BowFest Success!

Id like to say a special thank you to everyone who stopped by the info table for the Astronomy Group today. I had the most wonderful and fulfilling time sharing views of the sun, sunspots, facts & stories with everyone young and old, first time telescope users and veterans alike! We now have many new members and people interested who now know we have a group on island with which to learn and enjoy the night sky, it’s beauty, & the science behind it. Thank you Robert Ballantyne for use of the solar filter, all who helped me carry everything down & back with my injured back, and thank you Barbara for making BowFest happen so we could all enjoy this event. I had a blast!

David

Public Observing, Sunday 28th 10PM, Cates Hill Park

Come out to Cates Hill Park Sunday night at 10PM to enjoy some fine dark sky views of the heavens on the eve of the new moon. Seeing should be at it’s finest with no moonlight to speak of. I will be giving a brief talk on the true size of the Universe that we see in our sky so that people can get a feel for how big it truly is. We will be also trying to get a glimpse of a very rare event, the supernova in galaxy M101, right above the handle of the Big Dipper, also known as Ursa Major. We should be able to see a large number of objects from galaxies to star clusters, globular clusters, and nebulae. Jupiter is also on display at around 1100-1130. Bring your binoculars, telescopes, star maps and RED FLASHLIGHTS. Use of any type of white light is really discouraged, as our eyes become “dark adapted” we can see fainter and fainter objects. That sensitivity can be taken away in an instant by looking at ANY source of light. But oddly enough, red light does not affect it. So we ask people to get red flashlights, or to wrap red plastic or cellophane over there white flashlights. Parking your vehicle up hill, or turning into the parking lot away from viewers also helps us keep our night vision intact.

Hope to see all the new members there!

Clear Skies & Happy Star Trails!

David
9064

Breaking News! Supernova in M101

“British astronomers have announced the discovery of a supernova in
galaxy M101, which they claim is the nearest supernova of its type for
more than 40 years. The object was discovered at magnitude 17, but
it appears to be rising in brightness, and the team says that it could
become as bright as magnitude 10 within the next few days. That
would bring it well within the reach of small telescopes and even
large binoculars. Amateur astronomers with suitable instruments
should already be able to photograph the supernova, which has the
name PTF11kly. Its position is RA 14:03:05.81, Dec +54:16:25.4.
M101 is currently well placed for observation; it is in Ursa Major,
not far from the well-known stars Mizar and Alkaid/Benetnasch in the
Plough.
The supernova was first seen on August 24 at around 8 pm BST,
within the spiral arms of M101. An image taken the previous night
had shown no such object in that position. The discovery was made
from Palomar with the 48-inch Schmidt telescope, which is now operated
robotically by a team of British and American astronomers known as
the Palomar Transient Factory. The object’s spectrum shows that it
appears to be a Type 1a supernova, which occurs when a white-dwarf
star in a binary system explodes.
From Hubblesite.org

Supernova in M101

Supernova M101To find distances in space, astronomers use objects called “standard candles.” Standard candles are objects that give a certain, known amount of light. Because astronomers know how bright these objects truly are, they can measure their distance from us by analyzing how dim they appear.  For example, say you’re standing on a street evenly lined with lampposts. According to a formula known as the inverse square law, the second streetlamp will look one-fourth as bright as the first streetlamp, and the third streetlamp will look one-ninth as bright as the first streetlamp, and so on. By judging the dimness of their light, you can easily guess how far away the streetlamps are as they stretch into the distance. For short distances in space — within our galaxy or within our local group of nearby galaxies — astronomers use a type of star called a Cepheid variable as a standard candle. These young stars pulse with a brightness that tightly relates to the time between pulses. By observing the way the star pulses, astronomers can calculate its actual brightnessBut beyond the local group of galaxies, telescopes can’t make out individual stars. They can only discern large groups of stars. To measure distances to far-flung galaxies, therefore, astronomers need to find incredibly bright objects.                          So astronomers turn to exploding stars, called supernovae. Supernovae, which occur within a galaxy about every 100 years, are among the brightest events in the sky. When a star explodes, it releases so much energy that it can briefly outshine all the stars in its galaxy. In fact, we can sometimes see a supernova occur even if we can’t see its home galaxy.  To determine distances, astronomers use a certain type of exploding star called a Type Ia supernova. Type Ia supernovae occur in a binary system — two stars orbiting one another. One of the stars in the system must be a white dwarf star, the dense, carbon remains of a star that was about the size of our Sun. The other can be a giant star or even a smaller white dwarf. White dwarf stars are one of the densest forms of matter, second only to neutron stars and black holes. Just a teaspoon of matter from a white dwarf would weigh five tons. Because white dwarf stars are so dense, their gravity is particularly intense. The white dwarf will begin to pull material off its companion star, adding that matter to itself.    When the white dwarf reaches 1.4 solar masses, or about 40 percent more massive than our Sun, a nuclear chain reaction occurs, causing the white dwarf to explode. The resulting light is 5 billion times brighter than the Sun.                                                               Because the chain reaction always happens in the same way, and at the same mass, the brightness of these Type Ia supernovae are also always the same. The explosion point is known as the Chandrasekhar limit, after Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the astronomer who discovered it.  To find the distance to the galaxy that contains the supernova, scientists just have to compare how bright they know the explosion should be with how bright the explosion appears. Using the inverse square law, they can compute the distance to the supernova and thus to the supernova’s home galaxy.

