President’s Message – February 2021

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President’s Message February 2021

Much has happened since my previous monthly message. South of the border there was an attempted insurrection, an impeachment and an inauguration of a more temperate leader. North of the border, “NOT YET IMAGINED” the much anticipated study of Hubble Space Telescope Operations authored by Victoria Centre RASCal Chris Gainor was released. Click here for a free download. The Victoria Centre also acquired a beautiful 130 mm Takahashi refractor to pair with the OGS 12.5 inch reflector at the Victoria Centre Observatory. Meanwhile the Covid Vaccine inoculation program is gaining momentum. So one can sense a tentative positive vibe and some are speaking of a “light at the end of the tunnel”. Let us hope that the light is a very faint star “light months” away and not some bright star “light years” distant.

The compelling political drama and Dr. Bonnie’s updates have hijacked our attention and robbed us of that non renewable resource called “time”. The impact of this time theft is apparent in my household as copies of Sky and Telescope and the Journal of RASC lie half read. And then there are the many quality astronomical presentations on You Tube that I never got around to watching. While the face to face outreach activities have ground to a halt astronomical discoveries continue and the recording of Zoom presentations have significantly increased the amount of information available to digest.

So we are presented with a challenge. How should we ration our dwindling amount of time and how much of that should be devoted to astronomy? This, of course, is a highly individual choice. I hope the word ‘joy” is at the heart of the decision and includes the joy experienced observing the night sky, the joy of learning new things, the joy of improving our understanding, the joy of unravelling mysteries and the joy of sharing our knowledge and enthusiasm with others. Another key word is “satisfaction” which for instance can be applied to the satisfaction derived from knowing our way around the night sky, the satisfaction of acquiring skills to photograph and sketch astronomical treasures, the satisfaction of mastering a technology and the satisfaction of understanding the theory which explains what we see or detect. And don’t forget the “energy” required to make it happen and the “curiosity” to learn more. If you think of astronomy as a giant smorgasbord, the challenge is to load our plate with nourishing ingredients while trying to minimize overindulgence.

During my term as Victoria Centre President I witnessed the diversity in the appetites displayed by RASCals as they have loaded up their plates at this smorgasbord. I have been inspired by the discipline of many who systematically work on observing lists, the dedication of some to improve their astrophotography skills and the time and energy that others devote to education and outreach. I am also very appreciative of the community of professional astronomers for sharing their knowledge and research with the Victoria Centre. It has been a joy to get to know our amazing group of RASCals better and I am thankful to so many for their cooperation and support while I have been at the helm. It has been an honour to serve and I encourage you to attend our Zoom AGM on Monday, February 22nd to select our next President and Victoria Centre Council. Let us hope that we will be able to gather in person by this time next year.

Stay Well … and oh yes

Usable Skies

Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Cafe – Monday January 25th 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Meeting transcript video

Introduction to Amateur Astronomy – Part 1: Our Place Among the Infinities – an unlisted video by the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society

Some Successful Urban Astrophotography – Dan Posey

Despite the glare of car dealerships, the rumble of traffic and polar alignment challenges Dan Posey persevered and obtained remarkable results.

Seagull Nebula (IC 2177)
This is 4h25m (75x3m and 80x30s) of exposures with my Askar FRA600 and Canon Ra at iso 1600 using a Hutech NB1 filter from downtown. I calibrated with bias and flat frames and stacked/processed in Pixinsight.
Horsehead Nebula (B33, IC434) 6 hours
I managed to capture another three hours of exposure on the Horsehead using a longer dew shield made out of some parcel envelopes to stop flaring from the car dealership lights.
This is 5h45m of 3 minute frames (115x3m) from our downtown balcony captured on January 16 and 18 2021 using an Askar 108mm, Canon Ra at iso 800 on the first night and 1600 the second night, and a Hutech NB1 filter.

The Crater Clavius by Pen and Pixel – Randy Enkin & Mike Nash

The Crater Clavius at 9 PM PST January 22nd 2021
This image of the Crater Clavius was taken by Mike Nash within an hour of Randy Enkin’s sketch of the same object. There is an amazing correspondence between the features and shadows drawn by Randy and the image captured by Mike.

