The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT, 1979-) is a 3.6-metre class facility that has been a consistently productive and competitive instrument during its decades long life. Science evolves, and the instruments for science must evolve too. The Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE) is an ambitious 11.25-metre dedicated multi-object spectroscopic facility that is intended as a major refurbishment of the CFHT. It is designed to fill an outstanding critical niche in the future astronomy facility landscape and first light is planned for 2029. Canada is one of the leaders in the project, which represents an exciting opportunity for the country and its international partners to tackle key science ranging from the nature of the dark matter particle to the origins of the elements of the Periodic Table.
Alan McConnachie received his PhD in Astrophysics from the University of Cambridge in 2005. He then moved to Canada, and held postdoctoral positions at the University of Victoria and the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO). He then became a Research Officer at DAO, a position he has held since 2011. Dr. McConnachie specialises in observational studies of nearby galaxies, their resolved stellar populations, and the tools we need to understand them. He is the author of more than 120 peer reviewed publications. He is one of the originators of the MSE concept, and served as Project Scientist from 2014 – 2018. He is currently the MSE Project Spokesperson.
As the Victoria Centre slides into September the Summer season is still winding down just as we kickstart our Winter program. This makes it the busiest month of the year and there are many ways to deepen your engagement in Astronomy in general and within the RASC in particular.
During the first week, for instance, just as the Island Star Party at Bright Angel Park closes the Victoria Centre stages a major outreach event at the Saanich Fair. This significant undertaking is organized and championed by our human dynamo, Lauri Roche. Then at 7:30PM on Wednesday September 4th there is the Victoria Centre Council Meeting in the Fourth Floor Lounge of the Elliot Building at UVic. All RASCals are welcome to attend. On September 7th the final DAO Saturday Star Party of the season occurs … bringing our total to a record 22 Star Parties this year! Special thanks must go to David Lee for recruiting and introducing the speakers, Lauri Roche for being a key ring leader with our cousins the Friends of the DAO, Michel Michaud and Dan Posey for operating the Plaskett Telescope and the many RASCals who generously share their telescopes, knowledge and enthusiasm with a most appreciative Public. This is Public Outreach on steroids!
But now let’s talk about some “in reach” activities. This is where RASCals recharge their enthusiasm by sharing their knowledge, interests and adventures with other members of the Astronomical Community. At 7:30PM on Monday September 9th the first Astro Cafe of the season opens its doors in the Portable behind the Fairfield Community Centre. These are informal sessions where questions are welcome and it is a great place for people who are newbies to learn more. You do not have to be a member to attend. Thanks to Barb and Kurt Lane, John McDonald and Chris Purse for hosting these weekly events that will continue through May 2020.
And then there are our Monthly meetings held on the second Wednesday of the month from September until June. They begin at 7:30PM, usually in Room A104 of the Bob Wright Centre at UVic. We have an exciting Fall lineup of speakers scheduled: – On September 11th Dr. Alan McConnachie will describe the Maunakea Spectroscopic Explorer. This is an ambitious project to upgrade the Canada French Hawaiian Telescope on Mauna Kea. Upgrade you say? Yes the CFHT is 40 years old and it is time for a makeover. Yikes time flies! – On October 9th Linda and Tom Spilker, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory will share their adventures obtained while exploring the Solar System from front row seats of major Nasa missions. Linda is the Principal Investigator of the Cassini Project and has recently been featured on a number of documentaries on PBS and Netflix. Tom is a “Space Flight Mission Architect” and consults with space agencies around the globe. Doesn’t that sound amazing! – On November 13th Dr. Philip Stooke will talk about “Lunar Exploration after the Apollo Landings”. You might not be aware that there have been numerous soft landings since Apollo and the Lunar surface is beginning to resemble a parking lot! It is a great opportunity to update you knowledge.
Joe Carr has kindly organized a weekend workshop on the incredibly powerful astrophotography software package PixInsight. It will begin on Saturday September 21st at the Centre of the Universe. One of the instructors, Warren Kellar, is an expert on PixInsight and has authored this must have “how to” user manual on this software. Click here for details. Also on Saturday the 21st we have the Fall Fairfield outreach event at Sir James Douglas School as well as an evening observing session at the VCO. The Friends of the DAO will also hold their AGM that evening! It will have a marathon quality for those “friendly RASCals” with dual membership in both organizations.
