Astronomy Cafe – Sep 19, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Concert Sep 25 at Farquar UVic – Jim Hesser
    • Aurora Triptych is a multimedia blend of music, photography, and visual storytelling that follows the Northern Lights on a far-ranging journey from the Sun to Earth’s upper atmosphere.”
    • Tania Miller: Science & Symphony
    • September 25 @ 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm
  • Sky Brightness Survey – David Lee (email)
    • Interested in QGIS mapping data work – Les Welch & Jim Cliffe
    • Guidance from our meteorologist Reg Dunkley as to what day(s) are best to take readings, since it’s important that good, clear weather conditions are present
    • SQM (original, widefield), SQM-L (current, narrow FOV) – Unihedron meters
    • Find areas that we should concentrate on due to impending development or other sky quality issues
    • Duel readings with app and Unihedron meter
    • Ideal dates for taking SQM readings: Sep 23-27 & Oct 23-27 
    • Methodology
      • Record 4 raw readings, pointing in each of 4 quadrants above your head, pointing straight up
      • Throw away the first reading at each site (so take a total of 5 readings)
      • Readings – fill in form
        • SQM
        • Temperature 
        • Location – ID #, Latitude, Longitude
        • Verbose location – “corner of Wallace Drive and West Saanich Road”
        • Date and Time
        • Weather conditions and comments
      • Readings can be done using electronic or audio means, but must be in final readable form before sending to David on the forms provided
      • Sky Brightness Survey Data Entry Chart – MS Word & PDF
      • Sky Brightness Survey Data Fields – definitions
      • Taking readings at new locations is fine, but make it clear it’s new
  • Astronomy Cafe on Monday September 26th
    • Samatha Jewett will be speaking to us about RASC National
    • Possibly lunch or dinner with Samantha before the meeting –  contact Lauri Roche (email)
    • Jim Cliffe will be the Astro Cafe host
  • Chris Gainor
    • ISS Pass at 8:52PM this evening 
    • Skynews is going to be late due to paper supply issues

Astronomy Cafe – Sep 12, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • Public Outreach at the Centre of the Universe (CU) – Lauri Roche
    • Saturday Star Parties
      • Thanks to all the RASC Victoria Centre members who volunteer
      • Tickets “sell out” quickly
      • Last event on Sep 24th
    • Cruise Tours this summer – successful and a source of income for FDAO
    • CU open during the day until the end of September
  • Saanich Fair – Lauri Roche
    • 2 nice days – solar viewing
    • 3rd day had some drizzle
    • Lots of interaction with the public about astronomy
    • 1,000 entries for the telescope prize – Melissa Long was the winner, and is thrilled with her new scope
  • Island Star Party – Dave Payne
    • Successful star party – 30 people on Friday, 45-50 people on Saturday
    • Speakers were fantastic
    • Quite a few campers
    • Some members of the public stopped by despite lack of advertising and promotion
    • Revenue exceeded expenses
    • Cowichan Valley Starfinders no longer have the volunteer numbers to sustain the event going forward
    • Cowichan Valley Regional District – arrangements for overnight camping appear to be
    • Discuss next steps with Victoria Centre Council 
    • August 16, 2023 is New Moon weekend for the event next year
  • Astronomy at Victoria High School – Clayton Uyeda
    • New astronomical observing deck being built as part of Victoria High School’s seismic upgrade
    • Astronomy 11 is now a course at Vic High
  • Tour of our new Zoom equipment for Astro Cafe – Chris Purse
    • New computer, microphone, webcam
    • 2 monitors
    • Sound is the biggest issue, and the new microphone seems to be excellent
    • Webcam has good coverage of the room’s occupants
    • New WIndows personal computer system is easy to setup, and is on rollers
  • Getting Started in Astronomy SIG – David Lee
    • Group met in person at Cattle Point a few times over the summer
    • Minima of Algol observed
  • Sky Brightness Survey – David Lee
    • Reviewed our mapping in 2010 (see maps at the bottom of our Night Lighting page)
    • Will repeat the survey this September and October
    • David to distribute SQMs to volunteers who don’t own one at the next Astro Cafe
    • Need more volunteers, so contact David very soon
  • RASC Board – Malhar Kendurkar
    • Malhar is imaging with the Plaskett Telescope
    • Virtual meeting of the RASC Board on Sep 14th
    • In-person meeting of the RASC Board will happen in October
      • The Robotic Telescope should be better used
  • VIctoria Centre Council meeting tomorrow – Dave Payne (VP)
  • Green Laser course offered by RASC – Lauri Roche

Saanich Fair 2022 Report

Posted by as Special Events

Welcome to Fall. I always think that as soon as the Saanich Fair is over that it really is the start on a new season.

