2020-2021 Astronomy Cafe transcript videos and meeting notes.

During the COVID-19 outbreak we suspended in-person meetings of Astro Café, in favour of online meetings. Please find below an archive of the presentations from March to June 1st, 2020.


Aussie Astronomers Discover Missing Matter contributed by Mike Webb

Using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope Australian Astronomers analyzed the signal from a number of Fast Radio Bursts. They noted that some frequencies arrive sooner than others and used that to estimate the density of normal matter that is too cold to emit light. Check out the story here.


Weekly Observing Highlights prepared by Chris Purse


More imagery from Edmonton Centre relayed by Dave Robinson

Arnold Rivera continues to put his Celestron RASA8 to good use by capturing a stunning image of Comet C/2017 T2(PanStarrs) as it whizzed by galaxies M81 and M82 in Ursa Major. Also included is an image of Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN) in Perseus.

From Arnold Rivera May 24 Equipment: Celestron RASA8, ZWO ASI294MC Pro
on SkyWatcher EQ6R Pro, tracked, unguided
Comet C/2020 F8 (SWAN): 2020 05 24 074711UT 16mins, 47 subs

John Kulczycki captured an image of a waxing crescent moon on May 26th. John managed to capture crater details in this hand held exposure! It is interesting to compare this image to the one by Mike Nash also taken on May 26th using lucky imaging. It is a contrast of two techniques.

Canon 7D MarkII, Canon 100-400mm F4.5-5.6 Zoom MarkII, Canon 1.4 Extender MarkIII, Shutter speed 1/200 sec. Aperture F8 ISO 6400 (Auto ISO by Camera) Exposure comp +2/3 stop IS on Autofocus= AI Servo
Polarizing filter Hand held, single shot Cropped from Raw


A beautiful sequence of Lunar images from Mike Nash

Victoria Centre RASCal Mike Nash has captured three beautiful images of the Moon on the nights of May 26th, 27th and 28th. It is fun to compare the evolution of shadows on the various lunar features from night to night. Check out the links below.

May 26th https://www.astrobin.com/full/f1q00j/0/?nc=WestCoastCannuck&real=&mod=

May 27th https://www.astrobin.com/full/2audif/0/?nc=WestCoastCannuck&real=&mod=

May 28th https://www.astrobin.com/full/228qys/0/?nc=WestCoastCannuck&real=&mod=


The UVic Open House Presentation for Wednesday May 27 at 7:30PM

For the Open House presentation this week (7:30pm, Wednesday, May 27), Jonathan Ranallo (3rd year astronomy undergrad at UVic) will be presenting the history of the Apollo program, including how the Mercury and Gemini missions were used to build up the technology and skills needed for Apollo. He will also provide an summary of the Russian efforts to get to the Moon. It’s a topic that really interests him, and he had done a lot of research on it over the years. He says he really enjoys doing a presentation on it.

The zoom guest link (with password embedded) is:

Meeting ID: 971 7323 6268
Password: 554555


Weekly Observing Highlights thanks to Chris Purse


Images from Edmonton Centre relayed by Dave Robinson

Denis Boucher writes:
Above: Here is a very quick shot of M61 with SN (2020jfo discovered May 5th by Zwicky Transient Facility).
As it was my first time imaging with the refractor, I did not spend much time focusing these for better result.
Below: M13, taken with WO 132mm F7 using ASI0178, no corrector. PHD2, APT, Guide9.
DSS, Corel Photoshop pro, very little processing (noise and slight brightness and contrast)
Picture saved with settings applied.
Sun Halos by Janey


Web Offerings this week from RASC National

On Tuesday May 26th we’ll be joined once again by special guest Paul Owen for part two of the Intermediate Astrophotography section on Insider’s Guide to the Galaxy!
The session will run from 6:30 to 8:00 P.M. PDT and will cover how to best take those most sought-after deep sky object photos. If you missed part one, no worries, the session is up on the RASCANADA YouTube channel for you to get caught up! Intrigued? Registration is only a few clicks away:


On Wednesday May 27th we’ll be hosting a watch party for the historic launch of the first ever commercial space crew. This will be one for the ages. The Crew Dragon (constructed by SpaceX) will be carrying two Astronauts into orbit from American soil for the first time since the shuttle program at precisely 4:33 P.M. EDT. If you want to hang out, chat about space travel, and witness the humongous leaps and bounds of space exploration before your very eyes, feel free to stop by. The party will be hosted in the RASC Facebook group, so sign up now if you haven’t already!



Interesting Interview with Martin Rees recommended by Jim Hesser

Fraser Cain intervews the Astronomer Royal Martin Rees on the Future of Humanity in this YouTube video.

Jim also alerted us to that UVic’s Cafe Scientifique has gone online and has a number of presentations involving astronomy.


UVic Wednesday Evening Zoom Sessions: An Invitation from Karun

Karun Thanjavur from UVic Astronomy has invited you to an interesting series of Zoom Webinars which occur every Wednesday evening at 7:30PM.

