Mississauga Councillor Chris Fonseca Supports Local Planetarium Project

Chris Fonseca Councillor, Ward 3

City of Mississauga

300 City Centre Drive MISSISSAUGA ON L5B 3C1


To whom it may concern:

Re: Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization

It is my pleasure to write this letter of support for Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization and support them in their quest to raise $100,000 to build a top-of-the-line modern digital planetarium in Mississauga.

As a non-profit charitable organization, the Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization (EASSO) develops and runs astronomy education and public outreach activities in Mississauga and the western Greater Toronto Area and is an asset to the community.

I have known Randy Attwood, the President of this organization, for approximately four years and support him in his campaign to promote astronomy and space science education.


Chris Fonseca

Councillor, Ward 3 City of Mississauga



Fonseca letter.jpg

Mississauga News promotes Mississauga Planetarium Project


MISSISSAUGA — A Mississauga organization that works to provide educational programs to residents about astronomy and the wonders of space has started a crowd funding campaign with the goal of raising $100,000 to purchase a portable, digital planetarium for the city.

Randy Attwood, president of the Earthshine Astronomy and Space Science Organization, started the campaign at indiegogo.com in hopes that the community will step up and help fund the purchase of the planetarium. After that, they'd like to establish a home for the facility.

"We think the time is right to start down the road to getting a planetarium," said Attwood. "We're starting out small to prove there's interest out there for something like this."

The portable planetarium is inflatable and could hold about 30-40 people. The projector inside would project a representation of the night sky and, as Attwood said, "transport the viewer on a virtual trip through the solar system."

It would have both educational and entertainment purposes.

Earthshine has worked with the Mississauga branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada to run various public astronomy programs for a decade and frequently hosts night viewings at Riverwood Park. Attwood said they often get between 200 and 250 people out to their events and there's considerable interest from the community about astronomy and space.

If the planetarium plan comes to fruition, they hope to provide programming for schools, students, families, individuals and community groups.

As of Thursday (Oct. 3) afternoon, $1,000 had been raised through the website. To donate, or to find out more, visit Indiegogo Planetarium Fundraising Campaign.

The campaign continues until Nov. 22. The planetarium is expected to cost about $60,000 with the remainder to be used for programming, content creation, operations and marketing.

Attwood is hopeful that community members who wistfully remember trips to the now defunct McLaughlin Planetarium in Toronto during their youth will pony up a bit of dough to bring a planetarium to Mississauga.

"We've been thinking of ways to fund (a planetarium) for awhile and I'm optimistic we'll be able to do it through Indiegogo," said Attwood.




Comet ISON passes Mars on its way to the Inner Solar System

By the end of November, everyone will be talking about Comet ISON. By then the comet will be rounding the Sun, a mere 1 million kilometres above its fiery surface!  

This week, it passed relatively close to the planet Mars. (just 10 million km) Spacecraft orbiting the planet and on its surface were scheduled to take pictures - some are just being released. 


On November 30, the comet reaches its closest point to the Sun. Astronomers are unsure if the comet will survive such a close pass - it may break up into several mini-comets.  If it does survive it may appear as a comet visible to the unaided eye (ie. without binoculars or telescope) in the eastern sky just before dawn (see diagram below) 

Comets are somewhat fickle - there were predictions a year ago when ISON was discovered that this could be a "Comet of the Century" - ie. a very bright comet. These predictions have waned somewhat - it may be a rather bright comet. We are still unsure.

Never the less, those interested in seeing the comet should be prepared to take a trip out of the city into a dark rural area during the first week in December to get a view of a potentially spectacular comet.   Be sure to use binoculars if you have them. 

Stay tuned to this blog for updates on Comet ISON. 

 Courtesy Sky and Telescope Magazine   

Courtesy Sky and Telescope Magazine


Where is Asteroid Mississauga?

Asteroid 223950 was discovered in 2004 and was renamed Mississauga in 2009.   

 Asteroid 223950 Mississauga appears as a very faint star (in the red circle).   

Asteroid 223950 Mississauga appears as a very faint star (in the red circle).


Here is a report on the naming of Asteroid Mississauga in the Mississauga News

On October 1  2013, Asteroid Mississauga appears above the red star Antares in the constellation Scorpius. Note the planet Venus just to the right (west). Scorpius is very low in the west just after sunset. 

