President’s Message October 2019

Posted by as News, President's Message

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

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

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

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

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

Cloud Free Nights

Reg Dunkley

President’s Message September 2019

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!

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
  • Gift basket from The Butchart Gardens
  • Celestial sleep masks
  • Astronomy books – coffee table & for observers
  • 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 C 90 Maksutov telescope (used, excellent optics)
Celestron C 90 Maksutov telescope (used, excellent optics, wooden tripod)

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