President’s Message – September 2014

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This will be a summer to remember – our hosting of GA 2014, along with our hosting of a series of “Summer Star Parties” at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.  Although there was a tiny bit of initial reluctance to undertake both of these at the same time (along with, for sure, most of our “normal” summer outreach activities), once the commitment was made, it was full speed ahead.  The obvious success of both of the ventures was due to the almost unbelievable commitment and effort of their organizers.

It is the latter of these that is freshest in the mind.  Last Saturday, at the last of these “Summer Star Parties,” there were nearly five-hundred visitors!  Public attendance on the Saturdays when in was not raining, or when the wind was not howling, was always in the hundreds.  And problems that arose were mostly connected with the traffic on West Saanich Road.

There is something deeply satisfying about the notion and practice of “public outreach,” something known to our members that head up the club’s outreach efforts, but which I have personally really begun to experience only this last year.  Last Saturday, on the hill, the gibbous moon was crystal clear.  We had telescopes set up on both sides of the dome.  Mine was aimed at the moon.  The lineups at my scope were endless: young families, seniors, twenty-somethings.  Out of this hoard of people of all ages who looked at the moon through a telescope, most surely for the first time, there was not a handful who had nothing to say.  The moon, coming and going unnoticed as it does, can still bring a tear to the eye.

Thanks to those of you in this club that made this happen.

RASCals Star Party – schedule of events

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Please download our poster to stick on your fridge and to refer to: Poster (130k PDF)

Event - map and times for your e-calendar

Come join us!  Learn Astronomy and Explore the Night Sky

July 25 to 27, 2014

At the Metchosin Municipal Grounds
behind the Metchosin Fire Hall
4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada


Gates will open at 12pm noon on Friday. Camp on the field and setup your telescope.

Cost: Free of charge!  RASC members and visiting observers (who stay overnight): suggested donation of $20/Adult one day, two or three.  Everyone who is present is entitled to tickets for door prizes, lectures and access to the observing field.

Schedule of Events  (subject to change)

Friday 25th

12:00pm – Gates open

8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes     

8:30pm – Presentation: Open University Astronomy, John McDonald

9:30pm –Guided Telescope Walk , followed by viewing of the night sky           

Saturday 26th

Solar viewing – all day

1:00pm – Workshop: 27,000 Km per hour, photographing ISS Passes, Charles Banville

2:00pm – Workshop: Observing Not for the Faint of Heart: The RASC Challenge Objects, Nelson Walker

3:00pm – Workshop: Astronomy 101, Sherry Buttnor

4:00pm – 6:00pm – activities for the kids

8:00pm – Door prizes

8:30pm – Speaker: Space Flight through the Ages, Chris Gainor

9:30pm – Guided Telescope Walk, followed by viewing of the night sky

Sunday 27th 

9:30 am – Farewell to Charles Banville – brunch at My Chosen Cafe (no host)

Cleanup (Please pitch-in & help)

12 noonearly departures please!



Posted by as Special Events

HI RASCals -

Our annual star party is coming up this week, and I urge you to support it. Event details

Here’s why:

1.  It is unique.  It is literally an “urban star party” (“semi-urban?”)

2.  It’s close.  It’s twenty minutes from Victoria.

3.  It’s low key (it is organized by a tiny committee which barely knows who its own members are).

4.  The weather provides plenty of opportunity for excitement.  Up to thirty knots of wind has been recorded on the telescope field.

5.  Good speakers, poetry possibly excluded.  Good workshops.

6.  Lots of prizes.  Lots of prizes for the kids.

7.  It’s free (although some pressure for donations might be applied by the “committee” until the cost of the privies is covered).

