Featured

RASC Vancouver Monthly Meeting (Hybrid event): June edition

Join us for our first In-Person monthly meeting in two years at SFU Burnaby!
SFU’s COVID protocols apply, that being maintaining distance from others and wearing of masks are encouraged.
If you can’t join us in person, join via the zoom link available to meetup members when you RSVP.
All of our monthly meetings are free and open to the public.

Location: Hybrid: In person at Simon Fraser University AQ3159 and via Zoom
Link to SFU Room finder: https://roomfinder.sfu.ca/apps/sfuroomfinder_web/?q=AQ3159

Topic: A View of the Universe – The Trottier Observatory and Galaxy Formation

Speaker: Dr. Joanna Woo – Astrophysicist, Department of Physics, Simon Fraser University


Website: https://www.sfu.ca/physics/people/faculty/jwa304.html

Bio: I am an astrophysicist with a focus on galaxy evolution using a variety of cutting-edge observational and theoretical tools. While studying for a B.Sc. in Physics and Astronomy from UBC, I established and became the president of the UBC Astronomy Club which is still active to this day. I also held a part time job at the H. R. MacMillan Space Centre. Being the adventurous type, I decided to pursue graduate studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, receiving my Ph.D. in 2014. I then moved to beautiful Switzerland to take up a postdoctoral position at the Institute for Astronomy of ETH Zurich before returning to Canada for postdoctoral position at UVic. Since mid-2019 I have been a lecturer at the Department of Physics at SFU and the director of the Trottier Observatory.

Abstract: From the Trottier Observatory to the galaxies far far away, this talk will cover the multiple facets of astronomy outreach and galaxy evolution research at Simon Fraser University. Since its humble beginnings at the turn of the new millennium, the Trottier Observatory has educated and inspired thousands, from young children in the community to advanced undergraduates and beyond. Aside from outreach, we are actively involved in study of galaxies and their evolution. I will give a brief overview of our work on understanding the processes by which galaxies mysteriously stop forming stars.

Hoping to see everyone in our first in person event of the year.

International Astronomy Day & Science Rendezvous 2022 (Virtual)

RASC Vancouver will be celebrating International Astronomy Day in conjunction (as we do annually) with Simon Fraser University’s Science Rendezvous.

RASC Vancouver will be hosting five astronomy-themed presentations and SFU’s Science Rendezvous event line-up includes student spaceflight experiments that are going up to ISS, astronomy presentations, a magic chemistry show, a special Meet an SFU Scientist talk with an Astro statistician and live streamed, front-row, remote access to SFU’s on-campus telescope.

Registration in advance is required at Eventbrite to receive the Zoom links. Registration is free. The Zoom links will be emailed out to registrants a week prior.

Events for RASC International Astronomy Day can be found at this link:
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/international-astronomy-day-with-sfu-and-rasc-vancouver-tickets-307191476977

Events for SFU’s Science Rendezvous can be found at this link:
https://www.sfu.ca/science/community/science-rendezvous-2022.html

Highlights include:

RASC Vancouver:
11:00 am: The One Meter Solar System-all youth welcome!: Suzanna Nagy- RASC Vancouver Secretary and Past-President

12:00 pm: The Life Cycle of a Star: Renuka Pampana- RASC Vancouver Webmaster

1:00 pm: An Introduction to Astrophotography: Rob Lyons, professional filmmaker, photographer and founder of Super Creative

2:00 pm: How Can We Do More LPA: Leigh Cummings–Light Pollution Abatement (LPA) Chair RASC Vancouver

3:00 pm: Stellarium-How to use Stellarium-a free open source planetarium for your computer: Robert Conrad -Vice President and Observing Chair RASC Vancouver

RASC Vancouver Monthly meeting: April edition

Join us for our monthly meeting on Thursday, April 14,2022

Time : 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM PDT

Location: Zoom

Topic: Astrophotography – Getting Started with Deep Sky Imaging

Speaker: Rouzbeh Bidshahri (Rouz)

Bio: Long time amateur astronomer interested in high resolution imaging of deep sky objects and planets. Consulting and setting up telescope systems with training.

Abstract/Summary: Brief look at different types of astrophotography with focus on deep sky imaging from short to long focal lengths.

More details on the speaker :

Rouz                                                             .

Telescope Systems Design & Installation

Email:     [email protected]

Gallery: https://www.astrobin.com/users/Rouzbeh/

Articles: https://astrogeartoday.com/author/rouzastro/

Social:    https://www.instagram.com/rouz_astro/

https://www.facebook.com/RouzAstro

Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture: Sophia Gad-Nasr : Creating Black Holes with Dark Matter at Cosmic Dawn

We are thrilled to announce that the speaker for our annual Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture is: Sophia Gad-Nasr
Science Advisor and Dark Matter Hunter
PhD student in Cosmology at University of California, Irvine

Join us on Saturday, March 12 at 7:30 pm for our annual Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture (held virtually).  Our YouTube channel will live stream the lecture. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZ9gX3n2zRNIiJq0v7kwvfg

Abstract in her own words: At the heart of every large galaxy lies a black hole millions to billions of times the mass of the sun. These supermassive black holes are found too early in the Universe’s history to be explained by conventional mechanisms: their formation remains a mystery.

