Nanaimo Worms Launched in SpaceX Cargo Ship

The SpaceX CRS-15 Mission to the International Space Station launched from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida at 2:42 am PDT this morning. In attendance were three students from the Nanaimo District Secondary School to witness a space mission that they have been working on since September.

The mission involves sending planarian flatworms into orbit to test the effects of micro-gravity and the supplement L-carnitine on muscle loss. A  group of worms still in Nanaimo, and not sent into space, serve as a control group. Astronauts in space experience muscle mass loss and the experiment may yield insights that will help astronauts on extended missions.

The  CRS-15 mission marked SpaceX’s fastest re-flight of a booster. The same booster launched the planet-hunting Tess satellite in April. The booster was topped with  a used Dragon cargo spacecraft with 2,700 kilograms of supplies and science gear for the International Space Station. The  cargo includes the spherical AI bot named Cimon, genetically identical mice, super-caffeinated coffee and the Nanaimo worms.


Vancouver Illuminated Event

Vancouver Illuminated Image

RASC Vancouver is participating at  Vancouver Illuminated on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018.  The City of Vancouver and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre have teamed up to present an evening of discovery about Vancouver’s night sky  and an opportunity to engage residents about the City’s Outdoor Lighting Strategy.  Drop by our table to chat with our LPA Chair, Pascal Pillot-Bruhat, and find out more about Light Pollution Abatement.

While you’re at it, enjoy a Planetarium show at 7:30pm and 9:00pm for just $5 – register to secure your seat.


Sat June 2nd, 2018 – 6:30pm to 10:00pm
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre
1100 Chestnut Street
Vancouver, BC V6J 3J9
View Map

  • Chat with City staff about Outdoor Lighting Strategy
  • Take a free walk through the Space Centre’s Cosmic Courtyard
  • Learn what animals depend on natural darkness through Stanley Park Ecology Society’s Interactive dark exhibit
  • Find out what organizations like the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada are doing about light pollution
  • Test your knowledge about outdoor light pollution and you could win a $50 gift card to Dark Table!

7:30 – Planetarium Show: ‘Asteroid Mission Extreme’

9:00 – Planetarium Show: ‘Phantom of the Universe’

To provide feedback on the City’s Outdoor Lighting Strategy, read the consultation paper and send in your feedback no later than June 12. Visit to learn more.


Discovery Challenge for Astronomy Day 2018

Congratulations to Carl Bandura who correctly identified the galaxy as NGC  4564 – an 11th magnitude elliptical galaxy located about 57 million light-years away. NGC 4564 crossed the meridian at 22:25 PDT on May 12th but it is still a bit light then at this time of year so waiting another hour is a better time to observe it.
Dicovery Challenge Image with Labels
Image from the Discovery Challenge with labels on the brighter galaxies.

Our Observing Director, Robert Conrad,  and I have teamed up to bring you an observing challenge in preparation for Astronomy Day. You can win a prize too and if you need hints,  we will provide a hint each day for the next few days. See all the details below. Good luck!
Checkout the latest hints – all the hints have now been provided!  
Remember to send your answers  to [email protected]m or [email protected]com before 2pm tomorrow (Saturday May 12th) to be eligible to win a special edition of “Atlas of the Stars”. We will be having a draw following Robert’s 2-3pm presentation in Simon Fraser University’s Academic Quadrangle room AQ3150 during Astronomy Day/Science Rendezvous – we hope to see you there.
Discovery Challenge
Here is new challenge for you that will test your Stellarium charting abilities and ties in with Astronomy Day and Science Rendezvous at SFU on May 12th, 2018 (more info at
The image below includes at least  15 galaxies but can you identify the galaxy in the yellow circle and when would be an good time observe it on Astronomy Day (May 12th, 2018)?
You can get help in tackling this challenge by attending Robert’s presentation on using using Stellarium and locating objects at Astronomy Day. Additional clues will follow in the next few days.  Send your answers to [email protected]com or [email protected]  Participants who correctly identify the the galaxy will be eligible to win a special edition of “Atlas of the Stars”, published every 10 years, in a draw following Robert’s 2-3pm presentation on Astronomy Day.

Hints (two more coming in the next few days)
  1. The field of view in the image is approximately 3.4 by 2.3 degrees and the same field is visible during most of the night on May 12th from Vancouver. That is not much to go on but look for further hints over the next few days.
  2. Asteroid Kalliope (magnitude 11) passes through the bottom left hand side of this field from May 3rd to May 12th, 2018.
  3. The image includes parts of the Virgo Galaxy cluster.
  4. The final hint is that the image contains several Messier objects including M58, M59, M60, M87, M89.


Science Rendezvous and Astronomy Day 2018

Science Rendezvous and Astronomy Day is today at Simon Fraser Univerity’s Burnaby campus from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm. Take advantage of the the clear skies to have a look through our solar  scopes or to see stars in the daylight at the Trottier Observatory. Kids can enter a draw for binoculars provided by Markarian Fine Optics. Lots of other astronomy and science activities and parking is free!