8.  Camping, and it too is free.  Many of the campers will be local families.

9.  A good turnout by the locals who are eager to look through your scope.

10. It is appreciated as a community event by the community of Metchosin.

11. There is a good restaurant a five minute walk away, plus pizza.

It is easy to find things to criticize about our star party.  It isn’t dark.  The weather is unpredictable. It isn’t advertised nationally.  But I have been to every one of our star parties since 2005 (lots of members have been to many more), and I have also been to the Oregon Star Party (many times), Merritt Star Quest, the Golden State Star Party, and Mt. Kobau.  None of these is a community star party.  None of these is twenty minutes from my house.  None of these has pizza nearby.  And as to darkness …. I have logged many hundreds of deep sky objects from the Metchosin field.  It is certainly as dark as it needs to be to do any list of double stars, or the Messier list, or the Finest NGC list, or even the H-400 list, all of which you are doubtless working on.

Come and join us at what may be the only star party in Canada which is twenty minutes from your front door.

Event details

2014 General Assembly – it’s over!

Posted by as Special Events

Thanks to the legions of volunteers who made the GA a great success!


The Canadian Space blog – the RASC looks back and looks forward

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) facebook

I had so much fun last night at the DAO. The cake was so realistic – Peter Jedicke
I’d like to offer my sincerest thanks and congratulations to the Victoria Centre for putting on one of the most memorable 5 days that I can recall in either recent or distant memory. The programmes, the spirit, and the people all made for a real sense of community and camaraderie. I can barely imagine the behind-the-scenes work that went into making this such a special event. A special thank-you to the tireless volunteers who ferried fellow RASCals to and from events and the airport. It was greatly appreciated. - Craig Levine

Hear! Hear! Many thanks for a grand time.- David L. Clark

Visits from Queen Elizabeth and the Duchess of Cambridge, where the Queen knights our own Randall Rosenfeld; Winston Churchill inspires us (Chris Gainor); and Bob MacDonald of Quirks and Quarks pulls us along with his concepts for space travel. Tonight’s banquet was a great end to a successful GA here in Victoria! - Joe Carr

Just got back from tonight’s AGM observing session at the 32″ telescope on top of the Bob Wright Centre. A big thanks to Russ for donating his time so everyone could get in some astronomy on the big scope. - Bruce Lane

RASC, Victoria Centre facebook

I heard many complements about the great job the Victoria Centre did with the 2014 RASC General Assembly, which wrapped up last night. Congratulations to Paul Schumacher, Mark Bohlman, and the rest of the team for a fabulous job. -  Chris Gainor

I also heard many positive comments from guest delegates about our GA, during its four-day run. Well done, everyone! - Sherry Buttnor

Dave Balum wowed the RASC GA 2014 crowd inside the Plaskett dome. Dave was dressed in period costume which Dr. Plaskett would have worn in his day 100 years ago. - Joe Carr

The evening was wonderful and the cake was….Epic !! - Diane Bell

RASCvic email list

Loved it! Sessions were top notch and everyone seemed to be having a good time, with lots of fun moments and humor, especially at the banquet. Congratulations to everyone who helped to make this a memorable GA. – Bill Almond

Saturday Night Public Observing Returns to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

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For release June 18, 2014

The Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is pleased to announce that the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory will be open for public observing on seven Saturday nights this summer.

The grounds of the DAO will open from 8:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. for the Saturday night observing sessions on July 5, 12 and 19, August 2, 9 and 16, and September 6. Location: 5071 W Saanich Rd., Victoria, BC V9E 2E7.

Please download the poster (1.8Mb PDF) and stick it on your fridge as a reminder, and take another to your local store to post.

On these evenings, RASC members will use their telescopes to show visitors the Moon, planets, stars and other objects in the sky. As well, these evenings will include audio-visual presentations and astronomy lectures inside the historic Plaskett Telescope. These inside activities will take place regardless of the weather conditions.

The National Research Council of Canada is providing its astronomical facilities for the RASC’s summer viewing activities. While the Centre of the Universe educational centre will not be open during these evenings, the NRC is making it available this summer for space-themed camps for young people from Grade 3 to 8 run by the Science Venture program at the University of Victoria.

