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Category Archives: Speakers

Speaker for June: Dr. Jim Hesser


Dr. Jim Hesser

At 7:30 PM, 10 June 2016, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, our speaker will be Dr. James Hesser, FRASC. Dr. Hesser was the RASC’s Honorary President (2009-2013) and former Director of the NRC Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO). Dr. Hesser is past president of the Canadian Astronomical Society (CASCA) and of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. Dr. Hesser is past vice-president of the American Astronomical Society. He is recipient of numerous awards, including, most recently, the RASC’s Qilak Award for his “outstanding contribution to public appreciation and understanding of Astronomy” and is a Fellow of the RASC. He was one of the first to receive the prestigious Michael Smith award, given by NSERC Canada to recognize those who inspire through the promotion of science to the general public. Dr. Hesser was the first recipient of the Newton-Ball Award, Victoria Centre’s own service award (2001). Dr. Hesser has been awarded the National Research Council’s W. G. Schneider Medal for his inspiring decades-long contribution to the pursuit of excellence in Canadian government astronomy, both as a productive researcher, and as the Director of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory for nearly three decades (1986-2014). The award also recognizes Jim’s committed advocacy of astronomy as a integral part of our broader cultural life, both here and abroad.

Dr. Hesser’s topic will be: “Centenary-eve Reflections on the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory’s Role in the Development of Canadian Astronomical Excellence”


The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich: 98 years old!

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Contact Information:

Check out the Sunshine Coast RASC site at: for contact and schedule information.

Sunshine Coast RASC President Charles Ennis:

e mail: cuhulain@

phone 778-458-2666

Speaker for 13 May: Steve Mairs


steve mairsAt 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.



8 April 2016- Dr. Catherine Johnson: The InSight Mission

dr. Catherine Johnson

At 7:30 PM, 8 April 2016, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, The Sunshine Coast Centre welcomes Dr. Catherine Johnson from UBC, whose topic will be The InSight Mission: Journey to the Center of Mars

Orbital and lander missions to Mars over the past several decades have revealed a wealth of information about the planet’s surface geology and raised many unanswered questions about the planet’s past climate conditions. Key to answering many of these questions is understanding the planet’s deep interior, about which we know very little. Mars’ interior is also a fingerprint for the earliest stages of evolution of any of the terrestrial (rocky) planets in the inner solar system. The InSight mission, planned for launch in 2018, will deploy a seismometer, a heat flow probe and several other instruments on the surface of Mars. I will talk about how InSight will monitor the Red Planet’s “vital signs” – “pulse” (seismicity), “temperature” (heat flow) and “reflexes” (wobbles) – to determine Mars’ interior structure and evolution.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.


Extremely Large Telescopes

paul hickson

At 7:30 PM, 11 March 2016, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, Dr. Paul Hickson will do a presentation on Extremely Large Telescopes. Paul Hickson is a Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of British Columbia. He obtained a BSc in Physics from the University of Alberta in 1971, and a PhD in Astrophysics from the California Institute of Technology in 1976. Dr. Hickson has research interests in several areas of extragalactic astronomy, including galaxies, clusters of galaxies, active galactic nuclei and cosmology. He also spends time developing new astronomical instruments, such as liquid-mirror telescopes, robotic telescopes, and instruments to measure atmospheric turbulence. He currently serves as Co-chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Thirty Meter Telescope and was Project Scientist for its adaptive optics system.

In the coming decade three next-generation optical-infrared telescopes are expected to see first light. The Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the European Extremely-Large Telescope will be the world’s largest, with apertures ranging from 22 to 39 metres. Employing advanced adaptive-optics systems and a suite of sophisticated instruments, these telescopes will have as much as four times the resolution, 16 times the light gathering power, and more than 200 times the sensitivity of today’s largest telescopes. Dr. Hickson will provide an overview of the key scientific programs that are driving these projects, and the technologies that make them possible.

Admission is free, donations gratefully accepted.

