SPEAKER: Hitchhiker’s Guide to Other Galaxies – Maan Hani

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

Event info

“Hitchhiker’s Guide to Other Galaxies” – Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy


Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy
Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy

Since the earliest civilizations, we have been trying to understand the night sky. In the past century, following the Great Debate over the nature of “spiral nebulae” (known today as spiral galaxies), we witnessed the rise of extra galactic astronomy. Today, our understanding of galaxy formation and evolution is on the rise owing to revolutionary progress in observations and theory. In this talk, I will share our current understanding of galaxies and their exciting lives.


Maan H. Hani is a Astronomy PhD student working with Prof. Sara Ellison at the University of Victoria. After completing a Bachelor of Science with honours in Astrophysics at Saint Mary’s university in 2013, Maan continued working under the supervision of Prof. Rob Thacker and completed a Masters in Science in Astronomy in 2015. Maan is particularly interested in understanding the big picture of how galaxies form, evolve, and interact with each other and their environment. His past research has focused on modelling star formation and BH activity in galaxy simulations. Both, star formation and black hole activity, are thought to be closely tied to galaxy evolution making proper models of such processes essential to our understanding of how galaxies evolve.

Summer Star Parties 2016 at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory!

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Back for 2016! The Victoria Centre will be hosting thirteen Saturday Evenings at the DAO, featuring guest speakers, solar and nighttime observing with telescopes provided by RASC-Victoria Centre volunteers, tours of the historic Plaskett telescope, and more! Rain or shine, we will have something for everyone to experience.

Dates begin with International Astronomy Day on May 14th. Here are all the dates:
May 14, 21, 28. June 4, 11. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30. August 6, 13, 20. Special encore September 24.

PLEASE NOTE: due to the extreme traffic congestion in previous years, admission is now by ticket ONLY. Tickets are FREE and will be available during the week preceding each Saturday evening from our EventBrite site: https://summerstarparties.eventbrite.ca

See you there!


Site Line Work Only

Summer Star Parties at the DAO run every Saturday evening from July 2nd to Aug 20th. To enhance your experience please note the following venues before you arrive. Activities are broken up in to seven main areas,

  1. Lecture Hall – This summer we have a full slate of topical presentations from the astronomy community which includes researchers, authors and passionate amateurs. There are possibilities of surprise guest speakers. Come early most presentations start at 8:15pm and most do not repeat in the evening.
  2. Plaskett Dome – The dome is a heritage site, and not to be missed. Tours are approximately 45 minutes long and start at 7:45pm. Two other tours start at 8:30pm and 9:15pm.
  3. Planetarium – Planetarium shows run 6 times during the evening and are approximately 30 minutes in length. Come inside and learn about the constellations, and even a little sky lore!
  4. 16” Telescope – This research-grade telescope was originally located on Mt Kobau near Osoyoos for site testing towards potentially building an observatory there. It was then moved here to the DAO, and then from another area on the DAO property to this site when the Centre of the Universe building was constructed in the early 1990’s. It is now available for viewing “live” through an eyepiece. The telescope is open subject to weather conditions most of the evening.
  5. RASC Member Telescopes – Royal Astronomical Society of Canada members have been long standing participants at Saturdays nights at the DAO for nearly 100 years. Weather permitting, members will take you on a telescopic tour of the evening sky.
  6. Information Area – There are volunteers available to help you with your evening visit and if you’re interested they can let you know how you can get involved in astronomy activities in Victoria. Look for kid friendly displays from Science Ventures in this same area.
  7. Interpretive Centre Displays – The displays from the former interpretive centre show Canada’s role in astronomy and contain a number of historical artifacts of interest.


September 24th 8:00pm – 9:00pm and 9:15pm – 10:15pm The ISU (International Space University) and the Mission to the Asteroid Osiris-Rex


Dr. Geoff Steeves is a physics professor at the University of Victoria in Canada and a faculty member at the International Space University. He conducts research on Mars analogue environments and tele-robotic exploration. At the International Space University he chaired the SSP Space Science Department from 2012-2014 and now co-chairs the Space Humanities Department 2015-present. Geoff is an experienced SCUBA diver and pilot with a commercial pilot’s license and multi-engine instrument rating.


