More Seats Available in Physics 251

If you tried to register for Physics 251: Introductory Astronomy I back in July but found it was full, despair not! We have enlarged the class size to accommodate the wait list and there are still places available. The course runs in the evenings, Tuesdays & Thursdays from 7:00-8:30 PM with a lab/field observations Thursdays from 8:30-10:00 PM.

In this course, you’ll learn: why the stars, Sun, and Moon appear to move the way they do; how the solar system formed; why the planets move the way they do; why there are different types of planets (and which ones might house life other than Earth!); and how humankind has learned all that we have about our solar system. We’ll learn this using only basic mathematics and try to have fun with the topics.

You can find the calendar description here. If you’re on Twitter, search #phys251 and check out some of the discussion from last year’s course.

International Observe the Moon Night

InOMN logo-transparentSaturday, September 6, 2014 is International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN). This annual event was created by a partnership of scientists, educators, and amateur astronomers from around the world to encourage a sense of wonderment and curiosity about Earth’s Moon. InOMN events will be held all around the world.

We will host a Moon observation event from 8:00-10:00PM that we encourage all to attend. Volunteers from the Physics Department and Charlottetown RASC will teach you about the Moon, help you identify some of the Moon’s features, and show you stunning telescope views of the lunar surface.

As with all our viewings, this event is weather dependent. Updates will be posted here in the event of cancellation, but as a general rule if you can’t see the Moon because of clouds, our telescope won’t be able to see it either.

To attend this event, meet in Memorial Hall room 417 (suggested parking lots: ‘B’ or ‘C’ on campus map). This room can be reached by the stairs or the elevator. To go up to our observatory, it is necessary to climb the stairs one floor plus up into the dome. However, for this event we hope to also have some binocular and small telescope viewing from ground level which will be accessible to any guests with mobility issues.

UPDATE: August 9th/10th Viewing Cancelled

UPDATED: The sky is no clearer today than it was yesterday and the clouds don’t look like they’ll be moving out at all tonight, so we have to cancel the for tonight, Sunday, August 10.

Although it’s great that we’re getting some more rain to help our farmers’ dry fields, it’s unfortunate that it had to come on the one weekend we had our viewing scheduled!

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Everyone is welcome to attend public viewings.  To do so, meet in Memorial Hall in room 417 and you will be guided up to the observatory when it is available.  It is necessary to climb the stairs one floor up to the observatory, however the elevator can be taken up to the 4th floor before doing so.

Public viewings are co-hosted by the UPEI Physics Department and the Charlottetown Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).

Meteorite Identification

Every once in a while, the physics department get contacted to see if we can help someone identify a possible meteorite on PEI. I’m putting this post up on our site for reference for the next time someone asks. While I’m interested in Geology and rocks, I am by no means an expert myself.  A geologist is trained in rock type identification, but UPEI doesn’t currently have a geologist as part of its staff or faculty. An astronomer or astrophysicist may also learn how to distinguish between rocks and meteorite fragments (asteroids when in space, meteorites when they land on earth).

There are about 50,000 identified meteorites on Earth right now, most pebble to fist-sized, but most asteroids heat up, fragment and then break into very tiny pieces in the Earth’s atmosphere. Many, many thousands of tons (amount varies depending on source) of material from space lands on the Earth each year, but most of it is in “dust” size or microscopic. Luckily for people and animals, larger asteroids hitting the Earth are more rare and can cause serious damage when they hit. (Source = NASA).

There must be huge numbers of meteorite fragments that are unidentified in the world, but the problem is in both finding it AND recognizing it.

To my knowledge, there’s never been a meteorite found and identified on PEI, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. There’s been quite a few people that have found small to larger pieces of plant fossils on PEI (can be dark brown to black, shiny, with grooves and curved ridges) or smaller dark heavier pieces of rocks that are magnetic to some degree.  Most commonly, both types are due to minerals forming in a depression and then being weathered later.  E.g. hematite or magnetite — these can attract magnets.

Good sites with a fair number of pictures of meteorites and non-meteorites as well as tests you can perform at home to determine if you’ve found a meteorite can be found are:

  1. Geology.com (nice overview of both identification but also many other aspects of meteorites.)
  2. MeteoriteIdentification.com(some information about tests, good pictures about results, some dead links but an excellent youtube video interview with Randy L. Korotev that gives a lot of examples and close-ups)
  3. Aerolite Meteorites (sell meteorites and have some nice pictures for comparison).

The problem with doing a google search for meteorites and then saying “that looks like my find!” from the images is that people upload pictures of what they think are meteorites and identify them as such, so you will see examples of “meteorite-wrongs” in there as well.

If you like meteorite hunting, rock hunting, fossil hunting or just exploring, keep going, but realize that the surface sandstone rocks of PEI back to the Permian era (about 250-300 million years ago) so the land you’re walking on pre-dates dinosaurs!  (Sources: ROM and Paleontology Portal). Fossils from smaller animals are also harder to identify, so you’re more likely to find some plant fossils, trackways from early reptiles, etc than a meteorite or animal fossil on PEI.

  • Matt Stimson and Danielle Horne found a great trackway in 2013 and their find, with an excellent picture was written up by the CBC.
  • A CBC news article on the fireball seen March 18, 2014 over the Maritimes and parts of Quebec, gives description of the siting and says the the only confirmed Maritime-found meteorite was found in New Brunswick, in 1949.

Good luck and have fun searching!

Lisa Steele

July 12/13 Viewing — Canceled

UPDATE July 9th: Due to a couple different factors, we are canceling the viewing set for this weekend.  We apologize for any inconvenience.


The next public viewing is scheduled for Saturday, July 12 from 9:45-11:00PM. If the weather is unsuitable on that date, we will try to re-schedule the viewing on Sunday, July 13 at the same time.

This viewing is scheduled at a later hour and with a shorter duration because the sun is setting quite late as we have recently passed the summer solstice.

Everyone is welcome to attend public viewings.  To do so, meet in Memorial Hall in room 417 and you will be guided up to the observatory when it is available.  It is necessary to climb the stairs one floor up to the observatory, however the elevator can be taken up to the 4th floor before doing so.

Public viewings are co-hosted by the UPEI Physics Department and the Charlottetown Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).