Edmonton RASCals Go Deep: relayed by Dave Robinson

The Leo Quartet or Hickson 44 by Abdur Anwar
Abdur writes: I decided to image the faint Leo Quartet of galaxies in Leo. This was a target that I had wanted to image for many years now but it is a difficult one so I decided to keep learning and improving before attempting it. This group is also known as Hickson 44 (after Canadian astronomer Paul Hickson). The four gravitationally linked galaxies are about 100 million light years away. The brightest galaxy in the center is NGC3190 and the S shaped spiral is NGC3187. The bright elliptical at the top left is NGC 3193 and the galaxy on the bottom right is NGC3185. These galaxies are between 57,000 and 100,000 light years across and are fairly small at an angular size of 3.5-4.4 arc minutes. Their magnitudes range from 10.88 to 13.44. In the full size image, there are hundreds of background galaxies visible with many of them being up to 2.9 billion light years away. For this image, I took 1 hour and 34 minutes of 30s subs with the asi1600mm and my C11 Edge at F2. This is a center crop from the full size image. The images were stacked in DSS and processed in Pixinsight.
The Medusa Nebula by Abdur Anwar
Abdur writes: The Medusa Nebula is also known as Abell 21 and Sharpless 2-274. It was only discovered in 1955 and classified as a planetary nebula in the 1970s. It is quite large at 10 arc minutes in diameter but has a very low surface brightness. For this image, I took 1 hour and 18 minutes of 30s subs with the asi1600mm and my C11 Edge at F2.
Lower’s Nebula by Arnold Rivera on January 15th 2021
Arnold writes: I imaged this ‘bright’ (v=+10.0) and medium-sized (30.0’ x 15.0’) found between the red giant Betelgeuse and the border of Gemini. Lower’s Nebula is an H-II region on the border of the galactic region between the Orion and Perseus arms. Because of the more popular objects in Orion, this nebula is rarely shown in a list of DSO’s in this area of the sky. It was discovered by Harold Lower and his son Charles in 1939. My 2-degree fov image below is shown with the nearby 4th magnitude stars: Nu Orionis (lower right) snd f1 Orionis (upper left):

Astronomy Cafe – Monday January 18th 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Transcript video of this meeting

FDAO Virtual Star Party – 7 PM Saturday January 23rd

The Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory are inviting you to their virtual star party which begins at 7PM on Saturday, January 23rd.

Pan-STARRS Observer, Thomas Lowe will deliver an interesting presentation entitled:

PAN-STARRS – A MAUI MARVEL

The PANoramic Survey Telescope And Rapid Response System is a world class facility on the summit of Haleakala that has made significant contributions to the field of astronomy. The Pan-STARRS project consists of two 2m-class wide field telescopes each equipped with giga-pixel CCD cameras. The observing strategy is optimized to search the sky for transient objects. PS1 has been collecting science data since 2010 and PS2 was commissioned in the spring of 2018. This talk will highlight some of its scientific achievements.

Click this Zoom Link to join the party. If you get prompted for a password, it’s May061918

Victoria Centre is forming Special Interest Groups

THIS JUST IN! Due, in large part to the initiative of Victoria Centre RASCal David Lee, the Victoria Centre is planning to establish a number of Special Interest Groups. Click this link to learn more.

New Refractor Arrives at Victoria Centre Observatory

The Victoria Centre acquired a beautiful Takahashi TAO 130 S refractor on Monday. This 130 mm F7.7 refractor has a focal length of 1000 mm. The apochromatic triplet objective is made of extra low dispersion FPL52 and FPL53 O’Hara glass which minimizes chromatic aberration. This scope will be attached to the tube of the 12.5 Inch F8.6 OGS Richey Chretien reflector that is installed on the robust Paramount ME mount.

Victoria Centre RASCal and Port Alberni resident Mike Krempotic is the previous owner of this refractor. It is in mint condition and Mike kindly drove down from Port Alberni on Monday morning and delivered it to the VCO. Due to COVID restrictions it may take a while for this scope to be fully commissioned but it will be an exciting addition to the VCO.

While on site, Mike, an enthusiastic owner of Obsession Dobsonian reflectors, inspected our 20 Inch Obsession, made some adjustments and provided a number of valuable suggestions to improve the performance of this scope. We will be installing Argo Navis setting circles to this reflector soon which promises to allow celestial objects to be located quickly and accurately.

Victoria RASCal Mike Krempotic Delivers Takahashi Refractor to VCO
The New Takahashi TOA 130S swaddled in foam
Mike Krempotic checks out our 20 Inch Obsession Dobsonian

BC Yukon Science Virtual Science Fair Looking for Judges

Every year, science fairs offer thousands of students in BC and Yukon the opportunity to develop original scientific research, innovative projects and 21st century learning skills. Students who develop science fair projects enjoy project-based learning that extends science beyond the classroom and encourages curiosity about topics of personal interest. The finalists of our provincial/territorial science fairs receive awards, scholarships and recognition for their achievements. Finalist status is also a prerequisite for competition at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.
Judging is the highlight of the science fair experience for many students. Students love the opportunity to exchange ideas with specialists in their field. In return, most judges find talking with science fair participants to be a very positive experience. The energy, enthusiasm and inspiration students bring to their projects is contagious.
In the midst of COVID-19, the Vancouver Island Regional Science Fair is joining other science fairs across BC and Yukon in a fully virtual science fair. This is to ensure that every student across our province and territory has an opportunity to compete safely in a science fair this year.