The answer may lie in yet another of the Universe’s mysteries: dark matter. A substance six times as abundant as normal matter, dark matter is everywhere and holds galaxies together. If dark matter particles scatter off of one another, then the interplay between gravity and these scatterings may lead to a catastrophic collapse, leaving behind a black hole in its wake.

Join me on a tour of the dark Universe during the earliest stages of its evolution. I will discuss the puzzle of the existence of supermassive black holes at cosmic dawn, and how dark matter may resolve this mystery. With space telescopes like the James Webb, we can peer back far enough to see if dark matter in galaxies does collapse and form black holes at cosmic dawn, and potentially unravel this longstanding mystery in cosmology.

Paul sky memorial lecture background : These annual memorial lectures honor Paul Sykes. Paul actively pursued his interest in astronomy, attending conferences and joining RASC, where he became a Life Member. Paul Sykes passed away in October 2005 at the age of 87 and left the Vancouver Centre a generous gift.

Paul Sykes was born in Hummelston, Pennsylvania USA in 1918. He acquired his interest in astronomy at an early age. During his teens he published his own monthly astronomical column and gave at least one lecture.

He was an officer in the United States Air Force, served in the Pacific during WWII attaining the rank of Captain. He was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, the U.S. Air Medal, the Oak Leaf and Cluster and the Bronze Star. Following the war he attended UBC earning a degree in Physics in 1948. He rejoined the United States Air Force and attended the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology, studying nuclear physics. He worked on the NERVA Project, a nuclear rocket development effort and rose to the rank of Major.

Paul was appointed a lecturer and administrator in Physics at UBC and remained there until retirement in 1983.

RASC Vancouver at 90!

In 1917, the Canadian Government opened the Dominion Observatory at Saanich, near Victoria. Local amateur astronomers formed a new centre of the RASC which included a few members from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

As membership grew, despite the distance to Victoria and the onset of the Great Depression, by 1930 the astronomers (which by then included a few professional astronomers from UBC) had decided there were sufficient numbers to form a centre in Vancouver. By fall of 1931, the details had been finalized to create a new Centre of the RASC.

On the 2nd Tuesday of November in 1931, the first meeting of the Vancouver Centre was held at UBC in the now long-gone original Astronomy building. The Centre would meet there (and later in the new Astronomy and Geophysics building) until 1969. The Centre then moved to the H. R. MacMillan Planetarium and stayed there until 2011. The Centre moved around temporarily to various locations such as bcit and Douglas College (now Kwantlen University) and SFU, and a few years later decided to make the move permanently to SFU.

From the beginning, public outreach has been a big part of Vancouver Centre’s mandate. The monthly meetings have always been open to the public, and star parties were frequently held. Originally these would be held on various members’ properties. However, by the beginning of the 1950s, the number of people grew too large to be held on private property in the Lower Mainland. Thus, our star parties were moved to various public spaces where access to the sky could be had and that the public could reach. (The author encountered the RASC Vancouver Centre at the Brockton Oval Track in Stanley Park in 1977.)

Additionally, visits would be arranged for members to go to various scientific institutions and facilities that would allow visitors. Members have trekked to Vancouver Island to visit the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, to UBC to visit their telescopes and later to visit the Tri-University Meson Facility (TRIUMF). And now we have access to the Trottier Observatory at SFU as well.

So it has been an interesting 90 years so far with comets, planetary conjunctions, eclipses and other interesting things in the sky to bring us together and look at. And in 10 years (in 2031) we will celebrate 100 years of the Vancouver Centre, so make your plans now to be here to help us celebrate that happy date.

– by William Fearon

Remembering Ken Jackson

Being the President means that, in addition to many other duties, one sometimes has sad news to report. This is one of those times.

On June 21, we lost our webmaster, Ken Jackson, to complications from a bone marrow transplant he received years earlier to treat leukemia. Ken never told us about his condition, but some of us had suspected he wasn’t well. We had no idea it was as serious as it was so his passing came as a shock to all of us.

Ken, a member of Vancouver Centre since 2012, first joined council back in April of 2016. As a software developer, his skills were essential to getting our web presence into proper shape and making our council emails function more effectively, improving both reliability and security as our one-man IT department. When we were forced to go virtual last year due to covid, Ken’s skills proved invaluable, not only getting our lectures online, but enabling us to quickly pivot the GA that Vancouver Centre was hosting from an in-person to an online event. His torch has now been passed to the capable hands of his two assistants, Karimbir Singh and Renuka Pampana, who will keep things running smoothly into the future.

