Star Parties 2019

April 27th to September 7th

with support from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre and the Herzberg Astronomy and Astrophysics, National Research Council of Canada

Tickets Available at Eventbrite

Tickets can be cancelled by logging on to Eventbrite, viewing the ticket order, and clicking “Cancel Order”. But this only works on a desktop computer, and not on a mobile device.

(this site and the ticket sales site will be updated approximately monthly to make tickets and speaker schedules available for the next month)


Clear Sky Chart


Please refer to our Guide to the Centre of the Universe to find the activities listed below.

Children’s Programmes

7:45 – 8:00 p.m. “Out of this World” Interactive Presentation – Auditorium

8:00 – 8:15 p.m. “Stories in the Skies” – Planetarium

8:15 – 8:45 p.m. “Meet the Telescope” Tour – Plaskett Dome

8:45 – 9:30 p.m. Children’s Activities – Information Area

  • Make and Take Craft Tables

  • Family Scavenger Hunt

  • iPad Interactives

  • Night Sky Viewing


September 7th 2019 – 8:30 with live demo at 9:30

Simple Astrophotography: Getting Started

David Lee


Learn how to get started in astrophotography. Astrophotography can be a highly complex form of photography but you can get started photographing a number of astronomical objects and scenes with basic equipment. Methods for photographing the moon, constellations and nightscape shots with the Milky Way will be covered. Weather permitting a live demo will take place outside after the main presentation. You are encouraged to bring your camera and tripod for the live demo. Cameras capable of being operated manually work best. For more details please contact Centre of the Universe Information


David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

September 7th 2019 – in the Auditorium 9:30 only

Solving the Public’s Problems

Jason Beaman


Astronomy is a central piece of what it means to be human; we have a deep-seated curiosity about the unknown. And what is more unknown than the universe we call home? What is more alluring than thoughts of unraveling the universes’ many mysteries? From early calendars for planting crops, to calculating the positions of the planets and the curvature of spacetime. Astronomy began with humble beginnings and has slowly evolved into the science it is today. But is this the whole picture? The universe requires many different minds and tools to even begin to understand it. This creates a problem solving ability useful in many various fields, some not even related to astronomy.


I’m a graduate of the University of Victoria with an honours degree in Astrophysics and as a high school drop out, I’ve been told I came to astronomy by taking a less conventional path. This journey has been as humbling as the field I study, just as rewarding, and at times quite stressful. It has ignited a passion for academia as well as working with the public in scientific outreach. Being able to use the problem solving skills I’ve honed through years of study allows me to answer the questions posed by the public, as they are usually more fun than my research problems.

August 31st 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Machine Learning

Karun Thanjavur


Artificial intelligence (AI), specially Deep (Machine) Learning applications are already ubiquitous in everyday use, and have been called the second industrial revolution. Deep Learning algorithms, called Neural Networks, thrive on Big Data, the happy ‘problem’ we now face of enormous amounts of data available in this digital era. In astronomy too, telescopes will soon routinely produce terabytes of data every night. Piggybacked on the impressive recent advances in high performance computing, neural networks are trained on these available large datasets to then perform a variety of human-like tasks, such as realtime decision making, identifying subtle patterns in the data, forecasting and making recommendations based on experience, and so on. In this presentation I aim to provide an overview of this rapidly burgeoning field, explain in simple terms the construction and working of a neural net, and illustrate these principles with a working model.


As a research astronomer, I am excited by the availability of huge public datasets, which I may harness for my own research questions using the proper data analysis tools. Given the enormous data volume, I have recently begun harnessing the powerful techniques of deep learning to tease out complex correlations and thus illustrate the underlying physical principles. These science explorations of the Universe, coupled with the equally fascinating world of Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, come after a full career as a mechanical engineer, specializing in control systems and robotics. Born and raised in Cuddalore, a small town in South India, I completed my education up to a bachelor’s degree in engineering there, before moving to Canada to pursue graduate studies first in Robotics, and later in Astrophysics. Even though undergraduate teaching is the principal focus of my current position as a senior astronomy lab instructor at UVic, I work hard to keep my research interests alive. I also enjoy sharing the excitement of science and my research efforts with the public through many outreach initiatives.

August 24th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Unknown Moons of the Solar System

Jose Rodriguez


Moons come in many shapes, sizes and types. There are over hundreds of moons in our solar system but only a little over 30 moons are well-known. We are going to explore moons that you might not have heard of before. 


