May Meeting Speakers: A Medley of Short Presentations by Victoria Centre RASCals

Posted by as Meetings

7:30 PM Wednesday May 8th 2019 in Room A104, Bob Wright Centre at the UVic

Instead of featuring a single speaker the May meeting will be a “Members Night” where a number of Victoria Centre RASCals will deliver short presentations on their projects, imagery or fascinating topics. It should be a fun night. We hope to see you there.

  • Royal BC Museum Classroom Kit – DAO Outreach demonstration – Lauri Roche
  • Jupiter and the Juno Mission – Reg Dunkley

President’s Message: May 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

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

Astronomy Day 2019 in Victoria

Posted by as Events, Special Events

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and the Royal BC Museum present

International Astronomy Day

at the Royal BC Museum

Press Release

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Amazing Astronomical Activities for all Ages!

Astronomy Day 2019 in Victoria poster
Astronomy Day 2019 in Victoria (printable poster – 201k PDF) – please spread the word and stick a reminder on your fridge

All Astronomy Day activities are FREE and available to the general public. Membership in RASC is not required.

Regular admission applies to the Royal BC Museum and IMAX Theatre.
Astronomy Day 2019 photo gallery

Telescope at Astronomy Day 2017

Royal BC Museum – 10AM to 4PM

675 Belleville Street, Victoria

  • Interactive activities outside on the plaza
    • View the Sun safely through solar telescopes (weather permitting)
  • Interactive activities inside in Clifford Carl Hall (Museum main level)
    • Telescope-making – grind a mirror and build your own telescope
    • Telescope show-and-tell – try out telescopes and ask questions
    • Astrophotography – take photos of the night sky with your own camera
    • Children’s astro crafts – kids make their own astronomy and space souvenirs
    • Ask an Astronomer – find answers to those questions about astronomy and space you always wanted to ask
    • Light-based Science – light is energy, and energy is a big part of our Universe
    • Responsible Lighting – get pointers on how to reduce your own light pollution, and feel better for it
    • Planetarium – cruise the night sky during the day while sitting on a couch

Presentations in Newcombe Auditorium

  • 11:00AM – Exploring a New World on the Edge of the Solar System, New Horizons and 2014 MU69 – by famed solar system expert JJ Kavelaars of the NRC. Poster (837kb pdf)
  • 12:00 Noon – Space Suite I – Our wondrous universe set to a timeless score – presented by Knowledge Network and Two Story Productions. Poster (837kb pdf)
  • 1:00PM – Observing Planet Formation around Young Stars – planetary researcher Ruobing (Robin) Dong from U Vic. Poster (577kb pdf)
  • 2:00PM – Space Suite II – Our wondrous universe set to a timeless score – presented by Knowledge Network and Two Story Productions. Poster (837kb pdf)
  • 2:30PM – Science & Storytelling: How discoveries of new worlds help tell stories of family – Elizabeth Tasker and Ria Voros. The two authors will discuss how they came to work together unexpectedly through Ria’s novel. Poster (2Mb pdf)
    • Elizabeth Tasker is an Astrophysicist at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Her forthcoming popular science book is “The Planet Factory”, on planet formation and exoplanets. The updated paperback edition comes out in Canada late April.
    • Ria Voros is a local Young Adult novelist whose forthcoming book is coincidentally titled “The Centre of the Universe”. In this story 17 year old Grace’s mother is missing. Grace is obsessed with exoplanets and she meets Elizabeth a few times in the book.

Centre of the Universe and the Observatory – 7:30PM to 11PM

The Hon. Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor looking through Chuck Filnesss' telescope

Observatory Hill, 5071 West Saanich Road, Saanich

  • Plaskett telescope tours
  • Observing through telescopes
  • Lecture – 8:30PM & 9:30PM – Science & Storytelling: How discoveries of new worlds help tell stories of family – Elizabeth Tasker and Ria Voros
  • Only holders of (free) tickets will be admitted to this evening event!
  • Click Here to Reserve Your Tickets – currently sold out, but click the link to check back later!