“We are pleased that our members will be on Little Saanich Mountain again this summer showing the wonders of the universe to members of the public,” said Nelson Walker, president of the Victoria Centre of the RASC. “Our history of public outreach at the DAO goes back decades.”

After the closure of the Centre of the Universe facility at the end of last summer, various community groups met with NRC officials to examine ways of continuing public access to the DAO. This year, Science Venture and the Victoria Centre of the RASC are offering programs, and it is hoped that in the coming months a new organization will be established to operate programs at the Centre of the Universe.

On Astronomy Day in May this year, we had a highly successful event at the DAO, and more than 200 people visited the Plaskett Telescope despite poor weather that prevented any observing that night,” Walker said. “We would like to thank the NRC for their cooperation, which makes all these activities possible.”

Please be aware that although we are open until 11:30 pm the gate to the hill will close for new visitors at 10:30 pm each evening. The Observatory Hill is restricted to 300 people at any one time so there is a chance that you may be asked to wait at the bottom of the Hill before being allowed to go up. Please follow the directions of the commissionaires for parking. It is advisable to wear comfortable shoes and bring a sweater or jacket for cooler times after dark. We welcome all ages. There is no registration or reservations and all programs are free. We hope to see you there.



For more information, contact: Nelson Walker, RASC Victoria Centre, 250-477-4820. See also: RASC Victoria Centre and Friends of the DAO on facebook

Two Public Astronomy Lectures Help Mark 100 Years of Astronomy Group in Victoria

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Dr. Andy Pon
Dr. Andy Pon

Free public lectures by two top astronomers will be part of this year’s General Assembly of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, which will take place at the University of Victoria from June 26 to 29. This meeting is part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Victoria Centre of the RASC.

University of Leeds astronomer Andy Pon’s lecture will be presented Friday June 27, 2014 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. in room A104 at the Bob Wright Centre at UVic. Dr. Pon, who won the Plaskett medal for the best doctoral thesis of the past year, will speak on “Super Bubbles in Orion-Eridanus,” covering his research on the formation of stars.

How to Participate in the Plaskett Medal Lecture - To see and hear this year’s Plaskett Medal lecture simply point your web browser to the Society’s conferencing service as follows:

Date: Friday, June 27, 2014
Time: 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Pacific
(5:00 p.m. Mountain/Saskatchewan, 6:00 p.m. Central, 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 8:00 p.m. Atlantic, 8:30 p.m. Nfld)

Code: 8901538

We look forward to your participation including audience questions.


Dr. Laura Ferrarese
Dr. Laura Ferrarese

Dr. Laura Ferrarese, an astronomer at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and president of the Canadian Astronomical Society, will give the annual Hogg Lecture on Saturday June 28 at 8:00 p.m. in room B150 at the Bob Wright Centre on “The Hidden Lives of Galaxies.”

The two public events are part of the four-day General Assembly of astronomers from across Canada who belong to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. This meeting last took place in Victoria in 1998. This meeting will cap the Victoria Centre’s celebrations of the centennial of its creation in 1914, and will include a banquet on June 29 that will be addressed by CBC Radio Quirks and Quarks host Bob McDonald.

Dr. Ferrareseʼs astronomical journey started in Padova, Italy, and continued at the Johns Hopkins University and Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, where she received her Ph.D. Before coming to Victoria, she worked at the California Institute of Technology and at Rutgers University.

She played a critical role in astronomical work that helped determine the age of the Universe, and published the first secure detections of central black holes in galaxies beyond our own. Her subsequent work includes the unexpected discovery that the evolution of galaxies is shaped by the activity of their central black holes.

Dr. Pon completed his doctoral studies at the University of Victoria in 2013. His work covers a wide range of topics in star formation, including gravitational collapse, turbulent heating, and galactic ecology. He will make his presentation to the Victoria meeting via a television link from his home in Leeds, England.

