Past 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 3, 2014:

  1. Renowned telescope maker and artisan Normand Fullum will give a presentation about his telescope making process and present a selection of his stunning hand-made telescopes. Click here for more information about Normand Fullum and his company.
  2. Remember Mike Earl? Sure you do. He was our animated Ottawa Centre RASC meeting chair several years ago. He is currently a Physics PhD candidate at Royal Military College of Canada. He still has a passion for satellite orbits and will share his "zenith method" to estimate orbital path elements of low earth orbit satellites. According to Mike, this method uses high school level trigonometry. Follow Mike Earl here.
  3. Ottawa Centre member Dr Janet Tulloch will report on her recent visit to the new massive Gottlieb Transit Corridor at Griffith Observatory in a presentation titled "The Far Side of Hollywood".

Friday February 7, 2014:

Mars Curiosity Rover
  1. Mars Curiosity Rover. Ottawa Centre member Frank Marshall (a Masters of Physics student at Carleton University) will provide a report on the Mars Curiosity Rover and its mission. His presentation will review the mission objectives of the Curiosity rover, give an overview of what it is seeking and review how its detectors are used to support its primary goal of searching for habitable periods in Martian history and what this means for its future exploration of Mount Sharp. His presentation will include a description of the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) which only this year led to the discovery of the dangers of radiation for a round trip to Mars due to cosmic rays (20 minute presentation).
  2. A Brief Cartographic Tour of the Cosmos. A discussion of several significant historical maps depicting man's spatial interpretation of the universe. Monica Ferguson, Map Specialist at Carleton University Library's Map, Data & Government Information Centre (MADGIC). (10 minute presentation).
  3. Stellar Associations of Perseus. Please join Glenn LeDrew as he examines the three major stellar associations of Perseus. Their ages, content in stars and gas, location in the Galaxy and observable characteristics through binoculars and telescopes will be examined. Don't know what a steallar association is? Don't worry. Glenn has designed his presentation to be suitable for both the experienced amateur astronomer and the novice.
  4. Remote observing with a passion. Many of us have seen private observatories. They are increasingly becoming commonplace. Wait until you see Bob Hillier's observatory. We have a wonderful video. As you will see, there is nothing commonplace about his set-up! Here is the video:
  5. Regular meeting features.

Friday March 7:  *** An RASC Ottawa Centre Special Evening *** 

  1. Astronomical Maps and Tables from Ancient Egyptian Tombs and Temples

          Sarah Symons, McMaster University

The RASC Ottawa Centre is pleased to offer a special presentation on ancient Egyptian astronomy by Dr Sarah Symons, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at McMaster University.

Ancient egyptian 1.jpg

In classical antiquity, Egypt was believed to possess vast astronomical knowledge. What did the pharaonic civilisation leave behind as evidence for this reputation? Sarah Symons describes some of the earliest written records of star movements and explains the “star maps” still visible in the Valley of the Kings today. She also outlines some of the open questions in the field and recent advances in our understanding of astronomical tables from 2000 BC.

Dr Symons studies hieroglyphs, astronomical tables, depictions of the sky that are written on the ceilings of temples and tombs and various ancient astronomical instruments. She is fascinated by how ancient Egyptians were able to construct "star clocks" which charted the positions of constellations throughout the year. She is particularly interested in trying to deduce the way these star clocks were developed and the observational methods used to construct them.

     2.  Growing Old Polygonally. Popularly, lunar impact craters are seen as circular in outline. In fact, more than 20% are polygonal and many of them are perfectly hexagonal. What could account for this shape? Simon Hanmer will propose an explanation using extraordinary images provided by Mike Wirths, arguably one of the finest lunar astrophotographers on the planet. This 25 minute presentation is aimed at backyard observers, to encourage them to "see" the Moon when they "look" at it.

Lunar Images courtesy of Mike Wirths

Friday April 4:

Due to technical difficulties, the April RASC Ottawa Centre meeting was not recorded on Ustream. Instead,the meeting was recorded and posted on YouTube.

Click here to watch Part 1 of the APRIL 2014 meeting (before the intermission).

Click here to watch Part 2 of the APRIL 2014 meeting (after the intermission).

