AstroNotes 2018 January Vol: 57 issue 01

Editor’s Message . President’s Message . Announcements . Member News . National Update . Light Pollution, Why Should You Care? . AstroNotes Bookshelf . Vanishing Stars – A Book Review by Janet Tulloch . Next Meeting . Centre Information



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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 57 - No 1 - January 2018

Editor’s Message

Welcome to 2018!

This is my first issue as your new Editor. I would like to
start off by thanking Karen Finstad and Janet Tulloch for
the fine work they have been doing here for the past few
years and for their kind offer of ongoing assistance. I
would also like to thank Douglas Fleming for stepping
forward to volunteer as the Assistant Editor.

I have some exciting articles lined up for you over the
coming months that I think you will enjoy. I am working
on expanding things a bit. The plan is to have something
for members at all levels in each issue, beginner to old
hack. I am hoping to be able to bring you articles that will
instruct as well as enlighten. My aim is to keep you up to
date on what is going on the Ottawa Centre but also the
important issues as they relate to us. Towards that end we
are starting off with a series of articles by Robert Dick on
the effects of light pollution and why we should care. We
will also be doing a series of articles on astrophotography
to guide you in getting started as well as help you solve the
problems you will encounter along the way.

I am hoping that we can also do a series on the big stories on astrophysics, cosmology and astronomy:
what is happening and what it means to our amateur community. I will be reaching out to various
people in the know for equipment reviews, suggestions and updates.

I remember when I first started coming to the Ottawa Centre meetings, I used to enjoy the “Monthly
Challenge”. There were usually two; one lunar and one deep sky. They were also usually broken down
into a small scope/beginner challenge and a large scope/advanced challenge. I am working on starting
this in the coming months.

I am looking forward to my new role and I welcome your feedback. If you have articles, ideas,
suggestions or comments PLEASE send them to me.

Happy New Year and clear skies (please)!!!!

Gordon Webster

President’s Message

Plans have a bad habit of mutating when you try to do anything with them.

One big development that arose in the closing weeks of 2017 was the shutdown of the Ottawa Centre's SMARTScope facility at Shirleys Bay. Our portable equipment has been removed and placed in storage. Changes in security procedures at Shirleys Bay have made it difficult to work on site, and we haven't had a reliable data link from the observatory. In addition, we were informed of planned changes to the operations at Shirleys Bay which could have seen the Ottawa Centre facing large increases in operating expenses.

You might wonder what's to come of the SMARTScope equipment. We are working on options, and while nothing is confirmed yet, there is an excellent chance that the telescope (and all the associated paraphernalia) will find a new home at little cost. There should be more definitive plans to report within a few months.

We've been refurbishing our dark(ish) sky Fred Lossing Observatory, the FLO. There's been great progress over 2017, and we intend to keep this up in 2018. For quite a few years, FLO hasn't been used all that much. With FLO's out-of-town location in Mississippi Mills, one does need to feel that it's worth the drive. I think more members will find there's something more for them out there. We weren't able to put together a report for the December meeting, but there will be one coming very soon.

With the re-opening of the Canada Science and Technology Museum, many members have asked if we'll be returning there for our monthly meetings. Changes in the corporation that operates Science and Tech (now called Ingenium) mean that this doesn't appear to be a likely prospect for some time to come. However, the Ottawa Centre is now a recognized affiliate of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the relationship provides some excellent privileges for us. There are still details to be worked out, and we'll be back at discussions in January.

Outreach has always been a big part of RASC activities, but our membership has changed over the decades. The RASC is no longer a place where well-seasoned astronomers meet to talk shop. Instead, there are plenty of folks who are new to astronomy, and “inreach” (for want of a better word) is very important. This is a new role for the RASC and the Ottawa Centre, and we're still trying to figure out how to handle it. I'd like to encourage all members of the Ottawa Centre to make a point of letting Council know what would help them get more from astronomy. In turn, I also encourage members to take part in outreach and “inreach” activities.
You've no doubt heard plenty of us tell you how rewarding it can be to be more involved, and I'm sure there's some skepticism about that claim. Well, here's my challenge: give it a shot. It could be as simple as getting together with some other folks after the next meeting to see what you can find in the sky just outside the doors (well, assuming it's not cloudy). Little things count.

Happy New Year, everyone! Let's hope we all have a good one.


The next members Star Party at the FLO is Saturday, January 20 with a waxing crescent Moon that sets at 8:33PM

Winter Star Party List – FLO

Feb 17 – new moon
March 17 - new moon - wear green and we will hunt for green stars and little green men
April 14 - waning crescent

Website and Email Addresses

The Centre is in the final stages of getting rid of its old web site, mailing lists and email addresses. The old ones are recognized by the (dash) format while the new ones have the (dot) format.

