AstroNotes 2018 March Vol: 57 issue 03

Editor’s Message . Paul Comision Tribute Observations . National Update . Ottawa Skies . Monthly Challenge . AstroNotes Bookshelf . Announcements . Member News . Next Meeting . Centre Information



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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 57 - No. 3 -March 2018

Editor’s Message

This month’s issue is dedicated to the memory of Paul G. Comision who passed away in February.

Paul was an observer. His passion was observing the night sky and recording his observations. He very much believed, as Helen Sawyer Hogg did, that an observation was not an observation unless it was recorded. In 2004, the Observer of the Year award was renamed The Paul Comision Observer of the Year Award. It is awarded annually to an Ottawa Centre member who has demonstrated exceptional and consistent observational skills. I thought it would be a fitting tribute to Paul to run some observations from past winners of the Observer of the Year Award as well as observations by other members who are continuing the tradition of recording what they see in the night sky. I have also included a few of Paul’s own favorite images.

If you were at the meeting on March 2, you will have noticed we have a new Meeting Chair. When Kelly announced she was leaving us, our Treasurer, Oscar Echeverri agreed to take on the role. Welcome to your additional role Oscar! If the March 2 event is anything to go by, we are in very capable hands.

As well this month, we continue with our Observing Challenge. Oscar has now introduced this as part of the monthly meeting. We are encouraging everyone to get involved with this and to share their results with us, good or bad, either by submitting your notes, your sketches or your photos/videos to AstroNotes or as part of the Observations segment of the monthly meeting. Last month, nobody responded (I know the weather has not been very good) so I have nothing to publish but I am hoping that someone will submit something in response to either last month’s challenge or the new one announced at the meeting and listed here as well.

Those of you who read these issues closely will notice this, but for those of you who don’t I would like to announce that we have filled the Outreach Coordinator position. We are doubly blessed to have had two people step forward and volunteer to do this enormously important job, Danel Polyakov and A. Lathif Masoon. Thank you both for stepping forward.

Clear Skies,

Gordon Webster

Paul G. Comision (1929 – 2018)

Paul had a beautiful and wonderful life. He was a loving husband to his dear wife, Alice, for 65 years until his passing. In the early days in Toronto, Paul worked for CP Rail, for lumber and steel industries and even as a bank teller. He was an accomplished musician, playing the viola for the University of Toronto symphony. Paul’s education also saw him attend first Humberside Collegiate, and then McMaster University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Business.

Paul and Alice moved to Ottawa in 1972 and joined the Ottawa Centre seven years later. He then had a 16-year career with the Bureau of Competition Policy in the Federal Government until his retirement in 1989. Paul was also a life-long member of the Knights of Columbus, joining Counsel 1388 in May 1950 and The Cardinal McGuigan General Assembly (Fourth Degree) in 1957.

Upon moving my family to Ottawa in 1993 from Montreal, I had the honour of knowing Paul as a friend and fellow astronomer. The passion of the night sky was in his blood, with a particular interest in galaxies, which he observed from his home made “Omega” observatory, located next to his home. From winter’s frosty grip to summer’s bug-ridden humid nights, Paul would be found behind the eyepiece of his telescope, recording detailed observations which he kept in well-indexed records. Paul was also known for his daily drawing of sunspots, something he would love to share at Centre meetings or chatting at the local restaurant afterwards. This was known as the “after meeting meeting”, where on average 20 members would enjoy food and drink while discussing virtually anything, a practice that continues even today.

Aka “The Comish”, Paul dedicated his time to the Ottawa Centre by assuming many positions: 1987-88 Councillor, 1991 Vice-President, 1992-93 President, 1991-93 National Rep, 1995-96 Councillor. But it was the personal interaction at Centre meetings that touched us all. For fifteen years until December 2004, Paul brought us closer to vast new discoveries with his monthly segment of the "cutting edge of astronomy". He also presented numerous observations and emphasized the importance of good record keeping.

One of the yearly awards handed out by the Ottawa Centre at the annual banquet is the “Observer of the Year Award” reflecting past observations submitted by members. Paul had won this honour in 1998 and because of his never-ending passion for observing, this award was re-named in 2004 as the “Paul Comision Observer of the Year Award” which I was presented in 2008. Paul also received an Ottawa Service Award in 2017. He loved to share his astronomical insights and passion with others, including at outdoor Astronomy Day solar observing events at the Science Museum with his solar-filtered telescope.
Over the years of increasing light pollution and aging eyes, Paul’s beloved galaxies were harder for him to observe at the telescope. He then replaced the eyepiece with a CCD camera and bought a computer which he ran remotely from his house. Now the pixels on his laptop allowed him to observe and image his faint targets, something he proudly showed at meetings.

