President’s Message December 2015

Posted by as President's Message

Happy Winter Solstice! This year, Solstice occurs at 8:48pm PST; the days begin getting longer, and ever-so-slowly, warmer. I love the clear winter night for observing and imaging, but the cold really gets to me lately. The joys of getting old! Oh well…the winter sky is worth it!
I thought the Annual General Meeting was a lot of fun. Congratulations to all the award winners! A heartfelt thank-you to the outgoing Council members; you did an outstanding job for us! And a warm welcome to the incoming and incumbent Council members. I know you will do a great job, and thank you for serving.
Our Council for 2015-16 is:
President – Sherry Buttnor
First Vice President – Michel Michaud
Second Vice President – Chris Purse
Secretary – Leslie Welsh
Treasurer – Bruce Lane
Past President – Nelson Walker
National Representative – Lauri Roche
Librarian – Michel Michaud
Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu
Public Outreach – (vacant)
Skynews Editor – Reg Dunkley
Light Abatement Chair  –  Dave Robinson
Membership Chair – Chris Purse
Webmaster – Joe Carr
Observing Chair – Michel Michaud, Jim Stilburn (co-chairs)
Systems Administrator – Matt Watson
Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson
 Historian – Bill Almond
DAO/NRC Liaison – Jim Hesser, James DiFrancesco
University of Victoria Liaison – Alex Schmid
Member(s) at Large – David Lee
Our next general meeting, Wednesday December 9, features Dr. Alan Batten and his presentation “When did modern astronomy begin?” Dr. Batten’s presentations should not be missed!
Other upcoming activities for your astronomical pleasure:
-UVic observing session: Friday December 11 (all Victoria Centre members welcome)
-VCO: every Saturday evening (open to those on the Active Observers list only)
Weather permitting, of course (and we sure deserve some good weather!).
Just a reminder to use extreme caution while driving on Observatory Hill. We’re now into the season of black ice and slippery conditions, so take care.

Dress warmly, and see you out there.
Sherry.

President’s Message November 2015

Posted by as President's Message

How about this weather, eh?! I bet many of you wish you had taken up meteorology as a pastime! I can’t remember the rains coming this early, or this heavy, for a long time. I could quite easily float a boat in my backyard as I type this. Oh well…what can you do? Cross our fingers and hope we get some nice, clear skies in time for winter observing. Or take up basket-weaving? Boat-building? At least our very popular Astronomy Cafe is going strong. if you’re bummed by the weather, why not stop by and spend some time with us? Astro Cafe has become a great event on its own, thanks to the efforts of John McDonald, Reg Dunkley, and Chris Purse. Thanks, guys!

It is November, however, and we should focus on the Annual General Meeting, coming up on Sunday, November 22nd. As I mentioned last month, it’s time for our board elections, and also to recognize our members in such fields as service to the Victoria Centre, astrophotography, and so on. Nelson tells me that as of today, we have 41 members registered for the dinner portion; the pub can accommodate 70, so we have room for another 29. Please contact Nelson at pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca or 477-4820. Dinner is always yummy, our guest speaker and topic are terrific (Molecular clouds formed from interstellar gas – Dr Steve Mairs) so sign up soon.

As I mentioned last month, our AGM is also time for our board elections, and also to recognize our members in such fields as service to the Victoria Centre, astrophotography, and so on. Email reminders have been sent by Matt (astrophotography) and Bruno (Newton-Ball award). Here’s the page where you can peruse the outstanding astrophotos from several of our members, and cast your vote:
We really could use help with filling the following board positions:
Vice President
Public Outreach Coordinator
Light Pollution Abatement

Still working on the pizza party. Given that there are so many conflicts with other events around the holiday season, it looks like January is a better month to host that. Stay tuned.
And stay dry!

Cheers!
Sherry.