Saturday Star Parties at the DAO 2019

Posted by as Events

Click Here to Obtain Free Saturday Star Party Tickets

Time: 7:15 pm to 10:45 pm

The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO) and RASC Victoria Centre will be hosting twenty Saturday evenings at the DAO, featuring guest speakers, solar and nighttime observing with telescopes provided by RASC Victoria Centre volunteers, tours of the historic Plaskett telescope, and more! Rain or shine, we will have something for everyone to experience.

Dates begin with International Astronomy Day on April 27th . Here are all the dates:

  • April 27th
  • May 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th
  • June 1st, 8th, 15th, 22nd and 29th
  • July 6th, 13th, 20th and 27th
  • August 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th and 31st
  • September 7th
Site Line Work Only

Saturday Star Parties at the DAO run every Saturday evening from April 27th to September 7th To enhance your experience please note the following venues before you arrive. Activities are broken up into seven main areas,

  1. Lecture Hall – This season we have a full slate of topical presentations from the astronomy community which includes researchers, authors and passionate amateurs. There are possibilities of surprise guest speakers. Come early most presentations start at 8:30 p.m. and some though not all repeat in the evening.
  2. Plaskett Dome – The dome is a heritage site, and not to be missed. Tours are approximately 30-45 minutes long and start at 7:45 p.m. (30 min) Two other tours start at 8:45 p.m. (45 min) and 9:30 p.m. (45 min). Special Kids Tour 8:15 p.m. (30 min)
  3. Planetarium – Planetarium shows run 6 times during the evening and are approximately 30 minutes in length. Come inside and learn about the constellations, and even a little sky lore!
  4. 16” Telescope – This research-grade telescope was originally located on Mt Kobau near Osoyoos for site testing towards potentially building an observatory there. It was then moved here to the DAO, and then from another area on the DAO property to this site when the Centre of the Universe building was constructed in the early 1990s. It is now available for viewing “live” through an eyepiece. The telescope is open subject to weather conditions on many of the Saturday nights.
  5. RASC Member Telescopes – Royal Astronomical Society of Canada members have been long standing participants at Saturdays nights at the DAO for nearly 100 years. Weather permitting, members will take you on a telescopic tour of the evening sky.
  6. Information Area – There are volunteers available to help you with your evening visit and if you’re interested they can let you know how you can get involved in astronomy activities in Victoria. Kid friendly programming is available in this same area. FIRST Robotics BC will be in attendance several times during the summer.
  7. Interpretive Centre Displays – The displays from the former interpretive centre show Canada’s role in astronomy and contain a number of historical artifacts of interest. This year the displays will be enhanced with the addition of new kiosks that will feature Knowledge Network’s Space Suite series and other programming. Stay tuned for their debut.

Saturday Star Parties at the DAO 2019 Presentations

Saturdays’ Children’s Programmes

7:45 – 8:00 p.m. “Out of this World” Interactive Presentation – Auditorium

8:00 – 8:15 p.m. “Stories in the Skies” – Planetarium

8:15 – 8:45 p.m. “Meet the Telescope” Tour – Plaskett Dome

8:45 – 9:30 p.m. Children’s Activities – Information Area

  • Make and Take Craft Tables
  • Family Scavenger Hunt
  • IPad Interactives
  • Night Sky Viewing

Speakers

April 27th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm


Science & Storytelling: How discoveries of new worlds help tell stories of family – Elizabeth Tasker and Ria Voros

Abstract: 

Ria and Elizabeth seem to be authors of a very different type: Ria is a “Young Adult” novelist, while Elizabeth writes popular science. The first part of this talk will tackle a crucial question: why are they presenting together? The two authors will discuss how they came to work together unexpectedly through Ria’s novel. Ria will then explain the process and research for her novel, The Centre of the Universe and how the use of space metaphors help explain relationships between the characters. Elizabeth will then cast a scientific eye over these same metaphors, before moving on to talk in more depth about her own research and book, The Planet Factory.

Bio:

Elizabeth Tasker is an Astrophysicist at the Institute for Space and Astronautical Science at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency. Her forthcoming popular science book is “The Planet Factory”, on planet formation and exoplanets. The updated paperback edition comes out in Canada late April. https://tinyurl.com/ya32gxld

Ria Voros is a local Young Adult novelist whose forthcoming book is coincidentally titled “The Centre of the Universe”. In this story 17 year old Grace’s mother is missing. Grace is obsessed with exoplanets and she meets Elizabeth a few times in the book. https://tinyurl.com/yap2rtaq

May 4th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:15pm


Why Astronomy?Reg Dunkley President, Victoria Centre RASC

Abstract: 

I will describe early influences that captivated my interest in Astronomy and examine the activities and appeal that makes this subject so compelling to the Amateur community. The merits of visual observing and photography will be debated and techniques to image planets will be briefly demonstrated. Astro images captured by Victoria Centre members will be showcased and some of recent and remarkable developments will be discussed.

Bio:

Reg Dunkley’s visit to the DAO at the age of 10 captured his imagination. He has had a life long fascination with Astronomy and after retiring as a Meteorologist he now has the time and the technology to explore the Universe.  

May 11th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:15pm


Introduction to the Night Sky – David Lee

Abstract: 

The night sky can be a bewildering maze of disconnected dots, flashing streaks of light and predictable events that appear just like clockwork. But most of all it is filled with mystery and beauty. Come and learn what’s up in the sky and how best to view it.

Bio:

David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

May 18th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:15pm


Observing with Binoculars – Chris Purse

Abstract:

Using binoculars is a good way to get started in looking at the night sky in more detail. The talk with cover some observing hints and targets that work well for binoculars.

Bio:

Chris started his professional life as a teacher. He was later an educational administrator and currently a business analyst. He has been a member of RASC since 2010. He is the Victoria Centre’s current past president and membership coordinator.

May 25th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

History of the Hubble Space Telescope – Dr. Chris Gainor
President, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Abstract:

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 29 years ago in 1990. After overcoming problems caused by a defective main mirror, Hubble has made discoveries that have revolutionized our view of the universe we live in. This talk will cover the history of Hubble based on a book the speaker is writing.

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.

June 1st 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Sketching the Cosmos 

Dr. Dorothy Paul and RASC Victoria Centre Members

Abstract:

Humans have been observing and recording for over 17,000 years as evidenced by the drawings in the Lascaux Caves. Science is inherently linked to observation and recording. Today science uses digital methods for recording, is there still a reason to use analog methods like pen, pencil and paper?

This evening we learn about the motivation behind sketching astronomical objects and some of the tools used for this documentation method and artform. RASC Victoria members will be present to show sketches that they have done.

Diane Bell, Dr. Dorothy Paul, Nelson Walker

RASC Victoria Centre is part of a national organization (The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) that is dedicated to public outreach in the sciences with an emphasis on astronomy.

June 8th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

The Bigger the Better

Lauri Roche and RASC Victoria Centre Members

Abstract:

Join us for a presentation on how the telescope developed from the early days of optical astronomy. Learn about how they work and what they are good at. There will be plenty of time for hands on demonstrations of modern examples of the telescope such as refractors, Dobsonian Newtonians and Schmidt-Cassegrains.

RASC Victoria Centre is part of a national organization (The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) that is dedicated to public outreach in the sciences with an emphasis on astronomy.

June 15th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Beyond the 30 Second Barrier – Astrophotography with Star Trackers

David Lee

Abstract:

Simple astrophotography can be accomplished with short exposures up to 30 seconds on tripods. However exposures without star trailing are usually accomplished using extreme wide-angle lenses where the motion is not readily noticeable at these exposures.