Zoom joining details:
Karun Thanjavur is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Summer 2020: Observatory Open House
Time: May 13, 2020 07:30 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Every week on Wed, until Aug 26, 2020, 16 occurrence(s)
May 27, 2020 07:30 PM
Jun 3, 2020 07:30 PM
Jun 10, 2020 07:30 PM
Jun 17, 2020 07:30 PM
Jun 24, 2020 07:30 PM
Jul 1, 2020 07:30 PM
Jul 8, 2020 07:30 PM
Jul 15, 2020 07:30 PM
Jul 22, 2020 07:30 PM
Jul 29, 2020 07:30 PM
Aug 5, 2020 07:30 PM
Aug 12, 2020 07:30 PM
Aug 19, 2020 07:30 PM
Aug 26, 2020 07:30 PM
Please download and import the following iCalendar (.ics) files to your calendar system.
Weekly: https://zoom.us/meeting/tJMscOqqrT0oHNzGJc9UK2uWYY_R-1Zb8xUK/ics?icsToken=98tyKuCvrzwpGNeTsh-PRowEBY_Cb-rztiFBgo1HuzXmWhV4MBbBD9t9AP8uKtqI

Join Zoom Meeting

Meeting ID: 971 7323 6268
Password: 554555


Mercury and Venus put on an evening show

John McDonald from his lofty nest and David Lee amongst the forest trees captured this 1.9 degree approach of Mercury and Venus on May 22nd.

David writes: I waited until both Mercury and Venus approached the treeline and took this picture as a parting shot. The planet parade has been amazing for the past couple of months with early morning views of Mars, Saturn and Jupiter and now with Venus soon to fade in to the horizon line at dusk. Venus won’t be seen for a little over a month. Then you will be able to catch it rising in the east at dawn.
Camera: Nikon Z with FTZ adapter Lens: Nikkor 300/4 AFS with TC 1.4x Convertor (effective 420mm)
Sensor ISO: 400 Exposure: 1/15 second at f/6.3 Processing: Adobe Photoshop CC 2020
Conjunction of Venus and Mercury on May 22, 2020 when they were less than 2 degrees apart. Hand held Canon Ra camera witih image stabalized 300 mm lens. Exposure – 1/50 sec at f/4 and ISO 800.


And Then there were 15 Crescents! by John McDonald

Venus crescent taken over a 30 day period shows the thinning and increasing size as the planet moves toward inferior conjunction when it is closest to earth. Dates April 18, 20, 23, 25, 27, 29, May 2, 5, 7. 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, and 18, 2020. Location, Ross Place, Victoria BC ZWO ASI120MM-s camera on Williams Optics 105mm.; Best 15 to 20% of 1000 to 2000 frames taken with SharpCap and processed in ACR and Photoshop.


And From the Morning Sky: Images from David Lee

David has been watching the trio of planets Mars, Saturn and Jupiter on clear mornings for past few weeks. Here we see Saturn and Jupiter floating above a neighbour’s rooftop.
Camera: Nikon Z6 Lens: Nikkor Z 24-70/4 set at 70 Sensor ISO: 800
Exposure: 20 seconds at f/8 Tracking: Sky Watcher Star Adventurer
David Writes: As the sky brightened further I switched to my refractor. The waning crescent at dawn offered many familiar and favourite features as noted by the annotations, with the exception of two which Randy observed on the same morning. I’m adding two new craters Deslandres and Maginus to my favourites.


Weekly Observing Highlights by Chris Purse


Planet Nein … Dr. Samatha Lawler relayed by Jim Hesser

An interesting article on Dr. Samatha Lawler who has presented her argument at the Victoria Centre Monthly Meetings.



And then there were Eleven: The Venus Series Continues by John McDonald

Venus crescent taken over a 21 day period shows the thinning and increasing size as the planet moves toward inferior conjunction when it is closest to earth. Dates April 18, 20, 23, 25, 27, 29, May 2, 5, 7, 8 and 10 2020. Location, Ross Place, Victoria BC ZWO ASI120MM-s camera on Williams Optics 105mm.; Best 15 to 20% of 1000 to 2000 frames taken with SharpCap and processed in ACR and Photoshop.


Contributions from Edmonton Centre relayed by Dave Robinson

Courtesy of Alister Ling on May 9th 12:15 pm
The wide shot is from a video with a wide angle zoom at about 22 mm
The closeup is a single frame from a video with a 40 mm lens


A New Type of Celestial Body Has Been Discovered!

