Space Talk with Scott: November 8, 2015

Scott McGillivray from the Royal Astronomical Society talks about the latest discoveries in space. This week: NASA’s report on the loss of Mars’ atmosphere, Earth’s Aurora Borealis, SETI’s search for ‘Alien Mega Structures’.

Europe and Russia’s cooperation on a Lunar mission.

Additionally – a look at images submitted by viewers, and Howard Trottier’s first image from the SFU’s Trottier Observatory.

Space Talk with Scott: Asteroid headed for Earth

Scott McGillivray from the Royal Astronomical Society talks about the latest discoveries in space, including an asteroid named ‘Spooky’ that is flying right past the earth.

Extreme Tide September 28

For those of us who tend to be fascinated watching the tide flow in and then flow out again, Monday, September 28 holds a treat for us.  This September 28, one day after a full lunar eclipse, the Earth will experience the lowest and highest tides in 18.6 years.  We will not experience tides this extreme again until 2034.

The astronomical events that cause the tides work in various periodic cycles.  The Moon has the greatest influence on the tides, but it is not the only one.  The Sun also plays a role and when the two bodies work together it is called a spring tide (nothing to do with seasons) and when they work at 90 degrees to each other it is called a neap tide.  Let’s examine these cycles.

  • Spring tides are linked to the full and new Moons when the solar and lunar tides are aligned, on average every 14.77 days or half the synodic cycle.
  • The Sun’s influence on the Earth-Moon system results in an especially small lunar perigee when the major axis of the lunar orbit aligns with the Sun. This happens every 206 days.
  • Perigean Spring tides occur near the time of an equinox at 4.43 year intervals, half of the 8.85 year period of the turning of the major axis of the lunar orbit.
  • The plane of the lunar orbit is tilted 5 degrees to the ecliptic plane. The Sun’s gravity acting on the Moon causes the lunar orbit to wobble like a child’s top.  The period of the resulting retrograde precession of the lunar nodes relative to the equinox is 18.61 years.

All of these above mentioned mechanisms come to be on September 28 which will result in the extreme tide I mentioned at the beginning.  The best place to observe this is the Bay of Fundy where the tide will rise over 55 feet or 16.8 metres.  Our local tides will be noticeably higher than usual for observers like myself who like to watch the water come in and go out.  Others who might notice are dock workers.  Some of the older wharfs in the area might actually be submerged at the peak of the tide.

The tide charts for Vancouver predict the lowest tide is at aproximately 12:30 pm and the highest tide of the day will be at aproximately 6:40 pm.  Please check tide charts on the day as well as tide charts for your local spot as the geography of our coastline influences the timing of the tides.  For those of you stuck in office buildings on the 28th, take your binoculars and have a peek at the water front from time to time to watch the tide.

For lots more detailed information about the tides please refer to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Observer’s Handbook 2015.  Almost all the information above was taken from this book.

Leigh Cummings


Space Talk with Scott: August 17

Our own Scott McGillivray talks about the baby version of Jupiter, Cassini’s new photos of Saturn’s moon Dione, and new 3D images of Mars, on Global TV.


Space Talk with Scott: August 11

Tue, Aug 11 – The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada’s Scott McGillivray talks about food being grown and eaten in space, the Perseid meteor shower, the newest photos of Pluto, and how astronomers say the universe is dying.


Vice-President's Message – July 2015

The summer months are now upon us. We hope that you are enjoying the amazing hot weather and clear nights that we have been experiencing. Your Vancouver Centre has been rather quiet for the past month in regards to evening public events. This is due to the fact that in the months of June and July, the days are too long and the evenings not dark enough to warrant a large planned public observing event. Having said that though , there have been and will continue to be impromptu evening observing sessions held and we hope that you will continue to join us for those. Our next pre-planned evening public event will be on Saturday, August 8 and the event will be two-fold. Firstly, we will enjoy the annual Perseid meteor shower at the joint Metro Parks/ RASC event at Aldergrove Regional Park. Check out our page at Meetup for more details. Secondly, the August 8 event will be held in conjunction with our sister astronomy club —the Astronomica l Association of Jamaica. The Jamaica club will also be observing on the evening of August 8, and afterwards our two clubs will share details and photos. Your Vancouver Centre was paired with the Astronomical Association of Jamaica in February of this year through the Astronomy Without Borders Pairing Program. To date, our communications have been restricted to email and Skype but with this first- ever joint observing event, we hope to solidify this pairing. If you haven’t already, please join the Vancouver Centre Meetup group for email notifications of all of our events at

