AstroNotes 2016 October Vol: 55 issue 09

President’s Message . Announcements . Member News . National Update . National Council Meeting . Strategic Planning Report . AstroNotes Bookshelf . Next Meeting . Centre Information



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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 55 - No 9 - October 2016

President’s Message

On the late afternoon of Saturday, September 24, about 40 Ottawa Centre members and their families arrived at the Fred Lossing Observatory for the first StarBQ, a barbecue and star party. It's been a while since the FLO has had so many people there at the same time! The temperature was a bit on
the cool side but the atmosphere was definitely warm. There were about 10 young children in the group who enjoyed running and playing in the open areas around the observing mound and later looking at ants with Andrew and his telescope.

Martha Farkas and Annie Frenette had done a great job of organizing our first (hopefully annual) StarBQ. Some people brought their own food and some preferred to buy hot dogs and drinks that Martha was selling as a fund raising effort for the upcoming renovations at the FLO. It had originally been planned for earlier in the month but as with many astronomy related events, the weather did not cooperate and we had to fall back to the rain date. The plan was to have the donated 18” StarMaster set up for people to try out but unfortunately it was not available on our rain date. It is

currently being refurbished. Instead we opened the observatory and used the 16” and had some stunning views of M22 and M17.

Many people brought telescopes. We had little people with small telescopes and bigger people with bigger telescopes. With the Milky Way blazing over all of them, it was a wonderful evening of dark, clear, steady skies, companionable people and a shared interest.


Mark your calendars for the 2016 Annual dinner meeting, to be held at Algonquin College beginning at 6 pm on November 18. The guest speaker will be Dr. Gordon Osinski, Associate Professor & NSERC/MDA/CSA Industrial Research Chair in Planetary Geology at Western University. For tickets ($45), email Tim Cole or pin him down at the meeting. BTW, we are now able to accept credit cards, with a surcharge of $1.25.

The final public Star Party of this year will be October 21 (rain date Oct 22), as usual at the Carp Library. Bring your telescopes and cross your fingers for clear skies.

Start your holiday shopping early. The 2017 RASC Observer’s Calendar will be available for purchase at the October 14 meeting. The price is $16 each or $30 for two (credit card surcharge $0.50).

Janet Tulloch and Gordon Webster are offering their Art and Astronomy workshop for the second time at the Ottawa School of Art - Orleans Campus, Oct 14-16. The workshop includes a Friday night observing session (weather permitting) and on Saturday and Sunday, they will cover night sky photography essentials (cameras, exposures, lenses, and tripods) as well as sketching from naked eye observing or binoculars. The fee is $220.00. To register call 613.580.2765 or send an email to The course code is F16SWS06. Gordon or Janet are also happy to answer any questions about the workshop. Send an email to or

Member News

The Centre is pleased to welcome the following new members: Joseph Almassy, Andrew Brown, David Chan, Georgina Chan, Keegan Fraser, Judy Horodnyk, Mark Horodnyk, Roland Prevost, and Zelig (Zhi) Li . You are invited to all upcoming events and please do ask questions about anything and everything!

Our esteemed Meeting Chair, Roman Dzioba, will be leaving us soon to take up a new job in Iqaluit. Thanks for doing a great job organizing and keeping our meetings on track, and clear skies, Roman!

If you didn’t notice Janet Tulloch’s excellent piece in the September RASC Bulletin, please go read it now. She weighs in on an interesting discussion that has been enlivening that usually predictable newsletter all summer.

The October issue of Sky & Telescope contains a brief obituary of Rolf Meier, by David Levy, and a handful of interesting letters in response to the June issue article by Robert Dick.

Congratulations to Paul Klauninger, winner of 1 st and 2 nd place at StarFest for Imaging of Landscapes.

National Update

The 2017 Observer’s Handbook is fresh off the press, and will be distributed to all current members in late October or early November.

Report on the National Council Meeting of May 2016

By Robert Dick and Rick Wagner

These meetings can be interesting, or not, depending on your interests in various aspects of the RASC. We continue to question the role and the cost of the RASC. Outgoing National President James Edgar questions if we need new programs for the membership and the public, whether we can afford these without raising fees, and of course, whether the fees are sufficient to maintain the status quo. This opens the door for “strategic planning”. There was a workshop to begin these discussions. (See below for Brian McCullough’s detailed report on the workshop and what followed. – Ed.) This is the role of the Board of Directors. They will meet in September to work out a plan and report back to the National Council (composed of representatives from all Centres) in October.

Some of this early discussion addressed our role beyond the RASC: how can we, or should we, connect with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics communities and disciplines. There are some measures that have low financial cost: articles, teleconferences, face-to-face meetings. However, there would still be considerable personal cost in terms of the time commitments. We are, after all a volunteer organization.

One “outreach” program that is now done virtually is the posting of a large number of video presentations from GAs, Centres, university seminars, etc. on the RASC Youtube Channel. Much of this work was done by Walter MacDonald and is based on video recordings made over the years by Robert Dick and Jon Buchanan. This is similar to what we do in Ottawa through the efforts of Eric Kujala. Many past Ottawa Centre meetings may be found here. These are incredible resources, not just for teachers, but anyone with an interest in learning from the people who actually did the science. We all need to promote these free resources to schools and libraries.

At the GA there was a “Centre Roundup”, where each centre reported on their outreach activities. There are some disappointments. Most notably, the Toronto Centre renovated the David Dunlap Observatory and created and managed the public outreach done at the Observatory. This occupied many volunteers who expended considerable effort over the last few years. The Town of Richmond Hill has “taken it over”/ expropriated the facility. The story continues – hopefully.

RASC Strategic Planning Working Group – A busy summer!

by Brian McCullough

As I outlined for members at a recent Ottawa Centre meeting, a lot of high-energy activity relating to the next wave of improvement for the RASC came out of the General Assembly in London in May. One such initiative began as a SWOT Analysis workshop led by Denis Grey. The "SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and the exercise requires participants to examine key aspects of their organization against these attributes. Denis identified five key "Value" areas (Value to Members; Value to Centres; Value to the Public; Value to the Scientific Community; and Financial Sustainability), then asked us to form small groups to examine these areas in detail. He laid out a few ground rules to assist us, and had Executive Director Randy Attwood move among us to help the process.

I'm not usually much of one for party games, but this particular exercise revealed some rather interesting insights. With decades of experience as an astronomy educator, I joined a group that would be throwing Value to the Public under the microscope. With the Board of Directors (BoD) on a mission to chart the next multi-year way forward, our task was to identify key areas of importance relating to each of the "Value" topics, and see if we could figure out how to make the processes work better. It was speed-planning at its best, and after 20 or 30 minutes we submitted our findings for review by everyone in the lecture hall. With our working charts taped to the walls, people came up and marked their "likes" against the key areas we had identified, thus prioritizing the content of each of the five "Value" lists. Although we wished we could have explained the thinking behind some of our items, there was enough there for people to get the gist and make their marks. It was a remarkably effective exercise, and the two most surprising revelations were: (1) each of the groups had identified outreach as being of key importance; and (2) the preponderance of "likes" (dots on the work sheets) were in support of outreach-related activities. It was quite an eye-opener.

And this is where the story gets interesting. Denis Grey took those worksheets and called for a working group to examine them in closer detail, and to distill them into something the Board of Directors could use during their deliberations in September. Robyn Foret stepped forward as chair of the newly formed Strategic Planning Working Group, and led a summer-long review process with the other 10-12 members of the group which turned out to be a wonderful experience. We formed two- or three-person teams to tackle each of the five Value areas, and conferred on several occasions as a group to compare notes. What we did was to "super-prioritize" our respective lists into a single shopping list (for lack of a better term) that the BoD could depend on as a critically reviewed, critically prioritized assessment of where they might want to focus time, effort and financial resources over the next months and years.

I have to say that RASC members across this country should be proud of what this working group achieved under Robyn's leadership, and with the guidance of Randy Attwood. I was amazed by the strength of opinion coming out of the other members, and by the wonderfully nuanced presentation of
their arguments throughout the prioritization process. I have to admit that I have never felt much connection to the "National" aspects of the RASC – until I became a National Council Rep for Ottawa Centre, and got involved with this working group. I feel like I have just met some long-lost relatives of the highest calibre. I can't wait to see what our National Board of Directors does with the information we have given them.

Get involved, folks! You'll double your enjoyment.

Hauling the RASC into the modern Era?

AstroNotes Bookshelf

Edited by Janet Tulloch

Each month our librarian, Estelle Rother, chooses one book from our library of about 800 books to feature. The library is located in a cabinet behind the Aviation Museum theatre and is open immediately after meetings. You can also consult the Centre’s website for most of our titles.

Estelle’s Pick for September

The Stars, Second Edition
by H. A. Rey (HMH 2008)

Your AstroNotes Editor was very pleased to see this image come up at last month’s meeting. This is the first astronomy book she ever owned (somewhere around 1962) and thankfully this updated edition retains all the charming illustrations, easy-to-use constellation maps, and straightforward information of the original. This book is not just for children and teens, though it is highly recommended for them.

Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday October 14, 2016 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (directions). Note there is a $3 parking fee for museum parking.

Program: The Pluto System as Revealed by New Horizons
presented by Dr. Kelsi Singer

In July of 2015 the New Horizons spacecraft flew through the Pluto system, completing humanity’s reconnaissance of the classical planets. Pluto turned out to be a world of remarkable geologic diversity, and its terrains display a range of ages, suggesting geologic activity of various forms has persisted for much of Pluto’s history. Images looking back at the sun through Pluto’s atmosphere led to the discovery of numerous haze layers. We are in the beginning stages of understanding this complex world; Dr. Singer will highlight what we have learned so far and present the latest images.

Dr. Kelsi Singer is a postdoctoral researcher at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, CO working on NASA’s New Horizons mission. Her graduate work at Washington University in St. Louis focused on geology and geophysics of icy satellites, but she also works on impact cratering across the solar system.

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

Centre Information

General enquiries:

The Ottawa Centre 2016 Council

President: Gordon Webster (
Vice President: Tim Cole
Secretary: Chris Teron (
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri
Centre Meeting Chair: Roman Dzioba (
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 (
AstroNotes Editors: Karen Finstad & Janet Tulloch (