Paul attended the monthly meetings almost without fail. However, as he aged, his health played a part in his noticeable absences. Through the dedicated and professional work of the late Eric Kujala, who we suddenly lost a few months ago, our Centre meetings were broadcasted live over the Internet and later stored in archives for all to see. Eric provided us with more than ten years of meetings for the world to
enjoy. Although Paul was physically absent from his usual seat at the Canada Science and Tech Museum, he still enjoyed many meetings from the comforts of home.
Life is a collection of opportunities and moments that we must pursue and cherish every day. Paul has lived a long and enjoyable life, from music to education to observing the grand universe. Science and particularly astronomy is forever evolving but it comes back to the basics. Paul has inspired us as astronomers and fellow humans to enjoy every day and to share your passion with others. The stars brought us together so long ago and now he rests amongst them.

Good bye my friend.
Gary Boyle


The following three images are by Paul Comision and are among his favorites.
M20 - July 31, 2010

Tribute Observations

Gary Boyle
Bob Olson

“When I first started attending the RASC meetings in Ottawa Paul was giving his “Cutting Edge of Astronomy” talks which were to me the highlight of the meetings. I also loved his images, which were always accompanied by detailed descriptions of the object. To me, the Observer of the Year award was made much more meaningful as it was named in his honour.”
Mike Earl

Satellite: Echostar-2

Satellite design – Lockheed Martin AS-7000
Designed Technical Lifetime: 15 years
NORAD # - 24313
COSPAR # - 1996-055A
Launched: September 11, 1996
Malfunctioned (End of Life): July 2008

Each data point represents a single image obtained with the following equipment and the following image particulars:
Celestron NexStar 11 GPS goto Schmidt-Cassegrain 11-inch aperture telescope;
Santa Barbara Instrument Group (SBIG) ST-9XE CCD camera;
1 second exposure per image; and

Broadband magnitude refers to the apparent magnitude detected over all optical wavelengths.
All Images Obtained by: Michael A. Earl – September 12, 2012 (UTC) – Kingston, Ontario Canada
Images obtained from: 01:46:11 UTC September 12, 2012
Images obtained to: 03:21:44 UTC September 12, 2012
Number of spin periods represented: 18
Echostar-2 Spin Period (inferred from light curve): 375 seconds (6 min 15 sec)
CCD Particulars:
Temperature: -20 degrees Celsius or less, dependent on ambient temperature
Binning: 1x1
Duty cycle: 3.35 seconds between images (between contiguous data points)
Controlling Computer: Toshiba Portege M780 – Issued by the Royal Military College of Canada from September 2011 to September 2017.
The bright specular reflections from the Echostar-2 box-wing geosynchronous satellite were used to estimate the satellite’s spin axis orientation and its spin axis dynamics over the period from September 2012 to September 2015. This estimation was featured in Mike Earl’s PhD thesis and was the
centerpiece of the final thesis defense presentation. The specular reflections are indicated by the tall and thin features of the folded light curve.

Echostar-2 and 10 other box-wing design geosynchronous satellites were frequently observed from March 2012 to November 2015 in order to monitor their light curves and to analyze how their spin axes were varying over time. Despite the satellites’ similar designs, their light curves and their light curve dynamics were very different from one another, suggesting that their spin dynamics were very different from one another. It is hoped that this in-depth analysis will be continued by other space surveillance researchers as we continue to understand the vast man-made living laboratory above us.