The major event of the month however is the RASCals Star Party hosted by the Victoria Centre from Friday September 27th until Sunday September 29th in the churchyard of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Central Saanich. While the public is welcome this is a great opportunity for RASCals to connect with each other. Many thanks to Bruce Lane for organizing this signature event. Click here for more details. Keep your fingers crossed for useable skies!
6:15 pm – Welcome and door prizes, including two telescopes!
6:30 pm – Speaker: Archaeoastronomy – Rob Beardsell
7:30 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please
Cleanup – everyone please pitch-in & help
Please, no parking in the church parking lot this morning in consideration of Church members attending their service!
12:15 pm – solar viewing for St. Stephen’s congregation
Early departures are appreciated!
Camping on the observing field with your tent, trailer or motorhome – bare camping, no utilities on the field
Setup your telescope and other astronomy gear on the observing field
Some power is available on the field for astronomy equipment, but no RV plug-ins please!
Washrooms and porta-potties
Water, self-serve coffee & tea
Visitor and drop-in parking
Church hall for presentations
Please do NOT park on the field with your vehicle if you plan to leave after dark! In this case, move your vehicle off the field after setting up, and park in the parking lot with your headlights facing away from the observing field. The same parking request applies to visitors dropping in for the evening – leave your vehicle in the parking lot and walk into the observing field.
Star Party t-shirts
A very limited supply of RASCals Star Party t-shirts will be available for sale. Pre-order yours by contacting Joe Carr. Black t-shirts available in Men’s S, M, L, XL and 2XL sizes – $15 ea, and navy Kid’s t-shirts available in S & M ($13 ea). Please make cheques payable to RASC Victoria Centre.
We always have good prizes, and this year will be no exception!
TWO telescopes to be won – a grand prize each evening
The Summer is whizzing by and we are already a week deep into August! Since so much has already happened it is a good time pause and reflect on July’s accomplishments and look forward to August’s schedule.
During July most RASCals were infected with Apollo Fever. We were treated to a remarkable series of outstanding movies, documentaries, podcasts and articles about the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. The Victoria Centre participated in many related activities including:
On July 4th an Astronomy Display was set up at the Bruce Hutchinson Branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library. This lunar themed display was designed to resonate with the Apollo anniversary. We received very positive comments from the library and they noted that there was a significant increase in the circulation of astronomy books during July. Thanks must go to David Lee who initiated this project and to the following RASCals who helped make it happen: Marjie Welchframe, Lauri Roche, Sid Sidhu, Dave Essery and Reg Dunkley.
On the Moon Again. RASCals joined this global lunar observing event on July 12th and set up scopes at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park. Clouds frequently blocked the Moon but a continuous stream of cruise ship passengers marvelled at views of Mount Rainier. This intersection of Cruise Ship Buses and Cattle Point RASCals may have the makings of an astronomical outreach sausage factory. That would really boost those Galileo Moments!
Lunar Saturday Night Star Parties. David Lee scheduled a series of interesting and relevant lunar themed talks for the Saturday Night Star Parties. Our tireless cousins at the FDAO went all out during the week of the landing with Apollo talks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Centre of the Universe. The climax occurred on Saturday the 20th with a barbecue and a 2 hour Moon Walk presentation where Dr. Chris Gainor amazed us with all sorts of fascinating Apollo anecdotes. It was a wonderful opportunity for space travel enthusiasts. If you are suffering from Apollo withdrawal there is an absolutely riveting BBC podcast called 13 Minutes to the Moon Hardcore Apollo fanatics will love it. This celebration of the Apollo provided a welcome relief from todays rather disturbing news cycle. Congratulations must go to all the RASCals and Friends of the DAO for this epic outreach event. The scale of their endeavour acquired its own “Moon Shot” magnitude.
Meanwhile progress has been made on the optical front:
A mirror washing clinic was kindly conducted by Bill Weir on Friday June 14th using the 20 inch Dobsonian mirror at the Centre of the Universe. Several RASCals have already applied this technique to their own scopes. Thanks Bill.
The 16 Inch is Back! Congratulations must also go to Dan Posey, Les Disher and Matt Watson for successfully re-collimating the 16 inch Richey Chretien reflector at the Victoria Centre Observatory. This accomplishment required troubleshooting skills , mastery of new techniques and tenacity.
Events of August:
The Fort Rodd Hill Star Party will take place on the evening of Friday August 9th. Contact Chris Aesoph at email@example.com if you plan to bring a scope and have not already notified him or if you would like to lend a helping hand.
Cowichan Valley Starfinders Star Party begins on Friday August 30th at Bright Angel Park.
Saanich Fall Fair: Saturday August 31st to Monday September 2nd. Victoria RASCals share their enthusiasm of astronomy with thousands of attendees at this annual event. We will need volunteers. Please contact Lauri Roche at firstname.lastname@example.org
And finally I would like to extend a thank you to all the RASCals who, as Ambassadors of the Universe, generously share their scopes, time, enthusiasm and knowledge to a grateful public at the Saturday Night Star Parties. Thanks also must go to Marjie Welchframe and her team of Victoria Centre volunteers who “person” the Welcome Table.
RASC Victoria Centre members who were old enough to have watched original television broadcasts and read the newspapers of the day, featuring the momentous landing of the Apollo 11 mission on the lunar surface on July 20, 1969 have some vivid memories to share. Some of their memorabilia is also fun to look at after 50 years has passed!
As new residents of La Serena, Chile since September, 1968 (where Jim was a young staff astronomer at the new Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory), we were in Santiago the weekend of 20 July 1969. At that time TV was not yet available in La Serena, but fortunately it was in Santiago. Because the astronauts were supposed to sleep after their late-afternoon landing, we went off for an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
Throughout our meal our young waitress was listening to a transistor radio held tightly to her ear. Mid-way through our dinner she approached to ask (in Spanish), “You are Americans, right?” “Yes, we are; why?” “Your countrymen are walking on the Moon!”
After hurriedly paying the bill, we rushed the five blocks back to our hotel, where we found all staff and guests crowded into the common room where the hotel’s single black-and-white TV was showing the grainy, but awe-inspiring, images of the first Moon walk. A voice solemnly intoned (in Spanish), “This broadcast is coming to you from the Moon.” Energy and wonder were intense in that room, indelibly burning this transformative event into our memories.
[The front pages of two Chilean newspapers from 21 July 1969 which we’ve saved for 50 years: El Mercurio (a conservative paper still publishing) and El Siglo (reflecting views of the Communist Party and which ceased publication after the 1973 military coup), both of which marvelled at the significance of this happening.]
I have searched everywhere for the one photo I took on July 20, 1969. I do remember it was a shot of the Magnavox TV console in Aunt Mickey and Uncle Bill’s den in their house in Vancouver. A black and white image showed Neil Armstrong stepping onto the Moon. A very exciting time for us – and the rest of my family on the Island !!
I did find another photo that I took several years ago, though. On a camping and hiking trip through Western Australia seven years go, we went through a town called Carnarvon, home to one of the radio dishes that was instrumental in guiding Apollo 11 on the way to the Moon.
I’m so glad I had the camera ready !! Getting ready to celebrate 50 years of the Moon landing….
Sherry Buttnor – Reflections from a simple mind
Here we are on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the time when humans first set foot on another world.
I remember it well; watching with spellbound attention the ethereal images on a B&W TV, breathtakingly captioned with LIVE FROM THE SURFACE OF THE MOON. I was captivated. My dad was ex-RCAF. We spend many happy Sundays at YYC watching airplanes; I inherited a love of flight from him (either by intent, or osmosis) and spaceflight was a logical progression. Even I could understand that at the tender young age of 10.
The seed was planted.
A year or two after Apollo 11, I went on a field trip one Saturday evening to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory here in Victoria. Back then, you could look through an eyepiece in the mighty Plaskett telescope, and the view through it was glorious.
The seed had germinated.
That year I asked Santa for a telescope of my own, and he obliged with a little refractor, of which I was very fond, and used often for the following decade.
The seed had sprouted.
In the early 80s, it all changed. Fuelled by Carl Sagan’s Cosmos and self-study via the Open Learning Institute’s Project Universe and early computer programs on my Commodore 64, I built bigger and better telescopes, I immersed myself in the universe with a love I carry today, and the seed was in full blossom.
And here we are, on the cusp of one of the main events that started my 50-year adventure in astronomy.
