AstroNotes 2017 January Vol: 56 issue 01

Editor’s Message . 2016 Awards . Member News . President’s Report 2016 . Who are These Guys? . 2016 Centre Awards . AstroNotes Bookshelf . Next Meeting . Centre Information .



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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 56 - No 1 - January 2017


Editor’s Message

Welcome to 2017 - year of the Ottawa General Assembly and a total solar eclipse right here in North America. In this issue we look back at the previous year with a list of award winners and our outgoing President’s summary of the Centre’s accomplishments. Then take a peek into the future with Janet’s Tulloch’s interview of our new President and Vice-President. Both articles are well worth reading to the end. Enjoy!

For those of you not present for the Annual Banquet or AGM, here are our esteemed 2016 Centre Award winners, as chosen by outgoing Meeting Chair Roman Dzioba. Please extend your hearty congratulations to all of them!

Paul Comision Observer of the Year: Paul Klauninger
and Honourable Mentions to Mary Brown, Taras Rabarskyi, and Bob Olson.

Presentation of the Year: Carmen Rush for her presentation on “Eise Eisinga”, and Honourable
Mentions to Simon Hanmer and Kelly Jordan.

Roman threw in an ‘unofficial’ Image of the Year nod to Eric LeMay.

AstroNotes Article of the Year, as chosen by your faithful Editors: Stuart Glen, for his “Stu’s Reviews” series.

And take special note on behalf of us all, for the following individuals who were awarded the 2016
Service Award for “sustained, exemplary service to the RASC Ottawa Centre”:

Tim Cole      Chuck O’Dale
Simon Hanmer      Carmen Rush
Mike Moghadam     Alan Scott

Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC
Volume 56 - No 1 - January 2017
All copyright including the photographs belongs directly to the authors. No reprints without permission.

Member News

If you missed the mini Astronomy Fair at our December meeting, please check out the meeting video. In addition to his usual skillfully produced record of the meeting itself, this month Eric Kujala has included a wonderful and entertaining montage of the Fair and its participants, including interviews. Thanks, Eric!

Please welcome these New Members joined in the previous two months: Ron Clough, Eamonn Kennedy, John MacAuley, Doug Paulson, the Janz family, Stan Pope, Daniel Pusztai, Gordon Scott, Guenther Kramer, and A. Lathif Masood.

Outgoing President’s Report

The following report was delivered at the AGM by Gordon Webster, our President for the past two years.

Here we are again at the AGM. It seems hard to believe that another year has passed. But it has been an eventful and productive year. Last year I encouraged you to step forward and volunteer to help guide your Centre and I am pleased to see that many of you have. Martha Farkas took the initiative and organized a couple of fundraisers for the FLO. Kelly Jordan has stepped forward to join Council as our new meeting chair. Jim Sofia and Gerry Shewan have put their names forward to serve on Council. As well, Gerry has been working with Paul Klauninger on the Smartscope project. Stuart Glen stepped forward to take on the monumental task of building a new website for us. Janet Tulloch came forward with a Canada 150 project, an astro-art exhibit that will run in July next year. Mike Moghadam stepped forward and volunteered to be Vice President. And look at the number of people who have come out tonight with displays for our Astronomy Science Fair organized by the tireless Mike Moghadam.

Again this year we have had a very successful series of star parties organized by Mike Garvie. Attendance continues to be quite high, continuing to run in the 300-plus range. I think we only missed one planned event this year due to weather. And we have 73 new members. Art Fraser, our membership director, is always there to make sure that each of those new members gets their membership card and a welcome letter. He and Anne continue to make sure that we always have refreshments at our monthly meetings.

In May, we had an amazing success with our Transit of Mercury Event held on Parliament Hill. In addition to Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan, and Minister of Transport, Marc Garneau, we shared our
telescopes with an estimated 2500 people. This event, and several of our members, were highlighted on both the local and the National news.

Our SmartScope project has moved forward this year. Really, it has. If it seems that this project has been going on forever, that is only because it has. In August, Jim Maxwell stepped down as SmartScope director after five years in that position. He worked very hard to move things forward. He brought the scope to its current operational status and had virtually all of the systems fully functional. Thanks to his efforts, he and his team were able to broadcast the Transit of Mercury.

In September, Council decide that it was time to pull the plug on this project and move the equipment to where it could be used by the membership, but Paul Klauninger stepped forward insisting that we were being premature. He feels that he can get Smartscope fully operational as a remotely accessible system as mandated. Council has given him an opportunity to make that happen, but he will need your help. We will know by next summer at the latest if this is going to be or if we will be re-purposing the equipment.

