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 – 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 – July 19, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • ISS Transits of the Moon – Randy Enkin
    • Enkins Daily Moon on Facebook
    • Lunar Eclipse and Solar Eclipse with ISS transiting – Thierry Legault
    • ISS Transit Finder
    • Photo of the ISS and Mars – by Tom Glenn
  • Hubble status – Chris Gainor
    • Hubble HST Computer Problem is solved with the swap to the backup Control Unit/Science Data Formatter
    • First images from rebooted Hubble
    • Operating on 3 out of 6 gyros
    • James Webb and Kepler space telescopes discussed
  • FDAO Star Party – Lauri Roche
    • Solar observing early at 7:30PM – David Lee & Sid Sidhu
    • 8-11PM this Saturday – history of the Plaskett telescope by Dan Posey
    • Scott Wilkinson and Dennis Crabtree – narrator and Ask An Astronomer
    • Event info
  • RASC National – Lauri Roche
    • RASC Robotic telescope demo of acquiring exoplanet data – Samantha Hewitt and Jenna Hinds -Wed nights starting in August –  more info
    • Aug 29th – EPO Astrophotography processing workshop for data from the Mars Perseverance mission – info pending
  • Diane Bell Tribute – planned for Aug 15th, Sunday afternoon at the Aviation Museum – tour by Gord Bell
  • UVic Observatory Open House this Wednesday evening – David Lee
  • NOVA – New Observers of Visual Astronomy program – Lauri Roche
    • Modules are being revamped so it is both virtual and in-person
    • Being done over about four months
  • Edmonton photo – noctilucent clouds – presented by Dave Robinson
  • Victoria Centre photos
    • Venus & Mars conjunction – Mike Webb
    • Solar prominences & surface features – John McDonald
    • Test photos using the new telescopes at Victoria Centre observatory – John McDonald
  • Observing Planets
    • Planets in good positions at 3AM
    • Visual observing of planets at more civilized hours coming up in a few weeks’ time
  • Moon observers – Lauri Roche
    • Completing the RASC Lunar Observing programs
    • Lunar atlases that are useful for finding features
  • The Last Stargazers a book by Emily Levesque – David Lee
  • Resuming in-person meetings discussed
    • Astronomy Cafe in Fairfield – likely to resume mid-September in hybrid form (online & in-person)
    • Monthly meetings at UVic – no plans in place yet
    • Annual picnic at Pearson College observatory – possibly late August, depending on Bill Weir’s schedule

Astronomy Cafe – June 28, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video of the online meeting

  • Photos from Edmonton – Dave Robinson
    • Noctilucent Clouds – Alister Ling, Bruce McCurdy, Tom Owen’s daughter
    • Diffraction corona on setting Sun – Eric Klaszus
    • Bubble Nebula – Tom Owen
  • Impressions of the GA and AGM
    • Another virtual GA for next year – Chris Purse
    • Gather Town
      • a challenge to use by some attendees
      • tablet app was beta – difficult to use – Bill Weir
      • could easily locate or follow people
    • Tours on Monday were excellent
    • Presenters were very good – Reg Dunkley & David Lee
    • A generational transition is happening within RASC – Chris Gainor
      • nextGen committee
      • Invite Karun’s students and Vic High students to get involved in Victoria Centre
    • AGM – Chris Gainor
      • Robyn Foret and Chris Gainor will be retiring next year
      • 3 new board members: Betty Robinson, Malhar Kendurkar, Michael Watson (all 3 year terms)
      • Next GA in 2022 will be mainly virtual
      • 2023 should return to an in-person event
      • 2024 possibly with Astronomical League in Toronto
    • Andrew MacIntosh, a non-member from Victoria won an astrophotography award
  • Trouble with Hubble – Chris Gainor
    • Payload computer problems, but main computer is still alive
    • Goddard staff will very likely fix or workaround the current problem
    • Latest Hubble updates
  • Photos of the Saturn & Jupiter with the Full Moon – Randy Enkin
  • Hot Weather Ending – Reg Dunkley
    • Lee Trough is causing the circulation for the current hot weather in our area
    • Cloud currently offshore from Washington and Oregon will move north over Vancouver Island, which will shut down the hot outflow over us
    • Warm air dome will move eastward

