The Sky This Month - June 2018

Bootes And Serpens

This month the constellation Bootes is highin the sky and just past the meridian. Its prominent star called Arcturus is 37 light years (ly) away and shines at zero magnitude. Simply follow the stars in the Big Dipper’s handle as it arcs down to Arcturus. This spectral class K0 supergiant shines 113 times brighter than our Sun measure 26 solar diameters across or one quarter the size of the orbit of Mercury.

Looking ten degrees north of Arcturus along the left side of the kite is the star Izar. Shining at second magnitude, this nice but difficult double star displays a pale yellow and light blue stars. They are separated by a mere 2.9 arc seconds thus requiring medium size optics to split. Independently these suns glow at magnitudes 2.7 and 5.1 respectively and are 209 ly away.

The only globular cluster within Bootes is NGC 5466. At 47,000 ly away, it is fairly dim and this magnitude 10.0 smudge will require at least a four inch telescope to begin resolving it. Do not forget to move your scope to the globular cluster M3 that is officially located 34,000 ly away in Canes Venatici.

So who is up for a challenge? For those who are, we have Arp 297. This faint group of four galaxies consisting of NGC 5752 at 14th magnitude, NGC 5753 at 15th, NGC 5755 at 15th and the largest and brightest member NGC 5754 at magnitude 13.8. Arp galaxies are basically, faint peculiar objects. Some of these shape and interactions are quite remarkable. The marker galaxy NGC 5754 is located a little east of the midpoint of the imaginary line between Nekkar and Seginus at the top of the kite.

Moving to Serpens, we find ourselves again in galaxy country. Starting from the head and NGC 5962, this 12th magnitude galaxy possesses many tight galactic arms and has a bright core. We then have the lovely globular cluster M5 – the Rose Cluster. At a distance of 25,000 light years, this magnitude 6.6 fuzzy ball may contain as many as 500,000 stars. A little north of M5 is the 12th magnitude face on galaxy NGC 5921.

The ringed planet Saturn will be at opposition on the 27th. It will rise at sunset and visible all night long. The planets Mars and Earth are still closing in on each other. Mars will be at its best on the last days of July but is already noticeably brightening. It rises at 1 a.m. local time and is magnitude -1.2 at the beginning of the month and will brighten to magnitude -2.2 on July 1 when it rises at 11 p.m. local time.

Summer solstice officially begins on June 21 at 10:27 UT. New moon (lunation 1181) occurs on the 15th and the full Strawberry Moon occurs on June 28 at 4:53 UT.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Twitter: @astroeducator

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Friday, June 1, 2018Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages

2018 Elections Update


Craig Levine, our Society’s Past President, has advised that he will be ending his 3 year Director’s term 1 year early at the General Assembly in Calgary. Craig has served on the Board of Directors for 4 years now, including a term as President, after 6 busy years on National Council. On behalf of the Society and all of its Members, we wish Craig all the best and thank him for 10 years of service at the Society level of the RASC.

This leaves an additional 1 year Director’s term open, therefore all 4 Candidates standing for Director’s positions are acclaimed. Congratulations to all Candidates and thank you all in advance for your support and dedication to the RASC.

To read the candidate statements from the four elected candidates see 2018 Candidate Statements.

Robyn Foret

Vice President

Chair, Nominating Committee

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada


Author: Robyn ForeteNews date: Tuesday, May 15, 2018Category: AnnouncementseNews Tag: 2018 ElectionTweet::  Pages

Open House Highlights

Over 50 people attended the RASC Archive History Centre Open House on Saturday May 12.

Local Member of Parliament James Maloney attended and announced that the RASC would receive funding for two summer students this year. The students will carry our various administrative assignments to enhance fundraising and RASC Centre public outreach activities.

The new RASC Archive History Centre.

MP James Maloney (Etobicoke Lakeshore) addresses the visitors. RASC President Colin Haig and Executive Director Randy Attwood are on either side of Mr Maloney.

Visitors listen to the opening ceremonies.

Archivist Randall Rosenfeld describes various Society archival items to members. 

