Starfest 2016 Speakers

Keynote Speakers:

Dr. Ray Carlberg

Dr. Ray Carlberg

Canada and the Thirty Meter Telescope

The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will be one of the first of the next generation of ground-based optical-infrared telescopes.  In April 2015, the Government of Canada announced a contribution of $243.5 million to this $1.5 billion project.  The TMT will have a powerful adaptive optics system that provide nearly diffraction limited images three times smaller than on the current best telescope and with a mirror three times the size, concentrates nine times the light into one ninth the area, for a net gain of 81.  The telescope will be used to understand the very first stars to form, image earth-like planets in formation around other stars, better understand dark matter, dark energy, and black holes, and follow the formation processes of galaxies, stars, and planets.  Dr. Carlberg will describe the technology of the telescope and the construction plan along with its current status.

Biography:

Dr. Raymond Carlberg is a professor and current Chair of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Toronto.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.  Dr. Carlberg is the Canadian Project Director of the Thirty Meter Telescope Project.  His research interests are largely in the study of galaxy assembly, dark matter, and dark energy.  Dr. Carlberg is also interested in developing a high quality site for an observatory at the northern edge of Ellesmere Island, Nunavut.

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Dr. Christine Wilson

Dr. Christine Wilson

New eyes on the cold universe: the Atacama Large Millimeter Array

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA) is a new and powerful radio telescope that has recently completed construction on a high plateau in northern Chile.  The first science results from ALMA include a stunning array of images of astronomical sources ranging from very young stars that are still in the process of forming to galaxies at the limits of the visible universe.  Dr. Wilson has been involved with ALMA in a variety of roles throughout its design and construction and will give an overview of the telescope itself as well as some of its most exciting science.

Biography:

Dr. Christine Wilson is a distinguished professor at McMaster University in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.  She received her Ph.D. from Caltech in 1990 and has been a professor at McMaster since 1992.  While still a graduate student, she discovered Comet Wilson.  Dr. Wilson is best known internationally for her work on star formation in nearby galaxies.  She was the principal investigator of three international projects: the Herschel Very Nearby Galaxies Survey, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) Nearby Galaxies Legacy Survey, and the Submillimeter Array (SMA) Luminous Infrared Galaxies Survey.  Dr. Wilson is the former President of the Canadian Astronomical Society and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Guest Speakers (alphabetically):

Dr. Norbert Bartel

Dr. Norbert Bartel

VLBI for probing supernovae, black holes and the curving and twisting of space-time

The radio technique of very long baseline interferometry, in short VLBI, uses radio antennas around the globe and synthesizes them into the biggest telescope in the world.  It achieves an angular resolution one thousand times better than that of the Hubble Space Telescope.  That allows astronomers to zoom into the centres of activity of the most powerful single objects in the universe and make precision measurements of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.  In his talk, Dr. Bartel will focus on supernovae, showing a movie of how the exploding star generates a shock front that expands with 20,000 km/s into space and leaves behind what could be a black hole, the stellar corpse left over from the explosion.  Black holes were predicted by Einstein to curve and twist space time enormously.  Earth is predicted to do the same thing, only in a very diluted way.  Dr. Bartel will show how VLBI can help to measure the minute curving and twisting of space time around Earth, giving insight into one of our most fundamental views of the physical world.

Biography:

Norbert Bartel was born in Germany and received his PhD in 1978 with a thesis on radio pulsars from the University of Bonn.  He worked as a research associate at the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn for two years, at MIT in Cambridge, MA, USA, for three years and then up the street at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics for another nine years.

