President’s Message November 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

Skyrocketing cases of Covid and disturbing developments south of the border have stoked our levels of anxiety. As an antidote to these concerns it is high time for a good news story. Let’s revisit a happy moment in 2017 when a number of Victoria Centre RASCals attended the Great Solar Eclipse Afterparty. We gathered to share images, swap eclipse adventures and relive the magic of this event. Many of these stories were captured in the October 2017 issue of Sky News. A highlight of this joyous occasion was the unboxing of our new TPO 16 inch Ritchey Chretien reflector telescope. This was performed with great fanfare by Matt Watson and Dan Posey. 

In September and October of 2017 Matt and Dan installed the new scope on the Victoria Centre Observatory Paramount ME mount and took great care neatly wiring the scope to connect the cameras, an off axis guider and an electronic focuser to the computer. Official first light occurred on October 28th 2017 (See November 2017 Sky News for early images). Dan Posey’s gallery on zenfolio contains a series of beautiful images taken with the TPO 16 Inch RC between late October 2017 through October 2018 including my favourite, the Fireworks Galaxy (See page 10 October 2018 Sky News). These photos are a testament that the scope was performing well during that interval.

Sadly, no decent images were captured with that scope after October 2018. The TPO 16 Inch seems to have drifted off collimation and the cause remains a mystery. The collimation of a Ritchey-Chretien scope is a tricky business and Dan and Matt spent countless hours researching and trying to re-collimate this instrument over the next year. They even enlisted the help of former DAO member Les Disher. In the spring of 2020 Les demonstrated that collimation could be achieved when the scope was pointed towards the zenith but it went out of collimation as soon as it was slewed to a lower altitude. This indicated that there may be flexure somewhere in the truss or mirror supports of the telescope. It was Victoria Centre’s good fortune that Matt Watson opted to purchase a lifetime warranty on the scope and Council approved to return it to the Los Angeles vendor, OPT, for repair.

By this time Observatory Hill was in lockdown due to Covid. NRC kindly granted permission for special access to the VCO and on June 4th, 2020 four masked men (Dave Robinson, Mike Nash, Dan Posey and your President) furtively removed the TPO 16 inch RC, boxed it up and sent it to OPT via Fedex. In October OPT informed us that they could not fix the scope and offered to send us a new TPO 16 Inch RC … but without a lifetime warranty. The Tech Committee was not comfortable with this arrangement and instead John McDonald negotiated an “in store credit” for the value paid for the scope. 

While the TPO scope was off for repairs, Garry Sedun learned about a used research grade scope that was for sale at an attractive price in Arizona. John McDonald and I bought this scope with the idea that it might be a replacement for the VCO if the repair of the TPO scope did not succeed. Garry Sedun kindly delivered this 12.5 inch OGS Ritchey Chretien scope to Victoria when he returned from Arizona this summer. OGS stands for “Optical Guidance Systems” and they manufacture high quality instruments for NASA, universities and research facilities. Although the optical tube is not in pristine condition the primary mirror is figured to a precision of 1/31st of a wavelength and it has a very stout built quality. 

On September 21st, when limited access to the VCO was restored under strict Covid protocols this scope was attached to the VCO mount. Results were encouraging when the first image was obtained on October 3rd using an improvised focuser. When a helical focuser was attached to the scope on October 30th results were even better. Star field images were crisp with round undistorted stars right out to the corners. Although Dan Posey detected that the primary mirror was just a tad out of collimation, he felt that it was performing better than the old Meade 14 inch Schmidt Cassegrain telescope. 

The Tech Committee will continue to evaluate this scope with further star field tests. If it is determined that it will meet the needs of the membership, John McDonald and I are prepared to permanently loan the scope to the Victoria Centre. If Victoria Centre members are dissatisfied with this scope we will deploy it elsewhere. The OPT store credit gives us the flexibility to consider an alternate scope. 

Remember that there is also a high quality 20 inch Obsession Dobsonian telescope at the VCO. Argo Navis digital setting circles will be soon added to this scope and make it easier for visual observers to find objects in the sky. So when you consider that access to the VCO has been restored with a functioning scope for astrophotography and an excellent instrument for visual observers that qualifies as a good news story!