Solar Scopes

First of all, I need to thank a LOT of people for all their help this past weekend. It takes time and people power to organize, prepare, load, unload, set up, put out telescopes, chat to hundreds of smiling people, answer questions, give away a telescope and then take down, load and unload all over again. But we did it.

A huge thank you to our load-up and set-up crew who helped on Friday afternoon: Dave E (who also donated our telescope) and Sam F who helps on Fridays and Saturday nights up at the CU for the Friends of the DAO.

On Saturday Ken M came early along with Alex Schmid to help set things up on the tables and put out the telescopes. Dave Robinson, Michael W, Lisa M, Cameron B, Deb Crawford from the RASC and Amy and Alyssa, Rachel and Ryan, Sam F, and Evan W from the FDAO were the busy volunteers that day. It was very warm and there were thousands of people at the fair. Terrific sunspots and a beautiful prominence on Ken’s H-Alpha telescope.

RASC Victoria booth

On Sunday the drizzle started early but it never really rained. We did have some drips in the tent that needed mending and we huddled under the tent and tarps trying to keep things from getting too damp. Alex, Ken M, David Lee, Marjie Welchframe, Jill Sinkwitch, Brock J, and Gae V “personned” the RASC tent and Evan (bicycling in all the way from Oak Bay in the rain!), Ben Dorman, and Zaina S kept the group happy for the FDAO. At 3:45, fifteen minutes before we cleaned up the sun came out. ☀️

And on Monday we did it all over again. The day was beautiful, not quite as hot, but manageable. Ken was back with his H-Alpha and Alex was there for the third day in a row. 👏👏 Joining them were Chris Gainor, Dorothy P, Maryl M, John P, and Brian B, with Ben Dorman, Caitlyn, Mark L, and Patricia G-S for the FDAO.

We had a draw for a great little telescope on Monday. It was won by a woman in Colwood named Melissa L and she was thrilled to get the phone call. We had well over 1200 entries into the draw and talked to many more over the weekend.

FDAO booth

At the end of Monday Ken M, Brian B and John P took everything down and packed up. Off to the CU to unload. David Lee met us there and we did all the work to put everything back in a quick 20 minutes.

Amazing volunteers. Thank you to all of you.

And I just wanted to say thanks specially to Sid Sidhu who kept in touch from the hospital and was in our thoughts all the time. The Saanich Fair is special to him and we missed him very much.

On to next year?
Lauri Roche

Saanich Fair 2022 photo album

President’s Message – August 2022

Posted by as President's Message

Summer Outreach

I had the pleasure of spending a Saturday evening with Sherry Buttnor, demonstrating the 16 inch reflector up at the Centre of the Universe. It is humbling being in the dome with her, as Sherry has been operating and demonstrating the 16 inch since 1987! For most of the time, we had the telescope trained on the moon. Once the moon got too low, we moved to M13 – the Hercules cluster. Everybody who looked in the eyepiece exclaimed some version of “Wow!” Sherry often told the people, “You’ll never look at the moon the same way from now on.”

Brock Johnston that night had one of the 8″ Dobsonians set up behind the Plaskett Telescope, with a steady stream of people coming for a glimpse of Saturn. A woman who had never before seen Saturn through a telescope said she was in tears afterwards, she was so awestruck.

Astronomy outreach is fun! The people who come to star parties and other
outreach events are keen to learn, and they appreciate our efforts to help them see the sky. Sometimes it feels like a lot of work, but once you are at it, it is a real high.

So make the decision to help out at our outreach events!

  • We need people for Saturday nights at the Centre of the Universe (contact Garry Sedun, vp2@victoria.rasc.ca); especially if you are willing to set up your telescope.
  • We need volunteers for the Vancouver Island Star Party, an hour north of Victoria at Bright Angel Park, August 26-27 (contact Dave Payne, vp@victoria.rasc.ca). Also, plan to go to the star party – Dave has been working with the Cowichan Valley Starfinders Astronomy Club to create an excellent program of speakers and events.
  • We need volunteers for the Saanich Fair at the Saanich Fairgrounds, September 3-5 (contact Lauri Roche, roche.lauri@gmail.com).
  • We need volunteers for the Fall Fairfield, Sept. 25, right outside our Astro Cafe venue at the Sir James Douglas School yard (contact Reg Dunkley, pastpres@victoria.rasc.ca).

