Astronomy Cafe – July 13, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video

Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3

RASC Victoria members’ photos of Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3

More Victoria RASCal images and sketches of Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3

Bill Weir sketched Comet Neowise from Taylor Beach, Metchosin on the evening of July 12th.
Comet Neowise C/2020 F3 above the glare of Oak Bay Marina at 11:15PM on July 12th by Reg Dunkley
Non tracked 55 mm lens on Canon T3i. 5 Sec at ISO 3200
From Bamberton: Nathan writes: My dad got a picture with his Pentax K1 with a Macro 1:2.8 100mm (weather resistant) lens, with a 20 second exposure, an F5.6, and ISO 800, mounted on with an Astro tracer.
From the top of Mount Douglas on July 12th by Remi Odense
From Majestic Park on July 12th by Remi Odense
Lauri Roche captured Neowise this morning about 12:15 am. Lauri writes: I didn’t have to go far: the balcony of my townhouse. Struggling with aperture, ISO, focussing and an old camera but at least it’s there.
Comet C/2020 F3 Dawn July 13 2020
David Lee writes: I was determined to see if I could see more detail in the comet this morning so I brought the Star Adventurer tracker with me. As with most of my imaging adventures something goes wrong. This morning I tried a different mounting not realizing my orientation of the camera would be limited. Usually not a problem when your subject is isolated with no landscape. So my composition is a bit crooked. With this exposure the stars are peaking through and the second tail is more apparent.
Camera: Nikon Z6 Lens: Nikkor 24-70/4 set at 70mm Sensor ISO: 4000
Exposure: 13 seconds at f/4 Processing: Adobe Photoshop CC Tracking: Skywatcher Star Adventurer
Dorothy Paul captured this image 3:30AM on July 12th from the bench at Hollydene Park at the east end of Arbutus Cove.
Dorothy Paul sketched Neowise at 3:30AM on July 12th from the bench at Hollydene Park at the east end of Arbutus Cove
Dorothy and Miles Paul walked down to Hollydene Park an hour earlier this morning than yesterday. The comet was even better positioned than yesterday for viewing from the bench at the end of the path, overlooking Haro Strait.

Useful Comet Websites

The following websites are a rich source of information about visible comets including Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3. Check them out:

The Sky Live https://theskylive.com/comets

Comet Chasing has excellent finder charts: https://cometchasing.skyhound.com

Computer Science in Astronomy: A UVic Open House Webinar

You are invited to attend the Wednesday UVic Open House which starts at 7:30PM. This week student Sarah Clapoff is talking about the important role of comp sci in astronomy. The zoom guest link (with password embedded) is:
https://zoom.us/j/97173236268?pwd=V2hhYTAwVVY5cXl5eEFoOUxSYmZGdz09

Image may contain: 1 person, text

Observing

Astronomy Cafe – July 6, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video

Views from Doug Hardy’s Deck

Doug used a Canon 60Da and a Sigma 10-20 zoom at 10mm looking eastward from his deck in Downtown Victoria. He captured a nice conjunction of the Moon, Jupiter and Saturn. A red light from Trial Island is visible.
Doug then turned around and looked almost straight up there were very interesting clouds tangled up with the dipper. Since the shot was taken at 1:30 AM those clouds are not illuminated by the sun. They might resemble noctilucent clouds but are probably much lower cirrus cloud illuminated by the Moon.

David Lee’s Creamsicle Moon

Could Creamsicles overtake Viva Puffs to become the favourite Astro Cafe summer treat? Penumbral Eclipse July 4. 2020 Billed as a subtle eclipse the penumbral shadow is subtle. What David didn’t expect was the orange ball that emerged from the horizon. A nice creamsicle colour! Camera: Nikon Z6 with FTZ adapter Lens: Nikkor 300/4 AFS with 1.4 x TC Effective 420mm cropped. Sensor ISO: 1600. Exposure: 1/100 sec at f/5.6
Processing: Adobe Photoshop CC 2020

Martian Citizen Science: Zoom Webinar at 11AM Tuesday

Meg Schwamb (Queen’s University Belfast) will be speaking about “Exploring Mars with 150,000 Earthlings.”

Planet Four (http://www.planetfour.org) and Planet Four: Terrains (http://terrains.planetfour.org) are citizen science projects mining Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) images to explore how the south pole of Mars is sculpted by the never-ending cycle of freezing and thawing of exposed carbon dioxide ice. In the summer, carbon dioxide jets loft dust and dirt through cracks in the thawing carbon dioxide ice sheet to the surface where winds blow the material into the hundreds of thousands of dark fans observed from orbit. Planet Four enlists over 136,000 volunteers to map the sizes, shapes, and orientations of these fans in high resolution images. Planet Four is creating an unprecedented wind map of the south pole of Mars in order to probe how the Martian climate changes over time and is impacted year to year by dust storms and other global-scale events. Planet Four: Terrains, aims to study the distribution of the jet process across the south pole and identify new targets of interest for MRO. Over 12,000 people have helped identify the channels and pits (dubbed araneiforms) carved during the jet formation process. In this talk, I’ll give an overview of Planet Four and Planet Four: Terrains and present the latest results from these projects.

