Muin and the Search for Life in the Universe

Join us online Friday October 16th at 7:30, as we will be holding our October member’s meeting!  This is an online Zoom meeting, and all members are invited to join and enjoy the presentations.  All non-members are welcome to join the YouTube live stream. The link will be posted here and all social media platforms at 7:15PM just prior to the meeting.

Our special guest speaker this month is Dr. Hilding Neilson who will be speaking about Muin and the Search for Life in the Universe.

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October 2020 Event Horizon Newsletter

The latest issue of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers Event Horizon newsletter is now available for download!

In this issue you’ll find…

  • The Sky This Month for October 2020
  • NASA Night Sky Notes
  • Eye Candy
  • Plus More

Download the latest issue or visit the newsletters section for past issues.

Photo credit: Mars by Alex Kepic.

September Members Meeting

Join us live now on YouTube for our September member’s meeting. Our guest speaker will be Sian Ford with a presentation titled ‘Biosignatures on Earth and Beyond‘. The link for the live stream is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gjn8fEsGhfY.

September 2020 Event Horizon Newsletter

The latest issue of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers Event Horizon newsletter is now available for download!

In this issue you’ll find…

  • HAA In the News!
  • The Sky This Month for September 2020
  • NASA Night Sky Notes
  • Eye Candy
  • Plus More

Download the latest issue or visit the newsletters section for past issues.

Photo credit: Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE by Bob Christmas. 

2020 Perseids Event Cancelled

Please be advised that due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Perseids event scheduled for August 15 has been cancelled. Public safety for all is our main concern and look forward to hosting this event again in 2021. For more details on the Perseids you can visit here.

HAA Tales From Under The Starry Sky – Part 6

It’s been a while since we had a story from a member, and I was particularly thrilled when this tale arrived in my inbox.  It’s a great story and so worth reading.  

Sue MacLachlan has been a great asset to the club, working behind the scenes in recent years to oversee some club events like the Christmas social (big success!).  Recently you have come to know her as the mastermind behind our Zoom meetings.  Next time you’re online at one of our meetings be sure to say hi to her.

Now here’s her story… 
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“My First Total Solar Eclipse!

Like many members of the HAA I have been fascinated by the night sky since I was a child. There are a few star gazing events that stand out for me: the dark velvet black skies in Banff National Park, my first guided star tour and finding that first object in our telescope. But there is one that memory that stands out above all the rest, the Total Solar Eclipse of 2017.

As beginner amateur astronomers my husband Doug and I knew about solar eclipses but we really weren’t that interested in them until we attended a lecture at Starfest one summer. The presenter opened up our eyes to the beauty and wonder of a total solar eclipse. So, we thought, maybe, we would go on a camping trip to the U.S. and take in the solar eclipse at the same time. Needless to say, we were quite naive at the time when it came to solar eclipses.

A little more than two years before the 2017 eclipse, the Bluewater Astronomical Society, a club from Owen Sound, where we are also members, asked if people were interested in travelling to Nebraska to see the solar eclipse. We figured that since we didn’t know much about solar eclipses it would be a good idea to join a group so we signed up.

The summer of 2017 arrived. Doug and I had planned a 5 week circle tour through the U.S. ending at the Grand Island KOA in Nebraska. There we would join up with our friends from the Bluewater club. All was going well, until the night we hit New Mexico. I suffered an eye injury which forced us to come back to Canada in the middle of the trip. My eye doctor prescribed a course of treatment and I asked with trepidation if I might be OK to go to Nebraska to see the eclipse. I was told “you could sit on the couch at  ome and follow the treatment or you could sit in the front seat of the car and follow the treatment, take your pick.” So, we packed up the car, again, and headed out for the Grand Island KOA in Nebraska.

We arrived 3 days before the solar eclipse. It was a great campground with pretty good amenities. You could order pizza to be delivered to your campsite and pick up a couple of beers to go with it right from the camp store!

As the weekend unfolded, the camp filled to the brim with amateur astronomers from all over the U.S. and Canada. The air was full of excitement as everyone prepared for the event.

The day before the eclipse was spent discussing the most recent weather reports. When I say most recent I mean people were checking every half hour (or less) to see if there were any changes. All day the forecast called for light cloud. There hadn’t been a cloud in the sky for days and now the forecast for eclipse day called for light cloud. Some people in the campground decided to leave that day and travel further west in hopes of clearer skies. Our group made the decision to stay and no matter what happened we would have had a good time anyway.