Today, asteroid Mississauga is 3.75 astronomical units or 562.5 million kilometres away from the Earth. It is actually closer to the Sun than the Earth today - its distance to the Sun is 3.418 astronomical units or 512.7 million kilometres. Asteroid Mississauga orbits the Sun in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and takes 5.82 Earth years to orbit the Sun once.   

Asteroid Mississauga is most likely not very big - only a few kilometres in diameter. So it could easily fit in downtown Mississauga - if it was placed at Square One, it would just fit in between Mavis and Cawthra Roads.  

How easy is it to spot? Asteroids do not reflect a lot of light - the surface of an asteroid is very "Moon-like" and reflects about as much light as asphalt. So a body 3-4 kilometres in size at a distance of half a billion kilometres is going to be very dim. Only a large telescope will show the asteroid - which appears as a faint star in photographs. How do we know that this is the asteroid? Photographs taken on subsequent days shows the 'star' moving against the background stars. 

The NASA JPL Small Body web site   shows the position of Asteroid Mississauga in the solar system on any date. It also provides up to date information on the asteroid's orbit parameters and the last time its position was checked.

Earthshine educators have developed a resource package for teachers who wish to share information about Asteroid Mississauga with their students.  It can be found on the Earthshine Education page.

The new Mississauga planetarium will be able to provide interactive, realistic views of all the objects in the solar system - planets, moons, comets and asteroids. We may even be able to visit asteroid Mississauga and see what it would be like to stand on its surface! 

The position of Asteroid Mississauga on October 1, 2013. 

 Credit: Starry Night/Simulation Curriculum

Credit: Starry Night/Simulation Curriculum

 Credit NASA/JPL


The June 2012 Transit of Venus in Mississauga

As Earthshine runs its fundraising campaign to bring a planetarium to Mississauga, we will review some of the highlights of the public astronomy program run in Mississauga over the past few years.

 Randy Attwood

Randy Attwood

On June 5, 2012 the planet Venus passed directly between the Earth and the Sun. This resulted in a rare transit (a mini-eclipse). These events are so rare that many famous astronomers who lived during the 20th century never saw one. Recent Venus transits took place in 2004 and 2012 - and before that, in 1874 and 1882.  They come in pairs, 8 years apart with over 100 year periods in between these transit pairs.

Members of the Mississauga Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada partnered with the University of Toronto at Mississauga to provide telescopes for members of the public to view the transit. These telescopes were equipped with special filters which allowed only a small amount of sunlight to reach the optics, thus making viewing totally safe. 

 Val Connery

Val Connery

Although the weather on June 5 was very cloudy, the skies completely cleared by 5:00 pm, just in time for the beginning of the transit. At 6:09, the limb of Venus was visible moving onto the face of the Sun.   We were able to watch Venus slowly move across the face of the Sun until sunset just before 9:00.

Over 1,000 people came out to witness this rare event.  Another memorable public outreach moment for the RASC.

 Randy Attwood

Randy Attwood

What causes the seasons?

Our fundraising campaign to bring a planetarium to the western GTA is running on Indiegogo. We have posted a video about Eddie who is working on a Science Fair project to explain why we have seasons.  


There is a misconception out there that the distance of the Earth to the Sun results in our seasons. This is not true. The Earth's distance does vary during the year.  The Earth is actually a little closer to the Sun in January than in July - by about 3%. This is too little to really affect our weather. 

The major cause of our seasons is due to the tilt of the Earth's axis with respect to its orbit. The tilt is 23.5 degrees from vertical. As a result, the northern hemisphere is tilted towards the Sun in the summer months - the Sun appears higher in the sky, the days are longer and the heat from the Sun is more concentrated in the north. Six months later, the northern hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun. The Sun is lower in the sky, the days are shorter and less heat is concentrated in the north.

The seasons in the southern hemisphere are the opposite - they have summer at Christmas and winter in June and July. As for the equator - it is pretty well hot all the time!

 Credit: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/

Credit: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/

How would a planetarium have helped Eddie? FIrst, he would have been able to discuss the problem with experts. Second, a planetarium can show the changing positions and altitude of the Sun in the sky - the reason we have seasons.  

Below we have posted a good video which helps to explain why we have seasons - thanks to TED ED and Rebecca Kaplan for this. 

View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/reasons-for-the-seasons-rebecca-kaplan Why do some regions experience full-time heat while others are reckoning with frigid temperatures and snow? And why are the seasons reversed in the two hemispheres? Rebecca Kaplan explains how the shape of the Earth's orbit around the Sun and the Earth's tilt on its axis affect the amount of sunlight each region receives.