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Enceladus Issues


Nasa photo of Enceladus

At last Friday’s lecture (by Dr. Jon Willis) I asked about the plans to get the probe back from Enceladus. I thought the speaker’s response that “what comes up must come down” was flippant and contrary to Newtonian physics. For instance, geosynchronous satellites do not “come back down” and have never been brought back down to low orbit for repair or refueling.

This is a non-trivial problem. Enceladus is the second most proximal moon to Saturn and is therefore deep in Saturn’s gravity well. Return to earth involves raising the probe to a heliocentric orbit (effectively Saturn escape velocity) then converting to a Hohmann transfer orbit with Earth perihelion at 1 AU. My understanding is that transfer between two circular orbits (E.G.: Earth and Saturn) using a Hohmann transfer orbit requires the same delta-v independent of the direction of the transfer. Since the probe relied on multiple gravity assist manoeuvres to get to Saturn, I doubt it has the luxury of carting a lot of fuel for the return trip.

At Earth orbit perihelion it will need to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere at close to Earth’s escape velocity.  I don’t know of a successful re-entry from a heliocentric orbit, or if it is feasible.

I’m not saying return can’t be done, just that getting the probe home is as difficult as getting it up there in the first place. The project invites some interesting jiggery-pokery. Like more gravity assist or aerobraking.

My second question was about return of the plutonium battery and potential radioactive contamination upon re-entry. There have been several inadvertent re-entries of plutonium batteries (Apollo 13 Lunar Module being one). The issue has been addressed by containing the batteries within their own re-entry heat shielding so they would land  in one piece (hopefully not in my backyard). Also, the Plutonium-238 isotope used in batteries has a half life of only 64 years, not the 24,000 years of weapons grade plutonium. I feel much safer now.

Bruce Woodburn


2016 President’s Report


I discussed our Sunshine Coast Centre with past president Bill Clark the other day, and he observed that on the 30th of June, 2004, ten people got together in a living room and started the Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club which subsequently became the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC in April 2008. Here we are 12 years later and they’re all still with us. We’d like to commend them all for their service to our club over the years.

Bill Clark

Neil Sandy

David Thompson

Danny Sklazeski

Linda Smith

Gary Ehmen

Garth Jones

Brian Lucas

James MacWilliam

Debra MacWilliam

We are no longer the newest centre of the RASC: The Yukon Astronomical Society joined the RASC in May of this year. Nor are we the smallest. With 75 members, we’re a mid sized Centre now. The percentage of female members in the RASC is 18% now, which is 10% behind the percentage of females in STEM sciences nationally. I am pleased to report that the percentage of females in our Centre is now 25%, so we are setting the example for the rest of the RASC to follow.

I would like to thank the members who took time out of their busy schedules to help us at outreach events and work parties this year. We log over 2200 hours of volunteer work at outreach events every year. As I pointed out last year, this figure is deceptive, as only a small group of members have put in all these hours. Some members seem reluctant to involve themselves in outreach as they don’t think they know enough about astronomy to face the public; we’re going to help members to give them the support to make them feel comfortable.

We’re planning to have more member events this coming year. Past President Mike Bradley and I have published the SCC Observatory Operations Manual and put a link to it on the “Our Observatory” page of our web site. I encourage anyone who would like to use the observatory to download the manual and read it. Operating the observatory isn’t difficult and we encourage our members to use it. We started as a club with frequent members star parties, and we started to bring that back this year with members viewing nights and the Deep Sky Party at the end of July. This was the first time we held a star party for members of other centres. Members from the Vancouver and Victoria Centres attended and spent the weekend at the airport viewing the skies. The turnout for this event was small but the feedback was good. We hope that this event will expand in coming years.

Last year we revived our Light Abatement efforts with presentations to community organizations. This year our light abatement committee has been lobbying the District of Sechelt to get it registered as a Dark Sky Community recognized by the International Dark Sky Association in the coming months.

We replaced our web site in July 2014 with a WordPress site that allowed us to track activity. By the end of 2014 we had 4,626 views of our web site from 1,385 visitors. In 2015, 3,765 visitors made 12,102 views. So far this year we’ve had 8,534 views from 2,693 visitors from 66 countries and territories. That’s 25,262 visits from 8,113 people. Several youth organizations have complimented us on our web site.

Our speaker’s program started in our early days has evolved into at least 8 nationally recognized experts doing presentations at our meetings every year. We still lead all the other RASC Centres in use of the national Public Speakers Program. Speakers for next year include Dr. Sun Kwok, Dr. Laura Ferraresse, Dr. Stanley Greenspoon, Leigh Cummings, and James Edgar. Members and the public have been asking for astronomical training, so we are now looking at developing something like Prince George Centre’s NOVA course to offer to our members. At the beginning of next year’s program we’ll start with a course on how to use the Observer’s Handbook.

This last year was the first year we utilized an operational budget. We took a serious look at new ways to raise funds and approved our first gift acceptance policy. This policy will ensure that donations fit into our operational plan. Our Secretary, Brian Lucas, initiated a successful fund raising scheme: Reloadable IGA cards. These cards have been distributed both to members and to people attending our monthly talks. We get 4% of any purchases people make with these cards. The income from the first quarter was $381, and this is after the initial $100 for the cards was deducted. If the use of these cards stays at this level, this means that we’ll get nearly $2000 a year from this initiative.

This year we entered into a partnership with the Sechelt branch of the Rotary Club which is called Friends of Rotary. Our Centre paid for a single membership which gives us the right to have a representative attend the Sechelt Rotary Club meetings. This gives us a voice in their organization and in turn they commit to raising funds to support our Centre, specifically to raise funds for our observatory expansion. We’ve been having regular meetings with Rotary and last Tuesday met with reps from various Sunshine Coast Rotary Clubs to finalize a grant request to fund additions to our observatory.

Our Night Lights TV program for Coast Cable taped its second season this year, and is in final production now. Last December word of this reached Telus Optik, who approached us to see about entering into a similar partnership. We met with Optik officials in January, and went on to make an application. We are now waiting for confirmation that we’ve been approved. In February we also made application to the Bravo Network to make a 15 minute BravoFACTUAL documentary. Bravo received 92 applications and approved 9: We were one of those approved. In August I spent two weeks on the road with a film crew taping for this show at the Prince George and Okanagan Centres, at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory south of Penticton, in Vancouver, and at our Centre., which is now in editing. It is to be completed and submitted to Bravo by the end of November. In the spring the Aboriginal Prime Time Network asked us to assist them in creating a new science show for First Nations youth, “Coyote Science”. Our members spent two days assisting APTN with this project at two Sunshine Coast locations.

This past year was the first year of operations for our observatory. As expected, this year turned out to be a “shake down cruise” during which we familiarized ourselves with the telescope and equipment, identified and corrected problems, and identified needed equipment. We submitted a grant request to the BC Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch seeking money for an optical package for the observatory.

This year was the first time in 12 years that our Centre didn’t do an Astronomy in the Park event in Porpoise Bay Provincial Park. As I previously pointed out, we did not want to pay the excessive fee that Parks BC wanted for us to stage that event. Instead we held our first Starlight Coast Star Party at our observatory along with an astronomy poster contest for youth. This is a major change, since we’re switching from a captive audience of campers to drawing an audience of enthusiasts and curiosity seekers. Our first Starlight Coast Star Party attracted 85 people, which is the largest attendance at an observatory event all year.

Although we reached a point at the end of June 2015 where our observatory became operational and continued to work on the building and its contents, it is not yet finished. We did install a roof retraction system, added solar panels to the electrical system, installed a protective cover and dew control system for our telescope and its sensitive electronics, and installed a ventilation system for the main optical tube. We installed the roof soffits and closed in the gap between the rails and the roof to keep the weather and wildlife out. We still do not have lighting in and around the observatory. Vents for an improved ventilation system for the building have been purchased and will hopefully be installed in the near future.

Only three months after I first joined this centre in 2013 I put myself forward as a director at large and the following year I stepped up as president. Last April I became the National Public Speaker’s Program Administrator for the RASC. This year I became the National Secretary. Everyone in our Centre can help our Centre and the RASC in some way, whether it is by volunteering at outreach events, helping set up and take down at the monthly talks, serving on a committee, or serving on our board of directors. I’m not asking any of you to do anything I am not prepared to do myself. What we’ve accomplished so far happened because a small group of members donated some of their time, creativity, and ideas, making us one of the most active RASC Centres in Canada, even if we are nowhere near being the largest. We gained a director on our Centre’s board this year. Let’s see if we can gain another this year.

This year my term as president is up, as is the treasurer’s term. I intend to stand for election and stay on for another two years. Mike Bradley, our Vice President, has another year left in his term, but would like to hand over the Observatory Director’s position to a new person. The election for directors will take place at the upcoming meeting on 14 October, so we hope that we’ll get a good turnout for the vote.

Think of what we could accomplish if a few more of you members came forward…


Regards and Clear Skies,

Charles Ennis

President SCC RASC

Its A Wrap!


Filming at the observatory of the Prince George RASC 

Last night we finished 13 days of filming interviews, star parties, observatories (optical and radio telescopes), night skies and assorted b roll in Prince George, Kelowna, Penticton, and the Sunshine Coast. We got all that we hoped to capture for the BravoFACTUAL “Starry Nights” project as well as key footage for the proposedTelus Optik “Astronomers Like You” project. We hope to get a go ahead from Telus in the next few weeks. Now its time to get down to editing and making this all into documentaries. Many thanks to the many people who helped us in the last 13 days!

