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What is going on? I think Mom Nature has contracted has caught a cold. It is early May, and as I write this it is snowing!!! I guess it is a good thing we are all staying inside and doing everything virtually. And speaking of doing things virtually, look at what Ottawa Centre has accomplished. Our virtual May meeting was at least as well attended as a regular meeting and if there were any glitches, I didn’t notice them. Once again, congratulations to David, Chris, the presenters and anyone else involved. Great job!
But wait, there’s more. They pulled off a very successful Virtual Astronomy Day with over 800 participants. Jim Thompson will share the event with us. Kudos and thanks to all those involved.
As I did last month, wherever there is a scheduled gathering for an outreach event or a star party, I have left the dates in place. The organizers of the event will send out an email with updates as we get closer to each date so if you would normally attend any of these, please keep an eye on your in box.
In last month’s issue we had Part 1 of Jim Thompson’s article on Astronomical Filters and I had said Part 2 would be in this month’s issue, but I have decided to hold it for the June issue. We have had a few requests for Observer Report images to be included in AstroNotes so people can study them in greater detail so I have reached out to the contributors from the May 1st meeting and they have all submitted their images. We have over 16 images for you.
As well as our usual features, in this issue Taras Rabarskyi has submitted a wonderful article about his search for Venus in the daytime where he describes his afternoon of delight. Rob Dick reflects on the passing of the founding members of the Ottawa RASC Observers' Group - Joe Dafoe. And Patrick Brewer has sent us another book review.
Please stay safe everyone and I hope to ACTUALLY see you at a meeting or star party very soon.
Astronomy Day 2020 – Virtually
By Jim Thompson
Saturday May 2nd was the day set by the U.S. Astronomical League as International Astronomy Day this year. They set a day in the Spring and Fall each year focused on bringing astronomy to the masses, but it is traditionally the Spring date that is recognized by Ottawa amateur astronomers in the form of a big public event. Past events in the Ottawa area have consisted of local amateur astronomers bringing their telescopes out to a public venue to share views of the sky with passersby. Typically there would be such an event held at the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum hosted by RASC Ottawa Center, and another held in the parking lot outside Chapters Silver City hosted by the Ottawa Valley Astronomy & Observers Group (OAOG). Unfortunately, this year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those public events could not take place.
Figure 1 Picture from OAOG Astronomy Day 2012 Event (photograph by: Josef Pittner)
Rather than do nothing and let Astronomy Day simply not happen this year, as the OAOG’s event coordinator I decided it was worth trying to do something virtually. Recent success using the Zoom platform convinced me that it was technically possible to have a virtual Astronomy Day, the question was could it be organized in time for May 2nd? I first contacted Chris Teron, the RASC Ottawa Center Astronomy Day Coordinator to see if it was possible for our two groups to work together on a joint event. Chris liked the idea and ran with it to RASC National to see if they would approve use of their Zoom webinar account for the event. Jenna Hinds, the RASC National Youth Outreach Coordinator, gave us a green light on April 8th. Now the hard part: to put together 12 hours of programming
In the end, with a little leg work, it was relatively easy to fill a day with astronomy related material. Many volunteers from the OAOG and RASC Ottawa Center stepped up to contribute to the event. Some members offered live video views from their backyard telescopes including: Simon Hanmer, Jim Sofia, Bojan Scepanovic, Lance McIntosh, and myself. We even had a volunteer from Sudbury’s Science North, Dr. Olathe MacIntyre. In addition to the scheduled live telescope views I filled out the rest of the day with a wide variety of presentations, given by local members such as: Bojan Scepanovic (Safe Solar Observing), Jean-Sebastien Gaudet (Introduction to Scopes & Mounts), Attilla Danko (A Closer Look at Telescopes), Pierre Martin (Meteors, Meteor Showers & How To Observe Them), Rob Millard (Planispheres & Finding Objects in the Night Sky), Paul Klauninger (Introduction to Astrophotography), and myself (The How & Why of Electronically Assisted Astronomy). To hedge our bets against the weather I also asked the volunteers who were slated to do live telescope viewing to also come up with a backup presentation in case it was cloudy. As it turned out we relied heavily on these backup presentations as we had cloudy skies for most of the afternoon and evening. Simon Hanmer really came through with presentations on the planets, Venus, and the Messier objects, as did Jim Sofia and Lance McIntosh with their presentations on deep sky objects. To round out the team of volunteers we had Chris Teron running the mechanics of the Zoom meeting, along with Dave Chisholm and Doug Fleming taking turns as co-hosts throughout the day.