The following email addresses should now be used:

Each of these email address is automatically forwarded to the appropriate person. The old dash addresses will be disabled very soon.
Chris Teron, Secretary

Member News

Public Stargazing at the Aviation Museum - Robert Dick

A few brave souls stood against the elements to help the Aviation Museum host the Solstice event on the evening of December 21. (Co-incidence? Some say no.)

In the afternoon we held out little hope for clear skies, which may have discouraged most volunteers from coming out. But the clouds drifted southward enough that by about 7 pm the sky was mostly clear down to the crescent Moon in the southwest.

I brought out my binoculars on a tripod and Tim brought his small reflector. Both were perfect for the imperfect evening. The main targets were the Moon, Vega (with the double-double [no
not the one from Tim Hortons] and M42. M42 was a hard target due to the light from the enormous bonfire of rotting picnic tables that delayed the on-set of hypothermia.

I estimate that there were about 100-200 people throughout the evening, but I can be corrected. The kids seemed to be oblivious to the cold and only the adults were doing the cold-toed two-step.
I left at 8 pm with numb toes. But I left behind several dozen persistent merry-makers including our President, Tim.

National Update

(both lifted unceremoniously from the National website)

The RASC's 150th Anniversary

2018 is a banner year for the RASC—it marks the 150th year since the Society's inception. And that's reason enough for Canada's leading association of amateur and professional astronomers to celebrate the past and future course of astronomy in this country. A number of celebratory activities and events are under development to span 2018, and they will be announced during 2017. The activities will highlight active engagement in what we do now, reveal to Canadians what we aspire to do in the future, and show the roots of our astronomical advocacy and pursuits in a colourful and engaging past.

The 2018 working group is drawn from across our membership—Paul Delaney (Toronto Centre), Jim Hesser (Victoria Centre), Heather Laird (Calgary Centre), June MacDonald (NB Centre), Lauri Roche (Victoria Centre), and R.A. Rosenfeld (Unattached). We will also be reaching out to our partners in CASCA and the FAAQ to help us celebrate astronomy in Canada.

The RASC 2018 logo visually encapsulates the 150 years of our collective exploration of the universe:

A full description of the symbolism of the RASC 2018 logo can be found here.

Its elements represent the observational work, discoveries, and education and public outreach of our professional and amateur members over the century and a half since our founding. The logo features on items which will be available from the RASC store throughout the year.

Opening event - The National Star Party! 2018 January 27

The celebration of the RASC's sesquicentennial begins on 27 January, 2018. The RASC 2018 Working Group has been organizing a cross-country Star Party that combines solar and lunar observing, and local Centre exhibits and displays, as well as many other festive events starting on the Atlantic coast, and reaching westwards (and of course northwards) to encompass many of our Centres, and thus our membership. Unattached members will also be involved. We invite everyone from all corners of Canada to join us for this Opening Event! (Editor’s note: There will not be such a star party in Ottawa.)
Starting at 3 PM in Atlantic Canada, and then as each Canadian time zone reaches 3 PM local time, RASC Centres will join the internet gathering. We will link and showcase the activities of each Centre’s Star Party via Google Hangouts, and the link will be shared publically, allowing anyone in Canada to witness the Sun, Moon, and the local celebrations. The public link can be found here!
Towards 5 PM EST we will provide 3 minutes of time per Centre starting on the Atlantic coast and again working westwards to send greetings across the country to all astronomy enthusiasts. We will intersperse these messages with pre-recorded messages from prominent figures in the astronomical world.
By 6:00 PM EST all Centres who wish to join the Star Party will be active and online. At 6:15 PM EST the president of the RASC will deliver greetings, and announce officially the commencement of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the RASC. The cross-country link-up concludes at 8 PM EST.

Light Pollution – Why Should We Care?

By Robert Dick Consider – why is the FLO where it is? Why do people use it? Why do people drive several hours to a darker sight?

The Ottawa Centre’s primary observing sight was the Dominion Observatory (1905-1965). Then it moved south to Spring Hill and west to the “Quiet Site” (Area#5) on property of the CRC property at the north end of the Riddle Road (1965) – less than 30 minutes from Ottawa. Then it moved to North Mountain (NMO) (1971) – south of Osgood, then it moved to the Mill of Kintail on the west side of the Indian River (IRO) (1976). This article is not a review of some new astro-tech, or a view of a recent astro-image. Believe it or not, it’s much more important than those things. Each of these moves was prompted by an increase in light pollution, and the resignation that we had to move further from Ottawa, and other communities, to find dark skies. The reason it has been at the Mill of Kintail for 40-years is because a few people in the Ottawa Centre (Arnie Weeks and Robert Dick) made a commitment to slow the growth in LP from Ottawa and surrounding towns. The fact that IRO, now called FLO is still a viable observing site is evidence that we CAN control LP. The reason we chose to work to reduce LP in the mid-1990’s instead of moving again, was because it would cost much more money than we could raise to move the Observatory once again.

