President’s Message September 2016

Posted by as President's Message

Welcome to September! Goodness…is it just me, or did summer go by really quickly?! Maybe it’s because we had such a great time at the DAO and our other public events? In spite of some pretty sketchy weather early on, our Summer Saturday Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory were very popular once again. So popular, in fact, that we even had a problem with someone scalping our tickets. LOL…you know your efforts are successful when that happens! We even had a visit from the Lieutenant Governor of BC, the Honourable Judith Guichon. She was so impressed by our programs, she stayed over an hour longer than scheduled and pledged to return with her grandchildren. How about that?
Another major summer event was our annual RASCals Star Party in Metchosin. The first evening was absolutely stunning: clear and warm; the kind of evening we dream about all winter. The second evening was less impressive, with wind all afternoon replaced by clouds in the evening. In spite of that, over 70 people attended with many camping out the whole weekend.
And wrapping up our major public events, the Saanich Fair. Our booth at the Fair is always a hit with fairgoers.
Here are some attendance numbers for you:
International Astronomy Day: 626 (daytime)
Saturday “star parties” at the DAO: 2221.
RASCals Star Party: 73.
Saanich Fair: ~1450.
Huge thanks to everyone who volunteered for these events!! You’re amazing. Very special thanks to David Lee and Nelson Walker for their hard work arranging and scheduling guest speakers and volunteers for the DAO evenings, and Lauri Roche for organizing the Saanich Fair weekend. Many thanks also to our friends at Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, and Science Venture. Well done!
Here are links to some great photos of these events, taken by our members:

DAO Summer Star Parties: http://rascvic.zenfolio.com/p109973364
RASCals Star Party: http://rascvic.zenfolio.com/rascals2016

Saanich Fair: http://rascvic.zenfolio.com/p717179212

Just because those are over doesn’t mean the fun is over. We’re busy gearing up for all of our great regular activities for the rest of the year: regular monthly meetings and Council meetings at UVic with some terrific guest speakers, Astronomy Cafe with its laid-back atmosphere and great discussion topics, Cattle Point and UVic observing sessions (both scheduled to resume in October), and our Annual General Meeting on November 27th. Here’s a schedule of upcoming events:
Council meeting: Sept 7, 7:30pm. (4th floor astronomy lounge, Elliott building, UVic) Everyone welcome.
General meeting Sept 14, 7:30pm: Professor Sun Kwok, guest speaker. (room A104, Bob Wright building, UVic) Everyone welcome.
Astro cafe Sept 12th. 7:30pm. Fairfield Community Centre (annex behind main building) Everyone welcome.
DAO STAR PARTY Sept 24….one last encore event! 7:30pm-11:00pm at the DAO.
UVic observing: TBA October
Cattle Point observing: TBA October
Annual General Meeting: Sunday November 27th, 6:00pm, Cedar Hill Golf Course.

More details on our Annual General Meeting to come shortly, including the menu and guest speaker. Our AGM also includes the election of our Executive and Board of Directors. If you would like to run for a position, please let our Past President know! pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca.
Remember: to keep up to date with Victoria Centre happenings, just go to our website at victoria.rasc.ca.

I see we have several new members to the Victoria Centre. Welcome!! I hope we can help you with whatever your astronomical interests are. Always feel free to join in in any of our activities and meetings, and don’t hesitate to contact us if you need anything at all. We’re here for you.

With Autumn approaching, often with some of the best observing conditions of the year, I hope you will join us at any of our scheduled activities, or just get out there and enjoy the night sky!

Clear skies,
Sherry.

Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life – Prof. Sun Kwok

Posted by as Meetings

September 14, 2016, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting

Event info

“Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life ” – Prof. Sun Kwok, Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong

 

 

Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life
Stardust: The Cosmic Seeds of Life

How did life originate on Earth? For over 50 years, scientists believed that life was the result of chemistry involving simple molecules such as methane and ammonia cooking in a primordial soup. Recent space observations have revealed that old stars are capable of making very complex organic compounds. The stars then ejected the organics and spread them all over the Milky Way Galaxy. There is evidence that these organic dust particles actually reached the early Solar System. Through bombardments by comets and asteroids, the early Earth inherited significant amounts of star dust. Was the development of life assisted by the arrival of these extraterrestrial materials? In this talk, we describe discoveries in astronomy and solar system science over the last 10 years that resulted in a new perspective on the origin of life.