Figure 2 Screen Capture from Start of Virtual Astronomy Day Webinar
My impression of the event, even now many days later, is that it went very well. All of the presenters gave professional looking and well prepared presentations. The transitions from one presenter to the next were smooth and virtually trouble free. The webinar hosts managed the audience Q&A easily, and also were able to coordinate between presenters behind the scenes as we worked our way through the schedule. It was unfortunate that clear skies only stayed with us for the morning session, but the audience did not seem to mind the backup presentations when we had to switch to the cloudy schedule after lunch. I have had several of my friends and neighbours who were watching the event tell me that they really enjoyed the diverse topics and depth of material covered by our presenters. We also received many messages via chat during the webinar, on Facebook, and by email, all thanking us for putting on the event. Chris, upon review of the statistics reported by Zoom and Youtube (the webinar was simultaneously live streamed on Youtube, a Zoom feature), figures we reached at least 800 individuals from all across Canada. I believe that Virtual Astronomy Day was a great accomplishment, and that members from both the OAOG and RASC Ottawa Center should be proud of what was achieved in such short amount of time.
If you missed some or all of the webinar, the Youtube livestream is available to watch at your leisure. Just go to the RASC Ottawa Youtube channel to find links to the three sessions: morning, afternoon, and evening. There will also eventually be individual videos posted to the channel for each presentation once they have been processed by our video editing volunteers Mick Wilson and Paul Sadler. Additional information about the event can be found at the Astro Day Ottawa website: http://astrodayottawa.weebly.com.
As many of you are aware, Dave Chisholm is tireless in his astronomy outreach, reaching over 640 people with his presentations last year. You may recall that the Ottawa Centre presented Dave with a Service Award. He is on track to reach a similar number of people this year despite COVID-19. We are not the only ones to recognize and appreciate Dave’s efforts. He recently received the CERTIFICATE OF COMMENDATION from Scouts Canada. A copy of that commendation follows.
Congratulations Dave. Well deserved.
By Dave Chisholm
Full super moon on May 7. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon. This is also the last of four supermoons for 2020.
Comet PanSTARRS C/2017 T2 will be visible in the evening skies. Its perihelion is on May 8th at which point it should be magnitude 8.
Comet SWAN is presently 8th magnitude, compact, and brightening steadily as it plows across Piscis Austrinus at dawn for Southern Hemisphere observers. Soon it will swing northward, making its first appearance in Aquarius at 7th magnitude for southern U.S. observers by early May.
Comet ATLAS Y4, Y1 is a circumpolar object and visible all night long from mid-northern latitudes. Expect the comet to slowly fade as it travels from Cassiopeia through Ursa Minor — passing 6.5° above Polaris on the night of May 1 — and onward to the Big Dipper. Closest approach to Earth at 1.1 a.u. occurs on May 3rd.
The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 6 and the morning of the May 7. The nearly full moon will be a problem this year, blocking out all but the brightest meteors. But if you are patient, you should still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius but can appear anywhere in the sky.
Not Visible until June 4
Rise/Set 05:49/19:43 -> 06:44/22:35
Greatest Eastern Elongation on June 4
Look for the planet in the western sky just after sunset
Visible early evening.
Rise/Set 07:25/23:42 -> 05:31/21:03
Visible before sunrise.
Rise/Set 03:09/12:55 -> 02:01/12:45
Visible before sunrise.
Rise/Set 01:51/10:46 -> 23:49/08:47
Visible before sunrise.
Rise/Set 02:06/11:12 -> 00:08/09:13
Rise/Set 05:46/19:35 -> 03:52/17:46
Visible before sunrise.
Rise/Set 04:09/15:27 -> 02:12/13:32
[Image: Joe Dafoe taken July 2019]
At the end of last week some of us old-timers heard of the passing of one of the founding members of the Ottawa RASC Observers' Group - Joe Dafoe.
In the early 1960s (1962) a group of high school students who were keen stargazers and "birders" (amateur ornithologists) lived in and around the Queensview Terrace area of western Ottawa. Light pollution was not a significant issue in those days. The lights were very glaring but were few in number and low in wattage. Joe Dafoe cajoled his friends to stay out "all night" in the backyard of Les MacDonald's parent's house on Southwood Avenue to observe the Perseid meteor shower. Peter MacKinnon, a management/technical consultant and Dan Brunton, an environmentalist in the Ottawa area, were also members of that early group.
