Astronomy Day 2017 in Victoria

Posted by as Special Events

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the Royal BC Museum present

International Astronomy Day

at the Royal BC Museum

Saturday, April 29, 2017 10AM to 4PM

Amazing Astronomical Activities for all Ages!

Poster (425k PDF) – please spread the word and stick a reminder on your fridge

Event photo gallery


All Astronomy Day activities are FREE and available to the general public. Membership in RASC is not required.

Regular admission applies to Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre.

Royal BC Museum – 10AM to 4PM

675 Belleville Street, Victoria

  • Interactive activities and displays both inside and outside
    • View the Sun safely through solar telescopes on the plazaa
    • Telescope mirror grinding – inside
    • Astrophotography – inside
    • Hands-on activities for the kids – inside
  • Presentations in Newcombe Auditorium
    • 11:00 AM We Are Not Alone: The Search For Alien Life In The Universe by Dr. Jon Willis
    • 12:00 PM Space Suite I: A series of short space videos accompanied by music. Produced by the Knowledge Network
    • 1:00 PM The Greatest Show On Earth by Eclipse Enthusiast Michael Webb
    • 2:00 PM Archaeology With The Stars by Dr. Kim Venn
    • 3:00 PM Space Suite II: A series of short space videos accompanied by music. Produced by the Knowledge Network

Centre of the Universe and the Observatory – 7:30PM to 11PM

Observatory Hill, 5071 West Saanich Road, Saanich

  • Plaskett telescope tours
  • Observing through telescopes
  • Lectures
    • 8PM – The Newly Discovered Trappist-1 System & the Quest to Finding Habitable Planets in the Solar Neighborhood by Dr. Christian Marois
    • 9PM – TBA
  • Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
  • Reserve your tickets (one week prior to the event)

 

SPEAKER: Dark matter: Small scales, big problems – Kyle Oman

Posted by as Meetings

April 12, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

“Dark matter: Small scales, big problems” – Kyle Oman, PhD candidate, UVic

Dwarf galaxies
Dwarf galaxies

Abstract:
There are several lines of evidence pointing to the existence of an as yet elusive dark matter which is more abundant in the Universe on average than the ordinary stuff of gas, stars and planets. Despite the lack of a plausible particle candidate, the LCDM cosmological theory has been remarkably successful in describing the large scale structure of the Universe. The biggest current challenges to this theory are manifest on the scale of dwarf galaxies. How can we measure a substance we cannot see? What can a handful of puny nearby galaxies tell us about the Universe as a whole? These are the questions I’m tackling with the help of the cutting-edge APOSTLE cosmological simulation suite and observations taken on the Very Large Array in New Mexico.

Bio:
Kyle Oman is a PhD candidate at the University of Victoria. He has worked on topics in theoretical extragalactic astronomy ranging from the smallest dwarf galaxies to the largest galaxy clusters. He completed his BSc and MSc at the University of Waterloo.

President’s Message – March 2017

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Spring is nearly upon us and I am hoping for a distinct change in weather. We have had very few observing sessions at the VCO through the winter and I think the last RASCals of Cattle Point evening that actually went ahead was in 2015. Clouds, clouds, go away!

Thanks to Reg for coordinating the purchase and installation of the new monitor for the Astro Café building. Its first light saw a record attendance with 27 people there. A very special thank you goes to Terry Ryals for building the cabinet for the television; it looks just great.

Due to April exams being scheduled in our regular meeting room, our monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 12 will be in the Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167.

My heartfelt thanks to His Worship Mayor Ranns and councillors of the District of Metchosin who approved our request to hold the RASCals Star Party on the weekend of July 28 – 30 with the rental fee waived. That will be proceeding at the Metchosin Municipal Grounds on Happy Valley Road; more information will be provided as it becomes available. Our Star Party will coincide with the National Star Party day of Saturday, July 29. The plan is for as many centres as possible to have public events on that day in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. We hope there will be clear skies so we can show off the sky!

We are also in the process of finalizing our agreement with the Friends of the DAO to hold another series of Summer Star Parties on Saturday evenings. We are planning to have those every Saturday from Astronomy Day on April 29 to September 16. If you have NOT been involved in past years and would like to volunteer please let Ken know at outreach@victoria.rasc.ca and we will add you to the email list.

Please be reminded to let me know at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to participate in a bulk purchase of the Explore the Universe Guide as I introduced in my January message.

