Astronomy Cafe – Apr 15, 2024

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Meeting transcript video

  • Oak Bay Lighting in Uplands – Dave Robinson
    • Resident pressure stopped replacement of existing historic lighting
    • Proposed lighting upgrade is a poor idea
    • There are good options available for “historic” light fixtures
    • RASC Victoria should approach the mayor
    • Email to obcouncil@oakbay.ca
  • Solar Eclipse Reports
    • Aboard the Discovery Princess – 125nmi SW from Mazatlan, Mexico
      • Joe Carr
        • John McDonald and Bill Weir and his wife from Victoria were also onboard the ship
        • Pastry chefs served eclipse cookies
        • Princess Cruises and the ship’s officers were very well prepared for this special cruise, giving out eclipse glasses to both passengers and crew, communicating the ship’s position and heading would be, and having two experts aboard to give presentations on the subject and answer questions.
        • Observed a beautiful Green Flash at sunset the night before the eclipse
        • Ships within a few miles: Zaandam, Koningsdam, Sh Diana, and Ruby Princess
        • John and Joe observed from Joe’s balcony, since it was on the side of the ship facing the Sun
        • Eclipse photos and videos
          • Partial phase
          • Projected images of the eclipsed Sun through deck chair webbing
          • Totality, including prominences, plasma streamers, Diamond Ring at C3 and the planets Jupiter and Venus near the Sun
          • Wide field time lapse video of the eclipse
        • A 10ºC temperature drop was measured with a portable weather station during the eclipse
      • John McDonald
        • Eclipse shadows spelling words
        • Lots of great food onboard the ship
        • Observed and photographed partial phases and Totality
        • It was very dark overhead but quite light around us
        • Lots of excitement onboard among the passengers after the eclipse
      • Bill Weir
        • Observed from the top deck with a Coronado PST for Ha and a small Apo refractor with white light filter
        • Night sky viewing with Dr. Matt or Prof. Shelly on the top deck
        • Showed lots of passengers solar images
        • Saw Jupiter, Venus and a glimpse of 12P/Pons-Brooks comet
        • Corona was a spectacular flower-like apparition
        • Enrichment Speakers
          • Dr. Matt – dinosaurs, meteorites and astronomy
          • Prof. Shelly Bonus, UCLA, Mt. Wilson – friend of John Dobson
        • The ship was remarkably stable
    • Sherbrooke, Quebec – Alex Schmid
      • Drove to Quebec and back from BC!
      • Problems with telescope tracking and camera
      • Perfectly clear on eclipse day
      • Observed prominences, Venus and Jupiter
      • Lots of traffic on the roads after eclipse
    • Miramachi, New Brunswick – Clayton Uyeda
      • Had concerns about all the clouds, but it cleared
      • Observed from a remote site with his wife
      • Twilight but not dark
      • Indigenous smudging, drumming nearby
      • Students are back in Victoria High School. John Geehan trying to start up the trans-Neptunian Objects initiative with the high school’s new observing deck.
    • Central Texas – Peter Jedicke
      • Drove from Ontario
      • Weather was iffy, but it cleared for lots of glimpses of the eclipse
      • Enjoyed reports from dozens of people spread out all along the path of totality
    • Kingston, Ontario – Marjie Welchframe
      • Cloudy during the eclipse, but usable observing
    • Photos of the 2024 Total Solar Eclipse – by RASC Victoria Centre members
  • Activities along eclipse path – Randy Enkin
    • AirB&B occupancy map
    • Traffic maps and delays
    • Air traffic
    • inaturalist.org observations
    • Eye pain queries
  • Victoria Centre Observatory – David Lee, Randy Enkin and Reg Dunkley
    • 7 observers at recent observing session on April 13th
    • A glimpse of 12P/Pons-Brooks comet just after sunset
    • Mike Nash and Randy Enkin observed and photographed the Moon
    • Used a half hour on the Takahashi telescope to sketch Theophilius crater
    • Some first-time VCO observers had an interesting time
  • Chris Gainor
    • Met with Jenna Hinds at RASC National
      • Insurance coverage for VCO will be put in place
      • GA planned for May 4-5
      • Shot a video during the eclipse from Colchester Harbour, Ontario
  • Upcoming Activities
    • Council meeting on April 23, 2024
    • Astronomy Day planning meeting on April 25, 2024

Marjie Welchframe will host next week’s Astro Cafe on April 22, 2024.

