars will make it’s closet approach to Earth in 15 years.

RASC Victoria Centre: David Lee &emdash; The Planets at Cattle Point
Planets visible from Cattle Point – by David Lee

This occurs when Mars, Earth and the Sun are aligned with Mars located on the opposite side of Earth from the Sun. Mars will slowly rise on the eastern horizon late that evening … not the best viewing situation. A major dust storm developed on May 31st and has obscured details of the Martian surface. (see image below) Surface details will gradually re-emerge later this Summer as the dust storm subsides.

The viewing characteristics of Mars as seen from the Victoria area are tabulated below for the remaining DAO Saturday Night Summer Star Parties of the season.

Notice that the appearance of Mars (angular diameter) will decrease very slowly after the opposition. One week following opposition the angular diameter will only be 0.5% smaller but Mars will rise earlier and surface features may start to re-emerge.

Evening viewing conditions of Mars therefore will be more favourable and convenient in August.
Consider attending a DAO Saturday Night Star Party this August.
Volunteers of RASC will be there to share the night sky with their telescopes.
Click here to obtain free Star Party tickets. Note: No Star Party on July 28th.

In the Victoria area the best evening views of Mars are obtained with an unobstructed view of the southeast such as: Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park, Clover Point, Island View Beach, and Mount Tolmie. In the late evening Mars will appear fairly low in the southeast as an exceptionally bright red dot. It is hard to miss. Check it out.

Click here to learn more about the Mars 2018 Opposition and observing hints.
Click here to see images of the 2018 Martian Dust Storm.

 

The Surface of Mars Before and After the Martian Dust Storm (from NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter)

Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival

Posted by as Observing Highlights

By Reg Dunkley

On a mild July 4th evening about 10 RASCals assembled at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park for the Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival. Attendees were rewarded with spectacular views of two July Forth Fireworks shows. Between 10 PM and 10:15 PM Friday Harbour on San Juan Island took the stage. Terrain blocked some of the low level displays but the airborne clusters filled the field of view of most scopes. The main event occurred between 10:30 PM and 10:50 PM when Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island launched their salvo. Although slightly farther away we enjoyed an unobstructed view of the Lopez conflagration.

A variety of scopes were deployed including refractors, newtonian reflectors, spotting scopes, binoculars as well as an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain. In order to squeeze in the view RASCals resorted to lower magnifications. This confirmed that you do not need a big scope to enjoy the show.

It took about one minute 20 seconds for the muffled booms to arrive on the scene. This soundscape combined by the spontaneous whoops and ah’s from the RASCals added to the party atmosphere. It would have been nice if we were able to transition from the fireworks to star gazing … but clouds intervened.

Should we try again next year? Randy Atwood’s attached photo captured Chris Aesoph giving it two thumbs up! So I reckon that is a yes. It was a RASCal Worthy event.

The attention the photons received was well deserved.

Thanks to all the attendees.