AstroNotes 2020 January Vol: 59 issue 01

Editor’s Message . Ottawa Skies . Dr. Janet Tulloch interview . How to join RASCals . Index to 2019 Articles . Monthly Challenge Objects . Estelle’s Pick of the Month . Announcements . FLO Star Parties . Next Meeting



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The Newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, RASC

Volume 59 – No. 1 – January 2020

Editor’s Message

Happy New Year! Let’s hope the new year brings us 20/20 views of the night sky.

The new year brings with it a few changes. We have a new Meeting Chair in Dave Chisholm. Dave is no stranger to those who attend our monthly meeting or who read this publication. For several years now Dave has been keeping us informed of what celestial events to expect in the coming month with his presentation of Ottawa Skies which opens every meeting and each issue of AstroNotes.

Another minor change you might have noticed is that the FLO Star Parties in February and March will be on Friday nights instead of Saturday. This is an entirely selfish move on my part to eliminate a conflict with our family’s Saturday night skiing ritual (and keep peace in the family).

In our ongoing series of interviews with members we are curious about, this Centre Information month we speak with Dr. Janet Tulloch. Janet will be somewhat familiar to many of you from her presentations at monthly meetings or her articles in AstroNotes. We hope this will give you a better view of who she is and her perspective on our pastime.
Also this month, we are introducing a new feature that we plan to have in all future January issues. We are publishing an “Index of Articles” that have appeared in the previous year’s AstroNotes. For the more scholarly among you, “index” may be too strong a word. What we plan is a simple summary of the articles and which issue they were published in. We hope you will find it useful.

Clear skies

The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 3rd and morning of the 4th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight, leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Dr. Janet Tulloch

As part of our ongoing series of interviews with members of the Ottawa Centre about their other passion and what brings them to amateur astronomy, this month we present Dr. Janet Tulloch. Janet has a PhD in Religious Studies which focused on Ancient Religions and early Christianity. She is a visual artist. Dr. Tulloch has made several presentations at our monthly meetings as well as contributing articles to AstroNotes and is a former Editor of this publication.

Janet Tulloch
An Interview by Douglas Fleming

Could you give our readers a little bit of info about your background?

Before my children were born, I worked as a fine art photographer teaching workshops and exhibiting my photographs in public and artist-run galleries in Southern Ontario. In the 1980s and 1990s, I advocated for more women artists to be exhibited in public art galleries and for art made by women to be included in public and private collections. In 2001, I earned my PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa. Atypically, my supervisor was a Classicist. He brought a refreshingly secular approach to the study of ancient religions: Greek and Roman traditions and early Christianity, circa 100 BCE-200CE.

The 1990s was an interesting decade to be studying ancient religions because scholars in the Arts & Social Sciences faculties were becoming painfully aware of how biased previous research in comparative religions had become. Feminist scholarship had pointed out gaps vis a vis subject matter (most research - in every discipline - was by men for men about men.) Within the discipline of Religious Studies, there was the extra burden of expunging a pro-Christianity bias from one’s research questions and methodology. The scientific study of religions is an academic discipline that grew out of mostly (Christian) theology departments in Europe and North America so I was wary of the study of sacred texts and veered toward the visual and material culture of ancient religions instead – including early Judaism. The Greeks and Romans had a rich heritage of sacred art as well as a pantheon of female and male divinities, so this is the direction my early PhD research took. It is impossible to understand the politics underlying the first 200 years of the formation of Christianity and Judaism without studying Roman history and art.

As a scholar, I call myself a cultural historian because it is less scary sounding or confusing to the general public than saying I am a religionist – which sounds cultish. No one knows what this means. People do not think of religions as having an intellectual history, but they most emphatically do. Many highly educated people, including scientists, have a sometimes-justified negative reaction to the word “religion”, so I try to avoid using this term when explaining my scholarship. Traditions without sacred texts, like Greek and Roman religions, expressed their views through the arts: storytelling, poetry, ritual practice and material and visual culture. So, my practice as an artist and my area of scholarly study can sometimes dovetail nicely.