Assistant Observer's Handbook Editor Chris Malicki chats with Archivist Randall Rosenfeld and Finance Manager Renata Koziol


Author: Randy AttwoodeNews date: Monday, May 14, 2018Category: AnnouncementsTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month - May 2018

A Time For Galaxies

The most abundant celestial objects to hunt are galaxies. Of the estimated two trillion galaxies that make up the known universe, the average telescope has the ability to see only a small tiny of this number. The New General Catalogue (NGC) contains 7,840 objects with more that 80% being galaxies. Mind you, the catalogue encompasses both north and south hemispheres.

The Virgo cluster of galaxies is a close group of galaxies that is very impressive when viewing through the eyepiece. First locate the star Denebola – the end star of the Leo the Lion. Proceed to move about eleven degrees east and a bit south until you arrive at the coordinates; right ascension (RA) 12 hours 28 minutes and declination (Dec) +12 degrees 13 minutes.

Your telescope is now at the somewhat heart of the vast swarm of a hundred or so remote galaxies down to 14th magnitude. From here you will be galaxy hopping to these faint objects. The challenge of sky conditions and your telescope is to see how faint a galaxy you can discern.

One of my favourite regions of the Virgo cluster is the pair of M84 and 86 that form the right most end of Markarian’s Chain of galaxies. They are listed at magnitudes 9.2 and 8.7 respectively with M86 being 50% larger than our Milky Way Galaxy. Both are about 55 million light years away. Just as the name suggests, it is a line of eight galaxies stretching from NGC 4458 and ending at M84. This cosmic lineup takes up one and a half degrees of sky or three full moons placed side by side. Other smaller galaxies dot the area below the Chain.

Moving back west about a quarter of the way to Denebola and a bit north you will come across M99 which lies across the border in Coma Berenices. This 60 million light year object is a magnitude 9.7 face-on spiral galaxy with extended arms. This galaxy has seen three supernovas back in 1967, 1972 and 1986.

For a change of pace from galaxies, follow Comet PanSTARRS (C/2016 M1) as it move south towards Sagittarius. Currently at magnitude 10.5, we should have a couple of months to observe and photograph it. 

The planet Venus continues it steady climb higher each night as it has passed between the Pleiades and Hyades cluster. The planet is still well positioned for a photo opportunity with the two clusters. In the south east, Jupiter rises at sunset and is at opposition on May 9 and the closest to Earth. This is the best time to observe and image the subtle detail of its cloud tops and or course the four Galilean moons. For crisp images, just wait a few hours for the planet to climb higher in the sky as the night progresses.

Saturn and Mars rise about four and five hours respectively after Jupiter with Mars starting to put on its great show till the end of July. Over the past month, Mars has been gaining in brightness from magnitude +0.4 to -0.2. Keep taking note of its ever changing movement and brightness. New Moon occurs on May 15 with the full Frog Croaking Moon on May 29.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Tuesday, May 1, 2018Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages

New Archive History Centre Open House

RASC Archive Open House: Join Us!

Who? RASC Members and their guests.

When? Saturday May 12, 2018

Where? 4920 Dundas St W, Unit 203

Time? 1:00pm to 4:00pm

Note: Guests are welcome to drop-in and stay for any length of time!


2018 marks 150 years of lasting organized astronomy in Canada, and that story is pre-eminently the story of the RASC. Join us on the afternoon of May 12th for an open house launching the official opening of our new Archives space! This invitation is extended to all RASC members, and their guests. The refurbished Archives facility is a RASC sesquicentennial project, providing improved storage, display, and consultation space for the RASC’s material heritage, and a congenial location for select meetings and programming, in a setting richly evocative of our history. The fabric of our history is a resource the entire Society can draw on as we build our future. 

If you’ve ever wondered if any of the telescopes in the iconic earliest RASC star-party images survived, or ever wanted to hear the probable sound of Galileo’s clock mechanism, or look at documents from our earliest years, or peer at Voltaire’s contribution to the Newton wars, or discover which famous astronomers left their mark in our archives and books, come to the open house! The history of the RASC is your history.