The 18” Starmaster that was donated last year by Mike Wirth has been received. The mirror has been recoated and the necessary repairs have been done to the mirror box of the telescope. It is now ready to go and will be installed at the FLO early next year. Another recent donation of a Meade 14” LX200 will also be installed in the spring. The older Celestron 14” we had earmarked for the FLO will be sold off to help cover some of the costs of the new observatory.

Every month Eric and Eunice Kujala record our meeting, broadcast it live, load it to YouTube, and file a DVD with our library. They also record each Annual Dinner Meeting. This year Eric released a wonderful
recording of an interview with Paul Comision that I know he has been working on for quite awhile. We are lucky to have Eric and Eunice with us.

Estelle Rother has been our librarian for as long as I have been involved with Ottawa Centre. Every month she has a new book to recommend. Al Scott continues to look after our telescope loan library.

Recent donations to our telescope library have lead to Al’s silent auction of some of the older telescopes. As well as his web building duties, Stu Glen is our magazine subscription co-ordinator. Karen Finstad is hereby forgiven for her continued nagging of Council members in consideration of the results she produces in our monthly AstroNotes. Karen and her assistant editor Janet Tulloch are doing a wonderful job.

Oscar Echeverri is our Treasurer extraordinaire He looks after all our financial duties. Earlier this year he set us up with the Square credit card reader which many of you used to purchase calendars or Annual
Dinner tickets. On top of this he also regularly shares his stunning astro-images.

Tim Cole did a great job organizing our Annual Dinner a couple of weeks ago. Our guest speaker was Dr. Gordon Osinski from Western University. If you weren’t there, you missed a wonderful evening.

I would like to thank Brian McCullough and Rob Dick for serving as our National Council Representatives. As well I want to thank all those on council for all your hard work over the past year. You are the ones who keep this group running and worth belonging to. We all owe you our thanks. I would like to extend a special thank you to Yves Demers. Yves has been a fixture on Council for many years. He has decided to step aside when we had new people step forward this year. I’m not sure how we will be able to adjourn Council meetings without you, Yves. We have also had some major losses. Rolf Meier, Weldon Hannaford, Jane Wrigley, Al Seaman and Mary
Henderson all passed away this year. They are, and will continue to be, missed.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned yet is the 2017 General Assembly. Brian McCullough and Tim Cole have put an enormous amount of work into the GA. They have assembled an impressive selection of speakers and organized a weekend of events that promise to keep everyone, local or not, entertained and informed. Despite some difficult challenges thrown in their path, this promises to be the best RASC GA held in 2017. To all the people I have mentioned, I want to extend my sincere thank you for all the effort, time and commitment you have put into what you have done for our Ottawa Centre. You are the people who make this the most vibrant Centre in the country.

On a more personal note, this is my final address as President. I want to thank all the people who have made these past two years the wonderful experience it has been. Rob (Dick), thank you for convincing me to take this on but I didn’t  get to delegate as much as you said I would. Brian (McCullough), thank you for your constant support and wise council and for taking on the GA. What the hell were you thinking! Mike (Moghadam), working with you has been an absolute pleasure. I look forward to our next project. Chris (Teron), what can I say about Chris? Thank you for always being there to listen to anything I brought forward and gently guiding me in the right direction.

Thank you for always have the answer on questions of procedure or policy. Thank you for all that you do. You are the glue that holds everything together. Last, but not least, thank you for the cookies! Working with all of you has been a privilege.

Who are These Guys?
An interview with Ottawa Centre’s new president and vice- president for 2017-2019.

by Janet Tulloch, Features Editor

Who are Tim Cole and Mike Moghadam, our new President and Vice-President? When individuals are acclaimed as directors to the Ottawa Centre council, members miss the opportunity to hear a candidate’s thoughts on how he or she would like to steer our organization for the next two years. Tim and Mike are familiar faces around our organization as both have made strong contributions to our public outreach programs. Shortly after their election at the AGM, I sent both of them the same set of questions by email in order to discover their views for the future of our Centre. Whether you are a new member or someone who has been around the block a few times, I hope you will enjoy reading their answers.

If someone gave you $10,000 to spend on behalf of RASC Ottawa Centre, how would you spend it?

TC: There's always a risk of Spending Spree Mode kicking in when there's an influx of money. At that level of donation, I think it would be best to make a shortlist of possible projects and ask the membership to rate them. A few of my proposals for the short list:

Use some of the donation on the FLO upgrade.
Use some of the donation as seed money for a scholarship endowment.
Use some of the donation as seed money for an endowment to help needy members with their
membership dues.