SPEAKER: Bugs in Space – Astrobiology and the Habitable Zone – Dr. Julia Foght

Posted by as Meetings

March 8, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

Bugs in Space!? A Microbiologist’s View of Astrobiology and the Habitable Zone – Dr. Julia Foght

Dr. Julia Foght
Dr. Julia Foght

As astronomers discover myriad planets in distant solar systems and find evidence of water on planets and moons in our own solar system, astrobiologists seek to answer the question “Is there life elsewhere in the Universe?” But nested within these few words are many other questions: If life exists or previously existed beyond Earth, would we even recognize it? How can we detect life at astronomical distances without collecting physical samples?

What ‘biosignatures’ could we use, remotely or in place, to locate, confirm and/or examine such life, especially if it was microscopic? Where are the best places to look for life nearby in our solar system? Can sites on Earth serve as analogues to refine our questions and future exploration? Can the search for extraterrestrial life illuminate theories about the origins of life on Earth?

Dr. Foght will present some of the factors that potentially influence the distribution of life in the universe and the colonization of exoplanets, based on our current understanding of earthly analogues and ‘extreme’ microbes, but be prepared to leave with more questions than answers.

Video of presentation

Biography: Dr. Julia Foght, Professor Emerita in the Biological Sciences Department, University of Alberta, is an environmental microbiologist and a past member of the Canadian Space Agency’s Astrobiology Discipline Working Group. Her interest in the field of Astrobiology arose from her fieldwork in Antarctica and research into microbes that live beneath glaciers from Nunavut and Alaska to New Zealand’s Southern Alps and the Transantarctic Mountains.

President’s Message – February 2017

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It will not be long until our outreach events for begin and planning is in full swing. I hope you will consider volunteering as there are many tasks that need to be done. You may do this by contacting our Outreach Coordinator, Ken, at outreach@victoria.rasc.ca.

One of the areas I would like to emphasize is new member recruitment. This year, we will have complementary copies of the current SkyNews magazine to give out at public outreach events. Centres have been given the option to purchase copies at a minimal cost so we will be giving this a try. If you know of friends and family who share your interest in astronomy, and who are not yet members, you may want to give them a copy! It is my hope that a group of members will take on member recruitment under the coordination of Deb, our Second Vice President, so that there is a presence at all of our outreach events. The goal will be to talk about our society, the benefits of membership, and give out the magazines. Please email Deb at vp2@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to help out.

Our launch event this year will be Astronomy Day on Saturday, April 29. During the day we will be at the Royal BC Museum where there will be displays, the solar system, and talks about astronomy. We hope the sun will make an all-day appearance so we can look at it this year! That evening will be the first of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO and we hope that clear skies will prevail.

The dates for the remainder of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO are not finalized but we are looking at the Saturdays from Astronomy Day until mid September. More about these dates will be announced as decisions are made.

Ken is also looking for volunteers for the community events we attend such as Buccaneer Days, the Saanich Strawberry Festival, and, of course, the Saanich Fair in September. Again please put your name on the volunteers list if you are able to help out.

We are planning to hold our annual RASCals Star Party from July 28 – 30. The National office has asked all of the centres to organize a public event on Saturday, July 29 in honour of the sesquicentennial so we have decided to hold the Star Party to be part of the national star party. I have been in communication with the District of Metchosin to see if we can secure the cricket field again this year.

One of the highlights this summer will be the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. Many of the members will be travelling to the zone where totality will occur. However, Victoria, assuming clear skies, is in a good location as around 90% of the sun will be covered when the maximum occurs at 10:20 a.m. We hope to have some of the people who remain in Victoria out with solar telescopes so that members of the public can enjoy the eclipse.

Please be reminded to let me know at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to participate in a bulk purchase of the Explore the Universe Guide as I introduced in my January message.

Concert: On the Construction of the Heav’ns – Music of William Herschel – Jan 21, 2017

Posted by as Special Events

Saturday, 21 January 2017 at 19:30–21:30

Pre-concert talk at 19:00

Christ Church Cathedral, 930 Burdett Ave, Victoria, BC V8V 3G8

Uranus - discovered by William Herschel
Uranus – discovered by William Herschel

 

William Herschel wasn’t just the first President of the Royal Astronomical Society. And he didn’t just discover that the celestial body in the sky that others thought was just a star which was actually a planet, Uranus… Or the discoverer of infra-red radiation… He was a multi-instrumentalist and composer of great stature!

Michael Jarvis and Paul Luchkow are joined by Nathan Whittaker (cello) and some of Victoria’s (and the world’s) finest astronomers and astrophotographers in a programme of music and readings from William’s and his equally musical sister and astronomical collaborator Caroline’s diaries.

Acclaimed as some of the finest astrophotographers in Canada, the concert will take place in the splendour of projections of astrophotographs of deep space taken by members of the Victoria Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

The infinity of space in the intimate space of the Chapel of the New Jerusalem at Christ Church Cathedral. Truly a night to remember!