Total Solar Eclipse – April 8, 2024

Posted by as Observing Highlights

2017 Total Solar Eclipse - plasma streamers at totality - photo by John McDonald
2017 Total Solar Eclipse – plasma streamers at totality – photo by John McDonald

A Total Solar Eclipse is a rare astronomical event (2017 was the last one), and it is even rarer for one to occur in locations that are easy to travel to. Although only a partial eclipse is observable from western Canada, the eclipse tracks diagonally across North America (southwest to northeast) on April 8, 2024. In fact, everyone in North America is within striking distance of being able to observe this amazing event, where the Moon slides in front of the Sun for a few brief minutes, suddenly and totally obscuring the Sun.

If you haven’t observed a Total Solar Eclipse, this is your chance!

Location

The eclipse tracks diagonally across North America, starting in Mazatlan, Mexico, across Texas and other states in the middle of the USA, tracking across southern Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes. Dedicated eclipse chasers are seeking the best prospects of clear skies by travelling to Mexico, but there are lots of Canadians planning to observe from locations near home, despite the chance of clear skies being poor at that time of year.

Map of eclipse track across North America
Eclipse track across North America – Jay Anderson, Eclipsophile

Time and Date’s 2024 Total Solar Eclipse site gives all the facts and figures required to find and enjoy the eclipse, including an interactive zoomable map showing the eclipse track and links to livestreams if you want to experience this eclipse from the comforts of home.

What if you can’t travel to the track of totality?

Partial Solar Eclipse from SW British Columbia
Partial Solar Eclipse from SW British Columbia – Time and Date’s interactive eclipse map

You can still see a partial solar eclipse from anywhere in North America. Use Time and Date’s interactive eclipse map to get the calculated timing for the eclipse in the area you plan to observe from. Click and zoom to your area, then click on your observing spot to see a popup telling you how long the eclipse will last and what you will see.

From our location in southwest BC in Canada, a small notch out of the solar disk will appear on eclipse day – obscuring about 17% of the Sun. Not exciting compared with the dramatic Total Solar Eclipse observed from the centreline, but still an interesting apparition to observe, assuming the 76% chance of cloud cover doesn’t prevail!

Weather

Weather always plays a big part in any solar eclipse, so being mobile is key to improving the odds of actually seeing the event should clouds threaten to obscure the Sun at the critical moment. Our very own Jay Anderson (former RASC Journal editor) is a weather expert, and specializes in forecasting weather for solar eclipses. His Eclipseophile website offers sage advice backed up with maps and charts depicting weather prospects for each eclipse happening in the world for the next several years. Read Jay’s analysis of the area you propose to observe from, so you understand how the weather might behave on eclipse day. Topography, elevation changes and local factors play into how the weather evolves throughout the day for a particular locale. Become a local weather expert, and you increase your chances for success!

Map showing the probability of clouds along the eclipse track
Probability of clouds along the eclipse track – Jay Anderson, Eclipsophile

Observing

Observing a Total Solar Eclipse is pretty easy, however that said, if you haven’t done it before, it’s nice to have experienced eclipse observers around to help you get the most out of your time under the Moon’s shadow. Obviously the time of total eclipse is the main event, however other things happen beforehand, afterwards, and during an eclipse that are worthwhile.

Uranus, Jupiter, Comet Pons-Brooks (12P), Mercury, eclipsed Sun, Venus, Neptune, Saturn - diagram from Starry Night Pro Plus 8
Uranus, Jupiter, Comet Pons-Brooks (12P), Mercury, eclipsed Sun, Venus, Neptune, Saturn – diagram from Starry Night Pro Plus 8

Although the eclipsed Sun is the main target, look around in the darkened sky for planets and other bright celestial objects. There is a good chance eclipse observers will be able to see: Uranus, Jupiter, Comet Pons-Brooks (12P), Mercury, Venus, Neptune and Saturn! Of course, the sky only darkens for the observer if they are in the path of totality, so anyone observing a partial eclipse won’t see any solar system bodies (except the Sun itself).

Be sure to try out any gear you propose to take with you before you leave. Make sure you have proper solar eclipse filters for any binoculars (or your eyes), camera lenses and telescopes you are bringing along. Remember, you only have a few minutes to see totality!

Finally, relax and enjoy the day. Arrive early. Try to manage your stress level. Just sit back in a reclining chair, have your solar glasses handy, and enjoy!

Safely observing a solar eclipse – read about how to safely observe a solar eclipse

DIY Box Pinhole Projector – to safely observe the eclipse with only a box and some aluminum foil!

Victoria RASC eclipse chasers on the field observing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse from Oregon
Victoria RASC eclipse chasers on the field observing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse from Oregon

Photography

If this is your first time experiencing a Total Solar Eclipse, don’t risk missing the eclipse by fiddling with cameras! Observing through (filtered) binoculars is a low risk way to capture the moments of totality in your memory.

For dedicated photographers, using their gear to capture a Total Solar Eclipse can be a right of passage, and has the potential to either be a highlight of your lifetime photography experience (if you succeed) or end up being a point of shame you never want to talk about again (if you fail). Take test photos of the Sun weeks beforehand, so you know your photo gear will work as expected. Always have a backup plan for when (not if) gear breaks, or you simply can’t get it to work properly. Here are some scenarios for consideration for those who are brave enough to want to multitask during totality – a once-in-a-lifetime event (least difficult listed first):

  1. Use a smart phone on automatic mode to take photos or videos of the scene around you
  2. Use a camera and wide angle lens mounted on a tripod to record the landscape, people and the eclipsed Sun (and perhaps stars and planets) in the sky. Take a random series of shots or set the camera to shoot automatically at regular intervals to create a time lapse series.
  3. Use a camera and moderate telephoto lens on a tripod to shoot video of the eclipse in the sky. Keep the telephoto lens short (80mm to perhaps 135mm) to let the eclipsed Sun pass through the frame.
  4. Use a camera and long telephoto lens on a tripod to shoot photographs of the eclipsed Sun. Take photos of the eclipse at the important moments: plasma streamers, Bailey’s Beads, Diamond Ring, totality, and partial eclipse phases.
  5. Use a telescope on a tracking mount with a camera on the back to capture closeup details of the eclipse events such as Bailey’s Beads and the Diamond Ring.

Expansion of the list above, with important details about setup, rehearsing, and special gear you may wish to consider purchasing can be found in this article: How to photograph a solar eclipse, with Alan Dyer – EarthSky.

Travel

RASC Eclipse chasers setup in the Libyan Sahara - March 29, 2006
RASC Eclipse chasers observing from the Libyan Sahara – March 29, 2006

Dedicated eclipse chasers and tour operators have made reservations at least two years ago at all the prime locations for this eclipse along the centreline where the weather is best. That’s not to say last-minute travellers are shut out from experiencing this eclipse – by planning carefully and compromising a bit, it can still work. Flights to hotspots like Mazatlan a couple of days before to a couple of days after April 8th will be fully booked, as will hotels and guest houses. Flying to nearby airports and staying in accommodation outside the centreline can make sense. Driving into the track of totality early on eclipse day can work for many who have not planned ahead.

Many of the USA states the eclipse track runs through will not have crowds of people once you are on country roads. With careful planning using the interactive eclipse and weather maps, it is certainly possible to observe the eclipse from the side of the road, parking lots, campsites, or farmer’s fields. Interstate highways which are in the track of totality will experience congestion, depending on how close to civilization the location is. When driving, expect long delays even for 24 hours or so after an eclipse as all those eclipse chasers try to get home! To avoid that anxiety, plan to stay a day or two longer near your observing site before commencing your road trip home.

Help!

If this will be your first time observing a total solar eclipse, no doubt you have many questions and concerns, and don’t know where to start. The resources presented here may be overwhelming. Please ask any questions you might have about eclipses at Astronomy Cafe, held each Monday evening by RASC Victoria Centre. Your fellow RASC members have observed solar eclipses before…they can help!

If you are reading this from other locations, find your local RASC Centre in eastern Canada which have posted eclipse events and information – Eclipse 2024 RASC.

Resources

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 20, 2023

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Victorian Asteroids – Randy Enkin
    • Lauri Roche and Chris Gainor now have asteroids named after them
    • Peter Jedicke proposed the names to the IAU’s WGSBN
    • Lauriroche – Visible in the summer sky, 14 magnitude
    • Gainor – evening sky now, spring will be the best view
    • Past namings: Sidhu, Bettyhesser, Jamesheasser, JackAlice (Newton), Scarfe, Plaskett, Balam, Tatum, Climenhaga, Plaskett, Kavelaars, Bohlender, DAO, Crampton, UVic, Vicsympho, Makosinski, Kleewyck (Emily Carr), Frasercain
    • Congratulations to everyone with named asteroids
    • Other Awards and Honours – Victoria Centre members with asteroids named after them
  • New members intro – Suzanne, Jerod (both in person)
  • Lunar sketches – Randy Enkin
    • Cassini over several nights
  • Swap and Shop – next week in-person at Astronomy Cafe
    • Bring your astronomy stuff!
    • Bring your money to buy stuff!
    • Send your list of equipment to Chris Purse (membership@victoria.rasc.ca) ahead of time so we can promote the event
  • Website Infrastructure – project leader needed – Randy Enkin president@victoria.rasc.ca
    • Determine the scope of the project, coordinate the technical details, help Council select a new web provider
    • Talk to Joe Carr Webmaster for details (web@victoria.rasc.ca)
  • Jeff Pivnick
    • A review of Circumstellar Disks by Brenda Matthews, who was our speaker from last Wednesday’s meeting at UVic
    • ALMA situated on the Atacama Desert 5,000m / 16,000′ altitude
    • Monthly meetings – future list through to March 13, 2024
    • Garry Sedun – working at altitude is very difficult
    • 134th Birth Anniversary of Edwin Hubble today
      • Lawyer, teacher of math and physics
      • Graduate work at University of Chicago in physics and astronomy
      • Started work in 1919 Mt Wilson observatory on the new 100″ Hooker telescope, studying nebulae and galaxies
      • Classification scheme for galaxies
      • Founded extra-galactic astronomy
      • Red/blue shift gives indication of distance of celestial objects
      • Several articles in Skynews by Bruce Lane highlighted Hubble’s work
    • Discussion of all topics presented by Jeff
  • Observatories Observed in France – Sep 2023 – Brian Barber
  • Deep Sky at IMAX, the story of James Webb space telescope is now on – Jeff Pivnick
  • Astronomy Day – out-of-date astronomy magazines and Observers Handbooks are good for giveaways, so don’t throw them out. Contact Jeff Pivnick (jeff.pivnick2@gmail.com)
  • Calendars for 2024 – some still available
  • Centre of the Universe Events – Lauri Roche
    • FDAO Telescope Clinic – thanks to all the volunteered last Saturday
    • Dec 9th – fundraising breakfast
    • Dec 16th – solstice party
  • Nebula from Gamma Cassiopeia, “the Ghost of Cassiopeia” IC59 & IC63 – astrophoto by Dave Payne
  • Observing Report
    • Fireball spotted by Dennis F’s wife at 6:40AM a few mornings ago. Widely reported in the region, but Sid Sidhu’s All-Sky camera didn’t capture the event.
  • Upcoming Events
    • Astrophotography SIG this Wednesday – Dave Payne
    • UVic speaker for Dec 13 – Far Infrared space observatory – Dr. Doug Johnston – Reg Dunkley

Next Astronomy Cafe on Nov 27th is a Swap ‘n Shop – bring your astronomy gear to sell, and bring cash to buy stuff!