President’s message October 2015

Posted by as President's Message

Welcome to Autumn! I hope you’re all having a nice rest after such a busy summer. Personally, I love Autumn observing; although the balmy Summer nights are gone, they are replaced with crisp steady seeing, and longer nights. And you can observe both the Summer and Winter skies all in one night!
Did you see the Total Lunar Eclipse? Check out our members’ great photos!
http://rascvic.zenfolio.com/lunareclipse2015
Even though the DAO Summer Star Parties are over for the year, there are lots of fun things coming up. Here are a few:
Cattle Point observing in Victoria’s own Urban Dark Sky Park:

RASCals of Cattle Point

•  Friday, October 16th at 7:30 pm
•  Friday, November 6th at 6:00 pm
•  Friday, December 4th at 6:00 pm
•  Friday, January 15th, 2016 at 6:00 pm
•  Friday, February 5th at 6:30 pm
•  Friday, March 4th at 7:00 pm
Everyone welcome!
UVic telescope observing. All welcome, not just VCO Active Observers!
-Oct 8,
-Nov 13,
-Dec 11.

All are weather permitting. Email notifications are sent out prior to each of these events, and you can find more info on the Victoria Centre website.

Our weekly Astronomy Cafe is an excellent, informal,  way to meet us.  Bring your coffee mug and join the chat!

Astro Café

And don’t forget our regular monthly meetings. Joe has lined up some terrific guest speakers, so
come on out for those.
And a reminder of our upcoming Annual General Meeting, which includes Victoria Centre Board
elections, Sunday November 22. A spouse, partner, or friend are welcome to attend
with you. Check the RASC Website for schedule, and menu:

Victoria Centre AGM & Dinner – Nov 22, 2015

Please contact Nelson with your meal choices as soon as possible. His contact information is provided on that page. The Moon Under Water pub is able to keep the cost the same as last year, so big thanks to them!

Speaking of the elections, we have a few spots we really need to fill. There is link to the Call for Nominations on the AGM event page. Remember: every paid Victoria Centre member in good standing is eligible to run for a Council position, whether or not there is an incumbent or nominee already listed. So give it some thought, and if you would like to be a part of Council, please let us know!
See you out there!

Sherry.

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.

President’s Message September 2015

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I hope you all had a great summer! The Victoria Centre sure did! We hosted six Saturday evening “star parties” in July and August at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (the seventh was cancelled due to a power outage), during which many hundreds of guests paid us a visit. Rain or shine, the public loved what we had to offer. My heartfelt thanks go out to all the RASC volunteers who gave of their time and knowledge, the guest speakers who educated us, the Commissionaires who kept us safe and helped keep the traffic under control, all the NRC staff who made these popular events possible in the first place. Thank you, everyone!

Also over the summer, Victoria Centre member participated in the Saanich Strawberry Festival and Symphony Splash and were as well-received as usual. Any why not? Our volunteers are amazing!

Our annual summer RASCals Star Party in Metchosin was also a hit, with approximately 92 people (public and RASC members) attending to take in the awesome presentations by Dr. Chris Gainor, David Lee, and Dr. Phil Stooke. Those, combined with terrific door prizes and great weather made for a very enjoyable weekend. Thanks to everyone from RASC who helped out, as well as Metchosin Council and staff, and Metchosin Fire Department.

And now we’re back into our usual routine of monthly events and meetings; I know you will enjoy the upcoming guest speakers which our Acting VP Joe Carr has lined up for us.

This brings me to an issue that has been on my mind for a while: how are we doing? Is the Victoria Centre meeting your astronomical needs? It seems to me that our meetings and events (e.g. Victoria Centre Observatory, UVic telescope sessions, etc) may not be as well-attended as they could be, and I would really like to know if there are things we could be doing better, or at least differently.
In the Members Only section of the Victoria Centre website (login required), you will find a very short survey form where you can give your feedback, criticisms, and/or suggestions. It’s completely anonymous; you do not need to identify yourself unless you want to, and everything you offer will be read and considered. You can use it as a new member, continuing member, or even as an exit survey if you are leaving us. Please be as specific as you wish.

