Astronomy Cafe – Jan 17, 2022

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Transcript video of the meeting

Meeting notes

  • A Woman of Astronomy – Marji Welchframe
    • Urania, Muse of Astronomy
    • Seal of the RASC – “Quo Ducit Urania” (i.e. where Urania leads, we follow)
    • Urania is 1 of 9 Muses of the Arts in Greek Mythology
    • Uranometria star atlas by Johann Bayer (1603) – published and sold by Sky & Telescope (Willman Bell section)
  • Early computer memories
    • LGP-30 tube-based computer used at the University of Alberta in Edmonton by John McDonald in 1958
    • Reminisces from various members about early computers, calculators, slide rules, and other computing devices and programming languages they used decades ago.
  • Lunar Puzzles – Randy Enkin
    • 100-piece from NASA
    • 1000+ piece from Cobble Hill
    • 1000 piece from Four Point
    • 3-D printed Moon puzzle – Randy and his daughter assembled it
  • Reports  from Lauri Roche
    • 2022 RASC Calendars have still not arrived
    • Sky Cultures of the World: RASC World Asterisms Program – Charles Ennis, 1st VP with RASC National – FDAO Star Party – this Sat, Jan 22nd 7-9PM – available on Zoom and Youtube
    • Eclipses for 2023 and 2024 – Education & Public Outreach Committee task force headed by Randy Attwood. Thousands of eclipse glasses will be available and sent to RASC Centres. Members can participate on the committee – contact Lauri.
  • JWST Update – Chris Gainor
    • Mirror Segment Deployment Tracker – activating the actuators behind the mirror segments
    • JWST enters a halo orbit around L2 position this Sunday, Jan 23rd
  • Astro Cafe next week – Jan 24, 2022
    • Dr. Tanya Harrison, “a professional Martian” – our Astro Cafe speaker next week
    • David Lee will be hosting
  • Scarlett Caterpillar Club – a parasitic fungus Bill Weir found near the observatory at Pearson College


  • NASA 3D Resources – 3D models of equipment, models of celestial and solar system objects, space missions (like JWST). Various media for download: fly-throughs, interactive visualizations, 3D printer files, stereo images.

Astronomy Cafe – Jan 10, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Lunar sketching & movie review – Randy Enkin
    • Randy’s Lunar “scissors” sketch, compared with Mike Nash and Bill Weir photos of the same area
    • “Don’t Look Up” popular movie on Netflix
      • Amy Mainzer was the science advisor for the movie, and is also the Principal Investigator for NEOWISE. So the science was quite accurately portrayed in the movie.
      • Observation of Mars and Jupiter in 1802 – Piazzi discovered Ceres instead of a new planet, and Carl Friedrich Gauss computed the orbit of the asteroid
      • Measuring the Earth – Gauss and von Humbolt
      • JPL Horizons System (Solar System Dynamics) – solar system ephemeris computation system
      • Mark Boslough movie review – don’t read before watching the movie!
      • Brian Cox’s commentary about Don’t Look Up
  • Astrophotos from Edmonton Centre – Dave Robinson
    • Antimatter and Dark Matter cartoon
    • Michael Jäger (@Komet123Jager) photo of comet C/2021 A1 Leonard from Skygems Observatories in Nambia
    • Article explains why comet heads are green, but their tails are not green
    • Ursa Major and snow carving of a bear – Warren Findlay
  • UVic construction & Sunspots – Alex Schmid
    • UVic Construction photos – An update on two new buildings – residence, lecture halls, dining areas
    • Recent Sunspots – a-focal through eyepiece using a 5″ Newtonian telescope with solar filter
  • James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) – Chris Gainor
    • Launched on Ariane 5 – Dec 25, 2021
    • Journey from Earth to L2 Lagrange Point – deploying the telescope components
    • Final position at L2 – arrives Jan 23, 2022 (approximately)
    • First images should be released June, 2022
    • Discussion about single points of failure for the mission
    • JWST Control Subsystems
  • RASC National 2022 calendars – Lauri Roche
    • Our orders are on their way, but have still not arrived in Victoria
  • Victoria Centre Observatory Upgrade – Reg Dunkley
    • QHY 600 mono camera is now attached to the OGS 12.5″ telescope
    • New USB3 connection in place
    • Telescopes rebalanced for the new gear
    • Lots of snow still on the ground around our observatory
  • Our Astro Cafe speaker on Jan 24th will be Dr. Tanya Harrison, “a professional Martian”
  • FDAO Star Party – Jan 22nd – Lauri Roche
    • World Asterisms Project – Charles Ennis, 1st VP for RASC National
  • AGM – election – Chris Purse
    • Council openings are available – contact Reg Dunkley (Past President) if any member wishes to stand for Vice President, Secretary (or any other position) on Victoria Centre’s Council

