Astronomy Cafe – May 6, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Meeting transcript video

  • Intro by Randy Enkin
  • Astronomy Podcasts – Randy Enkin
  • RASC General Assembly Report – last weekend
    • Jenna Hinds coordinated the back end
    • Gather Town wasn’t as well attended as previous years
    • John Reed’s presentation on acquiring an observing site in Nova Scotia
    • One stream this year instead of 2 or 3 previously
    • Victoria Centre Observatory
      • Video for GA by David Lee – many members related their history with the VCO, including observing experiences, construction, equipment, camaraderie with fellow members
    • Astronomy poetry by Mark Tovey, Adjunct Prof of History at Western U – David Lee
      • Based on 1940 astronomy journal found by Peter Jedicke at Western University
    • Astronomy Live by Chris & Shane – Kirsten Pedersen
    • Astronomical observing and sketching – presented by Randy Enkin and Bill Weir
  • Nathan’s Book Launch at Bolen Books (events – free tickets) on Tuesday
  • Monthly Meeting at UVic on Wed – Chris Gainor
  • Hubble Space Telescope – Chris Gainor
    • Three gyroscopes have failed, impacting operations
    • New repair mission? Not likely, but de-orbiting will happen in 10 years or so
    • Nancy Grace Roman space telescope is in the future
  • Astrophotography – Dave Payne
  • Bode’s Neighbourhood with Dust and Hydrogen – Wide-field
    • Created from 24 hours of exposure (3+ nights)
    • Bode’s Galaxy
    • M82 Cigar Galaxy
    • NGC 3077 – third “messy” galaxy in lower right
    • Many other smaller galaxies to find in the field
    • Dust in the field is from the Milky Way Galaxy
    • 17Gb JPG drizzled resultant image
  • Beginner’s SIG being held on May 15th
  • Astronomy Day 2024 – May 18th – Lauri Roche & David Lee
    • More volunteers still needed
  • Satellite tracks – image by Alan Dyer – Chris Gainor
  • FDAO Star Parties (events) – volunteers needed – Lauri Roche

Marjie Welchframe is hosting next week’s Astronomy Cafe on May 13th. There is no Astro Cafe on Victoria Day, May 20th. The last Astronomy Cafe will be held on May 27th, resuming in September.

The Photographic Legacy of the DAO and John Stanley Plaskett – Dennis Crabtree

Posted by as UVic Meetings

Date/Time: Wednesday May 8, 2024 starting at 7:30PM

Location: University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre, Lecture Theatre A104. Park in Lot 1 (pay parking) and cross Ring Road.

Transcript video of meeting presentation

The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) is fortunate that John Stanley Plaskett arranged to have the construction of the Plaskett telescope photographically documented. There are approximately 150 8” x 10” glass plates that were taken during the construction. I am in the process of scanning these plates at high resolution and then “cleaning” them in Photoshop.

About three years ago, I discovered a collection of negatives and prints that were taken by John Stanley Plaskett during the period from 1910 to 1914. These images were taken in Pasadena, Wakefield Quebec, England, Germany, and Victoria.

I will show a selection of images from both of these important historical collections. There will also be a surprise show and tell.


Dennis Crabtree

We are fortunate to have Dennis Crabtree join us to do a presentation about the photographic legacy of Victoria’s Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) and John Stanley Plaskett. Dennis Crabtree is a retired astronomer who worked for the DAO for over 35 years, being a former Director of the Observatory. During his career he worked for the Canada-France-Telescope, the Gemini Observatory and at the Space Telescope Science Institute. He is the unofficial historian of the DAO.

Astronomy Cafe – April 29, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Meeting transcript video

  • Observatory Tour video for GA – David Lee
    • Would like some live video
  • RASC General Assembly – May 4 & 5, 2024 – Lauri Roche
    • $15 for whole event
    • Bill Weir & Randy Enkin giving presentations Saturday morning
    • Gather Town – Saturday evening
  • Eclipse photos for 2025 Observers’ Calendar – submission deadline tomorrow
  • Street Lighting in Uplands – Dave Robinson
    • Dark sky friendly fixtures in original design, but overruled by Oak Bay Council after public hearing
    • Victoria Centre held a one hour meeting with councillors
    • Issue being taken back to council to reconsider a better option
    • Possible impact on Cattle Point dark sky site if planned fixtures are installed
  • Vancouver Island Science Fair – Randy Enkin
    • 63rd regional science fair for Vancouver Island
    • 100 participants this year
    • Transiting Exoplanet Data project, and two other astronomy related project
    • Prize from Victoria Centre awarded – youth memberships
    • Sending plants into high orbit using a balloon – Nathan Hellner-Mestleman
  • Cosmic Wonder – Nathan Hellner-Mestleman
    • Book launch event at Bolen Books on May 7th – Bob MacDonald interviewing Nathan
  • Chris Gainor
    • May 8th speaker for May 8th UVic meeting? Possibly a members’ night instead.
    • James Webb Space Telescope – beautiful new image of Horsehead Nebula
  • Astronomy Day – May 18th – Randy Enkin, Lauri Roche
    • Planning is going well
    • May 14th is final planning meeting, so email will be used for event planning
    • Royal BC Museum – daytime 10AM-3PM
      • Victoria Day weekend means traffic in the will be very congested, so volunteers should plan accordingly
      • Need volunteer to let cars have access for unloading on Saturday morning – contact Lauri Roche (roche.lauri@gmail.com)
    • Observatory Hill – evening 7:30PM-11PM
      • Tickets will be available two weeks ahead of time – event
      • Presentation – Looking for precious metals at the end of the galactic rainbow – Dr. Trystyn Berg
      • Cosmic Wonder – book selling – Nathan Hellner-Mestleman
      • Refreshed shop with lots of stock
      • Volunteers with telescopes needed – contact Aimee Rawson (arawson@centreoftheuniverse.org)
      • Three Vesper telescopes – digital telescopes for outreach
      • Trainees for 16″ telescope – Sherry Buttnor is the teacher – contact Lauri Roche
  • Beginners SIG – now being held on May 15th – David Lee
  • Eclipse Topics – Randy Enkin
    • Dorner Telescope Museum visit at RASC in Toronto – hosted by Randall Rosenfeld
    • Tables of the Moon and Sun – historical book by Jean Meiss with Peter Broughton’s 1982 notes and letter
    • A Sign in the Sky: Dating the League of the Haudenosaunee – by Barbara Mann and Jerry Fields – eclipse report from Indigenous Mohawks (possibly Aug 22, 1142)
  • Astronomy History
    • Wray-Bryden telescope – more information and video presentation is needed for the Centre of the Universe – contact Lauri Roche (roche.lauri@gmail.com)
    • Gonzales Observatory – history
    • Looking Up – Peter Broughton – book of the history of RASC
  • FDAO Star Party – May 4th 7:30PM – Bob McDonald presenting

Three Astronomy Cafes left before summer.

Astronomy Cafe – April 22, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • General Assembly – Lauri Roche
    • Invitations sent out by email to all RASC members
    • $15 for two days of online activities
    • Speaker on Saturday night
    • Gather Town – meet and greet
    • Sunday Night Astronomy Show – from New Brunswick
  • Voyager 1 & 2 – Garry Sedun, Chris Gainor
    • Voyager 1 now communicating again, once a fix was installed
    • Launched in 1977
    • Now in heliopause – outside influence of the Sun
  • Regional Science Fair – Lauri Roche (roche.lauri@gmail.com)
  • Astrophotography – Dave Payne
    • Triangulum Galaxy – by John McDonald
    • NGC 2403 – about the same size bur further away
    • Markarian’s Chain of galaxies in Virgo
      • 18 hours of exposure
      • Tried 50 hours of exposure to find more Ha data
  • David Lee (david@victoria.rasc.ca)
    • Beginners’ SIG – moved to 14th
  • Recurrent T Coronae Borealis
  • John McDonald
    • Some good books by Carlo Rovelli, cosmological physicist
      • Seven Lessons on physics
      • White Holes – time reversed version to Black Holes
      • Books available in local bookshops,online and audio versions
    • 2024 Total Solar Eclipse – Composite photo of a series from partial to Totality
  • Uplands street lighting – update from Dave Robinson
    • Met with involved parties in Oak Bay
    • Will meet further with mayor and engineer to try to head off the poor choices to try to get responsible night lighting when heritage street lights are replaced
  • Garry Sedun
    • Lava Lake on Io, moon of Jupiter
    • Recent Solar Eclipse caused time shifts for satellites
  • Chris Gainor
    • Alan Dyer’s Chasing the Cross-continental Eclipse
      • Texas to Ontario to Quebec to successfully photograph the eclipse
    • Being President – odd emails
      • Where is George Ball’s observatory?
      • RASA 14″ telescope – owners want to install it at our site on Observatory Hill
  • Inflatable planetarium available – contact Lauri Roche (roche.lauri@gmail.com)
  • International Astronomy Day in Victoria – Lauri Roche
    • Posters and other graphics to share event with others
    • Contact Lauri or Randy (pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca) to volunteer
  • Astrophotography SIG – this Wednesday – Dave Payne

Astronomy Cafe – March 25, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • MMT Observatory – Kali Salmas, Queue Observer
    • Mount Hopkins, 55km south of Tucson, Arizona
    • Originally had six 1.8m mirrors, 4.5m collecting area
    • Now a single 6.5m mirror with 3 secondaries: f/5, f/9, f/15 (adaptive)
    • Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory facility on the mountain
    • Instrumentation
      • Binospec – wide-field opitcal spectrograph
      • Hectochelle/Hectospec – 300 fibre optic spectroscope, robotically reconfigured
      • MMIRS – Infrared spectroscopy, nitrogen cooled
    • Magellan and MMT share instrument designs
    • Operating Staff
      • Telescope Operator – 3
      • Queue Observer – 3
    • Data acquisition
      • Weather, tracking, seeing, turbulence, lenticular cloud formation
      • 7.5-12 hours observing time
      • Moon phase
    • Target Considerations
      • Both manual and automated queue scheduler
      • Sensor being used
      • Magnitude range: 11-26
      • Moon phase
    • Setup on Target – telescope operator and queue observer work together
    • Taking Data – calibration frames, guide stars, check data, add notes, move to next target
    • Q&A
  • Astro-tourism in Northern Arizona – Dave Payne
    • Flagstaff area
    • Barringer Crater – Largest meteorite at 150′ across
    • Lowell Observatory
      • Many domes
      • Original observatory built in 1894
      • Historic 24″ Refractor
      • Privately financed by Percival Lowell to map Mars
      • History of discoveries and innovations by other astronomers at the site
      • Clyde Tombaugh – discovered Pluto with a 12″ telescope
      • 5m Discovery telescope – currently being used, has 5 instruments
  • Recurrent T Coronae Borealis – David Lee david@victoria.rasc.ca
  • Chris Gainor
    • Chandra X-ray space telescope may go dark due to impending budget cuts – 25 years of work done. Save Chandra
    • David Lane, past president of RASC has died. He was the author of Earth Centred Universe planetarium software, operated a popular robotic telescope from his home in Nova Scotia, and was on staff at St. Mary’s University until his retirement.

There is no Astronomy Cafe on April 1 due to Easter holiday. The April 8 meeting will be online only, since many members will be away to observe the Total Solar Eclipse from the path of Totality.