Now all we need are some useable skies

Stay Well

Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Cafe – November 2nd 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Meeting transcript recording

UVic Observatory Open House: “Messy Stellar Siblings”

You are invited to a Zoom presentation at 7:30PM on Wednesday November 4th by Dr Melissa Graham from the Vera Rubin Observatory. The title is “Messy Stellar Siblings” and the future of Supernovae studies with the Vera Rubin Observatory. Zoom session

Fast Radio Bursts – by Victoria Kaspi

Jim Hesser highly recommends this UVic Physics and Astronomy Colloquia on Fast Radio Bursts: by Dr. Victoria Kaspi, from McGill which takes place at 3:30pm PST on Wednesday November 4

“Fast Radio Bursts”
Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) are short (few millisecond) bursts of radio waves observed from cosmological distances. Their origin is presently unknown, yet their rate is many hundreds per sky per day, indicating a not-uncommon phenomenon in the Universe. In this talk, I will review the FRB field and present new results on FRBs from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME). Zoom session

Electronically Assisted Astronomy – David Lee

As discussed at the meeting tonight let me know (email) if any member has an interest in or any questions about Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA). There’s also some talk about developing a national certificate around the skills involved in this activity, likely revolving around its use in projects. As this evolves I’ll keep members informed. For details about David’s presentation about EAA, view the transcript video at the 0:39:15 mark.

Astronomy Cafe – October 26th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of meeting

  • Maritime Museum development proposal
  • Nominate Alex Schmid for upcoming Victoria Council by-election – email

UVic Astronomy Open House Wednesday October 28th: Deep (Machine) Learning with Neural Networks by Karun Thanjavur (UVic)

You are invited this Zoom Meeting at 7:30 PM PDT this Wednesday by following this link.

Learn about the second industrial revolution as Karun Thanjavur demonstrates the amazing power of artificial intelligence. The future is here today!

Abstract:
Artificial intelligence (AI), specially Deep (Machine) Learning applications are already ubiquitous in everyday use, and have been called the second industrial revolution. Deep Learning algorithms, called Neural Networks, thrive on Big Data, the happy ‘problem’ we now face of enormous amounts of data available in astronomy and in almost all fields of human endeavour. Piggybacked on the impressive recent advances in high performance computing, neural networks are trained on these available large datasets to then perform a variety of human-like tasks, such as realtime decision making, identifying subtle patterns in the data, forecasting, making recommendations based on experience, and so on. In this presentation I aim to provide an overview of this rapidly burgeoning field, explain in simple terms the construction and working of a neural net, and illustrate these principles with a few examples drawn from literature and from my own research.​

How to Talk to a Science Denier:

Jim Hesser attended a recent UVic Physics colloquium by Dr. Lee McIntyre (Boston U.) was on the topic, “How to Talk to a Science Denier: What I learned at the Flat Earth Convention”.

Jim reports that the key take away message was that the best way he’s found to help a science denier is through real conversation that leads to building a relationship of trust between the denier and the scientists; once there is trust, the stage is set for the denier to look at alternate views and evidence the scientist provides. People interested in the science denial challenge might enjoy exploring this presentation.

David Lee’s First Light With Borg 55FL and ASI183MC

David writes: For those who can’t wait for the winter objects and you’re willing to stay up late you can catch objects like the Orion Nebula. This was also first imaging light for the Borg 55FL and the ASI183MC.

  • Imaging Camera: ZWO ASI183MC
  • Imaging Optics: Borg 55FL f/3.6 Astrograph
  • Filtration: Hutech Night Glow IDAS NGS1
  • Tracking Mount: Astrotrac
  • Exposure: 50 light frames of 30 seconds for a total exposure of 25 minutes
  • Processing: Pixinsight Core Version 1.8 and Adobe Photoshop CC 2021

President’s Message October 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

Have you noticed that the red planet has received the lion’s share of planetary press coverage lately? In July 2020 three Martian space missions were launched: The United Arab Emirates mission will place an advanced weather satellite, called Hope, in a Martian orbit. The Chinese mission Tianwen-1 will deliver an orbiter, lander and rover to the planet. NASA and JPL will land Perseverance and Ingenuity on Mars. Perseverance is similar to the phenomenally successful Curiosity rover and will drill and deposit caches of samples for a possible retrieval mission. Ingenuity is a small helicopter that will take short three minute missions that will scout for interesting objects for Perseverance to examine. All three missions will reach Mars in February 2021, just in time for the Victoria Centre AGM! What a great time to become the Centre President!