That was then. We are now faced with another rapid increase in LP with the installation of white-light LEDs. These will increase LP by at least 50% over the next few years, as has been measured in the past by Europeans after the same conversion to LEDs that we are seeing now in North America. We KNOW this is going to happen. It’s not speculation; it’s physics. But it will be worse in Ontario because the promotion of low-cost outdoor lighting will increase the use of light across the countryside – because LED light is "perceived" to be much cheaper than older lighting technologies. Imagine what 2000 lumens of light every half kilometer or so along all the township roads will do. We are seeing the beginning of this impact now. Look at the accompanying image or visit and you will the brightening of the countryside – far from large cities. These are caused by the property lighting around private rural homes, and remote street-lighting – where before there were none. If you don’t like this expansion of LP across the countryside, then you should be concerned.

Think about it. In the next AstroNotes I will mention a few practical things you can do about it.

Robert Dick

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 January

Explore the Universe Guide
An Introduction to the RASC ETU Observing Program, 2nd Edition
By Brenda Shaw

Vanishing Stars: Unravelling the appropriation of art by science
By Sanjeev Sivarulrasa
Published by Sanjeev Sivarulrasa, Ottawa, 2013

Review by Janet Tulloch

Artist Sanjeev Sivarulrasa’s 2013 volume is a valuable cautionary tale warning us of creeping scientism in North American culture: the idea that the only accepted means of understanding reality is through the lens of science.

In effect, scientism is a faith-based worldview that, according to the author, has overreached its claims about reality by undermining other modes of human knowing such as philosophy, the humanities, and as the sub-title indicates, by appropriating art-making for its own economic purposes. Increasingly lost is any sense of a clear cultural or disciplinary boundary for science whose mandate is to study, explain, and predict the machinations of the physical world, including the universe, through empirical observation and repeatable results.

The author uses the example of astrophotography to make his case, arguing that scientists and scientific institutions, such as NASA, are manipulating the public by using false colour and other photo-altering techniques to create emotive, awe-inspiring images of deep space. Unlike a photograph of a tree or an animal, the public has no actual reference with which to compare the deep space image. The result, according to Sivarulrasa, is that the public swallows these deep space images whole, not realizing there is no exact referent in space that looks like the jaw-dropping “photographs” attributed to space telescopes such as Hubble. Not only are scientists and science institutions using these images to secure funding and public support for their billion-dollar projects, but the more significant worry is that the scientific narrative promoted by marketing teams and popular astronomy magazines is fundamentally shaping our perception of the cosmos and, ultimately, our place within it – “including what it means to be human” (p. 8).

I might have dismissed the key concerns of this book had I read it before two op-ed pieces in the Globe and Mail appeared. The first referred to Julie Payette, our new Governor-General’s seeming endorsement of scientism at a public event (David Mulroney, “Governor-General 101; Don’t insult Canadians”, November 6, 2017, p. A12.) The second was a follow-up op-ed piece by Peter McKnight. (“Science and Religion can co-exist so stop the turf wars”, November 9, 2017, p. A15). McKnight’s piece stated that there is a need for both science and religion to respect disciplinary boundaries. Science, he argued, can teach us about “the nature of life, about what we are, and how we came to be, while religion, teaches us about the nature of living, about who we are and how we ought to behave” (Italics are mine).

Sivarulrasa’s discussion (pp. 26-29) of Stephen Hawking’s and Leonard Mlodinow’s infamous claim that “’philosophy is dead’” (p. 26) and that science is close to being able to explain everything (from their jointly authored 2010 book, The Grand Design) is most enlightening. Sivarulrasa mentions that there are rebuttals by scientists and humanities scholars to this type of hubris, however one wonders how many people have read these rebuttals given their authors are less well known. Sivarulrasa adds his own rebuttal touching on his subjective experience of being a dark sky observer over several years and why he felt compelled to leave astronomy groups such as RASC in 2011, despite winning the “Observer of the Year” award in 2010.

While Vanishing Stars is not an academic book, Sivarulrasa’s argument is clear and he does support his claims through research, marked by footnotes (though oddly cited), and through visual evidence using his own results of astronomical imaging (see chapter IV). The cover photograph of the Orion nebula is by the author.

Sanjeev Sivarulrasa is an Ottawa artist primarily working in the specialized art medium of astrophotography. He owns and operates Sivarulrasa Art Gallery in Almonte, Ontario where he exhibits a mix of contemporary art, including his own.

Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday February 2, 2018 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (directions). Note there is a $3 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!

Centre Information

General enquiries:

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The Ottawa Centre 2018 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: Robert Dick, Karen Finstad
Past President: Gordon Webster

2018 Appointed Positions

Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: Paul Sadler (Acting)
Fred Lossing Observatory: David Lauzon & Rick Scholes (
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: OPEN (Tim Cole – temporarily acting)
AstroNotes Editors: Gordon Webster & Douglas Fleming (