Tomorrow evening, as a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, I’m privileged to be able to go up to the Observatory, where I had my first look, and show our visitors their first look through a telescope as together we recall one of the great technological moments in human history, 50 years ago.
What a journey it has been! For me, and for all of us on the Good Earth – at home.
I remember watching the first steps taken on the Moon on our black and white TV as well. I think my first live TV broadcast was of Ripple Rock being blown in 1958, but the Apollo 11 landing in 1969 stands out in my mind, because I had a passion for astronomy and space exploration that was ignited about six years previous by my grade six teacher, Malcolm Riley.
Like so many of my Baby Boomer generation, we expected that 50 years later we would be well on our way to exploring the solar system with humans aboard spacecraft. That expectation has not been met. It is with considerable dismay that I look back on the Apollo missions as the last which saw humankind travel through deep space. How much longer will we be stuck in low-Earth orbit before we venture into the rest of the Universe?
A Study in Sepia
The fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing was cast by most people as a celebration. But I couldn’t help but feel sadness.
Fifty years after what was a milestone, a triumph of skill and determination, a masterful accomplishment, and we as a culture seem to be walking backwards.
I watched the moment of landing on the proverbial tiny black and white TV. My mother and sister were mildly interested and watching with me, my father was outside. I was filled with excitement and trepidation, building until “Tranquility Base here…” and I leaped up to run and tell my father.
He was outside, talking with a neighbour. When I rushed up and burst out that they had landed on the Moon, he barely nodded, ans seemed almost amused at my excitement. He kept on talking with the neighbour, a man he only knew slightly, and approved of less.
Still excited, I ran back to the television. My sister and mother had seen what they wanted to see and had left. I watched the broadcast to the end by myself.
In the half century since, we seem to have retreated from ambition and energy. Careful critical thought has given way to superficial emotion, popularity, and empty show. Great discoveries and advances have been made, but most of the population don’t care. Their attention is caught by shiny devices, exciting entertainment, and flashy celebrities.
So this anniversary, as great as it is, feels sad to me. A fin de siecle reminder of what we once dared attempt. In my imagination, the crowds leave the party. Go home, and look for the next distraction. The history, the future that might have been, and the sadness of the loss will wash over them without notice, leaving nothing.
In the summer of 1969, I was an 8-year old at Camp White Pine, in Haliburton Ontario. There were never any televisions at camp, except on July 20, 1969, when they placed two B&W televisions on ladders in the Rec Room, and a few hundred campers squished on the floor to watch the moon landing.
All my friends wanted to be astronauts. But astronauts had all trained as air force pilots, and that didn’t suit me. I remember thinking that the people in mission control, and the scientists who were telling the astronauts what to do were the people to follow.
I decided that I would become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know. In the end, I became a geologist, but astronomy, especially concerning the moon, has always been my passion. I am particularly proud to be the first member of the Victoria Centre to obtain the RASC “Explore the Moon” observing certificate.
Dr. Chris Gainor
Chris is the President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and is a prolific writer focusing on space exploration. Rather than quoting his many articles and books on space missions as they relate to Canada, we direct you to his online blog (with a pre-defined “Apollo 11” search term). Chris is a most passionate space geek, and works hard at meeting all the pioneers in the space industry. He is contracted to write the history of the Hubble Space telescope, and his book Arrows to the Moon is a fascinating read of how mankind traveled to the Moon, thanks to a good dose of Canadian ingenuity.
This documentary covers Canada’s contribution to Apollo, which is covered in greater depth in Chris’ book ‘Arrows to the Moon.’
July 20th marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Due to media attention a desire to take a closer look at the Moon may grow as this date approaches. Unfortunately the Moon will not rise until 11:14PM on the anniversary of the landing. As a result the International Astronomical Union is organizing a global lunar observing event on July 12th called “On the Moon Again”. Between 8PM and 11PM on Friday July 12th, members of the Victoria Centre of RASC will set up telescopes in Oak Bay at the Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park. If weather permits they will be happy to share views of the Moon with you.