Join us for Simon Fraser University’s Science Rendezvous and International Astronomy Day 2018. An exciting day full of interesting things to see and do, artistic performances and educational demonstrations and explorations at SFU’s Burnaby Mountain campus on Saturday, May 12, 2018, from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., rain or shine.

RASC activities include an Apollo Rockets and Mission display, guest speakers, a solar telescope display and observing (weather permitting), and numerous craft and activity tables for children.

Guest speakers and presentations in the Academic Quadrangle room #AQ3150:

  • 11:00 – 12:00, Robert Conrad: The use of Stellarium (free & easy to use astronomy software) to scan the skies.
  • 12:15 – 12:45, Ted Stroman: The Moon 101 (Facts about our closest neighbour).
  • 1:00 – 1:30, Ken Lui: The Global Space Community.
  • 2:00 – 3:00, Robert Conrad : How to locate deep sky objects and ‘doomsday’ asteroids.

More details are available from the RASC Vancouver meetup post or Simon Fraser University’s event page.

* Free admission to all shows, activities, talks and tours *

* Complimentary parking offered in East Parking lot *

* Open to participants of all ages *

Chinese Space Station Heading Back To Earth

The Chinese space station,  TIANGONG-1 or “Heavenly Palace” is headed back to earth with re-entry likely happening tomorrow afternoon.

Its re-entry, unlike most, is uncontrolled as the space station became unresponsive in March, 2016. The latest forecasts remain highly variable but are centred in a window around 16:25 PDT on April 1st. This is later than originally predicted with the delay attributed to low solar activity, which has allowed Earth’s upper atmosphere to cool and shrink away from Tiangong-1 – less air  means less aerodynamic friction and a slower decay. Check here for updates.

Most of the 8.5 tonne spacecraft will burn up in the atmosphere with 1.5 to 3.5 tonnes expected to impact the earth. The impact zone is from 43° North latitude to 43° south latitude and it is likely come down in an ocean rather than over land. So that excludes BC and most of Canada. Impact debris is typically heat resistant metal objects such as fuel tanks.

TIANGONG-1 is about the size of bus. It is much smaller than the 74 tonne Skylab space station that had an uncontrolled re-entry in 1979. Still, it would be a spectacular sight if you happen to be in the right place at the right time to see it. It will be visible even in daylight and will appear as a slow moving shooting star or fireball,  a smoke trail might even be visible.


Space Talk with Scott – Feb 24th, 2018

RASC’s Scott McGillivray talks about viewing the Humanity Star – the “disco mirror ball” that is currently in orbit; and his favourite upcoming space mission.

Kidney Transplant Needed by RASC Member


The following letter is from long time RASC Vancouver member Barry Shanko to let you know about his current health challenges and how you can help.  Barry has been a wonderfully generous volunteer for our activities.   In particular, as our Speakers Chair for many years, Barry ensured an interesting series of talks at our public lectures.  Barry needs a new kidney, and we hope you will consider being tested to be a living donor.


Dear Fellow Members of the Vancouver Centre:

In reaching out to you I have to say this is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write. My kidneys have failed and I undergo dialysis three times a week. This is a temporary fix; the best long term solution is a kidney transplant.

The waiting time for a deceased donor kidney is years and I have been advised to try and find someone who would be willing to donate one of their kidneys to me. I’m writing this letter with the hopes that you or someone you know will come forward to volunteer to be tested as a first step towards donation.

I understand this is a huge request, and I want you to be totally comfortable with your decision. No matter what you decide, I will respect it.  If you are comfortable with saying yes, I hope you will consider stepping forward to be tested.

Life with dialysis is not easy. I need treatment three times a week, four hours per session. This is a great hit to my lifestyle, meaning that I have to plan my life around my appointments. It is almost as though I was attached to the machines via a leash. For example, on work days when I have dialysis, I leave for work at 7:30 am, but don’t get home until almost 10 in the evening. A new kidney would eliminate these restrictions and return me to a normal life.

This is also a hard thing for me personally. My mom died from kidney failure. She wasn’t able to have a transplant and eventually the dialysis stopped working. Her last few years were a constant cycle of dialysis and then rest until the next session. It wasn’t much of a life.

I’ve learned kidney donors are able to live normal and healthy lives with just a single kidney. Donors are carefully screened to make sure it is safe for them to give up a kidney. The testing is comprehensive and only if you pass the tests will you be asked to take the next step to donation. The transplant team makes the donor’s health and well-being a priority. Donors don’t have to be a relative, or even have the same blood type to volunteer. And should the worst happen and your single kidney fails, as a live donor, you would go straight to the top of the transplant list without having to wait in line.

I know I’ve given you a lot to think about. If you are interested in exploring the idea of a kidney donation and want more information, I’d urge you to start by checking out the BC Transplant website [] or contact the VGH pre-transplant clinic at 604-875-5182 for more information. Just asking for information is not a commitment to going forward with it and you can stop at any point in the process. All of your contacts and information will be kept in the strictest confidence.

If you’d like, I’d be happy to talk with you confidentially about this and pass along more information.

Thank you for letting me share my information. If you know of someone you think would be interested in donating, feel free to pass this letter along to them. The wider the net, the better my chances.


Barry Shanko