On the day of the eclipse I was up early and, yes, there were the light clouds. The morning was hot and the light clouds persisted. Everyone was busy setting up and checking their equipment over and over again. The air throughout the whole campground crackled with the nervous energy of expectation. Near the time of first contact, one of our friends started a countdown and a hush fell over our group. All were focussed on the sun and were waiting in anticipation. Then suddenly you heard shouts of “I see it!’ or “I got it!” as first contact was made.

As the time ticked towards totality we kept a careful eye on the equipment and the clouds in the sky. There was some light cloud but it didn’t really hinder the view at all. When the moon had sufficiently covered the sun to create a crescent, people used colanders and signs made with small punched holes to reveal hundreds of small images of the crescent sun. We took lots pictures of the crescents. While the crescents were amazing, the best was yet to come.

As totality neared a hush fell over the whole park. Once again the countdown was called out and you could feel the air rippling with excitement. Then a shout “I see the Diamond ring!” Another person shouted, “Baileys Beads!” Then the call came, “Filters off!” Totality had arrived!

The birds stopped singing. The sky darkened. Sunset appeared on the horizon everywhere, 360 degrees around us and the air which had been so hot started to cool. Then someone saw a star and the rush was on to identify it.

I stood there transfixed. I looked through our solar telescope and couldn’t see anything because I hadn’t taken the filter off, and at the time didn’t think to take the filter off, so I just stared up at the sun and the moon. Doug handed me the binoculars a couple of times and told me to look but I just handed them back to him without looking through them. I know this happened more than once because we have it on video. I was dumbstruck and awestruck. Here was a perfect demonstration of the precision and wonder of the universe.

And then it was over. The diamond ring was magnificent as the moon started to move away from the sun. Someone outside of the campground had fireworks and set them off and a great cheer went up throughout the camp and champagne was popped. The clouds had parted just enough at the right time so the beauty and wonder of a total solar eclipse was there for us to see.

After the last bit of the moon left the edge of the sun all of the Canadians in the camp gathered to have their picture taken. As we waited for the photographer, a friend from the North York Astronomical Association asked me what I thought of the eclipse. I couldn’t answer him as I had no words to describe what I had witnessed. Then I started to cry. He gave me a hug and said solar eclipses had that effect on him as well.

It was an experience I won’t soon forget. Now, we are thinking about next one in 2024!”

Sue MacLachlan

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I look forward to 2024 as well, all the more so after reading about the excitement and thrill of seeing a total eclipse the way Sue and Doug did.  Thanks so much Sue, for sharing that wonderful experience! 

 If you would like to share an observing experience just email me and I will be happy to feature you in a future email.

Take care and stay safe.

June 2020 Event Horizon Newsletter

The latest issue of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers Event Horizon newsletter is now available for download!

In this issue you’ll find…

  • The Sky This Summer 2020
  • What Have I Been Doing During The Lockdown?
  • CaLIGHTs DSO Astrophotography Image Calibration Tool — June 2020 Update!
  • NASA Night Sky Notes
  • Eye Candy
  • Plus More

Download the latest issue or visit the newsletters section for past issues.

Photo credit: Sketch of Solar Prominences, by John Gauvreau. 

A Message from our Chair

Hi everyone,

These are challenging times for many, and I hope that each and every one of you is doing well, keeping safe, and staying healthy.  When any of us might be facing serious hardships the wellfare of the club and it’s activities might not seem like a top priority, and that is perfectly understandable.  And yet for some, indeed many, it is little things like the familiarity of the night sky and the pleasure of an evening under the stars that provide solace and escape from our daily struggles.  So I want to keep you informed of how the club is adapting to these changing climes and what we plan to do in the near future.  Even if we can’t get together, we are still a community and we can feel a part of that closeness even when apart.

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Tales From Under the Starry Sky – Week 5

Here’s a great story from Alex Roman, who, as he says in his tale, has been in the club for coming on 5 years now.  Alex is an active observer and has frequented Binbrook many times, often observing with one of his teenage children who are always welcome.

I hesitated to send this story out at first, because I appear in the story, but it’s not about me, it’s really about Alex and about sharing a great hobby with others who enjoy it as much as you.

And now, here’s Alex’s story…  ___________________________________________________ 
“The year was 2015.  I like to go to McQuesten park in Hamilton for taking a walk with my dog.  One evening I saw a bunch of people with some telescopes and other weird equipment. I start talking to one of the guys, asking what are they doing.  He said to me they are part of an astronomy club and they are observing the sky.  I saw his little white telescope and I said: “I too have a telescope and I could come with my telescope in a few minutes.”  He replied: “Well, by all means, please bring your telescope and we’ll observe the sky together.”  I said ok.  Then I start laughing because I had a real telescope and my telescope was bigger than his.  

So after a few minutes, I brought my masterpiece.  I start unpacking and the guy said: “You have a beautiful Celestron C5+ telescope. You can see a lot of things with it.”  In the mean time I saw him with a huge tube on top of his “little telescope”. And I asked him what was that? And why you have 2 telescopes?  He said very politely: the “white telescope” is a german equatorial mount. THIS is my telescope. Lol. Why german? Why not french or dutch equatorial mount I thought myself?

Anyway I setup my system with a cheap $29 tripod and my (now) little scope.  I was struggling with my setup and I could hardly see anything.  Out of focus; objects were moving too fast.  I was frustrated.  The guy then asked me if it’s ok to piggyback my scope onto his telescope.  Well, after he did that I look through my C5 and looking through my eyepiece, things were not moving at all.  He told me that his mount is moving in the same way as the earth.  Yeah, ok, whatever.  At first I didn’t understand all the mambo jambo he told me.  But in the end he showed me how to take a picture of the moon with my iPhone and he was very patient with me.  That’s when I got hooked with astronomy.  Thank you big guy.

Oh, and by the way, his name is John. John Gauvreau.”  
Alex
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Well, once the blushing goes away I’ll finish this email.  Thank you to Alex for sending in this lovely story.  Alex was already in the hobby and enjoying his own scope, but the story shows how he found his way to the HAA and how we found a great new member.  It happened to be me that Alex ran into that night, but it could have been any of our members and he would have had just as good an experience. 
 
If you would like to share an observing experience just email me and I will be happy to feature you in a future email.
 
Keep an eye out for the next email which will outline some upcoming club activities.

Take care and stay safe.

Tales From Under the Starry Sky – Week 4

This week we have a wonderful contribution from Michael Sheehy. 

Mike has been in the HAA for 3 years now, joining after his retirement from a career that began with both an Engineering degree (Mechanical) and a Masters of Business from McMaster and led to senior levels in the manufacturing industry. 

You might have seen Mike observing out at Binbrook, but he has an even better observing story than many of us.  While many members from the HAA travelled to Missourri to see the total solar eclipse of 2017 only to be clouded out, Mike went his own way and enjoyed a beautiful clear sky and a spectacular eclipse from Kentucky. 

Today, Mike shares with us a story that many of us can relate to.  Here now, are his words…
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“My introduction to Astronomy is plain and simple…science fiction television shows in the 1960’s.  I was only 10 years old and watched “Lost in Space”, “Star Trek”, “Time Tunnel”, “Land of the Giants”, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea”, etc.

Being raised in Greensville, we had no library at that time and I took advantage of my sister’s weekly trip to the Dundas Armoury (now Dundas Community Centre) where she took majorette lessons every Saturday morning.

A walk down to the Dundas Library for three Astronomy books (the maximum on any one subject) and a return three weeks later for three more.

Sometimes the subject material was very challenging.  What ten year old knows about “scientific notation” or “logarithms”?  I taught myself and certainly, high school math was so much easier years later!

I exhausted the Children’s and Adult’s holdings within a year.  On attending McMaster University, I looked at the stacks / shelves of Astronomy books (material that I could never consume in a lifetime).  I suddenly felt diminished.  I feel everyone should feel diminished once in their lives to keep us humble.

I have been blessed to have travelled this world…Asia, South America, Europe, North America; yet, where ever I am, I go out at night to look skyward for comfort.

While I realize that I may not understand the country or language that I am currently in, I do not see diamonds of stars on the black velvet of the night’s sky; I see familiar friends who have accompanied me on my journey.

That foreign sky always tells me about a ten year boy on Short Road in Greensville trying to figure out the constellations and major stars so very long ago.

Everyone please take care and please continue to smile.”

Mike Sheehy
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Thank you to Mike for sharing with us today.  If you would like share a story about yourself just email me.  Anything from how you got started and inspired, to your favourite night sky sight.

Take care and stay safe.