Ken also loved public outreach and was a constant presence at our many events, engaging with the public and sharing his love of astronomy, often with his partner Sumo at his side. He also volunteered at sfu’s Starry Nights public astronomy events on Friday nights, where Howard Trottier described him as a “kind and gentle presence.”

Ken was a loving father to three daughters. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to Plan Canada’s “Because I am a Girl” programme (https://plancanada.ca/because-i-am-a-girl). The Vancouver Centre has made such a donation in Ken’s honour.

Clear Skies, Ken.

Astronomy Day & Science Rendezvous 2021 (Virtual)

RASC Vancouver will be celebrating International Astronomy Day in conjunction (as we do annually) with Simon Fraser University’s Science Rendezvous. Due to COVID19, the event this year will be virtual.

RASC Vancouver will be hosting four astronomy-themed presentations and SFU’s Faculty of Science will be hosting a variety of science presentations as well as an afternoon forum of professors on astronomy-themed topics.

Registration in advance is required at EventBrite to receive the Zoom links. Registration is free. The Zoom links will be emailed out to registrants a week prior.

Events for RASC International Astronomy Day can be found at this link:
https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/international-astronomy-day-livestream-events-with-rasc-and-sfu-tickets-149786835457

Events for SFU’s Science Rendezvous can be found at this link:
https://www.sfu.ca/science/community/science-rendezvous-2021.html

Highlights include:

RASC Vancouver:
11:00 am: NASA’s Voyager Missions: Matthew R. Borghese, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Solar System Ambassador
11:45 am: Solar Observing (weather permitting): Gordon Farrell, President of RASC Vancouver Centre
1:00 pm: The Moon 101: Ted Stroman, Member of RASC Vancouver Centre
2:00 pm: The Jim Bernath Meteorite Collection: Suzanna Nagy, Secretary of RASC Vancouver Centre

SFU Faculty of Science:
11 am to 3 pm:

  • Chemistry in the Kitchen: experience the magic of chemical reactions right in your own kitchen
  • Get Inspidered: learn about spiders, get creative and build your own creature
  • Digestive System: see what happens inside your stomach and intestines, simulate your own digestive process
  • Robotic Forearm: see all the muscles, tissues and nerves up close and learn how to construct your very own robotic forearm
  • Anatomy Bone Word Search: get familiar with what your bones are called, and get busy in a word search
  • Indulge in Physics: from forces and motion, to electricity and magnetism, matter and optics

3:30 pm: Learn more about aerospace physiology, astrostatistics, and dying galaxies from SFU Scientists:

  • Dr. Andrew Blaber, Biomedical Physiology and Kinesiology – aerospace physiology
  • Dr. David Stenning, Statistics – astrostatistics, exoplanets
  • Dr. Joanna Woo, Physics/Trottier Observatory – astronomy: mysterious death of galaxies

Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture: Dr. Phil Plait: Strange New Worlds: Is Earth Special?

On Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 7:30 pm, please join us on Zoom for our annual Paul Sykes Memorial Lecture. See Meetup for the Zoom link for the talk.

For as long as he can remember, Dr. Phil Plait has been in love with science.

“When I was maybe four or five years old, my dad brought home a cheapo department store telescope. He aimed it at Saturn that night. One look, and that was it. I was hooked,” he says.

After earning his doctorate in astronomy at the University of Virginia, he worked on the Hubble Space Telescope as a nasa contractor at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He began a career in public outreach and education with the Bad Astronomy website and blog, debunking bad science and popular misconceptions. The book Bad Astronomy was released in 2002, followed in 2008 by Death From The Skies! He was most recently seen in “Crash Course Astronomy,” a 46-part educational web series he wrote and hosted that has over 20 million views. He hosted the TV show “Phil Plait’s Bad Universe” on the Discovery Channel in 2010 and was the head science writer for “Bill Nye Saves the World” on Netflix, which debuted in 2017. Dr. Plait’s blog has been hosted by Discover Magazine and Slate, and is now on Syfy Wire.

Dr. Plait has given talks about science and pseudoscience across the US and internationally. He uses images, audio, and video clips in entertaining and informative multimedia presentations packed with humour and backed by solid science.

He has spoken at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, the Space Telescope Science Institute (home of Hubble), the Hayden Planetarium in NYC and many other world-class museums and planetaria, conferences, astronomy clubs, colleges & universities, and community groups. He has appeared on cnn, Fox News, msnbc, Pax TV, Tech TV, Syfy, Radio BBC, Air America, NPR, and many other television and internet venues. His writing has appeared in Discover magazine, Sky & Telescope, Astronomy magazine, Night Sky magazine, Space.com, and more.