Zoom info: Meeting ID: 954 6636 7375 password: DAOseminar

Please click this URL to start or join. https://monash.zoom.us/j/95466367375?pwd=cVJpdEZjVW1kaHAyWGo4Um9NOWxkZz09

Astronomy Poem inspires Mystery Novel: from Marjie Welchframe

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too truly to be feaful of the night.”

From poem The Old Astronomer
Sarah Williams/S.A.D.I.
English poet/novelist, 1868

Novelist Ian Rankin titled his Inspector Rebus novel Set in Darkness after these lines. The poem is written from the perspective of an aged astronomer on his deathbed bidding his student to continue his humble research. The lines have been chosen by a number of professional and amateur astronomers as their epitaphs. Entire poem:
https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Twilight_Hours_(1868)/The_Old_Astronomer

Astronomy Cafe – June 29, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the whole 1-hour meeting.


More Lunar Photos from Mike Nash

Two more beautiful lunar images from Mike. Check them out and zoom in!

https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-rsJ3pkb/0/c0e69a9c/O/i-rsJ3pkb.jpg

https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-QmJGhnz/0/2d67596c/O/i-QmJGhnz.jpg

Balcony Astronomy from Edmonton – Abdur Anwar

Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar writes: I was able to see Jupiter, Saturn and Mars from the balcony on Wednesday and got some test images in preparation for summer. Mars is supposed to get pretty high up this year by October. Now is a good time to practise. Also got the blue snowball nebula.
I used a grey tube C8 at f10, ASI1600MM camera and an EQ6R mount.
Saturn
Mars
Blue Snowball Nebula

June 21st Annular Eclipse of the Sun from India

Time lapses by Neelam and Ajay Talwar and family in an amazingly complicated setup in the midday heat – note the giant fans! They did a wonderful job of capturing Bailey’s Beads peeking through the lunar craters and mountains along the thin rim of sunlight at the edge of the Moon at mid-eclipse.

Noctilucent clouds from Osoyoos – Debra Ceravolo

Debra’s comments on her Facebook page: “Many people like me have never seen noctilucent clouds and here I have seen and photographed four different events this month. The frequency of these special iridescent clouds is increasing due to climate change. Noctilucent clouds or NLCs form way out in the mesosphere at the edge of cold space. Meteor ‘smoke’ lingers there and ice crystals form around that. The solar minimum causes the thermosphere/mesosphere to be even colder and terrestrial activity affects how water vapour gets up there. So it’s water vapours and extreme cold that form NLCs. This photo was taken the evening of June 27th from my home in southern BC.”

Noctilucent clouds from Osoyoos – Debra Ceravolo

Here is my time lapse video of another display on the morning of June 22.

Recording Astronomical Observations – Joe Carr

Joe reviews how he records his observations by using a combination of an observing log, photos, diagrams, and he also shares how he stays motivated and shares his observations online.

Example screens showing Joe's observations recorded in Evernote
Example screens showing Joe’s observations recorded in Evernote

Planet Nine or Planet Nein? – Reg Dunkley

On 23 June former NRC/DAO Plaskett Fellow Samantha Lawler gave a public outreach lecture from her new Regina home entitled, “Planet Nine or Planet Nein?” She radiates enthusiasm for studying the outer solar system and includes some excellent graphics to help her audience gain new understanding in an enjoyable fashion. Here is UR’s message with links; if you watch the video I’m sure Samantha and UR would be grateful to receive your feedback via the form they provide:

“We hope you enjoyed “Planet Nine or Planet Nein?” with Dr. Samantha Lawler. A few links and attachments follow:
1) Please complete this survey – we would like to hear your feedback.
2) Please click on this link to view the recording of the presentation.
3) Attached are Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the slide deck of Dr. Lawler’s presentation
Again, thank you for your interest in the University of Regina’s Research with Impact!”