Astronomy Cafe – Dec 13, 2021

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Mission to Mars – Dr. Robert Thirsk

  • Deep space missions being planned – returning to lunar orbit, the Moon’s surface, and onward to Mars
  • Maintaining the health of astronauts will be a significant challenge to the missions
  • Mars atmosphere is thick enough to sustain windstorms
  • Surface is covered in iron oxide dust
  • International Space Exploration Coordination Group – planning for exploration of Mars
  • Lunar Gateway Spaceport to be built orbiting the Moon – build starts next year
    • Canadarm 3 – using AI, 8.5m long
    • JAXA (Japan), NASA (USA), ESA (Europe)
  • Deep Space Transport – flights from the Lunar Gateway spaceport, ultimately to Mars after test flights
  • 2030s – 2 cargo vehicles assembled in Earth orbit and flown to Mars
    • Mars Ascent Vehicle – lands on Mars
    • Facilities and crew quarters to be built
  • Mars Transfer Vehicle – astronauts travel from Earth orbit to Mars – a 6-month trip
  • Mars Base – crew quarters, nuclear reactor, supplies
  • Pressurized Mars Rover allowing crew to travel up to 100kms at 72,000 kmh
  • Crew will stay on Mars for 500 days
  • Due to the 20 minute communication delay, Mission Control’s role in the mission will be limited
  • Big issues
    • Extreme isolation
    • Medical emergencies – autonomous treatment is the only option, powered by AI, on-board medical lab analysis
    • Exercise facilities will be very small
    • Radiation shielding and a shielded safe area
  • Medical Tricorder – Star Trek – now a reality! Qualcomm Tricorder
  • Environmental monitoring of cabin conditions
  • Crew bio-monitoring – smart shirt
  • Medical technology developed for this mission can be deployed in remote areas of Canada, and even primary care can benefit


  • Radiation limits dictate that astronauts can only go to Mars once
  • Advice to students interested in space missions: physics, math, but skills diversity is important, personality traits (work with diverse community), health and fitness is important. Be persistent – may take 7-8 attempts to be selected as a Canadian astronaut
  • Canadian clinical research and remote health care – could result in a key role in space health – CSA’s Health Beyond Initiative
  • Most physiological effects can be recovered from by astronauts, but can take a year or two. Ionizing radiation is the biggest issue.
  • Spinning the spacecraft to create gravity isn’t going to happen due to engineering limitations
  • Test missions to a Lagrange Point and a nearby asteroid
  • Shielding research – NASA/Johnson and ICRP (upcoming Vancouver meeting)
  • Lunar Gateway – private partners like SpaceX are being used by NASA
  • 2 flights for 2 Canadian missions to the Moon are in place – Artemis 1 and 2
  • Would JWST failure affect the Mars missions? Not really – the missions are separate.