A new kind of celestial body has been discovered! These apparently round disks have been found roaming the cosmos in abundance and have been given the unofficial name Cookies. They are about 30 cm in diameter, which isn’t that large compared to other celestial bodies, but it is quite large for a cookie.
They appear to come from a mixture of substances which, when brought together and somewhat forcefully fused together, will form what is called a protocookie. When the environment is hot enough, The protocookie will begin ingredient fusion, and expand to become a cookie. When they are newly formed, they glow in the infrared spectrum, but as they age and gradually tend toward their vacuum temperature, they emit microwave and later radio waves.
The cookies pictured above are rare supergiant cookies, but more common cookies are giant, sub giant, main sequence cookies, and the most abundant type of cookie, dwarf cookies. Unlike stars, supergiant cookies tend to live the longest. Dwarf cookies usually fall into black holes within seconds. Main sequence cookies about a minute. Supergiant cookies can take up to an hour to be fully destroyed by a black hole. Sometimes a black hole will fail to consume an entire supergiant cookie and continues it in about a day.
No cookie has ever been seen to survive more than two days, but it is hypothesized that any cookie can survive for months before taking their slower fate, in which their colour changes to blue and they decay into elementary bits. When this phase happens, they never fall into black holes. Anyway, we will keep studying these mysterious objects in the hope that it will provide us will useful scientific information*
*it won’t
Clear skies, Nathan


This Weeks Viewing Highlights by Chris Purse


Stunning Lunar Images by Mike Nash

I encourage you to click on the following links to enjoy the beautiful lunar images obtained by Mike Nash using lucky imaging with a SkyWatcher ED 120mm Refractor and ZWO ASI 183MM camera.

Taken April 27th 2020: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-w8mZkgq/0/cdb27caf/O/i-w8mZkgq.jpg

Taken April 29th 2020: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-g6LJmQw/0/1a1a19de/O/i-g6LJmQw.jpg

Mosaic Taken April 29th 2020 using 1.5X Antares Barlow: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-BGch2Gv/0/872d740c/O/i-BGch2Gv.jpg

Taken November 30 2018 Imaging lens:Minolta AF 400mm F4.5 HS APO G
Imaging camera:Sony A77ii Focal reducers:Kenko 3X Teleplus Pro , Minolta 1.4X Teleconverter Software:Adobe lightroom 6 , Autostakkert 3.0 14 , Microsoft ICE 2 , PIPP X64 v2.5.9: https://www.astrobin.com/full/h2tcqz/0/?nc=WestCoastCannuck&real=&mod=


Some More Edmonton Centre Images courtesy of Dave Robinson

By Arnold Rivera – May 1
Supernova SN2020fqv in NGC4568 Siamese Twins using AStrophysics AT8RC with ZWOASI74MM camera
Single unprocessed photo. This Supernova was discovered on March 31 2020 by Zwicky Transient Facility
Same as above with 46 frames: SN 2020fqv (in NGC 4568), 23 mins, 46 frames:Magnitude: ~16.0
By Aabdur Anwar: Plato 2 images May 1 2020 using Old Gray C8 with Fiji XT2 video 600 frames out of 6000 stacked in AS3
Above: Wide shot
Below: Closeup of Plato notice crater lets in the floor of Plato


Randy’s Red Dot Finder Gadget for his Camera


More Information on Starlink Constellation from Jim Hesser

Last Monday Jim Hesser attended an online meeting regarding the impact of the Starlink Constellation on Optical and Infrared Astronomy. Jim shared a link that enables one to view the slides presented at the meeting. It was at this meeting the Elon Musk shared details of VisorSat that may help reduce the brightness of the Starlink Satellites. https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/04-27-2020/decadal-survey-on-astronomy-and-astrophysics-2020-astro2020-light-pollution-rfi-meeting

Jim also recommends Gwendolyn Eadie’s outstanding Milky Way talk on last week’s Cosmos from your Couch? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zix99wn6f0


This Weeks Viewing Highlights provided by Chris Purse

From skynews.ca
From Sky and Telescope


A taller and slimmer Venus: A series by John McDonald

Venus crescent taken over a 6 day period shows the thinning and increasing size as the planet moves toward inferior conjunction when it is closest to earth. Dates April 18, 20 23 and 25, 2020. Location, Ross Place, Victoria BC ZWO ASI120MM-s camera on Williams Optics 105mm.; Best 200% of 1000 to 2000 frames taken with SharpCap and processed in ACR and Photoshop.


More Edmonton Centre Imagery relayed by Dave Robinson

A nice image of Comet Y1(ATLAS) taken on April 20th by Arnold Rivera using his RASA 8 inch Celestron (30 subs 30 sec each) Y1(ATLAS) was discovered on December 16th, 2019. Go to this interesting link to learn more: https://www.universetoday.com/145386/following-comet-y1-atlas-the-lost-comet-of-spring/
Arnold bagged another comet on April 20th: Comet C/2019 Y4(ATLAS) which was also recently captured by Martin Gisborne and featured in Virtual Astro Cafe. The orange star is 36 Camelopadais.

Thin crescent moon with trees by Denis Boucher on April 24 near Lake Wabamun 1 hr NW of Edmonton
M81 by Denis Boucher on April 24th near Lake Wabamun using 8” Celestron at f7, Canon D850 10 X 30 sec. M82 is just outside the image. Denis said he thought he visually saw Holmberg 14, a small galaxy to the lower right of M81not visible in this image.
Arnold Rivera’s image of M81 and M82 showing Holmberg 14. This is a very deep image, showing stars to 18th mag. Holmberg is the 14th mag blue spot lower right of M 81. Note if you scroll down to Garry Sedun’s image of M81 you can also see Holmberg 14.


Compelling evidence courtesy of Dave Robinson’s daughter Tori.


This Weeks Observing Links provided by Chris Purse


Stunning Images of M81 and M82 from Garry Sedun using his 20 Inch Newtonian

Garry writes: M81 and M82 are a pair of galaxies in Ursa Major. M81(above) is truly a nice looking galaxy, one my favourites. It’s about half the size of our galaxy at about 90,000 light years in diameter. That’s still a lot of kilometers (miles). Notice the many pink star-forming areas around perimeter of the galaxy. For you image processors out there I hard time getting to core dust lanes to show up. It required some tricky moves with image stretching. John McDonald and Dan Posey gave me good advice on this one.
Garry Writes: Messier 82 (above) is pretty cool. It’s about five times more luminous than our whole Milky Way and has a center one hundred times more luminous than our galaxy’s center. This is because it had an encounter with M81 about five hundred million years ago which resulted in a lot of gas being funneled into M82’s core. This partially explains the large red 10,00 light year long jets shooting up and down from the galaxy. M81 and M82 are tidally locked together and in a few billion years only one will remain. For you image processors out there this image was created from poor data due to several technical and environmental issues and hopefully I’ll have better data next year.


More Edmonton Centre Images: by the kindness of Dave Robinson

The Peach Moon below, was taken by Alister Ling who writes: Luca and I went to the NW Yellowhead and Henday cloverleaf to catch this rise last night.
Lots of atmospheric turbulence and red flash refraction effects! The squashed shape due to refraction and the red flash at the bottom of the moon are obvious.

Arnold Rivera captured the images above and below using his amazing Schmidt Camera. Taken at the Blackfoot Staging area near Elk Island Park before the Province closed the site due to Corona.
Arnold notes: “Celestron RASA8 on SkyWatcher EQ6R-Pro; ZWO ASI294MC Pro (cooled one-shot colour camera); processed in DeepSkyStacker and PixInsight.30 subs at 60sec each
The nebula was discovered on 5 September 1784 by Sir William Herschel. It consists of the following components:
Cygnus Loop (Veil Nebula)
Western Veil (NGC 6960, Caldwell 34) is the western segment..
The foreground bright star is 52 Cygni.
Central Veil (NGC 6974 and 6979) and Pickering’s Triangle;
Eastern Veil (NGC6992 & 6995, IC 1340, Caldwell 33)”
Eastern portion of the above.


Don’t miss Mallory Thorpe’s “Clash of Galaxies”: Recommended by Jim Hesser

Mallory Thorpe from UVic delivered a most interesting, entertaining and informative presentation entitled “Clash of Galaxies” which is found between 57 minutes and 1 hour 22 minutes on the following YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7x7ur25qkrQ This “Nerd Night” feature that was recently streamed on Zoom. Check it out.


Sunset over the Sea of Tranquility: Sketches by Randy Enkin

Randy sketched the Sea of Tranquility on April 12th
From NASA Science Visualization Studio
Shadows descend on the Sea of Tranquility on April 13th
From NASA Science Visualization Studio


Early Morning Parade of the Planets by David Lee

On Tuesday David writes: Today the Moon was starting to get closer to the trio. In spite of the cloudy conditions the planets were sufficiently bright to burn through the cloud cover. Tomorrow weather willing the Moon will be centred beneath the three planets, visually below Saturn. By Thursday the Moon will be visually past Mars.
Camera: Nikon Z6 Lens: Nikkor Z 24-70/4 set at 50mm Sensor ISO: 800 Exposure: 2 seconds at f/5
Processing: Adobe Photoshop CC 2020
Day 2 of this sequence. The sky was hazy and the Moon had moved to its position underneath Saturn. David could hear the birds waking and the air was crisp. Camera: Nikon Z6 Lens: Nikkor Z 24-70/4 set at 50mm (additional cropping) Sensor ISO: 800 Exposure: 1/2 second at f/4
The last day of the sequence. Fortunately Dave didn’t have to leave the neighbourhood. The apparent movement of the Moon against the background of the planets was a wonderful thing to witness this week. The only downside is the time of day:-).
Camera: Nikon Z6 Lens: Nikkor Z 24-70/4 set at 68mm (cropped) Sensor ISO: 800 Exposure: 1 second at f/5


This Weeks Observing Links provided by Chris Purse


Montage of the Quarter Moon by John McDonald

Image of the quarter Moon in the morning. 2020-04-13 from Ross Place Victoria Central image taken with Canon Ra on Williams Optics 105mm reftactor. Black and White surrounding images taken with ZWO ASI120MM-s camera on Williams Optics 105mm. Best 200 of 1000 frames taken with SharpCap and processed in ACR and Photoshop. Additional images can be seen at https://rascvic.zenfolio.com/p1028029664/he7579e1d#he7579e1d


Weekly Viewing Highlights from Chris Purse

Chris shared these observing highlight links for the week.