Jose is a 10 year old with a Cuban background who was born in Vancouver, BC. His interest in astronomy started at the very young age of 5 when he started reading astronomy text books, magazines, following space news and watching documentaries. At the age of 7 he was invited to audit Astronomy 101 course at the University of Victoria. In addition to astronomy Jose is also interested in biology, geography, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Even though his peers have just finished grade 4 Jose is working on finishing Pre-Calculus 12 and Science 10. He also speaks four languages; English, French, Spanish and Russian. 

Jose’s main goal is to transfer his knowledge to others and, with that in mind, he has created a Youtube channel called Making Math Easy where he teaches various science topics. His love for science and his academic achievements has been recognized by local news like CTV News Vancouver Island and the University of Victoria’s newspaper the Martlet, where they portray him as “A Brilliant Boy” and “Victoria’s very own child prodigy”. 

August 17th 2019 – 8:30 with live demo at 9:30

Apollo in the Age of Aquarius

Dr. Dennis Crabtree


If you didn’t get enough of ’60s nostalgia during our lunar landing anniversary celebrations in July come and see a reprise of Apollo in the Age of Aquarius.

August 10th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

Space and Storytelling

Ria Voras


Novelist Ria Voros will talk about how she came to write a story about an astronomy-obsessed teenager and why space science lends itself so well to exploring human relationships. 


Ria Voros is an author whose latest novel, The Centre of the Universe, explores a teen’s passion for astronomy as well as the relationship between mothers and daughters. Ria has an MFA in creative writing from UBC and her books have been nominated for several awards across the country. She writes, teaches and lives in Victoria.

August 3rd 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

From Baby Planets to Black Holes:  ALMA Explores the Cold Universe

Dr. Gerald Schieven


The ALMA Observatory is a billion dollar multi-national astronomy facility located at high elevation in the Atacama desert of northern Chile.  Its 66 antennas work together as if one giant telescope 16 km in diameter, to give us unprecedented images of the cold, dark universe, including the birth of planets around other stars, organic molecules in the early universe, and the first image of the event horizon of the super-massive black hole at the centre of the M87 galaxy.  Gerald will talk about the observatory, what it’s like to work there, and some of the astonishing discoveries being made by this facility.


Gerald Schieven has been a staff astronomer at NRC – Herzberg for 11 years,and is responsible for managing Canada’s support of the ALMA Observatory. After obtaining his PhD in Astronomy at the University of Massachusetts, Gerald worked at Queen’s University in Kingston, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in Penticton, and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope in Hawaii before moving to Victoria.

July 27th 2019 – 8:30pm to 10:45pm

Through the Knowledge Network: Space Suite IV and Space Suite Apollo

Producers – Imagine Create Media

Space Suite Apollo and Space Suite IV were commissioned by Knowledge Network and produced and directed by Eric Hogan and Tara Hungerford of Imagine Create Media, in consultation with Dr. Jaymie Matthews.

Space Suite IV

A series of 10 short films that explore the infinite wonders of our universe and our interactions with the cosmos.

Space Suite Apollo

Trace the history of NASA’s Lunar missions from Mercury to Gemini, to the Apollo Missions that ultimately landed a man on the moon. Set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Space Suite Apollo gives viewers an unflinching look at the raw footage that continues to capture the world’s imagination.

July 20th 2019 – 7:45pm to 10:45pm

The Apollo 11 Moonwalk

Dr. Chris Gainor


This presentation will show the entire Apollo 11 moonwalk as it was televised on the evening of July 20, 1969, along with descriptive slides. Chris Gainor will discuss the flight of Apollo 11, the symbolic aspects of the first walk on another celestial body, and the scientific work carried out by astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the lunar surface. The presentation will begin shortly before 8 p.m., just as it did in real time in 1969, and will continue for the two hours and 40 minutes of this historic event.


Chris Gainor is a historian specializing in the history of space flight and aeronautics. He has five published books and is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

July 13th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

“Explore the Moon: My 50-Year, 30-Year, and 1-Year Projects”

Randy Enkin


In 1969, at age 8, the Apollo missions motivated me to become an astronomer. Very quickly I mastered the subject, but then over the following 50 years I mostly found out how little I know.  In this presentation, I will present my 30-year time series of lunar phase observations, and my lunar sketches from the past year which earned me the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada “Explore the Moon Observing Certificate” ( And you will be introduced to “Enkin’s Daily Moon” (, where images of the moon explore “the passage of time, illumination, the feminine, and world unity”. 