Stardust: The Cosmic Seeds of Life” – 2013, Springer

References

Kwok, S. The Synthesis of Organic and Inorganic Compounds in Evolved Stars, Nature, 430, 985 (2004)
Kwok, S. and Zhang, Y. Mixed aromatic/aliphatic organic nanoparticles as carriers of unidentified infrared emission features, Nature, 479, 80 (2011)
Kwok, S. Complex organics in space: from Solar System to distant galaxies, A&A Rev., 24, 1-27 (2016)

About the speaker

Prof. Sun Kwok
Prof. Sun Kwok

Prof. Sun Kwok’s research areas are astrochemistry and stellar evolution. He is best known for his theory on the origin of planetary nebulae and the death of Sun-like stars. His recent research has been on the topic of the synthesis of complex organic compounds in the late stages of stellar evolution. He is the author of many books, including The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae (Cambridge, 2000), Cosmic Butterflies (Cambridge, 2001), Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium (University Science Books, 2007), Organic Matter in the Universe (Wiley, 2012), and Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life (Springer, 2013).

He has been a guest observer on many space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Infrared Space Observatory. He currently serves as President of IAU International Astronomical Union (IAU), Commission on Astrobiology. Previously, he has served as the President of IAU Commission on Interstellar Matter (2012-2015) and chairman of IAU Planetary Nebulae Working Group (1994-2001).

 

RASCals Star Party 2016

Posted by as Events, Special Events

August 26-28, 2016

At the Metchosin Municipal Grounds
behind the Metchosin Fire Hall
4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada

Gates will open at 12pm noon on Friday. Camp on the field and setup your telescope.
Cost: Free of charge! RASC members and visiting observers (who stay overnight): suggested donation of $20/Adult one day, two or three.

Everyone who is present is entitled to tickets for door prizes, lectures and access to the observing field.

Photos from RASCals Star Party 2016

Schedule of Events

Friday 26th.

12:00pm – Gates open.
8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes.
8:30pm – Presentation- Rita Mann: Origins of the Solar System
Bio:  Dr. Rita Mann is a researcher at NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics.  She earned her Honours BSc in Physics at the University of Victoria, and her MSc and PhD in Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i.   She then returned to Victoria with the Plaskett Fellowship at NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics. She uses a powerful new telescope called ALMA, which is very sensitive to the conditions in which planets are born, to answer questions about the origins of our Solar System as well as other extrasolar planetary systems.9:30pm – Public viewing of the night sky with RASC telescopes.
10:00pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please.

Saturday 27th.

Solar viewing – all day.
4:00pm: Introduction to the Night Sky. David Lee.
8:00pm – Door prizes.

Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy
Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy

8:30pm – Speaker- Maan Hani: Super Massive Black Holes: Where the Wild Things Are.

Bio: Maan H. Hani is a Astronomy PhD student working with Prof. Sara Ellison at the University of Victoria. As a cosmologist, Maan works with cosmological simulations of galaxy mergers to understand the big picture of how galaxies form, evolve, and intact with each other and their environment.
9:30pm – Public viewing of the night sky with RASC telescopes.
10:00pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please.

Sunday 28th.

Cleanup (everyone please pitch-in & help)
12 noon – early departures please!

A Special Star Party at the DAO

Posted by as Events

August 13, 2016 Star Party at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Observatory Hill, Victoria, BC, Canada

Sherry Buttnor

What a night at the DAO! If you thought it was extra busy, you are right: we wowed 257 visitors this evening! That’s the highest attendance of the year, and they loved it. And our special guest, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC was absolutely thrilled with her visit, with our programs, and most importantly, with your knowledge and enthusiasm. Her Honour was so impressed with you all, she stayed *four* hours; one hour past her planned visit

I can’t say this enough: RASC-Victoria volunteers are the BEST. Thank you, everyone.

Jim Hesser

Last evening the amazing volunteers of the RASC, Victoria Centre and Friends of the DAO – Dominion Astrophysical Observatory hosted another summer star party with a quite special lady, the Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of BC (The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia) in attendance. I was honoured to be invited by Lauri Roche and Sherry Coastal Cats to assist and thus to be able to appreciate her reactions to all she experienced, including the “wow!” moments of seeing the Sun and many sunspots through so many different types of telescopes, as well as the Moon and Saturn where in particular the 0.4m telescope was giving spectacular views when she was in that dome. Greg Fahlman, the General Manager of Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics, accompanied Her Honour during the evening, as well, including for Aria and Aaron’s unforgettable planetarium show and Christian’s lecture on the search for exoplanets around Alpha Cen. He, too, left with a renewed appreciation for all that the volunteers contribute each Saturday open house.

