President’s Message – Dec 2021

Posted by as President's Message

Ah 2021. What a strange trip around the Sun! I am writing this letter on the day of the winter solstice. There is a waning gibbous moon shining high in the east, when I go to bed, and it is high in the west to greet me in the morning. I take great solace in watching and thinking about the dependable motion of the Earth through the Universe, while so much of life and news this year has left me feeling unsettled.

Randy Enkin using his sextant
Randy Enkin using his sextant

Nearly as dependable as the astronomical objects has been you, our astronomical community. I am so pleased when I see the 30 or 40 of us gather each Monday evening at our virtual Astro Café. We are an appreciative and supportive community. Look at all the different skill sets and experiences that get shared every week. And look at those beautiful photos and sketches that we have created. I particularly wish to mention the personal observatories (I know of 3!) that are getting designed and built by members of our centre, as well as the fantastic work by our technical committee in upgrading the Victoria Centre Observatory.

Our group has motivated me to try new astro-projects – whether observing sunspots with a solar telescope borrowed from the Centre (thanks to the capable curation of our telescope collection by Sid Sidhu), or star hopping to those faint fuzzies that you deep space observers like. And I love the expressions of appreciation when I show off my lunar sketches to our crowd.

Do remember that our community survives on the strength of our volunteerism. We have a specific requirement this year for a new secretary and a new vice president. Don’t feel you aren’t up to the job! I still feel like a newbie in the role of president, but there is no shortage of good council from the many past executives who continue to be active. Come join us on the inside, and you will feel even more affection for the Centre.

I wish us all a fruitful and fulfilling new year, with many clear skies.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin,

Astronomy Cafe – Dec 20, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Updates – Chris Gainor
    • James Webb Space Telescope – launch on Dec 24th 4:20AM – NASA TV & Youtube live streaming
    • Parker Solar Probe – 5 min video from NASA
    • RASC Board of Directors reportNational office moved last week to College Street in central Toronto
      • RASC Centre orders for bulk 2022 Calendars – 7 centres have received their boxes, but delivery to BC centres may be delayed further
      • Observing certificates sent out today
  • Astrophotos – Ken McGill
    • Orion Nebula – ZWO 1600MC, ASI Air Live View
    • Andromeda Galaxy – Oct 30th 
    • Pleiades
  • My Astronomy Sketch of the Year 2021 – Dorothy Paul
    • Observed Nov 28-Dec 1, 2021 from the west side of Eureka Valley (NW corner of Death Valley National park)
    • Remote, dark (Mag 6.5) and cold (-5ºC)!
    • Sky Critters – Canis Major, Hydra, Leo, Ursa Major – sketched from memory, like being in a theatre
    • They had Dorothy’s Dobsonian telescope with them, but didn’t end up using it 
  • Astrophotos – Brian Barber
    • Full Moon – using a NexYZ for mounting a smartphone, PIP software to centre & size, AutoStakkert software to stack the photos
  • Building the MCD Observatory – Michel Michaud
    • Presentation to Club d’astronomie de Rimouski
    • Started July 26
    • 14′ long 4×4 timbers and special smaller door
    • Built cases over the exposed rails to protect from rain and ice
    • Paramount MX to arrive in Feb
    • Celestron Edge HD 14″ – March – Summer 2022
    • First projects
      • Photometry
      • Asteroids
    • Restarting his Pleiades project when the 14″ scope arrives
    • Currently using his Meade LX-55 mount and a 66mm refractor
  • Report on astronomy activities – Nathan Hellner-Mestelman
    • NerdAnomaly – online cartoons
    • Learning sketching at school
    • Casual public outreach – telescope setup on the sidewalk outside the house
  • Report on astronomy activities – David Lee
    • Pivoting to maintain community – formed Victoria Centre’s SIGs
    • Personal study – astrophotography, observing, space exploration
    • VCO Technical team – work to be ready when we can open to members again
    • FDAO – collaborations with UVic – Dave Payne, Mike Nash, Dan Posey, Brock Johnston
    • Variable Star Observing – completed 3 AAVSO certificates
    • Australian sketching workshop – Dorothy Paul

Victoria Centre needs a new Vice-President and Secretary for 2022 – to stand for election, please contact Randy Enkin or Reg Dunkley

Astronomy Café will resume on Monday, January 10, 2022

Astronomy Cafe – Dec 13, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Mission to Mars – Dr. Robert Thirsk