Randy Enkin did not become a professional astronomer.  He is a Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of Canada, working on earthquakes. He is an enthusiastic member of the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

July 6th 2019 – 8:30pm repeats at 9:30pm

The Voyages of Apollo

Dr. Philip Stooke


A summary of the Apollo Program including its origins, steps along the way to the Moon, the choice of landing sites and a pictorial look at each mission.  


Phil Stooke is a planetary scientist and cartographer with a PhD from UVic.  He taught in the Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration at Western University in London, Ontario until his recent retirement.  He has published The International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and similar books on Mars, and is currently revising his lunar atlas.

June 29th 2019 8:30 and 9:30

Astronomy at Shawnigan Lake School

Nigel Mayes


Shawnigan Lake School is a co-educational independent boarding school located on Vancouver Island. The donation of telescopes and a mount to the school brought with it several opportunities including student participation in the Pacific Astronomy and Engineering Summit in Hilo Hawaii and the eventual construction of a campus observatory. Over the last five years, Nigel has constructed, debugged and automated the observatory. The facility is used to support curricular goals in both science and art. Special events such as eclipses and transits have brought 500 or more guests to the campus and the observatory. This has become a meaningful way in which he school connects with its community. Recently, full automation has enabled long unattended observing runs on clear nights. Student artwork created from this data is breathtaking. Future development includes supporting student research and contributing to collaborative research projects.

The presentation will touch on observatory automation and the main goals of the observatory that include: supporting the science curriculum, supporting student research and imaging projects, hosting community events, hosting the Cowichan Valley Starfinders.


Nigel Mayes is a chemistry and robotics teacher at Shawnigan Lake School. In his 18 year career at the school he has been involved in many projects that have either supported staff or added to the student experience. He is passionate about the outdoors and he loves mountain biking, kayaking and backcountry skiing. Astronomy is a relatively new endeavor for Nigel and he is becoming a self-taught enthusiast.

June 22nd - The Co-evolution of Planets and Life

Dorothy H. Paul, PhD

Abstract: Planets, like people, have finite lifespans. Planets’ lifespans are set at ‘birth’ by the mass of their sun, whereas human longevity is variable because it derives from two interacting factors, genetics (~9% contribution) and assorted external variables.  How each changes with age is also partially understood, and for planets is influenced by whether or not they harbor life, a conclusion drawn from what we’ve learned so far by studying the only known planet with life!  We need a larger sample size before we can begin to answer the age-old questions: Why do we reside on the 3rd of the four rocky planets of the solar system? Did terrestrial life originate here? Does (or did) life exist on any of our neighbours? If so, is (or was) it genetically related to us?  Recent data from several lines of research are deepening our understanding of the earliest stages in Earth’s evolution and the appearance of life.  I will highlight some of these in the context of what we might find when searching for signs of life on other planets, and how (or whether) we might recognize them.  

Bio: Dorothy Paul is a biologist and amateur astronomer. Prior to retirement from the University of Victoria, her research was in neuroscience and evolutionary neurobiology. She now spends much of her time in pursuing and sharing her interests in biology and astronomy, and when possible, with her telescope under dark skies, hunting down distant objects in and beyond our Milky Way galaxy.  

June 15th - Beyond the 30 Second Barrier – Astrophotography with Star Trackers

David Lee

Abstract: Simple astrophotography can be accomplished with short exposures up to 30 seconds on tripods. However exposures without star trailing are usually accomplished using extreme wide-angle lenses where the motion is not readily noticeable at these exposures.

Getting beyond the 30 second barrier and using longer lenses will afford the astrophotographer images of star clusters such as the Pleiades and beautiful nebula such as the North America, Orion, and Rosette Nebulae. Exposures of up to several minutes are possible allowing for more advanced processing techniques and superior detail.

Bio: David Lee is an avid photographer who over 20 years ago turned his camera upwards to the sky capturing astronomical images of the solar system and beyond. Through the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada he has been an advocate of astronomy and the sciences through its public outreach programs. After retiring from the Information Technology sector he is becoming even more of a tourist of the night sky.

June 8th - The Bigger the Better

Lauri Roche and RASC Victoria Centre Members

Abstract: Join us for a presentation on how the telescope developed from the early days of optical astronomy. Learn about how they work and what they are good at. There will be plenty of time for hands on demonstrations of modern examples of the telescope such as refractors, Dobsonian Newtonians and Schmidt-Cassegrains.

RASC Victoria Centre is part of a national organization (The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) that is dedicated to public outreach in the sciences with an emphasis on astronomy.

Lauri Roche is a nationally recognized Astronomy educator. She is a long-standing member of the RASC and a member of the Board of Directors of FDAO.