Stephen McIntyre

Barnard's Loop (Sh 2-276)

Acquisition 2018-02-14, Denholm Observatory

This image captures about half of the structure known as "Barnard's Loop". Barnard's Loop is a huge semi-circular emission nebula in the constellation Orion and part of the even larger molecular hydrogen cloud that covers much of the constellation. The remainder of the "loop" extends down and to the right.
The distance to Barnard's loop is estimated somewhere between 500ly and 1500ly, so at 10° in angular size, that makes the actual size somewhere between 100ly and 300ly. The apparent magnitude is listed as 5, but with that light being spread out over the total area, it barely stands out against the background sky - even in a photograph. This long exposure photograph required careful "stretching" to exaggerate the emission nebula.
Also in the field of view is the Orion Nebula, Horse Head Nebula and the Flaming Star.
Image Details:
Canon T2i with Astrodon IR/UV filter inside
Astronomik UHC EOS Clip Filter
Canon 70-200L lens at 100mm f/2.8
26 x 480s at ISO1600 (total integration 3hrs 28m)
Skywatcher EQ5 Pro
Guided with Short Tube 80, Point Grey Chameleon, Metaguide
Acquisition with Backyard EOS
Processing with PixInsight (Mask creation with Photoshop CS5)
Stephen J McIntyre
Danel Polyakov

This is a picture of the Orion nebula take on February 24 (Saturday) at around 9. This is my very first astrophotography image!! All the equipment is very cheap and for beginners as I don't have anything better. A $40 tripod, Canon Rebel t3i, Tamron 70-300mm.
Combination of 109 light frames and 9 dark frames:
ISO: 6400
Shutter speed: 1"
Focal length: 300mm (480mm with crop factor)
AP: f/5.6
Total exposure time: 118"
Brian McCullough
My sketch image, along with the sketch I made of Clyde 12 years earlier, when I met him.

While it was Clyde himself who inspired me to make the observation, Paul Comision was inspirational to me in my first days in the RASC in 1989 with his urgings to get out, observe, and record what you see.
Paul Klauninger

Abell 2218 galaxy cluster and three gravitationally-lensed galaxies_Feb-Aug 2016_Paul Klauninger.jpg
This is a combined 7.55-hour exposure using an 11" Celestron EdgeHD with SBIG ST-10XME CCD imager.
Distance to the Abell 2218 galaxy cluster is approximately 2.3 billion light-years.
Only four stars are visible in the field. All others are galaxies.
Distances to the three indicated gravitationally-lensed galaxies are estimated to be:
#1 at 6.4 billion light-years (z=0.702)
#2 at 8.0 billion light-years (z=1.034)
#3 at 11.1 billion light-years (z=2.515)
Hubble Space Telescope image is shown at scale on left for comparison
Messier 95 Galaxy March 2017
This is a combined 140-minute exposure at ISO3200 and was taken with a Canon 60Da DSLR camera.
Messier 96 Galaxy March 2017
This is a combined 54-minute exposure at ISO3200 and was taken with a Canon 60Da DSLR camera.

Gordon Webster

Conjunction of Moon and M44, white pastel on black paper

National Updates

By Karen Finstad

  1. The Board has voted to institute yearly increases to the Society portion of membership fees, "at least by the cost of living increase in Canada". In 2018, effective March 1, this will mean an increase of $3 (single adult membership).
  2. RASC is planning to introduce a Premium membership category which will include some extra benefits, to be determined, as another fundraising effort.
  3. A registration and information website for next summer's GA in Calgary (June 28 – July 1) is now open
  4. One of the RASC 150 projects is a series of podcasts on the Society's history. The first episodes are now available and can be heard here:

Ottawa Skies

By Dave Chisholm

Rise/Set 07:11/18:39 -> 06:38/19:37
March 15 - Mercury at Greatest Eastern Elongation. Look for the planet low in the western sky just after sunset.

Visible all month just after sunset.
Rise/Set 07:18/18:47 -> 07:35/21:08

Visible in the early morning.
Rise/Set 02:25/11:02 -> 02:46/11:15

Visible all night.
Rise/Set 00:04/09:35 -> 22:58/08:35

Visible in early morning all month.
Rise/Set 03:36/12:17 -> 02:44/11:26

Visible in the early evening all month.
Rise/Set 08:23/21:38 -> 07:28/20:49

Not visible.
Rise/Set 06:57/17:55 -> 06:01/17:03

International Space Station
Best viewing date: March 14th, 2018
Rises (10°) 299° (WNW) 06:41:11
Maximum (88°) 215° (SW) 06:44:27
Sets (10°) 121° (ESE) 06:47:42

Another busy night at the British henge sites as the staff work around the clock to move the stone forward by an hour

NEW FEATURE: Monthly Challenge Objects

March Lunar Challenge
We are all familiar with the constellation Cepheus, can you find the lunar crater of the same name?
March Deep Sky Challenge
PK 189+7.1 (also known as Mink or M 1-7) ADVANCED
a PN in Gemini
Mag 13

NGC 3079 and the Twin Quasars

Galaxy in Ursa Major
Mag 11.4
for large scopes or imagers
Twin Quasars
Gravitationally lensed quasar in the same field as NGC 3079
Mag 17

AstroNotes Bookshelf: Estelle’s Pick for January

Due to an attack by malious cosmic rays, Estelle’s pick of the month is not available this month.

