Past 2015 RASC Ottawa Centre Meeting Agendas

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Videos of Meetings:

In November 2013, the RASC Ottawa Centre started to broadcast monthly meetings live over the Internet. The meetings are also recorded and can be watched later here. Note that you need a Flash player to watch the meetings. Also note that the meetings are recorded in two segments - Part 'A' is a recording up to the intermission and Part 'B' is a recording after the intermission.

Friday January 9: 

1. Polar Alignment Re-visited

There is a stigma associated with polar alignment that persists for a long time for people new to stargazing with telescopes. Ottawa Centre member Rick Wagner reviews the various methods of polar alignment and offers his insights from many years of observing and imaging.

Polar alignment.jpg

2. FLO

How well do you know FLO? That’s right - Fred Lossing Observatory, the Ottawa RASC’s observatory for members. This highly popular center resource has much to offer for both new and old members and remains a valuable Centre asset. New Ottawa RASC President Gordon Webster, a frequent user of FLO, will provide an overview of FLO and all it has to offer including a glimpse in to the future of FLO.

Fred Lossing Observatory Newtonian Telescope

Friday February 6 : 

1. Historical Figures in Astronomy

Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) is a lesser known Polish astronomer who, like Tycho Brahe, built his own private observatory with state of the art equipment. He measured the positions of 1564 stars and studied the Moon, comets and the sun. His story is another fascinating one in the world of astronomy. Ottawa RASC member Carmen Rush is back with another talk in her series on historical figures in astronomy. Join Carmen as she presents another spellbinding account of the scientists that helped advance astronomy.

Johannes Hevelius

Friday March 6: 

The RASC Ottawa Centre is pleased to host Dr Haley Sapers for a very special talk. Dr Sapers is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, Western University. She is a member of the Canadian Astrobiology Training Program, a joint program of McGill University and Western University.

The Meaning of Life: The Difficulty in Definition

On November 26, 2011 at 7:02 am PST, Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory rover, was successfully launched and began the most ambitious search for life humankind has ever attempted. How, though, can we search for something that we cannot define or characterize? Life is clearly more than the sum of its parts, yet the most comprehensive definitions of life do little more than list the characteristics of living things. If Curiosity is successful in finding putative evidence of life on Mars, does the scientific community have the context in which to interpret the results and answer the question what is life?

Dr Sapers will discuss the epistemological considerations and emerging scientific pedagogy surrounding the definition of life and the systematic methodology used when interpreting ambiguous features as evidence of life. She will then present some of her research and the possible role(s) of meteorite impact events in the origin and early evolution of life on Earth.

NASA Astrobiology Institute banner.png

The March 6, 2015 meeting will be held in the theatre at Ashbury College, 362 Mariposa Avenue, Rockcliffe Park, Ottawa.

Good news - parking is free! The map below highlights the parking locations in yellow. There is a small parking lot at the front entrance on Mariposa Avenue, a larger parking lot off Springfield Avenue and free street parking on three perimeter streets (Mariposa Avenue, Glenwood Avenue and Maple Lane) after 7:00pm.

Please enter the school’s front door off Mariposa Avenue, then continue straight down the main hallway until you arrive at the theatre foyer.

There is no charge to attend this meeting. It is open to everyone.

Ashbury College map.png

Friday April 10:

The Photographic Lunar Atlas - The Beginnings of Modern Lunar Study

by Jim Thompson

From the first time Galileo looked at the Moon through a telescope in 1609 right up to the mid 20th century, serious study of our nearest celestial neighbour was limited to Selenography: the mapping and naming of features. It was not until the US committed themselves to putting a man on the Moon that research into the structure and formation of the Moon began in earnest. The work of Gerard Kuiper and his Lunar & Planetary Laboratory were key to the success of the Apollo Program. One of the legacies left behind by Kuiper and his team is the Photographic Lunar Atlas series, which will be presented in detail during this talk including an opportunity for attendees to see print copies of these rare and historically important atlases.

Lunar Atlas.png

Friday May 1:

1. A Botanist on Mars Paul Sokoloff, Research Assistant in Botany with the Canadian Museum of Nature

This past November Paul Sokoloff spent two weeks as a crew member on Expedition 143 to the Mars Desert Research Station in southern Utah. This Mars Society-run outpost serves as an analog to the conditions that would be encountered by an actual manned mission to Mars (dry, cold, and remote), and is a counterpart to another research station on Devon Island, in the Canadian High Arctic. Simulated missions at these stations serve as a dress rehearsal for future trips to the red planet, allowing us to test equipment, experiments, and crew dynamics without leaving Earth. During this talk Paul will discuss the research project and outreach efforts he led at MDRS, and answer the question “What’s a botanist doing on Mars anyway?”