President’s Message – March 2024

Posted by as Memories & history, President's Message

Usually Victoria Centre Presidents serve two years and then move on to something else. Right now, things are a little different. Randy Enkin has just wrapped up three years as President and shifted to other jobs in the centre, including editing SkyNews.

Chris Gainor on Observatory Hill
Chris Gainor on Observatory Hill

When I agreed to return to the Centre President’s job after having served in that position from 2002 to 2004, I reflected on what has changed and not changed since those days when we managed to get by without smartphones and social media. Many members from that time are still active, some have left us, and at least one prominent member of today wasn’t even born yet.

In 2002 I succeeded David Lee as President and two years later handed off to Scott Mair. Scott had come to Victoria in 2001 to open up the Centre of the Universe at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, which during those years operated under the wing of the National Research Council.

Two decades ago, we had our monthly meetings in the basement of the Elliott Building at UVic, but we adjourned to the lounge on the fourth floor for our library, and coffee and cookies, as we still do. Astro Cafes took place at Sandy Barta’s place on Fridays and later in Bruno Quenneville’s basement. Sid Sidhu hosted beginning observers at his home in Highlands, and Bill Almond led astro imaging meetings at his observatory in Colwood.

Our Star Parties took place at the Victoria Fish and Game Association just off the Malahat. Our annual banquets happened in November at the Gorge Vale Golf Club. Astronomy Days took place at the Royal BC Museum. Many Victoria Centre members attended the 2003 RASC General Assembly in Vancouver.

Mars made its closest passage to Earth in our lifetimes in August 2003. We drew big crowds to Cattle Point for viewing the Red Planet that week. Blaire Pellatt brought sidewalk astronomy to the streets of Victoria. We lost Ernie Pffanenschmidt and John Howell in 2003.  

Celebrating RASC Victoria Centre's 90th anniversary in 2004 - George Ball, John Climenhaga and Chris Gainor cut the cake.
Celebrating RASC Victoria Centre’s 90th anniversary in 2004 – George Ball, John Climenhaga and Chris Gainor cut the cake.

Our Centre celebrated its 90th birthday in 2004 with a cake that was cut by myself and two Honorary Presidents who have since left us, George Ball and Prof. John Climenhaga. A big centre project that year was relocating George’s telescope dome and his equipment. Our Centre website had migrated the year before to a private ISP after having been hosted on the Victoria Freenet. Joe Carr succeeded David Lee as Webmaster.

In those years, the most popular discussion topic in the Victoria Centre was our desire to build a centre observatory in a time when real estate was already pricey. Early in 2004, talk turned to action when our centre formed an Observing Site Committee chaired by Dave Bennett, along with Bruno Quenneville, David Lee, Sandy Barta, and myself as members.

Four years later, the efforts of our members, including many not on the original committee, bore fruit when the Victoria Centre Observatory opened — with a big assist from the NRC — on Little Saanich Mountain near the DAO and the Centre of the Universe.

In a future message, I will discuss my involvement in the RASC in the two decades between 2004 and this spring, our Centre’s 110th anniversary. But in the meantime, my attention is shifting to a major celestial event that will take place on April 8.

