AstroNotes 2019 November Vol: 58 issue 10

Editor’s Message . President’s Message . Ottawa Skies . Volunteering . Astro Sketching . Charles Messier . Submitted Images . Monthly Challenge Objects . Estelle’s Pick of the Month . Announcements . Carp Star Parties . FLO Star Parties . Next Meeting . Centre Information



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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 58 – No. 10 – November 2019

Editor’s Message

November is here and with it comes our Annual Dinner Meeting which always helps hold back the chill of the oncoming winter with the warm companionship of fellow Ottawa Centre members and the great food from our host at Algonquin. Stephen Nourse has arranged for a fascinating speaker for the evening and we will have our annual awards ceremony as well. And there are some fabulous door prizes. We have a new Outreach Coordinator, Jean-Sebastien Gaudet. JS had his first trial by fire with the Museum of Nature’s recent Nature Nocturne and he proved himself up to the job. It was an amazing success. He has also arranged a Transit of Mercury event on the morning of November 11 th at Marion Dewar Plaza in front of Ottawa City Hall. Thanks for taking this on JS.

December is coming and with it our Annual General Meeting where you get a chance to elect the Council that will run the Ottawa Centre for the next year. Although we have not heard from everyone, so far, the only person not running to retain their position is Oscar Echeverri. Oscar has been our treasurer for several years now, but he has only been a father for a few months and that is where he needs to focus his attention now. Thank you for all you have done in your time on Council, Oscar. You will be missed and hard to replace.

We were recently asked about a couple of items that used to be a regular part of AstroNotes. A reader has requested that we provide an index to articles in AstroNotes. We will be reinstating that in January issue where we will have an index for the last two years. The other request is a little more challenging. We used to include a summary of each meeting, minutes of the meeting if you will. This fell by the wayside when the late Eric Kujala began videotaping our meetings and posting them online. This was continued by the late Michel Bois. Since his passing we have been recording the meetings with a single camera but so far nothing has been posted to the website. We are willing to include this in AstroNotes and feel it would be an important addition.

What we need now is someone who is willing to record or take notes and provide us with written summary of each meeting. If this sounds like something you would like to do, please contact the Editor.

Clear Skies,


President’s Message


Hi Everyone,

I’m excited about several events, recent and future.

First, let me introduce Jean-Sebastien Gaudet to you. JS has volunteered to be our new Outreach Coordinator. He recently organized a highly successful event with very little notice. More on that in a moment. JS is fully bilingual, and an engineer at Telsat. Trust me, he knows one or two things about satellites. I’m sure you will see a few emails from him about outreach activities. He will also seek volunteers for outreach events. Please welcome JS.

Now about the event that JS organized ... We were invited by the Museum of Nature to participate in their Nature Nocturne event on October 25th. At Nature Nocturne, the Museum hosts a large dance party that has attracted between 1,200 and 1,700 people at past events. The Museum also opens up its galleries to patrons during Nature Nocturne. The October 25th event had a Lunar theme and we were invited to participate as an exhibitor. JS did a great job organizing this event. He rallied several volunteers and we thoroughly impressed the Museum staff. I’m sure we will do more events with the Museum of Nature. Special thanks to all the volunteers: JS, Gordon Webster, Bob Hillier, Jim
Thompson, Sayuri Tsuruta, Jimmy Book and Jim Sofia.

I have to share a few things about our exhibits at Nature Nocturne. Bob Hillier shared live views of the Ring Nebula from his observatory 100 km away. He remotely controlled his observatory, scope and camera and projected the images he was taking on to a large screen. This was an eye-catcher.

Jim Thompson brought a large Lunar display, along with a telescope. He set up several astrophotos in a far away location at the end of a hallway. Patrons looked through his scope at these distant photos. Jimmy Book and Jim Sofia also brought scopes. Gordon Webster had three Astro-sketching stations set up. People sat down and sketched lunar craters from several clay models that he brought with him. His sketching stations were jam-packed for at least three hours. This was a big hit. It was funny seeing so many well-dressed young people sit for 30 minutes, away from the dance floor, sketching craters.

As usual, Sayuri Tsuruta was very helpful setting up our displays and interacting with the public. A lot of people showed up at our planisphere and astronomy giveaway table. Sayuri made this a success.

