President’s Message September 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

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

RASCals Star Party 2019

Posted by as Events

September 27-29, 2019

St. Stephen’s Anglican Church
7921 St Stephens Road – off Mt. Newton Cross Road
Saanichton, BC, Canada

2019 RASCals Star Party poster (774kb PDF)

Gates will open at 3pm on Friday. Camp on the field and setup your telescope for two nights of fun!

Cost: Free of charge! Visiting observers who stay overnight: suggested donation of $20/Adult one day or two.

Everyone who is present is entitled to a ticket for door prizes, attend presentations, and access the observing field.

Prizes for kids and adults.

Don’t want to camp? No problem if you live in the Greater Victoria area…you can drive home after spending an evening on the observing field.

Staying after dark? Please bring a red light with you – no white lights!

Observing Field at St. Stephens Church
Observing Field at St. Stephens Church

Schedule of Events

Friday 27th

  • 3:00 pm – Gates open
  • 6:00 pm – Welcome and door prizes, including a telescope!
  • 6:30 pm – Speaker: Apollo 11 – Chris Gainor
  • 7:30 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please

Saturday 28th

  • Solar viewing – all day on the field
  • Afternoon presentation (possible) – StarBQ location
  • 5:00 pm – StarBBQ – burgers, drinks, crispy snacks
  • 6:15 pm – Welcome and door prizes, including two telescopes!
  • 6:30 pm – Speaker: Archaeoastronomy – Rob Beardsell
  • 7:30 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please

Sunday 29th

  • Cleanup – everyone please pitch-in & help
  • Please, no parking in the church parking lot this morning in consideration of Church members attending their service!
  • 12:15 pm – solar viewing for St. Stephen’s congregation
  • Early departures are appreciated!

Facilities

  • Camping on the observing field with your tent, trailer or motorhome – bare camping, no utilities on the field
  • Setup your telescope and other astronomy gear on the observing field
  • Some power is available on the field for astronomy equipment, but no RV plug-ins please!
  • Washrooms and porta-potties
  • Water, self-serve coffee & tea
  • Visitor and drop-in parking
  • Church hall for presentations

Please do NOT park on the field with your vehicle if you plan to leave after dark! In this case, move your vehicle off the field after setting up, and park in the parking lot with your headlights facing away from the observing field. The same parking request applies to visitors dropping in for the evening – leave your vehicle in the parking lot and walk into the observing field.


Star Party t-shirts

A very limited supply of RASCals Star Party t-shirts will be available for sale. Pre-order yours by contacting Joe Carr. Black t-shirts available in Men’s S, M, L, XL and 2XL sizes – $15 ea, and navy Kid’s t-shirts available in S & M ($13 ea). Please make cheques payable to RASC Victoria Centre.


Prizes

  • We always have good prizes, and this year will be no exception!
  • TWO telescopes to be won – a grand prize each evening
  • Binoculars
  • Celestial sleep masks
  • Astronomy books
  • Fun, activity-oriented kids’ prizes
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor telescope
Celestron Inspire 100AZ Refractor telescope, including alt/az tripod, 2 eyepieces, red laser finder, smartphone adapter, red LED flashlight
Celestron C90 Matsukov telescope with eyepiece and finder

Celestron Skymaster 15×70 binoculars

Location

Star Party field map

What to observe

Map of the southern night sky for Sep 27, 2019 at 10PM

President’s Message Mid Summer Report

Posted by as News, President's Message

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

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.

President’s Message April 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

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