Getting beyond the 30 second barrier and using longer lenses will afford the astrophotographer images of star clusters such as the Pleiades and beautiful nebula such as the North America, Orion, and Rosette Nebulas. Exposures of up to several minutes are possible allowing for more advanced processing techniques and superior detail.

Bio:

David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

June 22nd 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

The Co-evolution of Planets and Life

Dorothy H Paul, PhD

Abstract:

Planets, like people, have finite lifespans. Planets’ lifespans are set at ‘birth’ by the mass of their sun, whereas human longevity is variable because it derives from two interacting factors, genetics (~9% contribution) and assorted external variables.  How each changes with age is also partially understood, and for planets is influenced by whether or not they harbor life, a conclusion drawn from what we’ve learned so far by studying the only known planet with life!  We need a larger sample size before we can begin to answer the age-old questions: Why do we reside on the 3rd of the four rocky planets of the solar system? Did terrestrial life originate here? Does (or did) life exist on any of our neighbours? If so, is (or was) it genetically related to us?  Recent data from several lines of research are deepening our understanding of the earliest stages in Earth’s evolution and the appearance of life.  I will highlight some of these in the context of what we might find when searching for signs of life on other planets, and how (or whether) we might recognize them.  

Bio:

Dorothy Paul is a biologist and amateur astronomer. Prior to retirement from the University of Victoria, her research was in neuroscience and evolutionary neurobiology. She now spends much of her time in pursuing and sharing her interests in biology and astronomy, and when possible, with her telescope under dark skies, hunting down distant objects in and beyond our Milky Way galaxy.  


June 29th 2019 8:30 and 9:30

Astronomy at Shawnigan Lake School

Nigel Mayes

Abstract:

Shawnigan Lake School is a co-educational independent boarding school located on Vancouver Island. The donation of telescopes and a mount to the school brought with it several opportunities including student participation in the Pacific Astronomy and Engineering Summit in Hilo Hawaii and the eventual construction of a campus observatory. Over the last five years, Nigel has constructed, debugged and automated the observatory. The facility is used to support curricular goals in both science and art. Special events such as eclipses and transits have brought 500 or more guests to the campus and the observatory. This has become a meaningful way in which he school connects with its community. Recently, full automation has enabled long unattended observing runs on clear nights. Student artwork created from this data is breathtaking. Future development includes supporting student research and contributing to collaborative research projects.

The presentation will touch on observatory automation and the main goals of the observatory that include: supporting the science curriculum, supporting student research and imaging projects, hosting community events, hosting the Cowichan Valley Starfinders.

Bio:

Nigel Mayes is a chemistry and robotics teacher at Shawnigan Lake School. In his 18 year career at the school he has been involved in many projects that have either supported staff or added to the student experience. He is passionate about the outdoors and he loves mountain biking, kayaking and backcountry skiing. Astronomy is a relatively new endeavor for Nigel and he is becoming a self-taught enthusiast.

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” (https://www.facebook.com/EnkinsDailyMoon/), where images of the moon explore “the passage of time, illumination, the feminine, and world unity”. 

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

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 Apollo and Space Suite IV were commissioned by Knowledge Network and produced and directed by Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford of Imagine Create Media, in consultation with Dr. Jaymie Matthews.

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.

August 3rd 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

From Baby Planets to Black Holes:  ALMA Explores the Cold Universe

Dr. Gerald Schieven

Abstract:

The ALMA Observatory is a billion dollar multi-national astronomy facility located at high elevation in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.  Its 66 antennas work together as if one giant telescope 16 km in diameter, to give us unprecedented images of the cold, dark universe, including the birth of planets around other stars, organic molecules in the early universe, and the first image of the event horizon of the super-massive black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy.  Gerald will talk about the observatory, what it’s like to work there, and some of the astonishing discoveries being made by this facility.

Bio:

Gerald Schieven has been a staff astronomer at NRC – Herzberg for 11 years,and is responsible for managing Canada’s support of the ALMA Observatory. After obtaining his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, Gerald worked at Queen’s University in Kingston, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii before moving to Victoria.

August 10th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Space and Storytelling

Ria Voras

Abstract:

Novelist Ria Voros will talk about how she came to write a story about an astronomy-obsessed teenager and why space science lends itself so well to exploring human relationships. 

Bio:

Ria Voros is an author whose latest novel, The Centre of the Universe, explores a teen’s passion for astronomy as well as the relationship between mothers and daughters. Ria has an MFA in creative writing from UBC and her books have been nominated for several awards across the country. She writes, teaches and lives in Victoria.

August 17th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Apollo in the Age of Aquarius

Dr. Dennis Crabtree

Abstract:

If you didn’t get enough of ’60s nostalgia during our lunar landing anniversary celebrations in July come and see a reprise of Apollo in the Age of Aquarius.

August 24th 2019 – 8:30pm

Unknown Moons – Moons you might not know that exist

Jose Valdes-Rodriguez

Abstract:

Moons come in many shapes, sizes and types. There are over hundreds of moons in our solar system but only a little over 30 moons are well-known. We are going to explore moons that you might not have heard of before. 

Bio:

Jose is a 10 year old with a Cuban background who was born in Vancouver, BC. His interest in astronomy started at the very young age of 5 when he started reading astronomy text books, magazines, following space news and watching documentaries. At the age of 7 he was invited to audit Astronomy 101 course at the University of Victoria. In addition to astronomy Jose is also interested in biology, geography, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Even though his peers have just finished grade 4 Jose is working on finishing Pre-Calculus 12 and Science 10. He also speaks four languages; English, French, Spanish and Russian. 

Jose’s main goal is to transfer his knowledge to others and, with that in mind, he has created a Youtube channel called Making Math Easy where he teaches various science topics. His love for science and his academic achievements has been recognized by local news like CTV News Vancouver Island and the University of Victoria’s newspaper the Martlet, where they portray him as “A Brilliant Boy” and “Victoria’s very own child prodigy”. 

August 31st 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Deep (Machine) Learning with Neural Networks – The Second Industrial Revolution

Dr. Karun Thanjavur

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 this digital era. In astronomy too, telescopes will soon routinely produce terabytes of data every night. 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 and 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 working model.

Bio:

As a research astronomer, I am excited by the availability of huge public datasets, which I may harness for my own research questions using the proper data analysis tools. Given the enormous data volume, I have recently begun harnessing the powerful techniques of deep learning to tease out complex correlations and thus illustrate the underlying physical principles. These science explorations of the Universe, coupled with the equally fascinating world of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born and raised in Cuddalore, a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. Even though undergraduate teaching is the principal focus of my current position as a senior astronomy lab instructor at UVic, I work hard to keep my research interests alive. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through many outreach initiatives.

September 7th 2019 – 8:30 with live demo at 9:30

Simple Astrophotography: Getting Started

David Lee

Abstract:

Learn how to get started in astrophotography. Astrophotography can be a highly complex form of photography but you can get started photographing a number of astronomical objects and scenes with basic equipment. Methods for photographing the moon, constellations and nightscape shots with the Milky Way will be covered. Weather permitting a live demo will take place outside after the main presentation. You are encouraged to bring your camera and tripod for the live demo. Cameras capable of being operated manually work best. For more details please contact Centre of the Universe Information

Bio:

David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

September 7th 2019 – in the Auditorium 9:30 only

Solving the Public’s Problems

Jason Beaman

Abstract:

Astronomy is a central piece of what it means to be human; we have a deep-seated curiosity about the unknown. And what is more unknown than the universe we call home? What is more alluring than thoughts of unraveling the universes’ many mysteries? From early calendars for planting crops, to calculating the positions of the planets and the curvature of spacetime. Astronomy began with humble beginnings and has slowly evolved into the science it is today. But is this the whole picture? The universe requires many different minds and tools to even begin to understand it. This creates a problem solving ability useful in many various fields, some not even related to astronomy.

Bio:

I’m a graduate of the University of Victoria with an honours degree in Astrophysics and as a high school drop out, I’ve been told I came to astronomy by taking a less conventional path. This journey has been as humbling as the field I study, just as rewarding, and at times quite stressful. It has ignited a passion for academia as well as working with the public in scientific outreach. Being able to use the problem solving skills I’ve honed through years of study allows me to answer the questions posed by the public, as they are usually more fun than my research problems.

Lauri Roche awarded the RASC Service Award for 2019

Posted by as News

I’m pleased to announce that our own Lauri Roche has won the RASC Service Award.

The Service Award is a major award of the Society given to a member in recognition of outstanding service, rendered over an extended period of time, where such service has had a major impact on the work of the Society and/or of a Centre of the Society.

We all know the many things Lauri does in the Victoria Centre, and at the national level she has also made major contributions, including her work with education programs.

Congratulations Lauri!

Chris Gainor, Ph.D.
President
Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

Lauri Roche

Lauri Roche has been a member of RASC since 1995. She was an elementary and middle school teacher for many years, using her Masters of Education from Carlton effectively to support kids with a wide range of disabilities as a special education teacher. Lauri switched to teaching grade 7-8 math and science through to her retirement, and she continues to substitute teach those subjects, and tutors students as well.

Lauri has been active in Victoria Centre, volunteering for or leading countless public outreach events, including: International Astronomy Day, public nights at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO), International Year of Astronomy (IYA 2009), Vancouver Island Regional Science Fairs, numerous public observing events, and bringing astronomy to the very popular Saanich (agricultural) Fair.

RASC booth at the Saanich Fair – 2009

Lauri is also active at the National level of RASC, contributing to the Education and Public Outreach (EPO) committee. During 2018, she co-hosted a national contest in honour of the RASC sesquicentennial called Imagining the Skies. This online contest highlighted astronomical media through photography, sketching, art and crafts.

Serving terms on Victoria Centre’s Council as Treasurer, Vice-president, and President, Lauri has shown great leadership through collaboration with many Centre members. Her past efforts to involve RASC members in public outreach have resulted in many members who continue to support this most important mission to engage the public in science and especially astronomy. Her support of others’ leadership of events speaks to her excellent collaborative approach to public outreach, and using volunteerism as a fun, social activity to get members involved in RASC’s main mission.

Lauri Roche introducing Nathan Gray at the 2014 General Assembly. Photo by Real Roi

As one of the lead members of the Victoria Centre’s School Telescope Program, Lauri has lent her considerable expertise in interacting with students of all ages (kindergarten to high school), and has helped make this program the most sought after by teachers beyond the local area schools.  In the 2017-2018 school year more than 2,000 students took advantage of this program, involving 80 presentations and night sky viewing sessions.

Lauri’s support of astronomy outreach to the public on Observatory Hill through Saturday night events during the summer months at the Centre of the Universe and the historic Plaskett telescope predates her involvement in the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO). That said, she joined the board of the FDAO very soon after its inception and has been one of its strongest resources for outreach and education ever since, as the FDAO strives to revitalize EPO on Observatory Hill.

Ben Dorman, Lauri Roche & Don Moffatt – Photograph By ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Lauri has almost single-handedly kept FDAO’s fledgling volunteer daytime tours program running, not only by being lead presenter and educator, but also by organizing other volunteers to participate. She has also been a mainstay of regular Saturday Star parties for the public every summer, and unstintingly gives her time on other evenings of the week to give talks on basic astronomy and about Canadian observatories around the world  to all ages and levels of knowledge. Finally, Lauri is a strong advocate on the board for enhancing public outreach offerings and their accessibility to the widest possible public.