Clear skies,

Suzanna Nagy, Vice President

2015 International Astronomy Day @ SFU

8,000 – that is how many people SFU estimates attended the joint International Astronomy Day and Science Rendezvous festivities on Saturday, May 9. If you were there, then you know what a great success it was.

RASC’s contribution to the day included 19 tables of activities and displays. The Moon Phases with Oreo Cookies was so successful that I had to make a run to the nearest grocery store to buy more Oreos. One of our craft tables ran out of paper by the end of the event. The Solar System Toss to Pluto was a huge hit and Astronomy Bingo was enjoyed by both children and adults alike.

We hosted seven short lectures that were well attended with a good variety of topics, including “New Horizons and our First Visit to Pluto” by Scott McGillvray, “Are We Alone? The Search for Extra Terrestrial Life” by Stanley Greenspoon, “The Global Space Community” by Ken Lui, and Ed Hanlon’s Northern Lights slideshow to name just a few.

The weather was spectacular (the first time in 3 years we did not have rain on Astronomy Day) and RASC took full advantage with three solar telescopes set up beside the new Trottier Observatory for solar viewing.

A big thank you goes out to Vancouver Telescope and Pacific Telescope who donated an 8 inch Dobsonian as a door prize. The winner was the Chan family with children Carina and Colton from Burnaby, BC.

Canadian Telescope also donated solar viewing glasses, umbrellas, and binoculars which were given away throughout the day.

I can never thank our volunteers enough for all of their efforts. 40 RASC volunteers gave up their Saturday, many of whom were there all day — some arriving as early as 9:00 am to start setting up and stayed until 6:00 pm for take-down. I wish to acknowledge their efforts by naming each here:

Staff at Vancouver Telescope
Staff at Canadian Telescopes
UBC Astronomy Club and Ronan Kerr
Planetary Society and Ken Lui/ Catherine Lui
Karl Miller, Gordon Farrell, Doug Montgomery and their solar telescopes
Howard Trottier for opening up the Trottier Observatory for tours
Ted Stroman for his Moon and Apollo Mission display
Jim Bernath and his hands-on science displays
Adrian Mitescu, Phil Lobo, Pomponia Martinez and Bob Parry for helping Jim Bernath at his six display tables
Mark Eburne and his Light Pollution display
Stanley Greenspoon and Sarang Brahme at Craft Table #1
Benjamin Joseph and his son Mark as well as Jennifer Kirkey at Craft Table #2
Judy Zhou, Anca Datcu-Romano and Irena Datcu-Romano at the Moon Phases/Oreo Cookie activity
Scott McGillvray at Astronomy Bingo
Eimi Anazawi and Samer Aabedi at the Solar System Toss
Alan Jones who coordinated all seven lectures
As well as Muguette McDonald, James Smith, Kyle Daly, William Fearon, Ron Jerome, Michael Levy, Terry McComas, Jeremy Van Den Driesen and Leigh Cummings.

I don’t think that I missed anyone but in the event I did, please accept my heartfelt thanks.

And finally, a very special thank you to Simon Fraser University and its amazing staff for allowing rasc Vancouver to hold International Astronomy Day in the Academic Quadrangle and all fees waived. A special relationship has developed between RASC Vancouver and SFU and with the opening of the Trottier Observatory, we are looking forward to many more years of astronomy-related activities at SFU. From my lips to God’s ears— here’s hoping for many clear-weather night skies.