I really encourage Victoria Centre members to use the survey, or contact a Council member, to let us know what we’re doing right, and what we could be doing better to meet your needs!

Finally, don’t forget our next general meeting on September 9th, 7:30 in room A104 in the Bob Wright building.  Our guest speaker is Dr. Jon Willis & his new book – The Search for Life in the Universe.  Interesting!

Clear skies,

Sherry.

President’s Message, June 2015

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PLEASE NOTE: due to the lack of darkness at this time of year, our Saturday Evening Star Parties at the Observatory are now on scheduled hiatus until July 18th.  Please join us then!

May was quite a month! The Victoria Centre was full-on at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Saturday evenings. Our wonderful volunteers educated and entertained hundreds of visitors in the Plaskett dome, in the Centre of the Universe building, and in the parking lot. Visitor numbers have been a bit low (probably because we opened early this year in May to take advantage of the darker evenings), but those visitors who did come up to take in the activities were extremely impressed with our efforts, even in spite of some iffy sky conditions. Very well done, everyone!
And now we take a break at the DAO for June. We decided there is little point opening up when it doesn’t get dark enough to see the night sky before it was time to send the public home. We’re back again on July 18th for six more Saturday evenings throughout the remainder of summer, so please spread the word!

Now, I have a favour to ask: the Victoria Centre may, or may not, be meeting the needs of our members. Perhaps we are completely wonderful (ha!), or maybe we need to be addressing things that we currently are not doing so well at. I’m going to try to get a feedback page up and running, where you may offer your opinions on this. Meanwhile, I encourage you to contact me directly by email or phone with your comments, complaints, or suggestions on how we are doing, and what we could be doing better. Don’t be shy: the RASC exists to promote astronomy at all levels, but it also exists to serve the needs of our members. It is our job on Council to make that happen. Please let us know – Contact info.

Although we are winding down a little for the shorter nights, there’s lots to look forward to this summer, including restarting at the DAO/CU on July 18, the Cowichan Valley Star Finders’ star party on the weekend of August 14-16, and, of course, the Victoria Centre Metchosin Star Party on the weekend of August 21-23. Please join us!

As this is my last message until September, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful summer, filled with soft sparkling clear nights, equipment that always cooperates, and perfect exposures!

~Sherry.

RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy won by Gordon Head girl at Canada-Wide Science Fair

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Janet Dawson
Janet Dawson

The Canada-Wide Science Fair was held in Fredericton in mid-May. The RASC sponsors two awards at the CWSF. The award is a $200 cash prize along with a certificate and a one year Youth membership in the Society (and a telescope?)

The winner of the junior RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy was Janet Dawson from Gordon Head Elementary School in Victoria, BC for her project “Goodnight Sun!”

Abstract: I photographed sunsets over thirteen months and recorded sunset direction and time. During that time, I built formulae to predict sunset direction and time from the top of PKOLS, a park on Vancouver Island. My formulae are accurate within plus or minus five degrees and plus or minus five minutes. In comparison, computer algorithms predict sunset time within plus or minus one minute.

More info on Science Fair website

President’s Message, May 2015.

Posted by as President's Message

Way to go, Victoria Centre! Astronomy Day on April 25th was a great success once again, thanks to the hard work of the organizers and volunteers. We entertained 800 visitors at the Royal BC Museum during the day, and another 177 at the DAO later that evening. That makes a total of 5,416 “Galileo Moments”, or individual guests we have informed and entertained over 42 separate events since September 1st. We’re pretty popular!

Our Saturday evening Summer Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory have begun again for the second year, with the support of the DAO/NRC and a great many RASC, FDAO, and UVic volunteers. This year, we have the Centre of the Universe building open as well, with its exhibits, and we even have the planetarium open. The May 2nd evening was a little slow, but I expect things to pick up, as we get the word out. You can find out more about these great public events on our main page at: www.victoria.rasc.ca. You can help spread the word by telling your friends, co-workers, and so on, and by printing out our poster and putting it up in public places.

