President’s Message March 2020

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This is the inaugural Presidents message for my second and final term as President of the Victoria Centre of RASC. I would like to thank members of the Council and other active members for their support in the past year. A special salute to our Treasurer Deb Crawford who was busy sorting out our year end finances when we learned that our AGM planned location, the Cedar Hill Golf Course, was no longer available. She rallied to the cause and soon found an alternate venue that ticked all the boxes. Her initiative was key to the success of the AGM and I am very grateful for her contribution. I would also like to thank our Secretary Barbara Lane for presenting our Annual Report in an entertaining manner and Bruno Quenneville for organizing the awards. Our speaker, Mary Beth Laychak, delivered a most interesting and entertaining presentation on the history of the CFHT and we are fortunate that NRC Herzberg helped make that happen.

Thanks must also go to Marjie Welchframe, Mandy Lee and Bill Weir for stepping up and joining the Victoria Centre Council. Their added support and David Lee’s generous offer to organize Astronomy Day convinced me to stay on for a second term. I was, however, a little disappointed that there were no takers for the position of first Vice President. This places our organization in an awkward position. Our constitution prohibits the President from serving more than two consecutive terms. As a consequence if the current situation stands by next February the President’s position will be vacated with no groomed successor to assume the mantle.

The Victoria Centre is a vibrant and active organization and a leadership role may seem intimidating to some. A number of measures are being taken to make this position less daunting. An operators manual is in the works that will provide step by step instructions for major events such as Astronomy Day, the Victoria Centre Star Party, The Saanich Fair Outreach event and the AGM. Saturday Night Star Parties at the DAO offer an incredibly rich and focused opportunity for Astronomical Outreach. The number of these events have nearly tripled since 2015. In order to accommodate this increase we have attempted to trim our sails and have withdrawn from some of the less focused outreach opportunities. Meanwhile “In-reach” activities like Astro Cafe have grown in popularity and help to engage new members and recharge veteran RASCals with more knowledge, energy and enthusiasm.

The primary duty of the first Vice President is to schedule and introduce speakers for the monthly meetings. NRC Herzberg has been very supportive in this regard and the following speakers are already scheduled for the remainder of the season:
Wednesday March 11th Dr. Tyrone Woods – Understanding Supernovae from Tycho to Today
Wednesday April 8th: Dr. Matt Taylor – Role of Dwarf Galaxies & Globulars in Galaxy formation.
Wednesday May 13th: Dr. JJ Kavalaars – An Update on Arrokoth (aka Ultimae Thule)
Wednesday June 10th: Dr. Abedin Abedin – Modelling Meteoroid Swarms

That only leaves 6 more talks to schedule until the next AGM! So please give the First Vice President role serious consideration. It is a great opportunity to deepen your involvement in this remarkable organization. For 106 years the Victoria Centre has been dedicated to its primary mandate: to stimulate interest and to promote and increase knowledge in astronomy and related sciences. By stepping up you would help keep this wheel turning and make an important and satisfying contribution.
Usable Skies

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message February 2020

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The 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing received the lions share of astronomical attention in 2019. There was another RASCal worthy milestone, however, that was overshadowed by this event. In October 2019 the Canada France Hawaii Telescope celebrated its 40th Birthday! In order to celebrate this momentous occasion the Victoria Centre has invited Mary Beth Laychak to deliver a presentation on the CHFT at our AGM banquet. Mary Beth is the author of the CHFT Chronicles, a very interesting column which appears in the RASC Journal. As the Director of Strategic Communications for the CFHT she is the ideal person to share stories of the science, staff, instrumentation, and adventure from this remarkable observatory that is brimming with Canadian content.

