Astronomy Cafe – Feb 27, 2023

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • The Birds, Pacific Victoria Opera – Randy Enkin
    • Featured the Moon
    • Land of the Birds
    • Funny and serious story
  • Zodiacal Light – Randy Enkin
    • APOD photo showing both Venus and Jupiter in the middle of the light spire
    • Brian May showed the Doppler Shift in the Zodiacal Light, finished his thesis 30 years after starting the research before his music career with Queen
    • Photos of the Zodiacal Light by Victoria Centre members John McDonald and Joe Carr
  • Citizen Science – David Lee
    • Definitions – Sky & TelescopeNASASpaceHack
    • Concise instructions given to participants/contributors
    • Data archive used to share observations
    • Community shares their skill sets in the interest of collaboration
    • Light Pollution – Globe At Night
      • 6 easy steps
      • February & March campaigns
      • New constellations to observe each month
    • Variable star observations – AAVSO
      • Beginners SIG observed Algol last summer
      • 54 million variable star observations
    • Astronomy-focused citizen science projects – S&T>Get Involved>citizen-science-collaboration
    • Citizen Science – new SIG
      • Thu, March 9th 7:30pm
      • Contact David Lee to participate – email
    • Galaxy Cruise – Japan
      • Images from Subaru telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawai’i
      • Introductory demonstrations
      • Radio observations during solar eclipses
  • Big Changes at RASC National – Bill Weir & Chris Gainor
    • Skynews magazine ceasing operation
    • Robotic Telescope – project terminated
    • Staff departures at the national office, including Phil Groff, Executive Director
    • Charles Ennis, RASC President – sent out a note to the national RASC email list
    • History and perspective on RASC financial woes – Chris Gainor
  • Comet C/2022 E3 ZTF photos & sketches – Brock Johnston
    • Jan 19th – earliest taken by David Lee
    • Collection of comet photos taken by Victoria Centre members 
    • Photographers & sketchers: Lucky Budd, Bill Weir, Dave Payne, David Lee, Dan Posey, Alec Lee, Brock Johnston, Ron Fisher
    • Feb 23rd – last image taken
  • Underground Railway & Night Sky by Amy Archer – Lauri Roche
    • Suggest Amy to be a speaker to RASC Victoria Centre
  • Odd-looking crater feature observed – Bill Weir
    • South of Short crater
    • Appeared as 4 white dots visually
  • Astronomy Day – Randy Enkin & others
    • FDAO holding Astronomy Day on Observatory Hill – April 29th
    • RASC will hold Astronomy Day on April 30th – Bob Wright building at UVic – need a coordinator
  • Victoria Centre Annual Events – Randy Enkin
    • AGM – March 13th online (members only)
    • Dinner, celebration and social event – March 27th in-person (members & guests)

Big changes at RASC National

Posted by as News

Charles Ennis, President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has posted this message to the national RASC email list. The complete message is reposted here in the interest of communicating with those Victoria Centre members who may not subscribe to that email list.

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada seal and logo

February 26, 2023

Good day to everyone. The Board of Directors of the Society is providing this update to the membership concerning decisions that have been made after consultation with the National Council and with the Centres through a poll that was conducted in the last two weeks, as well as changes to head office staff.

First, SkyNews: As the membership knows, for many years SkyNews magazine has published by SkyNews Inc., which is an Ontario business corporation. Nine years ago the RASC acquired SkyNews Inc. from its previous owners, and SkyNews Inc. thereupon became a wholly-owned subsidiary corporation of the RASC. SkyNews Inc. has its own board of directors, who are appointed by the RASC through the Society’s Board of Directors. The SkyNews board makes all decisions concerning the business and affairs of SkyNews Inc.

SkyNews astronomy magazine
SkyNews astronomy magazine

SkyNews has lost money in four of the nine years of the Society’s ownership. Disregarding the one-time $60,000 COVID relief grant that SkyNews received in the 202-21 financial year (two-thirds of which has to be repaid this year), on average SkyNews has lost more than $10,000 per year during this nine-year period. The losses are increasing. The average loss in the last five years has been more than $25,000, and the loss for the current financial year, which ends on March 31, will be on the order of $50,000. These losses have to be financed by the shareholder, the RASC, which therefore effectively costs each member more than $10, and also endangers the RASC’s charitable status. As is the case with so many periodicals in North America, the SkyNews subscriber base has diminished sharply, from about 20,000 nine years ago, to 6-7,000 today. Advertising revenue has also declined dramatically, to less than one-third of the level when the Society acquired SkyNews.

As a result, SkyNews is no longer sustainable. After numerous meetings and discussions over the last few weeks, and consideration whether SkyNews could be saved in any form (including digital only), the Society’s Finance Committee and Board of Directors therefore concluded that SkyNews Inc. should cease all operations, including publication of the magazine. A majority of the Centres who responded to the poll agreed. Last week, therefore, the board of directors of SkyNews Inc. passed a resolution implementing the RASC Board’s recommendation, with the result that SkyNews will be shutting down. The SkyNews Inc. board will be meeting this coming week with legal counsel to start the shutdown process. The Editorial Board of the Society will be considering whether in future some of the content that has previously appeared in the SkyNews magazine can be incorporated into the RASC’s other publications, such as the Journal.

Second, the robotic telescope: The RASC board has also decided, again after consultation with the National Council and the Centres, to divest the Society of the robotic telescope, which is also a money-losing operations.

Third, head office: One of the important areas in which the Society can reduce expenses is with the number of head office staff. Some staff have been let go, and two others have resigned. This included Executive Director Phil Groff, who has been with the RASC since the fall of 2019 and has now found a position that is more in line with his previous training and experience. We wish Phil all the best with his future endeavours. While the Board conducts a search for a new Executive directors in the coming period, we are fortunate that former Executive Director Randy Atwood has agreed to step in as acting E.D. for the next few months. Randy has been a member of the Society since the 1970s, is a former President of the Society and an RASC Fellow, and has detailed knowledge of the operations of both head office and the Society as a whole.

The Board intends to communicate regularly with the membership about additional decisions that will be taken to place the Society on a more stable financial and operational footing.

Clear Skies, Charles Ennis, President

Skynews is closing

Posted by as News

Vintage editions of Skynews

After nearly three decades, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has announced that SkyNews will be shutting down at the end of February 2023. While it is sad to say goodbye, we are proud of the work that has been published and of the community that supported the magazine for so many years.

Skynews magazine

Update: The article I quoted above no longer appears on the national Skynews website. It appears the national RASC Board is still considering options about Skynews magazine.

As a life member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), I’m sad to see Skynews end. That said, I can reassure my fellow RASC Victoria Centre members that our local Skynews newsletter will continue to be published. It is the RASC National Skynews magazine (using the same name) which will no longer be published due to what appears to be a continuing poor market for speciality glossy publications. RASC tried to keep Skynews afloat and relevant after it was purchased from the previous publisher Terry Dickinson, but in recent years the magazine proved to be too much of a drain on the finances at the national level. The RASC National Board consulted with RASC Centre executive over the last few weeks, but in the end, this difficult decision had to be made.

Skynews provided a good balance of interesting articles, observing hints and tips, some cosmology, astronomy and space news, and a forum for night sky photography and gear reviews. Skynews was a less-intimidating entry point to astronomical subjects for beginning enthusiasts, and being focused on Canadian astronomy, it highlighted how to pursue our hobby from northern latitudes.

Skynews also provided an opportunity for RASC to reach out to people interested in astronomy who were not members. RASC Victoria Centre used the magazine at public events such as Astronomy Day to promote interest in astronomy to the wider community.

I hope some of the contributors to Skynews will find opportunities to continue to write about Canadian amateur astronomy, observing the night sky, and issues that affect us as astronomers. It would be great to see the Domain name be retained by RASC for the promotion of amateur astronomy in Canada. Perhaps the website could be used to encourage up-and-coming Canadian journalists who have an interest in astronomy and space. The Skynews Youtube channel is also a valuable asset worth nurturing and keeping up-to-date, but some resources from RASC will obviously be needed.

Joe Carr, Webmaster

SkyNews - March/April 2023
SkyNews – March/April 2023

March 2, 2023 – I received my last issue of SkyNews magazine today, a week after posting my thoughts (above) about the loss and the possibilities going forward. It’s sad to read about Carina’s new column planned for astrophotographers, Phil Groff’s wish to finally be free of the pandemic restrictions to fulfill his plan to visit RASC members across the country, Nathan’s 2023 Galactic Travel Guide, and other articles giving observing hints and targets for the coming months under Spring skies. So much optimism that now goes up in smoke since SkyNews will no longer be there to help those of us who are amateur astronomers in Canada to pursue our passion.

Thanks go to all the current and past contributors to SkyNews, who made this publication come alive, and also thanks to the advertisers who supported the magazine. Finally, thanks to RASC National for owning and operating the magazine over the last few years.

Astronomy Cafe – Feb 13, 2023

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

A Special General Meeting (SGM) was held before Astronomy Cafe commenced. After the SGM concluded, members heard a guest speaker and reports.

A Brief History of Galaxies: from the discovery of island universes to a clash of the Titans – Dr. Sara Ellison, UVic Astronomy professor

  • Our own Milky Way and other galaxies showing light and dust features
  • Deep field taken by JWST
    • FOV: a grain of sand held at arm’s length
    • thousands of galaxies in the image
  • History
    • Charles Messier – a 17th century comet hunter who listed 110 objects that are notcomets
    • Lord Ross used the 1.8m Leviathan telescope to sketch spiral galaxies
    • Shapely-Curtis debate in 1920 about the nature of nebulae
    • The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars: Sobel, Dava: 9780143111344: Books –
    • Henrietta Leavitt discovered the Type 1 Cepheid Variables, correlation between the brightness and variations in the luminosity
    • Leavitt’s discovery used by Edwin Hubble, who in 1923 settled the Shapely-Curtis debate. The Hubble Law related distance to velocity (red shift), the start of cosmology as we now know it.
    • Hubble Tuning Fork classifications of galaxies
    • Halton Arp studied Peculiar Galaxies – guide:
  • Early modelling of interacting galaxies
  • Video – current modelling of interacting galaxies
  • Toomre Sequence – showing different morphologies
  • Galaxies cluster in groups, which is how they grow mass
  • Stellar streams in the Triangulum Galaxy – research at Herzberg
  • Tidal streams in the Milky Way are remnants of small galaxies that have interacted in the past
  • How a galaxy merger transforms it – simulations predict:
    • Isolated disk
    • Small group
    • Gas funnels to the galaxy centre
    • Black hole accretion
    • Decay
    • Dead Elliptical
  • Sara’s research – Sara Ellison – University of Victoria
  • Q&A


  • Council meeting coming up – Tue 28th – AGM planning
  • Awards Nominations and nominees for Council – contact Reg Dunkley
  • AGM will be held online, tentatively on March 13th
  • Social dinner will also be held later – awards
  • SIGs

No Astro Cafe next week. Next Astro Cafe will be held on Feb 27th

Astronomy Cafe – Feb 6, 2023

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Silent Sky at Langham Court Theatre – performances Jan 25 to Feb 11
    • Positive comments from RASC members who attended performances, especially Sara Ellison’s presentation at the end of the Sunday afternoon performance.
    • Full bus from Berwick House attended the Sunday afternoon performance
    • Lots of seats are available for Wed, Thu & Fri upcoming performances
    • History of the production by Jim Hesser
  • Welcome from Jeff Pivnick
  • Beginners’ SIG – tomorrow evening – David Lee
  • Special General Meeting – Feb 13, 2023 – Randy Enkin
    • Need to adopt new bylaws for Victoria Centre
    • Presentation: A Brief History of Galaxies… – Sara Ellison
  • Black Holes
    • How can a black hole conserve angular momentum? – Randy Enkin
      • Conservation of angular momentum examples
        • Solar system
        • Earth-Moon system
      • Black Holes – 1915 Albert Einstein, 1916 Karl Schwarzchild (point singularity), 1963 Roy Kerr (ringularity)
    • What really happens at the black hole singularity? – John McDonald
      • Black Holes can be explained somewhat by Gravity (very large things) and Quantum Theory (very small things)
      • What happens to information that falls into a Black hole? We don’t know.
      • Black Holes are not likely a singularity, so it’s unknown what form they actually take
      • Entropy – measure of the disorder of things
  • Uranus – Jeff Pivnick
    • Relative distances of planets in solar system
    • Distance from the Sun to Saturn is about the same as the distance from Saturn to Uranus
    • Photos of Uranus taken by John McDonald and Lucky Budd – Zenfolio | RASC Victoria Centre | Search
    • William Herschel, an astronomer, reflecting telescope maker, musician and composer
      • Discovered Uranus on March 13, 1781
      • Discovered infrared light
      • Caroline Herschel – first professional astronomer (paid by the king)
      • NGC list was first compiled by the Herschels
  • Horizons – Dorothy Paul
    • Observed from the White Mountains of California in October 2022
    • Camped for 10 days with 7 days of good observing skies
    • SQM at least 21.8, with good transparency and stability
    • Dorothy and Miles observed the southern sky from 38.5º north, observing the Grus constellation at -50º altitude!
    • Observed stars right down to the True Horizon at -51.5º
    • Discussion of the term Astronomical Horizon
  • Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) photos – Dave Payne
    • Globular Cluster discovered by Caroline Herschel
    • Comet C/2022 E3 (ZTF) on Jan 28th
    • Diatomic carbon causes the green colour in many comets, including this one
  • RASC Victoria AGM tentatively to be held on March 13, predicated on the new bylaws being passed.