Tickets: General: $25; Students/Seniors: $20
Munro’s Books; Ivy’s Bookshop; Long & McQuade; Christ Church Cathedral Office (903 Burdett); or at the door

(Note by Jim Hesser: Acoustics in this intimate space are very good. Herschel’s beautiful music is played by three outstanding musicians. Dress comfortably and enjoy a unique event featuring Centre members prominently. As seating is limited to 175, I suggest securing tickets in advance; I’ll have some available at the 11 Jan Centre meeting: general $25, seniors (65 and older)/youth $20 all costs included; cash or cheques made out to Christ Church Cathedral.)

President’s Message – January 2017

Posted by as President's Message

Happy New Year! As this is the season for making resolutions I thought I share one of my resolutions. My “astronomy resolution” for 2017 is to spend more time using my telescopes. Looking back in my log, I did not do much personal observing in 2016 so I would like to do much better in 2017. And, when it is cloudy, I plan to devote time to reading and rereading the astronomy books I have in my library so I can optimize my time when I can get out observing.

That got me thinking about a common question we hear at outreach events. That question is how do I know what to look at? Most astronomers do extensive preparation before observing sessions. Part of this process is to determine what part of the sky will be visible from the chosen observing site at the planned observing time. Once that has been determined, references are consulted to see what objects are visible in that part of the sky. This leads to the compilation of a list of targets that may be found and viewed or photographed.

How can a newer astronomer make use of this approach? Perhaps the best method is to complete an observing certificate program. A number of astronomy organizations, including RASC, offer observing programs where a certificate is awarded for documenting the observation of a predetermined list of objects. The advantage of an observing program is that someone has already picked the targets so the participant’s task is to find them and record observations. Specifically, RASC offers the Explore the Universe (ETU) certificate as an introductory program with the goal of learning the basics of observational astronomy while observing at least 55 objects out of a list of 110. This list has been chosen to include a selection of interesting objects that can be seen with the naked eye or binoculars from locations in Canada.

The ETU program has been enhanced by the recent publication of a book aimed at providing support to earn the certificate; the new book is called Explore the Universe Guide. I recently received a copy and have been reading it with interest. It is well organized and benefits from the work of Brenda Stuart, a member of our centre, who contributed the illustrations. The book starts with some “map reading” skills introducing how to navigate in the sky. It then moves into descriptions of the various targets included in the ETU including the Moon, other bodies in our solar system, deep sky objects, and stars. The text is well written and there are many illustrations to help demonstrate the points being made.

I encourage members to consider working on this certificate program especially those who are newer to astronomy or have never completed an observing list. If sufficient centre members are interested in purchasing copies of Explore the Universe Guide, we may be able to place a bulk order which helps save the shipping charge on individual orders. Please let me know by email at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you are interested in participating in a bulk purchase. The book’s list price is around $19 (including GST) and the individual shipping charge is $7.25.

By the way, there are other observing programs offered by the RASC; the list is located at rasc.ca/certificate-programs.

Speaker: The MASSIVE Galaxy Survey – Dr. John Blakeslee, NRC Herzberg

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January 11, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

“The MASSIVE Galaxy Survey” – Dr. John Blakeslee, NRC Herzberg

 

John Blakeslee
John Blakeslee

The MASSIVE Galaxy Survey is a project to study the structure, internal dynamics, and evolutionary histories of the approximately 100 most massive galaxies visible in the Northern hemisphere out to a distance of about 100 Mpc, or roughly 330 million light years. In this project, we combine 2-D “integral-field spectroscopy” on small (sub-arcsecond) and large (arcminute) scales in order to perform simultaneous dynamical modelling of the central supermassive black hole, stars, and dark matter. We also have an ongoing Hubble program to image a high-priority subsample of the MASSIVE galaxies. The ultimate goals of the survey include understanding variations in dark matter fraction and stellar mass function, the connection between black hole accretion and galaxy growth, and the assembly of galaxy outskirts over cosmic time. I will describe the survey design and observational strategy, as well as present first results on black hole mass measurements, stellar populations, and molecular gas detections in MASSIVE Survey galaxies.

Video of the presentation – Youtube

Bio:

John Blakeslee is an Astronomer with the NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics Programs at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich. He studies galaxies and the large-scale structure of the universe using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and large ground-based observatories. Dr. Blakeslee received his PhD degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and did postdoctoral research at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and Durham University in the UK. He then spent five years as a Research Scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. He has worked at the DAO for the past nine years.

