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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC
|Volume 58 – No. 7 – August 2019|
It is always amazing how the winter months seem to drag on forever and the summer months speed by. We are already more than halfway through the summer! StarFest is only a few days away and then it is back to school and heavier traffic for your daily commute. The good thing is the nights are getting longer so we have more time to enjoy our favorite outdoor activity.
The weather through July has been quite good for star gazing so we are hoping to see lots of images and sketches of what you have been viewing over the past few weeks. We would love to publish them in AstroNotes, so please send them in. As all of you are aware, July 20th was the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon, an event that we are sure is why many of you are involved in Astronomy today. It is an event those of us who are old enough remember very well. In this issue Brian McCullough shares his thoughts on the significance of that event and the entire Apollo program.
For many of us, especially when we are new to Astronomy, one of the major challenges is deciding what to look at when we get a free night that happens to coincide with a clear sky. The RASC has many fine observing programs that provide a long list of possible targets for observers of all experience levels. Your humble Editor has compiled an overview of the programs and their requirements in the hope that many of you will find it useful. It is also hoped that we will see some sketches or photos as you work your way through these programs. Also, in this issue we have the second in our member interview series. This month it is a member who is very active in outreach and has a background that might surprise you. Of course, all our regular features are here as well.
On August 31st we have an FLO Star Party scheduled. We are also planning a Family Day/BBQ before the skies get dark. There has been a lot of work done at the FLO again this year including the installation of the Meade 14” SCT in the SkyPod dome. By August 31, maybe we’ll have more. We hope that any new members who have never been to the FLO will take this opportunity to come out and see what they have been missing. For the rest of the members it would be a great opportunity to see what’s new. For all, it would be a wonderful time to involve your family and socialize with your friends at the Ottawa Centre. More about this at the meeting August 9th and in emails to follow.
By Dave Chisholm
Full moon on August 15th
Rise/Set 04:48/19:18 -> 06:03/19:40
At greatest western elongation on August 9th. Look for the planet in the eastern sky just before
Visible just before sunrise first half of month.
Rise/Set 05:28/20:21 -> 06:48/19:55
Visible first part of evening.
Rise/Set 06:43/20:58-> 06:27/19:44
Visible all evening.
Rise/Set 16:52/01:40 -> 14:57/23:39
Visible through the night.
Rise/Set 19:06/03:52 -> 17:03/01:47
Visible late evening to sunrise.
Rise/Set 23:43/13:34 -> 21:45/11:35
Visible late evening to sunrise.
Rise/Set 22:02/09:18 -> 20:03/07:16
Personal Profile: Stu Glen
By Douglas Fleming
This is another of our feature articles profiling the experiences and perspectives of some of our members.
Stu Glen was born in Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Etobicoke with his family when he was six years old. His dad encouraged him to join the services and his uncle’s stories about serving under Louis Mountbatten pointed Stu towards the navy, which he loved after three days in the reserve. A tour in Halifax of one of Canada’s few submarines then in service led him to that branch of the service for the next twenty-four years and eventually to the rank of Petty Officer 1st class.
Today, Stu works for the submarine branch in a civilian capacity. I can attest to the fact that Stu is a humble man who is nonetheless justifiability proud of his significant contributions to building the undersea service for the navy. Stu served on HMCS Chicoutimi during the 2004 accident that claimed the life of a colleague. He has many stories about his time in the service but suffice to say here: It’s a great life!
The only regret Stu has is the fact that he didn’t make as much use as he could have of the hours he spent on the conning tower while his sub was at sea. Submarines spend much of their time at sea running at night on the surface without lights. Think of the views of the stars in the middle of the Atlantic far from light pollution!
Although Stu spent hours appreciating the beauty of the stars under those conditions, he didn’t take up amateur astronomy in a consistent way until he bought his first scope in 2014, soon after moving to Ottawa. That scope was a 12“astrograph mounted on a GOTO EQ8. Stu’s initial experiences with his first scope demonstrate some of the challenges novice stargazers face. He thought at the time that the GOTO features of the mount were the “be all the end all” and found the first night to be frustrating. How did this thing work? Why is aligning the scope so difficult? What am I looking at? Why is everything a smudge? As Stu puts, “I was too ambitious and impatient”. Stu almost gave up that first night. Luckily the skies were still clear the next night! Stu decided to be kinder to himself and dropped the need to learn the GOTO right away.
