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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:

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.

Speakers for October 11: Linda and Tom Spilker

Linda and Tom with RocketJPGAt 7:00 PM, 2019 October 11, at the Sechelt Public Library, 5797 Cowrie St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Linda and Tom Spilker.

Dr. Linda Spilker’s topic will be Cassini’s Intriguing New Discoveries.

Dr. Linda Spilker is a NASA research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA. She is currently the Cassini Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator on the Cassini Composite Infrared Spectrometer team and has worked on Cassini since 1988. Since joining JPL over 40 years ago she has worked on the Voyager Project, the Cassini Project and conducted independent research on the origin and evolution of planetary ring systems. She received her B.A. from Cal State Fullerton, her M.S. from Cal State Los Angeles, and her Ph.D. from UCLA.

Dr. Tom Spilker’s topic will be his work on the Gateway Foundation’s plan for a rotating space station.

Tom spent 20 years at JPL as a “Mission Architect” after a PhD at Stanford doing research associated with spacecraft-based planetary radio occultation experiments, with a couple of courses in orbital dynamics. He has worked on the Voyager, Cassini, Genesis, and Rosetta missions. He works with both science and engineering aspects of mission planning. He retired from JPL in 2012 and is now an independent consultant working with space agencies all over the world.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.


Speaker for April 12: Alan Dyer

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At 7:30 PM, 2019 April 12, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents the renowned astrophotographer Alan Dyer, whose topic will be “Chasing the Northern Lights”. Alan will recount his tales of chasing the aurora in Canada and Norway, with many images and movies of the Northern Lights, including of the infamous “Steve” aurora.

Alan Dyer is co-author with Terence Dickinson of The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide, and most recently of ebooks on astrophotography. He is a contributing editor to SkyNews and Sky & Telescope magazines, and a contributor to the annual RASC Observer’s Handbook. His photos and videos have appeared on, National Geographic, CBSNews, and more. The asteroid #78434 is named in his honour.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Speaker for 8 March: Eric Lanoix

eric lanoix

At 7:30 PM, 2019 March 8, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Eric Lanoix ( Eric is passionate about finding simple and intuitive solutions to complex problems. For the better part of two decades, he worked with the Canadian Space Agency and with NASA contractors on human space exploration. He contributed to the development of several spacecraft in the areas of systems engineering, trajectory analysis, and robotic capture. He also supported a number of space missions from Mission Control Houston. To date, the spacecraft he focused on (HTV, Cargo Dragon) have completed 21 successful re-supply missions for the International Space Station. More recently, Eric also worked on the development of the Crew Dragon. Later this year, this spacecraft will become the first American vehicle since the Space Shuttle to carry humans to space.

An avid life-long learner of science, finance, and history, Eric holds a master’s degree in engineering (McGill), another in finance (Simon Fraser University), as well as the Financial Risk Manager (FRM) certification. Eric is now based in the Lower Mainland and leads a team of specialists in charge of quantitative risk management at a local banking institution.

In their free time, Eric and his wife Natalie enjoy hiking among rivers and mountains, travelling, and dancing Argentine tango.

As a specialist in the area of orbital rendezvous and capture, Eric looks forward to sharing the history and future of this essential but little-known spaceflight operation with the RASC.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

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.

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.

Two Speakers for February 2018

At 7:30 PM, 9 March 2018, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, the Sunshine Coast Centre of the RASC presents Vancouver Centre President Leigh Cummings, who will be doing a presentation on Mars Exploration.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Speaker for 12 May: Dr. Sun Kwok

stardust_b (2)At 7:30 PM, 12 May 2017, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, The Sunshine Coast Centre welcomes Dr. Sun Kwok, whose topic will be “Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life.” How did life originate on Earth?  For over 50 years, scientists believed that life was the result of chemistry involving simple molecules such as methane and ammonia cooking in a primordial soup.  Recent space observations have revealed that old stars are capable of making very complex organic compounds.  The stars then ejected the organics and spread them all over the Milky Way Galaxy.  There is evidence that these organic dust particles actually reached the early Solar System.  Through bombardments by comets and asteroids, the early Earth inherited significant amounts of star dust.  Was the development of life assisted by the arrival of these extraterrestrial materials?  In this talk, we describe discoveries in astronomy and solar system science over the last 10 years that resulted in a new perspective on the origin of life.

Prof. Sun Kwok’s research areas are astrochemistry and stellar evolution.  He is best known for his theory on the origin of planetary nebulae and the death of Sun-like stars.  His recent research has been on the topic of the synthesis of complex organic compounds in the late stages of stellar evolution.  He is the author of many books, including The Origin and Evolution of Planetary Nebulae (Cambridge, 2000), Cosmic Butterflies (Cambridge, 2001), Physics and Chemistry of the Interstellar Medium (University Science Books, 2007), Organic Matter in the Universe (Wiley, 2012), and Stardust: the cosmic seeds of life (Springer, 2013).  He has been a guest observer on many space missions, including the Hubble Space Telescope and the Infrared Space Observatory.

Prof. Kwok currently serves as President of IAU International Astronomical Union (IAU), Commission on Astrobiology.  Previously, he has served as the President of IAU Commission on Interstellar Matter (2012-2015) and chairman of IAU Planetary Nebulae Working Group (1994-2001).

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Cosmic Rays in the Classroom: Francesca Crema


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At 7:30 PM, Friday, 14 April 2017, at the Sunshine Coast Art Centre, 5714 Medusa St., Sechelt, The Sunshine Coast Centre welcomes Francesca Crema, whose topic will be “Cosmic Rays in the Classroom: My experiences with muons, variable stars, and project-based learning.”

Francesca Crema is a 17-year-old grade 12 student participating in Templeton Secondary’s STEM Program in Vancouver who intends to pursue a career in the sciences, specifically physics (specifically, high-energy particle physics). Francesca is the youngest at-large council member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, serving on the council of the RASC’s Vancouver center as their youth rep.

Ever since joining her school’s STEM program, Francesca has received the opportunity to research and analyze data collected from a cosmic ray detector, and is currently studying spectroscopy and photometry at the SFU Trottier observatory. Francesca has been updating old data (e.g.: radial velocity, apparent magnitude) on RT Aurigae. Because her school’s STEM program has provided her with these opportunities and more, she will also talk about it and detail the benefits of project-based learning. Her talk will detail her experiences with these projects, as well as provide an introduction to the scientific principles – from elementary particles to variable stars – that they are based on.

Admission is free: donations gratefully accepted at the door.

NOTE: RASC members will hold a very brief 10 minute meeting at the outset to vote on the new bylaws.

Sunshine Coast RASC President Charles Ennis: