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Venus, Mercury, the Moon, Mars in Evening Sky

(January 16)

Comet Lovejoy (C/2014-Q2) continues to shine high up in the evening sky. It's clearly visible using binoculars even from within Richmond Hill and shows up in simple photographs. It should remain visible till the beginning of February.

I recommend downloading free starcharts from Skymaps.com and from Sky and Telescope magazine to help you find the comet.

This week (Jan.16-23) there is an excellent opportunity (weather permitting) to see the elusive planet Mercury. About 45 minutes after sunset, look for a brilliant white "star" low (~20 degrees) above the South-West horizon... that will be the planet Venus. (But watch for a few minutes to be sure you are not just looking at an airplane landing at Pearson Airport!) Mercury will be the next brightest star in this same part of the sky, to the right of Venus. And on Jan.21, look for the very young crescent Moon (1.6 days old) joining the scene.

Refer to the two star charts I've provided below and the all-sky star-chart above from SkyMaps to help you find your way around the sky. A pair of binoculars will also give you a much better view. But don't expect to see any of the planets looking like a disk... you'll need a good telescope at ~100x or more for this. Mars is also up in the evening sky. But it is now almost as far from the Earth as it can get and so looks rather faint; and even in a large telescope, it looks tiny!. Similarly, although I show Neptune in one of my starcharts, this is definitely too faint to see unless you are using a telescope (where it always looks tiny).

For those interested in photographing Venus and Mercury, put your camera on a tripod and compose your picture with a bit of horizon in the view and even some distant city lights to help your camera focus. Make sure there are no tree branches or nearby tall grass in the camera's view, or your camera might be fooled into focusing too close. (You want your camera to focus at infinity.) Your camera will likely be able to get a good exposure, as the sky will likely not be completely dark before 6:30 pm. But expect the exposure to last a second or more.

Wishing everyone clear (and warm) skies!

--Ian Shelton, DDOD's Chair & Resident Astronomer

The David Dunlap Observatory lies nestled in the heart of Richmond Hill, Ontario, a city of 200,000 just north of Canada's largest city, Toronto. The 190-acre oasis of mature forests, pastures and springs is home to two distinct deer herds and an abundance of other wildlife, including a coyote pack, foxes, voles, rabbits, honey bees, many species of butterflies, and birds including hawks, owls, doves, crows and songbirds. The property represents the last and largest urban open green space in southern Richmond Hill.


Originally deeded to the University of Toronto by the philanthropist Jessie Donalda Dunlap in memory of her husband David, the Dunlap Observatory opened on May 31st, 1935. Its magnificent 74-inch telescope was the second largest in the world at that time and has been used through seven decades to conduct much groundbreaking research, including the discovery of the first known black hole, Cygnus X-1.

In 2007, the University of Toronto wrested control of the land from Jessie Dunlap's heirs through a protracted legal case spanning 4 years. They then broke the public covenant that the land would remain a park and a research and outreach centre in perpetuity by selling the property to a developer intent on replacing most of the greenspace with hundreds of houses.

The DDO Defenders have been working hard to represent the public and inform all levels of government about what will be lost if the developer is allowed to proceed.


On April 12th, 2012, after six long and anxiety-ridden months of Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) mandated mediation following a four year hard-fought and very public battle, an agreement was reached in March between the mediation parties to the David Dunlap Observatory Lands OMB case.

Minutes of Settlement were drawn up for signing by all parties to the mediation -- the landowner, Corsica Development Inc. (a subsidiary of MetrusDevelopments Inc.), the Town of Richmond Hill, the Region of York, the Toronto and Area Conservation Authority (TRCA), and the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders (DDO Defenders) Inc. This historic document was ratified by Richmond Hill Town Council on Thursday, April 12th. All mediation parties had been sworn to absolute secrecy under a strict gag order until Council signed off on the agreement, but now the silence has finally been broken and the details of the settlement agreement can be made public. (read more)

For further information or to offer support, please contact:

Ian Shelton - Chair, DDO Defenders Inc.
sn87a@hotmail.com or (905) 762-0072

The Minutes of Settlement is posted at the Town of Richmond Hill - DDO webpage.


Please support our Community Advocacy

The DDO Defenders are deeply committed to preserving the David Dunlap Observatory, surrounding Lands and the Dunlap Legacy. Our mandate is to ensure that the campus continues to operate as a world-class astronomical and astrophysical research facility and a centre of excellence in public Outreach, Education and Experiential Learning regarding all aspects of Science and the Natural World.

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DDO Defenders
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Canada L4B 4H9.

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