I jumped in the Coast Cable van with Steve and Brittany on Tuesday, April 26 and went to the Trottier Observatory at SFU, which is one year old this month. This is the home of the Vancouver Centre of the RASC now and the location of their star parties. We were met by Dr. Howard Trottier, whose family contributed $2.5 million towards the construction of this facility, and by several members of the Vancouver Centre of the RASC, including their president, Suzanna Nagy and vice president Leigh Cummings. We got some excellent video for our Night Lights program. The plaza around the observatory is very well thought out with electrical plugs for visiting astronomer’s telescopes, sky maps for each season with the stars lit up, a walkway with plaques listing the distances to various things in the cosmos, and six benches with coloured LED light lines representing the emission spectra of 6 major elements. The main telescope has a .7 meter diameter mirror and an alt-az mount and uses a flip mirror to switch the light path through one axis to either the camera on one side or the eyepiece on the other. Well worth a visit if you get a chance.
At 8:18 PM PST on Friday, 6 May, one of Jupiter’s moons, Callisto, will pass in front of Jupiter. At 8:32 another Galilean moon, Io, will follow Callisto. Their two shadows will transit the planet’s surface starting at 9:39 PM. The double shadow transit will end at 10:42 PM PST. We’ll have the SCC Observatory open for this double shadow transit at 8 PM, weather permitting.
The planet Mercury passes between the face of the Sun and Earth only 14 times per century, and one of those events is about to occur as the Sun rises on May 9. When the Sun rises at 5:30 AM on Monday, 9 May, the transit will already be in progress (having started about 4:12 AM). The transit will end at 11:42 AM. We’ll have the SCC Observatory open for public viewing that morning (weather permitting) with our solar scopes for safe viewing.
We’ll be setting up the information booth and solar scopes for Roberts Creek Earth Day on Sunday, April 24 from noon – 5 PM. Hope to see you there!
I jumped in the TV truck Monday morning with Steve and Brittany from Coast Cable and headed off to Vancouver Island to for a whirlwind visit to the DAO (Dominion Astrophysical Observatory), NRC Herzberg Institute, the Center of the Universe, and the VCO (Victoria Centre Observatory) to get footage for the second season of our Night Lights TV show. We did interviews with graduate student Dan Posen regarding the history of the DAO, which is coming up on its 100th birthday and is still in use. We interviewed Dimitri Monin, the technical director of the Plaskett Telescope, about its structure and operation. We interviewed Dr. Dennis Crabtree, the acting director of the NRC Herzberg Institute, regarding the many telescopes that the NRC manages as well as the telescopes they intend to build in the future, such as the 30 meter mirror telescope. The blue line you see on the parking lot behind us represents the diameter of that 30 meter telescope. We also interviewed Victoria Centre member Diane Bell and toured the VCO with her and Dan. It was a very productive session.
Three air cadet squadrons (858 Skookumchuk, 835 Squamish, and 525 Pathfinder) took part in a survival training exercise this weekend at Sechelt Airport and on Saturday, 16 April, 25 cadets toured our SCC Observatory.
On 10 April between 2:48 and 3:28 PM our members gathered at the SCC Observatory to witness the Moon occulting Aldebaran.
Our treasurer Bruce Fryer reports:
“My wife and I also enjoyed Sunday afternoon stargazing and getting a donor scope out of mothballs. The clouds cleared back, the sun shone warmly and then Aldebaran popped out from behind the moon—a tiny pinprick of light in the blue sky—only visible if you knew exactly where to look. Who would have thought! Thanks, Neil and the rest of the gang that came along.”
Our VP Mike Bradley used our Malincam to get this photo of the Sun. Mike reports:
“Here is an image of sunspot AR2529 taken on Sunday during the Moon/Aldebaran outing to the observatory.
‘Clouds made observing the occultation rather challenging, although David was skilled enough to be able to glimpse it. The rest of us spent time looking at the sun as well. The image here was taken through the Mallincam using a Mylar style filter on an ED80, as a 2 minute video and then stacked and colourised. If you have a suitable solar scope, this is a very impressive sunspot group, with definite umbra and penumbra features, it may have a few more days before it fades – so take a look.”
Last night we had a clear sky although not quite as “transparent” as we would have liked. Several of our members showed up with their own telescopes and 34 people of all ages showed up to view the skies. Jupiter was showing its Great Red Spot and at one point we watched the International Space Station cruise over with the Dragon spacecraft following it. Today some are returning this afternoon to catch the occultation of Aldebaran by the Moon between 2:48 and 3:28 PM on 10 April. They’ll have the solar scopes out for viewing the Sun as well.
At 7:30 PM, 13 May 2016, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, Steve Mairs, a PhD student in astronomy at the University of Victoria and the outreach supervisor for the U Vic Astronomy department, will be our speaker. The topic of Mairs’ talk is Where Baby Stars Come From, and Why it’s Important to Know!
In this talk, Mairs will examine the birth of a sun-like star and introduce some of the research being performed in Victoria to further our knowledge on this subject. Mairs’ main focus will be on the Orion Molecular Cloud, a giant star-forming region in the Milky Way which encompasses the famous Orion Nebula. Mairs will present images of what the Orion Nebula looks like at submillimetre wavelengths and show how these often overlooked observations can provide vital information into the young lives of stars. By studying “where baby stars come from”, we can make links to present day observations of star clusters, supernova explosion rates, the formation of planets, and, in effect our very own origin story.
Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.