Rod and Glynis Have Halos

While Rod and Glynis Miller were out walking in Dean Park they witnessed excellent examples of 22 degree halos around the Sun that are formed by ice crystals suspended in the upper atmosphere … or possibly in the lower atmosphere if you live in the Edmonton area:) Click here for more info.


A nice Moon shot by John McDonald

A nearly full moon taken from Ross Place in downtown Victoria on April 5th 2020. Williams Optics 105mm on Orion AVX mount with Canon Ra camera. Exposure 1/640 sec at ISO 200. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw.


The Conjunction of Venus and the Pleiades

The rendezvous of Venus with the Pleiades generated considerable interest and enjoyment for Victoria Centre RASCals. A big thanks to the many who shared their images over a period of 4 nights. Since most of these images have already been shared on the Victoria RASC distribution list it would be redundant to place them here. A parade of these images may take place during the Monday night Astro Cafe Webinar.


RASC National Homebound Astronomy Series: from David Lee

David Lee viewed the first two Homebound Astronomy webinars hosted by Jenna Hinds and Chris Vaughan from RASC National. They cover Stellarium and a scavenger hunt using the software. David found it quite informative from the point of view of how to use the software for specific tasks like observation and photography planning to seeing how the sky looks in other areas of the world. They are available on YouTube at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/user/RASCANADA/videos


More Images from the Edmonton Centre: Relayed by Dave Robinson

Alister Ling captures light pillars due to ice crystals. Taken @ 7:30 am April 2
For April very cold in Edmonton!! Close to minus 20 C
Alister Ling Captures Comet C2019 Y4 (ATLAS) together with NGC 2403 (Caldwell 7)
on April 2nd with 100 mm lens at ISO 800 f6.3 (49 – 1 min subs)
Arnold Rivera captured Venus approaching the Pleiades on April 2nd with a 600mm lens.


Black Hole Warnings: from Reg Dunkley

Many of the RASCal contributions have inspired further exploration. I have included some related links that I found to be of interest and I have added them to some of the contributions. As a warning, however, these explorations can swallow time and become temporal black holes. Heed the Black Hole Warnings: Enter at your own risk.


The Jellyfish Nebula: from Garry Sedun

The Jellyfish Nebula, IC443 is located in Gemini at a distance of ~5000 light years. Garry captured this image with his 20 inch Newtonian reflector using reg, green, blue and Hydrogen Alpha filters. Garry’s comments are included below the images.

Black Hole Warning: Garry’s beautiful images have been rotated so that they match the orientation of an image that is discussed in the the following link . The processes that may be driving this nebula are explored.

Jellyfish Nebula, LBRG with Ha as the L channel. This one was pretty hard to process since the “hook” of the nebula, upper right, tended to saturate really quickly.
The Hydrogen Alpha Channel. Garry now understands why folks like imaging in narrowband. Look at the beautiful filament details.
PixInsight has a feature that can remove stars. Garry likes it better with stars, though, otherwise it
looks like someone’s bad hair day – nice detail though.


Lunar Sketch of Palus Putredinis: From Randy Enkin

Randy Enkin has included many features in this sketch including portions happy places like the Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity), the Lacus Felicitatis (Lake of Happiness), and the Lacus Gaudi (Lake of Joy). His primary target, however, was Palus Putredinis (Marsh of Decay) … resuming his theme of maudlin sketching choices.

Black Hole Warning: Randy’s sketches can serve as a gateway to further Lunar exploration. A link to an annotated image of the area has been included to compare to Randy’s sketch. If you compare the two you will realize that Randy has captured many details. Despite its name Palus Putredinis is a fascinating area that includes the landing spot of Apollo 15. This mission target was selected, in part, to place Apollo 15 just north of an elbow of the Hadley Rille, an intriguing meandering narrow channel. Two Rover EVA’s visited the edge of this channel. To learn more and see up close photos visit the following link: https://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/missions/apollo/apollo_15/photography/index.shtml#surface


Organic Compounds Dominate Composition of Arrokoth: From Marjie Welchframe

A refined image of Arrokoth obtained by NASA scientists in the following link provides compelling evidence that the Kuiper belt is populated by a vast quantity of organic compounds. This provides new insight into the origins of life. https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap200401.html


Questions from the Couch: From Jim Hesser

If you are feeling like a ‘Couch Potato” then you may be on the right wavelength to enjoy the latest offering from the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. They have created a program called Cosmos from the Couch which consists of a series of astronomy lectures that are available online. At 4PM PDT on Thursday April 2nd a panel of presenters will be available to answer your questions. Check it out at http://www.dunlap.utoronto.ca/public-outreach/couch-cosmos/


Randy Enkin’s Lunar sketch of Lacus Mortis (Lake of Death)

Black hole warning: To learn much more about this fascinating object follow the link: http://lunarnetworks.blogspot.com/2011/09/lroc-gathering-in-lacus-mortis.html

The Lacus Mortis and Caretr Burg are target #36 of the Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program.


