“Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life ” – Prof. Sun Kwok, Faculty of Science, The University of Hong Kong
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.
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’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).
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
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
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!
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.
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!
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,
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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)
“What dwarfs teach us about the galaxy formation” – Azadeh Fattahi, PhD Department of Physics and Astronomy at UVic
The standard model of cosmology has been very successful in explaining the galaxy formation and structures in large scales, but observations on smaller scales raised potential questions about the validity of the model.
Bio: Azadeh was born and raised in Iran. She studied Physics for her BSc in Tehran-Iran at the Sharif University of Technology. In 2011 she moved to UVic for her MSc in Astronomy, transferring into a PhD program in 2013.
A Total Solar Eclipse is a rare astronomical event, and it is even rarer for one to occur close to where you live. Those of us who live in the Pacific Northwest of North America will be favoured with such an event happening near us on August 21, 2017. In fact, everyone in North America is within striking distance of being able to observe this amazing event, where the Moon slides in front of the Sun for a few brief minutes, suddenly and totally obscuring the Sun.
If you haven’t observed a Total Solar Eclipse, this is your chance!
The eclipse tracks across Oregon and Idaho, making it easy to get to the eclipse totality track from Victoria, British Columbia with one day’s drive. The major cities of Portland and Eugene in Oregon are obvious targets for those of us who are eclipse chasers. I-5, an Interstate highway, crosses the eclipse centreline at the city of Salem, Oregon as the eclipse tracks eastward across the U.S.A. So you might decide to stay in Portland or Eugene, but you will have to drive to the centreline, otherwise you will miss the eclipse!
NASA’s Eclipse website gives all the facts and figures required to find and enjoy the eclipse, including an interactive zoomable map showing the eclipse track.
At the intersection of I-5 and the eclipse path near Salem, Oregon, these are the characteristics of the eclipse:
Lat.: 44.803° N
Long.: 123.0318° W
Duration of Totality: 2 minutes 0 seconds
Start of partial eclipse (C1) : 09:05:18AM Altitude=27.8° Azimuth=101.2°
Start of total eclipse (C2) : 10:17:13.0AM Altitude=39.8° Azimuth=116.8°
Maximum eclipse : 10:18:13AM Altitude=40.0° Azimuth=117.0°
End of total eclipse (C3) : 10:19:13AM Altitude=40.1° Azimuth=117.3°
End of partial eclipse (C4) : 11:37:50AM Altitude=51.0° Azimuth=140.1°
Why this location? Well, if you look at the weather predictions and the track maps, you will see this location is easiest to get to from Victoria, and offers a decent chance of clear skies. Simply take a ferry to the mainland, and drive down I-5 to Oregon. This location is away from the coastal clouds, even though there is better weather available if you drive eastward through Oregon and possibly into southern Idaho. You can also seek out more scenic locales such as Wyoming, however now you will be traveling much further.
What if you can’t travel to the track of totality?
You can still see a partial solar eclipse from anywhere in North America. Use NASA’s Interactive Eclipse Map to get the calculated timing for the eclipse in the area you plan to observe from. Click and zoom to your area, then click on your observing spot to see a popup telling you how long the eclipse will last and what you will see.
Weather always plays a big part in any solar eclipse, so being mobile is key to improving the odds of actually seeing the event should clouds threaten to obscure the Sun at the critical moment. Our very own Jay Anderson (former RASC Journal editor) is a weather expert, and specializes in forecasting weather for solar eclipses. His Eclipse website offers sage advice backed up with maps and charts depicting weather prospects for each eclipse happening in the world for the next several years. Read Jay’s analysis of the area you propose to observe from, so you understand how the weather might behave on eclipse day. Topography, elevation changes and local factors play into how the weather evolves throughout the day for a particular locale. Become a local weather expert, and you increase your chances for success!
Observing a Total Solar Eclipse is pretty easy, however that said, if you haven’t done it before, it’s nice to have experienced eclipse observers around to guide you through the process. Obviously the time of total eclipse is the main event, however other things happen beforehand, afterwards, and during an eclipse that are worthwhile.
You should try out any gear you propose to take with you before you leave. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars, camera lenses and telescopes you are bringing along. Take test photos of the Sun weeks before you leave, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. Always have a backup plan for when (not if) gear breaks, or you simply can’t get it to work properly. Remember, you only have a couple of minutes to see this event!
Finally, relax and enjoy the day. Arrive early. Try to manage your stress level. Just sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses handy, and enjoy!
If this will be your first time observing a total solar eclipse, no doubt you have many questions and concerns, and don’t know where to start. The resources presented here may be overwhelming. Please ask any questions you might have about eclipses at Astronomy Cafe, held each Monday evening. Your fellow RASC members have observed solar eclipses before…they can help!
Perhaps you prefer to leave it to someone else to organize for you, and take a tour. Tour organizers will ensure you are on the centreline for the event, will do their very best to seek clear skies (no guarantees though!), and will supply you with eclipse glasses and ensure you are as comfortable as possible throughout the event. Some suggestions:
RASC Eclipse 2017 – a scenic holiday to the midwest USA, a solar eclipse, and sponsored by RASC!
Sky & Telescope – overland to Nashville, seeing rockets and observatories along the way…and the eclipse
Travelquest – a tour company specializing in eclipses who are offering five different experiences for the 2017 eclipse
NASA’s Eclipse – a great starting point for information gathering and predictions
Eclipsophile– Jay Anderson’s weather predictions are a must to select a location that will likely have clear weather
Great American Eclipse – comprehensive information about this specific eclipse – where to go and what you will see
Eclipse 2017 – lots of home-grown advice about where to be and what to do
First off happy holidays! We have only had small windows of clear sky this month in Victoria, but I managed to gather a little bit of data about two weeks ago. I picked Orion as a test for a new light pollution filter for the Victoria RASC, and gathered an hour of ten minute subs with my unmodded 6D. It turned out quite nice, so I found some old data and made a project of it.
All of the subs were shot with the same Np127is. This image consists of 6×10 minutes at iso 400 with an umodified Canon 6D, 7×10 minutes (OSC) with a QSI 583c, 59×1 minutes (OSC) with the same QSI for the core, and 4×20 minutes of hydrogen alpha data with a 3nm filter. All of the files were calibrated and stacked using Pixinsight.
I created a synthetic luminance frame and red channel using a blend of the hydrogen alpha and 6D/QSI data through pixelmath. Unfortunately some high moisture/thin cloud left a bit of a noisy halo on the lower right stars in the data from the 6D, but it added so much to the image overall I left it in. I did my best to regulate the noise down there, but it is what it is.
Tuesday July 14 is going to be an historic day. The New Horizons spacecraft will make its long-awaited flyby of Pluto, obtaining the first closeup photos and data from this mysterious world.
In honour of this event, I am arranging an informal and fun event at Pluto’s Restaurant (“The Hottest Food from the Coolest Planet”) in Victoria, BC, Canada at 6 p.m. on July 14. This will be a dinner and celebration, including an update with the latest news from Pluto.
If you are interested in taking part, please let me know, so I can give the restaurant people an estimate of how many people they can expect. Once there, you can order off the menu and pay for your meal as usual.
About the time we sit down for dinner, the first transmission from New Horizons after its flyby is due to arrive on Earth. I am also trying to arrange for an expert speaker to give us a very brief update on the findings from New Horizons.
This flyby will be an historic event, no matter how you classify Pluto. This will be the last first-time flyby of what some call a “classical planet” and the first of one of the many smaller planets in the Kuiper Belt. Interestingly, the first flyby of a planet (other than Earth) was Mariner IV’s flyby of Mars on July 14, 1965, exactly fifty years before the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.
The Canada-Wide Science Fair was held in Fredericton in mid-May. The RASC sponsors two awards at the CWSF. The award is a $200 cash prize along with a certificate and a one year Youth membership in the Society (and a telescope?)
The winner of the junior RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy was Janet Dawson from Gordon Head Elementary School in Victoria, BC for her project “Goodnight Sun!”
Abstract: I photographed sunsets over thirteen months and recorded sunset direction and time. During that time, I built formulae to predict sunset direction and time from the top of PKOLS, a park on Vancouver Island. My formulae are accurate within plus or minus five degrees and plus or minus five minutes. In comparison, computer algorithms predict sunset time within plus or minus one minute.