Astronomy Cafe – May 31, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • CRD lighting of Galloping Goose Trail from Selkirk Water to Lochside/Borden and Spectrum School – Chris Purse & Dave Robinson
    • Dave has given CRD feedback – dark adaption is adequate, so opposed
    • Members should give CRD feedback through the online survey
  • Moving and installing Bill Almond’s observatory – Cameron Burton & Lisa Meister
    • Disassembly
    • Moving from Bill & Janet’s home
    • Installation at Cameron and Lisa’s home
    • Victoria Centre’s history with Bill Almond and reminisces from members
  • Total Lunar Eclipse – Randy Enkin 
    • Review of online photos (since we were clouded out)
    • Diameter of the Earth’s shadow is larger than expected – more to come
  • Edmonton photos – Dave Robinson
    • NGC 6946 Fireworks Galaxy – Tom Owen
    • Moon over Edmonton – Alister Ling
    • Sunspots – Arnold Rivera
  • Edmonton Centre’s new observatory – Dave Robinson
  • SIGs – David Lee

President’s Message – May 2021

Posted by as President's Message

Part of the fun of amateur astronomy is getting caught up in “rabbit holes”. You see something on Facebook, that gets you looking up articles in the popular press, and then into academic publications, and they lead you in a different direction and everything is so fascinating and time just rushes by…

The Moon aligned with Ogden Point breakwater - Randy Enkin photo
The Moon aligned with Ogden Point breakwater – Randy Enkin photo

My current example is looking into the timing of craters on the moon – when they enter and exit the umbra or full shade of the Earth. It was an important way to figure out the time, and therefore one’s longitude, before reliable clocks were made. In the 18th century, astronomers recognized that there is a problem (La Hire, Tabulae Astronomicae, Paris 1707); the earth’s shadow is over 100 km bigger than expected. The anomaly is bigger than can be explained easily with the atmosphere. One would think this is a simple geometric problem that is fully understood, but it is still under study!

Amateur astronomers are helping collect the necessary data. Sky and Telescope publishes predicted times for when the shadow is expected to cross 24 prominent craters, and they request people to email in their observed times. Upcoming May 26, 2021, eclipse online info. Up to 2011, their database includes 22,539 observations by 764 different people. If the sky is clear between 02:52 and 05:48 on Wednesday May 26, I hope to add my name to the list!

The point is, we are a community of interesting and interested people. We set challenges for ourselves. Some are simple; some are very difficult. Get your telescope to track better. Process an image to show more detail. Understand black holes a bit more. Learn another myth of a constellation. And then we get together (virtually, these days) and support each other in these pursuits.

50th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Posted by as Events, Special Events

July 20th marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. Due to media attention a desire to take a closer look at the Moon may grow as this date approaches. Unfortunately the Moon will not rise until 11:14PM on the anniversary of the landing. As a result the International Astronomical Union is organizing a global lunar observing event on July 12th called “On the Moon Again”. Between 8PM and 11PM on Friday July 12th, members of the Victoria Centre of RASC will set up telescopes in Oak Bay at the Cattle Point Dark Sky Urban Star Park. If weather permits they will be happy to share views of the Moon with you.

Apollo 11 astronauts on the Moon

Victoria Centre telescopes will also be in position at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory every Saturday evening in July from 7:15PM to 10:45PM for weekly Star Parties. These events, co-hosted with The Friends of the DAO, will include the following Moon related lectures:

July 6th: The Voyages of Apollo by Dr. Philip Stooke
July 13th: “Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects” by Randy Enkin
July 20th: The Apollo Moon Walk by Dr. Chris Gainor
July 27th: Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite Apollo and Space Suite IV

In addition to the above programs these Star Parties also include tours of the historic Plaskett Telescope, the Centre of the Universe Museum and Planetarium shows. Obtain free tickets to the Saturday Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

During the week of the July 20th the Friends of the DAO will hold the following additional lectures on Apollo at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, starting shortly after 7:00 PM.:

Tuesday July 16: Canada’s Contributions to Apollo by Dr. Chris Gainor

Wednesday July 17: Apollo in the Age of Aquarius by Dr. Dennis Crabtree

Thursday July 18: The Voyages of Apollo by Dr. Philip Stooke

The Centre of the Universe at the DAO will also be open to the public from 10 AM to 3 PM on Tuesday July 16 through Friday July 19.

Here is more detailed information of the scheduled Saturday Star Party lectures at the DAO:

July 6th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm
The Voyages of Apollo
Dr. Philip Stooke

Abstract: A summary of the Apollo Program including its origins, steps along the way to the Moon, the choice of landing sites and a pictorial look at each mission.

Bio: Phil Stooke is a planetary scientist and cartographer with a PhD from UVic. He taught in the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in London, Ontario until his recent retirement. He has published The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and similar books on Mars, and is currently revising his lunar atlas.