Observing – Chris Purse

Astronomy Cafe – June 22, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

More Noctilucent Cloud Sightings from Edmonton’s Alister Ling

From Ramsey Heights Park June 20
Noctilucent Cloud and Stunning City Scape From Saskatchewan Drive

UVic Open House Presentation: Using Telescopes as Time Machines

Be sure to catch the following UVic Webinar that begins at 7:30PM on Wednesday June 24th: Using Telescopes as Time Machines by Nishith Eluri and Jonathan Ranallo

“The telescope is perhaps an astronomer’s most useful tool, allowing them to study and understand things billions of lightyears away, in places we could never dream of visiting in person. With only a small telescope and a dark view of the heavens, anyone can see with their own eyes the beautiful planets and moons of our Solar System, faraway spiral galaxies dancing and interacting with each other, the nebulous death throes of ancient stars, clusters of young stars just leaving their nurseries, and a myriad of other celestial wonders. This week, our volunteers Nishith and Jonathan will delve into the history and inner workings of telescopes of all types, from Galileo’s first hand-made refractor to the Earth-sized telescope used to image a black hole, and everything in between.”

The zoom guest link (with password embedded) is:
https://zoom.us/j/97173236268?pwd=V2hhYTAwVVY5cXl5eEFoOUxSYmZGdz09

Meeting ID: 971 7323 6268 Password: 554555​

Observing

Telescope Price Fixing Legal Dispute

Chris Purse shared this CBC story on a legal dispute regarding price fixing of amateur telescopes.

Christopher Go Planetary Imaging Tutorials

Zoom has allowed accomplished members of the astronomical community to share their expertise in a Webinar environment. These sessions are often posted on YouTube to replay at your leisure. There are so many postings, however it is easy to miss some valuable talks. In the following three links acclaimed planetary imager Christopher Go shares his expertise. These sessions may help some local planetary and lunar imagers to further hone their skills. These sessions were hosted by Woodland Hills Camera and Telescopes in April 2020.

Planetary Imaging Essentials Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5ctZoqOi20

Planetary Imaging Essentials Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-b1rO38Snh0

Planetary Imaging Essentials Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJTCDLljNYU

Astronomy Cafe – June 15, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Sketching by Victoria Centre Members

Kuiper belt talk at the Wednesday Night UVic Astronomy Open House at 7:30 PM

The zoom guest link (with password embedded) is:
https://zoom.us/j/97173236268?pwd=V2hhYTAwVVY5cXl5eEFoOUxSYmZGdz09
Meeting ID: 971 7323 6268 Password: 554555​

Using New Horizons Probe for Parallax

The distance between the Earth and New Horizons offers a very long baseline that facilitates parallax measurements. Check out the interesting article here.

CANadian Virtual Astronomy Seminar Series (CANVAS)

The next talk in the CANVAS series will be given Paul Weigert of Western on Monday June 22 at 11:00 PDT. Dr. Weigert’s talk is titled ‘ Interstellar asteroids and comets: what are they and where do they come from?’

Visit the CANVAS webpagehttp://astroherzberg.org/canvas/ – for the schedule of talks, a link to the YouTube channel, and links to the recorded talks and upcoming talks.

The Zoom link for Monday’s talk is – https://zoom.us/j/97943735055?pwd=alhsVC9vdUVTUHBoenZKRzFleGVxdz09

Noctilucent clouds from Edmonton – Alistair Ling

Daytime Lunar Photo from Mike Nash

During this cloudy interlude RASCals have had to resort to desperate measures to capture Astro objects. Despite multiple layers of cloud and a rising Sun, Mike managed to get a remarkable amount of detail in this image taken at 9AM on Sunday June 14th. He writes: “The filter works well enough, but not perfect – on screen the sky is grey rather than a completely visible light-blocking black. Alignment points (for stacking software) needed to be set at a much higher brightness than I would normally do.” Check it out

Observing

Astronomy Cafe – June 8, 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe

A new sunspot!

There is a new sunspot on the Sun after three months of being spotless! Both Bill Weir and Joe Carr captured this apparition. More info on SpaceWeather.com for June 6, 2020.

Solar H-Alpha & White Light – June 5/20 – Bill Weir sketches & outreach photos
Sun with Sunspot & clouds – June 6, 2020 – Joe Carr photo

Golden Week of Webinars in Astrophysics 2020

The link for registration is www.astro.uc.cl
Note the time is for Chile time zone which is the same as Central Time

Photos from Edmonton

Thanks to Dave Robinson for forwarding these photos.

Moon set over Edmonton by Larry Wood - June 5th about 5am -ISO 100, 300 mm, 1/60 second
Moon set over Edmonton by Larry Wood – June 5th about 5am -ISO 100, 300 mm, 1/60 second
Noctilucent clouds on the morning of June 4th - a follow up to what Alister Ling talked about last week.
Noctilucent clouds on the morning of June 4th – a follow up to what Alister Ling talked about last week.
Alister with one of his patented moonset shots from Friday - the view from Kinnaird Park.
Alister with one of his patented moonset shots from Friday – “The view from Kinnaird Park, birds chirping, geese honking, lilac bushes perfuming the damp coolness. So much to image lately! It will take a while to process the time slice, time-lapse, valley fog time-lapse. How do you like your Mead/Honey Moon? Pale, yellow, peach, amber?”