Collaborating with and encouraging RASC members to get involved has been the hallmark of Lauri’s approach to public outreach. Lauri’s contagious enthusiasm for astronomy and science, and her active support outside the classroom of young women choosing science careers can’t help but support astronomy being more inclusive. There is no doubt that her outreach in the classroom has helped younger people to consider scientific endeavours as cool and desirable career choices.

Nominators

Reg Dunkley, President, RASC Victoria Centre
Chris Purse, Past President, RASC Victoria Centre
Dr. Chris Gainor, President, RASC National
Sid Sidhu, RASC Victoria Centre
Dr. Ben Dorman, Chair, Friends of the DAO and RASC member
Joe Carr, RASC Victoria Centre

Speaker: Deep (Machine) Learning with Neural Networks – the second industrial revolution

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Dr. Karun Thanjuvar

7:30 PM, Wednesday, April 10th; 2019 in Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Artificial intelligence (AI), especially Deep (Machine) Learning applications, are already ubiquitous and 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 this digital era. In astronomy too,telescopes will soon routinely produce terabytes of data every night. 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 real-time decision making, identifying subtle patterns in the data, forecasting and 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 working model.

Dr. Karun Thanjuvar: As an observational cosmologist, discovering new gravitational lenses and developing innovative techniques to harness them as observational tools are amongst my diverse research interests. As part of my doctoral thesis at UVic in 2009, I developed an automated technique to search for lenses in wide field, pan-chromatic imaging. These explorations of the distant universe come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born andraised in a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies; first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. After my PhD from UVic, I worked as a Resident Astronomer at CFHT in Hawaii for three years, before returning to UVic to accept a position as a senior lab instructor in astronomy. Even though undergraduate teaching is the focus of my current position, I continue to pursue various research projects. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through several outreach initiatives through the UVic observatory.

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 March 2019

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Normally at the beginning of March Victoria Centre RASCals are trudging through cherry blossoms. Snow is not an option. So just imagine your puzzled president when he arrived at the VCO on February 27th. The observing pad was covered with 6 inches of white stuff topped with an icy crust. This unseasonably cold weather tormented tender West Coast RASCals throughout February and almost derailed the Mini AGM of February 13th. 

Mini AGM you say? This administrative AGM resulted from trying to make others happy. To streamline financial procedures the Canadian Revenue Agency wanted the Victoria Centre to move our fiscal year end from September 30th to December 31st. When we did that the BC Societies Act insisted that we hold an AGM in 2019. So this “administrative AGM” which covers the three month interval extending from October to December 2018 was scheduled to coincide with the February monthly meeting. This would make the CRA happy and the BC Societies people happy … but there was a problem.

It all has to do with our bylaws. When the bylaws were recently updated the quorum was boosted from 3 to 25. The architects of these new bylaws never envisioned that the “Garden City” would be paralyzed by snow. Since North Saanich was buried under 2 feet and many members were trapped in unplowed cul de sacs it was looking like the Mini AGM was toast.  Fortunately these very same bylaw architects included a provision for proxy votes. At the last minute your desperate president e-mailed the membership with a plea for proxies. The first proxy arrived from Tasmania! Nearby RASCals also rallied to the cause. A quorum was established and the first Mini AGM in the 104 year history of the Victoria Centre went ahead. Let us hope that it will also be the last Mini AGM in history as this bureaucratic process is more complicated than astrophysics.

Speaking of “astro” things let’s talk about AstroFest 2019. This event, the first of its kind, was held in Nanaimo on February 28th. It was extremely well organized and hosted by the Nanaimo Astronomy Society. The idea was to bring Island astronomers together to share their knowledge and enthusiasm. This mid island rendezvous was well advertised and over 120 attended the event. Nelson Walker, Bill Weir and I manned the Victoria Centre table while Lauri Roche and Ben Dorman represented the FDAO. Victoria Centre RASCal Francois Pilote led a contingent of 5 from the Comox Valley and Victoria member Mike Krempotic came from Port Alberni. Dennis Crabtree set up the very popular virtual reality system and captivated many.

There were a number of presentations. I provided info on the  Victoria Centre while Nanaimo President Chris Boar described the activities of the Nanaimo Society. In addition to talks at their monthly meeting they hold many outreach events and like Victoria are swamped by the curious public during eclipses. They also take time to have fun and schedule an annual Beer and Burger night. The Cowichan Valley Starfinders promoted their star party and Nigel Mayes from  Shawnigan Lake School described their facility and active astronomy program. John and Carol Nemy delivered a spectacular visual presentation of the night sky which featured their Island Stars Observatory located on Hornby Island. The members of the Nanaimo Astronomy Society were very friendly and hospitable. Several members had roll off roof observatories. Many of the attendees were newbies looking for ways to get involved in Astronomy. Bruce Lane from Quarky Science donated a nice pair of binoculars as a door prize. There was great enthusiasm for this event and it is hoped that it will be repeated. Special thanks must go to Chris Boar, Tony Puerez and Janeane MacGillivary for magically making it all happen. 

Snowless Days

Cloudless Nights

Reg Dunkley

Speaker: Exploring a new world on the Edge of the Solar System, New Horizons and 2014 MU69

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Dr. J.J. Kavelaars

7:30 PM Wednesday March 13th

Room A104, Bob Wright Centre at UVic

On January 1st, 2019 NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft executed a flawless encounter of the small world provisionally known as 2014 MU69.  Our understanding of the nature of the outer solar system and processes of planet formation have been transformed by the very first resolved images of 2014 MU69.  Now, 2 months after encounter, the imaging and spectroscopy from 2014 MU69 continue to trickle in.  I will describe the processes that enable this historic encounter to occur and the initial results from the spacecraft imaging.
Dr. JJ Kavelaars received his Ph.D. from the Department of Physics at Queen’s University in Kingston ON in 1998.  He is an Astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Victoria and is a member of the Canadian Astronomy Data Centre. His areas of interest include the outer solar system including the Kuiper belt. This specialty enabled him to assist in selecting a followup target for the New Horizons spacecraft after it flew by Pluto. While studying irregular planetary satellites JJ and his team discovered 23 moons surrounding Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. In 2016 he discovered the sixth dwarf planet in the solar system.

Speaker: Planet Nine or Planet Nein? Discoveries in the Outer Solar System

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Dr. Samatha Lawler

Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

At 7:30 PM In Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Abstract:Over the last couple of years, there have been many headlines about the possibility of an undiscovered giant planet in the outer reaches of our Solar System.  But is it real?  Dr. Sam Lawler will lead you through the wilds of the distant Kuiper Belt with a surprisingly digestible (we promise!) discussion of orbital dynamics, observation biases, and dwarf planet discoveries.  She will show you the latest discoveries from a large international collaboration, including astronomers right here in Canada, and you can decide for yourself whether or not you believe in Planet 9.


Sam Lawler received her B.S. in astrophysics from Caltech, followed by 2 years of research work at Caltech’s IPAC facility on early Spitzer data of debris disks.  She then received her M.A. from Wesleyan University before coming to Canada for her PhD work at UBC.  She has been in Victoria ever since her PhD, initially as a UVic postdoc/lecturer, and since 2015 as a Plaskett Fellow at NRC-Herzberg.  Her work utilizes dynamical simulations of the effects of planets on debris disks and on the structure of the Kuiper Belt.  Several of her recent projects involve dynamically testing the existence of reported planets.  She has shown tau Ceti’s reported planet system is allowed by its wide debris disk, Fomalhaut b is likely a catastrophically disrupted icy body, and the structure of the Kuiper Belt does not require an additional distant planet in the Solar System.  While her dynamical simulations are running on the computer cluster, she likes to play with her kids and grow food.