It should be noted that all Victoria Centre RASCals are welcome to attend this presentation. It will begin at 7:30PM on Saturday February 22nd at the Ambrosia Centre, located at 638 Fisgard Street. Participation in the banquet is not required but I encourage you to consider this savoury opportunity. The AGM was originally booked at the Cedar Hill Golf Course but in January a plumbing failure closed that venue for 6 months. In response to this crisis our intrepid Treasurer, Deb Crawford, went into overdrive and secured the Ambrosia Centre, which enjoys an outstanding culinary reputation. Since easy parking is available across the street we hope that you will join us for delicious cuisine, sparkling conversation, an interesting presentation and recognition of remarkable RASCals. There will also be a streamlined business meeting that will be so short that it will be painless. If you plan to attend please email Deb Crawford treasurer@victoria.rasc.ca by February 15th with your choice of entree.

Snow and fierce winds forced us to reschedule our Victoria Centre Council Meeting to January 22nd. Council focused on upcoming events.
– Astronomy Day will occur on Saturday April 25th at the Royal BC Museum. David Lee has once again kindly volunteered to organize this event. It serves as the kickoff of our ambitious 2020 outreach season. The first of 21 scheduled Saturday Night Star Parties at the DAO commence that evening and will continue until September 12th.
– From April 15th to May 2nd Langham Court Theatre will be performing Silent Sky, a wonderful play featuring the life of Henrietta Leavitt, who discovered the luminosity-period relationship of Cepheid variables. Potential outreach possibilities are being explored.
– The 2020 RASC General Assembly in Metro Vancouver June 5th to 7th. Early bird registration discount ends February 15th.
– Fort Rodd Hill Stargazing event on Friday August 7th.
– The 25th Annual Island Star Party at Bright Angel Park on August 22nd and 23rd.
– Saanich Fair Epic Outreach Event September 5th to 7th.

You might notice that no Victoria Centre RASCal Star Party is planned for 2020. During a lengthy discussion it was noted that in order to select a star party date that did not conflict with the Island Star Party, Saturday Night at the DAO and the Saanich Fair, the Victoria Centre event would have to be held in late September. Both star parties held in September at St Stephens Church were rained out and demonstrated the unreliable nature of September weather. A significant majority of council felt that it was not worth the time, energy and expense to organize a star party when the likelihood of success was marginal. The idea of a “downsized” event that would provide both social benefits and encourage communal stargazing had a certain appeal. The option of a casual “Picnic at Pearson” might fit the bill and a late summer pot luck event at Pearson College is actively being explored. We may also hold a couple of casual observing sessions at Cattle Point during a favourable weather window. We will see how this works this year and revisit the Star Party option next year. When you remember that we also have the weekly events at the Victoria Centre Observatory we have plenty of activities for a busy season ahead.

Useable Skies
Reg Dunkley

RASC Victoria AGM 2020

Posted by as Events, Meetings

You may have heard that the venue we had booked for our AGM, the Cedar Hill Golf Club was flooded and will be closed for the next 6 months. We are very fortunate to have found an alternative and excellent venue: The Ambrosia Centre at 638 Fisgard Street. The building is currently dressed up in tarps (it is being re-wrapped to make it more energy efficient) but the interior is just fine. There is lots of parking on the street, as well as in the City Parkade directly across the street, and Douglas Street offers a major bus route with stops in the same block. When entering the building, use the left door and walk straight ahead into our lovely room.

For all those of you who have already placed orders, you need do nothing more than show up at the new venue on February 22, 2020. If you have yet to sign up, please contact our Treasurer Deb Crawford by email no later than 7 days before the event (Feb 15th). Please specifiy how many in your party, and their choice of entree. Cost for dinner is $40 per person (including tip and tax).

Members who wish to skip the dinner but attend the AGM and presentation, please arrive at 7:30PM. There is no cost to attend, in this case.

Pre-dinner drinks and chat - 2018 AGM and dinner
Pre-dinner drinks and chat – 2018 AGM and dinner

The menu will be much the same as publicized before, however the chicken option is no longer offered, and a new vegetarian dish is added.

