A Comet, an Asteroid, and a KBO

The ESA’s Rosetta and Philae observe a comet
The ESA’s Rosetta has been sending home images of comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, AKA the Rubber Ducky. The odd shape of the comet was quite a surprise to scientists, and a hurdle for the landing of Philae.

Rosetta_s_comet_node_full_image_2“By using high-resolution images taken between 6 August 2014 and 17 March 2015 to study the layers of material seen all over the nucleus, they have shown that the shape arose from a low-speed collision between two fully fledged, separately formed comets. “

READ More about the shaping of the Rubber Ducky
Approaching_perihelion_AnimationAt perihelion, it is estimated that Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, was spewing out up to 300 kg of water vapour & 1000 kg of dust per second.
READ More about Rosetta at  perihelion
 NASA’s Dawn reveals more about our largest asteroid, Ceres.
Click to view larger image.
New Horizons to image a KBO  (Maybe)
The next  flyby will explore an ancient, intermediate-size Kuiper Belt Object (KBO) called 2014 MU69


“This flyby is contingent on NASA approving and funding a 4-year extension to the New Horizons mission — a decision planned for late summer 2016 (about when the last of our Pluto data reaches Earth)”

READ More about this mission’s goals

DC Comics on NBC

There is no escape…

Dragon and Robot copyFox has Gotham  CBS has Supergirl, and The CW has Arrow, The Flash, and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, and NBC is working on a new DC comics sitcom to be called Powerless.  

This project isn’t based on any particular DC comic book series, but it takes place in that universe as experienced by the ordinary people who work “at one of the worst insurance companies in America.” Think of Powerless as “The Office meets DC.”

Over at ABC, Marvel Comics is planning a series based on the Damage Control comics.

According to the series description, the Marvel cleaning crew specializes in dealing with the aftermath of the unique fallout from super hero conflicts. They are the ones who are in charge of returning lost ray guns to their rightful owners, help to reschedule a wedding venue after it has been vaporized in a super hero battle or even track down a missing prize African parrot that’s been turned to stone or goo. Sometimes the most important super heroes are the ones behind the scenes — and that’s who “Damage Control” will follow.
Also in the works at ABC is a “SHIELD” spinoff,  Marvel’s Most Wanted,  which will revolve around Adrianne Palicki‘s character Mockingbird and Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter.
Additionally, “American Crime” creator John Ridley is developing a top-secret Marvel project for ABC.
(And now you know why Cathy watches PBS. <grin> )
But comics fans reading this may well want to follow up on these developments, so here are some worthwhile links:

The Aurora Awards

Voting for the awards  closes at Midnight (end of day) EDT on October 17, 2015.

The awards will be presented at  SFContario 6 / Canvention 35 on the weekend of November 20-22, 2015.

Best Novel – English
Echopraxia by Peter Watts, Tor Books
The Future Falls
by Tanya Huff, DAW Books
My Real Children by Jo Walton, Tor Books
The Peripheral by William Gibson, Penguin Books
A Play of Shadow by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books

Best Young Adult Novel – English

Lockstep by Karl Schroeder, Tor Books
Mabel the Lovelorn Dwarf by Sherry Peters, Dwarvenamazon
Out of This World by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada
Rain by Amanda Sun, Harlequin TEEN
Twist of the Blade by Edward Willett, Coteau Books
Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
The Voices in Between by Charlene Challenger, Tightrope Books

Click here to see the rest of the ballot

If you are wondering what is in this year’s package go here.

To download the voter’s package log into your account and go here or go to the link on the Aurora Awards dropdown menu item on the main page.  You must be a paid member to access it, but it’s a steal @ 10$. Click here to join.

When you are ready to vote just log into your account, pay if you have not already done so, and then click here .


Doctor Who Spin Off

BBC Three today announces Class – a new 8 x 45 minute Doctor Who spin off from the acclaimed YA author, Patrick Ness. Class is a YA series set in contemporary London. Incredible dangers are breaking through the walls of time and space, and with darkness coming, London is unprotected. With all the action, heart and adrenalin of the best YA fiction (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Hunger Games), this is Coal Hill School and Doctor Who like you’ve never seen them before.

Steven Moffat says, “No one has documented the dark and exhilarating world of the teenager like Patrick Ness, and now we’re bringing his brilliant story-telling into Doctor Who. This is growing up in modern Britain – but with monsters!”

New images of Pluto’s Moon, Charon

A fresh batch of high-resolution images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft shows that Charon, Pluto’s largest moon, has endured a lot.
Charon-Neutral-Bright-Release“It looks like the entire crust of Charon has been split open,” observes John Spencer (Southwest Research Institute), who serves as deputy lead for the mission’s geology, geophysics and imaging team. Such wholesale extension might have occurred, the New Horizons team speculates, if Charon once had an interior ocean of water that expanded as it froze long ago. The overlying crust would have cracked wide open to accommodate the increased volume.

Mars, Attainable Goal?

From the Planetary Society,

report-dlWe’ve released a report—written for anyone to read— which highlights the major points of discussion from our workshop, and includes details on the orbit-first plan and its potential for science, public outreach, and affordability. You can download, read, and share it for free.


