President’s Message – July 2022

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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

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)

Astronomy Cafe – May 9, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Meeting video transcript

  • Astronomy Day thank you’s to volunteers – Lauri Roche & David Lee
    • The in-person interaction was an engaging experience 
    • The younger volunteers were a real delight
    • Sidewalk astronomy from the museum plaza, with very good weather
    • History of Astronomy Day at the Royal BC Museum – Sid Sidhu
    • UVic, Camosun, Victoria High School, Shawnigan Lake School was a good collaboration
    • Galileo Moments
      • Daytime at the RBCM: more than 800 – 231 outside, 654 inside
      • Evening on Observatory Hill: 29 volunteers and more than 100 members of the public
    • A lessons learned meeting with leads – David Lee
    • Publicity worked pretty well – Chris Gainor
    • Hubble history book will be available at Astronomy Cafe next week – Chris Gainor
    • Public lectures – about 40 attendees for each of 4 presentations – Randy Enkin
    • Video recording for lunar observing national feed – David Lee recorded Randy Enkin and Bill Weir
    • Attendance compared with previous Astronomy Days? 
      • Despite a shorter day at RBCM, attendance was very good
      • Previous attendance was between 1,700-2,000 at our bigger events
    • A high quality experience for attendees and children’s activities front-and-centre was a good idea – Jim Hesser
    • Met some interesting people who were very interested in astronomy – Dave Payne
    • Offered to help people to make use of their telescopes – Dave Robinson
    • Astronomy Day – event info and photo gallery
  • M33 Triangulum Galaxy image – Randy Enkin & John McDonald
    • HII star formation region
    • Compared with Barnard’s Loop shock wave (10º)
    • Bubble is the form the shock wave takes caused by multiple stars
    • M33 is a floculant galaxy – clumping of hydrogen material
    • What is a “typical” galaxy? – Dorothy Paul
    • April 2017 Skynews article (PDF) – Orion’s Aura – Orion Eridanis Super Bubble – Reg Dunkley
  • James Webb Space Telescope progress report – Chris Gainor’
    • Image sharpness check completed for all instruments
    • Instrument Modes Check Off – happening next
    • Images will likely start in June or July
    • Diffraction spikes in the images – causes?
    • Difference fields of view for each camera/sensor
  • Special General Meeting at May 16th Astronomy Cafe – Randy Enkin
    • Need a quorum of 25 Victoria Centre members in attendance
    • Changes to ensure our bylaws consistent with the national bylaws
    • Our Secretary Jill Sinkwich is finding several parts of Victoria Centre bylaws that will need to be changed
    • Proposed changes are already sent out to members
  • Need volunteers for Astronomy Cafe – 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
    • 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
    • Electronically-Assisted Astronomy – start planning to use at the Star Parties in future – contact Dave Lee
  • National General Assembly – June 24-27 (online) – Lauri Roche
    • Speakers, co-current sessions, virtual field trips
    • AGM
    • Seeking submissions from members to give half hour talks about their passion – submit form by May 15th – contact Lauri

Astronomy Cafe – May 2, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Intro – Randy Enkin
  • Astronomy Day – David Lee
    • Final check-in this Wednesday evening for leads before Saturday events
    • International Astronomy Day – May 7, 2022
  • Vancouver Island Science Fair intro to awardees – Randy Enkin
  • VI Science Fair: Light At Night – Beata Ariana-Minniti (Cedar Hill Middle School student)
    • Creating a bus stop light using natural resources
    • Parts: Thermoelectric generator, voltage regulator, LED light
    • Heat storage: sand in an insulated box
  • Canada-wide Science Fair: Lower CubeSat orbit could Protect Space Infrastructure – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman
    • CubeSats collide, creating dangerous space debris that orbits the Earth – Kessler Syndrome
    • Quantifying the collisions
    • Lowering the hazard: choosing best orbits, adding micro-thrusters to CubeSats to change orbit or de-orbit
  • Astrophotos from southern Arizona – John McDonald & Garry Sedun
    • Caldwell 30 galaxy
    • M33 Triangulum Galaxy
    • NGC 2903 barred spiral galaxy
    • IC 433 Jellyfish Nebula
  • Eclipse Crater Timing – Randy Enkin
  • James Webb Space Telescope Update – Chris Gainor
    • All onboard instruments are now in focus
    • Commissioning of instruments next, then science projects begin