These were the days when even television with "rabbit ears" did not attract much youthful attention. The programming "sucked". Imagine a small group of teenagers, staying out ALL NIGHT and unsupervised. Even 8-years later when I became "seduced by the "darkside", I was fortunate to have trusting parents.
This small group became "bitten" by the meteor observing bug. This small initiative became the focus activity of the Ottawa Observer's Group. It attracted the attention of Dr. Peter Millman of NRCC who nurtured the group to become a part of "Millman's army" that supported his research into meteoritics (www.youtube.com/watch?v=846MTW3zKRs).
Earlier in the 1950s, there were two sides to the Ottawa Centre: a more formal side of professional astronomers, and a group of, mostly middle aged, amateur astronomers.
The informal Ottawa Observer's Group began as a splinter within the RASC Ottawa Centre. The main Centre was "centred" at NRCC, and the meetings were primarily of talks given by visiting professional astronomers. Although they were quite interesting, and exposed members to some very famous astronomers, there was a growing appetite for more basic amateur activities, which was provided of this Observers Group.
However, telescopes were VERY expensive a few people had the experience to build them from scratch. Meteor Observing "opened the sky" to more youthful, and frugal members. The OG grew into the main "Observing arm" of the Centre and dominated the Centre activities for the rest of the century up to today.
Meteor Observing that Joe began in Les's backyard transitioned further west of Ottawa to a "Radio Quiet Site" of the Shirley's Bay Campus if the Federal Government Communications Establishment. The site was at the north end of the Riddle Road on the shore of the Ottawa River.
[Image: qs-11b.jpg: Quite Site Meteor Observing Site, about 1970. The novel meteor Observing "coffins" structure is the "butterfly" in the centre of the image.]
Meteor Observing became the right of passage for young astronomers in Ottawa and attracted a growing number of teenagers that added a youthful vigour to the astronomy scene. Meteor observing brought together the novices and the experienced observers. We not only "learned the sky" from each other, but during the lull between bursts of meteors were also discussed astronomy, physics and other heady topic of the day. It helped us grow intellectually.
In the early 1990s the impact of the relocation of the Hertzberg Institute of Astrophysics from Ottawa to Victoria, BC reduced the availability of speakers. The attendance and frequency of main Centre meetings declined, but the OG attendance continued to increase. Thus, the Observers' Group Meeting evolved into our current main Ottawa Centre meeting.
Joe Dafoe, and the other original members of the Queensway Terrace Observers grew into their respective careers. (Joe left for Queen's University in 1967), But the those who remained in Ottawa nurtured a second generation of observers in the late 1960s and early 1970s - of which I am one, and there remain a couple of others of that generation in Ottawa (Cathy Hall and Jon Buchanan). The second generation nurtured another wave of observers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and so it goes.
But it started with Joe Defoe. His career kept him in Ottawa. He created a Nature Store in the Carlingwood Shopping Centre, and a second one in the east-end. Soon after I re-connected with him around 2000, he sold his stores and moved to Australia to be with his grown children. His main passion was birds, but its hard to leave binoculars down when the evening sky is clear. He attended the 2017 RASC General Assembly in Ottawa. It proved to be a reunion for some of the Queensway Terrace Group, and a time for "we" of the second generation to become reacquainted with our mentors.
I prepared this article to help preserve some of the History of the Ottawa Centre. More about Joe's final journey is posted here: https://dafoesinaus.blogspot.com/
They call her the goddess of beauty not without a reason. She outshines others by her lustrous majesty; her mesmerizing appearance evokes the sensation of proximity and distance the same time, seducing you into believing you can touch the unreachable. Her name is Venus.
But the beauty is deceitful. Her ermine coat is composed of sulfuric acid droplets, and it covers the surface in an enigma, as thick as the coat itself.
Venus looks different in the telescope every time you look at it. The angular size changes fast as the planet makes its journey around the Sun – and so does its phase. When the planet is far from Earth, it looks quite small but well illuminated, in its gibbous phase. But as the planet gets closer to us, its angular size become much larger, and the phase changes to a thinning crescent – to eventually disappear in the western glow. What remains constant though is its cloud blanket: always bright, with no visual features, it hides well what's underneath.
