AstroNotes 2016 September Vol: 55 issue 08

President’s Message . Announcements . Member News . Webcasting Part 2 . Interesting Correspondence . AstroNotes Bookshelf . In Memorium . Next Meeting . Centre Information

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AstroNotes

The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 55 - No 8 - September 2016

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The RASC Ottawa Centre Presents
END OF SUMMER STAR B-Q
Fred P. Lossing Observatory (FLO)
Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016
Rain Date: Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016
SAVE THE DATE!!!
Please RSVP no later than August 31, 2016 to Martha_Farkas@rogers.com
Details to follow - Please check www.ottawa-rasc.ca for updates on the event

  • Start Time: 5:00pm
  • Members Only (Families of Members Welcome)
  • Bring your own food
  • BBQs available for grilling
  • Drinks and hot dogs also available (with proceeds going to FLO)

President’s Message

By Gordon Webster

There is so much happening with Ottawa Centre lately that it is hard to keep track of it all.

A request was sent out for a volunteer to take on the not insignificant task of being our new webmaster. Stuart Glen stepped forward, or maybe just didn't step back fast enough. Chuck O' Dale has been doing a great job over the past few years but the workload at his day job is beginning to interfere and we couldn’t convince him to give up the day job! Thank you Chuck, for all you have done, and continue to do.

With the GA coming up next year, there will be a lot of changes and updates to the new website so Stuart will be kept busy, even as Chuck continues to look after the old Wiki site. Thank you, Stuart. I know I speak for all of Council in saying we look forward to working with you.

Martha Farkas and Annie Frenette are organizing a new event for Ottawa Centre, the StarBQ. This is a combination end of summer BBQ and star party at the FLO for members and their families only, on Sept 10 starting at 5 pm. This promises to be a great social event, so if you have never been to the FLO this is a wonderful opportunity to come out and see what you have been missing. You can bring your own BBQ and food or you can purchase food and drinks there. Proceeds will help to fund improvements and expansions planned for FLO in the coming year. Bring your telescope for the star
party afterwards, or try out the 16”. But be sure to let Martha_Farkas@rogers.com know that you are coming by August 31.

This year Mike Garvie has been in charge of our regular public Star Parties at the Carp library, one of our major outreach efforts. These events take a lot of organizing and coordination, and Mike has been working hard to make sure they run smoothly. We have been having great turn-outs again this year and much of the credit goes to those organizing it. Keep up the great work, Mike.

The Mercury Transit event on the Hill was such a success that we are trying to arrange an evening star party there, in conjunction with Science Literacy week, Sept 18 - 25. The target date is Friday September 23. Details will be announced soon.

It is exciting and encouraging to see these new projects happening, and especially the new people stepping forward to help run them.Clear skies!


Announcements

Upcoming public Star Parties at the Carp library parking lot:

August 26 (rain dates Aug 27, Sept 3, Sept 4),
AND September 23 (rain dates Sept 24, Sept 30, Oct 1).


Member News

Rob Dick was a guest on CBC Radio’s The Current for June 16, discussing light pollution. A transcript of the interview may be found here.

A great article about our Centre including an interview with Eric Kujala appeared on the Ottawa blog site Apt613.ca. Read the full article here.

Barry Matthews has a wireless laser printer for sale (Lexmark CS310n), suitable for printing high resolution astronomical images. Like new, very seldom used, and includes installation CD and cables; asking price $160.00 OBO. For more details contact opticks.barry@gmail.com (613)829-5251

Please welcome the following new members who have joined our Centre since the last newsletter:
Mathieu Audet, Mark Bishop, José Campos, Steve de Paul, Peter Farkas, DarlJayme, Gisele Jobateh, Julie Lacerte, Ruby Lacerte, Linda Meier, Mary Shewchuk , Guy Thibault,Darren Weatherall, and Bryan White.

Brian McCullough demonstrates the inherent risks of amateur astronomy.

Cartoon by Jon Canning, reproduced with permission.


Webcasting for RASC Ottawa – Part 2

By Eric Kujala

The first part of Eric’s article, giving some background to how he came to provide us with this valuable service, appeared in our June issue. Here he goes into more detail about just what is involved technically to make the webcasts happen. Next meeting be sure and stop by his post to thank him for his expertise and service to our Centre. – Ed.

