Astronomy Cafe – Dec 5, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Beginning in Astrophotography – Ron Fisher
    • 2018 Dobsonian telescope for Christmas
    • Joined the Astrophotography SIG when it started up during the pandemic
    • Climbed the “learning curve”
    • Acquired an EQ6 mount, mounted 300mm telephoto lens and a dSLR
    • Learned PixInsight
    • Andromeda (1st photo), Orion Nebula (2nd photo)
    • New gear acquired in April 2022
      • Askar 500mm 90mm apo refractor
      • 50mm Guidemaster scope & guide camer
      • ASI Air Pro powers and controls all the gear
    • M81, M82
    • Pelican Nebula
    • PixInsight used for processing
    • With a focal reducer
      • North American Nebula
      • Elephant Trunk Nebula
      • Soul Nebula
    • Heart and Soul Nebula
    • Ron’s astrophoto gallery
  • Astronomical Holiday Gifts – Randy Enkin
    • Starting in astronomy – David Lee
      • Stars and Planets – Smithsonian handbook
      • RASC Almanac
      • Deep Sky Wonders – Sue French – good for beginners with small scopes or binoculars
      • Binocular Highlights – Garry Seronik
    • History of Hubble – Chris Gainor has a few copies at his house ($25)
    • For sale – used from Randy Enkin’s bookshelf
      • Apollo Murders – Chris Hadfield
      • Silent Spring – Rachael Carson
      • Planets – Dava Sobel
      • The Day the World Discovered the Sun – transects of Venus in the 18th century
  • Edmonton Centre– Alistair Ling
    • Finally staging hybrid meetings – Planetarium at Telus World
    • What’s up in the sky – based on Edmonton’s sky
    • The hybrid meetings have only attracted limited members to attend in-person
    • Observatory at Black Nugget Lake – installing a 32″ telescope – unofficial first light by this summer
      • Visual telescope – looking forward to observing the celestial splendors
      • Designed to be an imaging scope, if needed in future
      • Public access is planned
    • Weekly public outreach at The Science Centre
    • Helping people use their telescopes – by Alistair
    • Have a full slate of officers
  • Occultation of Mars – Randy Enkin
  • Mars photo from yesterday evening – Brock Johnston
  • Observing techniques – discussion
  • SIGs – David Lee email
    • Beginners tomorrow night – magnitude basics
    • Electronically-assisted Astronomy on Thursday, then on request only
    • Citizen Science SIG – coming up in January
    • Aaron Bannister request: astrophotography for school kids
      • Capture brighter objects when weather permits
      • Processing data sets
      • Astrophotographers?
  • Last Astro Cafes for 2022 – Dec 12th, 19th
  • First Astro Cafe of the New Year – Jan 9, 2023 starting at 7:00PM instead of 7:30PM
  • Sunshine Coast Centre – Peter Broughton presentation on J.S. Plaskett – Dec 9 Friday 7PM – Victoria Centre members welcome
  • Winter Solstice Star Party – Dec 17th – Nathan is presenting
  • Status of national Observers Calendars – haven’t arrived yet
  • Artemis I update – Chris Gainor
    • Close pass to the Moon this morning
    • On its way home – Dec 11th arrival
    • Crescent Earthrise photo
  • Watching the final Apollo launch to the Moon – flashback tomorrow night – Chris Gainor
  • David Bennett memories from members – next week

