The weather on Mayne Island last weekend couldn’t have been much better for astronomy: clear skies and no wind. I was over on the island to give a lecture for the Mayne Island Conservancy Society, on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Despite changing venues to the Mayne Island School field, to accommodate a wedding at Dinner Bay Park, the event was well attended. Helen, from the Conservancy, did a good job getting the word out. Going back to the place I grew up in to give a lecture on science was a good experience.
I chose as a subject for the lecture the possibility of intelligent life in our own galaxy, using the Drake Equation as a jumping off point. As far as cosmology goes, the Drake Equation is about as wild a guess as any equation is capable of being. As a jumping off point, the lecture was more about all of the things that make life as we know it possible that aren’t covered in the Drake Equation. The of chemical, geological, biological, and factors of the state of the solar system would require additional equations added to the Drake Equations, which in the end would still only make it a bigger wild guess. The best use of the Drake Equation is to promote conversation, in this case about everything from the distances stars would need to be from each other for a binary system to be stable enough for life to evolve to the possibility that the WOW signal already received by SETI is the genuine article.
After the lecture, it was time to align my telescope to the night sky and settle in for an evening of astronomy with the public. Having the Perseid Meteor Shower at its height that night was especially helpful to give people something to look at while waiting their turn to look through the telescope’s eyepiece. The Moon didn’t rise until after 1am, so the sky was ideal for deep space viewing. The only downside to the evening’s stargazing was that the school maintenance worker was off island and unavailable to turn off one particularly bright light. Still, there were some islanders who stayed around until well after midnight to take in the sights, either through the telescope or learning to find the Andromeda Galaxy through a pair of binoculars. Afterwards, I drove to the east coast of Mayne Island, to get a better view of the Pleiades and Jupiter rising above Georgeson Island, in Bennett Bay.
Picture above is the Moon and Jupiter (at 2 O’Clock from the Moon) rising over Georgeson Island.