In 1992 he moved to Toronto and has been a member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at York University since then.  He is a Distinguished Research Professor of Astrophysics and teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in astronomy and radio science and technology.  He also made the film “Testing Einstein’s Universe” for the NASA/Stanford spaceborne Gravity Probe B mission to measure predictions of Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

His fascination with space started in his teenager years when a friend bought a telescope and they both ventured out in the fields to look at Jupiter and its moons and the Andromeda nebula.  Now he observes with radio telescopes.  Specifically, he combines many radio telescopes girdling the globe with the technique of very long baseline interferometry, dubbed VLBI, to synthesize a gigantic telescope as large as the Earth itself.  With VLBI he zooms into supernovae and makes radio movies of the expanding debris of the dying stars.  He studies the environment of supermassive black holes residing in the centers of galaxies and is involved in experiments to test general relativity, which, together with quantum theory, is at the foundation of our understanding of the physical world.

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Dr. Ron Brecher

Dr. Ron Brecher

Treasures of the Night Sky: 17,000 years of imaging history

Mankind has been recording the beauty of the cosmos for millennia using media of every imaginable kind - from cave art, earth works and buildings to the fleet of eyes in the sky that images the cosmos from space.  In this presentation, Ron will share many of his own award-winning images and a few PixInsight processing techniques as he highlights more than 17,000 years of imaging history in just under an hour.

Biography:

Dr. Ron Brecher ( http://astrodoc.ca/ ) has been an avid visual astronomer for about 20 years, and began photographing the night sky in 2006.  His images are regularly featured in print and online astronomy magazines such as Astronomy, Sky and Telescope and SkyNews as well as in scientific journals, on CD covers, on websites and in calendars.  His imaging workflow is published in the August 2016 issue of Sky & Telescope.  Ron shares his passion as a speaker at star parties, conferences and and club meetings in Canada and the U.S.

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Andrew Brownbill

Andrew Brownbill

An Introduction to 3D Printing - Astronomer Version

You may have heard that 3D Printers are cheap enough to be considered household appliances.  You may have heard that 3D Printing is going to change everything and usher in a new era of peace and prosperity.  You may just need a custom thingy for that gadget that you want to add to your scope.

Andrew will talk about his experience fabricating custom astronomy equipment using a household 3D Printer.  He will answer several common questions that people have about 3D printing, including “how hard is it to design something”, “how well do they really work”, and “what do I get for my money”.

Biography:

Andrew Brownbill has been interested in Astronomy since he was a young child.  His interests include Astrophotography and Amateur Telescope Making.  During the day Andrew works as an Engineer in Intel’s Programmable Solutions Group.  He has a BSc in Computer Science and a Masters Degree in Computer Graphics.

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Marc Fitkin

Marc Fitkin

Beginners Guide to Telescopes

Marc was inspired by the motion picture 2001 A Space Odyssey.  His first views of a major planet were through a very simple, low quality telescope with a shaky tripod on a frigid evening in late December of 1989.  Marc will tell us why one should avoid such a telescope.

Biography:

Marc has been involved in amateur astronomy for over 25 years and in the Astronomy optics business since 2002.  He is currently with New Eyes Old Skies, Richmond Hill’s newest and premier astronomy and science optics retailer at the Leslie Centre.  Marc has owned over ten different telescopes of various designs including refractors, reflectors, and Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescopes.  Marc’s main interests are double star, planetary and galaxy observing, pushing the limits of small, portable telescopes.  Marc also takes part in public observing and public outreach events through New Eyes Old Skies, The Stargazers Group of Mississauga, NYAA StarFest and the RASC David Dunlap Observatory.

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Norm Folkers

Norm Folkers

ATM Workshop

Norm will be demonstrating an auto-collimation method of testing a Newtonian primary mirror optic finished or nearly finished the figuring process.  It is a null test and as such will be able to show when to STOP parabolizing by the straightness of the Ronchi lines used in the test.  He will also have a second auto-collimation test designed to test a complete scope’s optics.  Norm will have examples of a tester one can make easily, it replaces an eyepiece, that will allow using starlight to test your own scope in its mount.  Norm may also have a Foucault tester to demonstrate how it is done.

Biography:

Building and personally customizing your telescope provides personal enjoyment of a technical challenge, a method of personally customizing your telescope and can be an inexpensive way to obtain a useful telescope for many hours of viewing pleasure for you and your family.

