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Explore science of real alien worlds

Explore science of real alien worlds

UBC professor and astrophysicist Dr. Jaymie Matthews returns to Sechelt at 8 p.m. Friday, September 13 at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre, to dazzle with the latest discoveries in his presentation: “The Science of Real Alien Worlds: Exploring planets far far away, without hyperdrive”. Matthews will explore the possibility of life outside our own solar system, and why exo-planet research is important to us here on earth. Dr. Matthews is the Mission Scientist leading the Canadian Space Agency’s MOST satellite, presently looking for other planets in our galactic neighbourhood. This ‘not-be-be missed’ presentation by the Royal Astronomical Society

Follows the regular club meeting at 7:30 p.m.

As fall approaches, the skies become darker earlier and temperatures should remain pleasant, making it an ideal time to turn your gaze toward the heavens.

September is a great time to lay on a blanket and enjoy the Milky Way with your binoculars.  Find a dark sky location and scan the sky below Cassiopeia to see the awesome ‘Double  Cluster’ star cluster and star studded constellation Perseus. The Huge square of Pegasus looms in the North East and between its “tail” and Cassopieia, our closest visible Galactic neighbour – the  luminous Andromeda Galaxy – appears as a fuzzy object that can be seen with the naked eye in a dark location.

This month, all five naked eye planets are visible this season in the evening twilight and the pre dawn sky, although sighting Mercury will be tough from our latitude.

On September 8, Mars appears before dawn in the east within one of the sky’s most fantastic star clusters – the Beehive. Venus has been visible all August in the west at dusk and will be part of some interesting ‘twilight passages’.  A close conjunction of the waxing moon and Venus occurs in bright twilight (west) near the glittering star Spica. The next night the crescent Moon will move higher to pair with Saturn. Venus and Spica will also be visible near the downward curve of the ecliptic from Saturn. The ringed planet disappears behind the sun this season, and as it descends below the western horizon, it will pass Venus on September 18. Depending on the vantage point it may be possible to glimpse Mercury hugging the horizon in the murky dusk. The giant planet Jupiter will be the most brilliant of the autumn planets, rising around 2 a.m. in early September. Watch for details on the upcoming rare triple shadow transit on Jupiter on October 11.

For those with a telescope, the elusive planet Uranus will be as close and bright as it gets for the year as it approaches opposition by October 3, due south around one a.m., appearing as a tiny green ‘star’. No telescope? Join us Friday, September 20 at the Pier 17 ‘Astro Café’ for star chat at 8:30 p.m. Weather permitting, telescopes will be set up on the Davis Bay Seawall at dusk.

Light pollution (outdoor lighting that illuminates the air as well as the ground) is becoming a real issue not only for stargazers but for wildlife too, particularly birds. Streetlights can be a real problem, but porch lights and dusk-to-dawn security lights can also impact wildlife and stargazers. Please be a good neighbour and make sure your outdoor lighting doesn’t light up the neighbourhood!

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Submitted by Bette Chadwick

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