Synopsis: Since the 1990s, astronomers have found over four thousand (and counting!) exoplanets, alien worlds orbiting other stars. These planets orbit a wide variety of stars, and themselves are all wildly different; huge, small, hot, cold, airless, or with thick atmospheres. As we learn more about them, we come closer to answering the Big Questions: Is there another Earth out there? And if so, will it support life? Is Earth unique, or is the galaxy filled with blue-green worlds that look achingly like our own? In this engaging and fun talk, astronomer Phil Plait will show you how we find these planets, and how our own compares to them.


These annual memorial lectures honour Paul Sykes. Paul actively pursued his interest in astronomy, attending conferences and joining RASC, where he became a Life Member. Paul Sykes passed away in October 2005 at the age of 87 and left the Vancouver Centre a generous gift.

Paul Sykes was born in Hummelston, Pennsylvania USA in 1918. He acquired his interest in astronomy at an early age. During his teens he published his own monthly astronomical column and gave at least one lecture.

He was an officer in the United States Air Force, served in the Pacific during WWII attaining the rank of Captain. He was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation, the U.S. Air Medal, the Oak Leaf and Cluster and the Bronze Star. Following the war he attended UBC earning a degree in Physics in 1948. He rejoined the United States Air Force and attended the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology, studying nuclear physics. He worked on the NERVA Project, a nuclear rocket development effort and rose to the rank of Major.

Paul was appointed a lecturer and administrator in Physics at UBC and remained there until retirement in 1983.

Star Visibility – Sirius vs Antares

by Milan B

We are approaching the 2021 Vernal Equinox and are witnessing how fast the daylight hours are increasing for observers at 49 N. This phenomenon will affect the visibility of certain stars more than others. Sirius, the brightest star in the sky will be greatly affected by this day lengthening and will go quickly into its summer sleep around mid-May and stay out of sight for about three months for observers at 49N. On the other hand, the mighty red giant Antares is just “warming up” for its’ “opposition” with the Sun in late May – early June, when it will dominate the low southern skies.

The very bright star towards the upper left corner of the frame is Antares. Credit: ESO/B. Tafreshi (twanight.org), CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

So, which of these two famous stars has better visibility for observers at mid-northern latitudes like 45 N or 49 N?

Many would say that Sirius, being almost 10 degrees higher in the sky for northern hemisphere observers is the absolute favourite. But hold on a sec, Antares is not throwing the towel in yet.

The chart below shows the hours of visibility for Sirius and Antares for each Friday in 2021. On the first sight the blue bars dominate the red ones, especially in the months when Sirius is visible for almost 10 hours each night.

Visibility hours for Sirius compared to Antares throughout 2021, courtesy od Sky Safari and Milan B.

But, on a closer look, the gap of invisibility for Sirius seems much wider than the one for Antares, revealing the fact that Sirius is invisible for much longer than Antares.

So, to answer the above question we need to refine the definition of “better” visibility. If we add up all visibility hours throughout the year, we can see that Sirius’ total hours dominate. This is confirmed by the average (for the year) line for Sirius, which is close to 5 hours per day compared to the average line for Antares, which is at around 4 hours per day. However, if we add up all days when each star is visible, then Antares becomes an unexpected winner. It is out of sight for observers at 49N only for about three weeks in late November – early December when the late autumn sun slides just above it, on its steady stroll along the ecliptic.

It is important to mention that for the reason of simplicity, the visibility hours in the above chart have been calculated when the star is above the horizon while the Sun is below the horizon. To compensate for the fact that stars are not visible immediately after rising or before setting, especially if the Sun is not far below the horizon, a one hour correction line was added to the chart. This line will “bite” a lot more into the visibility of Antares, as the mighty red giant spends more time in very low altitudes of just a few degrees above the horizon compared to Sirius.

Even if we subtract three weeks on each end of Antares’ “conjunction” with the Sun, which falls around Nov 30th, Antares will be the winner in this category.

It is also worth mentioning that the visibility in “wee” hours (after 1 AM) is being treated equally to the visibility at more friendly hours such as early evening. If we took just the observability at “normal” hours, when each star is not hugging the horizon, the outcome might be totally different.

Milan B, avid sky observer with both SkyWatcher and SkySafari.

NOVA Newsletter for Mar/Apr 2021

The latest edition of our NOVA newsletter is available as a pdf file. An archive of older issues can be found on our Newsletter page. The contents include:

Strange New Worlds: Is Earth Special?
(Paul Sykes Lecture, Thurs, Apr 8 @ 7:30pm, Dr. Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer)

Life on Mars? by J. Karl Miller

President’s Message by Gordon Farrell

Astronomical Events in the Remainder of March by Robert Conrad