President’s Message: November 2019

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The Canadian astronomical community received a wonderful surprise on October 8th when it was announced that Manitoba native Dr. Jim Peebles would receive the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics. Jim was born in St. Boniface and obtained a Bachelor Degree in Physics from University of Manitoba in 1958. He then obtained a Phd from Princeton in 1962 and has remained there every since. He was rewarded for laying a foundation for modern cosmology, including his realization that faint microwave radiation that filled the cosmos 400,000 years after the Big Bang contains crucial clues to what the universe looked like at this primitive stage and how it has evolved since. Dennis Overbye wrote a wonderful account, explaining his discoveries and capturing his character in Chapter Six the classic book The Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos. Randy Enkin and Jim Hesser delivered a short tribute to Peebles during a recent Astro Cafe. Jim Hesser met Peebles when he was a grad student at Princeton and mentioned that Peebles had spent time at the DAO while on Sabbatical in the early 80’s. At that time he boldly predicted that Jim would receive the Nobel Prize some day. It took almost 4 decades but Hesser was delighted when his prediction was finally verified. There is a joyous YouTube video of the Princeton celebration of this announcement. Check it out.

While Jim Peebles contemplated the biggest picture, most of the Victoria Centre presentations during 2019 have focused on our local Solar System. In February Dr. Samatha Lawler explored the controversy about a Planet Nine lurking in the outer reaches of the Solar System. In March Dr. JJ Kavelaars shared the latest findings for the New Horizon’s Flyby of 2014MU69 (Ultima Thule). Dr. Kelsi Springer delivered a public lecture on this rendezvous during a CASCA conference in May. I gave a talk on the Juno mission to Jupiter in May while in June Matt Williams explored the feasibility of leaving the Solar System to explore nearby stars. The Summer was dominated by reflections on the Apollo moon landing while in October Dr. Linda Spilker, Principal Cassini Mission Scientist delivered a fascinating talk on the results of this very successful 13 year exploration of Saturn. Meanwhile Linda’s husband Dr. Tom Spilker, a space mission architect, unveiled plans for a 400 person Space Station … on the scale of the Empress Hotel. I will try to negotiate a Victoria Centre discount. Some age restrictions may apply.

This Solar System theme continues at the November 13th monthly meeting when Dr. Philip Stooke discusses Lunar discoveries that have been made since Apollo. He has applied his specialty in cartography to the Solar System and has developed a Martian Atlas and has also mapped the irregular shapes of Martian moons and many asteroids. It will be an interesting talk and we hope to see you there.

One noteworthy Solar System event is the Transit of Mercury which begins at Sunrise at 7:15 AM on November 11th and ends at 10AM. Because this event occurs very close to Remembrance Day Ceremonies and due to the unfavourable climate for this date the Victoria Centre decided to not heavily promote the Transit. Some Victoria RASCals, however, plan to set up telescopes at Cattle Point and Mount Tolmie if weather permits.

Speaking of weather, a blocking ridge of high pressure became established in late October …which is rare for this time of year. This allowed many clear nights and Victoria RASCals made the most of this opportunity. Over 20 participated in the Plaskett Party on October 26th. This interlude also allowed the technical committee to refine the performance of the 16 inch telescope at the Victoria Centre Observatory and it is back in business “bagging photons”. Many thanks to all who made that happen. Due to our land use agreement with NRC, you have to be a member of the active observers list to attend these VCO sessions. Please see Chris Purse (membership@victoria.rasc.ca) for details.

Useable Skies
Reg Dunkley

President’s Message October 2019

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As a baby boomer I feel very fortunate to have lived before the development of adaptive optics, the era of the Hubble Space Telescope and Voyager’s mission to the outer planets. Blurry vision concealed the secrets of the solar system and we were engulfed in an aura of mystery. Then in 1964 Gary Flandro, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) engineer realized that the planets were in a rare alignment that would enable a momentum robbing technique to conduct a Grand Tour of the Solar System. The Voyager mission arose from Gary’s vision and rendezvoused with Jupiter in 1979, Saturn in 1981, Uranus in 1986 and Neptune in 1989. This mission enjoyed a spectacular success and each encounter dramatically transformed and improved our understanding of these planets. What a treat for the astronomical community … both professional and amateur. It was like watching a fascinating sporting event unfold in slow motion. This was before the era of High Definition TV and the instant communication of the internet. I remember eagerly awaiting for the arrival of the next issue of Sky and Telescope and then pouring over the stunning imagery and reading about the discoveries detected by the array of instruments.

