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

The Sky This Month - April 2019

Corvus The Crow

Follow the handle of the Big Dipper as it arcs or bends to the star Arcturus in the constellation Bootes. Continue this imaginary curve to the first magnitude star Spica – alpha Virgo. At 250 light-years (ly) away, Spica shines 1,900 times more luminous than the Sun. It actually consists of two extremely hot B1 and B4 stars that are separated by a mere 0.12 astronomical units or 18 million kilometres.

To the lower right of Spica is a trapezoid of stars, this is Corvus. Mythology states the god Apollo sent the crow with a cup (Crater) in search of water. The crow was distracted by a fig tree, which caused its delay to Apollo. On its return, Corvus gave the excuse a water snake (Hydra) prevented the bird from filling the cup. Apollo did not believe this story and cast all three into the night sky forever.

From the top left of the asterism, we see the star called Algorab located 87 ly away. Moving clockwise is Gienah. This is a hot B8 star some 154 ly away and measures four times the diameter of the Sun. Next, we have the orange coloured Minkar. It is the farthest of the four at 318 ly away and has ballooned in size to measure two-thirds the orbit of Mercury. And last is the G5 star Kraz. It resides 146 ly away and research shows it was a blue-white B7 star only 300 million years ago.

Corvus has a few targets well worth observing and imaging. First, of we have M104 aka the Sombrero Galaxy. This is a lovely lenticular galaxy, almost oriented edge-on and has a very distinct dust lane. The Sombrero is located 31 million ly from us and estimated to be 50 thousand ly in width. Halfway between Corvus and Crater is an unusual spiral catalogued NGC 4027. At 77 million ly away this 11th magnitude galaxy has only one spiral arm.

A classic example of two interacting galaxies is NGC 4038 and 4039 known as the Antennae Galaxies. They are about 80 million ly away and shows the fate of the Milky Way when it collides with the Andromeda galaxy in about four billion years from now. It will be known as Milkomeda.

Speaking about our galaxy the constellation Scorpius with the orange star Antares is above the horizon along with Jupiter by 2 a.m. local time. By 4 a.m. Sagittarius and Saturn can be seen along with the glow of billions of star of the Milky Way. Follow it up and east as it connects the Cygnus the Swan aka the “Northern Cross”, a sure sign days and nights will soon get warmer.

Mars can be seen now passing the Pleiades and will be closest to the star Aldebaran – the eye of the bull in Taurus on April 9.The annual Lyrid meteor shower peaks on the night of April 23 with an hourly rate of 18 meteors per hour.

The full Pink Moon occurs on April 19 which will definitely interfere with viewing the Lyrids.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Monday, April 1, 2019Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month

Canis Major

The star Sirius is by far the brightest and closest visible star in the Canadian winter sky. Sirius belongs one of Orion’s hunting dogs, it is only 8.6 light years away and at magnitude -1.47 is a great daytime telescopic object. Along with the stars Betelgeuse and Procyon, Sirius forms the Winter Triangle. AKA, the Dog Star, Sirius is a binary with a magnitude 8.44 white dwarf companion nicknamed the Pup. The white dwarf orbits Sirius once every 50 years in an elliptical orbit that ranges in distance from eight to 31 astronomical units. The much fainter Sirius B is located very close to brilliant Sirius making it extremely difficult to spot. As you can see by the chart, the companion is almost at its farthest from its primary. I remember catching a glimpse of it back in 1979.

Located a few degrees to the south of Sirius is a lovely open cluster cataloged as M41. It is located 2,316 light years away and estimated to be 12.5 light years across. This cluster makes a striking view in wide-angle binoculars and with wide-angle photography when you include Sirius. Nine degrees to the northeast of Sirius is Thor’s Helmet (NGC 2359). At a distance of 12,000 light years, this 30 light year wide structure is comprised of a bubble and filaments. At the middle is the Wolf-Rayet star WR 7 that has an estimated brightness 280,000 times brighter than the Sun. It has a surface temperature of 112,000 K and is about to explode into a supernova.

Exoplanets seem to be everywhere and there is a naked eye star located southwest from Sirius. Named Nu2 Canis Majoris or V2, this star is located 64 light years away. At fourth magnitude, V2 should be an easy target to see. The exoplanet seems to be in the habitable zone where oceans (if any) would stay liquid. The planet orbits 1.9 AU from the parent star.

The planet Mercury is now at magnitude zero and low in the western sky after sunset. It sets about an hour after sunset so you will only have a few evening to search for Mercury as it is sinking fast. Moving up the ecliptic, we can still see the orangey hue of Mars. Now at magnitude 1.3, the crescent moon will be almost seven degrees to the left of the red planet on March 11. For the first ten evenings of the March, look for the faint zodiacal lights in the west that follows the ecliptic towards the Pleiades. Photography will be your best bet to capture this slanted triangular glow of interstellar dust. After March 10, moonlight will interfere.

The other three naked eye planets are found in the morning sky. Jupiter rises at 2:30 a.m. local time with the ringed planet Saturn a full two hours later and brilliant Venus, a half an hour after Saturn. This year the vernal equinox occurs on March 20, which happens to be a full Worm Moon and this is why Easter is so late this year. The holiday occurs on the Sunday after the full moon after spring. Therefore, we have to wait for the next full moon on April 19 (Good Friday) with Easter Sunday on April 21. 

This month’s new moon occurs on March 6 and Daylight Saving Time (DST) begins at 2 a.m. on March 10.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Friday, March 1, 2019Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages