President’s Message – Oct 2021

Posted by as President's Message

Questions, Answers, and Questions

Randy Enkin using his sextant
Randy Enkin using his sextant

One satisfaction of astronomy is the sense of continuity with astronomers from all over the world and spanning the decades, centuries, and millennia. The wonders of the sky fill us with awe and provoke so many questions. I appreciate the multidisciplinary approach to answering these questions.

Today’s anecdote concerns an article published this week, with 25 authors from 5 countries. The Chinese Chang’e 5 probe brought back to Earth the first lunar samples in 4 decades. They targeted a place on the Moon that was suspected of being young, due to the region’s low density of craters. Galileo observed craters on the moon 400 years ago, but it was only in the 1960s that meteor impacts were confirmed to be the dominant mechanism of their origin.

The observational and theoretical development of celestial mechanics, universal gravitation, the solar nebula, and planetary accretion were all required to understand dating planetary surfaces, by measuring the size and number of craters. We also needed telescopes, rockets, robotics, petrology, geochemistry, and geochronology to complement the study. The Moon is the only planetary body where impact crater ages have been calibrated with radiometric dating, but there had been no samples so far measured that are between 3.2 and 0.8 billion years old. The new samples were dated at 1.96±.06 billion years, sitting in the middle of that gap and forcing a revision of the current crater dating method. The new date is very young for the Moon’s surface and brings up new questions, like why the Moon was still melting crust so recently.

Back-scattered electron (BSE) images and false color energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) element maps of the two fragments from the Chang’e 5 sample
Back-scattered electron (BSE) images and false color energy dispersive spectroscopy (EDS) element maps of the two fragments from the Chang’e 5 sample

I’m filled with a sense of connection with my fellow humans who can conceive of such questions, work on them from many different aspects over the centuries, answer some, and end up with even more questions. And I look up at the sky with happiness.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin email

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 18, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

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

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 4, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Milky Way from Cattle Point – a photo showing no stars, just galaxies – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman
  • Women in Astronomy – Marjie Welchframe
    • Isabel Williamson has an asteroid named after her
    • Dava Sobel also has an asteroid named after her
    • Profile of Dr. Kim Venn
      • UVic Astronomy & Physics professor
      • Specialist in stellar spectroscopy
      • Kim believes that very large telescopes will likely discover Earth version 2 or 3 or 4, which will greatly impact how we view ourselves
    • Dr. Michelle Kunimoto will present to us on Oct 18th about Exoplanets
  • Edmonton Centre astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Milky Way Halloween theme- Warren Findlay
    • Blackfoot dark sky area – Arnold Rivera
      • Comet 4P/Faye
      • Helix Nebula – NGC 7293 – Planetary Nebula
      • Veil Nebula – visual and photo through a 10″ Dobsonian telescope
  • Building an Astroberry Server– David Lee
    • Raspberry Pi 4 running Linux 
    • Supports the INDI – ecosystems for control and automation of astronomical devices
    • Installed PHD2
    • David just wants to implement auto-guiding
    • Runs the server through a remote desktop on his smartphone
  • Beginners SIG runs virtually tomorrow night – David Lee
  • Update from Chris Gainor 
    • Chris was interviewed by CTV News about William Shatner going into space aboard 
    • Russia is launching into space tomorrow morning
    • Chris is still waiting for his history of Hubble book to arrive
  • Sky Quality Map redo – Lauri Roche
    • Last map covering Greater Victoria (Sooke to Sidney) done in 2010
    • Victoria Centre should remeasure the data
    • We need a project leader
    • Canvas our members for interest and who has Unihedron Sky Quality Meters
  • Astronomy photos from Victoria Centre
    • Unusual Nebula NGC 6164 in Norma – observing the southern hemisphere using the Chile One Slooh telescope – Joe Carr
    • David Lee is seeking sources of data for his interest in Astrometry
    • Wizard Nebula NGC 7380 taken last Sunday night – Brock Johnston
  • Firefly Alpha rocket – photos of aborted launch from Vandenberg Air Base – Reg Dunkley

President’s Message – September 2021

Posted by as President's Message

Carolyn Shoemaker
Carolyn Shoemaker (Nature)

Carolyn Shoemaker died last month. After her children had grown up and she was 51 years old, she started her astronomy career. She helped establish the Palomar Asteroid and Comet Survey, and for decades she studied the photographic plates coming off of the 18 inch Schmidt wide-field telescope, located in a dome next to the Palomar 200 inch telescope. At an average of 1 discovery for every 100 hours spent at the stereoscopic microscope, she became the world’s top comet finder.

This was more than a job. Everybody who knew her emphasizes her enthusiasm and humour. Among these friends is an acquaintance of several of our centre members, David Levy. On March 23, 1993, David passed some photographs he had just taken of the region near Jupiter, and Carolyn exclaimed that she saw in these images a strange “squashed” comet. This comet became known as Shoemaker-Levy-9. It was actually the 11th comet they had discovered together, but two were aperiodic and so had a different naming convention. I remember the excitement, when 4 months later, 21 fragments of SL9 crashed into Jupiter with images from professionals and amateurs alike started pouring in. We got to watch a cosmic collision in real time!

What kept Carolyn Shoemaker at this slow, painstaking task was similar to what many amateur astronomers feel. She said “The thrill of discovery is deeply satisfying”. Few of us will get the opportunity to do cutting edge science with the best instruments available, but all of us get our own personal thrills. Whether the discovery is at the eyepiece, or on the computer monitor, or from a revelation that comes during a talk at our Astro Cafe, the experience continues to be deeply satisfying. In memory of Carolyn Shoemaker, I wish you all many more of these deeply satisfying moments!

Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President email

Astronomy Cafe – Sept 27, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Women Astronomers – Marjie Welchframe
    • Dr. Michelle Kunimoto, age 27, lives in Vancouver
    • Works (post doc) for MIT’s NASA Mission Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
  • Jan 2020 Lunar Eclipse photos – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman
    • The Shadow of the Earth composite photo of all eclipse phases
  • Report – Randy Enkin
    • Jon Willis is selling his Celestron NexStar 6SE telescope & accessories for $1,000
    • Fairfield Fair – Sid, Dorothy, Reg and Randy represented RASC Victoria at Fairfield on a rainy Sunday – 120 attendees
    • Mike Nash’s photo compared with Randy’s sketch of the Moon
  • Events – Jim Hesser
    • 100 Hours of Astronomy – IAU event coming up this weekend
    • Harvard Radcliffe Institute virtual events – gravitational waves, AI, planetary systems
  • Edmonton Centre photos – Dave Robinson
    • Moonrise video and photo sequence over Edmonton – Alister Ling
    • California Nebula (reprocessed) – Tom Owen
  • Building an Astroberry Server – David Lee
    • Using it for auto-tracking, uses a smartphone to control it
    • Writing instructions for others to make one
    • Astroberry Server software is on Github – runs on a Raspberry Pi 4 board using an INDI driver
  • NASA Observe the Moon – Oct 16 event – Brian Barber
  • North America Nebula (reprocessed 2009 photo) – John McDonald
  • SIRIL astronomy software – recommended by Brock Johnson for any computer platform
  • James Web Space Telescope – launching on Dec 18th, on it’s way by ship to Guyana for launch aboard an Ariane rocket – Chris Gainor

Astronomy Cafe – Sep 20, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Remembering Ed Maxfield – David Lee
  • Earth – Potentially Habitable Planet – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman
    • Earth is pretty small…some comparisons with larger celestial objects
    • Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Alpha Centauri, the Sun, Sirius, Vega, Bellatrix, Pollux, Sagittarius A, Beta Centauri,  Arcturus, Aldebaran, Rigel, Deneb, Rho Cassiopeia, Betelgeuse.
    • Red Hyper-giants:  Uy Scuti, Stephenson 2-18
    • Supermassive Black Holes: Cygnus A, Messier 84, Hercules A
    • Primary ultra-massive Black Holes: Messier 87, OJ 287
    • Ton 618 – Hyper-luminous Quasar (13.1 billion Light Years away)
  • M33 – The Triangulum Galaxy – Reg Dunkley
    • Unusual rotation indicated Dark Matter (first proposed by Vera Rubin)
    • Part of the Local Group of galaxies
    • Since it’s so faint visually, Reg uses photos to observe this galaxy – a stack of over 6 hours of subframes
    • M33 in Hydrogen Alpha photo by Dan Meek, Calgary Centre
      • NGC 604 and 595 – knots of stellar activity – nebulae and star clusters
    • Dave Payne’s photos showing NGC 604 and 595
    • Dorothy has sketched M33 from a dark observing site
  • Photos by John McDonald
    • Deer Lick Group and Stefan’s Quintet – test photo from the two telescopes at the VCO
    • Comparing the distances of the objects – millions of Light Years away
    • Eta Carina nebula photo – newly processed using PixInsight – with and without stars, and original
    • UGC12127 – nearby cluster of galaxies suggested by Dorothy & Miles Paul
    • Starnet++ – a standalone app to remove stars suggested by Dave Payne
  • Edmonton Centre photos – Dave Robinson
    • NGC 1499 – California Nebula (2 orientations) by Tom Owen 
    • Jupiter sequence of photos – Abdur Anwar and Arnold Rivera
    • Saturn – Abdur Anwar and Arnold Rivera
    • Andromeda Galaxy taken with a simple, non-tracking setup using camera and lens – Alister Ling
  • Hubble deep field photo – Brock Johnston
  • SIGs – meeting online
    • Astrophotography – Wednesday
    • Makers – Thursday
  • Fall Fairfield – RASC Victoria will be at this FGCA public event in the field – Sunday at Noon – Randy Enkin to email a notice to members

Astronomy Cafe – Sep 13, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Astro Cafe is not going to in-person meetings until the health regulations relax – contact Chris Purse or Randy Enkin if you have thoughts on how to move forward
  • History of Women in Astronomy – Marjie Welchframe
    • Dr. Tanya Harrison – “professional Martian”, planetary scientist, science team for Mars rovers
  • Finding and Observing RS Oph – star-hopping to a recurrent variable star – David Lee
    • AAVSO variable star visual observing
    • Variable star RS Oph magnitude changes more radically than most other variables
    • How he visually observed the RS Oph variable star
    • AAVSO (digital) results
  • Astrophysics of RS Ophiuchus – Recurrent Variable Binary System – Randy Enkin
  • Roadtrip to Winnipeg – Nathan and Bryan Mestelman
    • Stayed at a cottage at a dark site near Lake Winnipeg – aurora borealis, Milky Way, Moon
    • Milky Way at Lake Louise aligned with the glacier
    • Bryan explained how his Nikon camera tracked the stars at Lake Louise
  • QED – The Strange Theory of Light and Matter – review of a book by Richard Feynman – Dave Payne
    • Quantum mechanics all the way through to fine arts
    • This book needs to be read several times!
    • Richard Feynman’s lecture series are available online at no cost, if you are a physics nerd
  • Edmonton Centre astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Stanger Hills – a new observing site
    • Milky Way by Alister Ling
    • Soul Nebula – Tom Owen
    • Pluto – Dennis Boucher

Astronomy Cafe – Aug 30, 2021

Posted by as Uncategorized

Video transcript of meeting

  • Local professional astronomer Frank Younger died at 80 years old – Jim Hesser
    • zoom service on Friday Sept 3 at 3:00PM (zoom Passcode: Frank)
  • RASC Exploring Exoplanets course – Aug 4 – Sep 1 – David Lee
    • Using the RASC robotic telescope and CCD camera to measure changes in brightness
    • Differential photometry generates a transit light curve from occultation
    • Using AstroImageJ software for data processing
    • Report results to AAVSO’s Exoplanet Watch program
  • Editing NASA Raw Data – Mars Perseverance and Junocam – David Lee
    • Presentation by Pete Williamson engaging UK youth in processing NASA data
  • Solar photos
    • Solar disk yesterday using a white light filter – Joe Carr
    • Calcium-K and Ha revealed many surface features – Arnold Rivera (Edmonton)
  • Openings, a time lapse of a Hibiscus blooming – by John McDonald
  • Observing as Galileo did – Bill Weir
    • Using Victoria Centre’s replica Galileo telescope to observe with
    • Specs: 26mm aperture, 1000mm f/l = f/37
    • Sketching Jupiter’s moons using the telescope
    • Will also observe Saturn and Venus
    • Telescope is very difficult to point and use effectively
  • Photos inspired by the Explore the Moon program – Brian Barber
    • Photos of the Moon taken through a Dobsonian telescope with 25mm, 7.4mm and 10mm eyepieces
    • Some optical illusion showing a bear shape on the Lunar surface
  • Next Monday is Labour Day, so no Astro Cafe
  • Current health orders preclude us from restarting in-person meetings. We had planned to restart Astronomy Cafe for mid-September at the Fairfield site, but Victoria Centre has rented the space, so we will keep members posted when the situation improves.

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

Astronomy Cafe – August 23, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Mark Wheen at Pearson College wants to train some people to operate the 25″ telescope – members should contact Bill Weir if interested
  • Astrophotos from Victoria Centre members
    • Intro from John McDonald
    • Brock Johnston – online gallery
      • Using new ASI 2600 camera (one shot colour)
        • Cocoon Nebula
        • Fireworks Galaxy
        • Andromeda Galaxy – 3 nights
        • Deer Lick Group – SCT Celestron Edge 9.25″
        • Jupiter 
          • Using video from ASI120 OSC planetary imaging camera
          • De-rotated about 1 minute clips
        • Saturn
          • Using video from ASI120 OSC planetary imaging camera
          • Doesn’t need to be de-rotated
        • Processing of planets: PIP > WinJupos > AutoStakkert
      • Pick objects that are rising in the eastern sky, so there is time to image them
    • Dave Payne – online gallery
      • Rosette Nebula – taken 10 months ago
        • H2 cloud, UV radiation
        • Big – about 1 degree across
        • 127mm refractor, 660mm f/l
      • Tulip Nebula – Sharpless catalog
        • Smaller
        • CDK 12.5″ 2540mm f/l
        • H2 cloud
        • Note Cygnus X1 on left side of field of view, some purple clouds driven by the Black Hole’s accretion disk
      • Iris Nebula
        • Much closer than the other nebulae
        • Blue colour indicates that this is a reflection nebula
        • PAH – life can be formed when this is present
    • Dan Posey – online gallery
      • Rho Ophiuchus – short focal length – modified dSLR, camera lens & small tracker
      • Comet NEOWISE – modified dSLR, camera lens & small tracker
      • California Nebula – tri-band filter with Askar 108mm 600mm f/l
      • Uses Starnet – to subtract and add back the stars using neural net processing
      • M81, M82 –  Milky Way background structure revealed by doing some exotic processing technique
      • Eagle Nebula – imaging from a balcony downtown at 400mm using SBIG 8300 – compared with imaging from the VCO 16″ TPO RC computer
      • NGC 7318 interacting galaxy pair – imaging using the Plaskett telescope
      • RASC Victoria might have imaging time on the Plaskett in October, so send Dan any objects of interest (if you are on the Active Observers’ email list)
    • Garry Sedun – online gallery
      • XM2000 monochrome camera, 20″ Newtonian astrograph
        • Horsehead Nebula
        • M51 galaxies
      • Moravian 16200 imager, 20″ Newtonian astrograph
        • M82 galaxy revealing the jet –
        • Jellyfish Nebula – colour and monochrome wavelengths – star colours still need work
        • M81 galaxy and blue dwarf companion galaxy – two versions
    • John McDonald – online gallery
    • Discussion among the astro imagers on technique, optics, sites, conditions
  • Scientific Narrative – Ken Atkinson
    • Ventu Sky – interesting weather maps
    • Human genomes
    • Highly magnetized  and rapidly rotating white dwarf as small as the moon
    • Books
      • Birth of a Theorem – Cedric Villani
      • Cantor’s Dilemma – Carl Djerassi
      • Newton’s Darkness: Two Dramatic Views – Carl Djerassi
      • Berlin in lights – the diaries of Count Harry Kessler – mentions dining with the Einsteins and other famous people