July 13th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm
“Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects”
Randy Enkin

Abstract: In 1969, at age 8, the Apollo missions motivated me to become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know. In this presentation, I will present my 30-year time series of lunar phase observations, and my lunar sketches from the past year which earned me the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada “Explore the Moon Observing Certificate” (https://www.rasc.ca/observing/explore-the-moon-observing-certificate). And you will be introduced to “Enkin’s Daily Moon” where images of the moon explore “the passage of time, illumination, the feminine, and world unity”. (https://www.facebook.com/EnkinsDailyMoon/)

Bio: Randy Enkin did not become a professional astronomer. He is a Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, working on earthquakes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

July 20th 2019 – 7:45pm to 10:45pm
The Apollo 11 Moonwalk with Dr. Chris Gainor

Abstract: This presentation will show the entire Apollo 11 moonwalk as it was televised on the evening of July 20, 1969, along with descriptive slides. Chris Gainor will discuss the flight of Apollo 11, the symbolic aspects of the first walk on another celestial body, and the scientific work carried out by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The presentation will begin shortly before 8 p.m., just as it did in real time in 1969, and will continue for the two hours and 40 minutes of this historic event.

Bio: Chris Gainor is a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books and is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

July 27th 2019 – 8:30pm to 10:45pm
Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite IV and Space Suite Apollo

Producers – Imagine Create Media
Space Suite IV
A series of 10 short films that explore the infinite wonders of our universe and our interactions with the cosmos.
Space Suite Apollo
Trace the history of NASA’s Lunar missions from Mercury to Gemini, to the Apollo Missions that ultimately landed a man on the moon. Set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Space Suite Apollo gives viewers an unflinching look at the raw footage that continues to capture the world’s imagination.

Total Lunar Eclipse – Jan 31, 2018

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Total Lunar Eclipse on Sep 27, 2015 from Victoria
Total Lunar Eclipse on Sep 27, 2015 from Victoria – photo by Joe Carr

On Wednesday, January 31st, weather willing, we will be able to view a total eclipse of the Moon. The Moon will move into full eclipse in the early hours of the morning and will be in partial phase in the western sky as the Sun rises. The Total Lunar Eclipse will develop over the course of about 3 hours. It’s a perfect opportunity to capture some snapshots of the event. Read further to find out what happens during the eclipse and how to capture it photographically.

 

 E C L I P S E   T I M E L I N E
Moon below the horizon Moon’s eastern limb enters the penumbra 2:51 am PST
Partial eclipse begins – 1st Contact Moon’s eastern limb enters the umbra 3:48 am PST
Total eclipse starts – 2nd Contact Moon entirely in the umbra;
deep orange red
4:52 am PST
Totality 5:30 am PST
Total eclipse ends – 3rd Contact 6:08 am PST
Partial eclipse ends – 4th Contact Moon’s western limb leaves the umbra 7:11 am PST
Sunrise 7:48 am PST – approximate
Eclipse ends Moon leaves the penumbra 8:09 am PST

 

What’s Happening

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the Sun and the Moon. During a lunar eclipse the Moon’s position traverses the Earth’s shadow. The Moon’s first contact with the Earth’s shadow is at the outer band of the shadow called the penumbra. The light falling on the Moon is progressively blocked until at the moment of total eclipse the Moon is completely in the darkest central area of the Earth’s shadow called the umbra. At the point of total eclipse the process starts to reverse itself until the Moon is totally out of the Earth’s shadow.


Glossary

  • limb – the outer edge of the Moon
  • penumbra – the outer band of the Earth’s shadow
  • umbra – the darker central area of the Earth’s shadow
  • partial eclipse – the Moon is positioned within the penumbra
  • total eclipse – the Moon is positioned totally within the umbra
Above Eclipse times are for Pacific Standard Time (PST) for the west coast of North America, and are calculated from UT as presented in the Observers Handbook 2018, pages 126-27.

Observing Tips

What do you need?

Everything from your eyes, binoculars and telescope are suitable. Bear in mind this is a long process and at this time of year dress warmly and bring a chair if you want to be comfortable.

Find yourself a location that has a clear horizon view of the west especially if you wish to view during the late stages.

Keep a log of what you see and note the time. Pay attention to how much of the light on the moon is obscured and if there are any colouration changes. During the total eclipse the Moon will take on a deep orange-red colour. The colour of the Moon is a function of contaminants in the atmosphere and varies from year to year.


Photographic Tips

Equipment
Any camera with the capability of setting shutter speeds and aperture settings manually will do fine. The ability to use interchangeable lenses will be an advantage for more detailed images of the Moon. For the darker parts of the eclipse, eg. totality you should use a tripod support for best results. If you have access to a telescope you can try capturing the event using prime focus techniques through the telescope optics.

Settings
Today’s digital cameras are very sensitive to light reflected by the Moon. Use ISO 400 to ISO 800 and a long telephoto lens or zoom setting. Smartphones and point-and-shoot digital cameras will not produce rewarding photos of the eclipsed Moon, but can be useful for taking panoramic shots of your surroundings which include the eclipsed Moon.