Norm was introduced to amateur telescope making (ATMing) in 1965 after a presentation in the chemistry building of the University of Toronto and was hooked on telescope making ever since.  Over the years, he has made many scopes.  Some scopes are still unfinished, while some will never truly be finished as they can always be improved or modified.  Norm enjoys observing, but prefers to use his many talents making and testing telescopes.

Norm also enjoys bending or breaking those long standing guidelines and rules developed and shared over the decades among ATMers.  Why walk around a barrel?  Why not sit and use a lazy Susan to have the mirror and tool rotate?  Why must a tool be round?  In the early days, the tool had to be the same size and shape as the mirror blank.  Why?  Why not use grinding machines to do the work?  Thanks to John Dobson, aperture fever is curable or at least manageable and we are all better off for it.  So get out and make something that enhances your own experience.

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Andreas Gada

Andreas Gada

Lorenz Observatory Remote Imaging Demonstration

This spring the NYAA completed work to enable automated remote control of the Lorenz Observatory, located at Oak Heights, their dark sky observing site north east of Cobourg.  This observatory houses an Astro-Physics 130EDF Starfire telescope on a Mach 1 mount and is equipped with an SBIG ST8300 CCD camera.  The observatory is controlled over the internet using CCD Autopilot working with MaxIm, FocusMax, the Sky6, PinPoint, Digital Dome Works and other ancillary software.

In this presentation Andreas will describe the many challenges faced by the NYAA to make remote imaging possible and what was done to meet these challenges.  Weather permitting, a remote imaging session will be held to demonstrate how the automation works.

Biography:

Andreas is one of the founders, and a Past President of the North York Astronomical Association.  In 1982, he started Starfest, and was the head ‘honcho’ for twenty six years.  He is an avid astrophotographer and telescope maker who enjoys puttering in his machine shop.  He has built several telescopes and observatories over the years.

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Marshall McCall

Dr. Marshall McCall

Big Galaxies and the Big Places in which they Live

We inhabit a galaxy called the Milky Way.  Most of us think of this as being a big place.  By what standard?  In this talk, our spot on the extragalactic bigness scale is illuminated by exploring extragalactic smallness and working upwards.  In the process, our address in the Universe will be revealed, namely that we live on a planet around a star in a galaxy in the Local Group encompassed by the Council of Giants of the Local Sheet next to the Local Void at the periphery of the Local Supercluster of Laniakea in our corner of the Cosmic Web!

Biography:

Marshall McCall is an astronomer, Professor, and Chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at York University.  Born and raised in Victoria, B.C., he has been interested in space and astronomy since kindergarten, which is when his mother towed him into the night to see Sputnik.  His professional skills were initially honed as a gardener at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.  After acquiring a B.Sc. from the University of Victoria, he went on to graduate studies at The University of Texas at Austin, obtaining his Ph.D. in 1982.  He has spent most of his research life studying galaxies, their structure, evolution, and formation, and how they are organized.  His primary research adversary is interstellar dust, and he has spent a good deal of time uncovering what lies behind it, including two hitherto unknown galaxies in the backyard of the Milky Way as well as the Council of Giants surrounding us.

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Dr. Brian R. McNamara

Dr. Brian R. McNamara

A Year of Thrill and Heartbreak: Black Holes in 2016

Following a decades long search, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory’s (LIGO) discovery of gravitational waves emitted by the in-spiral and merger of a binary black hole system was announced in February.  At about the same time, the ASTRO-H/Hitomi Observatory was launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center on a long-anticipated mission to study black holes.  The LIGO observatory’s thrilling discovery is expected to open a new observational window on the dark Universe.  However, after one month of operation and following ground breaking observations of the Perseus Cluster, Hitomi spun out of control and has gone silent.  Dr. McNamara will discuss the results from both observatories, their implications for understanding stellar mass and supermassive black holes, and future prospects for black hole research.