Martian enthusiasts will also be excited to learn the Hilary Swank and her brave team of astronauts in the Netflix Martian exploration drama AWAY will likely be renewed for another season. Keen observers of this program may, like me, be puzzled by the intermittent nature of weightlessness in this drama. I wonder if special effects budgets are a factor.

The big event this month, however, is the opposition of Mars which takes place on October 13th. At this time, only 0.41 astronomical units away, the Martian angular diameter reaches 22.4 arc seconds. In anticipation of this event some keen RASCals like John McDonald have been perfecting their planetary photography techniques. You may remember that during the last opposition in the Summer of 2018 a major dust storm prevented us to savour the surface details. Although weather patterns have been favourable of late, smoke from the major wildfires in Northern California have introduced a new element of uncertainty. We should keep in mind that the crescendo of the Martian angular diameter is a gradual event and let’s hope for usable skies and wonderful images.

Right in the middle of this Martian jamboree, however, I was happy to hear that our much neglected sister planet, Venus, crashed the party. On September 14th, a paper announced that “Phosphine gas in the cloud decks of Venus”. In 2017 the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope detected the spectral signature of the molecule phosphine in the Venusian atmosphere. This was followed up by higher resolution data from ALMA in 2019. This created great excitement because phosphine is considered a bio-signature in rocky planets and offers the intriguing possibility of life in the Venusian atmosphere. This may inspire future missions to Venus … which maybe a good thing since those wildfires are ringing alarm bells about global warming. Maybe we should spend more effort studying the planet next door which provides an outstanding illustration of a runaway greenhouse effect. We have much more to learn.

Stay well …
And Useable Skies

Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Cafe – Monday October 5th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Meeting video transcript

Latest Mars image on September 30th by John McDonald

Mars almost at opposition. Details 2020 09 30 at Ross Place Victoria BC 8″ Edge SCT on AVX mount. ZWO ASI120MM-S camera with filter wheel and TV Powermate barlow to give focal ration f/25. Captured 2000 frames in each of R,G,B and IR filters and stacked best 59% in Astrostakkert, sharpened in Registax, and enhanced in Photoshop.

Latest Mars image from Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar

Andur writes: I was using a C11 EDGE at f30 with an ASI1600MM camera. I took 18 videos of 90s through each filter for this sequence and stacked them in Autostakkert. I then applied wavelets in Registax and de-rotated the images in Winjupos. This is the first time that I have actually gotten some detail in the south pole. (Date Uncertain)

Unquiet Slumbers Aurora from Edmonton RASCal Alister Ling

To savour Alister’s wonderful time lapse crank up the volume and click on the link: https://youtu.be/AE7Jr6Dh4bk

Recommendations from Jim Hesser

Jim writes “This McGill public lecture on gravitational waves was dynamic, quite accessible and right up to date.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqmnq65MjKk

Also Jim alerts us of another presentation in the series Golden Webinars in Astrophysics

Makoto Yoshikawa from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)
Institute of Space and Astronautical Sciences (ISAS) on
“Challenges of the Asteroid Sample-Return Mission Hayabusa2”

on October 9th, at 20:00 CLT (UTC-3h) Click the following to register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/6416016640027/WN_gIS63X00S8qWg1no-drEyA

Astronomy Cafe – Monday September 28th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Transcript video of the meeting

Dr. James di Francesco speaks at UVic Open House this Wednesday

Join this Zoom Meeting at 7:30 PM PDT this Wednesday by following the link below.
https://uvic.zoom.us/j/93596786035?pwd=SytMSzRlZERrdjFTM0V4bytNTWtoZz09

Meeting ID: 935 9678 6035
Password: 566494​

From Baby Planets to Black Holes: Lecture by Dr. Schieven

The Vancouver Island Engineering Society invites you to a lecture by Dr. Gerald Schieven on Friday October 2nd at 11:30 AM. The focus of his talk is ALMA and the New Horizon Telescope. Find details at the following link: https://viengsoc.ca/events/from-baby-planets-to-black-holes-alma-and-the-event-horizon-telescope/

The Quantum Physicist as Causal Detective

A Perimeter Institute Public Lecture on WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 7 at 4 pm PDT

What do data science and the foundations of quantum theory have to do with one another? A great deal, it turns out.

