Sunshine Coast Centre RASC

Speaker for November 2020: Theresa Fisher

At 7:00 PM, 2020 November 13, online on Zoom, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents astrobiologist Theresa Fisher from Arizona State University, whose topic is “Next Generation Biosignatures for Exoplanets: A Network Approach.”

UPDATE: If you have questions for Tessa, you can reach her on Twitter at spacermace or at her podcast: Assigned Scientist at Bachelor’s

Speaker for 9 October: Arif Babul

At 7:00 PM, 2020 October 9, online on Zoom, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Dr. Arif Babul, whose topic is Probing the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe Using Galaxy Clusters.

Cosmic structures in the universe span a broad range of masses, from dwarf galaxies at the one end of the spectrum to clusters of galaxies at the other.    Clusters of galaxies, the focus on Arif’s talk, are the largest, most massive gravitationally bound objects in the Universe.  They are also the most recent of the cosmic objects to form.   In currently accepted model for the formation of cosmic structure, the increase in the number density of galaxy clusters (i.e., the number of clusters per unit volume) over the recent past, cosmologically speaking of course, depends sensitively on the parameters describing the large-scale geometry and the expansion history of the universe. For this reason, galaxy clusters are regarded as important cosmological probes.    Using clusters as such, however, is not straightforward.  For example, we need to be able to “weigh” them.   Here, Arif will discuss what “weighing them” entails, explain some of the challenges involved,  highlight new insights that Arif and his collaborators were able to bring to the problem, and describe what the resulting cosmological analysis yielded.    One intriguing outcome is that values of the  parameters describing our universe are subtly but non-trivially different from those derived from the cosmic microwave background.   More intriguingly,  this tension may be hinting at new physics.   Arif will speculate about what these might be.  

Use this link to join our Zoom Meeting:

Speaker for 11 September: Charles Ennis

At 7 PM on 11 September, 2020, the Sunshine Coast Centre will feature a presentation on Ancestor’s Skies by Charles Ennis, 1st Vice President of the RASC. The meeting will take place on Zoom.

Most people in the Western world have a very basic knowledge of the 88 constellations used by modern astronomers. Charles Ennis, co-host of Eastlink TV’s Night Lights astronomy show and host of the Bravo short documentary Starry Nights, will introduce you to where these constellations came from. Charles will then show you how the ancients from many cultures around the World viewed the night skies and how those views can give you a whole new perspective on the universe.


We’ll also have our popular Skies This Month presentation by Bruce Fryer and a visit from RASC Executive Director Phil Groff.

Use this link to join our Zoom Meeting:


Speaker for July: Dr. Rob Thacker

Rob+Thacker+copyAt 7:00 PM, 2020 July 10 12, online on Zoom, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Dr. Rob Thacker, whose topic is: Computing the Cosmos.

Modern supercomputers allow astronomers and astrophysicists to create digital simulations of entire universes of unprecedented size and accuracy. These “virtual universes” can also be tuned to obey a different set of Laws of Physics. What might our Universe have looked like under different sets of physical laws? Using digitally created movies and images from these simulations, Dr. Thacker will explore how these techniques work, review spectacular progress that has resulted from these techniques, and examine what future research can tell us.

Admission is free. Use the link below to join the meeting:

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

Monthly Meeting: 8 May (Online)


Mike Bradley at our SCC Observatory

With the current pandemic, we’ve had to make adjustments for the safety of the public and our members, so we’ve decided to hold our upcoming meeting at 7 PM, Friday, 8 May, as an online webinar using Zoom. As always, this meeting is open to the public. Night Lights co-host and Centre President Bruce Fryer will be doing a presentation on the Skies This Month. Centre VP Michael Bradley will be doing the main presentation on Image Processing for Beginners. If you’ve been thinking of getting into astrophotography, this information will be useful for you.

You can use this link to access the meeting:

Join Zoom Meeting


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

NOTE: This is the first time we’ve used this online format for a meeting. If it is successful, we’re planning to do live streaming on YouTube for future meetings as well.


IMG_1588In view of the increasing probability of individuals acquiring and spreading the Corona Virus by community contact and in view of the warnings from the Sunshine Coast COVID-19 Physicians Task Force and in agreement with the express opinion of the Airport Manager, the executive of the Sunshine Coast Astronomy Club has decided to close the observatory and the surrounding grounds to all use, until the current danger has officially passed.

We are sorry to have to shut down the observatory and cancel our April monthly meeting in April.  Please stay as safe.

Bruce Fryer

President of the SCAC

On Behalf of the Executive


CANCELLED! Speaker for 13 March: Dr. Harvey Richer

It has come to our attention in the last hour that there are 3 positives on the Coast now for the covid – 19 virus. As of this morning there were 53 confirmed cases in BC and this number is from 9 am this morning, so it doesn’t include any positive tests that have come in today. We were already aware of several members of our Centre who were not going to be attending tonight’s meeting, either because they had the flu or because they were concerned about having conditions that put them at greater risk of contracting this virus.  This was confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organization just a few days ago. In light of this rapidly developing situation, it is imperative that we act responsibly to limit the possible transmission of this disease and the exposure of any of the public or our members to this virus. Therefore, we are cancelling tonight’s meeting. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this short notice may cause to the public or members, but this is a pandemic, a medical emergency, and we must act responsibly.

The public viewing session usually held at the observatory on Saturdays is also cancelled until further notice.

Here is a link to the Canadian government site with quality information and updates on the situation:

Sincerely, Charles Ennis

2nd Vice President, RASC

harvey richer

At 7:00 PM, 2020 March 13, at the Sechelt Public Library, 5797 Cowrie St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Dr. Harvey Richer, FRSC, whose topic is:

Watcher of the Sky: The Highs and Lows of Being an Observational Astronomer

Dr. Richer will discuss some of the many interesting experiences that go into shaping the career of an observational astronomer. From the early days of Chilean observing, to life with Hubble and the current issues in Hawaii, Dr. Richer hopes to give a sense of the richness of experiences he has had in his chosen career as an observational astronomer.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Speaker for 14 February 2020: Sarah Pearce

sarah pearceAt 7:00 PM, 2020 February 14, at the Sechelt Public Library, 5797 Cowrie St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Sarah Pearce, MSc, whose topic is: The History of Stellar Classification (150 years ago to today)

This talk concerns the history of astronomy. Sarah will focus on a published research paper from 150 years ago by a priest called Father Secchi, whose work and writings were on his telescope findings of the Orion Nebula.

Sarah will go on to describe the history of stellar classification and spectroscopy and hope to introduce the topic in a dynamic and engaging way. Let’s explore the stars through the lens of astronomers that were working and researching with technologies from 150 years ago.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

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