Bring Him HomeFrom Fox Movies: The Martian

And by now, you must have heard of the movie, unless you have been living under a rock. It’s making waves, not only for the quality of the movie, but also for the astronomical correctness. Even Astronomy Magazine carried an article about it, calling it “a love letter to science.”  http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-martian


For Die-Hard Star Wars Fans

Filler_card_FinalAW_22.07.15.inddBe the first on your block to have your very own set of Star Wars Postage stamps! Pre-order now from the Royal Mail:


A superb memento personalised with your name and address. It has all 12 Character stamps dated with a blue ink Alliance Starbird design. Available until 20th October only!!

Only £9.55 (incl VAT) , and you have to have a UK address.  Oh, well, I didn’t want them anyway…..



September 20 Meeting Re-Cap

The theme for September 20th was Heavens Above! and telescopes took centre stage. Also all four corners of the room and the front porch of the hotel!

Guests Bill Strople and David Shuman, both members of the RASC Montreal Centre, brought in telescopes as did MonSFFA members Wayne Glover, Lindsay Brown, and Mark Burakoff.  We got to see a classic refractor from the 50s, Newtonian & SCT reflectors, and a Coronado made specifically for solar viewing. The sky being clear, members were able to view our sun in all its glory, showing prominences and filaments.  After supper, we viewed the moon through Lindsay’s telescope.

But starting from the beginning:

Logans_run_movie_posterEarly birds arriving at 11 AM watched Logan’s Run, a classic from 1976. Most members felt the movie stood up today, even though quite rooted in the style of the 70’s.  Seeing it again with new eyes and more experience of the world, some members saw a deeper, more religious feeling to the movie.

MonSFFA 20150920-23
David verifies settings on the Coronado

David Shuman then set up his Coronado on the hotel’s front porch, so members came and went back and forth as he changed filters and settings to see different aspects of our nearest star.

Meanwhile, Bill Strople set up a huge, long focal length refractor from the 50s, and a brand new, not even on the market yet, Newtonian reflector on a Dobsonian mount.

IMGP8379 refractor
Classic refractor from the 50s
Bill with new Dob
New Dob from Explore Scientific, Engineering sample.

Photos are by Cathy and Sylvain, click the thumbnails for larger photos.



PIC_0332 Mark with sct LR
Mark sets up Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. (SCT)


Wayne, Lindsay, and Mark set up their Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes as well.  How does an SCT work?

Bill then gave a presentation on all the different types on display, explaining each one’s strengths and weaknesses. Mark Mark beginner astro kitfollowed up with an introduction to observing for the beginner, recommending binoculars and finder charts.  Cathy pointed out the importance of magazines such as Astronomy and Sky & Telescope.  Many telescopes languish in closets because their owners got bored with the moon and didn’t know where else to point their scopes. Both magazines have extensive websites covering everything & everything of an astronomical nature,

Bill refractor & SCT
Bill explains why observers have a marked preference for the SCT over the classic refractor. A refractor the equivalent of the SCT on the right might require a pick up truck for transportation.

MonSFFA 20150920-02




Sylvain posted cartoons with an astronomy theme, and there were various books and planispheres on display as well. A planishere  of the southern sky proved intriguing as members realized there was no equivalent in the south to our north star.

Postcards from Pluto, a slide presentation, followed. Cathy showed the latest images from New Horizons. On display, was the poster for the discovery of Pluto, autographed by Clyde Tombaugh himself.

Title pageAfter the raffle, we discussed our Stop Motion project which we had not completed last month. (Stop-Motion Project Storyboards are here.) Plans were made, assignments handed out, members have homework!! (However, design a dinosaur sounds a lot more interesting than any homework I ever assigned. )

cage croppedSupper was at la Cage au Sports, but not the one across the street that we usually frequent as that one it turned out was closed for renovations. Fortunately, it is only a short walk to the Bell Centre.

After supper, we observed the moon over the police station with Lindsay’s telescope and Mark’s binoculars. Had we arrived 20 minutes earlier we would have seen Saturn., but it was hidden behind the bulk of the station.

MonSFFA 20150920-31moon watching cropped and brightenedThere is talk of arranging an observing session from a dark sky. Stay tuned.


More photographs and video segments are available to our members.

Lunar Eclipse Sept 27

What’s so special about this lunar eclipse?

Not much, for astronomers, but  for the rest of us it promises a fine spectacle with a cool WOW factor. Usually, an eclipsed moon  appears blood red, but depending on the pollution in the atmosphere, the moon may appear brownish, or even bluish-grey.

Telescopes are not necessary, but binoculars will bring out a lot of detail as the shadow of the earth passes over the craters.

The moon is at perigee, so it will appear slightly larger than usual, it’s the Harvest Moon, and because of optical illusion, it appears even larger on the horizon as it rises. You will not notice much difference from one night to the next, but from Apogee to Perigee, the difference is dramatic. 

The Sept. 27 event is therefore being called a “supermoon eclipse.” The last such eclipse happened in 1982, and the next won’t occur until 2033.

This eclipse is the last of the current Tetrad, a series of 4 eclipses, each pair separated by 6 months.

In Montreal, we get to see the whole celestial show , just a little over 5 hours.

Begins at 8:11

Max totality at 10:47

Ends at 1:22 AM

Duration: 5 hours, 11 minutes

Montreal Science Fiction and Fantasy Association