The event runs from 1 to 4 PM, with the official program commencing at 1:30. The National President will welcome everyone, James Maloney MP for Etobicoke—Lakeshore will bring greetings on behalf of the Government of Canada, CASCA President Roberto Abraham will be on hand, the Executive Director will speak on programs and the RASC, and the Archivist will introduce some of our artifacts. Light refreshments will be served.


*Open House Agenda*

  • space opens for guests at 1 PM
  • 1:30-1:35 National President Colin Haig welcomes guests
  • 1:35-1:40 MP James Maloney conveys greetings on behalf of the Government of Canada
  • 1:40-1:45 CASCA President Prof. Roberto Abraham represents CASCA, and himself as a professional and amateur astronomer, and long-time RASC member
  • 1:45-1:55 Executive Director Randy Attwood talks about the uses of the space, and future programming
  • 1:55-2:15 Archivist briefly address the place of the RASC’s history in the cultural fabric of the country, and introduces a few of the artifacts on display
  • 2:30-2:35 Raffle draw – 150th prize package
  • 2:35 – 4:00 Various RASC artifacts available for viewing

Note: speaker timings are approximate

Author: Randy AttwoodeNews date: Wednesday, May 2, 2018Category: AnnouncementsTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month - April 2018


Hydra is the largest constellation in the night sky measuring 104 arc minutes in length and takes up 1,303 square degrees in area. This constellation is dotted with numerous galaxies, nebulae and star clusters

Few bright stars brighter than magnitude 2.16 populate Hydra. The star Alphard translates from the Arabic meaning “the solitary one”. Is located 177 light years from us and is pale orange in colour. If Alphard replaced our Sun, the star’s edge would reach half way to the planet Mercury. Alphard is some 40 times larger than the Sun.

NGC 3242 known as the Ghost of Jupiter or Jupiter’s Ghost, is a fantastic 9th magnitude planetary nebula. It is the death remains with the stellar remnant white dwarf star visible at the centre. The bluish green colour is evidence of oxygen or OIII from UV radiation of the central white dwarf star. Temperature estimated to be around 60,000 K.

A moderate sized telescope will reveal its fuzzy shape but a larger instrument will catch its outer portion. When it appears on the meridian, NGC 3242 never gets higher than 26 degrees above the southern horizon as seen from southern Canada. The planetary is 3,600 light year away and as the same size as Jupiter – hence the name. It is located less than two degree south of the magnitude 3.8 star Mu Hydra.

The planet Venus rules the western skies and steadily climbs higher each night. On April 17, the 4.3% waxing crescent moon will be five degrees south and east of Venus. A week later on the 24th, it is close to the Pleiades Cluster thus making a great photo opportunity. Jupiter is up in the south east after 11 p.m. local time on April 1 and at 9 p.m. by month’s end. Consult the RASC Observer’s Handbook 2018 for transits and shadows times of its Galilean moons.

Mars and Saturn rise some four hours after Jupiter at 3 a.m. with Mars moving past and away from Saturn as the month goes on. Over the next four weeks the red planet continues to get closer to Earth and brightens from magnitude +0.45 to -0.18 by May 1. The third quarter moon will be closest to these planets on the morning of April 7. Mercury has now shifted from evening to the morning sky and will be at its greatest western elongation of 27 degrees from the Sun on April 29th.

And finally the Lyrid meteor shower will produce an estimated 20 meteors per hour when it peaks on the night of the 22nd. Previous showers have resulted in a surprising outburst of up to 100 meteors per hour but this is very difficult to predict. The first quarter moon will interfere for most of the night and sets before 3 a.m. locally.

New moon occurs on April 15 with the full Pink Moon at 8:58 p.m. eastern time on the 29th.