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Edmonton astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Time lapse video over 2.5 hours – Arnold Rivera
  • Astrophotos – Dave Payne
    • Pleiades – pleased with the nebulosity
    • Owl Cluster NGC 457 – young star cluster
    • Cave Nebula – reprocessed using Dave’s new PixInsight script
  • Lauri Roche
    • Thanks to Jeff Pivnick for bring Dr. Thirsk to talk to us
    • Sat, Dec 18th – last FDAO Star Party – JWST speakers from the NRC
    • RASC National 2022 calendars have not yet arrived. Still a few available – contact Lauri.
  • Dec 22nd is the JWST scheduled launch update (see 60 Minutes) – Chris Gainor
  • Randy Enkin
    • RASC Victoria Centre 2022 calendar – a limited run, but 4 still available – view the gallery and contact Joe to order ($15 each)
    • Encourage members to talk to us at next week’s Astro Cafe – what interests you about astronomy?
    • Comparison of two comets: NEOWISE (last year) and Leonard (this year)
    • RASC Victoria Centre Council vacancies: 1st VP and Secretary
  • Maker’s SIG meeting online this Thursday – David Lee

The final Astro Café of 2021 will be held on Monday, December 20, 2021. Astro Café will resume on Monday, January 10, 2022.

Astronomy Cafe – Dec 6, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Review next week’s presentation by Dr. Robert Thirsk – Chris Purse
    • Connection to meeting will be through a waiting room
    • Jeff Pivnick will host
    • Link for this meeting will be unique, and emailed to all RASC Victoria members
    • Maximum of 100 attendees
  • Total Solar Eclipse from Antarctica – Joe Carr
  • Astro Compass – Randy Enkin & Peter Kabel
    • Frank Younger’s estate donated the Compass Astro to Victoria Centre
    • Used in aircraft when they are flying a long way north, where the magnetic field isn’t reliable
    • “It’s a sundial in reverse”
    • Need to know your position and time, sighting on a celestial object with known Right Ascension & Declination. North will be indicated accurate to within about 1º.
  • Edmonton Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Photo of Comet C/2001 A1 Leonard near M3 cluster – Arnold Rivera
    • Sketch of Comet C/2001 A1 Leonard with observing narrative – Berta Beltran
    • Rosette Nebula photo – Arnold Rivera
  • Chris Gainor
    • James Web Space Telescope update
      • Completed fuelling operations for the JWST itself
      • To be mounted onto the Ariane 5 rocket next
      • Dec 22nd launch date
      • Launch website
    • Not Yet Imagined – Chris’ new book about Hubble Space Telescope’s history. Book should be available for sale in awhile through RASC’s e-store and FDAO’s e-store locally. Electronic versions from NASA
  • Comet C/2001 A1 Leonard – observing report by David Lee
    • Observed and photographed through some clear spots over the last few days
    • Poor conditions for photography, but managed to get a good wide field image of the comet using a dSLR and tracking mount
    • Virtual Telescope broadcast – tomorrow 8PM PST
  • Lauri Roche
    • 2022 RASC Calendars
      • Send any more requests for calendars to Lauri
      • Should be $16 each
    • FDAO e-store – astronomy and space themed fun items available for sale. Free local delivery or shipped by mail (extra cost).

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 29, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Meeting transcript video

