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The International Year of Astronomy 2009. Galileo and his telescope. This issue is dedicated to all who volunteered to help bring astronomy to a new level.


IYA 2009 Thoughts

By Debra Ceravolo Astronotes Editor

It’s hard to believe that the The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is coming to a close as we speed toward the end of the year and also the decade. This may be a good time to look back at the accomplishments made and where will we go from here. That’s the royal we, ourselves personally, the Ottawa Centre, across Canada and as members of Planet Earth.

400 years ago when Galileo aimed his newly crafted telescope upwards, we, the royal we, were changed forever. IYA 2009 celebrates Galileo, the telescope, and all we have come to know about this universe we are all part of. This celebration has brought astronomy to a new level worldwide, all grassroots efforts. Right here in our own Centre, we have raised the bar on public outreach thanks to Mike Moghadam and his leadership and enthusiasm. See all of the outreach efforts of the past year in this issue in ‘News around the Ottawa Centre’. Also in this issue, a letter of congratulations from the Canadian IYA Chair, Kim Breland and Jim Hesser, RASC National Honorary President for reaching the 1,000,000 Galileo Moments milestone. The International Year of Astronomy efforts from our Centre, across Canada and throughout the world will ensure that astronomy will continue to inspire, engage and enlighten for a long time to come, maybe even another 400 years.

President’s Report

By Paul Harrison, Ottawa Centre President

2009 has been a landmark year for the Ottawa Centre, as well as for the RASC and for amateur astronomy as a whole. Designated the International Year of Astronomy (IYA) by UNESCO, in honour of the 400th anniversary of the first use of the telescope for celestial observations by Galileo Galilei, this year has seen a colossal increase in interest in astronomy from the general public and from numerous organizations. The Ottawa Centre rose to the IYA outreach challenge in a significant way.

The number of IYA related events in the National Capital Region supported by our members this year is almost too high to count. Major highlights include the Music of the Spheres concert held in partnership with the Tafelmusik baroque ensemble to a sold out crowd (March 6); International Astronomy Week and the Dr Michael Hoskin lecture co-hosted by the Canada Museum of Science and Technology (April 28 – May 3); the Galileo Lecture “Cosmic Dawn and Monster Telescopes” delivered by Dr. Roberto (Bob) Abraham (June 6); the Italian Week event hosted by the Italian- Canadian Youth Formation Centre in honour of Galileo (June 20); interacting with countless members of the public, particularly the young, at the Science FunFest hosted by Natural Resources Canada (October 18); and hosting two well attended public star parties at the Diefenbunker in Carp in September and October. For these efforts the Ottawa Centre owes a great deal of gratitude to our many dedicated volunteers, including our outreach co-ordinator Mike Moghadam, whose organization skills and enthusiasm helped make it possible.

While it’s fair to say that IYA has generated a lot of interest in astronomy from the public, it must be said that we still have some work ahead of us as a Centre in terms of converting this interest into active memberships. As of December 31, 2008, Ottawa Centre RASC membership stood at 400, which includes 3 youth members and 38 lifetime members. Of 29 Centres in Canada, this is still the second highest membership, but we would obviously like to see this number increase, for the strengthening and continuity of our organization.

2009 has been an important year for the Ottawa Centre itself, with a number of key issues debated and voted upon at Council. These have included measures to reduce our annual operating expenses without sacrificing the level of service that our members expect, such as minimizing printing and mail out costs for our monthly AstroNotes newsletter through the introduction of a paper copy fee while encouraging subscription to the electronic version, and eliminating highly under utilized resources such as the Centre phone lines.

This year the Ottawa Centre Council took part in the detailed discussion at the National level on the continuation of benefits for existing Life Members, following the cessation of the life membership option. The Ottawa Centre Council supported the motion put forward by the Toronto Centre Council to divide the remainder of the life membership fund among the 29 centres proportionally by size, and for each Centre to henceforward take on responsibility for continued delivery of RASC services to existing Life Members. The Council feels that this is the best approach to honouring the commitment of the RASC to existing Life Members, and that the one time cash infusion in addition to economy measures such as those indicated above will put the Centre in an excellent position to continue this commitment.

The main opportunity we have for our members, Life or otherwise, to get together is, of course, our Centre meetings, which are held on the first Friday of each month at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The attendance at our monthly meetings typically approaches or exceeds 150. I would like to take this occasion to extend a special thank you to our Meeting Chair for this past year, Attilla Danko, who kept the show rolling with many fascinating talks from our Centre members. I would also like us all to extend a special welcome to Bill Wagstaff, who has graciously stepped forward to become our new Meeting Chair for 2010. We have enjoyed Bill’s talks on various subjects over the past few years, such as model rocketry. Each one of our Meeting Chairs brings a special flavour to these monthly events, and we are very much looking forward to witnessing Bill’s. Many thanks are due to others who help the meetings happen: Chris Teron, our Secretary who is also our meeting slide-master; Richard Mcdonald who has kindly stepped into Chris’ shoes when he has been unavailable; Tim Cole and all those who have helped keep the projector running in the back room; and Eric Kujala, our meeting videorecorder. A special thank you goes as well to Art and Anne Fraser, who have given their time and effort for quite some years in keeping us fed, carbonated and (in some cases) caffeinated at each meeting through their hospitality table.

Our Centre Annual Dinner was held on the 13th of November and was attended by 70 members and guests. Our speaker this year was Dr. René Doyon from the Université de Montréal, principal investigator for the Canadian science team on the James Webb Space Telescope, who gave a talk entitled “First Images of Exoplanets”.

Our annual picnic was again hosted by Linda and Rolf Meier, on October 10.

The Centre’s Fred Lossing Observatory (FLO) in Almonte saw a change in management this year, with Director Al Seaman stepping down after many years of dedicated service in this role. Bryan Black took over as Director earlier this year. Bryan and a group of Centre members known as the Friends of FLO have made several significant repairs and improvements to the site this past year, including re-installing the cabling to the telescope controller, replacing the observatory door and gable flap, increasing the size of the interior bookshelf, and general site maintenance. It is recognized that the site will eventually require substantial effort in halting the gradual subsidence of the building. The Council will continue to monitor this situation and to provide support where possible and required.

Efforts are ongoing to make the SMARTScope more reliable, to support internet operation. The most problematic area has been the dome shutter. The battery that powers the shutter has been replaced with a much larger sealed unit, which should not require any maintenance for years to come. A major problem has been the focuser, which did not have enough range to cope with the shift over temperature. It was replaced with an Astrophysics focuser and RoboFocus motor to drive it. This required some careful design and machining work to make everything fit together. The CCD camera, which had failed again, was also replaced thanks to a donation. Some minor maintenance was also performed on the building itself. Some work is required to complete the software setup; however, poor weather has been impeding this effort.

Estelle Rother has continued in her role as manager of the Stan Mott library. A number of older books that had been kept in storage were offered to Centre members for a donation, so as to relieve storage space.

Richard McDonald has continued in his role as manager of our web site, and also took on a role as manager of the Centre mailing lists. The new Centre web service, initiated last year, continues to save our centre a substantial amount of money. Our Treasurer, Hans Brouwer, has had another busy year managing our Centre finances. Our audit report from the years 2007/2008 is near completion and will be posted on the Centre website when available. Several cost cutting measures implemented by Council are beginning to show fruition, and more are anticipated in the coming year.

This year the “Paul Comision Observer of the Year Award” was awarded to Bob Olson. The Astronotes Article of the Year was awarded to Chuck O’Dale for his article “Geological Effects of Bolide Impacts on this Planet” in the October 2009 edition.

In response to an application from the 2008 Council, a National Service Award was given to Al Seaman for his management over the years of our Fred Lossing Observatory as well as his many contributions to other Centre projects, including SmartScope and the Centre website and mailing list. The award was presented to Al in person at the November meeting.

Paul Harrison, President
RASC Ottawa Centre

Observing Challenges of the Month

November 2009 Challenges:

Deep Sky: Paul Comision’s Pick

Observe galaxy NGC 7771 and detect the other galaxies in the field including NGC 7770 and NGC 7769. NGC 7771 is in Pegasus, which is well positioned in mid-to-late evenings in November. You will need at least a 10 inch scope.

Lunar: Brian McCullough’s Pick

Grimaldi crater is #134 in the Isabel Williamson observing program. Grimaldi is the darkest region on the visible side of the Moon. The crater is dark because it is all volcanic material. Observe the 230 kilometer wide crater itself, the system of rilles and other craters Cavalerius, Hevelius and Lohrmann. To the southwest there is the 900 kilometer ring of the Cordillera Mountains. Along the western edge of the terminator, there is a crater with a raised floor.

News around the Ottawa Centre

A Busy and Successful Year

A look back at the Ottawa Centre public outreach events of the past year. This doesn’t even include many other events that were planned and clouded out. A big applause to Mike Moghadam and all of the volunteers who helped make IYA a very successful year full of astronomy and Galileo moments.

January 8th

IYA Canada Launch

March 1st

Solar observing at Pinheys Point (winter Fun Day)

March 6th

Tafelmusik Astronomy Concert

March 6th

Introduction to the Wonders of the Night Sky

April 3rd

100 Hours of Astronomy at the Canada Science and Tech Museum

April 5th

100 Hours of Astronomy (solar observing)

May 2nd

International Astronomy Day at Canada Science and Tech Museum

May 22nd

Pathfinders astronomy outreach

June 4th

Nocturne, Astronomy at the Cube Gallery

June 6th

Galileo Lecture - A special IYA event

June 20th

Astronomy event in Little Italy, Ottawa

September 12th

Astronomy Day at Carp Public Library

October 10th

Free public stargazing at the Carp Public Library

October 13/14th

Astronomy’s International Year - A Celebration of the ‘Dark Arts’

October 13th

Astronomy lecture

October 18th

Science FunFest

October 23rd

Astronomy presentation at Ecole Saint-Margaerite, Merrickville

The 2009 Ottawa Centre Annual Dinner

Members of the James Webb Space Telescope Project Team from left to right: Al Scott, Neil Rowlands, René Doyon (Guest speaker), Begoña Vila and Andrew Bell

Dr. René Doyon was the guest speaker for the Annual dinner of the Ottawa Centre on November 13, 2009. Professor Doyon gave a very enagaing talk about his discoveries along with Quebec astronomers, Christian Marois and David Lafrenière in acquiring the first images of a planetary system other than our own. Also Dr. Doyon is the Principle Investigator of the Canadian science team for the James Webb Space Telescope from the University of Montreal and spoke for the JWST as the successor to the Hubble Telescope. It’s a 6.5-metre telescope that will have 8 times the collecting surface of the Hubble Telescope. It will be sent into space at a distance of about 1.5 million kilometres beyond the orbit of the Moon in 2014. Canada is an important partner in this telescope and is providing a piece of scientific equipment called the Fine Guidance Sensor. This instrument has the crucial role of maintaining the extremely precise aim of the James Webb Telescope. Several other members of this team working with ComDev on the JWST project were among the dinner attendees and are also members of the RASC Ottawa Centre. Al Scott and Neil Rowlands both Project Scientists, Begoña Vila, Systems Lead and Andrew Bell, Project Scientist for remote sensing.

News across the RASC

Canada Surpasses Goal of 1,000,000 Galileo Moments!

When we embarked on this year-long national celebration of astronomy in January, we set a goal of reaching at least 1,000,000 Canadians with a Galileo Moment of significant, engaging astronomical experience. At the time, this seemed like a huge and ambitious number, and we had no idea if we would be successful in reaching this goal.

We are thrilled to tell you that we have gone well over the goal with many events from National S&T Week remaining to be reported! As of October, the counter sits at 1,003,238 GMs.

This is a sign of the unprecedented success of IYA in Canada – and a sign of the hard work and dedication of thousands of volunteers across the country. The IYA Executive Committee and Advisory Board are extremely impressed with the quality, variety and creativity of IYA events in Canada. We hope that you will take a moment to reflect on this wonderful success and to feel proud of your part in it. Please also make sure that you pass this message on to all of the IYA volunteers that you have worked with; they are the reason that we have so much to celebrate.

Now that we’ve surpassed our goal, why do we care? We are continuing to fundraise for the IYA legacy projects extending well beyond IYA (at least until 2011, thanks to our Promo Science grant). Every GM that you have generated will improve our chances of continuing the wonderful work we collectively have started in 2009. Please report your attendance numbers today and share in the excitement of seeing the GM counter go up by many more thousands! How high can we reach by 31 December???

Those that are up to date on reporting, we thank you. And we send hearty congratulations to every volunteer in Canada who helped make this happen! YOU ROCK!!!!!

Kim Breland Canadian IYA Chair and
Jim Hesser RASC National Honorary President

Ottawa Centre meeting report- November 6, 2009

By Estelle Rother, Recorder

The meeting began with Tim Cole telling us what we could see in the November sky if it were not cloudy. This would be a good time to observe Pegasus, Andromeda and the Andromeda Galaxy. The galaxy can be seen with the naked eye if you are away from city lights. Saturn is back and can be seen in the early morning. Its rings are starting to open again. On November 17, the Leonid meteor shower could be a nice event to watch and the Moon would not interfere. At the end of the month, it should be possible to observe Jupiter during the day.

Members’ observation reports followed. Murray Campbell showed several sketches made using a 4 inch scope. Also a previous challenge object B142 and B143, the Moon’s terminator of the quarter Moon and M52. Paul Comision showed NGC 128, a group of galaxies in Pisces. Bob Hillier followed with an image of NGC 7331, the Deerlick galaxy. Rolf Meier’s rainbow over his observatory was all he could observe in last month’s poor weather conditions. Paul Klauninger showed NGC 891, an edge-on spiral galaxy 30 million light years away in Andromeda. Then M27 which is estimated to be only between 10 and 15 thousand years old. This is an example of what will happen to the Sun in the distant future. Bob Olson took a picture of the area of the planetary nebula challenge object KjPn8 but it was not in the image. Bob also showed images of open cluster M52, NGC 891, NGC 7331, NGC 7635 and Sh 2-112. Bob noted that for NGC 7331, the central core is rotating in the opposite direction to the galaxy arms.

Peter and Debra Ceravolo travelled to the Atacama Desert in Chile for three weeks in August. This Desert is the driest place on Earth and there is very little life there. Debra showed images of the accommodations and the surroundings. The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the world’s largest radio observatory, was visible from their patio. When construction is finished, there will be 80 dishes and it will provide 10 times the resolution of Hubble but in radio wavelengths. The sky was clear for the three weeks they were there. Debra showed some images that Peter took and she processed in Chile: M8 in Sagittarius; M7 in the middle of the Milky Way; the Helix nebula; Omega Centauri; the Tarantula nebula surrounded by supernova remnants and Corona Australis, a reflection and dark nebula.

Centre President Paul Harrison presented the RASC National Service Award to Al Seaman. The Society exists because of the hard work and dedication of its members. Al served as director of FLO, has been a member of the Smartscope team and helped pioneer the creation of the Centre web site.

Chuck O’Dale, as Past President, formed a nominating committee for the election of officers, Councillors and National Council Reps. He presented the list of nominations.

The meeting continued after a short break and the draw for door prizes.

Sanjeev Sivarulrasa presented a talk about portable astrophotography under dark skies. Read about his adventures and successes in the January AstroNotes.

Mike Moghadam gave a public outreach update. The Centre participated in the Science Fun Fair on October 18. This event was described in the October issue of Astronotes. Public stargazing was planned for November 27 at the Pierre Elliot Trudeau School. And there will be a winter solstice star party on December 21.

Rick Wagner attended the RASC GA held in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Summer Star Party (SSSP) at Cyprus Hills Park. There was some observing the night before the event started, but thanks to the weather no astronomy was done after that. It was the first time in thirteen years that the weather was so bad. Rick showed photos of the beautiful Cyprus Hills area. The GA featured an astrophotography contest and for the first time it included astrosketching. There were council meetings, a BBQ with bison burgers, an excellent formal banquet and talks. Al Dyer gave an inspirational talk about the astronomy he has done.

Brian Carroll talked about a new club observatory for the Calgary Centre. The model showed four observation stations. The back of the roll-off roof faces north to block some of the light pollution from Calgary. The observatory is 18 feet wide, 8 feet deep and 8 feet high. A metal roof allows the snow to slide off. There is also a club house.

Thanks to Ann and Art Fraser for the after meeting refreshments.

Identifying Impact Structures, Part I

by Chuck O'Dale

Impact cratering is one of the most common geological processes that have happened on planetary objects with solid surfaces (our home planet Earth included). In this and following articles, I will document the geology used to identify impact structures. I will also describe my amateur observations of various craters that I have visited (on this planet for the time being) and how these observations can and cannot be used as evidence of a bolide impact. Before I get into the recently discovered methods that are used for identification of impact structures, I will first describe how they are created.

The Cratering Process:

Impact crater formation is unlike any other known terrestrial geological process:

Contact & Compression:

Astronotes December09 Impact01.jpg
The cratering process begins when the bolide, travelling at 10 to 75 km/s, makes initial contact with the target body. This starts the contact and compression process which lasts only fractions of a second. During this time the bolide will penetrate up to 2 times its diameter. At this point the kinetic energy of the bolide is transformed into shock waves that radiate into the target body and back into the bolide itself. The energy of the impact produces a spherical expanding envelope of hot gas regardless of the angle of impact. The bolide and the immediate area of the impact are completely vaporized. With few exceptions, the impact explosion almost always produces a circular crater.


In seconds the resulting kinetic energy release creates an explosion that forms the initial transient crater. This energy release is transferred into complex interactions within the resulting shockwaves. The crater now consists of an evacuated zone (forming impact ejecta) and a lower displaced zone (forming crater-fill impactites). The evacuation process is complete when the energy in the shock waves can no longer displace target rocks. This process could last up to 90 seconds for a crater of up to a 200 km diameter.


The initial transient crater is unstable and the modification stage commences. Small craters of <4 km (on Earth) are relatively stable after the evacuation stage. For larger craters, the impact structure is gravitationally unstable and its modification stage will include uplift of the crater floor and collapse of the unstable steep walls (slumping). These movements will be completed in a few minutes and could result in a complex or multi-ring crater. Minor faulting, mass movement and/or hydrothermal activity in the larger craters could last indefinitely.

Crater Classification:

On this planet, the transition size between simple to complex craters is 2km in sediments and 4km in crystalline rocks. The transition size between complex to ringed basin craters is 10 to 50 km (Osinski, G. 2008).

Simple Crater:

Astronotes December09 Impact02.jpg
A simple crater is a “transient” crater that has kept its bowl shape after the impact with minor slumping.

The 1.4 million year old Pingualuit Crater in Northern Quebec is an excellent example of a simple crater. It has kept its original shape over eons of erosion. Pingualuit Crater has a diameter of 3.44 km and a depth of 400 metres.

Astronotes December09 Impact03.jpg

Complex Crater:

The central peak of the complex crater is formed as a result of uplift of material beneath the crater. The uplift is a rebound in response to impact compression and the release of a pressure overburden (Melosh 1989).

Astronotes December09 Impact04.jpg

I had to use the lunar crater Tycho as an example of a complex crater as all complex craters on this planet have either been rendered unidentifiable due to erosion or have been buried and are not visible. Tycho is approximately 160 million years old and has a diameter of 85 km.

Astronotes December09 Impact05.jpg

Peak Ring Crater:

Peak ring craters develop within the rim of larger complex craters. The ring structure forms as the central peak collapses and creates a peak ring before all motion stops (Melosh 1989).

Astronotes December09 Impact06.jpg

Astronotes December09 Impact07.jpg
The 290 million year old Clearwater West Crater (illustrated to the LEFT of the complex crater, Clearwater East) is probably the only example of a surviving peak ring crater on this planet. The rim diameter is 36 km and the internal “peak ring” has a diameter of 10 km. An annular trough surrounds the ring.
Astronotes December09 Impact08.jpg
A side-note about the twin Clearwater Craters; there is a pair of craters, Ritter and Sabine, visible on the moon in the south west corner of Mare Tranquillitatis at 2°N latitude 19°E (lunar coordinates for Ritter Crater). Observing these craters will give you an excellent perspective of the physical size of the Clearwater Craters as these twin craters on the moon are “almost” the exact dimension and orientation of the Clearwater Craters. In other words, an observer on the moon would see the twin Clearwater Impact Structures almost exactly as we see the Ritter/Sabine Craters on the moon from our planet.


  • Melosh, H. J., 1989. Impact cratering: A geologic process New York, Oxford University Press.
  • Osinski, G. 2008. Meteorite impact structures: the good and the bad: Geology Today, Vol. 24, No. 1, January–February 2008.

Galileo’s Other Great Achievements

by Eric Smith

As noted in previous issues of AstroNotes, 2009 is a significant year as the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s observation of the moons of Jupiter. He also observed our own Moon, setting a foundation for more advanced studies; but he is also noted for other important work that likely had a much wider impact on astronomy, though perhaps not so much on the observational side.

Astronotes December09 Impact09.jpg
In the book The Evolution of Physics by Albert Einstein and Leopold Infeld (penned by Infeld), first published in 1938, the authors consider that Galileo’s development of scientific thought can be regarded as the start of modern physics. The book explains that, prior to him, the theory of moving bodies, attributed to Aristotle, said, in effect: “a moving body will stop moving when the force which pushes it along can no longer do so”. This idea, derived through “everyday intuition” from observations of moving of carts, and, for example, that two horses will pull a chariot faster than one, held sway for nearly 2000 years, such was the reputation of Aristotle.

What Galileo concluded was that, if there were no friction, a body, at rest or moving in a straight line, would not change its state unless acted upon by a force. Thus, the force would produce a change in speed or direction and it was the change, rather than motion itself that indicated the action of a force. He also realized that what made a body start rolling down an inclined plane was also a force: that of gravity. This shows Galileo’s thinking went much further than immediate intuition and set the stage for a major advance in physics. A further huge advance took only a couple of generations. In the year that Galileo died, there was born someone who would further revolutionize mechanics and physics: Isaac Newton, who combined these concepts into mathematical form that is still in use.

It was some 200 years later before Einstein realized that, although Newton’s formulas covered a huge range of conditions, from tiny bodies to planets, when one has to consider speeds approaching that of light, and on scales much greater than our solar system, a more refined system was needed. This led to his development of special and then general relativity and also contributions to quantum theory.

As well, the book notes that Galileo also realized that the velocity of light need not be instantaneous but that contemporary measurements were too insensitive; and that he also made early attempts to devise a thermometer. One may wonder what might have happened if he could have had smoother relations with church and other authorities – or even perhaps, if he had not been born!

Is There an Observatory Near You?

With over 4500 members in the RASC, I am very sure that there are a number of observatories that few people know about belonging to Centers, members, past members, or simply where RASC members are operating an observatory for public outreach.

The History Committee of the National RASC has created an incentive known as the “Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Observatory Project”.

The mandate is to collect photos and brief descriptions of RASC observatories in and outside Canada. What the History Committee would like to receive is a couple of photos (Jpeg format maximum 6) and a description of the building, basic location i.e. city, province, or lat. and long., owner, brief description of the main equipment, and brief details of the trials and tribulation of building the observatory. A data input form has been created and is available from the Chair of the History Committee (Barry Matthews) at or by telephone(613)829-5251.

The pictures and documentation should be sent to Barry’s email address with the words “observatory project” in the subject line. If anyone in the Ottawa area has an observatory that they would like to include in this project, I would be more than happy to bring the form and camera and take the photos for them. All they need to do is give me a call (613)829-5251. If any one has any questions concerning this project or need data input forms please contact me at the aforementioned address. It is hoped by the History Committee that the collected data and photos will be published and or made available to members by CD, and could also become a resource to those who may wish to build or even manage an observatory in the future.

Clear skies and excellent seeing

Barry Matthews
Chair RASC History Committee

Member’s Images

North American and Pelican Nebulae

by Rick Wagner

Astronotes December09 Impact10.jpg

135mm Soligor lens shot at f/4, 3 x 1000 sec exposures through H-alpha filter, SBIG ST2000XM camera

California Nebula

by Rick Wagner

Astronotes December09 Impact11.jpg

135mm Soligor lens shot at f/4, 5 x 500 sec exposures through H-alpha filter, SBIG ST2000XM camera

Jupiter and three Galilean moons

Astronotes December09 Impact12.jpg

by Gary Boyle

Astro Quote of the Month

“The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do.”

Galileo Galilei
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