Undulating fog in the river valley – a time-lapse captured by Alister. The movie really shows the bulk motions that are not visible to the eye. Sped up 100X. Definitely on the meteorology side of things, but the Moon is in the movie at the start!

Masked Men Make Off with VCO Telescope

On June 4th, vigilant lunar astrophotographer Mike Nash captures RASCals in the act as they conduct top secret mission to ship Victoria Centre Observatory scope to a telescope spa in the Los Angeles area.

Two Masked RASCals Surveying Victoria Centre Observatory Scope
RASCals Furtively Stow TPO 16 Inch RC Telescope in Crate.
The Crate Securely Lashed in Getaway Vehicle … Rumoured to Belong to Mike Nash
Crate Last Seen Passing Southbound Through Richmond BC

Venus setting behind the Chiricahua Mountains from Portal, Arizona

On May 28, 2020, I shot a video of the crescent Venus setting behind the Chiricahua Mountains. This was just 6 days before Venus passed between Earth and the Sun (i.e., inferior conjunction). Shot from Bifrost Observatory, 8-inch Meade LX200, Sony A6000. Fred Espenak (Mr. Eclipse)

Planet Venus setting on 2020 May 28 from Fred Espenak on Vimeo.

Observing

Astronomy Cafe

Posted by as Meetings

Astro Cafe Logo

Astronomy Cafe is normally held every Monday evening in Fairfield, Victoria, BC, Canada except during summer months or when the Monday falls on a statutory holiday. During the Spring of 2020, in-person meetings were suspended in favour of meeting online in order to comply with British Columbia’s provincial health directives to minimize risk for contracting the coronavirus COVID-19.

You are invited to share content for upcoming online meetings via our President Reg Dunkley (president@victoria.rasc.ca). We will post your submitted content to our website and present it to members at the next online meeting, which still happens every Monday evening at 7:30PM. Of course, you are welcome to log in and present your content personally! Links to our online meetings are emailed to RASC Victoria Centre members a day or two ahead of time, so please join us!