  • Astro Cafe hosting – Randy Enkin
    • John has resigned as a meeting host, so we need a new second host
    • Job description
      • Send meeting link to members on the Skynews list
      • Create a short slide show for Astrophotos from Edmonton
      • Keep a list of speakers and presenters for the evening
      • Host the online meeting
    • Contact Randy Enkin or Chris Purse for any questions about hosting or to volunteer
    • No Astro Cafe will be held on Dec 27th or Jan 3rd
  • 2022 RASC Calendars – Chris Purse and Lauri Roche
    • Delivery from National office is pending
    • Local delivery will be done by our volunteers
  • Dr. Laurie Rousseau-Nepton – profile by Marjie Welchframe
    • Canadian Women Astronomers series (have 9 more to present)
    • Indigenous woman from Quebec
    • Laval U – PhD
    • CFHT resident astronomer – 2017-present
    • SITELLE instrument – Fourier transform spectroscopy
    • SIGNALS – principal investigator – star formation survey
    • First Nations culture helps with conducting quality scientific research
    • NFB – she is finishing the film “The Northern Star” for high school students
  • Edmonton Astrophoto – Dave Robinson
    • Lunar Eclipse composite – Jan 21, 2019 & Nov 19, 2021 – Alister Ling
  • Astronomy & Space Book Reviews/Recommendations by members
    • Randy Enkin
      • The Apollo Murders by Chris Hadfield
      • Description of Apollo lunar missions – Chris Gainor
    • Martin Gisborne
      • Lunar Module at Grumman Factory photos
      • The Victorian Amateur Astronomer – 1820-1920 – by Alan Chapman – fascinating star parties and people, how photography changed astronomy
    • John McDonald
      • Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos by Dennis Overby
      • Empire of the Stars by Arthur J Miller
      • Miss Leavitt’s Stars by George Johnson
      • Decoding the Heavens by Jo Marchant
      • The Glass Universe – by Dava Sobel – transition to spectroscopy and variable stars
    • Derek Trimmer
      • Violent Universe ‘An eye-witness account of the commotion in Astronomy 1968-69’ by Nigel Calder, published by the BBC, 1969 – a mid-teenager favourite
    • David Lee
      • A History of the Universe in 100 Stars – Florian Freistetter (current)
      • The Hundred Greatest Stars Hardcover – Illustrated, June 19 2002 by James B. Kaler
    • Oliver Robinow 
      • The Perfect Machine – Ronald Florence, 1995 – building the Palomar telescope
    • Lauri Roche
    • Chris Gainor
      • When the Earth Had Two Moons – Erik Asphaug
      • Across the Airless Wilds – Earl Swift – about the lunar rover for the last 3 Apollo missions
      • Liftoff – Eric Berger – history of SpaceX
    • Garry Sedun
      • The Stars: A New Way to See Them – H. A. Rey (of Curious George fame)
      • The Last Stargazers – Emily Levesque
    • Neil Banera
      • A Manual For Amateur Telescope Makers – Jean-Marc Lecleire & Karine Lecleire (Willman Bell) – good descriptions of how to make corrections to mirror figures, tools to use, 3 telescope configurations
      • Meteorite Hunter: The Search for Siberian Meteorite Craters by Roy A. Gallant
  • Telescope Building with John Dobson – figuring mirrors on Youtube – Martin Gisborne
  • Astronomy Cafe – Chris Purse
    • Need another host for Astro Cafe – talk to Chris Purse
    • Need another person to video record the meeting (and take notes) for posting on Victoria Centre’s website and Youtube – talk to Joe Carr
    • We will need several hosts when we return to in-person, hybrid Astro Cafes in Fairfield
  • Chris Gainor
    • Hubble Update – only one instrument is still non-functional
    • JWST virtual launch event signup

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 22, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • Astrophotography SIG – intro by John McDonald
    • Special Interest Group meets on the 4th Wednesday of each month
    • Challenge project – processing the recent Plaskett data
    • Martin Gisborne – a short journey to astrophotography
      • Professional photographer – worldwide
      • Telescope shop tempted Martin while he lived in Paris
      • Lived close to the Ames Research Centre and Orion Telescopes in the Bay Area of California – more temptations and motivation
      • Review of his astronomy equipment acquisitions, processing software and apps
      • Refined his methodology over the last few years since moving to Canada
      • Reviewed early astrophotos and how they are progressing
      • The Deep-Sky Imaging Primer – Charles Bracken series of books
      • His Heart and Soul Nebula photo featured on the RASC Journal 
      • Pandemic supply chain issues a challenge to new amateur astronomers to acquire equipment
      • Photo show: Pleiades (M45), Triangulum Galaxy (M33), Heart Nebula (IC 1805), Hercules Cluster (M13), Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, Comet Atlas C/2019 Y4, Comet NEOWISE, California Nebula, Bubble Nebula, Flaming Star Nebula widefield, Iris Nebula, Moon with Mars nearby, M81 Bode’s Galaxy & M82 Cigar Galaxy 6-hour exposure.
      • He is fascinated by the history of photography being used for astronomy
      • Instagram page
      • Photo gallery
    • Joe Carr – Southern Sky Celestial Objects
      • Observing and photographing celestial objects from the southern hemisphere
      • How far south to go: Costa Rica, Atacama Desert in Chile, Namibia or Botswana in southern Africa, Australia, New Zealand
      • Photo show: Small and Large Magellanic Cloud galaxies, 47 Tucanae and Omega Centauri globular clusters, Tarantula Nebula, Jewel Box open cluster, Crux and Carina constellations, Eta Carinae Nebula
      • Southern Sky time lapse video from Atacama Lodge, San Pedro de Atacama by Jerry Black
      • Advice on observing and photographing from the souther hemisphere – some challenges for “northerners”.
    • Alec Lee
    • Brock Johnston
    • John McDonald
      • Reprocessing previous astrophotos
      • Milky Way from Cave Creek in the mountains of southern Arizona
      • Witch Head Nebula
      • Closeup of the Moon – Gassendi Crater from the Victoria Centre
      • Uranus and Neptune
      • Photo gallery
  • Lauri Roche
    • RASC 2022 Calendars – signup for a copy – contact Lauri
    • RASC workbooks and almanacs also available
    • Native skywatcher planispheres
    • FDAO Star Party last Saturday – thanks to our members who helped
    • James Web Star Party 2 on Dec 18th – Dr. Madeline Marshall, Dr. Wes Fraser
  • Alberta Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Lunar Eclipse series – Alistair Ling
  • Chris Gainor
    • James Web Space Telescope – launch delayed until Dec 22nd
    • Restoring Hubble Space Telescope to full operation – another instrument is working
  • Lunar Sketch – Randy Enkin
    • Presenting to Nanaimo Astronomy Group this Thursday
    • A new sketch of Petavius and other nearby craters on the terminator of a Waning Gibbous phase

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 8, 2021

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Video transcript of meeting

  • Dr. Robert Thirsk speaker for Dec 13th – arranged by Jeff Pivnick
    • 20 minute Q&A after online presentation
  • Two Clusters from earlier this year – Dave Payne
    • Double Cluster – 3-6 million years old, so stars are blue
    • Caroline’s Rose in Cassiopeia – 1.6 billion years old, so stars are more red
    • Owl, Flying Bat, Squid Nebulae and Peiades are coming up
  • Women Astronomers – Marjie Welchframe
  • Edmonton Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Aurora – Abdur Anwar (from Blackfoot site) & Arnold Rivera (all-sky camera) & Ian Doktor (south Edmonton)
    • M1 Crab Nebula – Kent
    • Conjunction of Moon & Mercury on Nov 3rd – Jeff Robertson
  • Lauri Roche
    • Astro Compass from Elizabeth Griffin – Need someone who is interested to have a look at it, and decide what to do with it
    • Two FDAO Star Parties (start at 7PM): James Web Telescope events on Nov 20th (Matt Taylor and Chris Willet), Dec 18th (two more presenters)
  • Neural Networks – John McDonald
    • Starnet – neural network processing to remove stars – an aid in processing astrophotos
    • Neural network processing could stop future epidemics by identifying individuals that should be tested. Transmission could be reduced to near zero using this methodology.
    • Discussion about how neural networks learn.
  • Chris Gainor
    • Hubble Problem Update
      • Team has one of the instruments working
      • Signal synchronization issue
      • Bringing the other instruments online one by one
    • James Webb Space Telescope – Chris Gainor
      • Shroud on top of telescope has been cleared for launch
      • Dec 18th launch (4:30AM launch for us in Pacific Time Zone)
    • Decadal Survey on Astronomy and Astrophysics 2020 – National Academy of Sciences – new priorities for astronomy, including a new, large 6m space telescope for the 2040s.
  • Next week’s Astro Cafe speaker: Emily Levesque – arranged by David Lee

Title: The Last Stargazers – a book by Dr. Emily Levesque

Emily Levesque
Emily Levesque

Description: A bird that mimicked a black hole. The astronomer that discovered microwave ovens. A telescope that got shot. The science of astronomy is filled with true stories (and tall tales) of the adventures and misadventures that accompany our exploration of the universe. Join Dr. Emily Levesque, author of the new popular science book The Last Stargazers, to take a behind-the-scenes tour of life as a professional astronomer. We’ll learn about some of the most powerful telescopes in the world, meet the people who run them, and explore the crucial role of human curiosity in the past, present, and future of scientific discovery.