After working 21 years teaching at the university level, I retired in 2018 to concentrate on my art practice. I was tired of “living only in my head” and turned to fibreart as a way of working with my hands and living in a more embodied way. I have not retired fully from post-secondary education and maintain an adjunct research professor position with the College of Humanities at Carleton University. I am also a resource person for Carleton University Art Gallery on exhibitions dealing with western religions. I now teach fibreart workshops at the Ottawa School of Art, the Stone School Gallery in Portage du Fort, as well as privately.

How did you get into amateur astronomy?

Good question. I am interested in astronomy as an academic subject. It’s a great balance of things metaphysical to learn about things physical to keep oneself grounded. In the West, astronomy and religion have the same roots – they even still share some of the same terminology, e.g. cosmology. “Big Bang” is a term that can be found in religious studies glossaries which might surprise some of our readers. As we have seen from presentations at RASC, ancient astronomy and ancient religions were two sides of the same coin. Both are interested in some of humanity’s oldest questions like the origins of the universe.

As an amateur astronomer, I have always enjoyed watching the Perseid shower with friends at our cottage where the sky is still quite dark. Many years ago, Jay Ingram took my then spouse and I to a dark sky area outside of Toronto. If memory serves, we sat in lawn chairs and shared a mickey of cheap wine. Jay probably brought binoculars. We were in our early 20s. I just remember him repeatedly pointing to an area in the sky where the Andromeda galaxy would be. No laser-pointers in those days. Very difficult to see exactly what he was pointing at, and whatever was in that mickey didn’t help. I took him at his word that there was another galaxy up there somewhere but years later, the Andromeda
galaxy was one of the first Messier objects I observed with my 8” Celestron telescope. Breath-taking.

What excited you about it?

The possibility that we are not the only life forms in the universe. The idea that one could view another  entire galaxy 2.5 million lightyears from Toronto was very intriguing. Suddenly, science was intersecting with science fiction in my brain.

What excites you still today?

The possibility that we are not the only life forms in the universe. The night sky really fires my creative imagination. There is no horizon line – like a Greek Orthodox icon. This allows the viewer to contemplate what is both seen and unseen. I tend to think of the night sky in poetic terms, so I really appreciate talks by astrophysicists who can use metaphor in a skillful way to communicate their research, as did Dr. John Moores at the annual dinner in November 2019.

What aspects of the hobby have particularly held your interest?

As you know from my presentations and articles for RASC, I am very interested in cultural astronomy – how different cultures on our planet have interpreted the night sky over time. Cultural astronomy tells us something about the origin stories of diverse peoples on our planet. Origin stories can be very powerful shapers of one’s worldview. Knowing the scientific origins of our universe should in no way diminish the story of a culture’s mythological origins. There is lots of room for both so long as one recognizes that these are very different forms of knowledge.

What kinds of observing do you do?

I enjoy wide-field observing. In the last few years, I have realized the importance of keeping the context and scale of our own planet in mind when viewing the night sky. That’s why I am drawn to nights when the Milky Way is so clear it seems to reach down and touch the trees or when auroras seem to dance over mountains. In October 2020, I will be the artist in residence at Scalloway, Shetland (north of 60 degrees latitude). My place of residence is right on the bay, so I am looking forward to seeing a lot of auroras!! Beyond that, I would say I am interested in observing planets in our solar system – again keeping it local. Having said that, I could observe the constellation of Orion every night of the year and never be bored.

Though I have a couple of telescopes and a good pair of binoculars, I am getting back into unaided viewing of the night sky. On a recent evening in late November, we had one of the best dark skies outside our back door that I can remember in a long time. Everyone in my household had gone to bed. I turned off all the lights – as had my neighbours - grabbed one of our kitchen chairs, my parka, and a warm blanket and just sat outside and looked up. Our backyard has a southern orientation so there was Orion in all its glory, right in front of me, Sirius a bit below it, and the Pleiades almost at the zenith of the sky. It was marvelous. I mostly use my telescope at the cottage now where I can show interested friends certain Messier objects I have learned to find, but I don’t think of the night sky in terms of targets though I do think RASC’s observers’ challenges is a good way to learn about the night sky.

What connections has the hobby made to the rest of your life?