Dr. Jaimie Matthews: 8 January


Dr. Jaimie Matthews

Our speaker at 7:30 PM on 8 January, 2016, will be the ever popular Dr. Jaimie Matthews, who will be talking about Canada’s MOST Telescope Project.

Dr. James Di Francesco and AGM, 13 November 2015

Dr. James Di Francesco at ALMA

Dr. James Di Francesco at ALMA

Our speaker at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre on 13 November at 7:30 PM is Dr. James Di Francesco from the NRC. His topic will be ALMA and the Art of Planetary Formation, in which he will describe his work with the Atacama Large Millimetre Array.

NOTE: Our elections for the 2015 AGM will take place at 7 PM. Public will not be admitted until 7:30.

Dr. Patrick Cote: 9 October 2015

dr patrick Cote

Our Speaker for 9 October 2015 at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, 5714 Medusa St, Sechelt, will be Dr. Patrick Cote of the National Research Council, Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics Centre, Victoria, BC. His topic will be: "Skies Wide Open: Canadian Plans for Wide-Field Astronomical Facilities in the Coming Decade."

"Many of the most pressing open questions in astronomy -- ranging from the nature of Dark Energy to the origin of the Milky Way --- require precise observations of faint sources scattered over the ultra-wide fields. For this reason, a number of wide-field telescopes are now being developed by the international astronomical community. Most of these facilities are expected to see "first light" in the 2020s.

"Canada, which has a proud history in wide-field astronomy, is keeping pace through participation in several of these projects. In addition, the Canadian astronomical community has, for several years, been developing plans for its own wide-field facilities. In this talk, I describe two exciting projects that are under active investigation in Canada. The first is the Mauna Kea Spectroscopic Explorer (MSE), a proposed 10m telescope that would be devoted exclusively to wide-field spectroscopy at optical and infrared wavelengths -- the largest and most powerful facility of its kind ever devised. The second project, CASTOR, is a proposed wide-field space telescope that would rival NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in image quality, but cover a field of view roughly two hundred times larger. ”

Admittance is by donation.

Dr. Sara Ellison: Galaxy Mergers in the Nearby Universe

Dr. Sara Ellison

Dr. Sara Ellison

At 7:30 PM, 11 September 2015, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, our speaker for the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC will be Dr. Sara Ellison, Professor at the University of Victoria.

Dr. Ellison’s Topic will be “Galaxy Mergers in the Nearby Universe”:

Despite the emptiness of space, mergers between galaxies are surprisingly common. Around 1% of galaxies in the nearby Universe are currently experiencing an interaction of some kind.   will describe research that uses both observations and computer simulations to trace the dramatic effect of these interactions on a galaxy’s history: how the interaction can lead to massive bursts of star formation, alter the interstellar chemistry and even provide fuel for the central super-massive black hole.

Donations are gratefully accepted at the door.

Follow Up to Ted Stroman’s Excellent Lunar Geography Lecture

Ted Strohman lecturing on the Apollo moon landings

Ted Strohman lecturing on the Apollo moon landings

ON 12 June, 2015, Ted Stroman of the Vancouver Centre, RASC, gave us a presentation on Lunar Geography. He promised us some links to interesting videos on the moon and its formation. Here they are:

The Lunar Epochs:

Computer Simulations:

The collision between Theia & Proto-Earth:

Post-impact cool down of the Moon:

The Nice Model:  May explain the Late Heavy Bombardment!:

From here to the Moon:

Recommended further reading:


May 2015 Speaker: Dr. Levon Pogosian

levon Pogosian

Dr. Levon Pogosian from Simon Fraser University will be speaking at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre at 5714 Medusa St, Sechelt, at 7:30 PM on 8 May, 2015. His topic will be “From Static to Expanding to Accelerating: the past 100 years and the next 20”. Not only the universe is expanding, it is doing so at an accelerating rate. The physics causing the acceleration is currently unknown, but upcoming astronomical surveys of large scale structure will dramatically improve our ability to narrow the pool of possibilities. The lecture will review the history leading to the astounding discovery of cosmic acceleration in 1998 and the challenges that cosmologists are addressing today.

Admission is by donation.