Attendance? I estimate we had over a 1,000 people walk by our exhibits, possibly a lot more. Thoroughly enjoyable evening. Thanks to all, especially JS. I highly doubt this was his ‘first time’. He
really excelled.

Several of you have been asking if our Centre will be hosting an event to observe the Transit of Mercury on November 11th. The challenge with this event is that it occurs on the morning of Remembrance Day. We are not able to host an observing event at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, because there will be several Remembrance Day ceremonies at the museum on Nov 11th. I am happy to report that JS has received approval from the City of Ottawa to allow us to set up our solar scopes on the Marion Dewar Plaza in front of City Hall. JS will be seeking volunteers from our Centre.Watch for more info on our website and emails from JS.

I’d like to thank Brian McCullough for his recent successful Astro-sketching workshop. Twenty people attended the workshop including a handful of people who travelled from the Montreal Centre. For 3 hours, Brian delivered a content-rich workshop with his usual energy and humour. He was extremely well-organized, and he brought a ton of material with him. Brian’s enthusiasm ignited the group. Everyone was engaged. Participants thanked him profusely. Thanks for a memorable day, Brian. We are planning two other workshops that we will hold over the winter months. You have probably heard about the Astrophotography Workshop that Paul Klauninger will host. Fifty-one people have
expressed interest to attend the workshop. Thanks to Pam Wolff for helping me secure a great venue at Carleton University for this two-part workshop. I’ll send more details in an email to the group.
We are planning another beginner-level workshop focused on observing. I hope to announce it in a few weeks. It will be free for Ottawa RASC members. We would like to offer more programs for members and welcome your ideas.
One more important item.

Next month is our Annual General Meeting so I am including the following slides, so that everyone is aware of the process, the open positions, and the incumbents.

Clear skies.

Mike Moghadam


(We ran this article a year ago, but it is worth repeating now because of everything that is going on and the fact that we have a couple of open positions)

Volunteering at the Ottawa Centre

Consider the following member activities: Monthly meetings; the Fred Lossing observatory and star parties; the public stargazing program; the outreach program; the telescope lending library; the astronomy book library; telescope clinics; AstroNotes; our web site; and, the annual member dinner.

None of this would happen without the volunteers who have stepped forward, unleashing their creative talents and sharing their time. This may sound like a very strong statement, but it is true; all the programs you see in the Ottawa Centre are a result of the dedicated work of volunteers. So why do members volunteer at the Ottawa Centre? We have asked this question of volunteers many times. We encounter the following answers over and over:

  • “I want to contribute. I have benefited from the RASC and I like giving back”.
  • “It is personally rewarding to me”.
  • “I have certain skills and like to offer them to the RASC”.
  • “I volunteered because I wanted to take my involvement with the RASC to another level.”
  • “I like being around people who care about astronomy and care about sharing it with others. It is very motivational”.

And why do people NOT volunteer?

  • “it will take up too much time”
  • “I’m too busy”
  • “Someone else will do it”
  • “I don’t know enough about it”
  • “I’m not a leader”

New members often approach us and ask how they can contribute as a volunteer. In this article, we will answer this question.

How do I find out about Ottawa Centre programs and areas where I can volunteer?
All the programs noted above are described on the website. We strive to keep it current so that members can have a broad awareness of the programs that are offered.

A second way to stay plugged in is by attending the Ottawa Centre monthly meetings. There is a lot of thought put in to the content of the meetings and the announcements that are made every month. Look at the people who contribute - the meeting chair, the people who deliver talks and so on. These are volunteers. We also make announcements about vacancies in our volunteer programs at the meetings.

A third way to learn about Ottawa Centre programs and volunteer opportunities is by reading AstroNotes, our Centre newsletter – what you are reading now! Each issue is jam-packed with topics that typically arise from member activities. Each contributor is a volunteer who had an idea and desire to share something.

There is something especially noteworthy in each issue of AstroNotes. Scroll to the end of AstroNotes, where you will see a description of the current Ottawa Centre Council. The Council is another area where you can contribute as a volunteer. The remainder of this article will review Council positions and opportunities for members.

