Sunshine Coast Centre RASC

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Online Speaker for June 12: Dr. Jess McIver


At 7:00 PM, 2020 June 12, online on Zoom, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Dr. Jessica McIver, whose topic is: Spacetime, black holes, and cosmic collisions! Sensing gravitational waves with Advanced LIGO.

The Advanced LIGO detectors measure gravitational waves (GWs), tiny ripples in the fabric of spacetime emitted by accelerating mass. Kilometer-scale interferometers like LIGO can decode the signature of highly energetic systems that are otherwise hidden from us in the dark of deep space. In just four years, GWs have already revealed 11 black hole collisions and two neutron star mergers, one with a spectacular light counterpart signal.

Dr. McIver will summarize what General Relativity, spacetime, and gravitational waves can tell us about the Universe. She will discuss the technology of laser interferometers like Advanced LIGO and how we’re able to sense incredibly small spacetime fluctuations induced by GWs. She will also give an overview of the results from the past LIGO-Virgo observing run, and prospects for the future of gravitational wave astronomy.

Admission is free.

The link for the meeting is:

In Memoriam: Scott Harlow


Scott doing solar observing with a hydrogen alpha scope at the Botanical Gardens in Sechelt

Scott Harlow joined our Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC in September 2011. Scott served on the Board of our Centre as a member at large, librarian and “quartermaster” from 2013 to 2019. Scott almost always was the first person arriving at the venue for the Centre’s monthly meetings, setting up chairs, managing the registration table at the door to greet guests and receive donations, and after the meeting putting things away and running around with a vacuum to do cleanup. He was the last out of the building. Scott manned the information booth at all outreach events (until 2019 when his health forced him to stand down), handing out materials and fielding questions. Scott attended all observatory events: He usually was the first at the gate at opening and was the one putting out the traffic cones and barricades and helping roll back the observatory roof. Scott lived closest to the observatory, and was our “eye on the sky” to advise us if the weather was going to permit us to open the observatory for viewing: He posted frequent e mails updating members on sky conditions on viewing nights. Scott went all around Sechelt every month on foot putting up promotional posters for Centre events. He came to all the work parties at the observatory. He attended every monthly Astro Café meeting. From 2011 to 2019 he monitored membership and contacted members to remind them to renew their membership. Scott received donations of telescopes, etc. for our Centre through his workplace, the Shell station in Wilson Creek. I fully intended to put in an application next year to the Awards Committee recommending him for a Service Award, as he would have had the required 10 years of service to qualify by then.


Scott manning the information booth at Canada Day

Scott did all this volunteer work while dealing with diabetes, which regularly resulted in serious blood sugar monitoring issues which escalated in recent months. Scott knew that his eyesight was degenerating (he’d inherited a condition from his mother) and that eventually he’d not be able to do any more viewing, and I’m sure this pushed him to do as much astronomical viewing in the time that he had and work through his medical issues.


Scott staining at the observatory

On 6 May 2020, Scott passed away. At this time we do not have any information suggesting this was related to Covid 19: Scott was certainly at risk with his medical conditions but the frequency of interventions had accelerated in recent months and in recent weeks Scott had succumbed to several seizures at work. Scott clearly went into a diabetic coma and this time help did not get there soon enough. Scott was a pillar of our astronomy community, and always had a smile and a good word for everyone. This is incredibly sad news. He will be missed by us all.


Scott observing the night skies at our observatory