Entrees:

  1. Steak – state rare, medium or well-done when ordering
  2. Baked Wild Salmon – choice of sauce
  3. Vegetarian Lasagna – grilled vegetables layered with tomato sauce & noodles topped with cheese

Salads:

  • Caesar salad
  • Mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing
  • Marinated vegetable pesto
  • Traditional coleslaw

Side: Roasted Rosemary Baby Potatoes

Desserts:

  • Assorted mini pastries with fruit garnish
  • Homemade cheesecake
Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT
Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT

Schedule – Feb 22, 2020

  • 6:00 p.m. Doors Open – No Host Bar
  • 6:30 p.m. Buffet Style Banquet
  • 7:30 p.m. Presentation: The Canada France Hawaii Telescope: The First 40 Years by Mary Beth Laychak
  • 8:30 p.m. Annual General Meeting and Awards – Notice of Election

President’s Message January 2020

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Happy New Year RASCals! As we slide into a brand new decade it is a good time to reflect on astronomical accomplishments and events that have taken place over the last 10 years. It has been an amazing period for the field of Astronomy and I will list some of the significant stories that enjoyed widespread attention:

Within the Solar System: In 2011 the Messenger spacecraft went into orbit around Mercury while in July 2016 Juno went into orbit around Jupiter. In September 2017 Cassini crashed into Saturn ending an amazing 13 year exploration around the ringed planet. A number of other spacecraft went into orbit around Mars, comets and and asteroids during the decade. The New Horizons spacecraft captured fascinating imagery as it whizzed by Pluto in 2015 and managed a followup flyby of Kuiper belt object 2014 MU69 (Arrokoth) on Jan. 1 2019. In August 2012 the Curiosity Rover made a spectacular landing on Mars and detected evidence of ancient stream beds and the potential conditions for life. It continues a fascinating survey on the slopes of Mount Sharp.

On February 15th 2013 a large meteor exploded over Chelyabinsk Russia and caused significant damage.

Beyond the Solar System: The Kepler mission discovered over 2600 exoplanets and the TESS satellite is currently conducting a wider search for more nearby exoplanets. ALMA, the Atacama Large Microwave Array became operational and detected protoplanetary debris disks around nearby stars. ALMA also combined forces with other instruments as the Event Horizon Telescope and in 2019 captured the shadow of the supermassive black hole in M87.

In 2016 the LIGO interferometer measured gravitational waves for the first time and in August 2017 it detected the collision of neutron stars that was also confirmed by optical instruments.

In 2014 the GAIA Space telescope began a remarkable survey which has already mapped the position and brightness of 1.7 billion stars with precedented accuracy and measured the parallax and proper motion of 1.3 billion stars. The survey may continue until 2022 and has already had a major impact in many astronomical fields.

Within the Victoria Centre: The membership grew from 166 in 2010 to over 280 in 2018 and is currently around 265. Why the significant increase? Well the membership began to skyrocket in 2014. Two major things occurred that year. In June 2014 the Victoria Centre hosted the RASC General Assembly which celebrated the centenary of the Victoria Centre. President Nelson Walker rallied the RASCals and Mark Bohlman and Paul Schumacher organized a wonderful event which re-energized the membership. The Victoria Centre also hosted 7 Summer Star Parties at the DAO that year. This was in response to the closure of the Centre of the Universe in August 2013. The strong public interest in these star parties fostered the formation of the Friends of the DAO in 2015 and the number of star parties increased to 12 in 2015, 13 in 2016 and 20 events in 2017, 2018 and 2019. These Saturday night gatherings provided a rich outreach experience and also presented a great opportunity to recruit new members. During the past 3 years, star parties were also held at Fort Rodd Hill to coincide with the August Perseid meteor shower. The public were welcome to pitch tents in the field and this contributed to a joyous atmosphere for astronomical outreach.

Attendance at our informal weekly Astro Cafe increased from about 10 to 25 or 30 over the decade. The acquisition of a large monitor facilitated the display of astrophotos and presentations and may have helped boost attendance.
A review of past issues of SkyNews suggests that the Transit of Venus on June 5th 2012 and the Solar Eclipse of August 21st 2017 were the premiere observing events of the decade. At the Victoria Centre Observatory the 14 inch SCT and 127 mm refractor were sold in 2018 and replaced by a 16 inch RC reflector. The family of Jan James generously donated his wonderful 20 inch Obsession dobsonian telescope. The performance of the 16 inch scope continues to be refined and digital setting circles will be added to the 20 inch scope. So as we move into the next decade the VCO will be well equipped to support both visual and photographic astronomy.

During the last decade the Victoria Centre grew and become more engaged in promoting astronomy. In order to maintain this momentum as we enter the next decade please consider stepping up as the Vice President or Second Vice President at the February 22nd AGM. It will help share the load and provide a source of both enjoyment and satisfaction.

Useable Skies

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message December 2019

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Neither history nor society is generous to those who come in second place. Buzz Aldrin knows this all too well and I do not believe there is a movie in the works called “The Second Man”. A similar fate has fallen on the Apollo 12 mission. I bet most of you would have to refer to Bruce Lane’s November SkyNews issue to come up with the names of the Apollo 12 crew. I will spare you the effort; Pete Conrad and Alan Bean climbed into the Lunar Module “Intrepid” and landed on an area of the Ocean of Storms on November 19th 1969. Richard Gordon remained aboard Command Module “Yankee Clipper”. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing was celebrated with great hoopla around the globe. There were a series of special events at the DAO culminating with Dr. Chris Gainor’s Moon Walk presentation. In contrast the 50th for Apollo 12 barely received a mention.

Apollo 12, however, is memorable for a number of reasons. First of all it was struck by lightning within a minute of launch and the command module immediately lost it’s fuel cells and instrumentation. It was the quick thinking of a brilliant Nasa engineer and Alan Bean’s remarkable memory of an obscure switch which prevented the abortion of the mission.

Apollo 11 was also very nearly aborted during the final descent to the Moon. The relaxed drawl of capsule communicators concealed the alarm that was felt during the last 13 minutes to the Moon. This has been richly captured by an outstanding and immersive BBC podcast https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/w13xttx2/episodes/downloads. Apollo 11 came in too fast and overshot the planned landing area. Neil Armstrong was confronted with rough terrain and had to use up all but 20 seconds of fuel to find a suitable landing spot. In contrast the Apollo 12 mission executed a pinpoint landing and Pete Conrad just had to make a minor intervention at the end to avoid some rubble. They landed within 1000 feet of the Surveyor 3 landing probe. The improvement of the landing accuracy has been attributed to adjusting for local variations in gravity introduced by mountains.

There was concealed drama at the end of the Apollo 12 mission. Remember those lightning strikes? There was concern that they may have damaged the explosive bolts that release the parachutes during the November 24th return to Earth. NASA decided it was better not to share these concerns with the astronauts. They had enough to think about! Even though this was the “second” landing it was a fascinating voyage, rich with history and certainly worthy of celebrating and revisiting. The next 50th anniversary will be in April with Apollo 13 … and there was no shortage of drama on that mission!

For the Victoria Centre Monthly Meeting at 7:30 PM on Wednesday, December 11th we will be changing focus from the solar system to the evolution of galaxies. Visiting Astronomer Dr. Marcin Sawicki will deliver an interesting presentation entitled “The lives and deaths of galaxies — more than just a metaphor”. We hope you can make it to Room A104 in the Bob Wright Centre.

In the past the Victoria Centre held its Annual General Meeting in November. Due to a change in our fiscal year end this year the AGM will be held on February 22nd 2020 at the Cedar Hill Golf Course. We will be circulating the banquet menu for you consideration in the near future.

Please note that doors to Astro Cafe will be closed on December 23rd and December 30th. I would like to end by wishing all Victoria RASCals a very Happy Festive Season and Useable Skies in 2020.

Reg Dunkley