March 2020 Speaker: When Stars Explode: Understanding Supernovae from Tycho to Today

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Dr. Tyrone Woods

7:30PM Wednesday March 11th 2020, Room A104 Bob Wright Centre, UVic

In 1572, a new “star” appeared in the sky that forever changed the way we think about the Universe. Identified by famed Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, this incredible event is now understood to have been the explosion of a dead star — a supernova. Since then, supernova observations have illuminated the Cosmos, revealing everything from the origin of the iron in our blood to the final fate of the Universe. In this talk, I’ll outline a brief history of supernova astronomy, culminating in the cutting-edge work being carried out in Victoria and across Canada today to understand why and how some stars explode, and the lasting impact of their explosions and remnants in our Galaxy and beyond.

Dr. Tyrone E. Woods is a research associate and Plaskett Fellow at NRC-Herzberg in Victoria. There, he studies the physics of some of the most energetic events in the Universe, by combining theoretical models with observations across the electromagnetic spectrum. Before returning to Canada, he completed his PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Munich, Germany, and held research positions in Australia and the UK.

2020 AGM Service Awards

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Awards to members for service in 2019

Newton/Ball Award: Michel Michaud

  • Michel has made a major contribution to the Victoria Centre serving as Librarian and Observing Chair where he coordinated MIC’s for the VCO and scheduled Messier Marathons.
  • He is one of the few who are qualified to run the Plaskett Telescope and plays an essential role operating this instrument at DAO Saturday Star Parties and capturing images for RASC’als.
  • Michel’s quality binary star measurements in the Pleiades have been published in scientific databases and he serves as a role model for citizen science.
Reg presenting Michel Michaud with the Newton Ball Service Award
Reg presenting Michel Michaud with the Newton Ball Service Award

Ernie Pfannenschmidt Telescope Making Award: Ken Mallory

  • For his innovative stylish design of a viewing shield that will safely allow observers to direct solar binoculars at the Sun.
Ken Mallory using his innovative solar shield
Ken Mallory using his innovative solar shield

Award of Excellence in Astrophotography: Doug MacDonald

  • For his Excellence in capturing NGC 6992, The Eastern Veil in the Cyngus loop. Collecting 3 hours of Ha and OIII and one hour of RGB with a 5″ refractor in Victoria BC.
NGC6992 - Eastern Veil Nebula - by Doug MacDonald
NGC6992 – Eastern Veil Nebula – by Doug MacDonald

Certificate of Appreciation: Marjie Welchframe

  • For her Outstanding Support and Engagement for recruiting and scheduling RASC’als to tend the Centre of the Universe Welcome Desk.
Reg presenting Marjie Welchframe with a Certificate of Appreciation
Reg presenting Marjie Welchframe with a Certificate of Appreciation

Certificate of Appreciation: Chris Aesoph

  • For his Outstanding Support and Engagement for coordinating the RASC’s Stargazing event at Fort Rodd Hill.
Starting to observe from Fort Rodd Hill
Starting to observe from Fort Rodd Hill

Certificate of Appreciation: Bruce Lane

  • For his Outstanding Support in organizing the Victoria Centre Star Party at St. Stephens Anglican Church and his effective recruitment of RASC Volunteers.
Reg presenting Bruce Lane with a Certificate of Appreciation
Reg presenting Bruce Lane with a Certificate of Appreciation

Certificate of Appreciation: David Lee

  • For his vital contribution by stepping in as the Astronomy DayTeam Captain, recruiting Saturday Star Party Speakers and coordinating a Public Library Astronomy Display.
Reg presenting David Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation
Reg presenting David Lee with a Certificate of Appreciation

February 2020 Speaker: 40 Years of Astronomy at the Top of the World

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Mary Beth Laychak, Canada France Hawaii Telescope

7:30 PM Saturday February 22nd 2020 The Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard Street

The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope celebrated it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT’s Director of Strategic Communications will share stories of the science, staff, instrumentation, and adventure from CFHT.

Mary Beth Laychak is the Director of Strategic Communications at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope on the Big Island of Hawaii. She also runs the Maunakea Scholars program, an innovative astronomy outreach program for Hawaii public high school students. Mary Beth has an undergraduate degree in astronomy and astrophysics from Penn State University and a masters degree in educational technology from San Diego State. Her passions include astronomy, sharing astronomy with the public, astronomy based crafts, and running. She lives in Waimea, Hawaii with her husband and cat.

Notice of Election at 2020 AGM

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Barbara Lane, Secretary, RASC Victoria Centre

There will be an election for the Victoria Centre council at the Annual General Meeting of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre, being held on February 22, 2020 at 7:30PM. Location: The Ambrosia Centre, 638 Fisgard Street, Victoria, BC, Canada.

Here is the list of nominees.

President: Reg Dunkley
First Vice President: VACANT
Second Vice President: Marjie Welchframe
Secretary: Barbara Lane
Treasurer: Deb Crawford

Librarian: Diane Bell
Membership Coordinator: Chris Purse
National Rep: Nelson Walker, Bill Weir
Observing: Jim Stilburn
Outreach Coordinator: Mandy Lee
Past President: Chris Purse
Progressive Lighting Policies: Dave Robinson
Schools Program & Telescopes: Sid Sidhu
SkyNews Editor: Bruce Lane
Technical Committee Chair: Matt Watson
Webmaster: Joe Carr

Directors:

    James Di Francesco (DAO Liaison)
    Chris Gainor
    Jim Hesser
    David Lee
    John McDonald
    Bill Weir (Pearson College Liaison)
    Jim Nemec (Camosun College LIaison)
    Dan Posey
    Lauri Roche (Friends of the DAO Liaison)
    Alex Schmid (University of Victoria Liaison)

RASC Victoria AGM 2020

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You may have heard that the venue we had booked for our AGM, the Cedar Hill Golf Club was flooded and will be closed for the next 6 months. We are very fortunate to have found an alternative and excellent venue: The Ambrosia Centre at 638 Fisgard Street. The building is currently dressed up in tarps (it is being re-wrapped to make it more energy efficient) but the interior is just fine. There is lots of parking on the street, as well as in the City Parkade directly across the street, and Douglas Street offers a major bus route with stops in the same block. When entering the building, use the left door and walk straight ahead into our lovely room.

For all those of you who have already placed orders, you need do nothing more than show up at the new venue on February 22, 2020. If you have yet to sign up, please contact our Treasurer Deb Crawford by email no later than 7 days before the event (Feb 15th). Please specifiy how many in your party, and their choice of entree. Cost for dinner is $40 per person (including tip and tax).

Members who wish to skip the dinner but attend the AGM and presentation, please arrive at 7:30PM. There is no cost to attend, in this case.

Pre-dinner drinks and chat - 2018 AGM and dinner
Pre-dinner drinks and chat – 2018 AGM and dinner

The menu will be much the same as publicized before, however the chicken option is no longer offered, and a new vegetarian dish is added.

Entrees:

  1. Steak – state rare, medium or well-done when ordering
  2. Baked Wild Salmon – choice of sauce
  3. Vegetarian Lasagna – grilled vegetables layered with tomato sauce & noodles topped with cheese

Salads:

  • Caesar salad
  • Mixed greens with vinaigrette dressing
  • Marinated vegetable pesto
  • Traditional coleslaw

Side: Roasted Rosemary Baby Potatoes

Desserts:

  • Assorted mini pastries with fruit garnish
  • Homemade cheesecake
Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT
Mary Beth Laychak, CFHT

Schedule – Feb 22, 2020

  • 6:00 p.m. Doors Open – No Host Bar
  • 6:30 p.m. Buffet Style Banquet
  • 7:30 p.m. Presentation: The Canada France Hawaii Telescope: The First 40 Years by Mary Beth Laychak
  • 8:30 p.m. Annual General Meeting and Awards – Notice of Election

January 2020 Speaker: From Baby Planets to Black Holes: ALMA Explores the Cold Universe

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Dr. Gerald Schieven, NRC Herzberg

7:30 PM Wednesday, January 8th, 2020 Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

The ALMA Observatory is a billion dollar multi-national astronomy facility located at high elevation in the Atacama desert of northern Chile. Its 66 antennas work together as if one giant telescope 16 km in diameter, to give us unprecedented images of the cold, dark universe, including the birth of planets around other stars, organic molecules in the early universe, and the first image of the event horizon of the super-massive black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy. Gerald will talk about the observatory, what it’s like to work there, and some of the astonishing discoveries being made by this facility.

Dr. Gerald Schieven has been a staff astronomer at NRC – Herzberg for 24 years (11 of them in Victoria), and is responsible for managing Canada’s support of the ALMA Observatory. After obtaining his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, Gerald worked at Queen’s University in Kingston, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii before moving to Victoria.

The picture of the ALMA antennas on the Chajnantor plain was taken a few days before the start of ALMA Early Science. Nineteen antennas are in operation, 5000 m above sea level.

December Speaker: The lives and deaths of galaxies — more than just a metaphor

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Dr. Marcin Sawicki

7:30 PM Wednesday, December 11th, 2019 Room A104, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Astronomers often say that galaxies were “born” soon after the Big Bang, that they “live” while they are forming new stars, and that they “die” when they turn into quiescent “red and dead” ellipticals. Surely, these biological terms are just an interesting metaphor, aren’t they? No! It turns out that there is a deep connection between the pathways galaxies take through time and those that we humans take through our life cycles. In this talk I will show you how the fates of these two very different populations – galaxies and people – are connected at an underlying, fundamental level that lets us better understand the one by understanding the other.

Dr. Marcin Sawicki is an observational astronomer who studies how galaxies form and evolve over cosmic time. He is especially fond of very large samples of galaxies that span multiple epochs, and uses data from ground-based telescopes such as CFHT, Gemini, and Subaru, and space-based observatories such as HST, Spitzer and (soon) JWST. He is Canada Research Chair in Astronomy and Professor of Astronomy and Physics at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, and is currently on sabbatical leave visiting NRC-Herzberg in Victoria.

President’s Message: November 2019

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The Canadian astronomical community received a wonderful surprise on October 8th when it was announced that Manitoba native Dr. Jim Peebles would receive the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics. Jim was born in St. Boniface and obtained a Bachelor Degree in Physics from University of Manitoba in 1958. He then obtained a Phd from Princeton in 1962 and has remained there every since. He was rewarded for laying a foundation for modern cosmology, including his realization that faint microwave radiation that filled the cosmos 400,000 years after the Big Bang contains crucial clues to what the universe looked like at this primitive stage and how it has evolved since. Dennis Overbye wrote a wonderful account, explaining his discoveries and capturing his character in Chapter Six the classic book The Lonely Hearts of the Cosmos. Randy Enkin and Jim Hesser delivered a short tribute to Peebles during a recent Astro Cafe. Jim Hesser met Peebles when he was a grad student at Princeton and mentioned that Peebles had spent time at the DAO while on Sabbatical in the early 80’s. At that time he boldly predicted that Jim would receive the Nobel Prize some day. It took almost 4 decades but Hesser was delighted when his prediction was finally verified. There is a joyous YouTube video of the Princeton celebration of this announcement. Check it out.

While Jim Peebles contemplated the biggest picture, most of the Victoria Centre presentations during 2019 have focused on our local Solar System. In February Dr. Samatha Lawler explored the controversy about a Planet Nine lurking in the outer reaches of the Solar System. In March Dr. JJ Kavelaars shared the latest findings for the New Horizon’s Flyby of 2014MU69 (Ultima Thule). Dr. Kelsi Springer delivered a public lecture on this rendezvous during a CASCA conference in May. I gave a talk on the Juno mission to Jupiter in May while in June Matt Williams explored the feasibility of leaving the Solar System to explore nearby stars. The Summer was dominated by reflections on the Apollo moon landing while in October Dr. Linda Spilker, Principal Cassini Mission Scientist delivered a fascinating talk on the results of this very successful 13 year exploration of Saturn. Meanwhile Linda’s husband Dr. Tom Spilker, a space mission architect, unveiled plans for a 400 person Space Station … on the scale of the Empress Hotel. I will try to negotiate a Victoria Centre discount. Some age restrictions may apply.

This Solar System theme continues at the November 13th monthly meeting when Dr. Philip Stooke discusses Lunar discoveries that have been made since Apollo. He has applied his specialty in cartography to the Solar System and has developed a Martian Atlas and has also mapped the irregular shapes of Martian moons and many asteroids. It will be an interesting talk and we hope to see you there.

One noteworthy Solar System event is the Transit of Mercury which begins at Sunrise at 7:15 AM on November 11th and ends at 10AM. Because this event occurs very close to Remembrance Day Ceremonies and due to the unfavourable climate for this date the Victoria Centre decided to not heavily promote the Transit. Some Victoria RASCals, however, plan to set up telescopes at Cattle Point and Mount Tolmie if weather permits.

Speaking of weather, a blocking ridge of high pressure became established in late October …which is rare for this time of year. This allowed many clear nights and Victoria RASCals made the most of this opportunity. Over 20 participated in the Plaskett Party on October 26th. This interlude also allowed the technical committee to refine the performance of the 16 inch telescope at the Victoria Centre Observatory and it is back in business “bagging photons”. Many thanks to all who made that happen. Due to our land use agreement with NRC, you have to be a member of the active observers list to attend these VCO sessions. Please see Chris Purse (membership@victoria.rasc.ca) for details.

Useable Skies
Reg Dunkley

November Speaker: The Moon After Apollo

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Dr. Philip Stooke

7:30 PM Wednesday, November 13th, 2019
Room A104 Bob Wright Building, UVic

The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration - Phillip J. Stooke
The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration

Phil Stooke looks at missions to the Moon since the Apollo era (NASA’s Apollo landings and the Soviet Union’s final missions of the early 1970s).  After those missions the Moon was left alone for two decades while space agencies looked further out into the Solar System, but more recently the Moon has returned as a target for exploration.  We will look at a series of early lunar orbiters filling in gaps in our knowledge left after Apollo, then more advanced orbiters with modern instruments, and finally a series of landers, some successful and others not.  What have we done and where are we going?

Phil Stooke
Phil Stooke

Dr. Phil Stooke is a planetary scientist with a PhD from the University of Victoria who has returned to the west coast after 30 years working at Western University in Ontario.  He has worked on mapping asteroids, locating spacecraft landing and impact sites on the Moon and Mars, and depicting the history of exploration of the Moon and Mars.

October Speakers: Linda and Tom Spilker

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Cassini’s Intriguing New Discoveries and the Design of Space Missions

The Cassini Project Scientist and a Space Mission Architect Share Their Insights

7:30 PM Wednesday October 9th 2019, Flury Hall, Bob Wright Centre, UVic

Cassini’s Intriguing New Discoveries

Abstract: Dr. Linda Spilker, the Cassini Project Scientist, will present updates of the highlights of Cassini’s 13-year mission of discovery at Saturn. Since the end of Cassini’s mission scientists have been teasing out new information about Saturn, the rings and moons from the huge stock of data collected during the mission. Some of the most surprising results were discovered during the final orbits of the mission, diving through the gap between the rings and Saturn for the very first time.

Bio: Dr. Linda Spilker is a NASA research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. She is currently the Cassini Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator on the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer team and has worked on Cassini since 1988. Since joining JPL over 40 years ago she has worked on the Voyager Project, the Cassini Project and conducted independent research on the origin and evolution of planetary ring systems. She enjoys yoga and hiking in National Parks, including her favorite park, Yosemite. She is married, with three daughters and eight grandchildren. She received her B.A. from Cal State Fullerton, her M.S. from Cal State Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. from UCLA.

Designing Space Missions

Abstract: Dr Tom Spilker, “International Space Mission Architect” will share some of his experiences with multiple NASA centers, such as JPL, Goddard Research Center, Glenn Research Center, and Langley Research Center, multiple universities, and private corporations and companies, on a variety of space flight mission concepts and instrument concepts. Tom recently architected a large, rotating space station for the Gateway Foundation and its operating arm, Orbital Assembly Corp. Among other important functions, that space station should make it much easier to implement planetary science missions, trips to the moon, and large telescopes in space.

Bio: Dr. Tom Spilker spent 20 years at JPL as a”Mission Architect” after a PhD at Stanford doing research associated with spacecraft-based planetary radio occultation experiments, with a couple of courses in orbital dynamics. He has worked on Voyager, Cassini, Genesis, and Rosetta missions. He has, and continues to work with both science and engineering aspects of mission planning. He retired from JPL in 2012 and is now an independent consultant working with space agencies all over the world.