As an artist, I have made numerous fibrearts works of the night sky – one of which sold recently at our annual meeting. I also organized an exhibition of the night sky with the help of Gordon Webster and Paul Klauninger by RASC members from across Canada for the Shenkman Arts Centre in 2017 and gave a presentation about it and the night sky in visual art at the General Assembly in Ottawa the same year.

Specifically, why did a cultural historian with a PhD in religious studies get interested in the night sky?

Good question. As a university educator, one of the things I found myself involved in was taking Humanities students on field trips to archaeological sites in Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Israel. As a religious studies scholar it was my job to explain relationships and orientations of ancient sacred sites and temples to known members of our solar system, where warranted. This was easier for some sites than others. The large temple to Athena (the Parthenon, Acropolis, Athens, late 5 th C BCE), for example, is clearly oriented to the morning sun but the Pantheon in Rome (early 2 nd C CE) with its building code-defying oculus has its entrance oriented north – an enigma that scholars have still not fully explained. I found it increasingly important to go back in time and study the night sky to better understand these connections and the further back I went, the more complex the story of the orientation of a sacred site became. One quick example will suffice to illustrate.

In preparing for a Humanities field trip to Athens with a group of students, I was asked by a colleague to do a presentation on the relationship between ancient cult practices and the night sky on the acropolis (known in ancient times as the Cecropia). I decided to talk about the alignment of the Erechtheum, one of the smaller temples dedicated both to Athena-Polias and Poseidon-Erechtheus. The latter name is hyphenated between the god of the sea (and earthquakes) and an archaic king of Athens which indicates that Poseidon was probably the king’s personal patron. The orientation of the temple’s oldest entrance is North which I found curious. Using the Stellarium program to examine the night sky on the acropolis I discovered the constellation of Draco (meaning huge serpent) was wrapped around the North-South celestial pole from about the 4th to the 2nd millennium BCE when Thuban was the pole star.

This discovery was suggestive as to why the entrance of the 5 th century BCE temple faced North, but it was perplexing at the same time – by this time, Draco was no longer wrapped around the celestial pole. Nonetheless, the constellation of Draco could have been connected to the cult of the legendary serpent king of Athens, Cecrops, through memory and oral history. The proper name of the acropolis was a constant reminder of the legend to the polis. It is before this king that Athena and Poseidon make their desire known to be the city’s patron. The king asks them each for a gift that will benefit the city.

Poseidon hits the earth with his trident to create a well for drinking water, but it turns out to be too salty. Athena strikes the ground and plants an olive tree that the king foresees will bring the Athenians food and prosperity. Athena wins the contest but to keep Poseidon from becoming too angry at losing, a smaller cult is dedicated to him on the Cecropia that eventually acquires a temple known today as the Erechtheum.

When the Erechtheum was originally built, it was likely on an earlier foundation or simply an altar. According to legend, the goddess’ sacred snake lived in the Erechtheum temple and was fed sweet cakes by her priestesses. Mortals, who were not her priestesses, were never to lay eyes on it as that would bring instantaneous death. The serpent was not only her sacred symbol but also her avatar. During sacred processions honouring the goddess, the serpent was brought out covered in a basket, if the sculptural relief of Athena’s sacred procession to the front of the Parthenon refers to an actual historical practice – which most scholars today believe it does.

It is likely that some type of serpent cult was active on the Cecropia during the Bronze Age when Orcadians were building the standing stones of Stenness and later, the Ring of Brodgar. Whatever cults took place on the acropolis in the mists of time, we cannot know, but once built, the Erechtheum was a monument to both Athena and Poseidon as worthy opponents for the polis’ name sake. However, the Erechtheum honoured Athena more in my view by aligning the bricks and mortar entrance to the cardinal direction where her sacred symbol once reigned supreme over the night sky.

This piece of research was probably the origin of my interest in cultural astronomy.

What advice would you give to novice amateur astronomers?

Wait before buying your first telescope. Talk to people with different telescopes during a daytime astronomy event so you can physically see what type of equipment they use. I didn’t follow this advice when it was given to me of course. Now I wish I had. I would have purchased a very different set-up. Enjoy dark sky observing without any equipment – maybe a pair of binoculars. I have a pair of 15 x 70 Celestron binoculars which allow me to see nebula, some galaxies, binary stars and more than seven of the Pleiades -all from my backyard or dock. Learn to orient yourself to the night sky with a few basic constellations and the names of their main stars. Don’t let the technology overwhelm your response of wonderment to what you are observing.

How to join RASCals

by Mike Moghadam

I feel confident in stating that most of us joined the RASC to collaborate and learn from each other. The RASC is a great forum to meet people with an interest in astronomy and a willingness to share their knowledge.

We have many avenues for learning and collaborating in the Ottawa Centre, including for example our monthly meetings, our star parties, our workshops, AstroNotes issues, and our Ottawa Centre email group However, some of you may not be aware that there are other opportunities to learn within the RASC, but outside the Ottawa Centre. Consider, for example, the "RASCal" email group.
The RASCal email group is the National RASC email group. Members that have joined the RASCal list, can send & and receive emails with all RASC members across Canada who are subscribed to the list.

This is an active list with members who are plugged in to all aspects of amateur and professional astronomy. If there is a new supernova or comet that was recently discovered, you can be sure it will be discussed in the RASCals group. There are often discussions on star occultations, variable stars, meteor showers, of course solar eclipses, lunar eclipses and so on. With such a diverse group of topics and perspectives, there are a few differences of opinion that surface from time to time! And finally, there are enough astrophotos shared to fill your boots.

Here is how you join the RASCals email group:

  1. Go to

  2. Mouse click on "Log In" at the top right. Enter your username (most likely your email address and the password that was assigned to you during registration. If you did not receive one, you can select Help and follow the steps to get a password.

  3. Click on Member Area in the banner at the top. Then select Member Benefit Programs.

  4. On the left side, click on Email list subscriptions. Here you can sign-up the RASCal email group, as well as several other email groups. (FYI - EPO is the Education and Public Outreach list, which is for people who share have a common interest in sharing astronomy with the public. LPA is the Light Pollution Abatement group, which is for people interested in reducing light pollution and protecting the visibility of our night skies. There is also an Astro-sketching group and an Astro-imaging email group. The most active group is the RASCals group.

That's it. You can always unsubscribe at any time through a link at the bottom of each email, or just
repeat the above procedure, and remove your selection.


Members in the News

Reports and Notices

President’s Reports: Mike Moghadam

  • (01) Value for members; Inclusivity; Collaboration

  • (03) Daylight Savings Time; public outreach program; meeting chair; thanks to Gordon Webster, Dave Chisholm, Danel Polyakov, Oscar Echeverri and Paul Sadler; congratulations to Janet Tulloch

  • (04) FLO site update (thanks to Chris Teron, Gordon Webster, Rick Scholes); opportunities for Members

  • (09) New Outreach coordinator (Jean-Sebastien Gaudet); successful Nature Nocturne event at the Museum of Nature (thanks to JS, Gordon Webster, Bob Hillier, Jim Thompson, Sayuri Tsuruta, Jimmy Book and Jim Sofia); successful Astro-sketching workshop (Brian McCullough); upcoming Astrophotography Workshop (Paul Klauninger with thanks to Pam Wolff)

  • (10) Ottawa Centre Annual Report 2019

    • Thanks to partners: Canada Aviation and Space Museum (CASM) the Canada Museum of Nature, Parks Canada, Focus Scientific, O’Telescope, Brightstar Communications, Diffraction Limited and Mallincam.

    • Thanks to our volunteers: JS, Chris Teron, Dave Chisholm, Paul Sadler, Jean-Sebastien Gaudet, Gordon Webster, Mike Wirths., Ghislain Serise, Rick Scholes, Brian McCullough, Paul Klauninger, Stephen Nourse, Oscar Echeverri, Art and Anne Fraser, Estelle Rother, Darren Weatherall and Mick Wilson.

    • Facility updates

    • Recognizing Centre Members: Rick Wagner, Janet Tulloch, Dave Chisholm, Estelle Rother, Taras Rabarskyi, Brian McCullough, Janet Tulloch, Paul Klauninger, Oscar Echeverri, Rick Scholes and David Lauzon, Tim Cole, Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia, Karen Finstad and Ingrid De Buda, Stephen Nourse and Chris Teron.