  1. An Introduction to Solar Observing. Ken Whitnall. A basic discussion on solar observing using safe and inexpensive solar filters that can be used with your existing telescope. Don't pack up your telescope just because the Sun came up, experience the dynamic and exciting activity that can be seen on our closest star. (20 minutes)

Sunspot image taken with a Lunt 152 Ha scope

    2.  Remote Observing Trials and Tribulations. Remote observing - not as hard as you might think. Lots of little steps in a well-rehearsed dance. Bob Hillier will share his experiences to date setting up and remotely controlling an observatory nearly 100 km from his house (15 minutes).

Bob Hillier's Observatory

3.  An Ancient View on Comets. Over the course of humanity, comets have evoked feelings ranging from fear to awe and reverence. For example, a comet appeared in the sky during the ascent of Augustus Caesar to emperor of Rome. This was considered a good omen, a sign of the blessing of the gods. In other cases, comets presaged danger. Please join John Wayne Ross, the winner of the 2013 Ottawa RASC Presentation of Year award, as he shares several fascinating examples of how humanity has interpreted the arrival of comets (15 minutes).

Roman coin.JPG

Friday May 2:

1. Another major meteor shower? Quite possibly yes! On the night of May 24 we may experience a strong meteor outburst that has the potential to be the strongest meteor shower in years (visible from Ottawa). Pierre Martin will introduce this subject by first talking about the basics of meteor observing and then providing more details on the cause of this meteor shower and what we might expect to see. (15 minutes)

2. Atacama Trip Report. Ottawa Centre member John Thompson just returned from a trip to the Atacama desert in Chile. On account of its high altitude, dryness and no light pollution, the Atacama desert has become a prized location for dark sky enthusiasts from all around the world as well as a popular location for observatories. John will share his experiences which include a trip to ESO's Very Large Telescope at Paranal, several stunning astrophotos and a 6.8 magnitude earthquake! (15 minutes)

Atacama Desert Sky

3. FOREWARN: Another way to anticipate solar storms. Dr John Armitage, Department of Physics, Carleton University. Solar storms can have a major effect on the earth’s magnetosphere. Some of the earlier storms in history disrupted telegraph communications, while more recent storms have destroyed communications satellites (ANIK-1). Advance warning of their arrival is useful to stakeholders in both the communications industry and the power industry. Present methods of detection are reviewed and a possible new way, using the cosmic ray flux, is described. The Global Muon Detector Network is working towards this goal and Canada could help to complete the picture. A first attempt using FOREWARN, and later work using the CRIPT detector is described. (25 minutes)


Forewarn 1.png

Friday June 6:

      1. The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright’s Universe. William Shakespeare lived in a remarkable time -- a period we now recognize as the first phase of the Scientific Revolution. In this illustrated talk, author Dan Falk will explore Shakespeare’s interest in the scientific discoveries of his time, with a particular focus on the changing conceptions of the cosmos, from Copernicus to Galileo. (30 minutes)

Dan Falk

Dan Falk is a science journalist, author, and broadcaster based in Toronto. His writing credits include the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, The Walrus, Cottage Life, SkyNews, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist; he has also been a regular contributor to the CBC Radio programs Ideas and Quirks & Quarks. His awards include Gold and Silver medals for Radio Programming from the New York Festivals and the Science Writing Award in Physics and Astronomy from the American Institute of Physics (which he has won twice) and the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia Margaret and John Savage First Book Award. His first book,Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything won the 2002 Science in Society Journalism Award from the Canadian Science Writers’ Association. His most recent book,In Search of Time: Journeys along a Curious Dimension was published in 2008. Falk recently completed a prestigious Knight Journalism Fellowship at MIT, where he undertook much of the research for his latest book The Science of Shakespeare: A New Look at the Playwright's Universe.

Dan Falk invitation.jpg
2.  Computing the Cosmos: The Astrolabe. Samuel de Champlain's statue at Nepean Point evokes images of the typical use of astrolabes by early explorers. Yet astrolabes, and their application, have an intricate history that extends beyond navigation into many fields: mathematics, astronomy, instrument making and fine art. In this talk, Ottawa Centre member Tim Cole will show how the principles behind the astrolabe live on in everything from surveyor's transits to the control systems for the world's great telescopes. (15 minutes)

Astrolabe diagram 1.png

3.   Camelopardalid meteor photos. It wasn't the meteor storm of the century that we hoped it would be but, nonetheless, the May 23-24 Camelopardalid meteor shower did offer a few visual gems. Raymond Dubois and Pierre Martin captured a few spectacular photos that they will share.