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 28, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • Astronomy Day – Jeff Pivnick
    • Giveaways needed – contact Jeff
      • Old Observers’ Handbook
      • Past issues of magazines like Skynews
      • Astronomy books no longer needed
  • Victoria Centre AGM 2023 – Randy Enkin
    • Decouple the social event and the business meeting
  • How do members use the Observers Handbook? – Randy Enkin
    • Read articles, but don’t use as a guide book
    • Definitions are useful
    • Source of authoritative information about astronomy
    • Lists of eclipses, celestial objects
    • Sky phenomena
    • Tides
    • Professional astronomers use it as reference
    • Chris Purse and James Edgar have given tours of the Observers Handbook. James’ 6 presentations are available on RASC National’s Youtube.
  • 2023 RASC Observers calendars – should arrive within a week for those who ordered – Lauri Roche
  • SIGs – David Lee
    • Members have shown interest in the new Citizen Science SIG – announcement pending
    • Electronically-Assisted Astronomy SIG this Thursday
    • Beginners SIG next week
  • Astronomy Cafe venue – Randy Enkin
    • Custodians want to clean our meeting room and leave by 9:00PM
    • Proposing to start Astro Cafe at 7:00PM
    • Possibly give up on in-person Astro Cafe?
    • What about monthly meetings at UVic resuming? Parking is now $4 for the evening, and no word from UVic about restarting room rentals.
  • Artemis Mission – Chris Gainor
    • Photo of Artemis’ Orion, the Moon, Earth – Flickr
    • Dec 1 – next burn
    • James Webb mission blogs
    • L2 outside the Moon gives Orion a low-energy position – Distant Retrograde Orbit
    • Mass concentrations on the Moon affect the orbit of the rockets
    • Nov 23 – Orion lost contact with Earth for 47 minutes – unexplained, to be investigated
    • Discussion about launching processes
  • Using Stellarium – Dennis F
    • Impressed with the tutorials produced by National
  • NRC Open House for RASC members?
    • Would be great to have a tour of the new optical building
    • Lauri to coordinate when the road reopens
  • FDAO Star Parties – Lauri Roche
    • Dec 26 – online only for last Saturday’s Star Party
      • Presentation: CASTOR new space telescope (ultraviolet, wide-field) – Dr. Tyrone Woods, project lead
      • Would make a good presentation for RASC Victoria members
    • Dec 17 – virtual Star Party celebrating the solstice – Nathan is the speaker

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 21, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • Lunar background information – Jeff Pivnick
    • NASA Science web – source of presentation
    • Lunar origin – giant impact is most-favoured hypothesis
    • Lunar orbit is locked to the Earth
    • Composition of the surface & core
      • 2 kinds of rock – black magma, white Vesicular basalt
      • Regolith makes up the surface dust
    • Exploration
      • Apollo 11 through 17
      • Artemis
  • Artemis I Lunar Mission – Chris Gainor
    • Artemis I is an un-crewed mission to test the Orion spacecraft and launch vehicle rocket systems
    • Dec 11th – scheduled splashdown
    • 10 tiny satellites part of the mission
    • In-flight photos
    • Cabin takes 4 people on future missions
    • Photos of the Moon and setting Earth (behind the Moon)
    • As close as 81 miles to the Moon’s surface
    • Human Space Programs
      • Apollo (1968-1972), space shuttle (1981-2011, ISS (1998-present)
      • Human missions are very expensive
      • Constellation Program – 2004-2010 – parts of this program are in Artemis
      • Exploration test flights in 2009, 2014
      • Space Launch System – SLS variants of launch rockets
      • Orion Exploration Vehicle
        • Crew of 4
        • Crew Module (NASA contractors)
        • Service Module (ESA)
    • Cost of Artemis I mission is $4 billion
    • Phase 1 – get back to the Moon
    • Phase 2 – go on to Mars ~20 years
    • Artemis II
      • 4 astronauts on board
      • Loop around the Moon and return
      • No lunar orbit or landing
      • 1 of 4 Canadian astronauts will go on the mission
      • May 2024 probable launch
    • Artemis III
      • Landing on the Moon
      • As early as 2025
      • SpaceX Starship will be used as a lunar lander
      • SpaceX Starship may fly to the Moon earlier and independent from Artemis!
    • Lunar Gateway – Canadarm in lunar orbit
    • Space Shuttle engines are being reused for the Artemis missions
  • Minor details about Artemis I – Randy Enkin
    • Photo of the mission launch showing  Moon, rocket, meteorite for Enkin’s Daily Moon on Facebook
    • Trajectories
      • Distant Retrograde Orbit through La Grange points
      • Slingshot around the Moon to return to Earth
    • Cubesats
      • Space on Artemis for 16 cubesats
      • 10 cubesats on this Artemis I mission
      • The Cubesats all have different purposes and missions
    • Passengers – all mannequins
    • Photo of mission launch for Enkin’s Daily Moon on Facebook
  • Lunar Sketches – Randy Enkin
    • Waning phase – favourable libration – on two days
    • Photos of same area sketched – by Mike Nash (Victoria) and Steven Arthur Sweet (Toronto)
  • Apollo, Artemis and Orion – a backgrounder on the Greek gods by Jeff Pivnick
  • Concert at UVic on Dec 3rd – Dave  Robinson
  • Astrophotography SIG – this Wednesday – Dave Payne
  • Road construction has closed Observatory Hill to the public until Dec 22nd
    • Victoria Centre Observatory closed – Reg Dunkley
    • Centre of the Universe – virtual events only – Lauri Roche
    • Serious access problems for everyone
  • SIGs – David Lee
    • Makers SIG this Thursday
    • Citizen Science SIG – interested? contact David
  • Bollide Meteor over Southern Ontario – Peter Jedicke
    • 3:26AM EST on Saturday morning
    • Asteroid orbital predictions are now a reality
    • Predicted hit between London to Brantford, Ontario
    • Dave Clark, RASC member observed it
    • Photo taken by Rob Weryk from London, based on a tip from Hawai’i astronomy staff
    • Earlier photo from Lowell Observatory used to refine calculation of orbit
    • Peter didn’t spot the meteorite
    • Western News