At these events, you can typically take a shift of a couple of hours and answer questions from the eager public. I have seen members with the whole range of background and experience taking on these roles, and everybody has done well. Just show a bit of the enthusiasm that I know all RASC Victoria Centre members have.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President@Victoria.RASC.ca

President’s Message – July 2022

Posted by as President's Message

Randy Enkin - Luna Cognita
Randy Enkin – Luna Cognita

The first science images from the James Webb Space Telescope were released to huge fanfare last week. I’m not surprised that my social media was filled with the news, commentary, analysis, and silly memes. My favourite is the melding of Van Gogh’s Starry Night into the SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster. What surprised me was how much the images caught on with the general public. The images are indeed beautiful, and the public relations teams know how to get the message right. But there is a clearly a desire, a fascination to follow the story of this telescope and its potential.

I used to be “the general public”. When they went to the moon during the Apollo missions, I realized I had to learn all I could about astronomy. Most importantly, I decided to become a scientist. And through good fortune and a fair amount of work, I got to make a career as a research scientist – in geology rather than in astronomy, but my fascination with astronomy never left.

Is astronomy important? I really don’t know. But science and science literacy certainly is, and quite possibly the James Webb Space Telescope will attract the general public to find out more. People will look at the beautiful images and ask what is going on. They will learn about how 30 years of science and engineering went into producing the images. They will find out about the scientific edifice which has built up over millennia to place the new research in context.

The first batch of images masterfully span the range of subjects that the space telescope will research: the birth of stars, the death of stars, the structure of galaxies, and the early universe. The fifth image, or actually spectrum, reveals an application that could only have been dreamed of when the
instrument was designed – composition of an exoplanet spectrum.

Exoplanet: WASP-96 B

They weren’t even sure that exoplanets could be located when the space telescope was first designed.
We amateur astronomers get to play an important role as more space telescope data get released. Let’s keep up with the research and help our wider community understand what it means. Let’s help with outreach events whenever possible. Let’s do astronomy.

Astro Cafe Logo

On that note, the Victoria Centre Astro Café went virtual for two years. It was a tonic to our isolated lives during the worst of the covid-19 pandemic. Many thanks to Chris Purse and Joe Carr for their devoted work to keep Astro Café up and running so well! In May, we ran our first attempts at hybrid meetings, in person at the Fairfield Community Centre and online over Zoom. The response has been very positive, and we will continue the hybrid Astro Café format every Monday evening (except statutory holidays) at 19:30 starting September 12. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS. The roles are not onerous, but they are essential. Each evening we will need a host and a tech. Please be brave. Please be generous.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President@Victoria.RASC.ca

2022 Island Star Party

Posted by as Special Events

The Cowichan Valley Starfinders Astronomy Club and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre invite everyone to the dark skies of South Cowichan for the 25th Annual Island Star Party!

Location: Bright Angel Park, 4528 Tigwell Rd, Duncan, BC, Canada

Starts Fri Aug 26, 2022, 4:00 pm
Ends Sun Aug 28, 2022, 10:00 am

Two Full Nights of Observing, Guest Speakers, Door Prizes, Telescope Mentoring, Walking Trails, Swimming.

  • Admission includes camping for two nights on the observing field in designated areas.
  • Motorhomes, travel trailers, campers, tents and vehicles welcome, however this is bare camping, with no services in the camping area.
  • Flush toilets, potable water, extra parking available a short walk from the observing field.
  • Not a camper? There are a good selection of accomodation a short drive away in Cowichan Bay, Cobble Hill, Shawnigan Lake, Cowichan Station, and Duncan. Reserve early, since the Cowichan Valley is a popular vacation destination.
  • Gates to the park are locked at 9PM, so park outside the gate if you are not staying overnight!

Full Weekend Admission: (Includes 1 year CVSF membership) – cash only please

  • Individual: $20.00
  • Family: $30.00 Adults up to 3 Children (17 years or younger)
  • Evening “Drop In” Free, but donations welcome
  • This event is open to the public. Membership in CVSF or RASC is not required.
2022 Island Star party – printable poster (16.8Mb pdf)

2022 Island Star party – printable invitations (2×2 layout, 98kb pdf)

President’s Message – June 2022

Posted by as President's Message

This week, the citizens of the Earth were given a wonderful present. The Gaia Data Release 3 was publicized at 9 UT, June 13. And yes I was awake at 2 in the morning to watch the event. The Gaia satellite has been mapping 2 billion (!!!) points of lights in the sky – stars, galaxies, quasars, and solar system objects. They are measuring positions, distances, motions, colours, and spectra. For an Astro Café talk I prepared about the Gaia Data Release 2, I displayed a plot of the number and angular precision of catalogued stars. From the Hipparchus’ catalog of 1000 stars in 150 BCE to the best Earth-based collections from last century, there was a continuous but slow improvement. But with space-based measurements over the last 20 years, the catalogs have improved by orders of magnitude! And Gaia should continue collecting data through to 2025 to continue this trend.