Victoria Centre telescopes will also be in position at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory every Saturday evening in July from 7:15PM to 10:45PM for weekly Star Parties. These events, co-hosted with The Friends of the DAO, will include the following Moon related lectures:
July 6th: The Voyages of Apollo by Dr. Philip Stooke July 13th: “Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects” by Randy Enkin July 20th: The Apollo Moon Walk by Dr. Chris Gainor July 27th: Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite Apollo and Space Suite IV
In addition to the above programs these Star Parties also include tours of the historic Plaskett Telescope, the Centre of the Universe Museum and Planetarium shows. Obtain free tickets to the Saturday Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
During the week of the July 20th the Friends of the DAO will hold the following additional lectures on Apollo at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, starting shortly after 7:00 PM.:
Tuesday July 16: Canada’s Contributions to Apollo by Dr. Chris Gainor
Wednesday July 17: Apollo in the Age of Aquarius by Dr. Dennis Crabtree
Thursday July 18: The Voyages of Apollo by Dr. Philip Stooke
The Centre of the Universe at the DAO will also be open to the public from 10 AM to 3 PM on Tuesday July 16 through Friday July 19.
Here is more detailed information of the scheduled Saturday Star Party lectures at the DAO:
July 6th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm The Voyages of Apollo Dr. Philip Stooke
Abstract: A summary of the Apollo Program including its origins, steps along the way to the Moon, the choice of landing sites and a pictorial look at each mission.
Bio: Phil Stooke is a planetary scientist and cartographer with a PhD from UVic. He taught in the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in London, Ontario until his recent retirement. He has published The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and similar books on Mars, and is currently revising his lunar atlas.
July 13th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm “Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects” Randy Enkin
Abstract: In 1969, at age 8, the Apollo missions motivated me to become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know. In this presentation, I will present my 30-year time series of lunar phase observations, and my lunar sketches from the past year which earned me the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada “Explore the Moon Observing Certificate” (https://www.rasc.ca/observing/explore-the-moon-observing-certificate). And you will be introduced to “Enkin’s Daily Moon” where images of the moon explore “the passage of time, illumination, the feminine, and world unity”. (https://www.facebook.com/EnkinsDailyMoon/)
Bio: Randy Enkin did not become a professional astronomer. He is a Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, working on earthquakes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
July 20th 2019 – 7:45pm to 10:45pm The Apollo 11 Moonwalk with Dr. Chris Gainor
Abstract: This presentation will show the entire Apollo 11 moonwalk as it was televised on the evening of July 20, 1969, along with descriptive slides. Chris Gainor will discuss the flight of Apollo 11, the symbolic aspects of the first walk on another celestial body, and the scientific work carried out by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The presentation will begin shortly before 8 p.m., just as it did in real time in 1969, and will continue for the two hours and 40 minutes of this historic event.
Bio: Chris Gainor is a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books and is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
July 27th 2019 – 8:30pm to 10:45pm Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite IV and Space Suite Apollo
Producers – Imagine Create Media Space Suite IV A series of 10 short films that explore the infinite wonders of our universe and our interactions with the cosmos. Space Suite Apollo Trace the history of NASA’s Lunar missions from Mercury to Gemini, to the Apollo Missions that ultimately landed a man on the moon. Set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Space Suite Apollo gives viewers an unflinching look at the raw footage that continues to capture the world’s imagination.
The final Astro Cafe of the season ended in fine form on Monday May 27th with an epic cookie fest. Astro cookie architect Diane Bell kindly brought tasty replicas of the M87 Black Hole. Meanwhile there were concerns that the emergency biscuit stockpile may not fair well over the summer break. So RASCals rallied to the challenge and by evenings end there was not a Viva Puff to be found. Thanks must go to Astro Cafe hosts Barbara and Kurt Lane, John McDonald and Chris Purse for maintaining such a welcoming and informal tone to the gatherings. This encouraged attendees of all ages to showcase their stunning images and projects, demonstrate techniques and gear, ask and answer questions, discuss breaking news, and share their enthusiasm and passion for all things astronomical. Thanks must also go to the presenters who made these evenings so informative and entertaining. If you have not made it to an Astro Cafe yet, doors will re-open at 7:30 PM on Monday September 9th in the Portable at Fairfield Community Centre … and oh yes … please bring a reusable mug.
We still have one more monthly meeting to go before the summer intermission. On Wednesday, June 12th, science journalist Matt Williams will give a talk on Interstellar Exploration. With the growing alarm about global warming, the search for exoplanets seems to have morphed into a “house hunting” mission. Even if we identify a suitable new planet, can we get there? Matt will explore the challenges involved and assess the feasibility. Maybe it will be easier to take better care of our home planet.