Webcasting, or broadcasting to the internet, does not need to be elaborate. Equipment can consist simply of a laptop and a webcam. It is possible to webcast from a cellphone or other mobile device but you will need to consider whether the image and sound quality will be stable and clear.
Besides some experience working with a laptop and familiarity with video technology, you will need a high-end laptop computer with an updated OS, and at least one webcam, or a video camera with HDMI input. A video camera has the advantage of being able to zoom in and control the video image more effectively than a webcam. But if using a video camera, you will also need a capture card. Capture cards make it possible to connect video cameras to laptops via the camera’s HDMI output. However, laptops with Firewire or Thunderbolt ports do support video cameras with DV or HDV outputs without the need for a capture card.

None of this hardware matters unless you have access to a reliable high-speed internet connection, preferably hard-wired rather than WIFI, with a minimum upload speed of 1MB per second, and appropriate software to encode and stream the video output. I use and recommend Ustream Producer, which allows me to use several cameras and sources, features a preview and a program screen, status information, channel settings and switching capability. Using this app requires an account with www.ustream.tv, which members will recognize as the website from which our live
meeting webcasts can be viewed.

Eric setting up to webcast another RASC Ottawa meeting.

Webcasting can take place under many different conditions in a variety of locations, with or without an audience, and usually with time constraints. It’s a good idea to configure and thoroughly test everything you are going to use prior to the meeting day. In my case, I set up for our local RASC
meetings in the auditorium of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. I normally arrive about two hours before the webcast begins. Giving myself lots of time to setup makes the experience less stressful and provides ample time to concentrate and troubleshoot any problems. It also allows me to
experiment and try new ways of doing things.

I set up at a large table at the front of the auditorium in order to have a clear view of the lectern and projection screen. My position is at floor level so that I do not block anyone’s view. The process of webcasting should not interfere with the meeting. I use two video cameras, one pointed at the presenter, the other at the presentation screen. In addition I’ve found it useful to record a third angle, provided by a webcam. In the shot below we see the presenter with the display screen in the background. Adding this angle to the webcast makes the production look more professional, providing a view of both the presenter and the screen in one shot.

Speaker Gordon Webster is shown with the display screen in the background.

I have a wireless microphone setup on the lectern which sends the audio to a receiver on the camera. I monitor the audio through a set of high quality over-the-ear headphones which cut out extraneous room sounds. Audio is half the content when it comes to webcasting but it is often overlooked with disappointing results.

Because webcams do not require a capture card, the feed is recorded directly by my laptop, so that I have a separate recording of that webcam. This is useful if post-editing is required. A webcast can be published directly to YouTube without any editing, but I do use editing software to produce a more professional result.

A key part of the meetings at the Ottawa Centre is the presentation of slides and videos usually embedded in a PowerPoint presentation. As most of you know, Chris Teron, our Ottawa Centre secretary and IT-expert extraordinaire, prepares the slides and videos for the big screen at our meetings. The PowerPoint files are kept on a separate presentation display computer in the projection booth. I incorporate this display into the webcast using an app called Desktop Presenter, used in conjunction with Ustream Producer.

For this to work smoothly, both computers must be on the same local network. Chris launches the Desktop Presenter app on his display computer and I detect it on the webcasting computer. This is a great feature which allows the webcast viewer to experience the presenter’s slides or video at high resolution, as well as other graphics in the webcast including the RASC Ottawa Centre logo and a copyright notice at the end of the webcast.

An added feature of Ustream is its interface with social media. Links to Facebook, Twitter and other platforms make Ustream a multi-media experience. Viewers can also send in their comments during the webcast. This is an important feature with today’s media-savvy viewers.

UStream Producer desktop view, showing multiple video sources (Roman Dzioba shown on the right).

It’s a good idea to start webcasting before the actual meeting begins to ensure everything is working smoothly. The webcaster must coordinate with the meeting chair to ensure the meeting doesn’t start before the webcast does. When all is ready, I begin streaming and start recording locally and on the Ustream server at the same time. Recording time is limited to three hour intervals, which is why our recordings are often found in two parts on the Ustream channel.

Typically an agenda is one of the first slides shown. Once underway, I switch to live as the meeting progresses, selecting the camera angle or source appropriate “on the fly”. This is one of the most challenging aspects of webcasting. The operator needs to monitor what is being presented and select the appropriate source (camera, screen, or Desktop Presenter) for the viewer to see – much like a TV studio producer. There is an important cognitive element here which requires experience to get right.

Paying attention to what the presenter is saying and doing is a crucial part of good webcasting. You don’t want to show something that has nothing to do with what the presenter is discussing.

Here are two important tips:

  1. When webcasting live, try and avoid any undue delays and be aware that people over the internet are watching and listening. Try not to interrupt the meeting in the event of a technical problem.
  2. It is important to ensure that whatever is picked up by the microphone(s) is relevant to the webcast and not some private conversation.

At the end of the webcast I go from the meeting chair’s sign off to the copyright page I’ve created and then fade to black. Once streaming and recording are stopped, I save the files and settings. Then I’m ready to immediately publish the webcast to YouTube and post the link to the appropriate website.

Next, I go to the Ustream website to check that the webcast is available for replay. The Ustream version of the meeting is normally kept as long as possible. It will eventually be deleted to make room for new meetings. And of course I keep a hard copy of the recordings.

Thanks to webcasting technology, anyone, anywhere with access to the internet can watch the webcast - anytime. I’ve received calls from viewers in North America, Central America, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific, Europe, Australia and Hawaii. I’d love to hear from the folks on the ISS! I’ve also noticed an increased number of viewers watching the meeting webcasts. The recording also affords members present at the live meetings the opportunity to review material presented. I’ve received comments that some details presented during a meeting were more clearly understood when
reviewed on the webcast. It gives me great satisfaction to know that what I do enriches people’s meeting experience. After almost 10 years I still eagerly look forward to the next meeting and what I will learn while webcasting. That is my greatest reward.

My hope for the future is to see all RASC Centres try webcasting, and I plan to share more detailed descriptions of my methods and experience with Centres across the country. The ability to communicate by webcasting to potentially millions of viewers makes this a great public outreach tool,
and an excellent way of sharing between RASC Centres.

I am ready to train, assist and mentor anyone willing to dedicate their volunteer time to this endeavor. I did not have the benefit of an experienced operator to help me when I began. The knowledge and experience I can now offer an inexperienced webcaster will make his or her life much easier than when I started out.

Helpful links:

  • Ustream Producer User Guide for Windows for Mac
  • Streaming Tutorial
  • Desktop Presenter User Guide, Tutorial

Interesting Correspondence

Some of our geologically-minded members may have an answer for this query, received recently from an AstroNotes reader. – Ed.

"I was wondering if any of your members recall a series of round indentations, which were widely termed as craters, which covered an area of less than a quarter-mile. If memory serves, there were five of them and ringed an old-growth forest. These were situated by the densest forest I'd seen at the time. The whole lot sat roughly near the intersection of Woodroffe Avenue (on the west side). One crater was in clear view of Woodroffe near the intersection of that avenue and Norice Street. They ceased at the railway tracks, which ran east and west immediately to the south. At the time, the tracks ran even with the land; now they are built up and you can drive under them. These were about 50' across and about 10' deep. I remember that around 1959 an alert was put out at my school, Meadowlands Public (then on Fieldrow Street, Nepean), that a girl had gone missing, surname Walker. I can remember clearly the police and, I'd guess, volunteers, dragging the craters, as in the old expression 'dragging the lake' for a body. From what I can see there is no record of these existing, neither in anecdotal history nor in topographical maps I have seen. Point is, I lived in that area for my first 12-years; they existed. Even at that time, ie when the craters were dragged, I would have been six years old. Although I hadn't read any novels at such a tender age, kids would occasionally refer to meteors landing, flying saucers, too.....I mean the craters were landmarks of a sort and noticeable. You didn't have to search and imagine, "Is that a circular pattern and a concavity....?" They were obvious as those trees were tall. AN ASIDE: Interestingly enough, while they (craters) were situated on the west side of Woodroffe just north of the train tracks, on the other side of Woodroffe, spitting distance away and lying roughly parallel to the tracks, a bog existed. It would occasionally flare up and when the wind was right, blow over to our house on Fieldrow Street. The smell was not objectionable, perhaps because the significant Scottish component of that area were accustomed to peaty liquor. Hard to tell. As a kid I'd go over and walk on the grassy growths atop the bog; and I would step off. It was hot to walk on; hot to the touch.