The RASC Ottawa Centre Council – what does it do?
The Council is responsible for the oversight and the administration of the operations of the Ottawa Centre. Our Centre is officially designated as a charitable organization. To maintain our charitable status and function as a Centre within the RASC, we must have several elected officers to provide governance and oversight of finances. The Council must operate according to the Ottawa Centre Bylaws, which is essentially the constitution of the Ottawa Centre. Council also has a strategic orientation. There are regular discussions about our Centre’s vision and where we are headed with member programs and benefits.

There are two categories of Council members: Elected members and appointed members. The roles of each member will be described next. As you read the descriptions of these roles, please keep in mind that they are filled by volunteers.
Elected members of Council The elected members of the Ottawa Centre include the:

  • President, who represents the Ottawa Centre and presides over Council meetings.
  • Vice-President, who supports the President of the Centre, especially when the President is unavailable to fulfill her/his duties. She/he also organizes the Annual Dinner Meeting.
  • Secretary, who is essentially the chief administrator of the Centre. The duties are outlined in the Centre Bylaws.
  • Treasurer, who manages and reports on Centres finances.
  • Centre Meeting chair, who organizes the content of the monthly meetings and runs the meetings.
  • Councillors, who act as advisors and provide valuable input to the operations of the Ottawa Centre.
  • National Council representatives, who are the Centre liaisons to the national office of the RASC.

The term of elected members is one year. In particular, no one may hold the office of President, Vice-President or Meeting Chair for more than two consecutive years. An election is held at the annual general meeting.

Appointed members of Council

The appointed members of Council appointed members include the:

  • Observatory director, who is responsible for the operation, maintenance and safekeeping of the Centre’s observatory(ies) and observatory programs
  • AstroNotes Editor, who is responsible for the publication of the Centre newsletter.
  • Webmaster, who is responsible for the development and maintenance of the Centre’s web site
  • Librarian, who is responsible for operating the library and the safekeeping of the library assets. Currently, the Ottawa Centre has two libraries: the Stan Mott Astronomy Book library and the Ted Bean Astronomy telescope library.

In summary, there are many areas where members can contribute as volunteers on Council. If you have ideas on growing our Centre or adding new programs, please consider volunteering on Council.

Additional Volunteer Opportunities

As our Centre grows and evolves, new volunteer opportunities will arise. In fact, as we write this a discussion is evolving about a completely new opportunity that we may be able to offer our members by next spring if everything comes together. Fortunately for us, the Ottawa Centre has a lot of talented members who have much to contribute.

Why Not You?
Most people shy away from volunteering because they feel it will take up too much of their time and/or they do not feel they have the necessary knowledge to help. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a councillor you only have four meetings a year, each scheduled for about two hours (although with the meeting after the meeting you might want to block off three hours). Aside from that there is the occasional email discussion. If you take on a project, which is entirely up to you, you possibly need to dedicate more time. Some positions might require a few hours a month, but others are only a few hours a year.

Of all the people we have ever spoken to who have volunteered, not one has ever regretted it. All have said that they have gotten more out of doing it than they ever put in. They also say that they are more aware and get more out of their involvement. Remember, it is your unique perspective that keeps our Centre, fresh, current and moving forward. We need your vision.

Want to talk about this more about volunteer opportunities? Please feel free to contact anyone on Council (remember – go to the end of AstroNotes to see the names of current Council members).
Gordon Webster and Mike Moghadam

Astro Sketching

Astro Sketching Workshop a big success!
By Brian McCullough

I am very pleased to report that the free, Ottawa Centre-sponsored Astronomical Sketching Workshop that was held on Oct. 26 was a resounding success. Twenty-six people attended the three-hour workshop at the John G. Mlacak Centre in Kanata, including five RASC Montreal members who said the long drive was well worth it.

It was a very busy afternoon, as we worked with a variety of sketching materials, including mini-marshmallows, eye shadow, and baking flour topped with coloured tempera paint powder. Once again, I was surprised by the novelty and effectiveness of various people's personal sketching styles and learned a thing or three along the way. The enthusiasm in the room was wonderful.