So, perhaps you will understand my excitement when JPL scientists Linda and Tom Spilker, address our meeting on Wednesday October 9th. Not only did Linda and Tom have front row seats on the Voyager Mission, they got to turn some of the dials as well! As is often the case, the Voyager mission generated more questions than answers. Linda was deeply involved in the remarkably successful followup mission to Saturn called Cassini. As the Cassini Project Scientist she will update us with some of the latest findings of that mission.

Tom Spilker is a Space Mission Architect. It would be difficult to invent a more exciting job title! He currently works with space agencies around the globe and has participated in the Voyager, Cassini, Genesis, and Rosetta missions. In addition to sharing findings of these missions I hope that Linda and Tom will be able to convey what it is like to be involved in such exciting and important mission’s of discovery. If you think that some of your friends might find this evening of interest please invite them along. There is no admission charge. In anticipation of a larger audience we have moved the event to Flury Hall in the Bob Wright Centre at UVic. We hope to see you there at 7:30PM.

A more modest event held locally had it’s own element of excitement. For the second year in a row we held our Victoria Centre Star Party in the serene yard of St. Stephens Anglican Church. Last year, within 5 minutes of erecting my brand new second hand Kendrick astronomy tent the first rain in 7 weeks began falling. It seemed more promising this year and on Friday afternoon I arrived in the church yard in a sun beam. Within 10 minutes, however, hail was bouncing off my car and a deluge of biblical portions followed. We received one quarter of the normal September rainfall in one hour! Perhaps the “committee aloft” that controls things was sending me a message.

Never the less we persevered and a beautiful Saturday afternoon graced our “StarBBQ”. This was perhaps the highlight of the weekend and thanks to Deb Crawford and her team of flippers for making it happen. The sunshine seduced many RASCals to set up scopes. We were, however, stabbed in the back by Friday’s storm and in a return circulation it delivered cloud from Idaho over the church yard Saturday evening. Being swaddled in cloud kept conditions mild and the dew at bay. Around midnight there were still several pockets of RASCals participating in discussions on a wide range of topics. If we had experienced clear skies I imagine that many of those same RASCals would have retreated to their own scopes and resumed observing in isolation. It takes a lot of time and energy to put on a Star Party and I would like to thank all the volunteers who lent a hand. Thanks also to Dr. Chris Gainor and Dr. Robert Beardsall for delivering the interesting evening presentations. In particular I would like to thank Bruce Lane for planning this event and effectively recruiting and directing RASCals.

Cloud Free Nights

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message September 2019

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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!

We hope to see you there!

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message Mid Summer Report

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RASC Display at Library

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 chris@aesoph.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 roche.lauri@gmail.com

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.

Cloud Free Nights

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message: June 2019

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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 membership@victoria.rasc.ca 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 president@victoria.rasc.ca 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!

Cloud Free Nights
Reg Dunkley

President’s Message: May 2019

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April was a momentous month for the Astronomical community. On April 10th an image of the shadow of a black hole at the centre of the enormous galaxy M87 was released to the public. The image itself looked like a glazed donut sitting in a Tim Horton’s display case. It was the donut hole that generated the buzz. This was the first direct visual evidence of the existence of a black hole. It was obtained by the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of 8 facilities distributed around the globe that simultaneously collected data for the same object. The signals, collected at the millimetre wavelength were combined together using Very Long Baseline Interferometry, a technique first pioneered in Canada in 1967. This array, almost spanning the diameter of the earth, has a remarkable resolution and could detect a grapefruit lying on the lunar surface. Extraordinary precision was required to pull this off and the fact that it actually worked is cause for great jubilation. It is also a wonderful example of what can be achieved when nations around the globe agree to work together. This is just the first of many remarkable objects that the Event Horizon Telescope will examine. Rumour has it that the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way will be the next target.


April was also a great month for the Victoria Centre. On Saturday the 27th, RASCals rallied at the Royal BC Museum for Astronomy Day 2019. Together with RASC, eight other organizations joined in this celebration of Astronomy. The smooth roll out was a tribute to the excellent planning effort by David Lee and the wonderful cooperation of the The RBCM. Four speakers delivered interesting presentations in the adjacent Newcombe Conference Hall. In the evening Victoria RASCals gathered together with their “cousins” in the FDAO to co-host the first Saturday Star Party of the season. The weather was wonderful and there was an impressive array of RASCal telescopes assembled in the parking lot adjacent to the Plaskett Dome. A heartfelt thanks to all the RASCal volunteers who helped make Astronomy Day a wonderful success. It was a great launch to the 2019 Outreach Season.