George Andrew managed to catch these two images before the clouds rolled in.


Garry Sedun’s images of Orion and the Crab Nebula

Black Hole Warning: To learn more about what is going on under the veil of the Orion Nebula check out pages 4 and 5 the May 2017 issue of SkyNews

Theses images were captured using a 20 inch reflector at Garry Sedun’s Arizona observatory.
Garry writes: being a novice imager here is the obligatory Orion Nebula in LRGB. This turned out a little red but I left it that way since the PixInsight function that did the colour balance uses the surrounding stars to pick the colour balance.
And the Crab Nebula, M1: This is with SII mapped to Red, Ha mapped to the Green and OIII mapped to Blue, which is the Hubble Pallete.


Garry Sedun’s saga of his Arizona observatory renovation

I’ve had a wooden observatory with a steel roof now for a few years. It’s 30′ by 16′ and houses my 20″imaging scope and 25″ visual scope. Here it is with the roof rolled off:
All was fine until this happened! A careless worker started a grass fire half a mile from my house and thankfully the wind was blowing away from the house up here in the Dragoon Mountain Ranch, just east of St. David.  In total,  3,500 acres were burned but amazingly no one was hurt and no houses were destroyed.  Last year, lightning hit two spots next to a friend’s house and the ensuing flames got to within 10 feet of his observatory.  Yikes, time to start thinking about what would happen to my observatory in a fire! It’s not too hard to figure out; the walls would burn and the metal roof would fall onto the scopes.  Ouch!!
Time to do something about this risk. Thankfully a neighbour was tearing down a barn and gave me all the metal – enough beams and metal roofing to completely replace the wooden walls in my observatory.
Here is the metal roof being supported and the walls being replaced:
Here’s the steel framework all done.   It’s 15″ taller than the original structure.  I didn’t realize my scopes would stick up past the walls when I built the original structure. These large scope tubes act like sails even in the lightest winds.  I should get better images from now on since the scopes are now shielded from the wind.  All I had to buy were the main steel rails that the roof rolls on:
Here are the former roofing panels now being used for wall panels: The rails are painted white so they don’t rust over the summer. Everything will be painted next fall when I return. The inside will be black and the outside color has yet to be determined.
Here are the two scopes parked for the summer, the 20″:
And the 25″: I am truly am blessed to have these scopes, which I purchased at an estate sale in pieces. I finally have them working, most days. Now I can sleep soundly and not worry about any grass fires. In fact, it’s built so stoutly that’s where I’d head to if a tornado showed up here.



Another image of Orion Nebula in light polluted skies : by John McDonald

Sky glow from the light pollution forced John to resort to a series of relatively short 7.7 second exposures. John writes:

I have been trying to see what astro imaging is possible from the downtown location I now live in. The light pollution is such that I cannot see much visually but wondered if some deep sky imaging might be possible with the camera. The following image of the Orion Nebula is my best attempt so far and turned out to be much better than I expected.

Image details:
2020-03-17 from 8th floor Ross Place, Victoria.
Canon 6D camera with Hutec HEUIB II filter on Williams Optics 105mm scope with Orion AVX mount.
Exposure – 83 – 7.7sec exposures at ISO 3200 with 8 flats and 49 dark frames for calibration.
Processed in ImagesPlus and Photoshop.


You might enjoy Lunarcy! on the Knowledge Network

Dave Robinson thought Lunarcy! may be of interest to some Astro Cafe patrons. This documentary follows a group of disparate individuals who share one thing in common: they’ve all devoted their lives to the moon. It will appear on The Knowledge Network anthology Route 66 at 6 PM on Thursday March 26th and again at 12AM on Friday March 27th.


Some Interesting Links from Chris Purse

Observing Highlights:



Discover the Universe 

Bill had directed youth to part of this site but there are lots of resources especially for those interested in outreach. https://www.discovertheuniverse.ca/


This is the Canadian Space Agency AuroraMax site. It includes a sky camera in Yellowknife that operates during the hours of darkness each day. Another interesting site to explore: https://www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/default.asp


You Have to be Venus to Outshine a Blazing Sunset: from Susan Charnock

This Little Light of Mine
Let it Shine
Let it Shine
Let it Shine

These lovely photos were captured by Susan from beautiful Cox Bay near Tofino on March 15/16 2020 using her iPhone


Edmonton RASCals Drop By Virtual Astro Cafe: By the Kindness of Dave Robinson

Victoria Centre RASCals who don’t make it to Astro Cafe are unaware that we have been infiltrated by the Edmonton Centre. Dave Robinson, our Light Pollution Abatement Champion is also an Edmonton Centre Secret Agent. Almost every week he showcases beautiful images taken by Edmonton Centre RASCals or provides a progress report on their epic telescope project. Dave continued his mission this week and dropped off some images just before the Astro Cafe would have normally opened its doors.