  • November 9, 2020
    • Monthly meeting – announcements & reports – Reg Dunkley & others
    • Four Decades Beneath the Shadow of the Moon – Jay Anderson
    • Review of Astro Cafe web page – John McDonald’s M27 wide field photo, public lecture on cosmology discoveries, review of RASC National bulletin – Reg Dunkley
    • Mars rotation sequence over a month (4 hours at a time) – Nathan
    • Lunar sketch – Randy Enkin
  • November 2, 2020
    • 2021 Observers Calendars sales – Chris Purse
    • Victoria Centre AGM and elections are coming up early in Feb 2021 – Chris Purse
    • Explore the Universe observing program now posted online
    • Work at the Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO) – Plan B – John McDonald
    • Review of Astro Cafe web page – Reg Dunkley
      • Startup of the VCO & proposed new Maritime Museum & possible planetarium in Langford
      • Victoria Centre monthly meeting next Wed – Eclipse presentation by Jay Anderson
      • UVic Open House – “Messy Stellar Siblings” – online presentation this Wed
      • CHIME presentation from UofT – see bulletin from National
    • Astrophotos from Edmonton – Dave Robinson
    • Small Refractor Imaging & Electronically Assisted Astronomy – David Lee
    • UVic Physics Colloquium – this Wed – Jim Hesser
  • October 26, 2020
    • History of Hubble book published – Chris Gainor
    • Meteor sighting from the BC Mainland – Chris Purse
    • Plans for development of new Maritime Museum & possible planetarium in Langford – Chris Gainor
    • Discussion about surveillance satellites – Garry Sedun & Chris Gainor
    • Small Refractor Imaging – David Lee
    • Victoria By-election – Alex Schmid is running
    • Edmonton imagery by Luca Vanzella – Dave Robinson
    • New focuser for our loaner telescope at the VCO – Reg Dunkley
    • Review of Astro Cafe web page, National events, weather forecast – Reg Dunkley
    • Two astro images from members – M45 by Doug MacDonald & Dumbell Nebula by Brock Johnston – Joe Carr
    • Buying and selling astronomy gear for sale – Chris Purse & Joe Carr
  • October 19, 2020
    • Kevin Light & Kia Tully’s photo of a kayaker in front of the full Moon, taken from Mt. Douglas
    • Astrophotography by the Victoria Camera Club members who participated in John McDonald’s astrophoto workshop
    • Harvest Moonrise over Edmonton – Luca Vanzella
    • Black Holes and the 2020 Nobel Prizes – Randy Enkin
    • TPO 16″ telescope repair status & observatory access update – Reg Dunkley
    • Mars sequential photos – John McDonald
  • October 5, 2020
    • Sunset Azimuth Sweep – Luca Vanzella
    • Review of Astro Cafe web page for this week – Reg Dunkley
      • Mars detailed image – John McDonald
      • Mars – Abdur Anwar, Edmonton Centre
      • Unquiet Slumbers Aurora video from Alastair Ling, Edmonton
      • Two astronomy presentation alerts from Jim Hesser – gravitational waves, asteroid sample return JAXA mission
      • Electronically-assisted astronomy (EAA) – David Lee
    • FDAO Star Party & AGM – Lauri Roche
  • September 28, 2020
    • Report from the VCO by Reg Dunkley
    • Perseverance Mars Mission UofA webinar – Chris Herd, presenter – presented by Dave Robinson
    • Mars & Uranus with moons – Abdur Anwar’s photos from Edmonton – presented by Dave Robinson
    • 12.5″ RC telescope installation – a slideshow by Joe Carr
    • Astro Cafe web page review – Reg Dunkley
      • Astrobiology – a UVic Open House presentation by James di Francesco
      • Baby Planets to Black Holes (ALMA & New Horizon telescope) – lecture to Engineering Society by Dr. Schieven
      • The Quantum Physicist as Causal Detective
      • What’s happening at the RASC
    • Observe the Moon Night – Randy Enkin
    • APOD Equinox composite photo over Edmonton by Luca Vanzella – presented by Chris Purse
  • September 21, 2020
    • Overall Winners 2020 – Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition – presented by Barbara Lane
    • Return to the VCO – Reg Dunkley
    • Time lapse video of the work party at the VCO today – Joe Carr
    • VCO operating procedure Q&A – all
    • Summer Solstice to Autumnal Equinox – Randy Enkin
    • Astro Cafe web page review – Reg Dunkley
      • FDAO Virtual Star Party
      • UVic Observatory Open House
      • Astro Imagers from Edmonton
      • Indigenous Astronomy 
  • September 14, 2020
    • Dr. Phil Groff, Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
  • Used Newtonian telescope purchase, re-configuration and collimation – Randy Enkin
  • Sketching Lunar trenches using NASA Scientific Visualization – Randy Enkin
  • An upcoming astrophotography workshop to Victoria Camera Club (Sep 15 & 29) – a trial run using zoom – John McDonald
  • Comet Imaging – journey of discovery – Garry Sedun
  • Equipment purchases – small astrograph, new mount & Lunar Observing – David Lee
  • Astro Cafe web page review – Reg Dunkley
    • Sketch of fading Comet Neowise by Bill Weir
    • What’s happening at the RASC? – how to register and a review
    • Impressive Images of Mars using Winjupos software – from Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar
    • Mars in 4K (Part 2) – youtube video – ElderFox Documentaries
    • Dan’s image of the North America nebula (NGC 7000) – using dual narrow-band filter
    • Sep 8th – Victoria Centre Council meeting
    • Sep 14th Phil Groth presentation – send questions
    • Membership is declining both nationally and locally – lowest in 5 years
  • FDAO “Equinox to Solstice” – 4 public outreach sessions and Virtual tour for Observatory Hill is coming along – Lauri Roche
  • August 24, 2020
    • Perspective 209 seconds video – Marji Welchframe
    • M31 Andromeda Galaxy from Nanoose Bay and 2,000th Moon milestone on Enkin’s Daily Moon on Facebook – Randy Enkin
    • Review of tonight’s Astro Cafe web page – Reg Dunkley
      • A Poetic Pelican photo by Doug MacDonald
      • Lagoon & Trifid Nebulae photo by Dan Posey
      • Cosmic Collisions – final UVic Open House – Mallory Thorpe
      • RASC Robotic Telescope Editing Contest for August – M82 data processing
      • Speaker Series – Hawaiian Nights
      • Edmonton RASCals deep sky imaging
      • Press briefing on Starlink
    • Observing Comet NEOWISE & Campbell’s Hydrogen Star – Bill Weir at Pearson College Godin-Newton Observatory
    • Moon shadows on Jupiter by John McDonald
  • August 17, 2020
    • Astronomy Cafe zoom passwords – Joe Carr
    • Jupiter shadow transits – sequential frames – John McDonald
    • Perseid meteor shower photos from his allsky camera – Sid Sidhu
    • Mars, the Moon & Venus this past week – David Lee
    • Question about observing meteors low to the horizon – Dorothy Paul
    • Review of tonight’s Astro Cafe web page – Reg Dunkley
  • August 10, 2020
    • Mars and the Moon – David Lee
    • Colour Filters for lunar observing – Randy Enkin
    • How human sight works – yellow filters for lunar observing and seeing colour when observing nebula – Dorothy Paul
    • Space Educator’s Institute -3-day online conference – Lauri Roche & David Lee
    • Perseid meteor shower and other observing hints – Chris Purse
    • RASC National for Perseids observing group – Discord chat service being used – Bill Weir
  • July 27, 2020
    • Historical Comets – members’ photos, sketches and observations of comets past, including some famous ones!
    • Falling Through Space” – Dr. Gordon Walker – UVic presentation
    • First FDAO Virtual Star Party – featuring Dave Balam
    • Canadian Comet Sleuth David Levy: Webinar
  • July 20, 2020
    • North America Nebula – image by Dan Posey
    • Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3 – images from John Mcdonald, Randy Enkin & others
    • Bigger, better, faster: how changes in technology drive astronomy data collection by Nat Comeau – UVic Astronomy Open House
    • Observing – links to resources
  • July 13, 2020
    • Comet NEOWISE C/2020 F3 – images and sketches from Victoria Centre members
    • Useful comet websites
    • Computer Science in Astronomy: A UVic Open House Webinar
    • Observing
  • July 6, 2020
    • Noctilucent clouds from Edmonton – Alistair Ling
    • Penumbral Eclipse – July 4th – Doug Hardy, David Lee, Dorothy Paul, Randy Enkin
    • Martian Citizen Science – webinar notice
    • Astronomy Poem inspires Mystery Novel – The Old Astronomer by Sarah Williams – Marjie Welchframe
    • Lunar photos – Alex Schmid & John McDonald
  • June 29, 2020
    • More Lunar Photos from Mike Nash
    • Balcony Astronomy from Edmonton – Abdur Anwar
    • June 21st Annular Eclipse of the Sun from India – Time lapses by Neelam and Ajay Talwar
    • Noctilucent clouds from Osoyoos – Debra Ceravolo
    • Recording Astronomical Observations – Joe Carr
    • “Planet Nine or Planet Nein?” with Dr. Samantha Lawler – presented by Reg Dunkley
    • Observing and review of the RASC National youtube channel – Chris Purse
  • June 22, 2020
    • More Noctilucent Cloud Sightings from Edmonton’s Alister Ling
    • Telescope Price Fixing Legal Dispute – presented by Chris Purse
    • Christopher Go Planetary Imaging Tutorials
    • Geomagnetic Measurements Project – Nathan & other members
  • June 15, 2020
    • Sketching by Victoria Centre Members – Phillip Teece’s historical sketches, Diane Bell, Dorothy Paul
    • Noctilucent clouds from Edmonton – Alistair Ling
    • Daytime Lunar Photo from Mike Nash
    • Observing – review of the coming week’s opportunities from Skynews and Sky & Telescope magazines
  • June 8, 2020
    • First sunspot in 3 months! – Bill Weir’s sketches & public outreach photos and Joe Carr’s photo
    • Photos from Edmonton – Alistair Ling’s and Larry Wood’s Moonset and Noctilucent cloud photos, and Alistair’s setting Venus and drifting fog time lapse videos
    • Masked Men Make Off with VCO Telescope – Reg Dunkley, Dave Robinson, Dan Posey and Mike Nash remove and pack up the 16″ TPO RC telescope
    • Venus setting behind the Chiricahua Mountains – Fred Espenak (Mr. Eclipse) captures a beautiful crescent-phased Venus setting in a time lapse video from southern Arizona
    • Observing – review of the coming week’s opportunities from Skynews and Sky & Telescope magazines