I’d like to mention the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO); a newly-formed partner group to RASC-Victoria, who are working on a long-term plan to keep the DAO open for summer public visits. Track their progress.

And, don’t forget to check our calendar for upcoming RASC events such as observing on the UVic telescope, and Bruce’s popular Cattle Point sessions.

Clear skies,
Sherry.

President’s Message, April 2015

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Busy busy busy! Lots of progress to share on various Victoria Centre projects this month. International Astronomy Day is April 25th this year, and once again we will be hosting a daytime public event at the Royal British Columbia Museum downtown, with our usual lineup of exciting displays and public-outreach activities. And we continue IAD at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory later that evening with more public activities.
We have just received approval from Dr. Greg Fahlman at the NRC for our Summer Saturday public evenings at the DAO. The first evening will be part of International Astronomy Day, then we begin in earnest on Saturday, May 2nd. We have expanded the number of Saturday evenings over last year’s program, but have skipped a few Saturdays around the summer solstice due to the lack of darkness. We have also set up protocols to help avoid the barely-controlled chaos we experienced on certain evenings last summer! Many thanks to Lauri Roche, Jim Hesser, Nelson Walker, and Don Moffatt on the RASC side, as well as Greg Fahlman, Kevin Farris, and Morrick Vincent of the NRC, all of whom worked very hard to make this program happen. Volunteers are gratefully needed for the above events; I hope you will consider offering a few hours of your time.
And a little more good news from the Hill: we have been granted two nights on the Plaskett telescope. Active Observers, mark your calendars: May 15 and June 19. You do need to be on the Active Observers list for Plaskett nights, so if you want to become an Active Observer, contact us and we’ll tell you how. Other RASC observing sessions upcoming (where you don’t need to be an Active Observer) are UVic; Friday April 10, and Cattle Point; Friday April 24. Email reminders will be sent in advance of these sessions.
Despite uncooperative weather for the Messier Marathon, the last UVic and Cattle Point sessions, hope springs eternal. Keep those fingers crossed for better weather as we swing into high gear!

Clear skies,
Sherry.

President’s Message March 2015

Posted by as President's Message

Welcome to March, the month with the most annoying time change of the year. At least for some of us old souls, who have enough trouble staying awake at night. Not only do we lose an hour of sleep, we lose an hour of evening observing time. What a rip! But to make up for that, there’s lots of pleasant news to share with you this month.
First off, join me in welcoming our new Media Liaison officer, Edward Wiebe. With all the events we have planned and all the media enquires we receive, Council felt it wise to create a Media Liaison position to help manage the flow of information to the public. Thanks, Ed!
Next up on the list of positive developments: Metchosin District Council has agreed to waive the fee for the star party field again this year, so the event can proceed. And at the same meeting on February 23rd, Metchosin Council also officially passed their Dark Sky Policy. Thanks to Mayor Ranns and Councillors on both counts.
The DAO Saturday Night public observing nights committee has worked hard at developing a proposal for the upcoming season, which has been submitted to the HIA for consideration. There was a lot to consider! Opening up the DAO to the public entails a lot of work, with many, many details to be worked out. Huge thanks to Lauri Roche, Don Moffatt, Dr Jim Hesser, and Melisa Yestrau for all your efforts. Now we await the results.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pleasant -and quite unexpected- email from Dave Balam at the DAO, offering three evenings in the next quarter on the 72” Plaskett telescope, for Victoria Centre members. Nice! I hope we can make that work, and I’ll let you know how that turns out. Meanwhile, don’t forget our next scheduled session on the UVic 32” telescope on March 13. We will send a reminder email prior to that date. And the Messier Marathon for Active Observers, on the evening of March 23rd. If you want to participate, email Michel at: michelmichaud@shaw.ca.
So, apart from the time change, March brings plenty to look forward to!

Clear skies,
Sherry.