As a judge of the 2021 BC/Yukon Virtual Science Fair, we ask that you:

· Register for judging by the deadline of Monday, February 15

Registration information includes contact details and questions about experience, qualifications, preferences (age categories, topics of interest), and availability, and should take approximately 5 minutes to complete.

Register here.

· Join us for judge training during the period of February 15-28

Judge training will occur virtually at your convenience and will take no more than 30 minutes.

Astronomy Cafe – Monday January 11th 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe, Meetings

Video transcript of the meeting.

Judge Me By My Size, Do You? Tales of the littlest galaxies that could – Dr. Matt Taylor

Matt Taylor, a post doc at Herzberg Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, presented some of the latest research on Dwarf Galaxies, as well as his own personal story of how he made a career with astronomy.

History of Hubble Telescope Just Released

Victoria Centre RASCal, Dr. Chris Gainor, has just released his much anticipated book “NOT YET IMAGINED – a study of Hubble Space Telescope Operations”. While not yet available in bound copy it can be downloaded free of charge. In addition to a fascinating history, this is a beautiful volume containing many interesting and stunning images.

Introduction to Amateur Astronomy lecture series begins on January 23rd.

The Kalamazoo Astronomical Society is holding a five part introductory course on amateur astronomy via Zoom. This is the eight time that this course has been held but it is the first time that it has been offered online. The initial lecture will begin at 10AM PST on Saturday January 23rd. Learn more about this free course and register. Society president Richard Bell says people from all over the globe have registered so it may be wise to sign up early if you are interested.

President’s Message – January 2021

Posted by as News, President's Message

President’s Message – January 2021

The catastrophic collapse of the Arecibo Radio Telescope seemed to me to be an apt metaphor for 2020. There is probably little appetite for most to review the events of the past year. Before we say good bye to 2020, however, it would be ungrateful not to mention a few astronomical highlights. The surprise visit of Comet Neowise provided a much needed boost during the first phase of Covid. Wildfire smoke dissipated enough for RASCals to savour the opposition of Mars in the Fall. The miracle of Zoom enabled RASCals to remain connected both locally and nationally and the proficiency gained will be a legacy that will change the way we conduct business going forward. But as vaccines arrive on the scene we look forward to a day when we can reduce our distance and party on.

So let’s look toward the future. There are plenty of space missions on the 2021 calendar but two in particular are guaranteed to generate high drama. The NASA Martian Rover Perserverance is scheduled to land on Mars on February 18th 2021. I am not keen on that rover name as it sounds to me like a brand name for a deodorant. Mind you the JPL team may require a good antiperspirant during the “7 minutes of terror” when the spacecraft executes a stunning array of complicated maneuvers. Even if it successfully sticks the landing like its superstar sibling, Curiosity, it is scheduled to perform another high wire act. Stowed on board is a helicopter, named Ingenuity that will attempt to automatically explore the near by surroundings in an atmosphere that is only one percent of that on Earth … equivalent to the density of air at 85000 feet. I will be on the edge of my seat with fingers crossed when they try to pull this off. Around the same time the United Arab Emirates will place an advanced weather satellite, called Hope, in a Martian orbit and the Chinese mission Tianwen-1 will deliver an orbiter, lander and rover to the red planet. It will be an exciting time!

There will also be plenty of suspense surrounding the launch and deployment of the James Webb Space Telescope. After more than a decade of delays, it is scheduled to launch on Halloween 2021. The elaborate multifaceted mirror has 6.5 times the collection area of its predecessor, the Hubble. It is designed to operate in the near infrared which will enable it to study distant red-shifted galaxies and the formation of exoplanets in debris disks. It is imperative that it operates in a very cold, stable thermal environment and a delicate multilayered sunshield is required. It was complications with the deployment of this sunshield that caused the latest delays. So even if the launch is successful, the unfolding of the mirror and sunshield will generate high drama. The Canadian Space Agency has made a significant contribution and so we also have a stake in this important mission.

There will be a great opportunity to review the progress of the Perserverance mission at our AGM that will take place via Zoom on Monday February 22nd. In addition to our annual report and elections we will also have a virtual award ceremony … and even more high drama. So there will be plenty of interesting things in the year ahead.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year … and oh yes …

Usable Skies 

Reg Dunkley