Bio: Emily Levesque is an astronomy professor at the University of Washington. Her work explores how the most massive stars in the universe evolve and die. She has observed for upwards of fifty nights on many of the planet’s largest telescopes and flown over the Antarctic stratosphere in an experimental aircraft for her research. Her academic accolades include the 2014 Annie Jump Cannon Award, a 2017 Alfred P. Sloan fellowship, a 2019 Cottrell Scholar award, and the 2020 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize. She earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from MIT and a PhD in astronomy from the University of Hawaii.

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 1, 2021

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Video transcript of meeting

  • Edmonton astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Comet 67P and Crab Nebula – Alister Ling
    • Pacman Nebula NGC 281 – Dennis Boucher
  • David Lee
    • Beginners’ SIG tomorrow night
    • EAA SIG Thursday night
    • Sky Brightness Survey
      • Group has met
      • Need to coordinate the SQM meters and volunteers
      • First readings are probably going to start in December
      • – using a camera and SQM meter when taking measurements
      • Discussion about urban light pollution and LED streetlights
  • Astrophotos – Brock Johnston
  • Astrophotos using the Slooh telescopes within the last few weeks – Joe Carr
  • Laurie Roche
    • FDAO Oct 30th AGM & presentation – Lauri Roche
      • ALMA – Brenda Matthews
      • Plaskett mirror re-aluminizing process – a 4 minute time lapse video will be posted soon
    • Astro Compass (W.W. Boes) from Frank Younger’s estate is available to any interested member – contact Lauri
    • RASC National Public Outreach
      • Solar Eclipses group being formed for 2023 and 2024 events
      • Need a contact from each Centre
  • Astro Cafe for Nov 15th – there will be a guest speaker
  • Driving Mercedes EQC to hunt for aurora (northern Norway) – a video by Tesla Bjorn – Mike Webb
  • Sedun’s southern Arizona ranch will be sold and Garry’s two telescopes will be installed on the Saanich Peninsula next year – Garry Sedun
  • Hubble Telescope report – Chris Gainor
    • Back in Safe Mode again
    • Most of the space craft is operating normally, but it’s not operational
  • James Webb Space Telescope – Chris Gainor
    • Launching on Dec 18th, but takes two months to unfold and arrive at the final Lagrange L-2 location
    • Tomorrow’s JWST Event or NASA TV at 8AM
    • Discussion about using the Lagrange locations
    • See also the Canadian Space Agency

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 25, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Uncategorized

Video meeting transcript

  • Canadian Women Astronomers – Marjie Welchframe
    • Dr. Victoria Kaspi
      • Moved to Canada when she was 7 years old
      • McGill & Canadian Space Agency
      • X-ray astronomy expert
      • Herzberg Canada Gold Metal winner for 2016
  • Astronomers Find a ‘Break’ in One of the Milky Way’s Spiral Arms – Dorothy Paul
  • Randy Enkin
  • Record Maritime Bomb – Oct 24-25, 2021 – Reg Dunkley
    • Low pressure weather event hitting us over the last couple of days
    • Maritime Bomb caused by energy sources: colder air from the north moving south; hurricanes from the south
    • Mesoscale Wind Forecast – better resolution models showing SE winds in Georgia, Haro and Juan de Fuca Straits
    • Review of weather data from buoys and weather stations
    • Weather system time lapses & video
  • Edmonton Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • M31 redone using PixInsight – Denis Bouche
    • Coathanger area – Alister Ling
  • Events & SIGs – David Lee
    • Astrophotography SIG this Wed – John McDonald
    • Makers SIG (7PM), then RASC Light Pollution Survey (8PM) this Thursday – David Lee
    • FDAO AGM (7PM) & Star Party (8PM) this Saturday – Lauri Roche
    • NRC meeting with W̱SÁNEĆ Elders on Friday – James di Francesco
  • Astrophotos – Brock Johnston

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 18, 2021

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Transcript video of meeting

Dr. Michelle Kunimoto
Dr. Michelle Kunimoto

Dr. Michelle Kunimoto is a postdoctoral associate working on NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)mission. She leads the Quick Look Pipeline team at MIT which is dedicated to analyzing TESS data to discover and characterize exoplanets. As an undergraduate, her discoveries of four planet candidates landed her on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2017. Michelle is BC born and raised and received both her undergraduate degree and her PhD at the University of British Columbia.