Friday July 4:

1. Optical Aberrations in Telescopes. Glenn LeDrew, RASC Ottawa Centre. This presentation will: 1). Review the major types of optical abberations in telescopes; 2). Identify which telescopes fall victim to certain aberrations the most; 3). Describe the optical techniques that telescope manufacturers use to overcome aberrations; and 4). Explain what people with optical aberrations in their telescopes can do to overcome these problems. (20 minutes)

2. The Hexagon on Saturn. It is striking in its beauty and equally awe-inspiring. Discovered only in 1981 by the Voyager spacecraft, the massive perfectly-shaped hexagonal storm on Saturn's north pole raises many questions about its origin and how it can persist over many years. Carleton University Masters of Physics student and Ottawa RASC member Frank Marshall will review what we know about this storm. (15 minutes)

Saturn north pole hexagon.jpg

The hexagon-shaped storm on the north pole of Saturn. Each side of the hexagon is 13,800 Km long.

Source: Wikipedia:
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

3. The Hunt for Exo-Planets. With the Kepler space telescope running on borrowed time, astronomers are hoping to retrieve some tantalizing info from the data obtained by from the Kepler survey. Even if they come up short of a major discovery, there are missions on the horizon dedicated to search for that elusive Earth-twin. Richard Alexandrowich looks into the future as we continue our search for Earth-like planets in other solar systems. (15 minutes)


Friday August 8:

1. Black Holes and Their Earthly Look-A-Likes. Black holes are one of the most fascinating predictions of General Relativity, and while we have good reason to believe they exist (and indeed, where a number of them are), they are by their very nature excessively difficult to study. To circumvent this limitation, physicists have started to look for analogous objects in more accessible places. In this talk, Univ of Carleton Physics student Peter Hayman will briefly outline three examples of black hole analogues (optical, sonic, and hydrodynamic), name a potential future application, and show you where you can find a black hole analogue right at home.(20 minutes)

2. Central Uplifts in Craters on Mars. Mars presents a great analogue location for the study of impact cratering processes. On account of its thin atmosphere, impact craters are better preserved, which is not possible on Earth due to erosion. A variety of impact craters are present on Mars including complex impact craters, which are characterized by an uplifted central region. The central uplift is of interest to planetary geologists because it is here where rocks from the depths are exposed to the surface and these outcrops may offer samples of early Martian crust. The study of central uplifts on Mars will contribute to a better understanding of impact cratering processes on Earth and other planetary surfaces, and will advance our knowledge of the composition of early Martian crust. This presentation will review what we have learned from studying central crater uplifts on Mars. Presentation by Bianca D'Aoust, Masters Student in Geology & Planetary Science at the University of Western Ontario. (20 minutes)

Mars Alga Crater central uplift 1.png

Friday Sept 5:


1. Impact Craters on our planet, how do we identify them? Hint, not by looking for circular structures. Here are two structures that are circular (sort of), which one is the result of a cosmic impact?

Presentation by Ottawa RASC member and terrestrial (for now anyway) impact crater explorer Chuck O'Dale.

2. Historical Figures in Astronomy. Kristian Birkeland was a Norwegian scientist who was the first to scientifically explain the Aurora Borealis. Come take a journey back in time to the early 1900's to learn how Birkeland risked life and limb to discover the secrets of the Northern Lights!

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 modern astronomy.

Kristian Birkeland 1.jpg

Friday October 10:

1. Voyage to Mars. It finally happened. Our intrepid planetary geologist Simon Hanmer has travelled to Mars. We all knew he would eventually make it to Mars. With his usual infectious enthusiasm, Simon will share an account of his trip to Mars! (30 minute presentation).

