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"SUMMER OF THE PLANETS" TAKING SHAPE IN THE PRE-DAWN SKY

(2018-04-21)

This summer will provide an excellent opportunity to see the three bright planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Reddish tinted Mars is now steadily getting brighter as it swings nearer to the Earth and is already almost twice as bright (V=-0.17) as Saturn. By July 4th, it will have become seven times brighter and surpassing Jupiter in brightness (V=-2.3). It continues to brighten until July 31st when Mars passes at its closest distance from Earth since 2003, a mere 57 million km away(!).

Right now, you can watch these three planets in the early morning sky. Click on the graphic above to see a full resolution animation of where the three planets and the Moon will be each morning from April 21st to May 15th at 5 am EDT. You'll see Mars is steadily moving each morning a little bit further to the east (with respect to the stars). But on July 1st, it changes direction and starts heading west (the start of its "retrograde motion").

For those who don't like to get up early, Venus is now easily visible as a brilliant white star shining high above the western horizon as soon as the sky starts to get dark after sunset. It's currently on the oppostite side of the Sun and so looks pretty tiny when viewed through a telescope right now. But a modest size scope working at ~50x or higher should be able to show you the planet's disk, which won't look quite round. (Venus displays phases just like our Moon as it orbits the Sun and is currently in its "waning gibbous" phase.) It is slowly rising a bit higher in the sky each night and will appear furthest away from the Sun at the end of June, when the planet Mercury will come join it in the evening sky.

Venus currently sets at around 10:00 pm EDT. If you are outside at that time or later and the sky is clear, turn to look towards the eastern horizon to see Jupiter rising in that part of the sky. It can't match Venus in brightness, but Jupiter will still be outshining any other star-like object in that part of the sky. And even a small telescope should have no problem showing you the four big moons that orbit about our Solar System's biggest planet.

We are planning activities to help the public get good views of the planets this spring and summer, both by eye and through a telescope, including the David Dunlap Observatory's huge 74-inch telescope!

Wishing everyone clear skies,

--Ian Shelton, DDOD Chair

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. In 2007, the 190-acre oasis of mature forests, pastures and springs was 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 represented 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 proving the existence 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 many hundreds of houses.

The DDO Defenders have been working hard since 2007 to represent the public and inform all levels of government about what would and now has been lost as 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 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 Metrus Developments Inc., now known as 'DG Group'), 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
240 Bantry Avenue
Richmond Hill, ON
Canada L4B 4H9.

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