Causal inference is a branch of data science that focuses on a common problem across many disciplines: disentangling correlation and causation in statistical data. Meanwhile, quantum physicists have pondered this problem as part of a continuing effort to make sense of puzzling quantum phenomena.

In the first talk of Perimeter’s 2020/21 Public Lecture Series, Robert Spekkens and Elie Wolfe will explore what is happening at the intersection of these two fields and how thinking like a quantum physicist leads to new ways of separating cause and effect from correlation patterns in statistical data.

Follow this link to learn more: https://insidetheperimeter.ca/quantum-physicist-causal-detective-live-webcast/

Astronomy Cafe – Monday September 21st 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of meeting

  • Overall Winners 2020 – Insight Investment Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition – presented by Barbara Lane
  • Telescope installation at Victoria Centre Observatory – time lapse video and photo gallery – Sep 21, 2020 (for higher quality than the Zoom presentation version)

FDAO Virtual DAO Star Party Saturday September 19th 2020

The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory are hosting a Virtual Star Party on Saturday September 19th at 7:00PM. Robert Conrad and Andrew Krysa from the Vancouver RASC are speaking on Mars.

UVic Observatory Open House program for this Fall begins!

UVic invites you to their Observatory Open House program for this Fall. Zoom sessions will begin next Wednesday, Sept 23 at 7:30pm. They will continue weekly at the same time and day till December. This week the Director of CFHT, Dr. Doug Simons presenting ‘Celebrating 40 years of discovery at CFHT’.

This link to join the Zoom Meeting will work for all of UVic’s Astronomy’s Open Houses going forward.

Meeting ID: 935 9678 6035
Password: 566494

Images from Edmonton RASCals relayed by Dave Robinson

Sharpless 2-171: NGC 7822 and Cederblad 214. By Arnold Rivera on September 14
Arnold writes: These two objects have been on my imaging list for a while for two reasons:
They were the first objects on the Observer’s Handbook Deep-Sky Challenge List I visually observed when I started tackling the list and they are well-placed in our northern skies in the fall. These are ‘large’ (60’X30’) but faint emission nebulae well suited for the type of imaging equipment that I typically use. My image was flipped and rotated to reflect its true orientation in the sky when the image was taken.
Celestron RASA8 & ZWO ASI294 MC Pro (-16 C) Astronomik CLS CCD light pollution filter
50 subs, 11m 45s total integration time (uncropped) Processsed in Deep Sky Stacker and PixInsight
Mars by Abdul Anwar on Sept 14
Abdul Anwar tested out his new C11 on Mars and got impressive results. Abdul writes: After carefully collimating it, I spent a few hours imaging Mars. I took 18 x 2 min videos through each filter (total of 108 minutes of footage) and stacked 84,000 out of 337,000 frames I captured. It took a few evenings to process everything but I am sure it’ll get faster as I learn to optimise the process. The equipment used was as follows:
C11 Edge at f20 (5600mm) EQ6R mount ASI1600MM camera with RGB filters.
Images were captured in 16 bit SER format using Sharpcap. Processing was done in Autostakkert, Registax, Siril, and GIMP.

Astronomy Cafe – September 14th 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Transcript video of meeting – Phil Groff portion

This is a special edition with guest speaker Dr. Phil Groff, the Executive Director of RASC. Phil gave an overview of RASC from a National perspective and took questions from Victoria Centre members.

Edmonton Contributions relayed by Dave Robinson

The Cygnus Wall, a portion of the North American Nebula (NGC 7000) in Cygnus. By Abdur Anwar Sept 6
Using ASI1600MM Pro with ZWO LRGBHa filters RGB: 30 mins each L: 74 mins Scope: 8″ f3.9 reflector
Abdur writes: Capturing the Cygnus wall was one of my goals for this year since Cygnus is almost overhead right now. Really happy with how it turned out. I didn’t take any Ha subs for this target as I prefer the more natural colours of RGB. Due to a lot of Ha emissions, the red would overpower everything else with Ha data.
Above Neptune with Triton: total exposure about 1 hour
both photos by Massimo Tori using a 10″ Newtonian f/4.7 and a Canon XSi.
Below Moons of Uranus: total exposure about 2.5 hours

Great Martian Details by John McDonald

At 2AM on September 11th John McDonald captured amazing surface details on Mars. Using his C-8 SCT with a Barlow he used lucky imaging – 1000 frames in R, B, G and IR(for luminance) with a ZWO ASI120MM camera.

