President’s Message – August 2021

Posted by as President's Message

I’ve had a couple of requests this summer to help friends who have never seen Saturn through a telescope with their own eyes before. One of them was lent the wonderful 1970s Tasco 60mm refractor that I bought off Reg Dunkley, at our Astro Cafe exchange, way back when we could meet in person. Reg says this telescope kindled his interest in astronomy years ago, so it is fun to give this equipment to another enthusiastic newbie. The other request is from Toronto and I’m getting a RASC Toronto Centre loaner scope ready, for when I’m there next week. We do indeed belong to a great society that gives us these opportunities.

Saturn – by Brock Johnston

But what is it about seeing the beautiful objects in the sky ourselves? There are much better images available on the internet. Nothing we can see from Earth compares to the pictures of our sixth planet sent by the Voyager and Cassini spacecraft. Saturn especially has been something that has turned on people from all walks of life to the delights of the night sky. Indeed, the design specifications for the “Galileo-scope” included the possibility to see the rings of Saturn, because they knew that that view is the gateway to spending more time with a telescope (I have one, and it works!).

Saturn is certainly other- worldly. It is beautiful in its form and symmetry. The physics which produce the rings are non-intuitive. It is a challenge to see it, but not an unreasonable challenge for most. But there must be more.

Each time I take my telescope out, I fall in love again with the universe we live in. Even when I am alone, I sometimes swoon out loud. I don’t know why, but I sure am glad I get to share the feeling with my astro-friends. As our friend Diane Bell told us: “the sky is a gift!”

Enjoy the sky. Share it.
Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President email

2019 Transit of Mercury

Posted by as Observing Highlights

2016 Transit of Mercury - prize-winning photo by John McDonald. Mercury is the tiny dot just above the trees, not the big sunspot in the middle of the Sun!
2016 Transit of Mercury – prize-winning photo by John McDonald. Mercury is the tiny dot just above the trees, not the big sunspot in the middle of the Sun!

This transit of Mercury will be well underway when the Sun rises at 7:00AM on November 11th. Observers in our location on the west coast of Canada will need to get up early and setup in the dark or pre-dawn, so familiarize yourself with your chosen observing location a few days before this event!

2019 Mercury Transit – gallery of photos and sketches from RASC Victoria Centre members.

Transit timing for Victoria, BC, Canada – Nov 11, 2019 – Pacific Standard Time (PST) – 2 hours & 45 minutes long

  • First contact (ingress, exterior): sun below horizon
  • Second contact (ingress, interior): sun below horizon
  • Sunrise – 7:00AM in the SE
  • Greatest transit: 7:20:26 AM PST
  • Third contact (egress, interior): 10:03:02 AM PST – Sun Altitude 19°
  • Fourth contact (egress, exterior): 10:04:43 AM PST
2019 Mercury Transit world map - Fred Espenak
2019 Mercury Transit world map – Fred Espenak

Observing

2019 Mercury Transit diagram - Fred Espenak
2019 Mercury Transit diagram – Fred Espenak

You should try out any gear you propose to use before Nov 11th. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars, camera lenses and telescopes you will be using. Take test photos of the Sun well before this event, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. 

Unlike a total solar eclipse, there is no safe time to take off your solar filters when observing a planetary transit across the Sun. Solar filters must be used the whole time you are looking at the Sun for this event!

Choose a location that has a clear view to the east and southeast, since the transit will be in progress as the Sun rises. Being located on a hill will be an advantage for observing the Sun (and transit) sooner.

Mercury is too small to see without using some magnification, so at a minimum, use solar filters on binoculars or a small telescope to observe with. Mercury will be impossible or extremely difficult to see with unaided eyes or pinhole projectors.

Timing and azimuth of sunrise from Victoria on Nov 11, 2019
Timing and azimuth of sunrise from Victoria on Nov 11, 2019

Finally, relax and enjoy this event. Sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses and filtered binoculars or telescope handy, and enjoy!

Resources

New Horizons Pluto fly-by celebration – July 14th

Posted by as Special Events

Tuesday July 14 is going to be an historic day. The New Horizons spacecraft will make its long-awaited flyby of Pluto, obtaining the first closeup photos and data from this mysterious world.

In honour of this event, I am arranging an informal and fun event at Pluto’s Restaurant (“The Hottest Food from the Coolest Planet”) in Victoria, BC, Canada at 6 p.m. on July 14. This will be a dinner and celebration, including an update with the latest news from Pluto.

If you are interested in taking part, please let me know, so I can give the restaurant people an estimate of how many people they can expect. Once there, you can order off the menu and pay for your meal as usual.

About the time we sit down for dinner, the first transmission from New Horizons after its flyby is due to arrive on Earth. I am also trying to arrange for an expert speaker to give us a very brief update on the findings from New Horizons.

Pluto’s Restaurant is at 1150 Cook St., at the corner of View St. near downtown Victoria.

This flyby will be an historic event, no matter how you classify Pluto. This will be the last first-time flyby of what some call a “classical planet” and the first of one of the many smaller planets in the Kuiper Belt. Interestingly, the first flyby of a planet (other than Earth) was Mariner IV’s flyby of Mars on July 14, 1965, exactly fifty years before the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.

If you are planning to attend, please let me know or join the Facebook event. Family and friends are also welcome!

Chris Gainor