The Sky This Month - August 2019

Aquila The Eagle

The southernmost star of the Summer Triangle named Altair resides 16 light-years from earth. Referred as the “sweet sixteen star”, Altair rotates at 210 kilometres per second or a 100 times faster than our sun. This deforms the star causing it to be a bit wider at the equator and oval-shaped. This first magnitude sun is the brightest star of Aquila the Eagle. In mythology, the eagle belonged to the god Jupiter.

Within the borders of Aquila are nine stars with orbiting exoplanets. One is the magnitude 4.7 star named Xi Aquilae also known as Libertas which are 180 light-years from us and located to the lower left of Altair. Its lone planet named Fortitudo orbits its spectral G9 parent star every 137 days and has a mass 2.8 times that of Jupiter. Fortitudo can be easily seen in binoculars but try with the unaided eye on a moonless night from a dark location.

Further down the wing of the eagle is a fantastic open star cluster – M11. Commonly referred to as the “Wild Duck”, it is located 6,197 light-years away and is actually in the constellation of Scutum. Words cannot describe looking through a wide-angle eyepiece of a telescope to see the bright stars of the cluster against the backdrop of the Scutum Star Cloud. This star cloud is a view of the innermost galactic arm of the Milky Way called the Scutum-Centaurus Arm

The annual Perseid meteor shower is underway and peaks on the night of Aug12/13. The parent comet 109/P Swift-Tuttle measures close to 26 kilometres in diameter. Such a large object produces more dusty and stony debris to occasionally produce fireballs that could light up the ground. This is a fantastic summertime shower as many people are on vacation. The bad news for this upcoming display is the moon will be 94% lit on the peak night which will drastically reduce the usual 90 meteors seen per hour to a smaller number. Although you will probably not see too many of the fainter meteors, fireballs will still dazzle you. On the same night, Saturn will be situated to the right of the moon.

Jupiter and Saturn appear on either side of the band of the Milky Way making for great wide-angle astrophotography. By the end of the month, Jupiter will set at 11:40 p.m. with Saturn setting two hours later. For the past few months, Jupiter’s Red Spot appears to be dramatically shrinking and changing shape. While viewing this change, use the table on page 235 of the RASC Observer Handbook to follow transits and shadows times of the four Galilean moons.  

The planet Mars keeps sinking closer to the western horizon and will be lost in the solar glare by month’s end. But as we say goodbye to Mars, Venus is slowly moving up the western sky. The two planets are best seen together on the 23. On Aug 28 look for a thin 6% lit waning crescent moon low in the eastern sky. It teams up with the Beehive cluster and makes for a great digital moment. However, you will be battling early dawn.

The brightest comet in the morning sky is C/2017 T2(PANSTARRS). It is located east of the Hyades cluster and slowly moving towards the east. The full Ripening Moon will occur on the 15th and new moon on the 30th.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Thursday, August 1, 2019Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month - July 2019

The Glow of Billions

Travel out of the city on a clear moonless night, leaving the dome of light pollution behind you. Stepping out of your car, you are instantly greeted by thousands of stars. This is the true sky that many people never have the chance to see and enjoy from city limits. The night sky is a thing of beauty to grasp. no matter what season – even winter. It is however summer and early fall that we see an extra bonus high above.

The great band of light stretching from the constellations of Sagittarius in the south to the famous “W” of Cassiopeia in the north east is our Milky Way Galaxy. Galactic centre is located off the right side of Sagittarius is about 26,000 light years and thus the heaviest concentration of distant suns. The “ghostly” veil is the collective glow of billions of distant stars that cannot be resolved with th3 f. This is a sight everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. 

And when you do decide to take that road trip, be sure to bring binoculars if you own them. There is a wealth of celestial objects that come into view with simple 8X50 binoculars. As you sweep across the Milky Way with the binoculars, hundreds of stars fills the field of view. 