Book Review

The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars
by Dava Sobel (Penguin Books 2017)

by Pat Brewer

This is the most recent book by the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter (all three of which are in the Ottawa Centre library). It traces the history of the Harvard Observatory between the late 1800’s and about 1950, with particular emphasis on the contributions of the many women who worked at the observatory during that period as “computers”. These women calculated the various parameters of stars and gleaning data from photographic glass plates (hence the book’s title). Along the way they broke through the “glass ceiling” in astronomy and made significant discoveries.
Among the contributions of these women was the development of the spectral classification of stars. Annie Cannon herself classified a quarter million stars over her career. Henrietta Leavitt discovered the period-luminosity relationship of the Cepheid variables which led to distance determinations across space. The Harvard Observatory was instrumental in starting the American Association of Variable Star Observers. It is also interesting to read about the research into the size of the universe and the slow realization of how much bigger it was than thought at first. The David Dunlap Observatory’s Helen Sawyer Hogg and her work on globular clusters is also described.

The book includes a section of high quality photographs of the observatory, examples of the astronomical photographic plates, and the women who worked at the observatory. At the back of the book there is a timeline of the history of the observatory, a section of brief biographies of the people who worked there, a bibliography, notes on the chapters, a glossary, and an index.
This book is a very enjoyable read detailing the significant contribution of a group of women to the advancement of the science of astronomy.


The next Ottawa Centre member’s Star Party at the FLO is Saturday, March 17. Be sure to wear green and we can hunt for little green men or maybe just green stars.

Winter Star Party List – FLO

April 14 - waning crescent
Spring listings will be in next month’s issue

Member News

Michel Bois

Many of you will have noticed that we have a new volunteer who has stepped forward after the untimely passing of our former videographer Eric Kujala. Michel Bois has come forward to record our meeting. I asked Michel to tell us a bit about himself and this is what he had to say.

“I was born in Kapuskasing in Northern Ontario. My family moved a lot before finally moving to Ottawa in fall of 1966. As a result, I was extremely shy and socially awkward. Unknown to me and family at the time was that I had an auditory processing disorder, which meant I had difficulty understanding people at times. This is the reason I ask people to speak clearly and not fast.
In 1976 I started working as a page boy on Parliament Hill. Two years later I was posted to a permanent position in Parliamentary Television. I started taking courses in Electronics at night at Algonquin college.
During these years I got fascinated with the night sky. I moved to the eastern town of St. Albert. I lived in a mobile park just outside of town where I had a ¾ acre lot and little light pollution. That is when I bought my first scope, a 3-inch Bushnell Refractor.
I moved back to Ottawa after 4 years. At this point my personal confidence has grown immensely. In 1996 I finally got married and now have 2 daughters. My oldest wants to go to McGill university and study in science. My second one wants to be a veterinary technician.
In 2000 I was transferred to the support section where I worked until I retired in 2009.
I took a break for the first year, then took up a position as a school bus driver. Now I spend more time with my hobbies and family. I also got licensed to sell Insurance and Mutual funds as a result of working in Parliament and listening to the debates on things financial. Mostly I just love to help people in any way I can.”
Thank you for stepping up Michel. Your efforts are appreciated, and your contributions will be help document our history for those who follow.

Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday April 6, 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!

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!

Centre Information

General enquiries:
To subscribe (or unsubscribe) to our members-only discussion list ( ) please contact .

The Ottawa Centre 2018 Council

President: Tim Cole (
Vice President: Mike Moghadam
Secretary: Chris Teron (
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri (
Centre Meeting Chair: Oscar Echeverri (
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
Fred Lossing Observatory: David Lauzon & Rick Scholes (
Light Pollution Abatement: OPEN
Public Outreach Coordinator: Lathif Masoon and Danel Polyakov
Hospitality: Art & Anne Fraser
Stan Mott Astronomy Library: Estelle Rother
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Darren Weatherall
Webmaster: Mick Wilson (
AstroNotes Editors: Gordon Webster & Douglas Fleming (