Living on a ranch in the Nicola Valley Her Honour has enjoyed incredible dark-sky views of the stars, but through the generous efforts of everyone last evening has a new-found appreciation that she will share with her granddaughter (who recently acquired a telescope). She promised to return. Thank you everyone!

Diane Bell

We had one of the best nights up at the Centre of the Universe and the Observatory last night! Her Honour, Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, joined us for three hours – to take in the telescopes and sun views, a lecture, a tour of the Plaskett telescope, and a planetarium show. I was quite happy to show her my own telescope as well. We had an extra hour of darkness and in spite of the brighter moon, the skies were excellent and the crowds very happy. A few of us closed out the evening – and early morning at Tim Hortons – after 12 midnight !!

RASC Fellowship Award to Dr. Alan Batten.

Posted by as News

 

Dr. Alan Batten receives the RASC Fellowship Award
Dr. Alan Batten receives the RASC Fellowship Award

Dr. Alan Batten joined the Victoria Centre in 1962, three years after his 1959 arrival in Canada as a postdoctoral fellow at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) following his undergraduate (St. Andrew’s University) and graduate (University of Manchester) studies in astrophysics. After a highly productive scientific research career, Dr. Batten retired from the DAO as a Senior Research Officer in 1991 to pursue very actively his interests in promoting the development of astronomy and astronomy education in developing countries, studies in the history of science with emphasis on astronomical topics, and the intersections of science and religion in society at large.
His scholarly works over 60 years have been numerous and well referenced (>2,400 citations according to NASA’s ADS). His 89 JRASC contributions span a 47-year period from 1961 to 2008. Besides numerous original research findings on multiple stars and stellar astrophysics, Alan documents many contributions to astronomy by Canadians, as well as the major issues faced by the Society during his leadership years.
Throughout his DAO research career Dr. Batten was an active life member of the Victoria Centre, which continues to this day. He served as Centre president in 1972 and his most recent turn as a featured speaker was December 2015. His experiences at the local level were then elevated to the national level where Dr. Batten served as the RASC President (1976-1978) and then as Editor of the Journal (1980-1988), for which he was recipient of the national Service Award (1988). Reading his many JRASC contributions on Society affairs in those years provides unique insight into the evolution of Canadian astronomy. That 20 of his 89 JRASC contributions were published following receipt of the 1988 Service Award is testimony to his ongoing respect of, and support for, the Society’s publications. That support includes contributing The Nearest Stars section to 40 editions of the Observer’s Handbook (1970-2009). His appointment to a four-year term as the Society’s Honorary President (1993-1997) highlights the Society’s high regard for Dr. Batten.

His presentations are exemplary expositions on his most recent studies in history of astronomy and his reflections upon developments in society at large as viewed from the unique perspective of a distinguished astronomer. He also delivers lectures on astronomy-related topics organized through other organizations to the benefit of members of the Victoria Centre and the public at large. Dr. Batten’s generosity has been a great benefit to many with whom he has willingly shared his time and expertise over nearly six decades of active participation in, and leadership of, Canadian astronomy.
The experiences of leading both CASCA and the RASC as national, bilingual, astronomy organizations in a geographically challenging country prepared Dr. Batten well for representing Canadian astronomy in the broadest sense during subsequent decades of forefront service to the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Following his role in organizing the first-ever IAU General Assembly to be held in Canada (1979), he served as an IAU Vice President (1985-91). During that period and for many years subsequently, Dr. Batten shared his accumulated experience from RASC, CASCA, and scientific research collaborations to promote the development of astronomy education and research in countries previously missing it from their educational systems. Over a decade he travelled extensively to work closely with national leaders and extensively documented the lessons learned. His success reflects his abiding interests in people, their diverse cultures and world views.

Warmest congratulations to Dr Batten from everyone at RASC-Victoria Centre!

President’s Message June 2016

Posted by as President's Message

June! It started off more like Juneuary, but as I write this, it’s full-on summer heat outside, and
the first clear Saturday evening for our summer star parties at the DAO since we opened.
Despite the first three Saturdays being clouded out, we still had more than one hundred visitors
join us at the DAO for our terrific indoor activities. Nice! That’s due entirely to the efforts of
volunteers from RASC-Victoria, and also FDAO, and UVic-Science Venture, and our guest
speakers.
I take a break from writing this report, and head off to the DAO; it was wonderful! Warm, clear,
evening, lots of visitors, and of course RASC members to wow them with their enthusiasm and
knowledge. We needed a night like that! It also gave us our first real test of our new EventBrite
ticketing system and gate procedures, which worked as planned. Let’s hope the rest of the
series goes as well. We have an incredible lineup of guest speakers this summer, so if you
can’t help out as a RASC volunteer, tell your friends and family and come on up as a visitor!
http://victoria.rasc.ca/summer-star-parties-2016-dao/
One more Saturday evening on the hill before we take a break for two weeks, due to the lack of
darkness in the evening. This is where I’d really like to see a return to Standard Time all year;
most people like the lingering light in the evening, but it’s a bane to astronomers, and especially
for public outreach events. Also, for the same reason, most of our scheduled events for RASC
members are -or will soon be- on hiatus for the summer.
Of course, one highlight of the year is the RASCals Star Party, which will be on the weekend or
August 26-28 this year, and again will be held on the cricket field behind the district offices here
in Metchosin. I’m pleased to report Maan Hani and Dr. Rita Mann will be reprising their
presentations at the star party, and we will also have our usual activities and door prizes. There
is never a fee to attend, and you can camp on the field all weekend, or drop in as you wish.
Our Victoria Centre member Dr Chris Gainor reports that at the recent RASC National General
Assembly, Dr. Alan Batten (past President of the Victoria Centre, past President of RASC
National, former director of the DAO, and many, many other professional accomplishments) was
proclaimed a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Warmest congratulations to
Dr. Batten for this well-deserved honour!
This is my final monthly message until September. It’s been quite a year so far, marked by
frustrating weather, amazing public outreach (in spite of the frustrating weather!), terrific
meetings and guest speakers. Thank you all so much for all you do for RASC-Victoria and
astronomy in Victoria, and I wish you all a gentle summer filled with clear, sparkling skies.
Sherry.

SPEAKER: Exploring exoplanetary systems with the Gemini Planet Imager – Zach Draper

Posted by as Meetings

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

Event info

“Exploring exoplanetary systems with the Gemini Planet Imager” – Zach Draper, UVic Astronomy

An accurate artist impression of the kind of planetary systems I'll be talking about
An accurate artist impression of the kind of planetary systems I’ll be talking about

The Gemini Planet Imager is an instrument designed to directly image exoplanets and circumstellar disks around nearby stars. Partially built here in Victoria, it is now conducting a 600 hour survey at the Gemini-South observatory in Chile. I will discuss how the instrument works and highlight some of its recent discoveries.

Bio: Zack Draper is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria, where he also received his Masters in 2012. His focus of study are debris disks (collisionally active, asteroid belts) around other stars. He is also member of the Gemini Planet Imager Exoplanet Survey.

Astronomy Day 2016

Posted by as Events, Special Events

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

International Astronomy Day

at the Royal BC Museum

Saturday, May 14, 2016 10AM to 4PM

Amazing Astronomical Activities for all Ages!

2016-IAD-MediaRelease (59k PDF)

Event Details


Stephen Courtin and his astro VW bus
Stephen Courtin and his astro VW bus

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. A Beautiful Planet – an IMAX® 2D and 3D Experience – Take a Journey on the International Space Station! – starting at 11AM (every 2 hours).

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 plaza
    • “Walk Among the Planets” display on the plaza
    • Telescope mirror grinding – inside
    • Astrophotography – inside
    • Historical displays – inside
    • Hands-on activities for the kids – inside
  • Lectures
    • 1PM – Death Stars in the Orion Nebula: Recent Observations of Planet Formation – Dr. Rita Mann
    • 2:30PM – Baby Galaxies in a Grown-up Universe – Maan Hani

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 – Journey to the Edge of the Solar System. New Horizons: The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt – Ivar Arroway
    • 9PM – The Greatest Show on Earth: Solar Eclipses – Michael Webb
  • Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
  • Reserve your tickets (one week prior to the event) – sorry, all tickets are gone!


Press


 

What a day! Absolutely first-rate effort by RASC-Victoria members for a successful International Astronomy Day at the Royal BC Museum and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

Huge thanks to our incredible RASC volunteers, as well as those who generously donated their time and knowledge from NRC, FDAO, UVic, Pearson College, the Planetary Society, and our guest speakers Rita Mann, Maan Hani, Ivar Arroway and Michael Webb. Special thanks go to David Lee and Nelson Walker who arranged the volunteers and guest speakers, and made the whole event look amazing.

We had fun, and the public LOVED it.
Well done, and THANK YOU everyone!

Sherry Buttnor, President, RASC Victoria Centre

Congratulations and thanks to everyone from RASC, FDAO, Science Ventures, Planetary Society, NRC-HAA, and the RBCM who made two extraordinary events possible. The community commitment to engaging, quality outreach and to support of the work of the Herzberg staff at DAO is phenomenal. That we have come so far since CU closure is the result of sustained effort by so many people, for which my gratitude is boundless!

Jim Hesser, former Director of the DAO

Thanks to all the volunteers during the day and at night at the DAO who made it a very worthwhile day.

Lauri Roche, Past President, RASC Victoria Centre

President’s Message, May 2016

Posted by as President's Message

Off we go! After months of planning, we’re good to go on Saturday May 14th for International Astronomy Day, with public activities at the Royal BC Museum during the day, and our first of thirteen Saturday evening “star parties” at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory that evening.
I want to offer my heartfelt thank you to all the amazing Victoria Centre members who have stepped up once again to volunteer their time at the upcoming events. The public loves what you do, and I deeply appreciate the contributions of each and every one of you. In particular, special thanks go to David Lee (guest speakers and scheduling), Chris Gainor (media relations), Nelson Walker (volunteers and scheduling), Matt Watson and Joe Carr (EventBrite), Matt Watson/Stocksy and Lauri Roche (posters), and Jim Hesser, who is always ready to help us navigate the complexities of working with the NRC/DAO side of things. And speaking of the NRC and DAO, none of this would be possible without the generous assistance of staff on the Hill: Kevin Farris, David Bohlender, Clyde Donnelly, Marilyn Bell, Dave Balam, and Dennis Crabtree. Many thanks also to Kim Gough (RBCM),  Saunders Subaru (posters), and every Victoria Centre member who supports us with their memberships..
THANK YOU, everyone. Let’s have a great summer sharing the universe!

Recently, the Vancouver Island Science Fair was held at UVic, In addition to our guest speaker, we have a special treat for members attending our May monthly meeting (Weds, May 11, UVic): two of the deserving award-winners will be in attendance:

Ines Khouider  Grade 7 St. Margaret’s School   ” Light Pollution: What’s the Solution?”
        Ines’s project was second overall in the Intermediate Division and she also won prizes from the PARC Systems and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC

Nathan Harlan  Grade 6 Home Learner   “Cosmic Ballistics: Trebuchets in Space!”
        Nathan also received a prize from our very own Quarky Science.

They will be set up at the front of our meeting room A104 at 7:00pm. Please come early and congratulate these amazing students!

TRANSIT of MERCURY: don’t forget, Mercury will transit the Sun this coming Monday, May 9th. Unfortunately, the transit will be well underway at sunrise, but several Victoria Centre members will be setting up atop Mt. Tolmie in the pre-dawn hours to observe this transit. All are welcome to join them for this interesting astronomical event.

In other Centre news, Sid Sidhu and Lauri Roche run our school outreach program; Sid reports they have visited local schools 50 times since September, with one more to go, and have shared astronomy with almost 1000 students. Well done!

And just a reminder of our next UVic on Friday, May 13, weather permitting. These sessions are open to all Victoria Centre members, not just VCO Active Observers. The Spring sky is a cornucopia of galaxies; watch for our email notice, and join us!

We welcome new members! If you’re not a Victoria Centre member and would like to be a part of all this fun, or just have a love of astronomy, please join us! Just contact Chris (VP2@victoria.rasc.ca) or myself (president@victoria.rasc.ca) and we will show you how.

Thanks again, everyone, and clear skies!

Sherry.

PS- when you’re talking to people about the Summer Star Parties at the DAO, please remind them that they need FREE tickets for admission this year.
www.summerstarparties.eventbrite.ca