Virtual Astro Cafe – March to June 1st, 2020

Astro Cafe Presentations Archive – 2014-2019

Astronomy Cafe event photos

President’s Message June 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

President’s Report June 2020

The abrupt onset of the pandemic introduced a wave of uncertainty. There is a growing realization that the impacts will continue for some time. Most Victoria Centre activities including monthly meetings, VCO observing sessions and Saturday Night Star Parties at the DAO have been cancelled. Astro Cafe has established a virtual presence on victoria.rasc.ca and a weekly Zoom webinar. The Island Star Party, Merritt Star Party and the Mount Kobau Star Party have been officially cancelled. The Saanich Fair is morphing into some online entity. UVic has announced that lecture halls will be closed until at least January 2021.

This has left us staring into a void. But by suddenly escaping the treadmill of everyday life many were given an unexpected gift of time. This has allowed RASCals more opportunity to step out into the stillness of the night, look up and savour the arrival of starlight. While the days of the week became less relevant, our awareness of the rhythm of the Solar System became more pronounced. RASCals have been sharing wonderful images and sketches of the lunar cycle as well as evening and morning dances of the planets. 

Zoom webinars have proven to be an effective tool that helps reduce the sense of isolation and allows us to share our enthusiasm, knowledge and imagery. As a result the Victoria Centre has acquired its own Zoom Pro license which will increase our capacity to meet on line. During this pandemic the astronomical community has rallied and is posting a rich source of offerings on the internet. RASC National frequently hosts interesting webinars which are usually archived on the RASCanada YouTube site. This site will also be used to live stream a virtual General Assembly event between 11AM and 2PM PDT on Sunday June 7th. Dr. Sara Seager and Bob McDonald will be delivering presentations. UVic has moved its Cafe Scientifique online and is also hosting an Astronomy Open House webinar every Wednesday in the summer at 7:30 PM.

During a recent Victoria Centre Council Meeting we explored options of what to do while we wait for a vaccine. We are currently in the process of sending the VCO 16 Inch RC scope for repair and may have an alternate scope available in the mean time. If activities resume at the VCO, however, attendance will initially be restricted to a very small number. This would enable the site to be safely used more for observing/imaging activities than social interaction. Active Observers would be required to bring their own eyepieces to avoid spread of CoVid19. 

This eyepiece issue may be problematic when Saturday Nights at the DAO resume. One alternative to sharing an eyepiece is to try Electronic Assisted Astronomy (EAA). This technique is “casual astrophotography” that enables a camera to automatically stack images on the fly and display them on a tablet or monitor. It avoids complex post processing and would allow fainter deep skies objects to be viewed by the public without lineups. With an internet connection EAA has the potential to share live imagery to a meeting or webinar. The challenge of CoVid19 has served as a catalyst to explore this option. An interesting overview of EAA is found on this link.

While we are waiting for face to face outreach to resume we could set up static astronomy displays showcasing our astrophotography. David Lee recently delivered an astronomy orientation course using Zoom and similar programs might be considered. In the mean time, if you something that you would like to share on the Virtual Astro Cafe please send it to president@victoria.rasc.ca. In closing I would like to thank hosts Barbara and Kurt Lane, Chris Purse and John McDonald for agreeing to extend the Astro Cafe into the summer season.

Wishing you good health and useable skies this Summer

 Reg Dunkley

President’s Message May 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

President’s Message May 2020

During the early dawn of February 16th I obtained a glimpse of the future. After months of almost perpetual overcast, skies finally cleared. While looking northward towards Cassiopeia I noticed a long precession of fairly bright evenly spaced satellites moving from left to right. It took about 10 minutes for this parade to pass. I realized that this must be the Starlink Constellation that had been mentioned in the news. When I searched the Internet to learn more I was in for a surprise.

Starlink is a bold ingenious project with an ambitious mission to deliver high speed broadband internet to locations where access is unreliable, expensive, or completely unavailable. It plans to achieve this by deploying a vast constellation of communication satellites. The parent company SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk in 2002 and has developed a remarkable capacity to launch Falcon 9 rockets and successfully land them for reuse. This greatly reduces the launch costs. The communication satellites are stacked aboard the Falcon 9 in two columns of 30 and they gradually drift apart once they reach orbit. Each satellite is powered by a single solar panel which gently unfolds. The satellites are maneuvered by ion jets using Krypton. This elaborate scheme sounds unwieldy but when Starlink V0.9 was launched in May 2019 it actually worked! 

Satellites are usually expensive “one off” devices that take years to build but by employing the manufacturing expertise that Elon Musk honed at Tesla, Starlink can assemble 6 satellites a day at their Redmond Washington plant. This production rate allows Starlink to launch 60 satellites every two weeks! At that launch rate Starlink can place 1584 satellites in a shell 550 km about the Earth by the end of 2021. They will be placed in 72 orbital planes inclined at 53 degrees. 22 satellites will occupy each plane and when in position they will form an exotic mesh surrounding the globe. Animation of this configuration reveals that the concentration of satellites is greatest between latitudes of 50 to 53 degrees. While this network will provide coverage over most of the globe, two additional phases have been approved by the FCC to increase capacity and speed. Phase two will add an additional 2800 satellites in a 1125 km altitude shell and phase three will add 7500 more satellites in a lower 340 km altitude shell. 

When completed an additional 12000 satellites will be in orbit! This exceeds the 9000 satellites that have been launched during the last 50 years and the 5000 that are still in orbit. The first batch of 60 operational satellites were launched on Starlink 1 on November 11th 2019 and the sixth Starlink mission occurred on April 22nd bringing the total to 420. While Starlink obtained the necessary frequency approvals from the FCC to prevent interference with radio astronomy there was no governance regarding visual and infrared ground based astronomy. The initial Starlink v0.9 group was much brighter than anticipated and generated alarm from visual astronomers. Elon Musk is embarrassed about this oversight and is working with the Astronomical Community to mitigate the impact of this massive network. On April 27th Musk announced VisorSat, an innovative sunshield that may significantly reduce the albedo of the satellites. Some of these shields will be tested during the next Starlink launch. 

The satellites must be illuminated by the Sun to be visible. Due to the low altitude the Phase 1 cohort will only be visible near twilight. The higher altitude Phase 2 will remain visible longer. Satellites are brightest when just launched but will become dimmer as they ascend to operational altitude. Since twilight lingers into the late evening near the Summer Solstice the presence of this constellation will be most pronounced in the area of highest density over Canadian skies this summer. So keep on the lookout for this new swarm of satellites while stargazing this summer. Please share your observations on the Virtual Astro Cafe web page or during the Astro Cafe Webinar which will take place every Monday evening at 7:30 PM. In someways the unintended consequence of this mission resembles an outbreak of a “stellar virus”. And it could get worse as SpaceX has requested permission to place another 30000 satellites in orbit! Let’s hope that the Starlink team creates a stellar vaccine soon and that skies will remain useable.

Wishing everyone good health and useable skies

Reg Dunkley 

President’s Message April 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

The tipping point occurred near the 15th, the Ides of March. Just a few days earlier at the Victoria Centre Monthly Meeting 50 RASCals enjoyed the entertaining talk by Dr. Tyrone Woods which involved both supernovae and sword fights. While details of the approaching Astronomy Day were presented there was tension in the air and it was recommended that members monitor HealthLinkBC.ca. By the 17th, Saint Patricks Day, schools were cancelled, the gates to the DAO were locked and even the Pubs were closed! In almost an instant, astronomy “outreach” events Astronomy Day and Saturday Star Parties together with “in-reach” events such as, Astro Cafe, Monthly Meetings, VCO sessions and the 2020 Vancouver General Assembly were cancelled. What lead to this astonishing turnaround? Perhaps it was the eerie images of Italian landmarks, totally devoid of people. Maybe it was the grime graphs of soaring death totals. Or could it be the announcement that even Tom Hanks was not immune to CoVid-19?

Sporting activities involving crowds like hockey and basketball were among the first casualties. In contrast, the stillness, peace and wonderment of observing the night sky can be safely experienced in isolation. One of the joys of the astronomical community, however, is sharing these experiences with others. A “Virtual Astro Cafe” has been set up on https://victoria.rasc.ca and it allows you to share your stories, images and links. We have already enjoyed a strong response and we encourage you to forward your contributions to president@victoria.rasc.ca. One of the things missing from this Virtual Astro Cafe, however, are the comments, questions and banter that add a special touch to the authentic Astro Cafe. The hosts of Astro Cafe are addressing this shortcoming by holding Astro Cafe Webinars using software called Zoom. It is scheduled for Mondays at 7:30PM and all you have to do is click on the link provided by the email from the Astro Cafe host and respond to one or two prompts. It is a surprisingly effective way to achieve a sociable connection at a safe distance. Give it a try!

The mention of Tom Hanks recalls his portrayal of Astronaut Jim Lovell in the epic movie Apollo 13. The 50th anniversary of the explosion aboard Apollo 13 takes place on April 13th. This is a validation of bad luck for the superstitious! The remarkable success of the earlier Apollo missions fostered a sense of complacency among much of the population. This episode, however, dramatically illustrated the dangers and complexity of these space missions and riveted the attention of the world until the capsule safely returned. You may not be aware of the Victoria connection of this adventure. Ernie Pfanneschmidt and Frank Younger of the DAO were atop Mount Kobau during this mission and successfully photographed the oxygen cloud that formed in the wake of the explosion. The 16 inch telescope that they used is now residing in the dome connected to the Centre of the Universe. To learn more see pp 6-7 Sep 2018 SkyNews. Pause and reflect on this historical role when you next peer through the eyepiece of this scope.

Although most Victoria Centre events have been cancelled until further notice, there may be an interesting spectacle to anticipate. Victoria RASCal Martin Gisborne recently imaged comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) discovered by the ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) survey on December 28, 2019. Visit Virtual Astro Cafe to view this image It is currently situated above the plane of the Solar System moving from Ursa Major to Camelopardalis. It will swoop southward and make its closest approach to Earth on May 23rd. Some have speculated that it will brighten significantly on approach. Prediction of any sort is a reckless business but it might provide a welcome distraction from the global pandemic.

As we work our way through this challenging time remember that we are all in this together. So keep at a safe distance, be kind and when skies are useable … look up.


Reg Dunkley