"Enough of that. I was wondering if you knew anybody among your membership, or otherwise, who might have heard of such craters. I'm writing a memoir/novel and I'm trying to identify these crater if possible, although, to be sure, nothing hinges on it. Nobody knows about them today....nobody to whom I've talked.

"Thanks,
"Bruce Wittet (tbrucewittet@gmail.com)"


AstroNotes Bookshelf

Edited by Janet Tulloch

Book Review by Pat Brewer

Clyde Tombaugh, Discoverer of Planet Pluto
(Sky & Telescope 2007) by David Levy

How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming
(Spiegel & Grau 2012) by Mike Brown

With the recent flyby of Pluto it seemed like a good time to read a couple of books on the two most important events in the life of Pluto; its discovery and its loss of status as a planet.

David Levy’s book provides a detailed biography of the life of Clyde Tombaugh (1906 – 1997). We meet a dedicated observer who first found Pluto as a result of the combination of his special observation abilities and attention to detail. Pluto was actually found early in his research and the discovery made him famous in his era. The skills and equipment Tombaugh used on that search later became important when he went on to work on the development of visual tracking systems to follow rocket launches at White Sands Proving Grounds. He also searched for near earth objects and later became a university professor. So, there is much more to Clyde Tombaugh than just Pluto and Levy takes us along on the journey of a lifetime.

This brings us to Mike Brown’s book. Surprisingly, his search for Kuiper belt objects followed much the same paths as Tombaugh. However, Brown had the advantage of CCD cameras and computer software to help in the search for objects beyond Neptune. He found a number of them and some of them rivaled Pluto in size and characteristics. It seemed to him that either they were all planets or Pluto was not. The story is an interesting one, told with humour, and is not without international intrigue and a surprising amount of astronomical politics.

Both books provide insight into the research process and the tricky task that greets the discoverer when he or she has to decide when and how to announce what they have found. How much research does one do to confirm one’s discovery before letting everyone know? How sure does one need to be in order not to risk embarrassment later?

Sometimes, it’s lonely out there when you have something new to say.

N.B. an earlier 1991 edition of David Levy’s book is available in our Centre library – Ed.


In Memorium

Farewell and Clear Skies

Weldon Hannaford
Rolf Meier

Please go to our special website page for tributes to Weldon and Rolf.


Next Meeting

Topic: TBA

7:30 PM Friday September 9, 2016 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (directions).

Note: there is a $3 parking fee for museum parking.

If you cannot attend in person, follow the proceedings over our live stream here.

PLUS: all our regular meeting features: Ottawa Skies, 10-minute Astronomy, Observer Reports, and of course, the beloved Door Prize!


Centre Information

General enquiries: contact@ottawa-rasc.ca

The Ottawa Centre 2016 Council

President: Gordon Webster (president@ottawa-rasc.ca)
Vice President: Tim Cole
Secretary: Chris Teron (mailto:secretary@ottawa-rasc.ca)
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri
Centre Meeting Chair: Roman Dzioba (meetingchair@ottawa-rasc.ca)
Councilors: Yves Demers, Stephen Nourse, Carmen Rush
National Council Representatives: Brian McCullough, Robert Dick
Past President: Gary Boyle

2016 Appointed Positions

Membership: Art Fraser
Fred Lossing Observatory Director: Ron St. Martin
Smart Scope Director: Jim Maxwell
Hospitality: Art & Anne Fraser
Stan Mott Library: Estelle Rother
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Al Scott
Webmaster: Chuck O’Dale (webmaster@ottawa-rasc.ca)
AstroNotes Editors: Karen Finstad & Janet Tulloch (astronotes@ottawa-rasc.ca)