Biography:

Dr. Brian McNamara is Professor and University Research Chair in Physics & Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, Canada.  He is Director of the Guelph-Waterloo Physics Institute, which is the largest graduate program in physics & astronomy in Canada and one of the largest in the world.  He is also affiliated with Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.  After receiving a PhD at the University of Virginia in 1991, McNamara took a postdoctoral fellowship at the Kapteyn Laboratory in Groningen, Netherlands.  From 1993-2000 McNamara was a staff member at the Chandra X-ray Center and Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.  In 2000, McNamara accepted a professorship at Ohio University, and in 2006 he took a professorship at Waterloo, where he remains today.  McNamara is known for his observational studies of galaxies and clusters of galaxies across the electromagnetic spectrum, and more recently for his studies of energetic feedback from supermassive black holes.

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Dr. John E. Moores

Dr. John E. Moores

The Solar System as a Local Laboratory

With the fly-by of the first Kuiper Belt object (and former planet) Pluto by the New Horizons spacecraft in July of 2015, a milestone in the initial reconnaissance of the solar system has been reached.  Over the past 64 years since the launch of the first interplanetary spacecraft, places that were once little more than points of light in the sky have become known worlds through the efforts of over 100 robotic explorers.  Yet, while we have moved into a new phase, our exploration of the Solar System is not complete.  Instead, the solar system is now our local laboratory: a way to understand the data we are obtaining from the menagerie of extrasolar planets.  By the time this talk takes place, Juno will have entered orbit around Jupiter and will answer fundamental questions about this giant planet, its structure, formation and evolution that have implications for its far-flung brethren.  While there may now be many more planets outside our solar system than within, for decades to come, these bodies will themselves remain no more than points of light in the sky unless we use our local laboratory to decode their meaning.

Biography:

After surviving a department-store telescope, John set off from St. John’s Newfoundland to Toronto to learn how to build spacecraft, obtaining a B.A.Sc. in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Toronto in 2003.  In the process he discovered that his real passion lay in exploring the science of other worlds.  This led him to join the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) in Tucson, AZ and it was there that he achieved a PhD in planetary science in 2008.  While at LPL, John participated in several space missions including the Huygens probe to Titan, and was a strategic science planner with the Phoenix Mission to the Martian arctic.  Currently, John studies Martian weather at York University as a Participating Scientist on the Mars Science Laboratory Mission (popularly known as the Curiosity Rover), but he has also been known to write papers about Lunar water, Plutonian methane and even Titanian fog.  He was also the creator of the Astronomy.fm program “Western Worlds” which interviewed planetary scientists from around the world and is still going strong after more than 4 years and 5 million listeners.  Most recently, John is the deputy director of the Technologies for Exo/Planetary Science NSERC CREATE Program.

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Norm Murray

Dr. Norman Murray

The Active Sun and its Effects on Earth

Sunlight makes life on Earth possible, provides us with almost all the food and energy we use, and has taught us most of what we know about stars.  But the sun produces other emanations that affect us in less obvious ways.  These include the solar wind, solar flares and the associated high energy particles, magnetic fields, and coronal mass ejections.  Subtle as they are, the first connections were made by Edward Sabine, using data taken from the Magnetic Observatory in Toronto; he concluded in 1852, correctly, that the “magnetic storms” seen on Earth were connected with magnetic phenomena on the sun.  I will show how all these phenomena are driven by the flux of energy from the conversion of hydrogen into helium in the sun’s core, via convection.

Biography:

Norman Murray is the Director of the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Toronto.  He got his bachelor’s at Caltech, where he did grunt work helping Bob Leighton build the ten meter radio dishes used at the Owens Valley Radio Observatory (and later the CARMA array) and the Caltech Submillimeter Observatory.  He obtained his Ph.D. in physics at Berkeley, spending a lot of time in the Berkeley Hills using a Celestron C5.  After postdoctoral positions at Queen Mary College, London, and then Caltech, he joined the faculty at CITA in 1993, where he has been ever since.

Murray works on a broad range of problems in astrophysics, including planetary dynamics, solar oscillations and magnetic fields, black holes and their effects on their host galaxies, and planet, star, and galaxy formation.  His best known work involves the effects of light on astrophysical fluids, including the ejection of the interstellar medium of galaxies by starbursts and black holes.  He has explained why the giant planets in our Solar System are chaotic, and why some hot Jupiters orbit their host stars in highly inclined or even retrograde orbits.  His work on helioseismology explained how turbulence excites solar oscillations, and how the turbulence scatters the resulting sound waves.  He also showed that magnetic fields alter the frequencies of the solar acoustic modes, and used that fact to infer the strength of the magnetic fields below the solar surface (it increases with increasing depth).

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Ian Nicklan

Ian Nicklin

Meteorites at the ROM

The Royal Ontario Museum has one of the finest collections of meteorites in the world.  They now have approximately 3,000 fragments of meteorites representing over 400 different meteorite finds/falls.  The ROM’s collection contains a higher percentage of the most rare types, such as their Martian shergottites, with over 23 specimens, making it one of the largest assemblages of such rocks in the world.

Biography:

Ian Nicklin has worked in the Earth Sciences at the Royal Ontario Museum for the past 35 years.  His primary responsibilities are for the care of the mineralogy, geology and meteorite collections.  Ian will tell us about the ROM’s important collection of meteorites and what they tell us about the formation of our solar system.

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Dr. Anthony J Noble

Dr. Anthony J. Noble

Understanding The Universe From A Hole In The Ground

Dr. Noble will discuss the SNO experiment, how it came to be, how it worked, and the results that were obtained that led, eventually, to the awarding of the 2015 Nobel prize in Physics to the director of SNO, and the 2016 Breakthrough Prize to the SNO collaboration.  He will also discuss the impact these findings have had on our understanding of basic physics and the structure and formation of the Universe.  Building on the tremendous success of the SNO solar neutrino experiment, Canada has since constructed SNOLAB, a new international facility for research into solar neutrinos, dark matter, supernovas, and neutrinoless double beta decay.  These experiments explore some of the most fundamental questions in physics, astronomy and cosmology today.  A brief overview of this research program will also be presented.

Biography:

Dr. Anthony Noble is a Professor of Physics at Queen’s University and has been working on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment since 1994.  He is the Associate Director of the experiment, and was the Director of the oversight body, the SNO Institute, for many years.  He joined Queen’s as a Canada Research Chair in astroparticle physics in 2002.  Since joining the SNO project in 1994 his main research interest has been in the field of astroparticle physics.  The SNO experiment resolved the thirty year old “solar neutrino problem” and in the process discovered some unusual properties of neutrinos that led to a new understanding of the formation and evolution of structure in the Universe.

Following the success of SNO, he helped with the design and construction of SNOLAB, a new international facility for underground physics.  He was the first Director of SNOLAB.  With the completion of SNO his interests have been focused on dark matter experiments at SNOLAB where he is participating in the DEAP-3600 liquid argon experiment, and the PICO experiment using superheated fluids.  These experiments aim to detect the mysterious dark matter that appears to dominate the matter budget of the Universe, but which has never been directly observed on Earth.  He has also performed numerous accelerator based experiments at TRIUMF, Brookhaven and CERN and he spent a sabbatical year working on the ANTARES high energy neutrino telescope located on the Mediterranean seabed.

Dr. Noble obtained a B.Sc. in Physics & Math from UNB, and an MSc and PhD (1990) in particle physics from UBC.  He then worked at CERN as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Zürich before accepting research scientist positions at the Centre for Research in Particle Physics in Ottawa and TRIUMF.  Now at Queen’s University he has been working with the astroparticle physics group there to develop a world class research team focused on the activities at SNOLAB.

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Brian O'Rouke

Brian O’Rourke

Go Small to get the Big Picture

Brian O’Rourke (aka Bino-Boy) will introduce you to what the sky has to offer with the use of binoculars.  Follow the “V” from Deneb and you can easily make out the North American Nebula without filters, just a pair of 10 x 50 binoculars.  Get to know the stellar neighbourhood surrounding your favourite deep sky objects.

