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Yearly Archives: 2018

Speaker for 11 January: Paul Gray

paul grayAt 7:30 PM, 11 January 2019, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Paul Gray, the editor of the RASC Calendar, who will be doing a presentation on Dark Nebulae. A dark nebula or absorption nebula is an interstellar cloud so dense that it obscures the light from objects behind it, such as background stars and emission or reflection nebulae. Interstellar dust grains, coasted with frozen carbon monoxide and nitrogen, in in the coldest, densest parts of larger clouds effectively block the passage of light at visible wavelengths. These clouds are the spawning grounds of stars and planets, and understanding their development is essential to understanding star formation.

The largest dark nebulae, like the Coalsack Nebula and the Great Rift, are visible to the naked eye, appearing as dark patches against the brighter background of the Milky Way.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

More Members Complete Qualified Operator Training


Shannon using the observatory telescope.

Last night (Saturday, 1 December), We conducted a training session at the observatory and Shannon McLaughlin completed her training as Qualified Operator. Ed Hanlon came later and went through some of the training, but we were losing the sky by that time, so he’ll come back and complete the QO course later.

If you’re interested in learning how to use the observatory telescope, please contact me. We’ll take you through the procedure of opening/closing the observatory, starting up and parking the telescope, navigating the night skies with the telescope, and recovering from telescope failures to get back into action quickly.

Charles Ennis, Past President

2 Records Broken at the Observatory Last Night


Bruce Woodburn taking a break from binocular observations to view M13 last night with the big scope.

At last night’s public viewing session at our observatory we broke two records. One concerned yearly attendance, which stood at 311 just two days ago. Last year’s total attendance was only 159, so we knew to double that we needed just 7 more people to attend this year. Attendance last night was 29, which is the highest attendance ever recorded at a public session. So we easily pushed past doubling last year’s attendance to a new record of 340. And the year isn’t done yet! We had people of all ages at the observatory last night. One little girl told us her favorite planet was Saturn, and was ecstatic when she saw it for the first time in the eyepiece. Several members worked on their observing certificates. James MacWilliam showed up with his guitar and entertained us for hours. A thoroughly entertaining evening.

Charles Ennis

Leonid Meteor Shower: November 17-18


Leo will be in the Eastern sky on the night of 17-18 November.

Every year, between November 6-30, Earth sweeps through a stream of debris left behind by Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The number of meteors increases as the Earth moves deeper into the stream and reaches a peak on the night of the 17th. As the radiant, the point in the sky that the meteors can be traced back to, is inside the constellation Leo, this is called the Leonid meteor shower.

Most meteoroid streams contain only minuscule bits of dust and ice. However, the stream for the Leonids also contains many gravel-sized bits. This produces some very bright meteors in the night sky.

The Leonid meteor shower only produces around 15 meteors per hour, on average. Occasionally, usually shortly after Comet Tempel-Tuttle makes a pass around the Sun, the Leonids can deliver a meteor storm, with hundreds of meteors streaking through the sky every hour. According to experts, such a storm is not expected again until 2033 or 2034.

Leo is rising around 11 pm on the 17th and is fully visible by 2 am on the 17th-18th. The peak of the shower is actually 5 AM on the 17th, so the predawn hours on Saturday are the best viewing time. The Moon is two days past First Quarter on the 17th this year, so there will be some competing light in the sky, which will wash out the faintest meteors. However it will certainly be worthwhile to check the peak out on the 17th. It will definitely be worth it to get out to see the brightest of them, though! Bruce Fryer, Scott Harlow, and I were at the observatory last night and saw a few early arrivals which were quite impressive.

Charles Ennis

Taurid Meteor Showers: 5-6 and 12-13 November

taurids 2018There are two Taurid meteor showers: Northern and Southern. This is because they originate from the debris left behind by two different objects.

  • Northern: Asteroid 2004 TG10; and
  • Southern: Comet Encke

These two showers overlap into one shower, with two different peaks. Observers note that the meteors in these showers tend to be slower, taking their time to transit the sky, producing some extremely bright bolides. At peak, the Taurids only produce about 5 – 10 meteors per hour. This year the Moon is near new (New Moon on the 7th, First Quarter on the 15th), improving the viewing conditions.

Crescent Nebula

The Crescent Nebula (NGC 6888) is a cosmic bubble about 25 light-years across in the constellation Cygnus, blown by winds from its central, bright, massive star. The nebula’s central star is classified as a Wolf-Rayet star (WR 136). The star is shedding its outer envelope in a strong stellar wind, ejecting the equivalent of the Sun’s mass every 10,000 years. The nebula is 5000 light years from us.