MM: I am not convinced that money alone will make membership in the Ottawa Centre more enjoyable. People join the Ottawa Centre because they are looking for a forum to learn more about astronomy and collaborate with people with similar interests. Through a variety of programs, events and outings, we can all enjoy our journey of discovery together and have a lot of fun. Many of our programs are run by volunteers who are not motivated by money. Sure we can invest in a new building or gadget for our members, but if there is no supporting program for members to use them then we just spent money frivolously.

What aspects/programs of the Ottawa Centre do you personally enjoy most?

TC: I enjoy our regular meetings, and our outreach programming. As often as not, I'm wearing my Museum Educator hat during outreach events, but I'm still reaching the public and putting a friendly face on science and life-long learning. I see astronomy as one of the most accessible sciences for people, particularly when you help people realize that it can be as simple as sitting on a lawn chair and soaking in starlight.

MM: Our public stargazing program ranks at the top of my favourites. There is a wonderful camaraderie among members at star parties as we share our love of the night sky with people who are enjoying their first views through a telescope. Our enthusiasm is palpable and everyone supports each other and has a lot of fun at the same time. [We get] great feedback from our invited guests. The monthly meetings are also well-run with lots of interesting speakers in a beautiful venue.

What does RASC-Ottawa do well in your view?

TC: We do a good job of public outreach. We also do a reasonably good job of making sure that local members have an opportunity to present their projects, rather than focusing on the Centre's most accomplished astronomers and astrophotographers. That's something we have to keep working on; I've met plenty of members who feel their photos and their stories aren't good enough for presentation, and that's a real shame.

MM: We offer a variety of programs and services that are supported by talented volunteers. Examples: public stargazing, monthly meetings, Telescope Loan library, Astronomy book library, Fred Lossing observatory, the General Assembly in 2017 and many outreach events. There is another level of support that enables the above, which is equally important: Our web site, video recording of meetings, refreshments at meetings, discount magazine program and so on. None of this would happen without volunteers and some level of organization. The Ottawa Centre Council has provided this oversight and coordination for countless years. [Also], based on feedback from attendees, we offer a fine public
stargazing program and monthly meeting program. Our outreach program is also well-received. All of these programs have helped us attract new members.

What could the Ottawa Centre do better?

TC: I think we have to offer more opportunities to help our own members do more with their own observing. We need star parties and observing sessions aimed primarily at our members. We've got to do a better job of helping newcomers select, set up, and use their equipment. Public education is great, but I think we've been slipping on member education.

MM: [Editor’s note: Mike combined his answer for this and the following question] In general, I see an opportunity to offer more programs to members and engage more members to offer these programs. Let me address the former first. I believe we should offer more support to new members who are new to astronomy. Examples of programs include: 1. Mentorship program (1:1 telescope support); 2. Group tutorials; 3. Members-only telescope clinics; 4. Members-only stargazing; 5. Organizing ride-share programs for members who need rides to events. There are lots of possibilities and we will be conducting a survey in early 2017 to poll members on their ideas and interests. We will then set priorities. It is worthwhile to look at all the programs and services we offer (to new and long-time members) and review what works well and what could be enhanced. Regarding the latter, we have a lot of talented, creative people in our Centre who have volunteered their time to help make our Centre better. I would like to reach out more broadly to our member base and enlist their support to build our organization. Being a volunteer is not a requirement of membership, but
I have heard many active members describe their experience as personally very rewarding. Engaging members will not happen passively. I plan to reach out to as many members as I can.

More specifically, the Fred Lossing Observatory is an under-used Centre asset that is largely unknown to many members. In other RASC Centres, it serves as a locus of many programs and a source of pride. The
last RASC Council was aware of the opportunity here and the new Council will be developing plans to enhance the appeal and use of FLO. I would also like to take our Outreach Program to the next level. To be successful here, we may need to have several coordinators to focus on the programs: Public stargazing (perhaps in two locations in 2017), solar observing, Perseid meteor observing and improving our Outreach displays.

What do you personally hope to contribute to the organization during your tenure as President?