Finding Earth 2.0 – Dr. Michelle Kunimoto

Michelle spoke about how we find exoplanets, identify potentially “habitable” planets, about what she does as a researcher with NASA’s TESS mission, and how anyone can join the hunt for new planets.

  • Are we alone? What would other life look like?
  • Assuming Earth-like conditions for life
    • Small, rocky, watery planet with an atmosphere
    • In the habitable zone around a host star
    • Stars that are similar to our Sun – “just right” and stable, long-lived
  • 30 years ago, the first exoplanets were discovered by Alex Wolszczan and Dale Frail
  • Gordon Walker actually discovered an exoplanet back in 1988 from Victoria, but not confirmed until 2002
  • How to detect an exoplanet
    • Pulsar
    • Doppler shift due to Stellar Wobble – radial velocity
    • Transit – the method Michelle uses in her work
    • Direct Imaging
    • Astrometry
    • others…
  • Kepler – NASA’s first exoplanet discovery mission 
    • Used the transit method from 2009 to 2013
    • 150,000+ stars observed for 4 years
    • Revolutionized exoplanet by discovering over half of all dis
    • K2 mission extended the discoveries to 2018
  • Tess – NASA mission started in 2018
    • Full sky coverage
    • Orbits around the Earth in a following, elliptical orbit
    • 27 days to a full year of observations for each object
    • Automated detection, then manual verification to avoid false positives
    • Michelle has discovered 1,600 candidate planets
    • Whole mission has confirmed 152 out of 3,285 candidate planets
    • A total of 4,531 exoplanets have been discovered (not just from the Tess mission)
    • Diversity of exoplanets is extensive
    • TRAPPIST-1 System
      • 7 exoplanets
      • 3 in habitable zone, and Earth-sized
      • James Web space telescope will examine this system in detail
    • 20 candidate exoplanets have been discovered that are Earth-sized and appear to possibly support life as we know it
    • Keppler-452b – most Earth-like exoplanet
    • Transmission spectroscopy – detect the characteristics of an exoplanet’s atmosphere
    • Habitable Exoplanet Observatory – a proposed space telescope that will perform direct imaging of exoplanets
    • How you can hunt for exoplanets
      • Anyone can access the data from the Mikulski Archive
      • Michelle found 4 candidate planets during a summer project
      • Planet Hunters TESS site – the public can help with this work – just visual pattern detection
      • Anyone can join the TESS vetting team and interact with the rest of the team
    • Upcoming missions
      • PLATO – 2026 mission
      • NRT – mid-2020s
    • Q&A

Members’ Reports

Victoria region Sky Quality Map - East
Victoria region Sky Quality Map – East
  • FDAO Star Party – Oct 30th AGM starting at 7:00PM and Brenda Matthews’ work at ALMA – Lauri Roche
  • Nerd Anomoly – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman
    • Nathan’s cartoons to be published in Skynews magazine
    • Shared some of his cartoons
  • Randy Enkin
    • A rainy day at Fairfield Fall Fair!
    • Sunspotter demo
    • Aurora photo taken from Mt. Tolmie
    • Victoria Philharmonic Choir – Hayden’s Creation was performed to a small, live audience – shared an audio clip
  • Edmonton Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Aurora by Eric Klaszus’ mother, Abdur Anwar, and an all sky camera
    • Elephant Trunk dark nebula – Abdur Anwar
  • Light Pollution Survey – David Lee
    • Last light pollution survey – Sep & Oct 2010 (maps)
    • Over a dozen members have already volunteered to re-do the survey
    • Victoria Centre will borrow 3-4 SQM meters from National, and also use members’ own SQM meters
    • First week in November is first target time to conduct the survey
    • Perhaps take a wide angle photo of the sky at each location to record light source conditions – Dave Robinson
    • Last time it took 2 nights in September and again in October
    • Contact David if interested in participating