One tireless RASCal, Lauri Roche could be found setting up on Friday, hosting the Children’s Activity table at the Museum on Astronomy Day and playing a lead role at the Star Party that evening. This is just one of many examples of Lauri’s passion for and devotion to astronomical public outreach and education. Victoria Centre Rascals were thrilled to learn that Lauri will be receiving the prestigious RASC Service Award when she attends the General Assembly in Toronto in June. There have only been two Victoria Centre winners in the last 31 years and Lauri richly deserves this honour!


Speaking of outreach, the Victoria Centre has just acquired a new 40 inch monitor that is ideal for displaying astrophotography at events. During most of the summer it will be situated next to our Victoria Centre Welcome Table at the Centre of the Universe. This offers a great opportunity to enhance our visual offerings at the Welcome Table. In addition to showcasing Victoria Centre astro photos it could be employed demonstrating a host of astronomical topics or sharing those amazing video clips with the public. This could be a lot of fun and all you need is a thumb drive or a lap top to put on a show. Give it your consideration. It could be the next big thing!


Those who attended the presentation by Dr. JJ Kavelaars on Astronomy Day are aware of the important contribution that JJ and the Canadian team made when selecting Ultima Thule for the New Horizons followup mission. A professional conference on the New Horizon’s mission will be at held at the Victoria Conference Centre in May. At 7PM on Tuesday, May the 14th, Dr. Kelsi Singer will be delivering a free public lecture entitled, The New Horizons Mission to Pluto and Beyond. The Victoria Centre will have a table at the Victoria Conference Centre that evening. We hope to see you there!


Reg Dunkley

Cloudless Nights

President’s Message April 2019

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The Victoria atmosphere has finally acquired some Spring like qualities. This means that it is almost time to launch the 2019 Public Outreach Season. The official kick off takes place on Saturday April 27th with Astronomy Day. From 10AM to 4PM the Victoria Centre will be hosting the session at the Royal BC Museum. Numerous tables devoted to all things Astronomical will be located in the Clifford Carl Hall. Three lectures will be delivered in the adjacent Newcombe Conference Hall. David Lee, the captain of the Astronomy Day Team has recruited leaders to organize the various tables and things are coming together nicely. From 7:30PM to 11PM, our cousins, the Friends of the DAO, will be hosting the first Saturday Star Party of the season at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory. RASC members will be in force with their telescopes to act as tour guides of the Universe. RASC will also have an information table in the Centre of the Universe. Star Parties at the DAO will be held every Saturday until September 7th.

Victoria Centre usually hosts another type of Star Party each year. The main focus of this event is an observing session directed toward the community of amateur astronomers rather than the general public. Selecting the date of a Star Party can be a challenge. It should meet the following criteria: fall near a New Moon, have a sufficient amount of darkness, avoid conflict with other nearby Star Parties and … oh yes … enjoy favourable weather conditions. This year the Mount Kobau Star Party, near Osoyoos will take place between July 31st and August 4th and the Island Star Party, held at Bright Angel Park in the Cowichan Valley, will occur on the Labour Day weekend. Many Victoria RASCals are loyal attendees of the Island Star Party so it is best to avoid that weekend. The New Moon and amount of darkness are easy to predict. It is, however, a bit trickier when it comes to the weather.

The saying goes that climate is what you expect and weather is what you get. While climate statistics can let you down it does reveal that the atmospheric dice are loaded. One rudimentary statistic which has proven useful in this area is the chance of 5 consecutive days without rain. The premise is that if there is no rain during a 5 day interval it suggests the presence of a ridge of high pressure that is diverting weather systems away from the area and suppressing afternoon shower activity. Using 50 years of quality controlled precipitation data from Victoria International Airport I calculated that the chance of 5 consecutive days without rain varied from 65% on Aug 1st to 47% on Sept 1st to 29% on Sept 28th. These values suggest that favourable weather conditions may be more than twice as likely on August 1st than during the New Moon interval near Sept. 28th. During the last three summers, however, smoke from wildfires has frequently obscured the night skies during July and August. Also astronomical twilight ends at 8:43 PM on Sept. 28th compared to 11:13PM on Aug. 1st. As a consequence the Council is leaning towards holding the Victoria Centre Star Party from Friday Sept. 27th to Sunday Sept. 29th. The location will once again be the yard of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Central Saanich … which was rained out on Sept. 7th last year. Be wary of those climate statistics!

Cloudless Nights

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message February 2019

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For much of the astronomical community 2019 came barreling in at 50000 km/h. It was like they were riding in the back seat of New Horizons urging it to capture great shots of Ultima Thule as it whizzed by on New Years Day. The data slowly trickled in as the feeble signal completed its 6 hour journey home. To the amazement of all a strange snowman like feature emerged. During January this image became crisper as more data was accumulated. This technological triumph was a great way to begin the year.

One of the team members that selected this Kuiper belt object, officially named 2014 MU69, was Victoria astronomer Dr. JJ Kavelaars. He is the scheduled speaker at our March monthly meeting and JJ will have the latest information to share. At our February monthly meeting Dr. Samantha Lawler will deliver a presentation on even more remote Kuiper belt objects and she will examine the evidence for a mysterious Planet Nine or maybe that should it be Planet Nein?

January is not renowned for great observing conditions. During the late afternoon of Sunday January 20th, however, skies magically cleared in the Victoria area and set the stage for a beautiful lunar eclipse. A fireball and a fleeting impact on the lunar surface were also witnessed by a lucky few. Due to its brightness I generally avoid observing the full moon but at this phase the ejecta rays of craters like Tycho and Copernicus were prominent. I adjusted my camera to highlight these striking features during the event. My optimum settings with a 127 mm refractor varied from 1/1250 second at ISO 100 at the beginning to 4 seconds at ISO 800 during totality. This remarkable reduction in intensity enabled one to enjoy a rich star field during totality. I observed the eclipse at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park. The parking lot was full. The atmosphere was joyous with occasional outbreaks of wolf howls to honour the Super Wolf Blood Moon. It was wonderful to share this event in community.

This eclipse has inspired a number of RASCals to attempt the RASC lunar observing programs. These in include an introductory program entitled Explore the Moon and a more comprehensive program called the Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program. So far only 18 RASCals nation wide have completed the Isabel Williamson challenge. Perhaps you will want to join Victoria’s own Nelson Walker in this elite group. Check it out!

Some changes have been made at the Victoria Centre Observatory. The Victoria Centre recently received a generous donation of a 20 Inch Obsession Dobsonian telescope. In order the accommodate this scope at the VCO the existing 20 inch Dobsonian has been relocated to the Center of the Universe. This scope was beautifully crafted by Guy Walton in 2003 using a mirror from Jack Newton. In addition to serving as a museum piece this scope will be rolled out on the patio and used for public outreach events.

RASCals are reminded that during our February 13th Monthly Meeting there will be a very short administrative “Mini AGM”. This meeting is required as a result of the recent change of our fiscal year end from September 30th to December 31st. This could take less than 5 minutes so bring your stop watches!

Cloudless Nights! Reg Dunkley

President’s Message – January 2019

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In 2018 it seems like members of the Victoria Centre spent nearly as much time looking backward as they did looking up. Their focus was directed to the past as they celebrated the Plaskett Telescope as it completed 100 years of service. The Centre was involved in every aspect of the Plaskett Centennial including the unveiling of a national historic site plaque, the “first light” re-enactment on May 5th and the participation with the FDAO in the Victoria Day Parade. They were also invited to attend CASCA 2018, the astronomical conference which had several sessions devoted to the history of the DAO.

The attention was not just confined to the telescope. John Stanley Plaskett the driving force behind the scope was also celebrated in fine style. His achievements were captured in the new biography “Northern Star J.S. Plaskett” by Peter Broughton. What I found impressive was that Plaskett did not rest on his laurels with the design and acquisition of the scope. Five years after the 72 inch went into service Edwin Hubble proved that Andromeda was a galaxy rather than a nearby nebula. After learning of this discovery, Plaskett embarked on an ambitious observation program. During a 10 year period radial velocities of strategic stars were acquired with the 72 inch telescope. These measurements were employed to accurately determine our distance from the centre of the Milky Way as well as to calculate the rotation period about our galaxy. With his vision and long term commitment Plaskett and the DAO made a major astronomical contribution.

In 2018 we also celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. As we enter 2019 do not expect this historical focus to wane. The International Astronomical Union are all set to kick off their centennial. That party, however, may be drowned out by the 50th anniversary of Apollo which will resonate much more strongly with the boomers who lived through that era.

