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RASC eNews

The Chris Graham Robotic Telescope

May 2008

by Craig Breckenridge
Vancouver Centre CGRT Coordinator

Back in early 2005, an individual approached some of the executive of Vancouver Centre to see if there would be any interest in participating in a remote-telescope project. Needless to say, Council thought this would be an excellent project to bring the ability to work in new technologies to our membership. The initial planning meetings with Chris Graham, the equipment owner, and the interested Vancouver Centre members were held and an agreement in principle was worked out; Chris would provide the equipment and most of the software, and the RASCVC would provide some setup expertise, operation labour, and processing experience. It was a match that would evolve over time with both sides learning a great deal about remote-telescope operation.

The High Riding Bear

About an hour after sunset local – look up, way up. What greets you is the most recognized constellation in the sky, Ursa Major – aka the Big Dipper or Big Bear. Taking up 1,280 square degrees of sky, it ranks third behind first place Hydra and second place Libra. With the great beast prancing overhead, you will have a great opportunity to examine its many galaxies through the least amount of atmosphere turbulence and distortion.

The other members of the Executive Committee, with the endorsement of the Board Pilot Committee, have appointed Dave Lane as RASC National President. Dave will complete the term of Scott Young, which ends on 2008 June 30 (the second National Council meeting at the GA). As a result of this, Dave has resigned from the position of 1st Vice-President, which we expect will remain vacant until the GA.

We welcome Dave to his new role, and we ask you to give him all of your usual support and enthusiasm.

It is with regret that we announce that Society President, Scott Young, has resigned his position, effective Saturday, 2008 April 5. This came as a surprise to everyone involved, and we are saddened by his decision. His resignation was related to a difference of opinion with his Executive Committee colleagues that made him feel he had lost the mandate to lead.

A Cosmic Ocean of Islands

Our Universe is made up of a staggering amount of starry islands, we call galaxies. With the average galactic population of about 200 billion stars, astronomers believe there are more than 100 billion galaxies residing in the known Universe. These tiny patches of grey can only be glimpsed with a telescope or very large binoculars steadily mounted on a tripod. Like fish in the ocean swimming alone or in schools, galaxies are found by themselves or in small groups and clusters.

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A Faint Constellation

The Winter Triangle consists of three bold, bright suns named Betelgeuse, Sirius and Procyon which are the alpha stars belonging to Orion, Canis Major and Canis Minor respectively. These guideposts are amongst the eighteen brightest stars that make up the winter sky - Taurus, Auriga, Gemini and the three previous mentioned constellations. However, embedded in this triangle is a dim constellation called Monoceros. In fact its alpha star only registers magnitude 4.1, but somehow the asterism depicts a Unicorn.

The Twins and an Orangey Moon

Ranked as the seventeenth and twenty-third brightest stars, the guide posts to the Twins of Gemini are now located high in the night sky. Their names respectively are Pollux and Castor and shine at magnitudes 1.14 and 1.57. Pollux is a giant orange star that seems to have a hot outer corona like out Sun. It does possess a fainter companion too close to be resolved by amateur telescope. Although it is brighter than Castor Bayer for some reason gave the designation of alpha (the brightest) to Castor. With a good telescope, three of Castor’s stars can be resolved; however these are really three double stars giving us a total of six suns that appear as one to the unaided eye.

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Owning the Winter Sky

The constellation Orion is synonymous with frosty Canadian nights. With its majestic collection of bright suns and overall size, it truly owns the winter sky. Orion the Hunter lists as 26th in area as it holds the deed to 594 square degrees of celestial real estate.

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