You can peek into the clouds sometimes though. What you need is an ultraviolet filter, a camera and good seeing. As the thickness of cloud bands varies, so does their ability to reflect the UV light. Capturing the UV light reflected by the Venusian clouds allows us to see their structure. Best opportunity to do so is when the planet is high in the sky, relatively close to Earth, with a phase corresponding to at least 25% of illumination. Those were the conditions during the second half of April 2020.
April 20th the planet was about 40 degrees above the horizon at 8pm shortly after the sunset, the skies were clear and the seeing forecast was good. It didn't take me too long to roughly polar-align my mount: I used a "Quick Align" option – with it, the mount assumes that you are already aligned and lets you slew to the objects (Venus in this case), so that you would likely only have to physically move your mount to actually have the planet appeared in your field of view. Not perfect but close enough. This was easy to do: the bright planet could be easily seen while adjusting the mount knobs to center it in the finder scope. I took a series of short, 1-minute videos through the Venus UV filter and stacked the best frames later. To create a false-colour image I also imaged the planet in visual light and used it as the Red channel, the UV data – for Blue, and 50/50 mix of visual and UV – for the Green channel. The result was satisfactory, but I wanted more!
I wanted the planet to be even larger, the number of exposures even longer (to be able to select the best for stacking) and the planet to be even higher (assuming that the seeing will be better then). But "higher" meant "earlier in the day", before sunset. I've heard that the bright planets and stars can be seen in the telescope even during the daytime, so I decided to test the theory.
Saturday April 25th was a good day for that. First, I checked Stellarium to make sure the planet would not be obscured by the neighbouring houses, visible from my backyard at around 2:00pm, and it should have been there, straight to the south, at amazing 64 degrees of elevation. What seemed a bit strange though was that the planet was shown as a bright little dot on the blue-sky background in Stellarium, next to the young Moon and not too far from the Sun. "We'll see about that", I thought to myself and started setting up the equipment.
The challenge this time was to polar-align the mount during the daylight with no visual reference other than the Sun. Eventually I did it, this time by using the Sun as the reference point, with the solar filter on. After centering our star in the middle of the eyepiece using the mount knobs, I slewed the scope to Venus, took off the solar filter, looked through the eyepiece – but alas, the planet was not in the field of view. Obviously, my polar alignment error was quite large, big enough to prevent the mount from centering the planet in the eyepiece or even showing it in the field of view of my 36mm lens. What to do now? "Perhaps it may show up in my finderscope", I thought to myself, took a look. Unfortunately, there was nothing but blue sky and the occasional thin clouds crossing the field of view. Then, with both eyes opened, I tried to focus my sight on those clouds rather than on the view through the finderscope and – oh miracle! – literally out of the blue, a tiny but quite bright "star" appeared, clearly seen with my naked eyes and yes, it was Venus! "Wow!" I said to myself. It was a very unusual experience to see a planet during the daytime, at 2PM, in a sky brightly lit by the Sun! Stellarium was right, after all!
The planet was just a little off the finderscope's field of view, so it didn't take much effort to position it in the center of the finderscope, and then in the field of view of, sequentially, 36mm and then 9mm lenses. The latter one gave me great view of the planet that looked like a bright crescent: the planet was roughly 27% lit that day. However, the background was not that dark at all, which was an expected outcome of observing the planet during the daytime. I also noticed that the seeing was not as good as I thought it will be: I guess the presence of the heat from the Sun was causing the air to oscillate to a larger extend than it would have been after sunset.
Replacing the eyepiece with the planetary camera and focusing it took a few more minutes, but a I got the visual part of the data. After adding the Venus UV filter, I was able to capture the UV data as well, while trying different exposure and gain settings, within the span of the next 1 hour or so.
It was already around 5pm when I realized that the "daytime naked-eye Venus" situation is quite extraordinary, and I started wondering if I can document it by taking a picture with my regular camera with the kit lens. Out of 10 such attempts only one happened to be quite successful, as it was not easy to focus the camera on the planet: it was almost too small a dot and too faint to show up on camera's LCD screen. I also had to crop the picture later so that the planet could be seen, a barely distinguishable dot on the blue background with thin clouds.
The final outcome of this second session was not as good as I thought it would be, mostly because of the inferior seeing conditions during the day time and a lower contrast between the background and Venusian surface, but the experience was awesome: the opportunity to see a planet with unaided eyes during a bright sun-lit spring day doesn't happen too often!