Speaking of boomers I recall a vivid memory from Christmas Eve, 50 years ago. I was just exiting the Odeon Theatre, my mind abuzz after watching Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “2001 A Space Odyssey”. When I looked up I glimpsed the Moon over Yates Street. I was stunned! Just think … at that very moment Apollo 8 was in orbit around the Moon. It was mind blowing and made “Space Odyssey” much more credible. When the astronauts recited from “In The Beginning” that Christmas Eve it reverberated around the globe.

Excellent documentaries on Apollo 8 recently appeared on NOVA and the BBC5Live while “The First Man” a new movie about Neil Armstrong has been playing on the big screen at the IMAX. Expect the Apollo drumbeat to continue to get louder as we approach July 20th, the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing.

In stark contrast to the massive “Big Science” “Moon Shot” team efforts of NASA, the almost solitary contributions of Plaskett and Hubble seem quaint these days. Is there still a role for the individual in this brave new world? I definitely think so. As proof let me remind you of my favourite story of the past year. It involved the Argentine amateur Victor Buso who managed to capture the shock breakout phase of a star the instant that it went supernovae (See the March 2018 edition of SkyNews). It does not get better than that!

Tired of looking back? Maybe it is time to peek outside and if weather permits try to look up.

Wishing you all the best and many cloudless nights in 2019.

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message – December 2018

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When I returned to Victoria 6 years ago I had no idea that I would become so deeply involved in the local astronomical community. My bulging shelves of Astronomy books reflect my long term interest in the topic. I was briefly a member of the Vancouver Centre of RASC but due to the time, energy and expense to attend their widespread gatherings I remained on the periphery of that group.

In contrast the ideal scale of Victoria makes it much easier to get out and participate. When I attended my first Victoria Centre meeting at UVic I was struck by the high level of energy and enthusiasm in the room. I was also amazed by the many Astronomical activities that the Centre was supporting. Shortly after when I attended my first Astro Cafe I was made to feel so welcome that I kept coming back and that deepened my engagement. I have learned and enjoyed so much in the process. And now that I find myself President of this great Centre I am humbled, excited and a bit overwhelmed. I will give it my best shot but may not reach the high bar established by my predecessors like Chris Purse. The Centre made great strides while Chris was at the helm..

Recently, I delivered a presentation on Astronomy to a local organization. I attempted to explain the activities and appeal of Astronomy for the amateur community. I grouped our activities is three main categories:

1) Observing:
At the core we are, as David Lee so aptly describes, tourists of the night sky. The act of stepping outdoors on a crisp, clear evening instantly rewards us as we escape the clatter of civilization. Most amateurs usually chose to extend their vision with binoculars and telescopes. Some have turned observing into a sport, star hopping and honing their vision to locate a host of faint celestial objects. On page 8 of the November SkyNews Bill Weir has described several observing lists that encourage us to expand our hunt for more targets and greatly increase our knowledge of the night sky. The process of sketching celestial objects can further engage the visual observer.

For some, glimpsing faint fuzzies serves as an appetizer and they embrace the technical challenge of mastering astrophotography. The collection of Victoria Centre astro-photos on zenfolio is amazing and inspiring. But why bother photographing a celestial object when a beautiful Hubble image is only a click away? To me the difference between looking at an image and capturing and processing an image is similar to music. One can enjoy music just by listening but a much deeper involvement occurs when one masters an instrument and plays the music. Some observers are also devoted to taking measurements and analyzing the data. For example Michel Michaud (p6) has spent years discovering double stars in the Pleiades and his observations are published in the professional double star scientific database.

2) Learning:
We are on a quest to improve our understanding of the Universe. Amateurs find ourselves in a golden age as Astronomy makes headline news weekly. Knowledge is accumulating faster that we can digest it. The miracle of the internet makes it much more feasible for amateurs to keep abreast of developments as we attempt to answer the following:
-What do we know?
-How do can we say that? (Scientific Method and History of Discovery)
-Why does it behave that way? (Laws of Physics and Allied Sciences)
-What don’t we know? (The Ongoing Mystery)

3) Sharing:
Amateurs are very active in sharing our knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm:
-Within our amateur community: In-Reach
-With the Public and the Next Generation: Out-Reach

I am both proud and a little concerned about the energy we devote to sharing. I think it is important to aim for a better balance between In-Reach and Out-Reach activities. If we fail to nourish ourselves with in-reach activities we will deplete our capacity to deliver out-reach. It could resemble a stellar “core collapse.” So as we go forward let’s give ourselves permission to ease off a bit. We don’t want the Victoria Centre to go Supernova!

Cloudless Nights!

Reg Dunkley