Two planets are located on either side of Sagittarius with bright Jupiter on the right and Saturn on the left but shining only about half as bright. Saturn is at opposition on the 9th and rises at sunset. You will require larger magnification to catch Jupiter’s moon and a telescope to marvel Saturn’s rings. Almost half way between the planets is a hazy patch of light. This is Messier 8 or simply M8. Otherwise known as the Lagoon Nebula, this “stellar nursery” is slowly forming new stars through the process of collapsing and condensing interstellar gas and dust. Who knows how many new exoplanets might form from these future stars. 

The Lagoon is located 4,100 light years away. Along with its dusty nebulous regions we see tiny inky black Bok globules (named after Bart Bok), which are pockets of dense gas that could form new stars. Located in the nebula is NGC 6530, a cluster of very bright suns. At an estimated age of only 2.3 million years, these juvenile suns are young on the cosmic scale. A bit north and west of M8 (one and a third degrees) is M20. The Trifid Nebula located 5,200 light years away is also a star forming area. It is however more than that. The Trifid contains an open cluster, blue reflection nebula and dark nebula, dividing the target into three segments.

There are two eclipses in July that we will not see from Canada. First is a total solar eclipse on July 2 which mostly crosses the Pacific Ocean west of South America but does make landfall over Chile and Argentina. Then on the night of July 16 is a partial lunar eclipse visible over most of Africa. This month’s full Buck Moon occurs on the 21st. 

July 20 will be the 50th anniversary of humans landing on the surface of the moon. The last half century has seen tremendous advancement in technology and space exploration. We have sent Voyager 1 & 2 to give us a close up look in the gas giants, sent an array of orbiting satellites and rovers to Mars. For almost 30 years the Hubble Space Telescope has imaged the far depths of the Universe. Gravity waves have been detected over the past few years stemming from Einstein’s prediction in 1916. And finally imaging a black hole located 55 million light years away. This is a wonderful age to follow amazing discoveries and enjoy the night sky with today’s state of the art telescopes and cameras. 

Until next month, clear skies everyone.
Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Monday, July 1, 2019Category: Northern SkiesFile:  2019 - 07 - image 1a.pngTweet::  Pages

Now Hiring! Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Exciting news! Through a generous grant from the Carswell Family Foundation, the RASC is now able to hire a fifth full-time staff member. Applications are open until July 5th, 2019. Apply here.


Reporting directly to the Executive Director and liaising with the Account Manager, staff and Board of Directors as required, the Marketing & Communications Coordinator will manage the national marketing and media portfolio and serve as primary communications contact for the Society’s centres and committees. Key responsibilities include assessing operations, defining best practices and increasing awareness of the RASC to support revenue and membership growth.  



Marketing & Communications  

Create a national marketing and media plan for internal and external markets, social media and public affairs. Identify promotional opportunities, outcomes and budgets to increase awareness of RASC, its programs, products and member enrolment. Develop and execute marketing strategies. Establish a national media contact list. Create and circulate media releases for astronomy announcements and event promotion. Utilize print and online marketing options including Twitter, Instagram, You Tube etc. Implement targeted member communications to help strengthen member retention. Assist centres and committees with promotion and publicity as required. Establish and lead a Marketing & Communications Committee. 


Review and assess centre operations and define national program benchmarks and best practices. Help enable centres to establish and deliver consistent program delivery, optimize member, customer and partner experiences and oversee reporting requirements.


Review and assess committee mandates, membership criteria and budgets. Define national’s expectations of program benchmarks and best practices.  Help enable committees to meet scheduled outcomes, report in a timely manner and comply with budgets. Ensure print materials meet corporate standards.       


Marketing & Communications:

Initiate and implement RASC marketing and communication strategies to external and internal sectors including member e-bulletins. Establish a media contact list, send releases and keep a record of RASC media coverage.  Provide research, background material and best practices models to assist the Executive Director in advocating for policy development and program improvements.