Gaia Data Release 3 - group photo
Gaia Data Release 3 – group photo

The branch of amateur astronomy pejoratively labeled “armchair astronomy” sounds very passive, but we delight in the personal journey to discovery, which the professional astronomers afford us by collecting and analysing these extreme data sets. One of my passions is following the trajectory of knowledge from the early astronomical observations to the present. For example, I love to learn how the first stellar spectra measured in the 19th century led to Annie Jump Cannon’s stellar classifications (Only Bad Astronomers Forget Generally Known Mnemonics), leading to the Hertzsprung-Russell colour-magnitude diagram, and further leading to amazing insights such as the age of stars. And now such analyses can be extended to hundreds of millions of stars with the public release of the Gaia data.

The Gaia mission is akin to a gothic cathedral. It is a huge edifice, erected with major societal investment that was accomplished by many, many ordinary people who each do their small part. This edifice is a public good which inspires, and makes us bigger and better human beings.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President
(email)

President’s Message – May 2022

Posted by as President's Message

Every year, the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada sponsors two awards at the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair. Well, not every year – we missed the last two years because of covid. This year, the Science Fair was virtual and about one quarter the size of the pre-covid event – 52 projects – with 6 assessed to be on astronomical or astronomy-adjacent themes. Many thanks to our representatives, Dorothy Paul and David Lee, for interviewing the students and arriving at their decisions. Each winner received a recognition certificate, a RASC family membership (for the student and one adult), a copy of Explore the Universe, and the offer of a classroom visit from our Schools Programs officers. We also invited the prize winners to present their projects at the Astro Café.

Nathan Hellner-Mestelman and Beata Ariana-Minniti
Nathan Hellner-Mestelman and Beata Ariana-Minniti

Grade 7 student Beata Ariana-Minniti created a very clever solar heat collector, coupled to a battery charger. Nathan Hellner-Mestelman (Grade 9) worked out the optimal orbit for cube-sats to avoid chain-reaction collisions. These students wowed us with their presentations at the Astro Café. Nathan was included in Team Vancouver Island at the Canada-Wide Science Fair and went on to win a silver medal.

As this year of Astro Cafés come to a close, we should all thank Joe Carr and Chris Purse for getting us through the fully online times and the transition to hybrid meetings. We have grown closer, despite the isolation of the last couple of years, because of their efforts. We’ll see you again at Astro Café starting in September. It is essential that we get more people to step up to help continue the Astro Café.

I want to congratulate our strong community who pulled together to put on all the facets that went into International Astronomy Day on May 7. We did not have much time to organize, as we did not even know if there would be in-person events until March. David Lee and Laurie Roche coordinated our volunteers wonderfully. There are others among you who are perfectly capable and I hope willing to take on their roles for future events. Astronomy outreach is very satisfying. Let’s share the load in making these opportunities happen.

The amateur astronomy community in Victoria is strong. Our club is extremely fortunate to have sufficient funds to make fund-raising unnecessary and sufficient volunteers to put on several high quality events. We are not lacking a strong Board and Council. Nevertheless, some members are not joining in, I think because they have not imagined that their contribution would be valuable and fun. Let me assure you that indeed you will get more out of such volunteerism than you put in.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin (email)