Mars Desert Research Station.PNG

Mars Desert Research Station

2. A Review of the Latest Advances in Modern Cosmology

By Al Scott

There is little doubt that we are in a golden age of Cosmology. Recent discoveries in the late 20th century have heralded a new understanding of the evolution and structure of our universe. Topics such as dark matter & dark energy, the flat universe, the multiverse and black holes have increasingly become part of public discourse. However, they are often used with only a superficial understanding of the theory and concept. In this talk, Ottawa RASC Centre member Al Scott will review the major discoveries in modern cosmology and provide an overview for the uninitiated.

Friday June 5:

1. Celestial Navigation

Once people sailed beyond the sight of land, the problem of getting back to a safe harbor became a matter of life and death. The sky was something a navigator could rely on, but how could the sky reveal location? In this presentation, Tim Cole will look at some of the great developments in that long quest, and review the techniques that still work when the GPS receiver's batteries go dead.

Tim Cole was awarded the Ottawa RASC's Best Presentation of the Year award in 2014 for his talk on Astrolabes.


Source: ("Sekstant". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

2. Next Generation Satellite Technologies Ryan Anderson, Senior Engineer, Advanced Systems, Telesat.

For over 40 years, Telesat has been on the leading edge of innovation in space and satellite communications. From launching Anik A1, the world’s first domestic communications satellite, to the dramatic recovery of Anik E1 and E2, to the first commercial use of Ka band for broadband internet access on Anik F2, Telesat is a proven industry leader.

Presently, Telesat is making use of the latest technologies to provide the most reliable and cost effective services around the globe: all-electric propulsion, flexible payloads, high throughput spot beams, and innovative orbits are some of the technologies that are driving innovation in Satcom. Telesat's future programs will take advantage of these advancements and continue to push the limits of the technology.

Anik F2

Friday July 3:

1. Observing Locations in the Ottawa Region

We all have our favourite places to observe the night sky. Some convenient locations are close to us in Ottawa while other observing sites with darker skies are a few hours drive from us. In this talk, Ottawa Centre member Shane Finnigan will review all the best observing locations in Ottawa and surrounding region that are frequented by many of us.

Note: A detailed summary of Shane's presentation including maps, directions and photos will be placed on the Ottawa Centre web site after his talk.

2. Habitability of Planets in Red Dwarf Systems by Richard Alexandrowich.

Does obliquity or tilt of an exoplanet have any bearing on the window of opportunity for biology to take hold and flourish on a planet? This is an area of exoplanet research that is still in its infancy. Obliquity can be crucial in determining whether life thrives or perishes.

Friday August 7:

1. New Horizons fly-by of Pluto : Geological Speculations by Simon Hanmer

Given the minimal data received from the New Horizons (NH) Pluto fly-by to date, NASA is understandably coy in its interpretations thus far. However, never one to let a lack of data get in the way of a good story, Simon Hanmer will throw caution to the wind and speculate on the geological significance of the information currently available from the NH mission - and there’s lots to speculate about !”.

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI

2. Finding and Observing Pluto by Brian McCullough

Tips for finding and observing Pluto by Ottawa Centre member Brian McCullough.

3. Update on RASC Observing Programs by Bill Wagstaff

National Council Representative Bill Wagstaff will present an overview of the various observing certificate programs offered by the RASC, and will discuss recent changes to the requirements for these certificates.

4. And back by popular demand ...

... Novice and Advanced observer challenge objects. This month we will focus on the Moon.


Friday September 11:

1. Historical Figures in Astronomy - Gerard Kuiper

When many people think of Gerard Kuiper (1905-1973), the Kuiper belt immediately comes to mind. This region, far out in our solar system, containing 100s of thousands of small bodies composed of volatile. Its existence was hypothesized by Kuiper well before its discovery in 1992. But Gerard Kuiper is much more than the Kuiper belt. He lived a fascinating life. Here to tell his story is Carmen Rush, widely known in the Ottawa RASC for her well-researched and riveting accounts of historical figures in astronomy.

Gerard Kuiper.jpg

Gerard Kuiper
Image credit: University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory

2. 2015 - A Canadian Crater Odyssey by Chuck O'Dale.

Geologists claim that there are over 300 undiscovered meteorite impact craters on Earth. On a recent trip across Canada Gillian and I passed by many of these impact craters. We hope to give you an impression on how many times that we have been blasted from outer space in the past.


Friday October 2nd: ** An RASC Ottawa Centre Special Event **

1. Atchakosuk* (The Stars) by Wilfred Buck

  • pronounced “at-cha-ko-suk”

The RASC Ottawa Centre is pleased to welcome Wilfred Buck, an astronomy education specialist from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. Mr Buck has delivered numerous talks across Canada on traditional First Nations astronomy. Please join us for this free astronomy talk.