Centres & Committees:

Establish and manage the Society’s schedule of ongoing centre and committee communications and solicit information, updates and reports as required.  Establish and maintain current contact information on iMIS, email and direct mail lists. Oversee and coordinate centre and committee submission of quarterly reports to the national office for staff and board review. Schedule webinars and onsite meetings as required.

Other projects and responsibilities as assigned.

Skills and Qualifications

  • a degree in communications, marketing or related field or equivalent experience.
  • successful track record in marketing and public relations, established media network
  • strong analytical, problem solving and planning skills
  • able to multi-task, meet deadlines.
  • able to engage and motivate volunteers
  • knowledge of astronomy helpful

Salary & Benefits

  • 35-hour work week
  • day/evening and possible weekend work hours
  • salary range based on experience, $50,000 to $55,000 a year
  • generous vacation and sick days
  • comprehensive Medical and Dental Benefits
Author: Jenna HindseNews date: Thursday, June 20, 2019Tweet::  Pages

Summer Students Start Work at the Society Office

Summer Students Start at Society Office


I am pleased to welcome two summer students to the RASC Society Office.

The Society obtained a grant through the federal Canada Summer Jobs program to hire the students for 9 weeks.

Miguel Del Rio will work assisting with administrative duties, handling membership inquiries and publication sales.

Maria Kalsatos will be helping with social media and youth outreach.

Maria will be using the coordinator@rasc.ca

Miguel will be using the mempub@rasc.ca

We are updating the phone greeting with their extension information. For now, contact them through extension 1.

Both students will be helping with organizing the upcoming General Assembly.

Please join us in welcoming both Miguel and Maria to the RASC Office!


Randy Attwood

Executive Director

Author: Randy AttwoodeNews date: Wednesday, May 8, 2019Category: AnnouncementsTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month - May 2019

Eta Aquarid Meteor Shower

The month of May month begins with the May 4 new moon and will provide dark sky conditions to enjoy the annual Eta Aquarid meteor shower. The entire shower takes place from April 19 to May 28 with the peak occurring on the morning of May 5. The parent comet 1P/Halley which also produces the Orionid meteor shower in October will produce about 40 meteors per hour and vapourize in the atmosphere at 67 km/sec.

While watching meteors dart across the sky, you can welcome Scorpius as it rises before midnight local time in the south. Seeing the familiar arc of three stars along with the red star Antares is a sure sign warmer nights are ahead. Antares is a massive red giant star located 550 light-years (ly) from us. It is about 700 times the diameter of the sun and would fit in the orbit of Mars.

A great project for astrophotographers is the Rho Ophiuchi cloud complex which includes Antares. With simple binoculars, look for the globular cluster M4 located 1.3 degrees west of Antares. M4 is an estimated 7,200 ly away, about 75 ly in width and glows at magnitude 5.6.

Wedged between Scorpius and Sagittarius is brilliant Jupiter. Rising early each week, Jupiter will attain opposition on June 10 thus being closest to earth. A telescope will help reveal its nightly orbit changes of its four Galilean moons. Refer to page 233 of the 2019 RASC Observer’s Handbook for a complete ephemeris of moon transits and accompanying shadow across the Jovian surface.

By 5 a.m. local time, the familiar asterism of the “teapot” is well above the horizon by 3 a.m. with the entire Milky Way painted across the sky to the constellation Cassiopeia. This is Sagittarius and positioned to its left is Saturn. A few degrees above the spout of the teapot is the Lagoon Nebula – M8. This emission nebula commonly called a stellar nursery is slowly forming new stars M8 is seen naked eye on a clear moonless night in the countryside and measures a couple of full moons in width.

On the night of May 10, the 39% lit moon will pass in front of the Beehive cluster – M44. The moon’s motion causes it to move a lunar width in one hour. Starting around 10 p.m. eastern, follow the moon with a telescope as it hides the brighter members of the cluster.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Wednesday, May 1, 2019Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages