During the COVID-19 outbreak we have decided to suspend the in-person meetings of Astro Café, Instead, you are invited to share content via Reg Dunkley (president@victoria.rasc.ca) that will be posted on this page.


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/astropix.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