Astronomy Cafe – May 30, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • Telescopes – David Lee on behalf of Sid Sidhu
    • There are telescopes for loan to RASC VIctoria Centre members
    • Members who have spare eyepieces, please contact Sid, since we need more selection for loaners
  • Kitt Peak – David Lee
    • PixInsight workshop review
    • Kitt Peak is reopening, offering remote telescope images
    • OGS 12.5″ telescope, Paramount ME and 294MC OSC imaging camera – available for rent approximately US300/night for exclusive use
    • McMath Pierce Solar Telescope – now a public outreach facility, supporting Noirlab feeds
  • Brave New World – New Scientist – Ken Atkinson
    • TESS images – citizen science opportunities
    • zooinverse.org – see planet hunters
  • Astronomy Public Outreach – Randy Enkin
    • Island Star Party – last weekend in August at Bright Angel Park in southern Cowichan Valley – will be co-sponsored by Cowichan Valley Starfinders, RASC Victoria
    • Saanich Fair astronomy outreach – need volunteers
  • Meteor Storm Tonight – May 30, 2022 – Randy Enkin
    • Debris from Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3, a Jupiter family comet
    • No observations after 1930, until 1979 again
    • Period: 6.5 years
    • In 1995 brightened 400x – Hubble Space Telescope imaged the pieces of the comet
    • In 2006 Spitzer Space Telescope imaged
    • 2022 apparition could be spectacular
    • How about observing this apparition? Cloud cover may be a factor.
  • Star Parties at the DAO/CU – Lauri Roche
    • June 4 – next star party
      • Need some volunteers with telescopes
      • Speaker: White Dwarfs – Simon Blouin
    • Last Star Party – thanks to Dave Payne and David Lee for working on the Celestrons, Sherry Buttnor operated the 16″, solar telescopes were operating early in the evening.
    • Centre of the Universe displays – many are disabled due to old age. Needs a refresh, but requires funding. Skilled volunteers would be very welcome.
  • RASC General Assembly – June 24, 2022 – Lauri Roche
    • Tickets are now available – $20 for members for 4 days
    • Lots of interesting speaker, workshops, social events, and AGM business meeting
    • For those of us who live in the Pacific Time Zone – runs between 9AM and 4PM
    • Some sessions will be recorded, to be viewed later
  • Last Astronomy Cafe 
    • Thanks to the volunteers who have hosted Astronomy Cafe
    • Need volunteers when Astro Cafe restarts in the Fall
    • Hybrid format is working – in-person and Zoom
    • Sep 12th – first Astro Cafe meeting
    • Alex Schmid laptop (from UVic), external speakers and microphone
  • Galactic Poster – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman 

Astronomy Cafe – May 16, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Special General Meeting for RASC Victoria Centre – Randy Enkin
    • Have a quorum of over 25 Victoria Centre members in attendance
    • Changes to ensure our bylaws are consistent with the national bylaws and BC Society’s Act requirements
    • Call for volunteers to work on more revisions to Victoria Centre bylaws over the next few months
  • Need volunteers for Astronomy Cafe – contact Randy Enkin
    • Zoom host – recording and posting the video transcripts online
    • Meeting host – tracks and runs the meetings
  • Star parties at Observatory Hill – Lauri Roche
    • May 21, Jun 4, 18 – hybrid party in-person and online on Zoom & Youtube
      • May 21 – Early Discoveries made by the Plaskett Telescope – Jim Nemec
    • Every Saturday night after the July 1st break for the summer
    • Volunteers needed: telescopes in the parking lot, RASC welcome table, Plaskett dome tour hosts, 16″ telescope operators, other roles – contact Lauri
    • Electronically-Assisted Astronomy – start planning to use at the Star Parties in future – contact Dave Lee
  • Nanaimo Astronomy – Janeane MacGillivray
    • Astronomy From Kitt Peak – David Lee presenting at upcoming meeting
    • RASC Victoria members are welcome – send an email
  • Total Lunar Eclipse reports from members – May 15/16, 2022
    • Cloudy photos from Saanich after being skunked at Cattle Point – David Lee
    • HDR smartphone photos through eyepiece, join observations from Cosmic Generation group – Nathan Hellmen-Mestleman
    • Lunar Crater transits & mare cookies – Randy Enkin
    • Cloudy photos from Sidney – Chris Gainor
    • Observed from Brentwood Bay while raining – Lauri Roche
    • Just a glimpse from Taylor Beach in Metchosin, but spotted ISS – Bill Weir
  • Plaskett Images – Dan Posey
    • Composite image of the images over last few years 
    • Whirlpool Galaxy, Whale Galaxy, Deer Link Group NGC 7331, Fireworks Galaxy NGC 6946, M100, M63 Blackeye, NGC 3718 Arp galaxy, Hickson 44
    • Plaskett nights are for enjoyment and a reward for RASC Victoria members and volunteers
    • Review of techniques to process Plaskett image data into nice images
  • Skynews magazine – Bruce Lane
    • Review of upcoming articles
    • Please send Total Lunar Eclipse observing reports to Bruce (Editor)
  • Black Holes – Randy Enkin
    • M87 Black Hole – April 22, 2019 – Event Horizon Telescope
    • Sagittarius A* Supermassive Black Hole – May 16, 2022 – BBC Science Focus article
    • Galactic nucleus observed by Karl Jansky in 1931 – published in Nature, 173, 985-987, 1954
    • Angular resolution problem solved by the Event Horizon Telescope
    • Motion analysis of objects and energy near the Event Horizon of a black hole
    • Lauri Roche’s “black hole” birthday gift