Astronomy Cafe – Apr 25, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Discussion about Astro Cafe’s new hybrid online and in-person meeting, room characteristics
  • Astronomy Day – May 7 – Lauri Roche
    • Museum 10AM-3PM
    • Online Lunar cross-Canada event – 5:00-6:30PM – RASC National, David St. Jacques (Canadian astronomer)
      • David needs some video clips from members observing the Moon, so he can assemble a short video feed if the weather is bad.
    • Observatory Hill – 7:30-11:00PM
      • Star party with observing
      • Hubble & JWST by Chris Gainor
      • Masks recommended
    • Please volunteer – contact Lauri Roche (email) or David Lee (email)
  • Astrophotos – Brock Johnston
    • Supernova in galaxy NGC 4647, near M60 in Virgo
    • M82 galaxy showing Ha emissions thanks to narrowband filters
  • Astrophotos – Dave Payne
    • M81 Bode’s galaxy
    • Needle galaxy NGC 4565
    • Asteroid 5116 Korsor passes in front of NGC 3384 galaxy
    • M65 & M66 odd couple of galaxies
    • Rejection frame analysis
  • Astrophotos – Martin Gisborne
  • Discussion about Astro Cafe’s new hybrid online and in-person meeting
  • James Webb Space Telescope – Chris Gainor
    • Still about a month away from scientific images and data
  • “The Great Debate” – Lauri Roche & Chris Gainor
  • Ballooning satellite populations in low Earth orbit portend changes for science and society – April 22, 2022 Physics Today article – John McDonald
  • Debate on contentious issues surrounding space tourism and other space exploration – Lauri Roche, Chris Gainor, Martin Gisborne

Astronomy Cafe – Apr 11, 2022

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Transcript video of the meeting

Chris Boar is a self professed Apollo program space nerd, having met 12 Apollo astronauts including 4 moonwalkers. This presentation is about his visit to Johnson Space Center in Houston back in November 2019, interspersed with tales of meeting the Apollo Astronauts. Chris attended the JSC Level 9 VIP tour, which includes visits to NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, where current astronauts train for spacewalks. Also visiting “Building 9” containing mockups of the International Space Station, Soyuz, and SpaceX hardware. And finally visiting the current ISS Mission Control Center, and personal highlight of the tour for Chris, stepping inside the recently restored historic Apollo Mission Control room, a designated US National historic landmark.

Chris Boar – Apollo Mission Control room

Chris Boar is the President of the Nanaimo Astronomy Society and an avid Apollo space nerd along with being a keen astrophotographer. Chris is a full time professional photographer living in Nanaimo shooting weddings and real estate. 

  • 2019 visit to Johnson Space Center in Houston
    • VIP Level 9 Tour – 4-5 hours
    • Lunar Exploration Module (LEM)
    • Neutral Buoyancy Lab
    • Met Micheal Collins: Gemini 10, Apollo 11
    • ISS Mission Control
    • Saturn V rocket with F1 engines
    • Apollo 8 mission
    • Jim Lovell – Gemini 7, 12, Apollo 8, 13
    • Space Vehicle Mockup building – ISS, SpaceX, Soyuz
    • Apollo 9 mission
    • Alan Bean, Apollo 12 LMP, Skylab II
  • 2016 Spacefest
    • Restored historic Apollo Mission Control room – all original and working consoles
    • Apollo 13 mission – Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, Jack Swigert
    • Apollo 15 mission – Dave Scott, LEM
    • Apollo 16 mission 
    • Apollo 17 mission – Gene Cernan, the last man on the Moon
  • Q&A

Members’ Reports

  • Edmonton Astrophotography – Dave Robinson
    • M81, M82, NGC 2976, NGC 3077, other galaxies – Arnold Rivera
    • M64 – Tom Owen
  • Astronomy Day – May 7th – David Lee
    • Royal BC Museum – 10AM – 3PM
      • Most activity areas will resume with this in-person public event
      • Speakers in the Newcombe Auditorium
    • Cross-Canada Lunar/Artemis Webinar – RASC National – midday
      • Live feed from Victoria weather permitting
      • Static video of lunar observing needs to be created as a backup in case of poor weather – contact David Lee
    • Public event – DAO on Observatory Hill – evening
  • Volunteers List – Marjie Welchframe
    • Need more volunteers for various events Victoria Centre participates in
    • Have about 25 volunteers already
    • Telescope clinic for new observers – Dave Robinson
  • Artemis Lunar Star Party – April 16 7-9PM – Lauri Roche
    • Co-hosted by RASC and FDAO
    • Ask a selenophile – Randy Enkin
    • Speaker – Chris Gainor
  • Astronomy books to give away – contact Bill Weir
    • Large star atlas, and more
  • Astronomy & space exploration books – recommended by Martin Gisborne
    • Fundamentals – Then Keys to Reality – Frank Wilczek
    • Black Hole Survival Guide – Janna Levin
    • A Man On The Moon – Andrew Chaikin
    • Moon Dust – Andrew Smith
    • Carrying The Fire – Michael Collins
    • The Last Man on the Moon – Gene Cernan
    • Apollo 13 – Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger
  • Henri Van Bentum death – Lauri Roche, Jim Hesser
    • Natasha – Henri’s wife, assisted Victoria Centre with International Year of Astronomy 2009
    • Letter of condolence to be sent to Natasha on behalf of Victoria Centre
  • Astronomy Cafe – TV to be installed tomorrow in our new room at FGCA – Chris Purse
  • No Astronomy Cafe next week due to the Easter weekend – see everyone on April 25th

Artemis Star Party – Apr 16, 2022

Posted by as Special Events

The RASC Victoria Centre and the Friends of the DAO invite you to join us for a “Shooting to the Moon” Artemis Star Party.

Date: Saturday, April 16th, 2022

Time: 7:00 to 9:00 pm Pacific Time

Guest Speaker: “The Artemis Missions and Canada’s Future Role in space” – Randy Attwood, RASC, Mississauga Centre

  • Send your photos of the Moon into our Tre”moon”dous Lunar Photo Give Away Contest
  • Try your luck in a special Moon Quiz
  • Find out how to take great photos of the Moon with your cell phone
  • Ask an Astronomer your questions with admitted selenophile, Randy Enkin

YouTube Link – watch event


Artemis Star Parties – RASC

Artemis Missions – Canadian Space Agency

Astronomy Cafe – Mar 21, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

Deborah Lokhost presented to us about the Dragonfly Telephoto Array. She is an Instrument Science Research Associate at the NRC Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Research Centre in Victoria, BC. During her PhD in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, she worked with the Dragonfly Telephoto Array to observe and study galaxies. She designed an upgrade to Dragonfly and built a pathfinder telescope based on this design which she then used to study gas in the surroundings of galaxies. She is currently leading the construction of a full-scale upgrade to the telescope which has the ultimate goal of imaging gas in the “cosmic web” of dark matter.

Dragonfly Telephoto Array

  • Reasons for Dragonfly
    • Large galaxies with low luminosity (surface brightness)
    • Light scattering is the main problem
    • Reflecting telescopes don’t help, since they scatter light
    • Refractors have a limit in size
  • Design
    • Canon using nano coatings to reduce light scatter for their long telephoto lenses
    • Using 48 Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L – split between two Paramounts/observatories
    • Mexico Skies Observatory – site
    • Astroplanner – mission planning and execution
    • Been in operation for 6 years
    • Comparison between Dragonfly and Sloan Digital Sky Survey
    • Diffraction Limited SBIG CCD cameras
    • Intel stick computers talk to a master computer for data collection
    • Filter 1/2 G and 1/2 R (Sloan clone)
  • Science
    • Main target is galaxies
    • What is Dark Matter? 90% of the Milky Way is Dark Matter
    • Dark Matter first detected by Vera Rubin
    • Ultra Diffuse Galaxies – new discovery by Dragonfly team
    • Looking for Globular Clusters in these ultra diffuse galaxies
    • First field images – Coma Berenice cluster of galaxies
    • NGC 1052 diffuse galaxies – very little Dark Matter – unusual!
    • Modified Newtonian Galaxy – alternate theory to Dark Matter
  • What about outside galaxies? – Deborah’s main study
    • Detecting faint gas emissions using ultra-narrowband filters
    • Simulated Ha observations from EAGLE cosmological simulation that should be possible using Dragonfly
    • Mounting the ultra-narrowband filters in front of the lenses would improve the result, and tilting the filter improves performance
    • Discovered a new Ha shell around M81/M82
    • 0.8nm filters will be used on new array
    • 30 new lenses to start with for testing and fine tuning

Members Reports & Presentations

  • Edmonton astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • NGC 4565 Needle Galaxy with many tiny galaxies in the field – Denis Boucher
    • Comet C/2020 L3 (Atlas) – Alister Ling
    • NGC 281 emission nebula – Tom Owen
  • Galactic Atmospheres gallery – Jim Hesser
  • SIGs – David Lee
    • Astrophotography – Wed
    • Makers – Thu – using Arduino microprocessors
  • Gov’t of Canada Citizen Science Portal – David Lee
  • James Web Space Telescope update – Chris Gainor
    • Pointing, focusing and alignment of the mirrors is complete
    • Now aligning the various instruments and guidance sensors
  • “Not Yet Imagined” History of Hubble – printed book now available from Chris Gainor (email)
  • Next week’s Café on March 28 – Jeff Pivnick
    • Invited a guest speaker. Vickie Siegel of Stone Aerospace who will be speaking about exploration using remote autonomous vehicles.
    • Crybots and AUVs intended for exploring Europa’s subsurface seas