Charles Ennis, National Secretary


Filming at the observatory of the Okanagan RASC

Founding Members


Members of the Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club at Kinnickinnick Park in 2005

On the 30th of June, 2004, ten people got together in a living room and started the Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club which subsequently became the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC in April 2008. Here we are 12 years later and they’re all still with us. We’d like to commend them all for their service to our club over the years.


Bill Clark

Neil Sandy

David Thompson

Danny Sklazeski

Linda Smith

Gary Ehmen

Garth Jones

Bryan Lucas

James MacWilliam


Halfmoon Bay Country Fair 2016


Mike, Charles, Scott and Danny manning the solar scopes

Our Centre was at Cooper’s Green for the 50th annual Halfmoon Bay Country Fair on 10 July. 257 people attended the booth and looked through the solar scopes. We even fixed a telescope that someone brought in.


Charles answering the questions of the public at our booth

Canada Day 2016 Update


Scott, Danny, and Mike sheltering from rain showers and discussing observatory matters while waiting for visitors to arrive

Mike Bradley, Charles Ennis, Bruce Fryer, Scott Harlow, Neil Sandy, Danny Sklazeski, and Sam Casoria manned the booth and solar telescopes. Bette Chadwick, James MacWilliams, and Serge and Sharon Planidin visited our patch of grass at Hackett Park. The day started out with a downpour that didn’t let up until the parade started. By the afternoon the skies had mostly cleared.

342 people came to visit the booth. We handed out 88 Star Finders, 60 Moon Gazer Guides, 1 Getting Started in Astronomy Guide, and 10 Journal of the RASC special edition on light abatement.

Sechelt Mayor Bruce Milne dropped by the booth to discuss issues with Scott and Charles, including light abatement, and took away one of the Journal Special Editions.



Sam and Danny at the solar scopes

Rolf Meier 1953-2016

Ottawa Centre member ROLF MEIER passed away June 26 after a battle with cancer for several months. Rolf was born in Ottawa in 1953 and received his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electronics from Carleton University in 1977. A skillful telescope maker and a frequent user of the Ottawa Centre’s Indian River Observatory, he was nominated for the Chant medal. He was known for his excellent astrophotos. On April 26, 1978, Rolf made headlines with the first telescopic discovery of a comet from a Canadian location. He discovered further cornets in 1979, 1980, and 1984, and his record was only surpassed in 1989 by David Levy.

Rolf was Chairman of the Ottawa Centre’s Observers’ Group, Editor of Astronotes for 12 years, National Council Rep and Ottawa Centre President. His 25 cm Newtonian reflector was installed at the Indian River Observatory in 1983 for use of members. A number of articles, displaying his wide-ranging interests, have included “Identifying a Meteorite”, “Recent Aurora Activity”, and “Solid State Photometer.”

Rolf is survived by his wife Linda, and son Matthew.


Ad amorem nocte caelum.

Dona nobis pacem.

Ego diligo in nocte caelum.


To love the night sky.

Grant us peace.

I love the night sky.

Bravo Said Yes!


You may recall that last February Dodie Graham-McKay and I submitted a proposal to the Bravo Network for a 15 minute documentary with the working title “Starry Nights”. Bravo contacted us two days ago to give us the green light! The announcement was posted on Real Screen here. In the next few weeks Dodie will be coming out to work on this with me as well as to fine tune the final proposal for the other project for Telus Optik.

Clear Skies!

Charles Ennis, SCC President

Transit of Mercury Report: 9 May


Families waiting to view the transit of Mercury

Mike Bradley and I were up at the SCC Observatory at 5:30 AM to open up and several members of the public were there at first light to view the transit of Mercury. The transit, which began at 4:12 AM before the sun rose, was in progress as the sun cleared the trees. Steve Sleep from Coast Cable showed up to do interviews and film the action.


Steve getting video footage of us getting video footage of the tranist

By the time the day was over we’d had 10 of our members, 1 Vancouver Centre member, and 21 members of the public drop by to view the transit. Mike and Danny got photos and Mike got some video of the event as well.


Many members brought their own solar scopes

We collected $114 in donations during the event.


That round dot on the lower left is Mercury. Photo by Mike Bradley

Charles Ennis, President



Steve, Charles, Brittany of the filming crew and Dan Posen from the Victoria Centre RASC in front of the Plaskett Observatory

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.

photo 6

Steve and Brittany speaking to Dimitri Monin (in the background gesturing) and Dr. Crabtree (in the Hawaiian shirt) at the base of the Plaskett telescope

photo 7

Plaskett Telescope