Astronomy at a Time of Pandemic

Since the outbreak of a new respiratory disease was first reported from Wuhan on 31 December 2019 the world has been beset with the effects of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Everyone is now regrouping, and if you have any concern at all for other people, you are taking on the social distancing model, restricting your voluntary travel, and following all the recommendations about sanitation, hand-washing, and keeping in touch with others who may have a hard time staying in for a while.

I can only extend my very best wishes to you in this difficult time, and hope that you are able to see this as an opportunity to regroup, look at everything afresh, and embrace positivity in this very difficult time.

As we are being encouraged to take things easy and stay inside, a bit of positive news is that it’s possible to do some interesting astronomy – and always learn more – on-line. In terms of connectivity we’ve never been in better shape to weather this storm by using the information tools now available.

In the coming weeks I will be looking into astronomy from the kitchen table once again. While our physical site on the shore of Lake Huron south of Kincardine remains closed up for the cold weather, Pine River Observatory will be working on what a “virtual observatory” can do.

Andrea 20200321 Lurgan Beach 2

The Ontario shore of Lake Huron looks west-north-west at Lurgan Beach, the site of Pine River Observatory’s physical base of operation. As of 21 March 2020 it’s still a pretty cold place! Photo by Andrea Becker of Toronto, ON.


Long Time, No Posts

I suppose it’s not really news to anyone, but I haven’t posted in a while. Too many reasons to try to explain it. I thought though that a note of acknowledgement was long over due. This blog has been by no means forgotten. To bring it back to life I need to do some homework. Stay tuned. Or not. Happy New Year!

A Visit to Meteor Crater

Five years ago today I visited one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. It was the first crater on the surface of the earth unequivocally linked to an asteroid impact, and it’s billed as the best-preserved, too. And it’s big. Approximately 800 meters across. And it’s fairly old on our terms – about 50,000 years.

Located in north-central Arizona, Meteor Crater, also known as the Barringer Crater, was on my list of “like to sees” during a recent trip to the Canyon State. Another of my trip targets was the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, and the crater is just an hour’s drive further east.

Craters like this, or astroblemes, are tangible reminders that Earth is just one body in our solar system. We are shielded by our amazing atmosphere, but still susceptible to chance encounters with our fellow travellers.

I took many photos but have not yet put together a decent set for the blog.

The scale of the crater is evident on the drive to the visitor centre, perched high on the rim.

The scale of the crater is evident on the drive to the visitor centre, perched high on the rim, on the outside.

For more information on the Barringer Crater, visit their web site at:

Copyright © 2013 David Allan Galbraith


Updates on Pine River Observatory

The summer of 2018 is, and I realize I haven’t gotten many things posted to the blog for a long time. This has been a busy year, and I do intend to provide additional updates. In particular I need to post the results from last year’s expedition to Missouri to watch the 2017 Solar Eclipse. So have faith! This site is not abandoned. It just has to occupy a low priority for the time being.

Working On The Details

The perigee moon of November 2016 once again found me out with a camera. I took frames to make this image at Spencer Smith Park in Burlington, Ontario. 

I was very pleased that SkyNews Magazine selected this as their Image of the Week coming out of the Perigee Moon event. 

In the coming days I intend to post a detailed “how this was done” column. 

Hail and Farewell Geoff Gaherty

Astronomy in Canada has lost one of its most interesting voices. Dr. Geoff Gaherty, of Coldwater, Ontario, passed away on Thursday 7 July 2016 of complications following surgery.

I’d known Geoff since about 1992. During my post-doctoral work at the University of Kent at Canterbury, England, I was invited to come to Canada and consider taking up the post of Executive Director and Curator of the Centre for Endangered Reptiles. This was a non-profit conservation breeding and research centre founded by Geoff. He was a many of many interests. In my time with the CER from 1993 to 1995, he was always helpful, interested, and a lot of fun to talk to. A true gentleman with a lot of interests and skills.

As an amateur astronomer Geoff was extremely active in the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. He wrote for the highly-regarded RASC Observer’s Handbook, and he maintained his own blog and social media outlets for information for astronomers.

I’m very saddened by Geoff’s passing and wish the very best to his wife Louise and son David. Ad Astra, my friend.

Planning my 2015 Calendar

It’s still just in the concept stage, but I’m thinking of producing a calendar form 2015 of photos of the moon that I’ve taken over the past several years. Other things would be in there too. I’ve done my own calendars of other photographic subjects in 2012 and 2013, and in 2014 two of my photos were selected for inclusion in the Hamilton Amateur Astronomer’s calendar. I think I have enough material for an interesting moon calendar this year! Here’s a concept for the cover.



Copyright © 2014 David Allan Galbraith



A Newsletter Article on the Sierra Stars Observatory Network

Included in the January 2014 issue of Event Horizon, the newsletter of the Hamilton Amateur Astronomers, is a short article I wrote on my experiences in 2013 with the Sierra Stars Observatory Network (

You can download the PDF newsletter here:

Back issues of Event Horizon are available here:

I was very happy with the article, and that the editor chose to use one of my photos (of Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS)) as the masthead for the issue.


Comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) imaged with the Sierra Stars Observatory Network. The image is described below.

The above image of Comet C2011 L4 (PANSTARRS) was taken with the Schulman 0.81 m Mt. Lemmon SkyCentre telescope in southern Arizona early on the morning of 19 June 2013, on-line with the Sierra Stars Observatory Network. This was a simple stack of four images (one each, L, R, G, B) of 90 seconds each. The default setting for the camera is a 2×2 binning.

The Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter 0.81 meter is an f/7 Ritchey–Chrétien equipped with an SBIG STX KAF-16803 camera. The image covers 22.5 x 22.5 arc minutes: a bit more than a third of a degree across the sky (for comparison, the disk of the full moon covers about a half a degree, or around 30 arc minutes).

Copyright © 2014 David Allan Galbraith

Thanks for a Great First Blogging Year!

A year ago I launched the “Pine River Observatory” blog as an outlet for my interests in astronomy and photography of the night sky. Inspired by summer nights with lovely dark skies along the shores of Lake Huron, I named the virtual observatory after the Pine River, a small river south of the town of Kincardine.

I’ve been very excited with the response to the blog so far. As of today (1 January 2013) my pages have had a total of 8,528 views from readers in 101 countries! Thank you so much for your interest and support! I’m looking forward to making more blog entries in 2014!


Distribution of viewers of this blog in the first year, a screen capture from the stats page provided by WordPress, on 1 January 2014. Users have looked at the blog from a total of 101 countries; only the top 21 or so are listed by country.

Copyright © 2014 David Allan Galbraith

“Wave at Saturn” today at 5:27 Eastern Daylight Time!

This was received today via the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada:

Today (Friday 19 July 2013) at 5:27pm Eastern Daylight Time, the Cassini space probe in orbit around Saturn will take a picture of Saturn’s rings, backlit by the Sun. The Sun will be hidden behind Saturn, but Earth won’t be. If you want to wave at Saturn as this picture is taken, be outside at 5:27pm. It will be daylight in Ontario, but Saturn will be above the horizon. It will be about a quarter of the way up the sky, and roughly South-South East. For more information, check out

Pine River Observatory’s note: Earth will be 1.44 billion kilometers from Saturn when the photo is taken. Don’t expect your face to be too clearly visible in the photo.