Astronomy Cafe – March 14, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • A printed copy of the Hubble history book “Not Yet Imagined: A Study of Hubble Space Telescope Operations” written by Chris Gainor can be requested from NASA by email for no cost. Kindle, ePub and PDF electronic versions are also available for free download.
  • Locating Endurance– Randy Enkin
    • Shackleton’s exploration ship Endurance in Antarctica has been located on March 5, 2022
    • Crew manned a lifeboat from Elephant Island to South Georgia and all crew were eventually rescued
    • Review of navigation in that era
    • Refer to: On the Location of Shackleton’s Vessel Endurance by Lars Bergman and Robin G. Stuart, published in  the Journal of Navigation: 29 July 2021 
    • Endurance had 24 chronometers!
    • Chronometers were referenced to occultations that happened along the route at the time
    • Ship was found 6.4 km south of the original reported position of the sinking
    • The just-completed National Geographic mission was privately funded – about $20 million
    • The Perfectionists by Simon Winchester – describes Harrison’s chronometers – Martin Gisborne
  • Report on construction of new 32″ telescope for Edmonton Centre by Roman – Dave Robinson
  • Astrophoto of NGC 2264 Cone Nebula in RGB – Brock Johnston
    • May use narrowband next time to tease out more detail
  • FDAO Star Parties – Lauri Roche
    • March 19th 7-9PM presentation “Direct Imaging of Exoplanets” – Garima Singh, NRC/HIA
      • Zoom link will be sent out to RASC members
    • April 16th – 2 presentations
      • ARTEMIS mission – speaker from Canadian Space Agency
      • Plaskett’s Star by Dennis Crabtree
  • May 7th – Astronomy Day national events – Lauri Roche
    • Launch of Chris Gainor’s book “Not Yet Imagined: A Study of Hubble Space Telescope Operations” on the Hubble History
  • Astrophotos – Martin Gisborne
    • Rosette Nebula – with and without star reduction – Nikon D850 dSLR
    • Flame & Horsehead Nebula
    • M51 galaxy – first attempt using his new big telescope
    • M81 galaxy – small refractor photo from last year
    • M101 galaxy
    • Astronomy book reviews
  • Cone Nebula and Plaskett’s star location – David Lee & Randy Enkin
  • Two photos from the RASC Plaskett night (Mar 5th) processed and posted by Dan Posey – presented by Joe Carr
  • Painting of a tiny Arctic plant by Marjie Welchframe
  • Fr. Lucien Kemble – Roman Catholic Franciscan priest well-known as a visual observer from Alberta and Saskatchewan. Kemble’s Cascade, chain of stars in the northern sky. Photo by Charles Banville – Bill Weir
  • Speaker for Mar 21 Astro Cafe: Deborah Lokhorst will be speaking about the Dragonfly Telephoto Array 

Astronomy Cafe – March 7, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Uncategorized

Meeting video transcript

  • Intro – Chris Purse
    • Upcoming speakers
    • Working on hosting Astro Cafe in-person at the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association facilities
    • Welcome to new members
    • Garry Sedun, new VP
    • Dave Payne, new VP2
  • Edmonton Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Orion Nebula, Virgo Galaxy Cluster and other galaxies – Tom Owen
  • Recent Astrophotos – Brock Johnston
    • M78 reflection and dark nebula east of Horsehead
    • M106 galaxy and satellite galaxies
    • Horsehead & Orion Nebulae widefield, starless version
    • Brock’s online gallery
  • Comet 19/P Borrelly is passing by the California Nebula (chart) – March 23-27 – Bill Weir
  • Recent Astrophotos – Dan Posey
    • From recent Plaskett Photography 12-hour session for RASC Victoria Centre members – Horsehead Nebula, more later (data available from Dan through Astrophotography SIG)
    • M81, M82 – VCO Takahashi & Canon Ra
    • Dan’s downtown deck – telescope & CCD
      • Horsehead Nebula, Lagoon Nebula, Swan Nebula – starless versions
      • Thor’s Helmut Nebula
      • Dan’s online gallery
  • Horsehead Nebula – best astrophoto using Garry Sedun’s astro gear
  • Recent Astrophotos – Martin Gisborne
    • Markarian’s Chain of galaxies – 80mm refractor and Nikon D850 unmodified dSLR
    • Rosette Nebula
    • Horsehead & Flame Nebulae with Iridium flare
    • Flaming Star Nebula IC 405 using 8″ SCT
  • Chris Gainor
    • No news with JWST mission
    • We are probably coming to the end of Russian collaboration with the ISS due to the Ukraine war
  • Congratulations to Sid Sidhu on local press coverage for his recent IAU asteroid naming
  • FDAO – Lauri Roche
    • March 19th Star Party
    • April 16th – Artemis Mission speaker
    • May 7th Astronomy Day – may open the Centre of the Universe for a public event
  • Interest in Citizen Science group? – contact David Lee (david@victoria.rasc.ca
  • Any interest in staging a Messier Marathon? – Chris Purse (membership@victoria.rasc.ca
  • The Last Stargazers book by Emily Levesque – recommended by Martin Gisborne and others