Location: Chemistry/Physics Building, MUN
Time: 8:00 pm
Doug gave a general introduction to the Society. As the executive introduced themselves, they each gave a short description of what they do. Members were asked to consider running for the executive at our AGM next month. Randy Dodge is heading the Nominating Committee, so please contact him at randy at mun.ca.
Fred introduced Gary briefly, noting he has been a long-time member, a geologist, and an accountant.
The DAO was the largest "operating" telescope in the world. Many sources say it was the second largest in its early years, but Gary agrees with one source that it was the largest of the "operating" telescopes for a couple of years. The DAO is located in Victoria, BC. Gary had visited a few years ago, but only had the chance to see the Victoria Centre's outreach building, and the Visitor's Centre. This time, he wanted to visit the observatory proper.
Gary began with a general tour of the grounds of the facility. He introduced us to the John Plaskett telescope. It was built during the early 1900's, from 1914-1918. This was an amazing feat, considering it was during the Great War. It was 1.8 meters in diameter, still considered quite a size. You can see the original mirror still on display. The scope is used at both the Cassegrain and Newtonian foci. The original mirror was replaced in the mid-1970's with a ceramic one. The grounds also host the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics.
Gary took us on a tour of the musuem, which has many exhibits, including displays concerning the first ultra-violet stellar spectra. He showed some pictures of the initial construction. Everything had to be brought up the 230m mountain by horses.
We next visited the telescope and dome, including the control room. The huge concrete pier was explained in some detail. We got to see some photographs of it on the lower floor, and in the dome itself, where it supported the telescope. Attached is a plaque dedicated to Plaskett, with a mini biography.
Over the years, the telescope was involved with many important discoveries. As an example, until recently the Plaskett binary star was the heaviest on record. The facility was involved in determining the galactic rotation, and the temperature and composition of interstellar space. Many other results came about because of this telescope.
We next saw the apparatus that holds the mirror when it is removed from the telescope frame. Although the telescope has been upgraded many times over the years, the dome, the building, and the telescope frame are still the originals. Even up until the late 1980's, the original drive mechanism was still being used. The mirror has been replaced, and all the instruments have been upgraded as new technologies became available. Although now considered a bit small, the telescope is still used by the NRC for current research, including Near Earth Objects and spectrographic research (its original design purpose).
Gary noted there are a couple of sites that you can visit:
After the talk there were a few questions. One member wondered whether just the new mirror was a Cassegrain design. Gary noted that from his picture of the old mirror, it would seem to have been a Cassegrain all along.
Garry Dymond encouraged the members to come out and help at the GeoCentre. Bring along a scope, and we will provide a sheet for you to learn about a feature on the moon, along with FAQs about the moon. Ideally, we could use 6 or 7 people. Please show up by 6 pm for the 7:30 start.
Richard Newman presented a huge book called "The Universe" to our library. This is good for star parties, so many people can view the same page at a time.
Robert handed out a sheet of the upcoming events in the sky. It covered space weather, and the new sunspot cycle on the sun. (Did you know the solar wind has a speed of 355 km/s and its density is 1.6 protons/cm-cubed?) The sun currently has one sunspot. The moon and planets were covered, and also Comet 103P/Hartley 2, which should be visible in October to the eye.
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