New Horizons Pluto fly-by celebration – July 14th

Posted by as Special Events

Tuesday July 14 is going to be an historic day. The New Horizons spacecraft will make its long-awaited flyby of Pluto, obtaining the first closeup photos and data from this mysterious world.

In honour of this event, I am arranging an informal and fun event at Pluto’s Restaurant (“The Hottest Food from the Coolest Planet”) in Victoria, BC, Canada at 6 p.m. on July 14. This will be a dinner and celebration, including an update with the latest news from Pluto.

If you are interested in taking part, please let me know, so I can give the restaurant people an estimate of how many people they can expect. Once there, you can order off the menu and pay for your meal as usual.

About the time we sit down for dinner, the first transmission from New Horizons after its flyby is due to arrive on Earth. I am also trying to arrange for an expert speaker to give us a very brief update on the findings from New Horizons.

Pluto’s Restaurant is at 1150 Cook St., at the corner of View St. near downtown Victoria.

This flyby will be an historic event, no matter how you classify Pluto. This will be the last first-time flyby of what some call a “classical planet” and the first of one of the many smaller planets in the Kuiper Belt. Interestingly, the first flyby of a planet (other than Earth) was Mariner IV’s flyby of Mars on July 14, 1965, exactly fifty years before the New Horizons flyby of Pluto.

If you are planning to attend, please let me know or join the Facebook event. Family and friends are also welcome!

Chris Gainor


President’s Message, June 2015

Posted by as President's Message

PLEASE NOTE: due to the lack of darkness at this time of year, our Saturday Evening Star Parties at the Observatory are now on scheduled hiatus until July 18th.  Please join us then!

May was quite a month! The Victoria Centre was full-on at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Saturday evenings. Our wonderful volunteers educated and entertained hundreds of visitors in the Plaskett dome, in the Centre of the Universe building, and in the parking lot. Visitor numbers have been a bit low (probably because we opened early this year in May to take advantage of the darker evenings), but those visitors who did come up to take in the activities were extremely impressed with our efforts, even in spite of some iffy sky conditions. Very well done, everyone!
And now we take a break at the DAO for June. We decided there is little point opening up when it doesn’t get dark enough to see the night sky before it was time to send the public home. We’re back again on July 18th for six more Saturday evenings throughout the remainder of summer, so please spread the word!

Now, I have a favour to ask: the Victoria Centre may, or may not, be meeting the needs of our members. Perhaps we are completely wonderful (ha!), or maybe we need to be addressing things that we currently are not doing so well at. I’m going to try to get a feedback page up and running, where you may offer your opinions on this. Meanwhile, I encourage you to contact me directly by email or phone with your comments, complaints, or suggestions on how we are doing, and what we could be doing better. Don’t be shy: the RASC exists to promote astronomy at all levels, but it also exists to serve the needs of our members. It is our job on Council to make that happen. Please let us know – Contact info.

Although we are winding down a little for the shorter nights, there’s lots to look forward to this summer, including restarting at the DAO/CU on July 18, the Cowichan Valley Star Finders’ star party on the weekend of August 14-16, and, of course, the Victoria Centre Metchosin Star Party on the weekend of August 21-23. Please join us!

As this is my last message until September, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful summer, filled with soft sparkling clear nights, equipment that always cooperates, and perfect exposures!


Monthly meeting speaker: “Slicing & Dicing Galaxies to Understand What Built Them Up” – Dr. Joel Roediger (NRC/Herzberg)

Posted by as Meetings

June 10, 2015, 7:30PM, University of Victoria, Bob Wright Centre A104 – RASC Victoria Centre’s monthly meeting – Event Info

Slicing & Dicing Galaxies to Understand What Built Them Up – Dr. Joel Roediger (NRC/Herzberg)

Joel Roediger
Joel Roediger

As best we can define them, galaxies are immense accumulations of gas, dust, stars, planetary systems, and dark matter, and as such, hold a revered place in the story of where we come from. That, coupled with the intriguing breadth of galactic entities and phenomena, makes it little surprising why many astronomers devote their careers towards filling the gaps in our understanding of the detailed physics that governs galaxy formation.

Observers and modellers (like myself) working in the field of extragalactic astrophysics are constantly finding new ways to challenge our current understanding through innovative measurements of galaxy parameters. One of the latest innovations takes advantage of technological improvements to study galaxies on a pixel-by-pixel basis. This new approach will enable a fuller appreciation of the complexity of galaxy structures, the growth histories of their components, and the amount and structure of dark matter within their visible extents.

Here in Victoria, we have the opportunity to capitalize on such important topics for a complete sample of local galaxies through a state-of-the-art imaging survey targeting the Virgo Cluster. In this talk, I will describe the survey itself and efforts presently underway to map, pixel-by-pixel, the mass in stars within the galaxies of this all-important cluster. This ambitious program promises to enable fundamental insights into the build up of stellar mass, a pillar of the galaxy formation process, within the present-day galaxy population.

Recorded streaming video of the meeting – speaker presentation starts at the 0:31 mark