His first epiphany: You can’t learn everything at once! Instead, that second night Stu learned how to align the scope’s finder scope and began the process of mastering sky coordinates. As he put it, “I realized that the important first step was to learn the sky”. Stu started with the zodiac: “I found that if I learned the zodiac, I could extend my knowledge north and south and use this as a starting point for objects I wanted to discover”. As I can attest after taking this approach myself, with Stu’s encouragement, this is a wonderfully simple and effective approach. Stu’s next step was to master and utilize a DSLR. However, his approach was not one in which he pushed himself to come up with Hubble-quality images in short order. Instead, Stu used the DSLR as a great tool to learn the night sky. By pacing himself and being happy with what he was then capturing with the camera, he was able to pay attention to selected objects and learn about them. He consulted charts and bulletins to use conjunctions to successfully identify objects, enjoyed the satisfaction of star hopping and learned how to successfully polar align and track with his scope. The GOTO is still there, but rarely used.
Stu’s growing patience also helped resolve some of his earlier frustrations with our “faint fuzzies”. He remembers Gordon Webster showing him some faint galaxies. At first: “what is that?” As he puts it, “as time passed and I trained my eyes, I could see more and more detail”. His experiences echo the adage (which I think I read on David Levis’ blog somewhere) that one slowly trains one’s eyes over time and sees more and more. Stu’s second epiphany came when he joined Atilla’s sidewalk outreach events: he really liked to teach things to novice star gazers. While doing public outreach, Stu borrowed a technique from Gary Boyle, who encourages those looking through his scope to think about how far away in terms of distance and time the object in the eyepiece was. As Stu says, “I like to ask people how many civilizations we might be looking at and telling people that the light they are seeing through my scope might have left the object the year they were born”. Stu’s satisfaction with amateur astronomy has several dimensions. The first is the hunt: slowly
developing the ability to sweep the sky and star-hop to find targets without depending on the GOTO.
The second is developing his eye’s ability to tease out detail in objects using such techniques as averted vision, gently moving the scope and trying different filters. The third is perhaps the most important: enjoying the “ah ha” moments, when the person he is showing an object to expresses amazement and wonder. This is the moment when that person’s appreciation is shown through hugs (the subject of his award-winning article last year in this newsletter)!
Stu is a person with a long-term perspective on developing his skills in a demanding hobby. However, he is more than that. He is a person who enjoys the feeling that through our hobby he is helping people develop an interest and love of science and the universe.
One Giant Leap of Imagination - The real significance of the Apollo 11 Moon landing
By Brian McCullough
When U.S. President John F. Kennedy addressed a special joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961 at the height of the Cold War, he challenged his nation to “commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”
By doing this, he accomplished two things: For one, he unleashed a considerable amount of opposition from a population that was becoming increasingly socially aware and vocal, and who felt the money it would take to fly a man to the Moon could be better spent easing the plight of America’s less fortunate
citizens. At the same time, he unharnessed a giant leap of imagination and belief in people’s minds that something of such magnitude could actually be accomplished.
Kennedy further outlined his vision of the high-minded ideals and goals of Project Apollo in a speech at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas on Sept. 12, 1962, where he said in part, “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills…” Kennedy might just as easily have said that inquisitiveness and exploration of the world around us are universal human traits, and that reaching for the Moon makes sense if there is a reasonable chance it can
be done. He challenged people to stretch themselves to create something grander than the sum of the parts and they delivered.