Astronomy Cafe – Nov 14, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • Island Star Party – Dave Payne
    • RASC Victoria will be hosting ISP in 2023, not Cowichan Valley Starfinders
    • Debriefing from CVSF will happen soon
    • Bright Angel Park will need to be reserved soon with CVRD
    • Volunteers from Victoria Centre will be needed – contact Dave Payne dapayne@shaw.ca
      • Insurance
      • Speakers
      • Advertising
      • Setup on Friday – tents, parking, observing field
      • Cleanup and teardown on Sunday
    • Council approved our participation a year ago
    • Date for 2023 star party needs to be decided upon
      • Nearest New Moon in August is the 16th
      • Good dates for star party is probably Aug 11-13
      • Mt. Kobau Star Party – Aug 12-20
      • Perseid meteor shower peaks on Aug 13
    • Previous star parties attracted a wide selection of amateur astronomers
    • At least 50 attended each night at this year’s star party
    • Discussion
    • Photos from 2016
  • Space Mission Reports – Chris Gainor
  • Observing Mars near Opposition – Bill Weir
    • Weather is clear and stable this week
  • Ken McGill’s observing van conversion
  • RASC National website – problems for members – Bill Weir
    • When renewing membership, subscribing to the email lists can happen involuntarily – Dave Payne
    • Centre affiliation choices are not working properly – Chris Purse
    • Large order for calendars from Victoria Centre placed 3 weeks ago has not arrived – Lauri Roche
    • Brendon Roy from National gave an update on shipping publication orders
  • RASC Victoria Centre Council Meeting tomorrow night – Jill Sinkwich
  • Malcolm from Toronto introduced himself as a new Victoria Centre member
  • Website tour – Special Interest Groups & email lists – Joe Carr
    • SIGs – click on the name beside the one that interests you to sign up
    • Email lists – descriptions on the Members Only area of the website
      • Members Only area is behind a shared password – contact Joe Carr, Webmaster
      • HillObs – special requirements for signup for members who are Active Observers to observe and acquire astrophotos from the Victoria Centre Observatory
  • Public Observing at Observatory Hill – Lauri Roche
    • Public restricted to 150 on Saturday nights – sign ups go quickly when the event is posted
    • Currently scheduled monthly
      • Nov 26 – next star party
      • Dec 17 – Nathan will be presenting
    • Friends of the DAO membership is $25
    • Hosting groups of students and teachers at the Centre of the Universe during the day
    • How school programs work – new team needed from RASC – contact Lauri for info
    • Road construction on Observatory Hill is still underway – be cautious, especially at night
  • UVic Astronomy Open House – Bob Wright Building observatory every Wednesday evening
  • Astrophotography – Dave Payne
  • Gonzales Observatory – query from Larry Manuel
    • Originally a solar transit observatory for time keeping and the historic Noon Gun – Joe Carr
    • Environment Canada weather station
    • Gonzales Hill Regional Park

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 31, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

  • 2023 RASC Observer’s Calendar – still a few left from Victoria Centre’s bulk order – email Lauri Roche
  • RASC Victoria Centre 2023 calendar – Joe Carr
  • Reports and updates – Chris Gainor
    • Artemis Launch now on Nov 14
    • James Webb Space Telescope
      • Early images
      • Some issues with one mode of the mid-Infrared imager (MIRI)
    • Hubble Space Telescope images
    • Skynews is running late, new editor hired
    • History of the Canadian Astronomical Data Centre – repository for data from many big telescopes – article for Feb 2023 JRASC
    • BBC National site has interactive display for JWST infrared – Michael Webb
  • Lunar Eclipse on Nov 8th – Randy Enkin
    • Umbra Crossings of Craters during the eclipse
    • Refer to Sky & Telescope’s table of crater timings
    • Refer to eclipse crater timing diagram sent out by Randy
    • Randy uses the Ticking Clock app on Android
    • How about using video timing? – David Lee
    • How accurate does the timing need to be? S&T states 6 seconds
    • Forecast for Nov 8th might indicate drier air from BC Interior will move over us – Reg Dunkley
    • Refraction affecting measurements discussed
    • Time and Date – eclipse info
  • SIGs – David Lee
  • Public Outreach discussion
    • David Lee: What is more effective for public outreach – using a screen or eyepiece/visual?
    • Bill Weir: used his 4″ refractor for pubic observing at Jasper, while others showed images on screens
    • John McDonald: sets up his telescope for observing by seniors, reporting an emotional response
    • Dave Payne: setup time for EAA gear is a liability
    • Garry Sedun: his family prefers visual astronomy
    • Dave Robinson: reports an emotional response to observing with eye to eyepiece
    • David Lee: EAA works when observing a dim object that is beyond the visual limit
  • Lauri Roche: Any news about holding RASC meetings at UVic again? Nothing so far (Chris Purse)

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 17, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of meeting

Finding Asteroids Before They Find Us – Kelly Fast, NASA/Planetary Defence Coordination Office

  • Finding the asteroid (bigger than 1m in size)
  • Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that are hazardous to Earth (140m in size or larger)
  • NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission to hazardous asteroid Bennu
  • Search, Detect & Track hazardous asteroids
  • International Asteroid Warning Network – worldwide effort
  • Searching for NEOs
    • Catalina Sky Survey – Arizona
    • Pan-STARRS – Maui, Hawaii
    • ATLAS – Hawaii, South Africa, Chile
    • LINEAR/SST – Australia
    • NEOWISE – JPL infrared space telescope
    • Follow-up telescopes also used
  • IAU Minor Planet Center – observations
  • JPL Center for Near Earth Object Studies – high precision NEO orbits, impact predictions
  • ESA Space Missions Planning Advisory Group – potential NEO deflection mission plans
  • Impact of small asteroid 2022 EB5 – March 11, 2022
  • U.S. Interagency Tabletop Exercise – 6 month warning time
  • 30,000 NEAs found so far
  • NEO Surveyor – new infrared space telescope being developed by NASA
  • Characterizing asteroids using infrared and radar
  • Asteroid Deflection
    • Gravity tractor
    • Nuclear explosion
    • Kinetic Impact – DART mission tested technique on Didymous/Dimorphos system
      • Change the orbital period
      • Autonomous navigation needed
      • Many ground-based observatories observed impact and resultant changes to Dimorphos
      • LICIACube satellite imaged the whole mission
  • Questions and discussion

2023 RASC Calendars – email Lauri Roche to reserve a copy

Astronomy Cafe – Oct 3, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Video transcript of the meeting

  • DART spacecraft impact – Kelly Fast, presenter for Oct 17th Astro Cafe- Jeff Pivnick
    • Last 2.5 minutes of mission
  • Astrophotos from the VCO – Reg Dunkley
    • Didymous – looks like Albert Einstein
    • Had an MIC training session with poor attendance. We need a couple more sessions scheduled longer in advance.
      • Operating the telescopes and the observatory
      • All the equipment is working very well
      • Can also bring along a dSLR
    • David’s planetary imager was used to image the Io transit of Jupiter over the Great Red Spot – LRGB channels – 40,000 frames
    • Couldn’t get Registax to work, so used AstroSurface software
    • We are now allowed to have up to 15 members, 3 in VCO wearing a mask with new protocols in place
  • Astrophotos – Brock Johnston
    • Io transit of Jupiter over the Great Red Spot
    • 4700mm of focal length
    • Saturn – Sep 25th
    • Jupiter – GRS on the edge
    • Using AstroSurface – uses R-L deconvolution and wavelets
    • Links to weather conditions and forecasts – Jetstream & ClearDarkSky for Victoria & Upper Winds
  • Imaging using the Plaskett – Dan Posey
    • Just past imaging session happened on Sep 30th
    • gPrime & rPrime – good for imaging emission nebulae
    • Next Plaskett sessions: Oct 29, Dec 22
    • Can have up to two people with Dan in the control room
    • No updates on the new camera, which will be about 20′ wide and more square FOV. Jim Hesser expects the camera replacement will take months, but it is progressing.
    • Imaging done: Cocoon, Stephan’s Quintet, North America and Dumbbell nebula
    • Cruise tour of 30 crashed into the dome – thanks to Dan for interrupting the imaging – Lauri
  • SIGs – David Lee
    • Beginner’s SIG this Tuesday
    • Electronically-assisted Astronomy this Thursday
  • Sky Brightness Survey – David Lee
    • Consolidation and cleanup of the data is progressing
    • Project meetings on Tuesday 7:00-7:30PM and Wednesday 7:00-8:00PM evenings with the team
    • David will show some graphics depicting the data and problems
    • Need some people who are colour blind to participate
    • Does Jupiter skew the dark sky readings? Bill Weir
    • About half the volunteers were new to SQM measurements, the others had done
    • How about taking more readings during New Moon in October? – maybe
  • 2023 RASC Calendars – Lauri Roche
    • Place an order – email Lauri
    • No up-front payment required
    • See the RASC website for information about the 2023 calendar. We anticipate the cost will be similar to last year which was $15 each; this is a considerable savings over ordering directly from the RASC eStore
  • Future of Hubble – Chris Gainor
    • 13 years since last servicing mission
    • 535 kms above Earth, so good until 2036-37
    • NASA and SpaceX may use a Dragon spacecraft to boost Hubble into a higher orbit – 6 month technical study
    • Polaris flights being privately funded for next year to high orbit – a second flight might be used to boost Hubble
    • Chris’ Space Review article – NASA-SpaceX study opens final chapter for Hubble Space Telescope
  • Bill Weir
    • Vixen 114mm Newtonian telescope donation
      • Parabolic mirror, good quality optics
      • Two school programs might want to use this telescope – Lauri
    • Sidewalk astronomy at Metchosin Market
  • Next Astro Cafe is in 2 weeks on Oct 17th

Astronomy Cafe – Sep 26, 2022

Posted by as Astro Cafe

Transcript video of the meeting

  • Sky Brightness Survey – David Lee
    • Most data sheets have been received from the volunteers
    • Readings taken in the region last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday
    • Marjie & Susan – a great experience
    • Possibly another round of data collection will be needed next month to catch missing readings
    • Lauri & Brenda – very interesting to measure the areas, app delivered higher (better) readings than the SQM, Island View Beach is very dark but some urban glow
    • John McDonald – different smart phones would probably deliver different readings from the app due to different camera configurations
    • Dave Payne – Possibly calibrate the app to the SQMs
    • Les Welch – the nature of the lighting determines the light pollution level
    • Bill Weir – SQM at Mt. Kobau was 21.8, yet it was very poor seeing due to smoke and other sky obscuration
  • Astrophotos – Brock Johnson
  • Visual Observing – Bill Weir
    • Jupiter & Saturn – great detail visible last night just before midnight
  • Astrophotography SIG – Dave Payne
    • Meeting this Wednesday
    • SIG members will be showing their work regularly at Astronomy Cafe
  • Samantha Jewett, Education and Outreach Coordinator, RASC National
    • Planning stage for 2022-23 in-reach and outreach
    • In-reach
      • Visits to Centres by Samantha and Phil
      • Attend major star parties
      • Robotic Telescope Project
        • 2022 data release on Oct 1st
        • New projects and volunteers
        • Citizen science research group
    • Outreach
      • Tour the Night Sky – Zoom nights for members
      • NOVA – material to centres by end of October – David Lee & Lauri Roche are already hosts
      • High school groups
        • robotic telescope operating and data available
        • astrophotography as well as data acquisition
      • Insider’s Guide to the Galaxy hosted by Chris Vaughan
        • Zoom & Youtube
      • Creating Resources 
        • Beginners
        • Short-form on social media
        • Families & under 12 activities
        • Shared with centres
      • Public Events
        • Solar sidewalk outside National office
        • Trade shows
        • Star parties
        • Solar Eclipses in 2023 and 2024
          • Eclipse glasses
          • Education materials for centres
      • Education & Public Outreach
      • World Asterisms Project by Charles Ennis
      • Astronomy software training by Blake Nancarrow
      • GA 2023 
        • Early May online
        • Separate from the AGM
    • 2023 RASC Calendars available for order on Oct 1st – contact Lauri
    • Send local event information to national to publicize
    • Observers Handbook
      • Coming directly from publisher this year
      • Members should review your address – go to rasc.ca and click on “Log in”
  • Young astronomers – Lauri Roche
    • School Astronomy Clubs  at Oak Bay (forming), Mt. Doug (forming), Vic High (in place
  • NASA’s DART small spacecraft crashed into small asteroid Dimorphos today – Bill Weir
  • Fall Fairfield Fair – Reg Dunkley
    • 400 people came by our table
    • Observing the Sun through the Solar scope was popular
    • Thanks to the volunteers
  • Donating telescopes – Bill Weir & Samantha Jewett
    • Pearson College is receiving a vintage Questar telescope donation from an estate
    • Telescopes can also be donated to National’s Dorner Telescope Museum
  • Nanaimo’s Day of Reconciliation – Janeane
    • Nanaimo Astronomy will be there this Friday

President’s Message – July 2022

Posted by as President's Message

Randy Enkin - Luna Cognita
Randy Enkin – Luna Cognita

The first science images from the James Webb Space Telescope were released to huge fanfare last week. I’m not surprised that my social media was filled with the news, commentary, analysis, and silly memes. My favourite is the melding of Van Gogh’s Starry Night into the SMACS 0723 galaxy cluster. What surprised me was how much the images caught on with the general public. The images are indeed beautiful, and the public relations teams know how to get the message right. But there is a clearly a desire, a fascination to follow the story of this telescope and its potential.

I used to be “the general public”. When they went to the moon during the Apollo missions, I realized I had to learn all I could about astronomy. Most importantly, I decided to become a scientist. And through good fortune and a fair amount of work, I got to make a career as a research scientist – in geology rather than in astronomy, but my fascination with astronomy never left.

Is astronomy important? I really don’t know. But science and science literacy certainly is, and quite possibly the James Webb Space Telescope will attract the general public to find out more. People will look at the beautiful images and ask what is going on. They will learn about how 30 years of science and engineering went into producing the images. They will find out about the scientific edifice which has built up over millennia to place the new research in context.

The first batch of images masterfully span the range of subjects that the space telescope will research: the birth of stars, the death of stars, the structure of galaxies, and the early universe. The fifth image, or actually spectrum, reveals an application that could only have been dreamed of when the
instrument was designed – composition of an exoplanet spectrum.

Exoplanet: WASP-96 B

They weren’t even sure that exoplanets could be located when the space telescope was first designed.
We amateur astronomers get to play an important role as more space telescope data get released. Let’s keep up with the research and help our wider community understand what it means. Let’s help with outreach events whenever possible. Let’s do astronomy.

Astro Cafe Logo

On that note, the Victoria Centre Astro Café went virtual for two years. It was a tonic to our isolated lives during the worst of the covid-19 pandemic. Many thanks to Chris Purse and Joe Carr for their devoted work to keep Astro Café up and running so well! In May, we ran our first attempts at hybrid meetings, in person at the Fairfield Community Centre and online over Zoom. The response has been very positive, and we will continue the hybrid Astro Café format every Monday evening (except statutory holidays) at 19:30 starting September 12. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS. The roles are not onerous, but they are essential. Each evening we will need a host and a tech. Please be brave. Please be generous.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President@Victoria.RASC.ca

President’s Message – June 2022

Posted by as President's Message

This week, the citizens of the Earth were given a wonderful present. The Gaia Data Release 3 was publicized at 9 UT, June 13. And yes I was awake at 2 in the morning to watch the event. The Gaia satellite has been mapping 2 billion (!!!) points of lights in the sky – stars, galaxies, quasars, and solar system objects. They are measuring positions, distances, motions, colours, and spectra. For an Astro Café talk I prepared about the Gaia Data Release 2, I displayed a plot of the number and angular precision of catalogued stars. From the Hipparchus’ catalog of 1000 stars in 150 BCE to the best Earth-based collections from last century, there was a continuous but slow improvement. But with space-based measurements over the last 20 years, the catalogs have improved by orders of magnitude! And Gaia should continue collecting data through to 2025 to continue this trend.

Gaia Data Release 3 - group photo
Gaia Data Release 3 – group photo

The branch of amateur astronomy pejoratively labeled “armchair astronomy” sounds very passive, but we delight in the personal journey to discovery, which the professional astronomers afford us by collecting and analysing these extreme data sets. One of my passions is following the trajectory of knowledge from the early astronomical observations to the present. For example, I love to learn how the first stellar spectra measured in the 19th century led to Annie Jump Cannon’s stellar classifications (Only Bad Astronomers Forget Generally Known Mnemonics), leading to the Hertzsprung-Russell colour-magnitude diagram, and further leading to amazing insights such as the age of stars. And now such analyses can be extended to hundreds of millions of stars with the public release of the Gaia data.

The Gaia mission is akin to a gothic cathedral. It is a huge edifice, erected with major societal investment that was accomplished by many, many ordinary people who each do their small part. This edifice is a public good which inspires, and makes us bigger and better human beings.

Look Up,
Randy Enkin, President
(email)