M95 – Bob Olson
NGC 2905 & 2906 – Bob Olson
Abell 1060 & Abell 1060 inverted – Bob Olson
M 101(above) & M 13(below) – Bob Olson
Galaxies (3 slides) – Jim thompson
Crater Piccolomini – Jim Thompson
M1 - Jim Sofia
M 20 – Jim Sofia
M 94 – Jim Sofia
NGC 2174 – Jim Sofia
NGC 2392 – Jim Sofia
Sh2-274 – Jim Sofia
Comet Atlas – Paul Klauninger
Monthly Challenge Objects
By Oscar Echeverri
Estelle’s Pick of the Month
But we have a book review!
An Earthlings Guide to Outer Space, Bob McDonald, Simon and Schuster Canada, 2019
If you are looking for science and astronomical things to do with your family while stuck at home, “An Earthlings Guide to Outer Space” might be for you. This is the latest offering from CBC’s Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald. The subtitle is “Everything you wanted to know about Black Holes, Dwarf Planets, Aliens, and More.”
Although advertised as a book for all ages, it is probably best suited to those between ages 7 and 15 years. The book is broadly divided into four sections discussing cosmology, the earth, humans in space, and finally a mixed bag of galactic phenomena. Individual chapters cover a wide range of space and astronomy subjects. You can explore UFOs, dark matter, satellites, the Milky Way, black holes, the dinosaur extinction, and space junk, to name a few. There is a whole section of chapters devoted to becoming an astronaut, and how we get around in space now and in the future. There is also an explanatory chapter on why Pluto isn’t a planet anymore. The book is up to date and discusses gravitational waves and how the LIGO observatory works. Future space projects are talked about in “On the Drawing Board” sidebars. The book is well illustrated with black and white explanatory diagrams, as well as cartoons featuring astronaut characters.
A unique feature of the book is the “You Try It!” section at the end of most chapters which offers an experiment that you can do at home. Using things that you would have around your house, you explore the topics discussed in the chapter, such as living on the moon, weightlessness in space, making a moon landscape, making a model of the solar system, or making a simple telescope. You might want to have an adult supervise, as some of the experiments can get messy in the wrong hands. There are twenty-seven projects to explore, many of which could be family activities.
The book is available as a book from Indigo online for $29.99 or as an e-book for $14.99 through Kobo and Kindle. Eventually you will be able to borrow the book for free from the Ottawa Centre library.
International Astronomy Day is coming and gone and is coming again. Mark your calendars.
Saturday, May 2 – a virtual event was held, and it was very successful.
Saturday, September 26
Carp Star Parties
Here is the schedule for our Public Star Parties for the summer. Thanks Paul.
Friday, May 22 – maybe, watch for email updates
Friday June 19
Friday, July 17
Friday August 15
Friday, September 12
Saturday, October 10
FLO Star Party Dates for 2020
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. The GO/NO GO call will be made on the Centre mailing list, about noon the day of the star party. PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FLO IS CURRENTLY CLOSED due to COVID-19.
WINTER & SPRING DATES
Saturday January 25 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 1.1% illuminationNO GO
Friday February 21 – Waning Crescent Moon, 2.8% illumination- GO
Friday March 20 – Waning Crescent Moon, 10.8% illumination- canceled due to COVID 19 & clouds
Saturday April 25 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 7.3% illumination– canceled due to COVID 19
Saturday May 23 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 1.4% illumination
Saturday June 20 – Day before New Moon, 0.2% illumination
7:30 PM Friday June 5, 2020 THIS WILL BE A VIRTUAL MEETING ON ZOOM. Watch for email updates. Note there will be no $4.00 parking fee. The meeting runs until 9:30 pm
PLUS: all our regular meeting features: Ottawa Skies, 10-minute Astronomy News Update, Observation Reports and, sadly, no Door Prizes!
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 2020 Council
President: Mike Moghadam (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Vice President: Stephen Nourse
Secretary: Chris Teron (email@example.com)
Treasurer: David Parfett (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Centre Meeting Chair: Dave Chisholm (email@example.com)
Councillors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
National Council Representatives: Karen Finstad, OPEN
Past President: Tim Cole
2020 Appointed Positions
Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: Paul Sadler
Fred Lossing Observatory: Rick Scholes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Light Pollution Abatement: OPEN
Public Outreach Coordinator: Jean-Sebastien (JS) Gaudet
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)