I captured the image last weekend with a Megrez 120mm, Canon 60Da camera, unfortunately exposure was limited to 120 minutes in all, the image was processed in PixInsight. Mike


Open Night at Observatory Cancelled

Due to a shortage of instructors we have had to cancel the public night at the SCAC Observatory for October 13th.
Please accept our apologies for this.

Zodiacal Light


Zodiacal Light. Credit: Sky and Telescope

For two weeks from the 13th of October zodiacal light will readily be visible from a dark site in the east before morning twilight. This is caused by sunlight reflected of the immense cloud of interplanetary dust encircling the Sun.

Dr. Roy Bishop, Emeritus Professor of Physics from Acadia University, writes in the RASC Observer’s Handbook:

The zodiacal light appears as a huge, softly radiant pyramid of white light with its base near the horizon, and its axis centred on the zodiac (or better, the ecliptic). In its brightest parts, it exceeds the luminance of the central Milky Way.

Moonlight, haze or light pollution can easily blot out zodiacal light, so you’ll need a dark sky location to observe it. It is best viewed just after twilight in the east, in the hour to half an hour just before twilight begins at dawn, from about October 13-27.

Charles Ennis


Draconid Meteor Shower: October 8

One can see individual meteors almost any night of the year (known as “sporadics”). However, as the Earth orbits the Sun it repeatedly passes through slender streams of ice, dust and rock, left behind by the passage of comets through the inner solar system. This debris falls into Earth’s upper atmosphere and burns up, a phenomenon we call meteor showers.


The next meteor shower peaks Monday, 2018 October 8: the Draconids. It has this name as the radiant (the place in the sky where meteors will appear to originate) is located in the constellation Draco (the Dragon).  This is because the Earth is apparently heading in that direction of Draco at the time of the meteor shower, so the meteors will enter the upper atmosphere and appear to scatter outwards from this point. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower, delivering on average 10 meteors per hour. Viewing conditions are good as this is the day before the New Moon. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Charles Ennis, 2nd VP RASC

October 12th Meeting – Club AGM + 2 Speakers

We’re asking for members to meet at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, at 7 PM on 12 October for a brief AGM at which we will be voting for the new executive.

chris gainor 2018

At 7:30 PM, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents two speakers. The first is Dr. Chris Gainor, a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books. He is also President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and editor of Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly. Chris’ topic will be: History of the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble Space Telescope was launched 28 years ago in 1990. After overcoming problems caused by a defective main mirror, Hubble has made discoveries that have revolutionized our view of the universe we live in. This talk will cover the history of HST based on a history book the speaker is writing for NASA.


The second speaker is Sarah Savić Kallesøe, a Simon Fraser University undergraduate student involved with the research and public outreach affairs of the Trottier Observatory since its inception in 2015. As the first student with training and access to the observatory, Sarah has led imaging projects, astronomy workshops, and data collection sessions. In 2017, Sarah was invited to conduct research with the graduate student observational astrophysics group at the Niels Bohr Physics Institute, University of Copenhagen, where she was the youngest member and the only Canadian accepted. Her research was conducted at the Nordic Optical Telescope in La Palma of the Spanish Canary Islands and focused on quasar identification and classification of novel supernovae. The results of this project were published in the Astronomer’s Telegram and included in the NASA Astrophysics Database.

Sarah will graduate from SFU with a First Class Distinction Bachelor’s of Science in Population and Quantitative Health Sciences in June 2019. She is the 2019 BC Rhodes Scholar nominee for SFU and her career aspiration is to contribute to the World Health Organization’s research relating to the well-being of migrants and their access to health care services. While her formal undergraduate education in public health does not directly relate to astronomy, she appreciates the complexity of both systems. Beyond academia and astronomy, Sarah thoroughly enjoys exploring BC’s nature her Scout group.

Sarah’s topic will be her experience of researching with the Niels Bohr Physics Institute at the Nordic Optical Telescope in the Canary Islands. This includes her observational astrophysics opportunities at the Niels Bohr Physics Institute and how to get involved, the culture of astronomy at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma and what makes it one of the best night-sky observing locations in the world, the experience of conducting research at the Nordic Optical Telescope in La Palma, an overview of the fourteen observatories at Roque de los Muchachos, La Palma, and details of the August 2017 research on quasars and supernovae at the Nordic Optical Telescope

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.