Speaker: Dark Nebulae in New Light

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Paul Gray, RASC Halifax Centre

Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

At 7:30 PM in Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Dark Nebulae are elusive and one of the most difficult deep sky objects to observe. With the aid of larger telescopes in the 1990s more amateurs started to seek out these objects. Inspired by a mentor of the RASC Halifax Centre Paul pursued a project to observe as many of E. E. Barnard’s Dark Nebulae objects as possible and composed a list for the Observer’s Handbook. In the process much was learned about how best to observe these dark nebulae and Paul made a discovery along the way. Recently with the construction of a backyard observatory Paul’s obsession with dark nebulae has been rejuvenated with a new project. The second part of this talk will discuss that observatory itself and a current project to reimage Barnard’s catalogue.

Paul Gray: It was the visit of Halley’s Comet in 1985 that hooked Paul on astronomy. He has been active member of RASC since 1988 and has served as president in both the Moncton and Halifax Centres. He chaired the 2010 General Assembly. Paul has served on numerous positions at the national level including the Chair of the National Observing Committee and the Editor of the RASC Observer’s Calendar. In 2016 Paul was awarded the RASC Service Award for his contributions at both the local and national level. He is also a 3 time recipient of the Ken Chilton award. In 1998 Paul found himself moving to Maryland, USA for 5 years. While there he became a member of the Delmarva Stargazers and still remains as their Honorary Northern member.

Observing first with a 60mm Tasco and then a 100mm F4, made from a Taylor Hobson TV Lens, he completed the Messier list. Later, in his final year of high school he built a 330mm F4.5 reflector. After his move to the USA he observed with a 12.5” F5 reflector to complete his Finest NGC List as well as his Dark Nebulae project. He has a passion for meteor observing and deep sky observing. He has ventured into photography many times over the years in film, DSLR and CCD. He “went off the deep end” so to speak while in college when he teamed up with David Lane to conduct a supernova search and at age 22 found his first. He would later discover 5 supernovae and share one with his daughter Kathryn Aurora Gray. To keep things in the family his son Nathan Gray also would find a supernova as part of the program he and David Lane developed. Recently he made a dream come true by finally building his backyard observatory at his home in Nova Scotia.

President’s Message – January 2019

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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!

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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

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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

Speaker: History of the Hubble Space Telescope

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Dr. Chris Gainor, President of RASC

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

At 7:30 PM in Room 116,
Engineering and Computer Science Building, UVic
Note Room Change

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 28 years ago in 1990. After overcoming problems caused by a defective main mirror, Hubble has made discoveries that have revolutionized our view of the universe we live in. This talk will cover the history of HST based on a history book the speaker is writing for NASA.

Dr. Chris Gainor is an historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books. He is also President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and editor of Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly.

Speaker: The Formation of Planets around Stars: What We Know and What We Still Need to Learn

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Dr. Doug Johnstone

Saturday November 17th, 2018:~7:30 PM

 

Following Victoria Centre AGM Banquet

at Cedar Hill Golf Course, 1400 Derby Road Victoria

 

Over the last few decades we have uncovered a great deal about the formation of stars. We have also undertaken an extensive census of planets and planetary systems around other stars. We are confident that the typical young star begins life surrounded by a gaseous yet dusty orbiting disk of material and that this circumstellar disk is the birth site of planetary systems.  Nevertheless, it is still almost impossible to witness the formation of planets and instead we must settle for indirect circumstantial evidence of the planet formation process when comparing observations against theoretical ideals and numerical simulations.  For this reason, astronomers have been developing ever more powerful telescopes and instruments to peer deeply into the cloudy environs of star formation and uncover planets in formation. I will discuss some recent observations that suggest planets may form during the earliest stages of star formation. I will also describe planned and anticipated (space) telescopes that will provide new ways of searching for planets in formation.

Dr. Doug Johnstone is an astronomer at the National Research Council’s Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria, BC. From 2012-2014 Doug was the Associate Director of the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, a 15-m telescope on Mauna Kea devoted to observations of the sky at sub-millimeter wavelengths. Doug’s main research interests follow the formation of stars and planetary systems. He began his professional life as a theorist at the University of California, Berkeley, working on the evolution of circumstellar disks around young stars, back before extra-solar planet detections were common. He has spent time at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, the University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada. Today, Dr. Johnstone’s research focuses on the formation and evolution of structure in molecular clouds, attempting to disentangle the physical processes through which a molecular cloud sheds into individual stars and planetary systems.