President’s Message – December 2016

Posted by as President's Message

As this is my inaugural message as the centre president, I want to take this opportunity to thank past and current council members for their efforts to make the RASC Victoria Centre a successful and enjoyable organization. It is the people like you, sharing your love of astronomy, who have kept me involved since becoming a member. Compared to many of you, I am a relative newcomer to astronomy having joined RASC in 2010. I cannot believe how much I have learned and experienced in that time, but I have only scratched the surface of this limitless topic. Astronomy is one of the remaining human endeavours where both professionals and amateurs contribute to ongoing research and discovery due to the vastness of the universe.

Over the past few years, I have been the centre’s membership coordinator. It has been great to see the membership numbers growing. As was noted in a session presented at the General Assembly in 2015, a number of people across the country join RASC each year but do not renew their membership when it expires. Why is that? I am sure there are many reasons. I do invite members to let your council know how you think the Victoria Centre is doing. If you have ideas of other activities we might offer, I would welcome hearing from you. Ultimately, my advice to all members is to get involved in the Victoria Centre. Come out to the various activities and meetings as you are able. You will get much more out of your membership through participation.

In reflecting back on the past year, we have had a fascinating series of speakers, learned from each other about our own areas of expertise, spent quite a few evenings at the VCO, camped out for night sky viewing, and shared views of the sun and the night sky with scores of members of the public. We do a lot as a volunteer organization and thank you for making those events successful! We are planning to have a similar number of public events in 2017 so we will be looking for people to help out. Please consider putting your name forward as a volunteer.

In closing, I look forward to working with the new council to further the objectives of the RASC Victoria Centre and continue to make the centre an organization of which you are proud to be a member.

2016 Award Recipients for Victoria Centre

Posted by as Events, Meetings

Service and achievement awards presented at RASC Victoria Centre’s Annual General Meeting, held November 27, 2016 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course, Victoria, BC, Canada

All AGM Event photos

 

Certificate of Appreciation, For Public Outreach at the DAO summer star parties

For their outstanding support and engagement in the role of ” Person in Charge ” and Volunteer Coordinator. Presented to: Nelson Walker, Chris Purse, Sherry Buttnor, and Lauri Roche (absent).

Nelson Walker receives his Certificate of Appreciation for publi
Nelson Walker receives his Certificate of Appreciation for public outreach at the DAO from Sherry Buttnor

 

Chris Purse receives his Certificate of Appreciation for public outreach at the DAO from Sherry Buttnor
Chris Purse receives his Certificate of Appreciation for public outreach at the DAO from Sherry Buttnor
Sherry Buttnor receives her Certificate of Appreciation for publ
Sherry Buttnor receives her Certificate of Appreciation for publ

Special Certificate of Appreciation

For His Continued Efforts and Successes in Supporting RASC Members in the access of on-line Live-Broadcasting of Monthly General Meetings. Presented to : Matt Watson.

Matt Watson receives his Certificate of Appreciation for the live broadcasts of the meetings from Sherry Buttnor
Matt Watson receives his Certificate of Appreciation for the live broadcasts of the meetings from Sherry Buttnor

Award of Excellence, Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award for Amateur Telescope Making

For His Outstanding Achievement in Designing and the Building of a Custom Telescope Tracking Platform c/w innovative features. Presented to : Jim Stillburn.

Jim Stillburn receives the Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making from Sherry Buttnor for building his Poncet Telescope tracking system
Jim Stillburn receives the Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award in Amateur Telescope Making from Sherry Buttnor for building his Poncet Telescope tracking system

Award of Excellence in Astrophotography

For His Excellent ongoing work in Solar Imaging and the Mercury Transit on 6 May 2016, 6:14 AM, Canon T3i, f/4 300 mm. Presented to : Mr. John McDonald (absent).

Transit of Mercury AM - by John McDonald
Transit of Mercury AM – by John McDonald

Special Award of Excellence

For His Dedicated Support of Public Outreach at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, 2016. Presented to : Mr. David Lee

David Lee receives his Award of Excellence for organizing the speaker series for the DAO Summer Star Parties from Sherry Buttnor
David Lee receives his Award of Excellence for organizing the speaker series for the DAO Summer Star Parties from Sherry Buttnor

The Newton / Ball Service Award

For his Outstanding Dedication to Serving RASC Members in 2016, including : the Messier Marathon, Astronomy Day at the RBCM, the RASC Star Party and DAO Public Outreach. Presented to : Mr. Nelson Walker.

Nelson Walker receives the Newton Ball Service Award from Sherry Buttnor
Nelson Walker receives the Newton Ball Service Award from Sherry Buttnor