Chris Gainor, President@Victoria.RASC.ca

Astronomy Cafe – Mar 18, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Edmonton RASC’s BNLO Black Nugget Lake Observatory Unyk-Drew 32″ Telescope – Alister Ling
    • 32″ 0.8m folded f/4 128″ focal length Newtonian Alt/Az
    • Donation from Bob Drew, built by Roman Unyk, and funds from Alberta gamblers
    • East of Edmonton, fairly dark site, about 1-hour drive from the city
    • County land and camping, surrounded by farm land
    • Visual use only for public and member events
    • 3 observers at a time inside the dome
    • Observations
      • Crescent Nebula NGC 6888 – sketch by Berta Beltran
      • Einstein’s Cross – 17th Magnitude, gravitationally lensed quasar
      • Veil Nebula – amazing detail
      • M36 Pleiades cluster – FOV is too narrow to appreciate star clusters
      • Pease 1 planetary nebula in M15 globular cluster – star hopping required
      • NGC 40 – planetary nebulae are ideal for this telescope – colour apparent
      • M76 Little Dumbbell – lots of detail
      • M1 Crab Nebula – OIII filter reveals detail
      • Planets – not great targets for this telescope, but moons of Uranus: Umbriel, Titania & Ariel can be detected
      • NGC 891 – edge-on galaxy – irregular dark lane is obvious
      • Stephan’s Quintet – not an exciting object, so perhaps airglow and/or aurora degradation
      • M33 – good detail
      • NGC 206 Andromeda starcloud
      • M31 Andromeda Galaxy – core – scotopic & photopic vision – green colour visible
      • Colour of the core of the Orion Nebula – Hydrogen a, b, g, d – green colour visible
    • Comments from Bob Drew
  • Astrophotographs and Sketches
    • Observing from Victoria Centre Observatory – Randy Enkin
      • Photos of Comet 12/P Pons-Brooks using 12″ Dob and 20″ Obsession with new tracker
      • Moon sketch using 20″ Obsession
    • Mike Nash’s lunar photo compared with Randy Enkin’s sketch – both from their homes
    • Comet 12/P Pons-Brooks
      • Mar 18, 2024 APOD – red spiral core of the comet featured
      • Dan Posey’s photo of the comet and beautiful tail
  • Leap Year 2024 – Jeff Pivnick
    • Common Year, Solar Year and Sidereal Year
    • Leap Years started with Julian calendar
    • Gregorian calendar – more accurate compensation to define leap years
    • Accuracy of calendars adjusting for leap years
  • Events – David Lee, Randy Enkin, Lauri Roche
    • Makers SIG cancelled for this month
    • Next week’s Astro Cafe – presenter Kali Salmas, Operating the MMT Telescope in Arizona
    • FDAO Star Party – March 23 starting at 6:30PM

Astronomy Cafe – Mar 11, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Astrophotography – Dave Payne
    • Orion Nebula, M78 – reflection, emission and dark nebulae
    • Triangulum Galaxy M33
    • Monoceros (next to Orion) – Fox Fur Nebula
  • Barbara Lane 1955-2024
    • Memories of Barbara shared by Randy Enkin and other members
    • Hosted Astronomy Cafe along with her husband Kurt
    • Awarded a Certificate of Appreciation in 2022 for her contributions to Victoria Centre
    • Past Secretary of Victoria Centre, creating wonderful annual reports
    • Kurt and Barbara were a team, volunteering at public outreach events
  • New Crescent Moon of Ramadan 1445 – Randy Enkin
    • Muslim months start at the first glimpse of the New Crescent Moon – beginning of Ramadan
    • Observing a very new Crescent Moon is tricky!
  • They Promised Her the Moon – Dennis F
    • A local play by St. Luke’s Players
    • Originally, women were being tested for the Mercury Program
    • Chris Gainor added to the history of women in space
  • Chris Gainor
    • Canada Post 2024 Eclipse stamp – available this Thursday from your local post office
    • Comet 12/P Pons-Brooks – brightening as it falls apart. It might be visible during Totality on Total Solar Eclipse day.
  • Discord for RASC Victoria – Darren Delorme
    • Private chat room with channels and discussion threads for specific topics
    • Useful as an alternative to email
    • Post information of interest to everyone
    • Join the RASC-Victoria Discord Server!
  • UVic presentation this Wednesday at 7:30PM – Reg Dunkley
  • Volunteers needed
    • Astronomy Cafe – Randy Enkin email
    • Astronomy Day – Lauri Roche email
    • Victoria Centre’s Volunteers List – Marjie Welchframe email

Galaxies at the Dawn of Time with JWST – Dr. Leonardo Ferreira, UVic Postdoc

Posted by as UVic Meetings

Date/Time: Wednesday March 13, 2024 starting at 7:30PM

Location: University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre, Lecture Theatre A104. Park in Lot 1 (pay parking) and cross Ring Road.