President’s Message – November 2018

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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.

Annual General Meeting & Dinner

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The November meeting of the Victoria Centre is the Annual General Meeting and Dinner. It will take place at the Cedar Hill Golf Course on Saturday, November 17. The doors open at 6 p.m.

The dinner consists of a buffet with a pre-ordered entree. The entree choices are chicken breast or Pacific salmon or vegetarian ravioli or grilled AAA sirloin steak. The buffet will include salads, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf, steamed vegetables, and artisan bread, followed by assorted cakes and squares, coffee, and tea. Payment is by cheque (payable to RASC Victoria Centre) or cash.

After the meal at around 7:30 p.m., there will be a speaker, the presentation of our annual report, and centre awards. That portion of the evening is open to everyone at no cost. If you cannot attend the dinner please consider dropping by for the meeting. There is ample free parking.

Speaker – The Formation of Planets around Stars: What We Know and What We Still Need to Learn – Dr. Doug Johnstone

Approximate Call to order: 8:30 p.m.

Minutes of 2017 Annual Meeting: Chris

Centre Annual Report for 2018: Joe

Treasurer’s Financial Report: Bruce.

National Representative’s Report: Nelson

Awards: (The following may be awarded)

Award of Excellence in Astrophotography

Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making

Newton Ball Service Award

Special Awards

Election of Victoria Centre Council Members: Sherry

Nominees for RASC Victoria Centre Council for 2018 – 2019 (nominees indicated in bold; incumbents are shown without bold text)

Executive Positions

President – Reg Dunkley
Vice President –
Second Vice President –
Secretary – Barb Lane
Treasurer – Deb Crawford

Other Positions

Past President – Chris Purse
National Representative – Nelson Walker
Librarian – Diane Bell
Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu
Public Outreach –
Skynews Editor – Bruce Lane
Light Abatement – Dave Robinson
Membership – Chris Purse
Webmaster – Joe Carr
Observing Chair – Jim Stillburn
Systems Administrator & Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson

Members at Large

Jim Hesser
John McDonald
Lauri Roche – FDAO liaison
James DiFrancesco – DAO liaison
Jim Nemec – Camosun liaison
Alex Schmid – UVic liaison
David Lee
Dan Posey

New Business

Door Prizes

Adjourn

President’s Message – October 2018

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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.

October Speaker: Coronal mass ejection evolution and their effects on galactic cosmic rays and planetary magnetospheres.

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Dr. Reka Winslow
Wednesday October 10th, 2018 at 7:30 PM

Room A104 Bob Wright Centre UVic

 

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) are large eruptions of plasma and magnetic field into interplanetary space originating in the Sun’s atmosphere. CMEs interact with the environment that they propagate through; for example, they are the most common cause of planetary space weather, and they also modulate the flux of galactic cosmic rays. Because CMEs can be associated with strong southward magnetic fields of long duration, high velocities, enhanced dynamic pressures, and solar energetic particles, they are strong drivers of geomagnetic storm activity at Earth. The effects of CMEs on Earth’s magnetosphere have been studied for many decades; on the other hand, studies of CME effects on other planets are only now becoming possible with a number of spacecraft in orbit around inner solar system planets. This new data enables us, for the first time, to directly observe how CMEs cause space weather on other planets, and also how CMEs change during propagation from the Sun to Earth. In this talk, I will present efforts to investigate how CMEs evolve as they propagate outward from the Sun, in order to better predict their effects on planetary magnetospheres. I will also showcase how CMEs affect Mercury’s magnetosphere as well as the flux of galactic cosmic rays in the inner solar system.

Dr. Reka Winslow is a research scientist in the Space Science Center at University of New Hampshire, where she also conducted her postdoctoral work. She holds a Ph.D. in geophysics, having specialized in space physics and planetary science at UBC. She has over 10 years of experience conducting research in space physics. Her work bridges the fields of heliophysics and planetary science, by focusing on observational studies of coronal mass ejections, interplanetary shocks, galactic cosmic rays, and solar energetic particle events to better understand their evolution in the inner heliosphere and their interaction with different planetary magnetospheres in the solar system. She is a member of the science team for the CRaTER instrument onboard the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and was a member of the MESSENGER science team while the spacecraft was orbiting Mercury.