TC: Naturally, the 2017 GA is going to consume a fair bit of my time for the next few months.
Projects close to my heart:

  • Making certain that our club equipment and facilities are being used as productively as possible.
    For example, how do we get the best use from the equipment we have at Shirleys Bay? What do members really want from FLO?
  • Spearheading a campaign to find a new home for the 15-inch refractor that used to operate in Helen Sawyer Hogg Observatory, and before that, the Dominion Observatory. That telescope is in storage now, with the Helen Sawyer Hogg Observatory building slated for demolition. That's a piece of Canadian astronomical heritage that ought to be on display and in use. While the Ottawa Centre can't possibly operate the telescope, I think we can do a good job of organizing support for a new historical observatory and working with the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation to make it a reality.

Do you own a telescope(s)? What type(s)?

TC: Too many, at least from my long-suffering wife's viewpoint. I have a PST (Personal Solar Telescope), a couple of small refractors, and an 8-inch SCT. I've also got lawn chairs and a couple of sets of binoculars.

MM: Skywatcher refractor and a C8 along with various accessories (Mallincam, solar filters, Herschel wedge, lots of odds and ends).

How often do you have a chance to observe?

TC: Less than I'd like. Fortunately, I particular enjoy observing the Moon and Sun which means I can set up a small telescope and squeeze in a short observing session when I get the chance. I also love just getting out the lawn chair and binoculars and enjoying the sky. It helps keep PDS (Photon Deprivation Syndrome) at bay.

MM: Mainly in the Summer and Fall, six – eight times, work-permitting. Solar observing and daytime planet observing is easier to fit in to my schedule.

Favorite contemporary science/astronomy writer?

TC: At the absolute top of my list: James Kaler. He writes science books that are as readable as novels, but still convey all the right information. Running almost neck-and-neck, there's Phil Plait, who's still tilting at pseudo-science windmills and exposing "Bad Astronomy”.

MM: I can’t pick one author favourite so I will share a couple of authors, not limited to astronomy: Timothy Ferris, Dava Sobel, Bob Berman, Yuval Noah Harari, Alfie Kohn, Steven Johnson, Paul Offit, David Perlmutter.

Are you a sci-fi fan? Favorite author?

TC: Yes, I am, but I have a fussy set of preferences that are hard to explain. I value a story over gadgetry, and I want characters to feel real. I expect the science to be accurate unless there's a solid story reason to break the rules. Even then, I want the "fake science" to be consistent. Favorite authors: Sorry, that's got to be plural. Larry Niven, the king of the bizarre that somehow works. (Who else puts a diving board on the edge of a mile high building?) Greg Bear, who doesn't always succeed with his stories (at least in my opinion), but intertwines "fake" and "real" science with considerable skill. Bear's Moving Mars is in my opinion one of his underrated masterpieces. Vernor Vinge, for reasons I really can't explain--I just like what I've read.

MM: I read science fiction when I was a boy and thoroughly enjoyed Isaac Asimov. He was also a prolific author of many books on Chemistry, Physics, Astronomy, etc. and I soon found myself reading his non-fiction.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

TC: Actually, I don't much care for either of them.

MM: I enjoyed the original Star Trek series.

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 open immediately after meetings. You can also consult the Centre’s website for most of our titles.

Clyde Tombaugh, Discoverer of Planet Pluto
is Estelle’s Pick for December

By David H. Levy (University of Arizona Press, 1991)
"A warm, often personal biography based on interviews with Tombaugh, his friends, family, and colleagues. . . . This book conveys the joy and passion of discovering new worlds."—Sky & Telescope"
This is a timely book, and an excellent tribute to Clyde Tombaugh. It is very well written, and can be recommended to all classes of readers."—Journal of the British Astronomical Association


Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday Jan 6, 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.

Join us and our new Meeting Chair Kelly Jordan as we kick off the New Year with a rich collection of updates and extended observation reports from the following:

Dave Chisholm (Ottawa Skies and a special book report)
Al Scott (10-minute Astronomy report)
Brian Mccullough (GA Update)
Paul Klauninger (SmartScope Update)
Eric LeMay (extended observation report)
Gordon Webster (spectroscopy observations)

Centre Information

General enquiries:

The Ottawa Centre 2017 Council

President: Tim Cole (
Vice President: Mike Moghadam
Secretary: Chris Teron (
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri
Centre Meeting Chair: Kelly Jordan
Councilors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
National Council Representatives: Brian McCullough, Robert Dick
Past President: Gordon Webster

December 2016 Appointed Positions

Membership: Art Fraser
Fred Lossing Observatory Director: Ron St. Martin
Smart Scope Director: Open
Hospitality: Art & Anne Fraser
Stan Mott Library: Estelle Rother
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Al Scott
Webmaster: Stuart Glen
AstroNotes Editors: Karen Finstad & Janet Tulloch (