These images often feature the Edmonton skyline and the following link does not disappoint. On the Spring Equinox Edmonton sky scrapers acquired a “Stonehenge Quality”. https://www.flickr.com/photos/53851348@N05/49689623092/

The following photos were taken by Arnold Rivera. The deep sky images were acquired using a relatively new style of telescope, an 8 inch Celestron RASA (Rowe-Ackerman-Schmidt Astrograph). It is a very fast f/2 scope that delivers a wide flat field free of optical aberrations. Arnold used a ZWO ASI294MC Pro camera, SkyWatcher EQ6R-Pro mount and an Astronomik CLS CCD filter

NGC7000 (North America Nebula) and a portion of IC5070 (Pelican Nebula) (15 mins, 30subs)
Messiers 81/82, NGC3077, NGC2976 (39 mins, 30 subs)
Orion with Canon 60DA 50mm f 1.4 @ ISO 3200, 1 -x 2. Minute sub —- SQM read 21.97 @Blackfoot


Randy Enkin shares lunar sketches of The Marsh of Epidemics

Early in the morning of Tuesday March 18, the Moon was 2.2 days after the 3rd quarter (Q3+2.2). Checking the NASA Scientific Visualization Studio (https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/4768), Randy realized that this would be the perfect time to explore target 108 of the Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program (https://www.rasc.ca/isabel-williamson-lunar-observing-program): Palus Epidemiarum – The Marsh of Epidemics. It seems like an appropriate reflection on what we are dealing with down here on Earth.
There are only three Paludes on the Moon:
Palus Epidemiarum, Marsh of Epidemics
Palus Putredinis, Marsh of Rot
Palus Somni, Marsh of Sleep
They were named by Julius Schmidt in 1878, who did all his selenology with a 6 inch f/15 refractor. Randy is often seen sketching with his trusty 6 inch reflector.


Image of Comet C2019 Y4 (ATLAS) capture by Martin Gisborne

Martin Gisborne who recently joined the Victoria Centre took a beautiful photo of Comet C2019 Y4 (ATLAS) from Maple Bay on March 20th when the apparent magnitude was about 14.7. It is expected to brighten to 4 by the end of May, of this year. The three bright stars, above the green-tinged comet, are sigma 1 & 2, and rho Ursae Majoris. Martin used a Meade 70mm Astrograph with a Nikon D850 on a Skywatcher Adventurer mount.
A 30 min exposure using 30 unguided light frames at 60secs (ISO 1600) and 24 flat frames and 17 dark frames. The image pre-processing in PixInsight with further nonlinear processing in Lightroom and Photoshop. Further information on the comet at: https://theskylive.com/c2019y4-info and https://cometchasing.skyhound.com/comets/2019_Y4.pdf

Dave Robinson relayed details from Alister Ling of the Edmonton Centre about the sighting opportunities in our area when it makes its closest approach in late May. There is potential that this may be a spectacular comet and it is generating considerable excitement. More details will be shared soon.


Jim Hesser announces that an encore production run of “Big Dipa”, a popular a double IPA beer brewed by Moon Under Water is now available. It was introduced in 2018 to the honour of the 100th anniversary of the Plaskett Telescope. They will deliver to your door for $5.


The Whale and the Hockey Stick: from Doug McDonald

Doug was able to get just over 6 hours during two clear nights of NGC 4631, the Whale, a nearly edge-on barred spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici, along with its companion, the “Pup”. He was also able to fit in NGC 4656/57, the so-called Hockey Stick or Crowbar galaxy, a member of the same group. It’s odd shape and tidal tail are thought to be due to tidal interactions with NGC 4631. Doug captured this image with his 5″ refractor using 330 subs of RGB data, with 8 subs of Ha to bring out the H2 regions.


What is an Orrery? by Barbara and Kurt Lane

It’s a mechanical model of the solar system used to demonstrate the motions of the planets about the Sun, probably invented by George Graham, a watch maker (d. 1751) under the patronage of Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery. In use for several centuries, the device was formerly called a planetarium. The orrery presents the planets as viewed from outside the solar system in an accurate scale model of periods of revolution.  The planets’ sizes and distances, however, are necessarily inaccurate. (source: https://www.britannica.com/science/orrery-astronomical-model)

One of the most famous orreries is this one at the British Museum in London

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/grand_tour/5976483794

And then there is this one! –  which is not quite so famous, and not quite so grand, but it is a lot closer. This is a time series film of Kurt Lane’s orrery which was a birthday present from Barbara. (Thanks Nathan for the idea of doing a time series.) And yes it has Pluto as a planet still.


David Lee recommends the documentary Cielo

Cielo is a cinematic reverie on the crazy beauty of the night sky, as experienced in the Atacama Desert, Chile, one of the best places on our planet to explore and contemplate its splendour. It appears on the Documentary Channel on Friday March 27 at 9pm PDT. You need to subscribe to the channel but the following promotional link is RASCal worthy. https://www.cbc.ca/documentarychannel/m/docs/cielo


Nathan’s Virtual Contribution

Cookies at Astro Cafe have become a critical component of the Victoria Centre Rascal diet. In order to thrive during this interlude of isolation you may want to consider Nathan’s example.


Mike Nash Shoots the Moon with his DSLR


Jim Hesser informs us that The second Dunlap Cosmos From Your Couch instalment live streams at 4PM PDT Thursday March 19:
Dark Energy and Dark Matter by Dr. Renée Hložek

Do you lie awake at night wondering what the difference is between dark matter and dark energy? Join Prof. Renée Hložek tonight for a talk about how they are different, how they change the Universe and why you should care about these exciting dark components of our cosmos! She’ll tell you not only about what they are and about some of the exciting telescopes we are building to discover the secrets of the Universe. Bring your cup or tea or cocktail, settle down and get ready to explore our exciting cosmos.

Jim Hesser also recommends Installment 1 by Mike Reid, Misconceptions About the Big Bang, is viewable at the following link (it starts at about 39 minutes in the recording): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOgPvLzwFWQ


Link to Discover the Universe for 8-12 year old audience from Bill Weir: March 18th

I’d like to add this link from the Discover the Universe folks. I’s a FREE daily 30minute stream on their YouTube page aimed at the 8-12 yr old set. https://www.discovertheuniverse.ca/post/astro-at-home
It will help them stay in touch with the sciences.


Followup image in light polluted skies by John McDonald: March 18th

This is my first attempt at a deep sky image from my new digs in light polluted downtown Victoria. I was not sure if the camera would see the nebula. The image is lacking in depth but has nice colour. details 2020-03-17 in calm clear air. Canon 6D camara with LPS filter on WO 105mm scope with Orion AVX mount. 6 – 2min exposures and 1 – 18sec at iso 200 with 6 darks for calibration. Processing in photoshop.


Urban imaging in light polluted skies by John McDonald March 16th

Having recently moved to a tower in the middle of a sea of light pollution in downtown Victoria I thought I would have to do all my deep sky imaging elsewhere. However, I am missing being able to do some imaging from home so have started to investigate the use of a light pollution filter. I have an SPS (light pollution suppression) filter from the Hutec company https://www.hutech.com/ that fits inside my Canon 6D so can be used with any lens or telescope. No filter can get rid of the effect of light pollution but it seemed like a good idea to see what it could do.
As a first test, I put the camera with its filter and 24 mm lens on a tripod and did some short exposures of the Orion Constellation. By doing a rough alignment and stacking combining 6 frames with 10 sec exposures at f/2.8 and iso 160 I got the following image. It is noisy and lacking detail as a result of only 1 min of total exposure but came out better than I expected for a sky in which I could barely see the constellation by eye.
Next, I will try doing some longer exposures with a tracker and telescope so if you live in polluted skies like me you might want to stay tuned.

From Your Astro Cafe Hosts ______________________________

One of these two pictures is a celestial phenomenon that was the subject of Dr. Tyrone Woods’ talk at last Wednesday’s monthly meeting (or as it is now know pandemic declaration day) while the other is a terrestrial phenomenon that is the subject of Dr Bonnie Henry’s daily talks.

The terrestrial phenomenon does share some of the attributes of the celestial, which is why we have invoked social distancing and changing from  in person Astro Cafe to Virtual Astro Cafe for the time being. As this quote from the New York Times explains.“Most countries only attempt social distancing and hygiene interventions when widespread transmission is apparent. This gives the virus many weeks to spread,” … with the average number of people each new patient infects higher than if the measures were in place much earlier, even before the virus is detected in the community.“By the time you have a death in the community, you have a lot of cases already,” said Dr. Mecher. “It’s giving you insight into where the epidemic was, not where it is, when you have something fast moving.” He added: “Think starlight. That light isn’t from now, it’s from however long it took to get here.”   (Dr Carter Mecher is a senior medical adviser for public health at the Department of Veterans Affairs and a former director of medical preparedness policy at the White House during the Obama and Bush administrations.)

So keeping looking up, but make sure you have washed your hands!

As there should be some clear evenings have a look at this week’s highlights:

SkyNews This Week’s Sky: March 16 – 22

Sky and Telescope: Sky at a Glance March 13 – 21

Here are some links to interesting sites that are worth exploring:

Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan (Montréal)

Virtual Museum of Canada: Canada under the stars