  • Deep space missions being planned – returning to lunar orbit, the Moon’s surface, and onward to Mars
  • Maintaining the health of astronauts will be a significant challenge to the missions
  • Mars atmosphere is thick enough to sustain windstorms
  • Surface is covered in iron oxide dust
  • International Space Exploration Coordination Group – planning for exploration of Mars
  • Lunar Gateway Spaceport to be built orbiting the Moon – build starts next year
    • Canadarm 3 – using AI, 8.5m long
    • JAXA (Japan), NASA (USA), ESA (Europe)
  • Deep Space Transport – flights from the Lunar Gateway spaceport, ultimately to Mars after test flights
  • 2030s – 2 cargo vehicles assembled in Earth orbit and flown to Mars
    • Mars Ascent Vehicle – lands on Mars
    • Facilities and crew quarters to be built
  • Mars Transfer Vehicle – astronauts travel from Earth orbit to Mars – a 6-month trip
  • Mars Base – crew quarters, nuclear reactor, supplies
  • Pressurized Mars Rover allowing crew to travel up to 100kms at 72,000 kmh
  • Crew will stay on Mars for 500 days
  • Due to the 20 minute communication delay, Mission Control’s role in the mission will be limited
  • Big issues
    • Extreme isolation
    • Medical emergencies – autonomous treatment is the only option, powered by AI, on-board medical lab analysis
    • Exercise facilities will be very small
    • Radiation shielding and a shielded safe area
  • Medical Tricorder – Star Trek – now a reality! Qualcomm Tricorder
  • Environmental monitoring of cabin conditions
  • Crew bio-monitoring – smart shirt
  • Medical technology developed for this mission can be deployed in remote areas of Canada, and even primary care can benefit


  • Radiation limits dictate that astronauts can only go to Mars once
  • Advice to students interested in space missions: physics, math, but skills diversity is important, personality traits (work with diverse community), health and fitness is important. Be persistent – may take 7-8 attempts to be selected as a Canadian astronaut
  • Canadian clinical research and remote health care – could result in a key role in space health – CSA’s Health Beyond Initiative
  • Most physiological effects can be recovered from by astronauts, but can take a year or two. Ionizing radiation is the biggest issue.
  • Spinning the spacecraft to create gravity isn’t going to happen due to engineering limitations
  • Test missions to a Lagrange Point and a nearby asteroid
  • Shielding research – NASA/Johnson and ICRP (upcoming Vancouver meeting)
  • Lunar Gateway – private partners like SpaceX are being used by NASA
  • 2 flights for 2 Canadian missions to the Moon are in place – Artemis 1 and 2
  • Would JWST failure affect the Mars missions? Not really – the missions are separate.

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Edmonton astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Time lapse video over 2.5 hours – Arnold Rivera
  • Astrophotos – Dave Payne
    • Pleiades – pleased with the nebulosity
    • Owl Cluster NGC 457 – young star cluster
    • Cave Nebula – reprocessed using Dave’s new PixInsight script
  • Lauri Roche
    • Thanks to Jeff Pivnick for bring Dr. Thirsk to talk to us
    • Sat, Dec 18th – last FDAO Star Party – JWST speakers from the NRC
    • RASC National 2022 calendars have not yet arrived. Still a few available – contact Lauri.
  • Dec 22nd is the JWST scheduled launch update (see 60 Minutes) – Chris Gainor
  • Randy Enkin
    • RASC Victoria Centre 2022 calendar – a limited run, but 4 still available – view the gallery and contact Joe to order ($15 each)
    • Encourage members to talk to us at next week’s Astro Cafe – what interests you about astronomy?
    • Comparison of two comets: NEOWISE (last year) and Leonard (this year)
    • RASC Victoria Centre Council vacancies: 1st VP and Secretary
  • Maker’s SIG meeting online this Thursday – David Lee

The final Astro Café of 2021 will be held on Monday, December 20, 2021. Astro Café will resume on Monday, January 10, 2022.

Astronomy Cafe – Dec 6, 2021

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Review next week’s presentation by Dr. Robert Thirsk – Chris Purse
    • Connection to meeting will be through a waiting room
    • Jeff Pivnick will host
    • Link for this meeting will be unique, and emailed to all RASC Victoria members
    • Maximum of 100 attendees
  • Total Solar Eclipse from Antarctica – Joe Carr
  • Astro Compass – Randy Enkin & Peter Kabel
    • Frank Younger’s estate donated the Compass Astro to Victoria Centre
    • Used in aircraft when they are flying a long way north, where the magnetic field isn’t reliable
    • “It’s a sundial in reverse”
    • Need to know your position and time, sighting on a celestial object with known Right Ascension & Declination. North will be indicated accurate to within about 1º.
  • Edmonton Astrophotos – Dave Robinson
    • Photo of Comet C/2001 A1 Leonard near M3 cluster – Arnold Rivera
    • Sketch of Comet C/2001 A1 Leonard with observing narrative – Berta Beltran
    • Rosette Nebula photo – Arnold Rivera
  • Chris Gainor
    • James Web Space Telescope update
      • Completed fuelling operations for the JWST itself
      • To be mounted onto the Ariane 5 rocket next
      • Dec 22nd launch date
      • Launch website
    • Not Yet Imagined – Chris’ new book about Hubble Space Telescope’s history. Book should be available for sale in awhile through RASC’s e-store and FDAO’s e-store locally. Electronic versions from NASA
  • Comet C/2001 A1 Leonard – observing report by David Lee
    • Observed and photographed through some clear spots over the last few days
    • Poor conditions for photography, but managed to get a good wide field image of the comet using a dSLR and tracking mount
    • Virtual Telescope broadcast – tomorrow 8PM PST
  • Lauri Roche
    • 2022 RASC Calendars
      • Send any more requests for calendars to Lauri
      • Should be $16 each
    • FDAO e-store – astronomy and space themed fun items available for sale. Free local delivery or shipped by mail (extra cost).