2. Egyptian Pyramid Alignment. Many questions are raised when a visitor first encounters the ancient Egyptian pyramids ... how could something so immense be constructed? ... what tools were used? ... how could they built to last several millennia? One lesser known but equally impressive fact about the great pyramids of Egypt is that they are aligned with near perfect accuracy to the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west). In one case, the side of a pyramid is aligned to less than 3 arcminutes to the North-South direction! Theories have emerged that try to explain how the pyramids could be engineered with such accuracy - some border on science fiction. Ottawa RASC member Mike Moghadam will share his findings from a review of research and will focus on one very intriguing theory that suggests that the answer to this mystery might be in the sky above us (20 minutes).

Pyramid alignment.png

Friday November 7:

Pre-meeting videos:

1. Comet Hyakutake: The Movie depicts the story of how Comet Hyakutake was recorded in extraordinary time-lapse detail. It was produced by Ottawa RASC members Peter and Debra Ceravolo, Doug George and Paul Boltwood.

2. ‘Interstellar’ Featurette – Building a Black Hole. I’m sure many of you have heard about the movie Interstellar that is being released to theatres now. It stars Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway in what I suspect will be a big success. This ‘featurette’ describes the effort that was undertaken in the movie to depict black holes in the way they should appear like.

Meeting presentations:

Epsilon Aurigae
Exploring Epsilon Aurigae. Every 27 years something very interesting happens to Epsilon Aurigae - it dims from an apparent magnitude of of +2.9 to +3.8. But there are several hundred thousand variable stars and related systems that dim in the night sky, so why should Epsilon Aurigae attract our attention? What makes Epsilon Aurigae interesting is that the dimming can last up to 730 days!  Richard Alexandrowich shares his findings from a review of the latest research (15 minute presentation).

2. Star Doctor: Measuring the changing temperature of a star.

Using simple backyard amateur astronomy equipment it is quite easy to measure the brightness of the stars we can see in our telescopes. With very little more effort we can also measure their temperatures. But what about variable stars? Ottawa RASC member Rick Wagner will describe how to diagnose the changing state of health of stars that change in brightness with time.

Friday December 5:  *** An RASC Ottawa Centre Special Event *** 

The RASC Ottawa Centre is honoured to host Bob Berman, an accomplished author, journalist and astronomer, for a very special evening.

** IMPORTANT ** - Please note: Tickets are required to attend this special meeting. Please register for free tickets HERE

What is the Universe and What are Its True Colours? In this mind-stretching one hour talk, Bob Berman will explore how discoveries since 1998 have led us to new models of the cosmos that have curiously not reached general awareness. He will probe the nature of "empty space", time, the recent discovery of a large-scale flat topology to space, and review its implications for an infinite universe. We will see if this may demote the Big Bang to a local event in the neighbourhood -- and how we astronomers might handle infinity and other cosmological aspects that cannot be visualized. His illustrated presentation will includes demonstrations that will examine the odd realities of light and color and our role as observers. We will see how our built-in neural biases and limitations skew our perceptions. And we will take a lengthy side-trip into some of the little-known facets of human vision and how they affect our observations.

Bob Berman is one of the world’s most widely read astronomers. Since 1989, his celebrated "Strange Universe" feature has appeared monthly in Discover and Astronomy magazines. For the past two decades Berman has been the long-time astronomy editor of the Old Farmer’s Almanac. Bob Berman is the author of eight popular books, including "Secrets of the Night Sky" (Morrow, 1995; paperback HarperCollins 1997) which was a Main Selection of the Astronomy Book Club; Biocentrism (co-authored with Robert Lanza, MD, Ben Bella, 2009), The Sun’s Heartbeat, (Little, Brown 2011) and his newest and (he says) his favorite: Zoom: How Everything Moves (Little Brown, 2014). During the 1980s, Berman ran the summer astronomy program at Yellowstone Park for the National Park Service and Yellowstone Institute.

Bob Berman

Berman founded the Catskill Astronomical Society in 1976, and is director of Overlook Observatory, near Woodstock, New York. He was adjunct professor of astronomy and physics at Marymount college from 1995-2000. As a lecturer who leads groups three times each year to celestial events such as auroras and total eclipses, Bob has spent five years overseas, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and is known for his unique blend of humor, informality, and encyclopedic sky-knowledge. He has lectured for countless academic, state, and US federal agencies such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

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