Until next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Twitter: @astroeducator

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Sunday, April 1, 2018Category: Northern SkiesFile:  2018 - 04 - chart 1.png 2018 - 04 - chart 2.pngTweet::  Pages

The Sky This Month - March 2018

Moving into Spring,

One of the fainter constellations located in the sky this time of year is Cancer the Crab. Consisting of six moderately bright stars, one would have a difficult time searching for it in highly lit suburban skies. A great aid is first locating the main stars of Gemini the Twins namely Castor and Pollux off to the Crab’s right. Under country skies on a moonless night, the Cancer is easier to find along with its premiere object – M44, the Beehive Cluster.

At an estimated 570 light years away, the Beehive (sometimes called the Praesepe) is one of the closest open clusters to us. Astronomers estimate its age to be 600 million years. Back in the day, Galileo reported seeing about 40 stars but with today’s telescopes, the number seen is now in the hundreds. With Cancer situated on the ecliptic, the Moon and planets from time to time come close to the cluster. Such a digital moment comes a few months from now during the evening of June 16 when the 15 percent crescent Moon and Venus will be close to the cluster, creating a stunning view.

Stars are ranked from bright to faint values or magnitudes by following the Greek alphabet in descending order such as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta etc. Such is not the case with magnitude 4.3 Acubens – deemed the alpha star. In fact is does not even rank second. Somehow Acubens stands behind magnitudes 3.8 Beta, 4.2 Iota and 4.2 Delta. But this spectral class A star has strange absorption readings indicating a "metallic line". Acubens is also a double star system with its companion is mere 0.1 arc second from the primary star – comparable to the distance of the Sun and Jupiter.

Located two degrees to the west of Acubens is the open cluster M67. As large as the full moon and hovering around naked limitation, this magnitude 6.1 swarm of about 500 stars is estimated to be around four billions years old. It is believed that about one hundred stars are like our Sun in its physical properties as well as a couple of hundred white dwarfs.

The Beehive and M67 are the only two open clusters residing within the borders of Cancer. But there are a few great looking galaxies to locate, such as NGC 2775 situated to the lower left section of the constellation. Located some 60 million light years from us, NGC 2775 has delicate arm structure that shows a few areas of star formation.  This galaxy has produced only one Type 1a supernova back in 1993. This type of supernova is triggered by a white dwarf stealing material from a dying giant star of its binary system. If the white dwarf grows larger than 1.44 solar masses pressure and heat will reignite the dwarf causing the supernova.

Planets Venus and fainter Mercury are climbing in the western skies. Mercury is located to the lower right and quickly surpasses Venus on the 3rd of the month. The planet Uranus will be located to the upper right of Venus on the evening of the 29th. This also the best time of year to find and image the faint zodiacal light in the west. For a two week period from March 5 look for the faint, slanted pillar of light that does not quite reach the Pleiades Cluster, so include the horizon on the right and M45 on the left in your one to two minute image with a wide angle camera lens. Dark moonless nights are a must to see the reflection of interstellar dust in our solar system. The zodiacal light is seen in the west in March and in the east in September.

The other naked eye planets are seen in early morning skies starting with brilliant Jupiter. The “King” of the planets is seen low in the south east by midnight local time. A telescope is required to follow the night shift of its four Galilean moons. Refer to page 232 of the RASC Observer’s Handbook 2018 for shadow and transit times. The red planet Mars will then rise about three hours after Jupiter and the ringed planet Saturn a couple hours after that. By 5 a.m. all three planets are nicely placed in the sky with the constellations Scorpius and Sagittarius.

In January we had two full moons with the second referred as the Blue Moon. This will also occur in March as the Snow Blinding Moon occurs March 1 with the Maple Syrup Moon (Blue Moon) on the 31st. The absence of the full moon in February was known as the Metonic cycle which occurs in 19 year intervals. Last time this occurred was in 1999 with the next in February 2037 along with January and March being Blue Moon months.  

The clocks change in most locations on Sunday March 11 at 2 a.m. local time to welcome Daylight Saving Time by springing ahead one hour. Spring Equinox officially begins on March 20 at 12:16 p.m. eastern.

Till next month, clear skies everyone.

Gary Boyle

Twitter: @astroeducator

Author: Gary BoyleeNews date: Thursday, March 1, 2018Category: Northern SkiesTweet::  Pages