Speakers for this season

May 14th – Journey to the Edge of the Solar System, New Horizons The First Mission to the Pluto System and the Kuiper Belt (Ivar Arroway)

May 14th – The Greatest Show on Earth: Solar Eclipses (Michael Webb)

May 21st – Introduction to the Night Sky (David Lee)

May 28th – The Night Sky Hitchhiker’s Toolkit: A Guided Tour of Observing Equipment  (RASC Members)

June 4th – Imaging Other Worlds (Benjamin Gerard)

June 11th – Monsters in the Dark: Black Holes and Their Messy Habits (Nicholas McConnell)

July 2nd – Introduction to the Night Sky (David Lee)

July 9th – Where Baby Stars Come From: A Look Behind Orion’s Dusty Veil (Steve Mairs)

July 16th – Gravitational Waves and a New Era of Discovery (Nicholas McConnell)

July 23rd – The Birth, Life, and Death of Stars (Jared Keown)

July 23rd – The Story of the Hubble Space Telescope (Chris Gainor)

July 30th – What is Dark Matter? (Kyle Oman)

August 6th – Observing Planning and Logging Panel Discussion (RASC Members)

August 13th – Light and Life, Sculptors of Earth: The First 2 Billion Years (Dorothy Paul)

August 13th – Voyage to Alpha Centauri (Christian Marois)

August 20th – The Moon, Meteorites, Monks and Me (or MMMM… !) (Leslie Welsh)

August 20th – Astrophotography: Imaging the Sky Panel Discussion (John McDonald, Dan Posey and David Lee)

August 24th – Talk from the Victoria Chapter of the Planetary Society (topic to be announced)  (Geoff Steeves)



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                           Help get Light Pollution Abatement on the Federal Government’s Radar

The Federal Government Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2019 is open for public comment until mid-June. http://www.letstalksustainability.ca/intro

The words Light Pollution and Outdoor Lighting occur nowhere in the current draft of this document. Here is an opportunity for each of us to help get light pollution’s impact on our planet onto the government’s radar! The more individual submissions addressing the destructive effects of lighting up the nocturnal environment, the greater the chance that the message will be heard and heeded. (There will be submission from RASC as well.)

Choose your ‘pet peeve’ (other than in ruining the night sky) about LP – e.g., its impact on ecosystems and the environment, health (all species), quality of life, biodiversity, greenhouse gases, sustainable natural resources, climate change, Indigenous Peoples, etc. (all key words in the Fed’s Development Strategy plan), go to the website, and contribute a few minutes to the planning of a sustainable future for Canada. More information and an explanation of the detrimental impact of bad outdoor lighting are at http://victoria.rasc.ca/night-lighting/ and http://www.rasc.ca/outdoor-lighting.

President’s message April 2016

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Finally some nice weather! I hope you’ve been able to get out there and observe. I had a bunch of astrophotography targets lined up for when (or if!) we had a run of clear weather, but it was so lovely out the past few nights all, I could do was roll out a Dob and just do some good old-fashioned stargazing. It was wonderful.
And it isn’t just me. I’m happy to report that we have had several terrific observing sessions at our own Victoria Centre Observatory (VCO), too. It’s been a long and cloudy winter…we deserve some clear skies!

For our members -new and otherwise- who want to join us at the VCO, you have to be registered as an “Active Observer”. Just shoot me an email, and I’ll tell you how. The VCO is a very cool facility, and we’re fortunate to have it. I encourage you to join us there!

I’m also happy to report that plans for International Astronomy Day on May 14th are coming together nicely, thanks to Nelson Walker and David Lee, who have been working hard at getting volunteers and guest speakers together. Thank you, David and Nelson. You have no idea how much I appreciate you taking on these tasks! Many thanks also to Kim Gough at RBCM for her assistance with IAD.

We also have reached an agreement with the National Research Council and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory to run our summer Saturday public “star parties” for thirteen Saturday evenings, beginning on IAD, May 14. One major change this year will be the requirement for all visitors to have a free EventBrite ticket to get in. For the past couple of years, our summer public star parties at the DAO have been so tremendously popular (and with amazing volunteers like you, how could they not be?) that we have experienced traffic chaos at the main gate. So many visitors show up that traffic at the gate and on W.Saanich Rd has been uncontrollable. So this year, we have reluctantly come to the conclusion that a ticketing system for entry is necessary.

So…if you are talking to friends, family, or the public, please mention they will need a free EventBrite ticket to get in. Our awesome tech guy Matt Watson (or one of our awesome tech guys) is putting the EventBrite site together. Details to come.

And I’m similarly pleased to report that the District of Metchosin has finally approved our request to use their cricket field for our RASCals Star Party again this year. So that’s officially a go for August 26-28.

Lots of happy stuff to report this month! And here are some other great things we have on that you won’t want to miss:
UVic observing session: Friday April 8, 7:45pm. All Victoria Centre members welcome.
Cattle Point observing session: date TBA. All are welcome.
April’s monthly general meeting: Wednesday April 13, 7:30pm ROOM ELL167.  Dr Helen Kirk will be speaking about “watching the birth of stars with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Herschel Space Telescope”. Sounds amazing!  (room ELL167 is in the smaller building directly behind the Elliott Building. That’s the building where we go for coffee and cookies after each monthly meeting. Go through the Elliott lobby and out the far doors to get to ELL167)
And just a reminder that we are still selling raffle tickets, the prize is a very cool Meade ETS-LX 6″ SCT telescope on a LightSwitch goto mount with some accessories. See Sid, and buy lots! The draw is at out June monthly meeting.

Clear skies!

APRIL’S MONTHLY MEETING GUEST SPEAKER: Dr. Helen Kirk: Watching the birth of stars with the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and Herschel Space Observatory.

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Have you ever wondered how stars are born? In this presentation, we’ll dive
deep into the hearts of molecular clouds, vast reservoirs of gas and dust which
are the birthplace for stars. Our tour will include stunning recent results from the
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope and the Herschel Space Observatory, facilities
where Canadian astronomers have been making major strides in revealing clues
as to how and why stars form.
Dr Helen Kirk is a Research Associate with the Herzberg Astrophysics program
at the National Research Council of Canada. She has previously worked as a
researcher at McMaster University and the Harvard Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics, and prior to that, obtained her MSc and PhD from the University of
Victoria. Helen is thrilled to have been honoured with two awards associated
with the RASC: in 2010, she received the Plaskett medal, a joint CASCA-RASC
award for the best Canadian astronomy thesis in the past two years, and in 2003,
she received the RASC Gold Award from the Toronto Centre of the RASC for
high achievement as an undergraduate in astronomy at the University of Toronto.

NOTE ROOM CHANGE TO ELL167 IN THE ELLIOTT LECTURE THEATRE (small building behind the Elliott Building where we meet after monthly meetings)

March Monthly Meeting Guest Speaker: Dr. James DiFrancesco- The Secret Sits.

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“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”

“I will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sgr A*.  This curious object is our closest Galactic Nucleus, and will soon  be observed at extraordinarily high resolution (~15 micro-arcseconds) using a world-wide network of high-frequency radio telescopes in a very coordinated effort to detect accretion disk close to its event horizon.”
James Di Francesco is an RASC member who works at the NRC Herzberg Programs in Astronomy and Astrophysics.  He was born in Ontario and received his BSc in Astronomy and Physics at the University of Toronto in 1990, and his PhD in Astronomy at The University of Texas at Austin in 1997.  After completing postdoctoral appointments at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA and the University of California, Berkeley, James joined NRC in 2002.

President’s Message March 2016

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Rain rain, go away……good grief, will it ever stop? Sure would be nice to see some interstellar photons again, wouldn’t it?

Fortunately, the Victoria Centre has within it’s membership many volunteers who are very good at indoor activities. Take Lauri Roche and Sid Sidhu, for example. These two dedicated RASCals have gone into our local schools 48 times in the last few months, and educated some 1800 students. These involve classroom talks, and night sky viewing. Pretty amazing! And they have more planned. And what about Bruce Lane, our capable Treasurer? He organized and facilitated a very successful Hobby Show at Westshore Town Centre Mall in February, where we had 843 visitors stop by our display. Thanks, everyone, and well done!
Next major event is International Astronomy Day, on May 14th. Nelson Walker is taking the lead on the daytime segment at the Royal British Columbia Museum, then we continue on to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory for the evening portion. Hope you can volunteer a few hours at one of these. The evening portion also kicks off our immensely popular Summer Saturdays at the DAO. More below.

Meanwhile, though, we have our normally scheduled observing events for our members, all weather dependant:
-RASCals at Cattle Point on March 4th. Bruce Lane’s popular observing get-together at Victoria’s own Urban Dark-Sky park.
-UVic observing on March 11th. Another popular RASCals event. Observing on the 32” telescope is amazing!
-Messier Marathon on March 12th at the Victoria Centre Observatory. A long but fun observing run: try to see all 110 Messier objects in one night. Many have tried, few have succeeded! Contact Michel Michaud if you’d like to participate: VP@victoria.rasc.ca
And don’t forget our weekly Astronomy Cafe, every Monday in Fairfield. John, Reg, and Chris are your hosts for a fun, informal evening, often with great guest speakers. Astro Cafe is a great way for newcomers to RASC or astronomy to meet us! victoria.rasc.ca/events/astro-cafe/

Our monthly meeting is on Wednesday March 9th, 7:30pm, in room B150 in the Bob Wright building. This is a change from our regular room A104. B150 is in the same building, but on the far side of the main lobby. March’s guest speaker is Dr. James DiFrancesco, who whose presentation is:
“The Secret Sits: What’s in Our Galactic Centre?”” James will discuss recent observations of the very centre of the Milky Way galaxy.  At ~8 kpc from the Sun, the Central Parsec is filled thousands of stars, but also most interestingly a supermassive black hole named Sagittarius A.
James is a Victoria Centre member, and a professional astronomer at the DAO. His talks are very popular, so don’t miss it!

As mentioned above, The evening portion of IAD also kicks off our Summer Saturdays at the DAO. Plans are well underway to hold 13 Saturday evening public openings this year, but without as many breaks as last year, which was a little confusing to the public. I will provide more details as they are worked out between RASC, NRC/DAO, and FDAO. And speaking of FDAO (Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), here is an update on their progress, kindly provided by Chair Ben Dorman. RASC and FDAO will be the main collaborators on upcoming events at the DAO:

1) FDAO’s fundraiser at the Bateman Centre last November “Science and Culture in the Inner Harbour” was sold out and raised just over $5000. The money from this and the Indiegogo Fundraiser [August-Oct], which  raised an additional $3400, is being put towards a pilot programme for schools which is being actively worked on, plus enabling administration for the society. (As an aside, our AGM at which we will present financial reports is to be held before the end of our first year of operation, which is the beginning of June). It is expected that the school programme to start in a  very limited fashion either later in the spring or [more likely] in the fall.
2) FDAO’s current membership list has 183 names including family members.
3) FDAO held an event for members of FDAO and RASC on 2016 Feb 13 at DAO, including [unfortunately] cloudy skies, but a great presentation from NRC astronomer JJ Kavelaars.
4) FDAO is shortly to conclude an agreement with NRC which is a ‘License to Occupy’ both the Centre of the Universe Building and the Plaskett Dome – naturally, for public science outreach purposes. The net effect of this for RASC is intended to be no extra paperwork and hopefully some of the administrative load for Saturday nights being taken on in future by FDAO. RASC will continue to determine Saturday night dates and programming as for the last few years.
Current state is that an agreement approved by NRC in Ottawa has been reviewed by FDAO and NRC/DAO and is awaiting final revisions. We expect to sign the agreement sometime in March.
5)   FDAO has been working on other potential public tours with cruise line operators. For 2016 this programme will be limited to a few [possibly only one] selected dates.
6) FDAO is shortly going to start a program to attract volunteers for various roles on the Hill. This will ultimately assist with guides on public tours and possibly also on Saturday nights as required/requested.

Lots of great stuff coming up at RASC-Victoria! I hope you will join in as a volunteer, or a participant. See you out there!

Clear skies,


February Monthly Meeting speaker: Sebastien Lavoie-How to Build a Universe.

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Our representation of the Universe has evolved throughout the ages. From the first men to Ptolemy, we have always tried to understand the skies. Modern astronomers have access to tools that their ancestors did not even dream of. This lead to multiple big and small revolutions in our understanding of the Universe in the last centuries. We retrace some of these moments that shaped our knowledge of the Universe.

Bio: Sebastien Lavoie is a second year PhD student at the University of Victoria. Prior to that he obtained his MSc in Quebec City. He studies the evolution of massive galaxies in clusters.