Technique
The simplest eclipse pictures can be taken with manual settings on your camera and a normal lens, preferably supported by a tripod. For best results use a cable release to minimize vibration. Images taken in this fashion result in a small lunar image. This is why it is preferable to use a telephoto lens to photograph the Moon. For a 35mm camera try a 200mm lens or something close to this, even better a 500mm lens or higher. You may also use teleconvertors to increase magnification, these typically come in 1.4x and 2x strengths. Their downside is they reduce the effective aperture of your optical system. A 1.4x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 1 stop, a 2x teleconvertor will decrease your effective exposure by 2 stops. Work out your effective aperture of your optical system ahead of time so you don’t have to think about it on the night of the eclipse.

Example:

 

 Focal Length  Aperture Effective Focal Length
with 2x teleconvertor
Effective Aperture
with 2x teleconvertor
 180mm  2.8  360mm  5.6
 480mm  6.8  960mm  13.6

 

To achieve any higher magnification than what is stated above you will have to use a telescope at prime focus. For this your manual camera does need to have the capability of using interchangeable lenses. For prime focus you will use the telescope optics as your interchangeable lens. To attach your camera to your telescope you will need two things a T-adapter that fits your camera and a telescope camera adapter that fits your telescope. The telescope camera adapter is designed to fit in the focusing tube of your telescope and is threaded to accept the T-adapter of your camera. With the magnification involved with telescopic optics it is likely that you will need to use a tracking mount. Preferably the mount should be able to track at lunar speed as opposed to sidereal but if the shutter speeds chosen are shorter than 1 or 2 minutes this is not critical.

Exposure times are the next consideration. The following exposure times are based on a medium speed film and an effective aperture that would be common with a long telephoto and teleconverter combination. Exposures may vary with your equipment based on ISO speed of film used and effective aperture. The Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale has been included to provide better guesstimates for totality.

 

Exposure Times: based on ISO 400
Full Moon  1/250 second at f/16
1st Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
2nd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
Totality
*see table below
L = 4 : 8 seconds at f16
L = 3: 30 seconds at f16
L = 2: 2 minutes at f16
L = 1: 8 minutes at f16
3rd Contact 2 seconds at f/16 see note 2.
4th Contact 1/125 second at f/16 see note 1.
* Danjon Lunar Eclipse Luminosity Scale
 L = 1 dark eclipse; lunar surface details distinguishable only with difficultly
 L = 2 deep red or rust coloured eclipse; central part of the umbra dark but outer rim relatively bright
 L = 3 brick-red eclipse; usually with a brighter (frequently yellow) rim to the umbra
 L = 4 very bright copper-red or orange eclipse, with a bluish, very bright umbral rim

 

Note 1. 1st and 4th contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the light part of the Moon. Remember you are dealing with vastly different exposures between the light and dark parts of the Moon during eclipse. The bias of about 1 stop minus avoids overexposure of the dominant bright area of the Moon.

Note 2. 2nd and 3rd contact times given for the partial phases are biased for the dark part of the Moon. The bias of about 1 stop plus is a good strategy for negative film not quite so good for slides and digital capture given they don’t tolerate overexposure well.

The exposure times are only recommendations. Remember the cardinal rule about photography … bracket. Always try exposures plus and minus your chosen exposure. This gives you a better chance at getting usable results. Let’s all hope for clear weather. If you have any questions please send email to David Lee at davidflee7331@gmail.com.


David Lee – original image and text
Joe Carr – updated for 2018
Brenda Stuart – illustrations

Lunar “X” during 2018

Posted by as Observing Highlights

Lunar X feature - photo by Michel Michaud
Lunar X feature – photo by Michel Michaud

by Michel Michaud, RASC Victoria Centre Observing Co-chair & Librarian

The Lunar X is a claire-obscure effect in which light and shadow creates the appearance of a letter “X” on the rim of the Blanchinus, La Caille and Purbach craters. The X is visible only for a few hours before the first quarter slightly below the lunar terminator. Near the X, the lunar V is also visible, formed by Ukert crater and several other small craters.

If you never had the chance to view the Lunar X, also known as the Werner X, there are several time this year that feature could be visible from Victoria. The time predict the beginning of the event and all in LOCAL TIME.

  • 23 January 2018, 2042 (8:42 pm) – Tuesday evening event
  • 23 March 2018, 2357 (11:57 pm) – Friday evening event
  • 21 May 2018, 0002 (12:02 am) – Monday evening event
  • 19 July 2018, 2314 (11:14 pm) – Thursday evening event
  • 16 September 2018, 2332 (11:32 pm) – Sunday evening event
  • 14 November 2018, 0059 (12:59 am) – Wednesday evening event

Werner “X” observation – 2014