Seven months before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface on July 20, 1969, the doughty pathfinder crew of Apollo 8 thundered aloft aboard Wernher von Braun’s giant Saturn V rocket to show that the perilous 240,000-mile trip to the Moon and back was possible. For me, the greatest moment of the entire Apollo program was when Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders piloted their Apollo 8 Command and Service Module, sans lunar lander, to a safe parking orbit around the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968. It took my breath away as a then 15-year-old daydreamer and continues to inspire me now.
What it took to get the Apollo astronauts to the Moon was dedication at every level, attention to detail at every step, a determination to overcome setbacks, and an overarching desire to press on and succeed. Does it really matter that 50 years have passed since Neil Armstrong made the first step by a human onto the surface of the Moon, or that it has been 47 years since Eugene Cernan left the latest boot print in the lunar dust? Not really. While I would love to have witnessed a sustained and developing era of human lunar exploration and settlement unfold in my lifetime, that wasn’t the real story of Apollo. When the Eagle landed, what the rest of the world was actually pausing to watch was a stunning example of our human ability to stand together on the shoulders of giants to push the limits of our physical reach farther out into the universe than ever before. To my mind, the most enduring legacy of the manned Moon-landing program — the real gift of Apollo — was the mind-expanding demonstration that “believing in the art of the possible” can create wonderful things.
By Gordon Webster
Recently we have received some submissions for certification in some of the RASC Observing programs that the Ottawa Centre is certified to approve. I thought it might be a good time to remind people of just what Observing Programs are available from RASC National.
One of the great joys of Astronomy is that there is so much to look at that it is unlikely, regardless of how early in life you start observing, that you will ever run out of things to observe. Some of them will be fairly easy to find and to see; others will take careful planning and extreme concentration under perfect conditions just to detect. No matter your location, no matter the telescope at your disposal and no matter the light pollution or lack of it, there are always lots of things to see. And sometimes that is the biggest problem. What should I observe tonight?
Most experienced observers learned long ago that having an observing list for an observing session results in a much more successful night. Without it, I know I fall back on the familiar objects that I have observed many times before. Now, there is nothing wrong with this. Many times, I have been richly rewarded by return visits. I have seen details (and even whole objects) not visible on previous visits. However, most of the time it becomes just the “same old, same old”. There is no sense of accomplishment and no sense of excitement that accompanies a night of “new” discoveries.
One of the best solutions to this problem is to complete one or more of the RASC Observing Programs. There are lots to choose from. And each program rewards you with a pin and a certificate.
- Explore the Universe
This is a program for the beginner to allow them to familiarize themselves with the night sky. It covers constellations, the moon, planets, bright stars, double stars and a few of the brighter deep sky objects. While you can use a small telescope without Go-To, it can be completed with naked eye and binoculars.
- Explore the Moon
This is an introductory program as well. It has 100 features including lunar craters, seas, mountains, valleys and cliffs. You can do this with either binoculars or a telescope.
- Messier Catalogue
This program requires you to observe all 110 objects on Charles Messier’s famous list. I am told that entering “Looks like a comet” in the description of each object will not be sufficient. You will need a telescope of 100mm or more to complete this certificate. The certificate (with pin) is available to members in two versions: Traditional (star-hopping) and Computer-aided (GoTo).
- Finest NGC Objects
Need more of a challenge? The Finest NGC Objects contains 110 deep-sky objects, mainly from the New General Catalogue. Most objects will require a mid-sized telescope (200+ mm) to appreciate. The certificate (with pin) is available to members in two versions: Traditional (starhopping) and Computer-aided (GoTo).
- Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program
This intermediate-level lunar observing program is more thorough than Explore the Moon. It will require a mid-sized telescope (150+ mm). It is based on a comprehensive list of the best features visible on the surface of the Moon. Detailed observing notes and explanations are available to guide you through a complete tour of the moon. A certificate (with pin) is available to members.
This is an advanced list of 154 deep-sky objects (mostly galaxies) selected by David Levy. It contains many interesting objects, plus a few challenges, none of which appear in other RASC observing programs. A certificate is available to members but no pin.
- Deep-Sky Challenge
This program has only 45 objects, selected by Alan Dyer and Alister Ling, but will challenge even experienced observers. This list requires the use of both small wide-field instruments as well as large apertures in order to complete. A certificate is available to members but no pin.
