President’s Message – February 2018

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I find it fascinating that we have developed a sensationalized vocabulary about naturally occurring events. Perhaps it is the result of reality television becoming so prevalent that everything must be a challenge, a contest, the best, the brightest, the most shocking, etc. Having the recent lunar eclipse labelled with 3 different descriptors, super moon, blue moon, and blood moon, made for some interesting headlines. Are these events really deserving of these labels?

The distance between the moon and the earth does change throughout the month due to the moon’s elliptical orbit. For a viewer on earth, the apparent change in the moon’s diameter between apogee and perigee is about 13%. That does make a full moon around the perigee appear larger thus potentially brighter. But do most of us really notice without being told? Probably not. As the earth has a greatly varying atmosphere, which has a significant influence on light transmission, the amount of light from a full moon is not a reliable indicator. How many of us can recognize that a full moon is larger, or smaller, than the previous time we saw it? Photographs will show a difference but most of us do not have that sort of visual memory. Is a moon that appears to be 13% larger than at its smallest apparent diameter a difference worthy of being called a super moon? I lean toward describing it as a full moon near the perigee.

According to sources I have found, the term blue moon, when used to count full moons in a certain time period, was originally used for seasons. Most seasons have three full moons but every tenth season or so has a fourth full moon. The blue moon was the label given to the third full moon of a season with four full moons. Along the way, blue moon has become an accepted expression for the second full moon in a single calendar month. Is having an extra full moon in a month or a season, both of which are arbitrary, human-designated periods of time, significant? Why not just refer to it as the second full moon of January? By the way, March 2018 also has 2 full moons so we will have a second blue moon this year.

The term blood moon is used to describe the red-coloured moon that we see during a lunar eclipse. During the eclipse, the sun’s light is blocked from reaching the moon’s surface directly. The earth’s atmosphere scatters light, particularly in the blue-violet end of the spectrum. This means that light that has passed through the earth’s atmosphere and travels on toward the moon is primarily at the red end of the spectrum. Some of this light will end up reaching the moon’s surface and the result is a moon illuminated by light that is strongly in the red wavelengths. I’m not sure why we just don’t call it a red moon.

So, although we did not see much of the eclipse here, I hope those who did enjoyed seeing the large, red moon caused by the lunar eclipse during the second full moon of January 2018 when the moon was close to perigee. Ok, maybe saying the super blue blood moon sounds better!

Total Lunar Eclipse – Jan 31, 2018

Posted by as Observing Highlights

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

On Wednesday, January 31st, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon will move into full eclipse in the early hours of the morning and will be in partial phase in the western sky as the Sun rises. The Total Lunar Eclipse will develop over the course of about 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.

 

 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 2:51 am PST
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra 3:48 am PST
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
4:52 am PST
Totality 5:30 am PST
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact 6:08 am PST
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra 7:11 am PST
Sunrise 7:48 am PST – approximate
Eclipse ends Moon leaves the penumbra 8:09 am PST

 

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
Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Standard Time (PST) for the west coast of North America, and are calculated from UT as presented in the Observers Handbook 2018, pages 126-27.

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 west especially if you wish to view during the late stages.

Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.


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 2018
Brenda Stuart – illustrations

RASC National Star Party from Victoria

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RASC Victoria members used the Bob Wright Centre at the University of Victoria for a nation-wide celebration of RASC astronomy in Canada for the last 150 years, from 3-5pm on Saturday, January 27th. We will were joined by astronomy teachers and students from University of Victoria, Camosun College, and Victoria High School. Tours of the 32″ telescope and observing the Sun through solar telescopes was happening outside. Members participated in a series of Youtube “webisodes” from RASC Centres across Canada.

Photo gallery

President’s Message – January 2018

Posted by as President's Message

Happy New Year!

As a follow-up to last January’s report, it is time to report back about my progress with my astronomy resolutions of 2017. One of my goals was to learn more and I did achieve that. One area I know little about is astrophotography. To learn more, I purchased a CCD camera in March and have been learning to use it. Primarily, I have done this in daylight hours so I could see what I was doing. I have tried photographing distant objects, typically trees, so I can work on achieving focus. I chose a monochrome camera so I also bought a set of filters and a filter wheel so I have been figuring out how to include those in what I have been doing. As there are a number of parts to all this, i.e., camera, filter wheel, software, etc. there is a lot to learn. I have taken small steps so far but I am getting much more proficient at the tasks I have practised.

Another goal was to spend more time observing. I did spend more time looking through a telescope in 2017 which was good and I’m getting much better at finding objects. One thing to work on this year is getting out on more evenings when the sky is clear. It is still too easy to turn on the television or sit in front of the computer. So this year, my goals are to keep learning and do even more observing.

2018 is looking to be another active year for the Victoria Centre. As introduced in my December report, the first event of 2018 will be the launch of the RASC sesquicentennial on Saturday, January 27. We will be looking for helpers for this event in the coming weeks and I hope that many of you can attend.

We are planning to hold Astronomy Day in April again this year as well as Summer Star Parties at the DAO. These are great opportunities to get involved and more information will be provided as plans are made. Make sure you visit our website to keep up to date about the activities of our Centre.

Speaker: Quasars: Black Holes That You Can “See” by Dr. Patrick Hall

Posted by as Meetings

Monthly Meeting of RASC Victoria Centre

7:30PM Wednesday January 10th 2018

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Quasars are the brightest objects in our Universe.  A quasar is a rotating disk as big as our solar system and hotter than the Sun, formed when matter spirals into a supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy.  I will discuss these fascinating objects and how they tap the strong gravity of black holes.

Bio: Patrick Hall is an astronomer and Professor at York University. Born in California to Canadian parents, he was an undergraduate at U. C. Berkeley, a graduate student at U. Arizona, and a postdoc at U. Toronto, Princeton, and the Universidad Catolica de Chile. He divides his work time between research on quasars (and any object with a sufficiently odd spectrum), teaching astrophysics, and outreach. You can follow him on Twitter at @patrickbhall

Lunar “X” during 2018

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Lunar X feature - photo by Michel Michaud
Lunar X feature – photo by Michel Michaud

by Michel Michaud, RASC Victoria Centre Observing Co-chair & Librarian

The Lunar X is a claire-obscure effect in which light and shadow creates the appearance of a letter “X” on the rim of the Blanchinus, La Caille and Purbach craters. The X is visible only for a few hours before the first quarter slightly below the lunar terminator. Near the X, the lunar V is also visible, formed by Ukert crater and several other small craters.

If you never had the chance to view the Lunar X, also known as the Werner X, there are several time this year that feature could be visible from Victoria. The time predict the beginning of the event and all in LOCAL TIME.

  • 23 January 2018, 2042 (8:42 pm) – Tuesday evening event
  • 23 March 2018, 2357 (11:57 pm) – Friday evening event
  • 21 May 2018, 0002 (12:02 am) – Monday evening event
  • 19 July 2018, 2314 (11:14 pm) – Thursday evening event
  • 16 September 2018, 2332 (11:32 pm) – Sunday evening event
  • 14 November 2018, 0059 (12:59 am) – Wednesday evening event

Werner “X” observation – 2014

President’s Message – December 2017

Posted by as President's Message

With 2018 on the horizon, we have two events to celebrate in the New Year.

The first is the sesquicentennial of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. RASC commissioned a history of the society, Looking Up: A History of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada that was written by R. Peter Broughton and published in 1994. It is available on the RASC website at rasc.ca/looking for those who would like to know more about the history of our society.

The society traces its roots to the year after confederation when a group of friends formed the Toronto Astronomical Club in 1868. The club was renamed as a society in 1869. Around 1884, the name of the society was changed to The Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto; the society was formally incorporated in Ontario in 1890. In 1900, the name reverted to the 1869 version, namely, The Toronto Astronomical Society. Two factors resulted in this name only being used for three more years. The first was that astronomical clubs were forming in other Canadian cities and a number of clubs elsewhere in Ontario had affiliated with the Toronto society. It was realized that having Toronto in the name was too restrictive. The second was the 1901 visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, later to become King George V and Queen Mary. Their visit increased interest in the monarchy and led to the suggestion that the society become a royal society. After much debate, the society decided to petition King Edward VII for The Toronto Astronomical Society to become the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The formal request to change the name of the society was granted on March 3, 1903.

Additional centres formed over the years with our own centre being founded in 1914. If you look at the centre list, that does make us one of the original six! Much has happened in the 150 years since a group of friends with an interest in astronomy decided to form a club. A wonderful logo has been created to help celebrate this anniversary drawing on highlights of Canadian astronomy. Make sure you have a look at the RASC sesquicentennial site, rasc.ca/2018, to learn more.

There will be a number of celebrations during 2018 in honour of this anniversary. The first will be held on Saturday, January 27. The RASC 2018 committee is proposing a cross-country Star Party that will combine solar and lunar observing (weather permitting), starting on the Atlantic coast and reaching westward and northward to encompass all Centres as the afternoon progresses. The logistics of the local Star Party will be at each Centre’s discretion but the committee proposes a start time of 3 p.m. local time. Technology permitting, the Star Parties will be linked via Google Hangouts and the link will be shared publicly allowing anyone to witness the sun, moon, and the local celebrations. We are looking at holding our event at the University of Victoria as that would provide us with the technological support and space needed. More details will be announced as they become available.

The second anniversary of note is the centennial of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. It was announced in 1914 that the observatory would be built on Little Saanich Mountain but it would take 4 years for the observatory to see first light on May 6, 1918. There are plans underway to celebrate this historic anniversary and further details will be shared as they become available.

On behalf of the Council of the Victoria Centre, I wish each of you a happy holiday season and all the best for 2018!

 

 

Speaker: Supernovae and the Meaning of Life: Dr. Chris Pritchet

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Wednesday, December 13th, 2017 at 7:30 PM

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, University of Victoria

RASC Victoria Centre’s Monthly Meeting

Supernovae are among the most energetic, extreme and interesting objects in the Universe. This talk will focus on the nature of supernovae, their cause and properties, and especially on how supernovae affect our very existence.

Bio: Chris Pritchet is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Victoria, where he has been a faculty member since 1982. He studies supernova explosions across vast reaches of the Universe, and was the Coordinator of the “Supernova Legacy Survey” – an observational quest for the nature of the mysterious “dark energy” that fills the Universe. Outside astronomy, his passions are music, canoeing, back-country skiing, and film.

Victoria Centre’s AGM 2017

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Members soclalizing over dessert
Members socializing over dessert

Victoria Centre held our Annual General Meeting on Saturday, November 18, 2017 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course in Victoria, BC, Canada. An excellent dinner was served by the golf course staff and some pre-dinner drinks; a fascinating speaker; awards were given to members for outstanding service and noteworthy accomplishments; and an election was held for the 2017-18 Victoria Centre Council (Executive).

Event Photos – online gallery opens in a new window

 

Speaker

Chris Willott speaking about his research and the James Webb Space Telescope
Chris Willott speaking about his research and the James Webb Space Telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope: the countdown is on – Chris Willott

The James Webb Space Telescope is the successor to the prestigious Hubble Telescope. With a diameter of 6.5 m, this infrared telescope will be launched 1.5M kilometres from Earth for a scientific mission lasting 5 to 10+ years. Canada, one of the main partners in this project with the United States and Europe, provides one of the four scientific instruments and the guiding system. The development of Webb is well underway and the world astronomical community is actively preparing for the planned launch in early 2019. This presentation will provide an update on the state of the development of the telescope and give an overview of the scientific program of the Canadian science team that includes observations to detect galaxies in the early universe and determine the composition of the atmospheres of exoplanets similar to Earth.

Chris Willott is a research astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria. He studies the most distant galaxies in the Universe to understand how stars and black holes formed soon after the Big Bang. In addition to research, he works at the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre as the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope archive scientist and is the Canadian Project Scientist for the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope.


Awards

The evening started with the award of past outstanding Certificates, due to absent recipients at past AGM’s.

From 2014

Certificate of Appreciation to Charles Banville for 2014 RASC General Assembly Victoria. Charles efforts in managing the logistics in transportation of our visiting members and guests.

From 2016

Certificate of Appreciation to Lauri Roche for Public Outreach at the DAO, for her outstanding support and engagement in the role of ” Person in Charge ” and volunteer coordinator.

Certificates and Awards for 2017

Certificates of Appreciation were presented to the many volunteers “For Public Outreach, Solar Eclipse 2017” for their outstanding support and engagement in Solar Viewing at numerous location in Victoria, including Mount Tolmie, the Royal BC Museum and Metchosin.

Recipients included : Ken Mallory, Jean Mallory, Jennifer Bigelow, Deb Crawford, Dan Posey, Sid Sidhu, Jim Stillburn, Li-Ann Skibo, Michael Wheatly, Marjie Welchframe, Prem Chainani, Fatimah Al Sharyah, Erin Britton, Sherry Buttnor, Michel Michaud and Bruce Lane.

President Chris Purse receiving the Ernie Phanneshmidt Award from Vice-president Reg Dunkley
President Chris Purse receiving the Ernie Phanneshmidt Award from Vice-president Reg Dunkley

Centre Certificates and Awards

Ernie Pfannenschmidt Award for Amateur Telescope Making 2017  presented to Mr. Chris Purse, for his outstanding achievement in designing and the building of a custom Field Power Pack c/w innovative digital and analog features.

Award of Excellence in Astrophotograohy 2017 presented to Mr. John McDonald, for his excellent photography of the Milky Way at the Vista Point of the Caves Creek Canyon, Portal AZ. Captured with a Canon 6D, Ioptron Sky Tracker, Sigma 15mm lens @ f / 2.8.

Certificate of Excellence 2017 presented to Reg Dunkley, in appreciation of his organization, leadership and guidance so capably rendered as the Skynews editor and Astronomy Café host.

Special Awards and Plaques.

Special Award Plaque of Excellence presented to Terry Ryals, for the design and fabrication of the Astro Café TV Cabinet. 2 Plaques were awarded with one to be mounted on the cabinet and the second as a keeper.

Award of Appreciation Plaque was presented to Michel Michaud, for his contributions as Plaskett Telescope Operator for the Summer DAO Star Parties and including the Active Observers viewing sessions.

Newton / Ball Award 2017

Matt Watson and Dan Posey receiving the Newton Ball Service Award from President Chris Purse
Matt Watson and Dan Posey receiving the Newton Ball Service Award from President Chris Purse

This year’s award went jointly to Matt Watson and Dan Posey for their distinguished service to the Victoria Centre. A certificate of appreciation was also delivered stating the following :

A major milestone was reached this year for the RASC Victoria Centre VCO, with the installation of it’s new 16 inch RC truss telescope. Technical planning and installation was a joint effort of Matt Watson and Dan Posey.
For years Matt and Dan have exercised the equipment at the VCO acting as MIC’s tending to the maintenance and creating some of the most beautiful images our centre has seen.

Congrats to both.

Many thanks for this opportunity to serve as awards coordinator, Bruno Quenneville


Minutes of 2016 Annual Meeting (available to Members Only) – Chris Purse

Centre Annual Report for 2017 (14Mb PDF slideshow) – Reg Dunkley

Treasurer’s Financial Report  (available to Members Only) – Bruce Lane

National Representative’s Report – Nelson Walker

Awards – see above

Election of Victoria Centre Council Members: Sherry Buttnor

RASC Council positions for Victoria Centre 2017 – 2018 – no elections required – all acclaimed or appointed

Executive Positions

  • President – Chris Purse
  • First Vice President – Reg Dunkley
  • Second Vice President – Deb Crawford
  • Secretary – VACANT
  • Treasurer – Bruce Lane

Other Positions

  • Past President – Sherry Buttnor
  • National Representative – Nelson Walker
  • Librarian – Michel Michaud, Diane Bell (assistant)
  • Telescopes and School Programs – Sid Sidhu
  • Public Outreach – Ken Mallory
  • Skynews Editor – Reg Dunkley
  • Light Abatement –  Dave Robinson
  • Membership – Chris Purse
  • Webmaster – Joe Carr
  • Observing Chair – Jim Stilburn
  • Systems Administrator & Technical Committee Chair – Matt Watson

Members at Large

  • Jim Hesser
  • Lauri Roche (FDAO Liaison)
  • James DiFrancesco (DAO Liaison)
  • Alex Schmid (UVic Liaison)
  • Jim Nemec (Camosun Liaison)
  • David Lee
  • John McDonald (Astro Cafe)
  • Li-Ann Skibo
  • Chris Gainor (National Officer)
  • Dan Posey

Door Prizes were awarded.

President’s Message – November 2017

Posted by as President's Message

Another Victoria Centre milestone was reached in the past month with the installation of our new 16″ Ritchey-Chrétien telescope at the Victoria Centre Observatory. So far, it is exceeding our high expectations and my initial impression is it was the right choice.

I was part of the group of active observers who met on the hill on Saturday, October 28 for its first light at a VCO evening. We had a look at a number of targets with varying magnifications and the views were impressive. A number of the group, including Charles Banville, Joe Carr, Bruce Lane, and John McDonald, took photographs through the telescope which turned out very well. Some of these were shared at Astro Café on Monday, October 30 and a number are posted to our Zenfolio site. The moon was in the waxing gibbous phase and proved to be a great subject for photography. A couple of the Messier objects, M13 and M57, were photographed as was Uranus. As there were so many members at the VCO, the photographers were taking fewer exposures than normal to give everyone a chance to use the telescope. The quality of the results from last week show the great potential for our new telescope. Just imagine the detail that will be captured with even more photographs being stacked into a single image!

As a new member on one of my first visits to the VCO, I remember being told that the 14″ Meade was a temporary scope. I wondered a bit about that as the 14″ is an impressive telescope. It has a large primary mirror which reaches far into the dim night sky. How could that be surpassed except by an even larger telescope? As I have learned more, I can see why the telescope design matters as well. A Schmidt-Cassegrain, like the 14″ Meade, is a good telescope and served us very well. However, a Ritchey-Chrétien telescope is an even better choice for an observatory such as ours. The advantage of a larger field without optical distortion is why most of the large, professional telescopes favour this design. Our 16″ does not match the professional scopes in size but it does provide us with the same optical design.

A heartfelt thank you goes to the our technical committee for their efforts to research and choose this telescope. I look forward to using our new telescope on future visits to the VCO!