President’s Message September 2020

Posted by as News, President's Message

I don’t know about you but I am not ready to change the calendar to September just yet. The uncertainty introduced by the pandemic and the political drama unfolding south of the border distracted me from making the most of the Summer. The restrictions of Covid 19 produced a Star Party deficit and deprived the Victoria Centre of the social interaction enjoyed when sharing the night skies with others. But the constellations march on and they are indifferent to our plight. So enough snivelling and it is time to count our blessings.

On the Covid front, whether it was our favourable geography, good governance or good fortune, so far Vancouver Island has experienced relatively few cases when compared to other areas. On the weather front, relatively cool conditions have reduced wild fire smoke and presented favourable observing and imaging opportunities. On the technological front, Zoom and our tireless hosts, Chris Purse, Barbara and Kurt Lane and John McDonald have kept the doors to Astro Cafe open during the summer months. This allowed us to remain connected and share our techniques, images, sketches and enthusiasm. These sessions were all captured on video by the kindness of Joe Carr and posted on the Astronomy Cafe web page. One antidote to the pandemic was the visit by the beautiful comet C/2020 f3 Neowise. Editor Bruce Lane went the extra mile and prepared bonus issue #420 of the Victoria Centre newsletter, SkyNews, that showcased images and sketches of comet Neowise and conveyed the joy it generated. Bruce also provided a colourful history of comets of yesteryear and their relationship leaders of the day.

The National RASC response to Covid was remarkable. There were so many web offerings that they have developed a very useful weekly email entitled “What’s happening at The RASC?” which alerts you to regional and national presentations. If you are not already receiving this email then I encourage you to subscribe here. In particular they had developed a series of Zoom webinars related to the Explore the Universe program. These and other presentations have been captured and are available on the RASCanada YouTube channel for viewing at your convenience.

As we head into September, the number of Covid cases are on the rise and the rooms at UVic will remain closed. Instead of having a special monthly meeting on Zoom, we plan instead to have one Astro Cafe session each month with an invited speaker. The first presenter, Dr. Phil Groff, executive director of RASC, will attend our Astro Cafe Zoom meeting on Monday September 14th at 7:30 PM. It is a great opportunity meet Phil and share your thoughts with him.

As the nights continue to lengthen I do hope that you will find time to step out, look up and marvel.

Useable Skies

Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Cafe – August 31st 2020

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of meeting

Sketch of fading Comet Neowise by Bill Weir

Bill writes: Using Stellarium as a guide, with my 15X70 binoculars it was an easy long star hop from Arcturus to the precise area where I should be able to see the comet. Due to the 1/4 Moon being maybe only 25° away and even though I had the Moon blocked by a tree the comet was invisible through binoculars so on to the f/3.3 508 mm Dobsonian scope. Bill’s persistence allowed him to glimpse and sketch comet C/2020 f3 Neowise.

What’s happening at The RASC?

Not all members of the Victoria Centre have been receiving this valuable email which provides information on weekly RASC online offerings such as the Explore the Universe and some regional Zoom presentations. To subscribe to this interesting message click here.

Impressive Images of Mars from Edmonton RASCal Abdur Anwar

Abdur Anwar dusted off his old Celestron 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain Telescope and put it to good use using a lucky imaging technique to capture some amazing images of Mars. On August 25th Abdur experimented with the program WinJupos which can remove the blurring effect caused by rotation. Check out the before and after images below.

Mars on August 25th Image uncorrected for rotation
Same image as above with “derotation” corrections from WinJupos applied
Abdur’s derotated image of Mars taken on August 28th using Celestron C8 with 2X barlow and an ASI600MM camera with zwo RGB filters and a CG5 mount using 1/60s exposure time and a gain of 175. Images were stacked in Autostakkert, wavelets applied in Registax, and derotated in Winjupos.

Speaking of Mars check out this 4K video

The video in this link displays a collection of high resolution images taken on a number of Martian space missions. It is 12 minutes well spent.

Observing