So, now that you have chosen your observing program, what is required to obtain the certificate? What counts as an observation?
I have lifted the following directly from the RASC website so there will be no confusion on what they want. There are three steps to making an observation: Locate, Examine, and Record.
This first step involves finding the object that you wish to observe. For new observers, the Messier objects, as listed in the Observer’s Handbook, provide good targets because they are bright and relatively easy to find. Using star charts—such as those located in the back of the Observer’s Handbook or in Sky News magazine—identify the constellation that contains your target object. Once you have done so, examine a more detailed star atlas to pinpoint the location of your target amidst that constellation’s bright stars. The most popular atlas for this type of work is the inexpensive, but comprehensive, Pocket Sky Atlas. It is sufficiently detailed to show all the stars visible in a good finder scope.
Once you are outside, a pair of binoculars can be quite useful for a preliminary sweep of the area you are going to search. They will allow you to familiarize yourself with the locations of the fainter stars that appear in the atlas. And as a bonus, depending on how dark your skies are, you may be able to see the object you are searching for using binoculars alone. Having identified the approximate location of the object in question, you then centre that part of the sky in your main telescope by means of your telescope’s finder scope (which you should have previously aligned with your main telescope via either a fixed daytime object or the North Star). In other words, the fainter stars in your atlas will serve as a road map to your target. In practice, by starting at a known bright star, you employ the technique of “star-hopping” to trace your way through the patterns of fainter stars, employing them as guideposts to the object you seek.
A good finder scope will have a cross-hair eyepiece. Centring the suspected location of your target object in the cross-hairs of the finder should bring you very close to the object you are searching for. If you don’t see your target object immediately, nudge your telescope back and forth, and then up and down. Make sure you use the lowest power possible in your main telescope; it will provide the widest field of view (if you’re not familiar with the size of the field of view presented by your lowest power eyepiece, try using it to examine the Moon, which is half a degree across). Remember that while star-hopping might seem difficult at first, and may require two or three tries before you locate your target object, it quickly becomes second nature.
Once you’ve located your target, you can begin to study it in more detail. Your goal is to see as much as you can.
A basic observation should include a consideration of such things as:
- The size and shape of the object.
- The visibility and brightness of the object.
- The gradations or details associated with the object.
- Anything that you think is unique (what impresses you) about the object or its surroundings (such as coloured stars in the same field of view).
You could also consider creating your own 5-star rating scale for future reference. If you are observing planets, you might want to consider the following questions:
- How steady/sharp is the view (the seeing)?
- How does magnification affect the view? Is there an optimum magnification?
- How large does the planet appear? Can you see any colour?
- Are any moons visible? Are any stars visible in the same field?
- Can you detect any clouds or surface features?
In order to earn a certificate, all of the RASC observing programs require that you record your observations in a log. This log may be electronic or more traditional (consisting of a three-ring binder, coil binder, or lined composition book). For suggestions about how to structure your log, see Paul Markov’s article “The Observing Logbook”, which you can find in the annual RASC Observer’s Handbook. A log is an essential component of any observation in that provides a record of what you saw that is sufficient to (figuratively) allow others to look over your shoulder and see what you’ve done. As a minimum, RASC certificate programs require that log entries include all of the following:
- your location
- date and time
- instrument used
- magnifications used
- general sky conditions
as well as a basic description and/or annotated sketch for each of the objects that you observed A basic description must consist of a few sentences about the object you observed, noting its most obvious characteristics in accordance with the guidelines offered above. Crude, stick-figure-type sketches are encouraged as an aide-memoire, and as an adjunct to the written descriptions of the objects you observe. These should be annotated. We are NOT looking for art. Some observers are expert at producing artistic renditions of the objects they observe. If you are interested in developing this talent, see the AstroSketcher’s page of the website. Photocopies or scans of your log entries should accompany all applications for RASC certificate programmes (please see your specific observing programme for additional details).