This presentation will give participants the opportunity to learn about the sky from a different perspective other than the traditional Roman-Greek Mythology. It will focus on traditional Ininew (Cree) constellations and will explore the origins of Ininew mythology.

Participants will hear about how “ah-tim“ (the dog) came to the people, as well as other Ininew mythologies. The Atchak Sipi (river of spirits) will be a central topic in this presentation. The River Of Spirits is one of the names the Cree have for the Milky Way.

The presentation will be accompanied with songs and Ininew teachings.

Wilfred Buck 2.png
Wilfred Buck 1.png

Wilfred Buck.jpg

Wilfred Buck

Wilfred Buck is an educator from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. For the past nine years he has been working with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre. His specialty is astronomy education and he has travelled throughout Manitoba to rural and urban schools with a portable planetarium.

Mr Buck is an advocate of “two-eyed seeing”, a view that learning is optimal when it is accomplished with two eyes: Seeing with one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledge and seeing with another eye with the strengths of Western knowledge.

Mr Buck received his Bachelor and Masters of Education degrees from the University of Manitoba.

2. 2015 Perseid Meteor Shower Report by Pierre Martin

Ottawa RASC member Pierre Martin is widely known for his interest in meteor showers. His images are regularly featured in astronomy publications. His annual talk at the RASC is informative and a MUST-SEE event.

Perseid report.png

Friday November 6: ** An RASC Ottawa Centre Special Event **

1. Three Roads to Dark Matter by Ivan Semeniuk

The Ottawa Centre is pleased to welcome Ivan Semeniuk, an award-winning science journalist and broadcaster.
Over four fifths of the matter in the universe is an unseen, unidentified substance known as dark matter. Discovered by astronomers in the 20th Century, dark matter has become a focal point for experimental physicists in the 21st Century. Scientists are now closing in on the elusive stuff with major experiments underway on three fronts -- in space, in deep underground laboratories, and in the heart of the world's largest particle accelerator. The coming 18 months are expected to be crucial because it is a period during which dark matter will either be found, or a range of possible explanations will be eliminated.

Ivan Semeniuk.png

Ivan Semeniuk is the national science correspondent for The Globe and Mail where he currently reports on all areas of science and science policy. He is the writer and host of OASIS channel's astronomy series Cosmic Vistas. A long time science journalist and broadcaster in Canada and the US, Ivan Semeniuk has served as Nature's Chief of Correspondents in Washington DC, bureau chief for New Scientist magazine in Boston and has been a field producer with Discovery Channel's science show Daily Planet. He was a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT in 2007-2008 and journalist in residence at the University of Toronto's Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics in 2009-2010. In May he was awarded the 2015 Sanofi Pasteur Medal of Excellence in Health Research Journalism.

2. A Visit to the Algonquin Park Radio Observatory by Dave Chisholm

Dave Chisholm, Ottawa RASC Member, and the rest of his family had a family reunion at the Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO) in mid-August almost 50 years after his father, a Radio Astronomer, first worked on ARO. They were joined by members of the Toronto Chapter of RASC.

This will be a short presentation on one of the larger radio telescopes in the northern hemisphere. It will include some amazing images captured by Toronto RASC members in the very dark skies of northern Algonquin Park.

Algonquin Radio Observatory.jpg Dave Chisholm.jpg

Friday Dec 4th:

1. Annual General Meeting

Annual review of club finances, elect leaders, hear the year-end message from the President.

2. Astronomy Science Fair and Swap Tables

Science Fair.jpg

A large number of astronomy exhibits will be set up showcasing astronomy gadgets and innovations along with interesting tips and tricks. Here is a sample of what you can expect to see at the Astronomy Science Fair:

1. Guylain Rochon from BackyardEOS and BackyardNikon will be showcasing his latest software used by thousands of people around the world to control their DSLR cameras during imaging sessions. 2. RF control of mounts - a very smart idea by Taras Rabarskyi.

3. A novel technique for star alignment without the assistance of a Finder Scope by Mike Parry.

4. Video Astronomy by Jim Thompson and Simon Hanmer. They have been busy preparing for the meeting!

5. Wireless remote collimation - a great idea by Jim Sofia.

6. Barry Matthews’s beautiful, intricate hand-crafted miniature telescopes.

And much more! Come join us to mingle with exhibitors and friends in this relaxed, stimulating session. Refreshments will be available.

Swap tables will also be set up to buy and sell surplus astronomy gear.

The meeting is free. $3 charge for parking at the museum.

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