JWST First Deep Field Image: Galaxy Cluster SMACS 0723
JWST First Deep Field Image: Galaxy Cluster SMACS 0723

The new James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) brought upon us a golden era for the study of distant galaxies. For the first time, we are capable of seeing the visible light of galaxies during the first billion years of the Universe. Understanding their shapes and forms, and how they changed since this epoch, reveals not only how they formed and evolved, but how our own Universe evolved as well.

This talk will highlight groundbreaking discoveries made with JWST and illustrate how they alter our understanding of the cosmos compared to the pre-JWST era. We will also address misconceptions that have arisen in the mainstream media regarding these new insights into cosmology and how our concept of galaxies has evolved dramatically since 1920.

Biography: Leonardo Ferreira was born in Brazil and pursued an undergraduate degree and master’s degree in physics at the Federal University of Rio Grande, where he first began his work on the morphology of galaxies. He then moved to the UK for his PhD studies in Astronomy, focusing on how galaxies evolved across cosmic time. In 2023, Leonardo joined the University of Victoria as a Postdoctoral Fellow, working within Prof. Sara Ellison’s group on the topics of galaxy evolution through merging interactions. Leonardo has led pioneering studies on the morphology of distant galaxies using JWST and remains actively involved in this research area.

Astronomy Cafe – Feb 5, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Intro – Jeff Pivnick
  • EnceladusAPOD Feb 5, 2023 – Jeff Pivnick
    • Smaller moon of Saturn discovered by William Herschel
    • The Great Forty 48″ reflector in Slough near Windsor – Herschel’s telescope
    • Cassini Mission
      • Discoveries: magnetic field disruptions, jets of water from “tiger stripe” fissures, wobbly orbital period caused by loose crust
      • 2:1 resonance with Dione results in elliptical orbit and interior heating of the ocean below the crust
      • Cassini division in Saturn’s rings – named for Gian Domenico Cassini, discoverer
      • Mimas 1:2 resonance with Cassini division
    • Diameter 504 kms, 14% liquid water
    • Discussion
  • Randy Enkin
  • Annual General Meeting – RASC Victoria Centre – Randy Enkin
    • Feb 12 7:00PM – Zoom meeting – info and special link to be sent to members
    • Victoria Centre’s Annual Report – contact Randy Enkin with your report president@victoria.rasc.ca
    • Financial Report
    • Election – Reg Dunkley
      • Chris Gainor has agreed to stand for President
      • We now have a full slate, but further nominations will be sought at the AGM
      • New Council will be seeking involvement from members for volunteering
      • We need a quorum of 25 members. If you cannot attend, contact Randy president@victoria.rasc.ca (or another member attending) to be your proxy for voting purposes.
  • Social Dinner – RASC Victoria Centre – Four Mile Pub – Feb 26th
    • Large parking lot, but please carpool if possible
    • Sound system with microphone and speaker will be used for speakers
    • Attendees please contact Marjie to RSVP by Feb 21st
  • SIGs – David Lee david@victoria.rasc.ca
    • Beginners SIG – tomorrow night’s presentation by Randy Enkin on observing the Moon
    • Citizen Science SIG cancelled
    • Astrophotography SIG – 4th Wednesday – hosted by Brock
  • Astronomy Books – David Lee
    • Observer’s Sky Atlas – Erich Karkoschka
    • 21st Century Atlas of the Moon – Charles Wood, Maurice Collins
  • Astronomy Cafe – March 4th
  • Scitech Daily
    • Perseverance Mars Lander – sedimentary layers discovered by ground penetrating radar and samples taken
    • Ingenuity helicopter has crashed

Next Astro Cafe – March 4th – none for the rest of February