As you advance through the various certificate programmes your experience will increase, and you will invariably begin to see more. There are more suggestions on how to improve your observing habits on the website (https://www.rasc.ca/observing/tips) and it is definitely worth reading even if you have been observing for many years. If nothing else, it will refresh your way of looking at things and maybe break a few bad habits. So next time you are wondering what to look at tonight, consider starting one of these programs. It really doesn’t matter when you start since they will all have things that are best, or only, seen now, whenever “now” happens to be. If you have already seen all the objects on all the lists, please submit them for certification. Completely one of these programs will also give you that extra nudge to get you out on a particularly hot or cold night. It will also make you a better observer, and isn’t what this is all about?
Monthly Challenge Objects
Due to the imminent birth of Oscar and Katherines first child we have an abbreviated version of the Challenge Objects this month.
Beginner: Messier 8 An open star cluster with nebulosity in Sagittarius Intermediate: NGC6886 a planetary nebula in the constellation Sagitta.
Advanced: Abell Galaxy Cluster 2151 a cluster of about 200 galaxies some 500 million light-years distant in the constellation Hercules. Lunar: Rupes Kelvin & Promontorium Kelvin an escarpment near Promontorium Kelvin located in the southeast of the Mare Humorum.
Carp Star Parties
Paul Sadler and his team continue to work hard to be sure the Public Star Parties run smoothly. They have been doing a great job and getting good turn outs. If you haven’t been to one lately, grab your scope and join them. You are bound to have a good time. As always, these are weather dependent and subject to change.
Saturday May 25th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday May 31st
Saturday June 22nd – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday June 28th A Success!
Saturday July 27th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker - Yes but…
Rain Date - Friday August 2nd - Much better night
Saturday August 24th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday August 30th
Saturday September 21st – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
Rain Date - Friday September 27th
Saturday September 28th – Star Party at the Astropontiac site in Luskville
No Rain Date
Friday October 18th – Star Party at the Carp Public Library / Diefenbunker
No Rain Date
Other Dates of Interest
Saturday October 5th – International Astronomy Day (Fall) at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum
FLO Star Party Dates for 2019
Our Ottawa Centre’s Members Star Parties at the FLO will continue this summer. If you haven’t attended before, be sure to mark at least one of these dates on your calendar. You are welcome to bring family members or a guest.
SUMMER & FALL DATES
May 4 – New Moon Good turn-out, great night June 1 – Waning Crescent Moon, 3.8% illumination No Go
July 6 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 19.7% illumination, sets 11:53P.M. NO GO
August 3 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 2 days old, sets 9:51 P.M. – moved to August 4th Good turnout
August 31 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 2.4% illumination
Sept 28 – New Moon
October 26 – Waning Crescent Moon, 3.5% illumination
7:30 PM Friday August 9, 2019 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (directions). Note there is a $4.00 parking fee for museum parking. The meeting runs until 9:30 pm
PLUS: all our regular meeting features: Ottawa Skies, 10-minute Astronomy, Observer Reports, and of course, the beloved Door Prize!
All RASC monthly meetings are free and open to members and non-members alike. Refreshments will be available, and this will be a wonderful opportunity to meet new friends who share a common interest and chat in a relaxed, stimulating and fun environment. Please join us!
The Ottawa Centre 2018
Council President: Mike Moghadam (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vice President: Stephen Nourse
Secretary: Chris Teron (email@example.com)
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Centre Meeting Chair: Oscar Echeverri (email@example.com)
Councillors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
National Council Representatives: Karen Finstad, Ingrid de Buda
Past President: Tim Cole
2018 Appointed Positions
Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: Paul Sadler
Fred Lossing Observatory: David Lauzon & Rick Scholes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Light Pollution Abatement: OPEN
Public Outreach Coordinator: OPEN
Hospitality: Art & Anne Fraser
Stan Mott Astronomy Library: Estelle Rother
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Darren Weatherall
Webmaster: Mick Wilson (email@example.com)
AstroNotes Editors: Gordon Webster & Douglas Fleming (firstname.lastname@example.org)