Biography:

Brian has been active in astronomy for 17 years.  The first 2 years he used binoculars exclusively.  Although he’s acquired a couple of larger apertures since then, he still enjoys a reclining chair and a pair of binoculars.

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Wayne Parker

Wayne Parker

SkyShed POD MAX and The Starships Project (THESP)

Over 10,000 SkySheds are in use around the world.  If you are an astronomer and don’t own a SkyShed product, you most likely know a few who do.  Wayne will be discussing their highly anticipated POD MAX 12.5′ dome observatory which launched this Summer.  ( www.skyshedpodmax.com )

In addition Wayne will be speaking about “The Starships Project” ( www.starshipsproject.com ), a POD MAX crowd-funding program for Astronomy Clubs, Schools, Science Centers, Parks, and Communities.  “THESP” will enable those involved to finance a research-grade POD MAX for education and outreach.  Wayne will be showing and telling how you can become involved in creating an international “fleet” of “Starships”, operated by students and members of the public.

Biography:

Wayne Parker is the co-owner and designer of SkyShed Observatories, and the bass player in the Cdn band Glass Tiger.

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Dr. John Reaume

Dr. John Reaume

Solar Imaging and Processing

In this workshop participants will review the setup that John currently uses to capture solar images.  Topics will cover items such as timing to shoot the sun, orientation of the scope, camera settings, number of images (length of video) to take etc. Although there are many ways to approach image acquisition John will share what his current routine is and some of the common pitfalls that seem to crop up.

Next we will review the current workflow John uses to process the raw data to the final result.  This will involve using AutoStakkert to select the best images for alignment and stacking.  Using RegiStax6 to sharpen the image and finally Photoshop for final processing.  In Photoshop layers will be used to highlight the prominences and the solar disc separately and then combine them into a final image.  Also covered will be a technique to look at how multiple images can be used to form a mosaic image of the entire solar disc.  Finally, finishing touches like colorizing the final image will be reviewed.

Biography:

Dr. John Reaume has been an avid nature photographer for the past 28 years with over 700 published photos in magazines and books including cover shots on field guides such as the Birds of Ontario and Amphibians & Reptiles of Ontario published by the ROM.  His interest in Astrophotography began in 2011 and he enjoys the relatively dark skies (in between the clouds) near Holstein Ontario (not far from Starfest).  Hooked on the challenge of capturing images of the night sky he built a backyard observatory using a SkyShed Pod which has helped setting up during our rare clear nights.  Dr. Reaume enjoys a busy rural family practice in nearby Mount Forest where as an Assistant Clinical Professor associated with McMaster University he helps to teach the next generation of Family Medicine residents.

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Murray Romisher

Murray Romisher

Mallincam Observing

A number of years ago while looking through the eyepiece of his telescope Murray noticed that no matter how hard he tried, he could not focus the object properly.  A visit to his eye doctor confirmed he had an astigmatism in one eye.  It was about that same time he learned about Rock Mallin who developed a CCD video camera that would produce almost live images in colour within seconds on a monitor.  After much research Murray found and joined a Yahoo group dedicated to video astronomy that broadcasts live “Night Skies Network .ca”.

A common problem plaguing amateur astronomers is light pollution.  The need to have a dark sky in order to observe anything other than the moon and Planets was making it more difficult to observe regularly.  Through this method an eyepiece is not necessary.  You can observe everything while you are sitting in a comfortable chair, viewing objects on a monitor or laptop or Hi Def TV.  Images are fantastic and real-time.  You can go from one object to another in seconds, which means seeing many objects in colour in an evening.

I hope many of you join me on this heavenly adventure at Starfest, if the skies are clear I will be broadcasting Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at the new building across from the main tent.  Bring a chair if you wish!

Biography:

Murray has been interested in astronomy since he was a teenager and is a member of several astronomy clubs.  He has been involved with Mallincam video astronomy for 6 years.