A huge thanks to Tim Cole, Mike Moghadam, Laurie Kolk, Ingrid de Buda, Estelle Rother, and others, for their assistance in sorting out the tech, setting up and putting away tables and chairs, and making the final pack-up a breeze (for me). You guys were beasts! I very much appreciated having my old CSTM teaching partner Tim Cole arrive early to tote gear from the car and help organize the initial room setup.

Thank you all for coming out! I wish everyone clear skies, and happy sketching!

Salty O'Brian

Charles Messier

By Carmen Rush


Charles Messier is best known for his famous catalogue of 110 nebulous objects called Messier objects. But he himself saw that work as very secondary to his many other astronomical interests. Charles Messier was born in Badonviller in Lorraine, France on June 26, 1730. He was the 10 th of 12 children and he was born into an affluent family. His father served in the administration of the Princes of Salem who ran the local principality. Six of his siblings died young and only three older brothers and a younger sister and brother remained.

Things really changed for them in 1741 when their father died suddenly. The oldest son, Hyacinthe, only 24 at the time, became the man of the house and took over his father’s old position with the Princes of Salem. Charles seemed to be accident prone. Shortly after his father’s death, he fell out of an upper storey window of their house and broke his leg. In the end he never returned to school. His brother Hyacinthe tutored him at home in administrative work. This lack of formal education was to be a great disadvantage to him later in his life. Charles was interested in astronomy from an early age. In 1744 when he was 14 a great six tailed comet was observed in the sky. Then in 1748 he witnessed a solar eclipse. These experiences certainly deepened his love for astronomy.

In 1751 France took over Badonviller and his brother Hyacinthe was out of a job. He was forced to move to a town 10 miles away to look for work. Charles was 21 at the time and had to get a job. Luckily, through a family friend, Hyacinthe was able to get Charles a job as a draftsman and a recorder of astronomical observations with an astronomer of the navy, Joseph Nicolas Delisle (1688-1768). Delisle had just returned four years before this from Russia where he had lived for 21 years on invitation from Tsar Peter I to set up and run an observatory in St. Petersburg. In Paris he resumed his position as chair of astronomy at the Marine Observatory in Paris. He was impressed with Messier’s impeccable
handwriting and meticulous recording. Delisle by now was 61 and he and his wife saw Messier as a surrogate son. Messier lived with them free of charge in his own apartment at the College Royale de France. The observatory was housed in Hotel de Cluny, a temporary residence of the abbots of the Cluny order. The building dates to 1480 and is built on Roman ruins. It is now a museum housing medieval artifacts. The observatory itself no longer exists. Poor Messier had to work in an unheated hall.

His first assignment was to copy a large map of China and a plan of the old city of Peking. Then he helped with a city plan of Paris and a map of France. His official title was Depot Clerk of the Navy. His salary was a modest 500 francs per year. All of this was certainly not to his liking, but soon he was allowed to work with Delisle’s secretary, Libour, who worked in the observatory in astronomy and instrumentation. Delisle taught him basic astronomy and how to measure the exact positions of stars. Messier was told to take careful measurements of all his observations, and he was encouraged to take courses in astronomy at a local public school.

In 1757, astronomers were eagerly awaiting the return of Halley’s Comet, expected in 1758. Halley himself had predicted its return but had died 20 years before this. Delisle calculated its expected path and Messier created the star chart around this path. But Delisle made errors in his calculations so Messier looked in the wrong place for the comet. In the meantime, he observed another comet, C/1758 KI De La Nux from Aug 14, 1758 to Nov 2, 1758. It was at this time that he observed and recorded the Crab Nebula, the remnant of supernova 1054. This was to become M1, the first entry in his famous catalogue. According to his records: “I discovered a whitish light, extended in the form of a candlelight,
which contained no stars. This light was a little like that of a comet, however, it was too bright, too white and its top elongated...” While he searched for Halley’s Comet in vain, Messier searched for other comets and nebulous objects.
Halley’s Comet was eventually discovered on Christmas Night of 1758 by a German farmer, Johann Georg Palitzsch who became famous overnight. Messier by that time corrected Delisle’s calculations and found the comet 4 weeks later, without knowledge of Palitzsch’s discovery. He wanted to announce his discovery but Delisle, still insulted that his original calculations were found to be wrong, refused to let Messier do so. Messier complied, writing in his memoirs “I was a loyal servant of J Delisle. I lived with him in his house and I conformed with his command.” When finally Delisle announced Messier’s discovery it was April 1, 1759, well after the entire scientific community had observed the comet.
Messier was ridiculed by other astronomers and accused of taking the measurements from someone else since they had come so late. In those days discovering a comet would bring you fame and publicity, so for Messier it was a major blow.

In 1760 Messier discovered another comet. Again Delisle refused to publish his results. This only fueled an obsession in Messier to continue hunting for more comets until Delisle capitulated. In the end he did. By then Delisle was 70 years old and could no longer do his own observing. His mistrust of Messier’s talents, mainly because of his limited education and more humble background than Delisle’s aristocratic heritage was no longer so important. On June 6, 1761 Messier observed the Transit of Venus. He also made a study of the rings of Saturn and observed Comet 1762 Klinkenburg in the summer of 1762. Around this time, he recorded another nebulous object in Aquarius, first found by Maraldi in 1746. This was to become M2. Realizing that his comet hunting would be hampered by mistaking these nebulosities at first for comets, he decided to build a list of these as he searched for comets. In 1763 he discovered a comet and again in 1764. Because of these accomplishments he hoped to be accepted to the French Academie Royale des Sciences, but he was refused. This only intensified his activity. In 1764 he registered the movements of 100 sunspots and measured the occultations of stars. Messier decided to assemble a list of his own 19 nebulous objects with Halley’s list of 6 nebulosities and those from catalogues of his contemporaries such as William Derham, Le Gentil and others. He also included objects known from ancient times, such as M1 the Crab Nebula (a remnant of supernova 1054 seen by the Chinese and Japanese) and M31 the Great Nebula in Andromeda (observed in the 10th century by the Persian Al Sufi). By 1764 his list numbered 40, each with the prefix M as we all know well today.

In the meantime, Messier corresponded with British, German and Russian astronomers. A Swiss astronomer Frederick La Harpe, in exile in Russia from Switzerland, was instrumental in getting him admitted into the Academy of St Petersburg. More appointments followed, foreign member of the Royal Society in London and member of the Academy of Harlem in the Netherlands. In 1765 Delisle retired as director of the observatory at Hotel de Cluny. Because Messier had no formal training in math and astronomy, he was not awarded the post until 1771. This was in spite of the fact that he published by that time more than 100 articles on astronomy and observing. He continued to observe at Hotel de Cluny and became the best observational astronomer in France. The telescopes that Messier used were small and not of the best quality, even for his times. His first one was a Gregorian telescope with a metal alloy mirror that had an aperture of about 7.5”, a focal length of 32” and a magnification of 100X.

He later used a Newtonian reflector with a metal mirror with an aperture of 7.75”. By 1774 he used achromatic refractors made by the English optician Peter Dollond. All of these had an aperture of 3.5” and a focal length of 43” which could magnify about 120X, very similar to today’s 80 mm telescopes. The optical quality of today’s telescopes is of course much better.

In 1766 Messier discovered two more comets. Still fame eluded him.

Messier was officially an employee of the navy. Surprisingly, he only took one voyage on a navy ship in his entire life. In 1767 he was asked to accompany the navy on a three-and-a-half-month voyage to the Baltic to test some marine chronometers built by J Le Roy. He also observed occultations, transits, eclipses and sunspots but because of his poor math ability, his assistants had to reduce the data from his observations and calculate orbits. In 1769 he discovered another comet. This was to be a memorable year. He prepared maps of the comet’s path and plates of its appearance and sent this to King Frederick of Prussia. The King sent him a personal note of congratulation and awarded him membership in the Berlin Academy of Sciences. Membership in the Royal Academy of Sweden in Stockholm followed.

By 1769 Messier was ready to publish his first catalogue of nebulosities. By now he was up to M45, including the Orion Nebula and the Pleiades. Finally, France recognized his talents. In 1770 he was finally elected into the Paris Academie Royale des Sciences. King Louis XV dubbed him “the ferret of comets”.

In March a formal portrait of him was commissioned and painted by Desportes. Messier was 40 years old. He commented “This portrait is a good likeness, except that I appear younger than I am, and I have been given a better expression than I have.” Still feeling somewhat insulted that it took so long for France to award him, Messier wrote all of his 11 memberships in Academies on the back of the portrait. Such vanity can be excused in this case! Shortly thereafter in 1770 Messier married his observing partner of 15 years, Marie-Francoise de Vermauchampt, then 37 years old. They moved into their own apartment at Hotel de Cluny.

In 1771 Messier presented his first edition of his Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars (M1-45) to the Paris Academy. He discovered yet another comet and was finally appointed Astronomer of the Navy, with a generous salary of 1700 francs per year. On March 15, 1772 Madame Messier gave birth to a son. Sadly, she died 8 days later and the boy 3 days after that. Messier had just been elected into the Academy of Brussels and the Royal Academy of Hungary, but he was so stricken with grief that he took a 3-month absence from his work. He did very little observing for some time after that. By 1773 Messier discovered another comet and was up to M52 in his catalogue. Then in 1774 he was
introduced to Pierre Mechain who was to become an important collaborator on his catalogue. Mechain was a protégé of Lalande and worked in naval mapping at Versailles but he was also a gifted

Messier did very little work in the next 3 years. In 1777 there was speculation that there was another planet closer to the Sun than Mercury. Messier got sidetracked with this investigation but never found such a planet, of course. By 1779 he was back to work on his catalogue and was now up to M61. Mechain started contributing to his list, in the end discovering 32 nebulosities that formed the version of the catalogue of 110 objects as we know it. Messier was not at all jealous of his partner. They remained good friends and Messier was happy to have a contributor to his work.

In actual fact, the version of the Messier catalogue published in 1781 had 103 objects. There was a version published by Mechain in 1787 when he was editor of Connaissance des Temps, a French almanac, that had 107 objects. Mechain added the last four from additions from marginal notes by Messier written in a copy of the 1781 book. The last three objects, which brought the list to 110, were added by modern astronomers who found historical evidence that Messier knew of them and recorded them but never got around to adding them to the list. There were a few issues with the accuracy of some of the locations of the objects, notably M47, M48, M91 and M102 but that’s too long a story for this

On March 13, 1781, William Herschel discovered Uranus from Bath, England. Messier heard of it just after publishing the second edition of his catalogue and spent much time observing the new planet. Then on November 6, 1781, while walking through Parc Monceau with friends, Messier entered a door on the property that looked like a grotto to see what was there and fell 25 ft down what was instead an ice cellar. He broke his arm, a leg, two ribs, a wrist and lost a lot of blood from a head injury. He had to be rescued with ladders and ropes and the injuries laid him up for over a year. His wrist never healed properly, and his leg had to be rebroken and reset. He was left with a permanent limp on a leg that was more than an inch shorter than it used to be. Messier recovered in time to observe the Transit of Mercury of Nov 12, 1782, but by then Mechain was doing most of the work searching for nebulosities. By then William and Caroline Herschel were hard at work on their catalogue of deep sky objects. They had much better equipment and by 1786 their catalogue contained 2000 objects. Messier abandoned his search for more objects and focussed on comet hunting. In a somewhat defensive way, he wrote: “The celebrated Herschel published a catalogue of 2000 which he has observed. This unveiling of the heavens, made with instruments of great aperture, does not help in the perusal of the sky for faint comets. Thus, my object is different from his and I need only nebulae visible in a telescope of two feet. Since the publication of my catalogue I have observed still others. I will publish them in the future in
the order of right ascension for the purpose of making them more easily recognized and for those searching for comets to have less uncertainty.”

On July 14, 1789 the French Revolution began. This prevented Messier from publishing his final catalogue. From 1793-1794 the Year of Terror reigned in France. King Louis XVI was guillotined as was De Saron who did the mathematics for Messier’s observations. Messier lost his salary and pension and was destitute. Mechain lost his estate and his instruments were mistakenly seen as weapons. He had to flee to Spain and was not able to return safely until 1795. After that, both he and Messier were admitted to the new National Institute of Sciences and Arts and both were selected for the Bureau of Longitudes in 1796. Mechain went on to become the director of the Paris Observatory. He left Paris in 1803 and died in Spain in 1804 of yellow fever. Between 1780 and 1798 Messier discovered 5 more comets. Over the course of his life he discovered 13 comets in total and made detailed observations of 41 in total. In 1806 Napoleon awarded him the Cross of the Legion of Honour. Surprisingly, Messier then wrote an elaborate memoir devoting his famous comet of 1769 to the birth of Napoleon in the same year. For an accomplished scientist it is surprising that he believed that a comet was a predictor of an event on earth. His reputation in scientific circles suffered because of that. But he was already 78 at the time. He had failing eyesight and was being looked after by a widowed niece, Mme Bertrand. The observatory was in very bad shape and Messier had no funds to repair it. In 1815 he suffered a stroke which left him partially paralyzed and he died at age 87 in 1817 in Paris.

Back in 1775 Lalande had proposed that a constellation in his honour be created. It was formed from the stars bordering Cepheus, Cassiopeia and Camelopardalis and was called Custos Messium or Guardian of the Crops. This was to signify that Messier was in charge of guarding the stars and discovering comets. It no longer is used today.

Two lunar craters, Messier and Messier A, are named after him. Messier is a relatively young lunar crater located on Mare Fecunditatis on the right in the picture. Just to the right, Messier A is a similar oblong crater. It is thought that Messier was formed by an impact at a low angle, and Messier A was formed by the same impact body on rebound.

Just a few more comments about the Messier catalogue. Of the 110 objects, 39 are extra galactic systems, 29 are globular clusters, 27 are galactic clusters and a very few are asterisms, planetary nebulae or gaseous nebulae. Of course, Messier was not able to determine this with his equipment. And as mentioned, M1 is a supernova remnant. The brightest object is M45 the Pleiades of magnitude 1.6. the faintest is the little Dumbbell M76 a planetary nebula in Perseus. The most distant is M77, a spiral galaxy in Cetus. The best known is M31 the Great Nebula in Andromeda. But we all have our favorites!

William Herschel’s catalogue was further expanded by his son John in 1864 to include 5000 entries. It was updated in 1888 by JLE Dreyer and renamed the New General Catalogue (NGC)--hence the NGC numbers and then in 1895 and 1908 the Index Catatalogues (IC). Together this made 13000 entries and is still in use today.

And last of all, I’d like to mention the Messier Marathon. This is an event where an attempt is made to observe all the Messier Objects in one night. The first Messier Marathon (although incomplete) was held in Spain in the 1960’s. It really caught on in the US in the mid 1970’s. It was being held in a variety of places, having started independently in Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh. Apparently, the first documented successful marathoner who observed all 110 objects was Gerry Rattley on the night of March 23-24, 1985 from Dugas, Arizona.


Annual Dinner Meeting

The RASC Ottawa Centre Annual Dinner Meeting is coming up fast. It is being held Friday November 15 which is less than three weeks away now. For $48.00 dollars you get a great buffet dinner, the wonderful company of your astronomical friends, a fabulous lecture, and even a chance to win some prizes! Algonquin College is hosting us once again at the Woodroffe Ave Campus with meet, mingle and drinks starting at 6:00 PM and dinner at 7:00.

Tickets will be available in person at the upcoming RASC monthly meeting the Friday Nov 1 at the Aviation Museum, payment by cash or credit card. They are also available by email from, payment by e-transfer or cash at pickup at the door. Please note, ticket sales will close Thursday night, Nov 7 as we have to give our final meal numbers to Algonquin the next day. There will be no walk-up tickets for sale at the dinner meeting.

Dinner Speaker: Dr. John E. Moores, York University Associate Professor and York Research Chair in Space Exploration
Topic: Our Solar System: A Planetary Rosetta Stone

The past 25 years have seen a revolution in our understanding of where planets may be found and how many are out there. In that time we have discovered thousands of new planets and now believe that, on average, there is a planet for every star in the sky. Yet we know most of the planets beyond our own solar system as little more than wiggles and bumps on a graph. Just like the Rosetta Stone allowed us to translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, it is our exploration of our own solar system which will allow us to translate those bumps and wiggles into the language of rock and ice, oceans and storms. Only then can we truly know those planets as worlds in their own right.


I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering and hold the York Research Chair in Space Exploration at York University (with a graduate appointment in the Earth and Space Science and Physics and Astronomy Departments). I am a member of the Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists as well as a Participating Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Mission, popularly known as the Curiosity Rover. After training on MER in 2004, I contributed to the 2005 Huygens Mission to Saturn's Moon Titan and the 2008 Phoenix Mission to the Martian Arctic and currently serve on the InSight, MSL and Juno missions in various capacities.

My work has been included in 65 peer-reviewed papers and 152 conference proceedings. I am the Director of the Technologies for Exo/Planetary Science NSERC CREATE Program, a member of the Canadian Space Agency's Planetary Exploration Consultation Committee, the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society's Scientific Committee and a York University Senator. I am currently developing planetary simulation facilities at York University as part of the Planetary Volatile Laboratory and am supporting Surface Operations on the Mars Science Laboratory Rover. Previously, I have led experimental studies into interactions of volatiles with the martian surface and polar caps. I have also participated in the development of the Surface Stereo Imager for the Phoenix Lander and have been involved in several conceptual space mission design studies, instrument development activities and analogue planetary missions.

Tickets Available at the November meetings and by email from Stephen Nourse,

Carp Star Parties

Closed for the season. See you in the spring.

Other Dates of Interest

Saturday October 5 th – International Astronomy Day (Fall) at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, part of World Space Week. An amazing turnout! Eighteen telescopes with a constant line up of 30 people at each telescope until well after the clouds had completely covered the sky. They just didn’t want to leave.

Transit of Mercury
November 11 th - As many you know, Mercury will be transiting the sun on November 11 th this year, with the event starting at 7:36am and ending at 1:04pm. The next transit of mercury will not occur until the year 2032. During the transit, Mercury will pass in front of the solar disk and will be observable through telescopes with solar filters.

There has been some interest in setting up telescopes for viewing the transit, so with that in mind, I am pleased to announce that we have obtained permission from the city to set up our telescopes in front of City Hall in order to observe this event. This will be an excellent opportunity to give the public a chance to observe this event through our telescopes.

As the event coincides with Remembrance Day, I think we can expect a lot of foot traffic and passers-by.

We would be looking for about 10 volunteer RASC members with telescopes to set up on the Marion Dewar Plaza (off Laurier) that day. Let me know if you would like to volunteer for this event and I can provide more details. Even if you do not volunteer, I encourage everyone to drop by if you have a chance. Of course, this event is weather dependent and will be cancelled if the skies are overcast.
JS Gaudet

FLO Star Party Dates for 2019

Our Ottawa Centre’s Members’ Star Parties at the FLO will continue this summer. If you haven’t attended before, be sure to mark at least one of these dates on your calendar. You are welcome to bring family members or a guest.

May 4 – New Moon
Good turn-out, great night
June 1 – Waning Crescent Moon, 3.8% illumination No Go
July 6 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 19.7% illumination, sets 11:53P.M. NO GO
August 3 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 2 days old, sets 9:51 P.M. – moved to August 4 th Good turnout
August 31 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 2.4% illumination - Family Day BBQ, Great turn out
Sept 28 – New Moon - No Go
October 26 – Waning Crescent Moon, 3.5% illumination NO GO
November 24 -Waning Crescent Moon, 5.3% illumination

Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday December 6, 2019 at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum (directions). Note there is a $4.00 parking fee for museum parking. The meeting runs until 9:30 pm PLUS: all our regular meeting features: Ottawa Skies, 10-minute Astronomy News Update, Observation Reports and, of course, the beloved Door Prizes!

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

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The Ottawa Centre 2018 Council

President: Mike Moghadam (
Vice President: Stephen Nourse
Secretary: Chris Teron (
Treasurer: Oscar Echeverri (
Centre Meeting Chair: Oscar Echeverri (
Councillors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
National Council Representatives: Karen Finstad, OPEN
Past President: Tim Cole

2018 Appointed Positions

Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: OPEN
Fred Lossing Observatory: Rick Scholes (
Light Pollution Abatement: OPEN
Public Outreach Coordinator: Jean-Sebastien (JS) Gaudet
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 (