Thanks to all of the volunteers that made yesterday’s observatory opening a reality. The Mayors of Gibsons and Sechelt and Cam Reid, head of the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation were there as were Sechelt Councillors Darnelda Siegers and Darren Inkster, among other community leaders. RASC Vice President Chris Gainor was there to cheer us on. I know that the last six months have had members of the observatory team up nearly every weekend working hard. I know that this has dragged you away from your spouses and families. The volunteers that manned the information table and greeted visitors and set up canopies and directed traffic did a stellar job. We even had a black bear turn up to check out the festivities, though he left when he saw the crowd. About 60 people attended the ceremony. Past President Bill Clark was awarded a Founders Award for his service since 2004 when our club was founded.
There was some cloud at 2130 hours when the night viewing began but it gradually drifted away to the east and we got good views of the moon, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, M57, M13, M81, M51, and Mizar. Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne returned to view the skies with us and some members who hadn’t been able to attend the opening ceremony also turned up. Our Treasurer Bruce Fryer arrived with a group of young foreign visitors for last nights viewing session. One of them, a young Iranian male, came to me as we were approaching closing time and said:
“Thank you for the wonderful gift of this experience. I will never forget this evening.”
That statement was a wonderful gift for me and for all of us who created that experience.
Neil Sandy, who operated the telescope for visitors that evening, had this to report:
“I am pleased to say that our clubs 14 inch telescope and mounting worked flawlessly last night with excellent tracking and goto performance with most every object appearing right near the center of the eyepiece field.
“Although I had been on site prior to last night to familiarize myself with the hand controllers functions last night was really my first time using the telescope and the observatory under the nighttime sky. The building itself is a magnificent structure far beyond what I had foreseen as the final result way back when first proposed. The design, construction and finishing, inside and out, is all first class. The Solar panel and electrical system installation would put NASA to shame… The scope and mount are top quality.
“Having some enthusiastic first timers out last night really was fun. As Charles mentioned one of the visitors said as he departed that this was the best night of his life… and I could see he really meant it. Stepping out through the observatory door onto the deck is a wonderful experience. With the deck being elevated you stand just above the bush line so you are able to clearly hear all the sounds of nature around you. The sky is expansive from here, better than from the ground below and the stars form a canopy that stretches from horizon to horizon. I have always said that as much as I like to look
through a telescope the best view of all is just an open sky with just the naked eye. Last night was a great experience and with lots more to come. I truly hope that every member will come out at least once to experience it for themselves.
“Thanks to the observatory team and volunteers for making this all happen.”
You should be very proud of what you’ve accomplished.
You can check out more photos of the event here.
Charles Ennis, President
David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre reports that solar activity is “the weakest in 200 years”. “There is no scientist alive who has seen a solar cycle as weak as this one,” reports Andrés Munoz-Jaramillo of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass. Puzzled scientists are witnessing the sun’s oddest magnetic reversals on record.
Normally, the sun’s magnetic north and south poles change polarity approximately every 11 years. During a magnetic-field reversal, the sun’s polar magnetic fields weaken, drop to zero, and then emerge again with the opposite polarity. Douglas Biesecker at NASA’s Space Environment Center says that “the magnetic shift is notable only because it signals the peak of the solar maximum”. However this cycle the sun’s north magnetic pole reversed polarity more than a year ago, so it has the same polarity as the south pole.
“The delay between the two reversals is unusually long,” said solar physicist Karel Schrijver at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center in Palo Alto, Calif.
Scientists said they are puzzled, but not concerned, by the unusual delay. They expect the sun’s south pole to change polarity next month, based on current satellite measurements of its shifting magnetic fields.
Recently there has been an unexplained scarcity of sunspots. “It is not just that there are fewer sunspots,” says Dr. Schrijver, “But they are less active sunspots.” However, after months of quiescence, the sun has recently unleashed vast streams of charged particles into space five times in as many days last month, and flared again last week. Even so, these outbursts exhibited a fraction of the force of previous solar maximums.
Here are some photos by our member Bob Evermon, taken from his Skywatch from May 8 and June 23rd.
This morning we launched a Go Fund Me campaign on line to raise money for a warm room/classroom for the observatory. This will allow us to control the telescope and view the skies in comfort in cold weather and create a space to teach classes or greet tour groups. We figure $3000 should do the trick. You can check it out on line at: http://www.gofundme.com/xsc4g7b3
Only 4 days left until the grand opening of our observatory at Sechelt Airport on Saturday, 27 June! Set up volunteers will be at the gate at 1 PM. Gates open to guests and members at 3 PM. Parking is in the field across from the observatory. Ceremony starts at 4 PM. Solar scopes will be set up for viewing sun spots and solar flares. We’ll have coolers with water and sparkling water and an anniversary cake for the ceremony. After the opening ceremony wraps up members will adjourn for supper, and then at sunset we’ll return to run the observatory until midnight.
At 1 PM today we passed the District of Sechelt’s final building inspection: We are go for launch!
Today we received the signs for our observatory from Vital Signs and Graphics in Roberts Creek.
Attached is the image I took today. It isn’t the best capture, I was racing against the threat of cloud banks rolling in and almost missed the conical prominence that I had seen earlier. But I caught it! I stacked 100 images in Registrax and then adjusted level and colour in Photoshop. Take a look at the prominence, it is an impressive one. The other solar features are quite clear too. If the sun keeps this behavior up for a week or two you should all have some great public viewing at Hackett Park and Halfmoon Bay.
Weather permitting, the Sandy Hook Star Party starts at 7:30 PM on Saturday, July 18. The SCC RASC will set up solar scopes for viewing flares and sun spots. The night scopes will be set up by sunset at 9 PM at Tot Park (5916 Skookumchuk Rd) which is at the corner of Deerhorn Dr and Skookumchuk Rd (see map below). We encourage people to bring their own telescopes. If you don’t know how to use it, this is a good opportunity to find out how. Jupiter and Venus will be in a triangle with the crescent moon at sunset. Our president’s house is the other side of the empty lot from the park in case Centre members or residents need a washroom or refreshment. There is a new moon that night, so we’ll have dark sky for the event.
This is the second time we’ve held this event. If you’re bringing flashlights, please bring red lenses in order to preserve our night vision.