UPDATE:  Supernova in Messier 101 brightens Could be Binocular target in 1 week!
See The Bad Astronomer’s Blog Update !

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/08/25/m101-supernova-update/”

BowFest! Public Info Display & Solar Observing this Saturday

BowFest Information Booth and Public Solar Viewing

We are going to have an information table at BowFest this coming Saturday. Sol, our sun, will be on display today for telescopic viewing  with an 8  inch Sky Watcher Dobsonian telescope. It will be equipped with a special viewing safety device called a “mylar sun filter” graciously loaned to us for the occasion by Robert Ballantyne, of Governance Corporation. .

Even if there are clouds, the sun can still be seen through the telescope. As long as they are not too thick, so we can “almost” say with certainty, that this will be a rain or shine observing event! There is a tale of one astronomer, Fritz Zwicky, from the Mount Wilson Observatory in California, who was known to have his assistants fire a 22 rifle into the sky in an attempt to improve the less than ideal seeing conditions during his observing runs! We however, will only resort to well wishes, perhaps a polite curse or 2, and a few hail Mary’s…

What can one expect to see through a mylar sun filter? Well, we should see a greyish-silver disc with several black spots across the surface. How many spots seen will depend upon where we are in the 11 year solar cycle. The last minimum was back in 2008 so very few are visible at the present moment. Here is a picture of what the sun looked like today, and is an approximate representation of what we might expect to see on Saturday. You can check the daily sunspot cycle at Space Weather.com, my favorite website for listing all current astronomical phenomena. You can even subscribe to text msg alerts on your cellphone for special celestial events! A look at the NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory website gives RRS feeds with daily solar weather and information as well.  There is excellent software for viewing the SOHO images and information called JHelioviewer. These are the very best tools for the solar and armchair observer bar none! But for a real-time, live 3D view of what’s happening on the sun you can come down and see us at BowFest this Saturday.

Don’t miss it!

Special News & Membership Call Out!

We need volunteers and new members! We are extremely blessed to have been offered the privileged opportunity of having access to the use of an 17.5 inch reflecting Observatory Class Telescope on Bowen Island by a former director of the Manitoba Planetarium, Robert Ballantyne! This mirror in this telescope was built some 26 years ago by Robert and his 2 colleagues for use by the Manitoba Astronomy Club.

Does this sound too good to be true?!? Well, there are a couple of prerequisites before we get to enjoy observing time on this wonderful instrument. Volunteers & members showing dedication to learning astronomy, who have taken the astronomy course and can show proficiency in telescope use and observing skills will be rewarded with observing time on this fine instrument. It doesn’t get any better than this! We are going to need a small army of volunteers to make this project a reality, so hop on board and help us make this beautiful & rare opportunity a reality!

Here is a picture of the Light Bucket

Basic Astronomy Course

We will soon be offering a basic astronomy course for individuals looking to start learning about the night sky. We will also have a signup sheet for anyone interested in taking the basic astronomy course in the not-too-distant future. Some of the topics covered will be identifying the stars and constellations, folk lore, science history, observing techniques, binocular astronomy; basic telescope use, design & maintenance, with a section on how to purchase the right binoculars & telescopes.

Dates, times, costs and location to be announced after we find out how many people & the level of knowledge of those interested in participating.

Call David @ 9064 for more information

Clear Skies & Happy Star Trails to You!

David Wilde

Friday, August 19th Cates Hill

Sky conditions were absolutely pristine last night. There was no cloud, moisture or smoke whatsoever in the sky, a rare occurrence on the wet (west) coast. I observed from approximately 9:45 until 11:45; a very small window of semi darkness. I set up the 8inch Sky Watcher Dobsonian and did a brief columnation of the 10×50 finderscope, only to discover that the lens appears fogged. Further investigation is needed.

I was very surprised to view several objects with stunning clarity and excellent brightness for such less-than-perfect darkness conditions. I had no trouble whatsoever finding the The Whirlpool Galaxy underneath the handle of the Big Dipper, with a bright core in the primary galaxy, and excellent surface brightness across the disc of the second galaxy. M31 and M32, along with NGC205 were stunning in brightness, all visible within the same field, with NGC205 really showing excellent wispy structure and unusually bright surface area as well.

These aren’t the usual views through an 8 inch telescope. It was an amazing brief night of viewing proving that the site is worthy of regular viewing because of large horizon, lack of local nearby neighbor light pollution, and what seems to be a meteorologicly clean air site for keeping a moistuire free atmosphere right overhead. This beats the meadows so far hands down.

Here are a couple of pictures I took of the moon rising above what I am guessing to be Cypress Mountain. Not the best but all attempts are successful attempts when one is learning the ropes where there camera’s and astrophotography are concerned.

A wonderfully successful night indeed! And oh… did I forget to mention the peace, quiet and solitude to be enjoyed up there. It makes for a very intimate encounter with the heavens above.

Clear Skies & Happy Star Trails!

David

Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club

Copied from the bowen-island-bc.com forum:

Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club

DavidW

Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club
August 18, 2011 01:33PM

Registered: 10 months ago
Posts: 21
The newly formed “Bowen Island Astronomy Group” will be observing on either Friday or Saturday night depending on the weather conditions. The weather network says clear skies but a quick look outdoors says cloudy and poor seeing conditions at this moment. The moon should be under the horizon long enough for us to observe a few star clusters, Jupiter and it’s moons, and maybe even the Andromeda galaxy if conditions permit. A few stray meteors from the Perseid Meteor Shower may still be glimpsed as well.

You dont have to be a member, or have any knowledge to come out and enjoy some beautiful views of the sky through a telescope. And if you do have a lot then please come out and share it with us. Bring some hot chocolate and don’t forget the kids! It will be our pleasure to share it.

Please call me at 9064 if you would like to join us for a view and tour of the heavens as seen from the Cates Park Field just below the Tir-Na-Nog theatre at around 10:30PM. Please turn off your vehicle headlights as you enter the parking area as we would like our eyes to stay dark adapted for viewing. Red flashlights are welcome.

I would like to send a special thank you to the Otter family for donating a 4.5 inch reflecting telescope and mount to the new astronomy club. It is a great edition to the telescope that Jim Crawford gifted to me in the name of community service, and will make a great starter telescope for the younger members and viewers. It will be much loved and used by many lovers of the night sky.

Hope to see you then,
Clear skies to you!

David

Cindi Keep

Re: BIAC Observing
August 18, 2011 07:48PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 623
BIAC is the Bowen Island Arts Council. Best come up with another acronym.

Hope to join the group one day. Sounds like great fun. I’ll bring popcorn.

David Cameron 

Re: BIAC Observing
August 18, 2011 08:43PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 1,705
And stay away from BIAS (Bowen Island Assassination Squad) We are a low profile group, working quietly behind the scenes, but we are protective of our branding. Very protective.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2011 08:44PM by David Camer

Sue B

Re: BIAC Observing
August 18, 2011 08:52PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 2,039
Bowen Astronomers Demystifying Asteroids, Stars and Suns (B.A.D.A.S.S.)

David Cameron 

Re: BIAC Observing
August 18, 2011 09:05PM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 1,705
I think Sue has got something special there David. What do you think?
DavidW 

Re: BIAC Observing
August 18, 2011 09:16PM

Registered: 10 months ago
Posts: 21
LOL, David and Sue, I think she is onto something! Thanks for the heads up Cindi! I haven’t had much luck with google getting info on an awful lot of the many things going on on Bowen… I’ll work on another name. Someone emailed me that they used to have a short lived group called the Bowen Island Astronomy Society some time back. But that sounds pretty darn official for a grass roots observers club. What do you folks think?

And my apologies for unknowingly using the already taken acronym from the Arts Counsel, no disrespect intended.

David

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2011 09:31PM by DavidW.

Cindi Keep 

Re: Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club
August 19, 2011 07:35AM

Registered: 3 years ago
Posts: 623
When Ron Woodall is finished with his cartoons, I hope he does a series on Bowen acronyms.

MartinB 

Re: Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club
August 19, 2011 08:37PM

Registered: 4 months ago
Posts: 191
Bowen Island All Stars ?
jvik 

Re: Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club
August 19, 2011 10:34PM

Registered: 6 months ago
Posts: 718
BADGAS

Bowen Astronomers Doing Good And Shit – like that

BALTANE

bowen astronomers liberate telltale anomalies near ewe?

BIAS?

I personally like BIAS – it’s catchy and something we can all relate to.

DavidW

Re: Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club
August 20, 2011 02:50AM

Registered: 10 months ago
Posts: 21
I like BIAS as well Juli, but Im also leaning towards the BIAG, bowen island astronomers group. Calling ourselves a society brings alot of extra paperwork with accompanying rulesets I believe. A group is a bit more informal, a gathering of people with varied interests. We can always change it to a society down the road if need be. Besides, I would not want to upset the assassination squad…. 🙂

Observing up at Cates Hill park was wonderful tonight until just before midnight when the moon arose over the mountains. I took quite a few photos which Ill post on the blog that ive created on wordpress. Im just learning the wordpress blogging ropes as we speak but it shouldn’t be much longer.

I was able to see several galaxies, a globular cluster and one or 2 southern milkyway nebulas in spite of not having a fully dark sky. I think Ive found a very good observing site indeed! The meadows had a great open sky for the meteor shower, but the dew fogged up the telescope rather quickly being in a lowland swampy area.

And I must share MY GOD it’s beautiful up there at night. I lack proper words to describe the impact the view had.

SallyF 

Re: Observing Night for the yet-to-be renamed Astronomy Club
August 20, 2011 08:34AM

Registered: 2 years ago
Posts: 234

Good on ya David, I love the fact that we are using ‘our’ park more.
A group is to a society is as a rule is to a bylaw. Maybe we need LURS rather than LUBS. Peer pressure has always been more powerful than fines.

Observing Night/s

The newly formed “Bowen Island Astronomy Group” will be observing on either Friday or Saturday night depending on the weather conditions. The weather network says clear skies but a quick look outdoors says cloudy and poor seeing conditions at this moment. The moon should be under the horizon long enough for us to observe a few star clusters, Jupiter and it’s moons, and maybe even the Andromeda galaxy if conditions permit. A few stray meteors from the Perseid Meteor Shower may still be glimpsed as well.

You dont have to be a member, or have any knowledge to come out and enjoy some beautiful views of the sky through a telescope. And if you do have a lot then please come out and share it with us. Bring some hot chocolate and don’t forget the kids! It will be our pleasure to share it.

Please call me at 9064 if you would like to join us for a view and tour of the heavens as seen from the Cates Park Field just below the Tir-Na-Nog theatre at around 10:30PM. Please turn off your vehicle headlights as you enter the parking area as we would like our eyes to stay dark adapted for viewing. Red flashlights are welcome.

I would like to send a special thank you to the Otter family for donating a 4.5 inch reflecting telescope and mount to the new astronomy club. It is a great edition to the telescope that Jim Crawford gifted to me in the name of community service, and will make a great starter telescope for the younger members and viewers. It will be much loved and used by many lovers of the night sky.

Hope to see you then,
Clear skies to you!

David