    • In Memoriam- Michel Bois

Members in the News

  • (05) Congratulations- Messier Objects Certificate awarded to Ingrid Buda

  • (06) Congratulations- National Service Award Citation awarded to Richard Wagner

  • (06) Obituary- Michel Bois


  • (09) Annual Dinner Meeting Date (Dinner Speaker: Dr. John E Moores, York U)

  • (10) Annual General Meeting Notices

  • (11) Upcoming Introduction to AstroPhotography Workshop

Featured Presentations during 2019

Month Topic Presented by


Mojiang, China
FLO Update

Douglas Fleming
David Lauzon & Rick Scholes


Outstanding Standing Stones Part 1

Dr. Janet Tulloch


Twilight of the Gods
Equipment Fever
Book Review of We Have No Idea by Jorge Cham and Daniel Whiteson

Dr. Janet Tulloch
Douglas Fleming
Patrick Brewer.


 Member Profiles- Ghislain Serise

Douglas Fleming


StarSense, A Product Review
FLO Update

Jim Sofia
David Lauzon


Outstanding Standing Stones Part 2

Dr. Janet Tulloch


Member Profiles- Stu Glen
One Giant Leap of Imagination- The real significance of the Apollo 11 Moon landing
Observing Programs

Douglas Fleming
Brian McCullough
Gordon Webster


 Johannes Kepler

Bob Olson


An Interview with David Levy
Getting Started in Astro-imaging

Gary Boyle
Paul Klauninger


Volunteering at the Ottawa Centre
Astro Sketching Workshop was a big success!
Charles Messier
Our Solar System: A Planetary Rosetta Stone

Gordon Webster, Mike Moghadam
Brian McCullough
Carmen Rush
Dr. John E. Moores, York University


Mercury Science in 2019
Hubble's Cepheid Variable V1 in M31 V1

Simon Hanmer
Stephen J McIntyre

Submitted Images

Eclipse Images: Paul Klauninger
The Witch Head Nebula: Paul Klauninger
Comet Wirtanen: Paul Klauninger
Young Moon: Howard Simkover
Moon & Hyades: Howard Simkover
Moon, Hyades, Mars & Pleiades (3): Howard Simkover
Mars & Pleaides: Howard Simkover
Markarian’s Chain: Paul Klauninger
Medusa Nebula: Paul Klauninger
M87: Paul Klauninger
Conjunction of Mercury and Mars: Howard Simkover
The Siamese Twins (NGC4567 & 4568): Paul Klauninger
The Eyes galaxies (NGC4438 & 4435) in Markarian's Chain: Paul Klauninger
Abell 2151 Galaxy Cluster: Paul Klauninger
Neptune and Triton: Luc Bellavance
Interstellar Comet 2I Borisov: Paul Klauninger
Aristarchus, Schroter's Valley, and Montes Harbinger: Paul Klauninger

Regular Departments

Editor’s Message: Gordon Webster
Ottawa Skies: Dave Chisholm
Monthly Challenge Objects
Estelle’s Pick of the Month from the Stan Mott Library
FLO Star Parties
Carp Star Parties (04)
Other Dates of Interest (04)(05)
Next Meeting
Centre Information


Carp Star Parties

Closed for the season. See you in the spring.

FLO Star Party Dates for 2020

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. The GO/NO GO call will be made on the Centre mailing list, about noon the day of the star party

Saturday January 25 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 1.1% illumination
Friday February 21 – Waning Crescent Moon, 2.8% illumination
Friday March 20 – Waning Crescent Moon, 10.8% illumination
Saturday April 25 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 7.3% illumination
Saturday May 23 – Waxing Crescent Moon, 1.4% illumination
Saturday June 20 – Day before New Moon, 0.2% illumination

Next Meeting

7:30 PM Friday February 7, 2020 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

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

The Ottawa Centre 2020 Council

President: Mike Moghadam (
Vice President: Stephen Nourse
Secretary: Chris Teron (
Treasurer: David Parfett (
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: Paul Sadler
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 (