While many organizations take a break over the Summer, Victoria Centre RASCals will remain in high gear. Observing sessions are scheduled at the Victoria Centre Observatory every Friday evening. If you have not yet peered through our recently commissioned Obsession 20 Inch Dobsonian you are in for a treat. In order to participate you must be a member of the Active Observers list. Send an e-mail to email@example.com for details.
We will continue to co-host Saturday Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory with our “cousins”, the Friends of the DAO. A record 22 Star Parties will have been held by the time this program winds down on September 7th. The combination of Plaskett tours, astronomical lectures, planetarium shows and night sky viewing through RASCal scopes makes these evenings unusually rich outreach offerings. We have recently redeployed our old 20 Inch Walton Dobsonian to the Centre of the Universe. When we roll this scope onto the adjacent patio it will help boost views of the planets during the twilight zone around the solstice and reveal deep sky objects when darker skies return near Summer’s end. If you would like to become more engaged in the Victoria Centre we are still looking for volunteers. Perhaps you would like to help Martin Caldwell operate the 20 inch Walton Dob or “person” our Welcome Desk. Maybe you have a short presentation you would like to deliver in the Black Hole Theatre. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to contribute.
A number of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing are still in the planning stage both on and off Observatory Hill. Announcements will be emailed when details are finalized. Be sure to read Chris Gainor’s excellent article about the Canadian contribution to the Apollo mission in the July-August issue of the Sky News Magazine.
In the longer term be aware that the Victoria Centre plans to set up outreach tables at both the Saanich Fair on Labour Day Weekend and at Fall Fairfield on Sept 21st. Our Victoria Centre Star Party will take place at St Stephens Anglican Churchyard between September 27th and the 29th. Be sure to guard those dates. It is shaping up to be an action packed Summer. Enjoy!
The dream of traveling to the nearest stars is one that has haunted the public imagination for centuries. But it has only been in the past few decades that we have been able to contemplate what such a journey would look like. And in recent years, the desire to send missions to neighboring planets – and also neighboring stars – has reemerged with a vengeance. There are many reasons for this: the Voyager 1 and 2 probes recently joined each other in interstellar space, the discovery of exoplanets (including one next door) has inspired scientists to look for life on them directly, and emerging technology has been making space travel cheaper and more accessible. But how (and when) will we “go interstellar”? As with most things having to do with space exploration, the simplest answers are: “How fast do we need to get there?” and “How much are we willing to spend?”
Matthew S Williams is a professional writer for Universe Today and Interesting Engineering. His articles have been featured in Phys.org, HeroX, Popular Mechanics, Business Insider, Gizmodo and IO9, Science Alert, Knowridge Science Report, and Real Clear Science, with topics ranging from astronomy and Earth sciences to technological advances, environmental issues, and the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI). He is a former teacher, a science-fiction author, and a 5th degree Black Belt Tae Kwon-Do instructor. He lives on Vancouver Island with his wife and family.
ABOUT THE TALK In July of 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto system, completing humanity’s reconnaissance of the classical planets. Pluto turned out to be a world of remarkable geologic diversity, and its surfaces display a range of ages, suggesting geologic activity of various forms has persisted for much of Pluto’s history. Images looking back at the sun through Pluto’s thin atmosphere led to the discovery of numerous haze layers, and it turns out Pluto has a blue sky. Pluto’s large moon Charon was active early in its life, with a very large cyrovolcanic event that covered large areas of the moon.
On January 1st of 2019 (yes this year!) New Horizons encountered its second target, a smaller Kuiper Belt Object approximately 30 km across that is 43 times farther from the sun than the Earth is. This is the farthest planetary body ever explored in detail by a spacecraft. We are in the beginning stages of understanding this unique world, but I will highlight what we have learned so far and present the latest images.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER Dr. Kelsi Singer is a senior research scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO and a Deputy Project Scientist on NASA’s New Horizons mission. Dr. Singer’s graduate work focused on the geology and geophysics of the icy moons around Jupiter, Saturn, and Neptune. She also studies impact cratering across the solar system (from Mercury to the Kuiper belt!).