The public is welcome to attend both lectures.More information on these lectures and other activities at this meeting are available from Chris Gainor at 250-655-6445 or

President’s Message – June 2014

Posted by as President's Message

As I write this final report for this spring, we are on the cusp of what will be a summer to remember. Why? We are hosting GA 2014. We are hosting public night sky viewing on observatory hill. And this in addition to the usual star party and a signature outreach event.

Our hosting of GA 2014 at the University of Victoria is the culmination of the efforts of those too numerous to mention, at least here, headed up by Paul Schumacher and Mark Bohlman, Co-Chairs of the organizing committee. An early start, the selection of first-class committee heads and members, and spot-on organization has led to what promises to be a great success.

The reopening of observatory hill, at least for this summer, is a story of a different type. The closure of the Center of the Universe last summer was immediately followed what can only be called a public outcry, the involvement of an MLA, and a very successful online petition. This led to community involvement, meetings, committees and ultimately to Victoria Centre’s proposal to host public night sky viewing, and tours of the Plaskett, on seven evenings at the end of this summer. Victoria Centre enjoyed the encouragement and assistance of local NRC/Hertzberg staff throughout, with our effort being led, with great determination, by Lauri Roche. Although the Plaskett will be operated this first summer by professional NRC staff, several of our number will be trained in the operation of the great instrument, hopefully to assume responsibility for its operation during future events.

The success of these events depends first and foremost on the participation of the members of Victoria Centre. I hope to see all of you this summer.

2014 General Assembly in Victoria – June 26-29, 2014

Posted by as Special Events

2014 RASC General Assembly
2014 RASC General Assembly

We are now less than thirty days till the start of the 54th General Assembly of RASC. We will gather in Victoria BC, on the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This year’s meeting promises to be educational and a great opportunity to meet friends – new and old.

Check out the GA web site, located on the home page of the national RASC.

The GA Organizing Committee, along with the RASC Board of Directors and CASCA, are pleased to announce the addition of the 2014 Plaskett lecture, to our program, on June 27th at 4:00 PM, PDT. This lecture is indeed a very special event for the GA. Normally, this lecture is only presented to the CASCA Annual meeting. Dr Andy Pon, recipient of the 2014 Plaskett medal, for the best doctoral presentation for 2013-4, has offered to present his research, by internet link between Canada and his current home near Leeds UK. Dr. Pon”s lecture will be titled “Super Bubbles” in Orion-Erindanus.

Dr. Laura Ferrarese, from the Hertzberg Institute located at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, Victoria BC, will present this year’s Hogg Lecture, on Saturday, June 28th. Dr. Ferrarese is the recipient of the Hogg Memorial Award for 2014.

Bob McDonald, journalist and broadcaster, will be our dinner speaker on Sunday, June 29th. Mr. McDonald’s topic is “Space Tourism – What Next?”

There is still time to register on the GA web site. Flights to Victoria are still available. The members of Victoria Centre RASC look forward to meeting you in Victoria June 26 – 29, 2014.

Download your electronic copy of the GA Conference Guide (9.6 Mb PDF)

Winner of the telescope draw announced

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Cole Gorman - winner of the Meade LX-90 telescope draw
Cole Gorman – winner of the Meade LX-90 telescope draw


Cole Gorman is the winner of the Meade LX-90 telescope draw. Here he is being congratulated by our President, Nelson Walker at the monthly meeting held May 14, 2014.

President’s Message – May 2014

Posted by as President's Message

This month brings with it, in addition to preparations for the GA 2014, which are proceeding nicely, a very successful International Astronomy Day (IAD). This yearly event was held, for the first time since 2000, at the Royal BC Museum in downtown Victoria.

The event, thanks to the usual efforts of Sid, Lauri, and Sherry in organizing it, and a huge cast of enthusiastic Centre volunteers in putting it on, came off without a hitch. The museum staff, led by Leslie Johnson, could not have been more helpful.

Sid, counting at the main entrance to our hall, registered over seven hundred visitors, who were treated to most of the usual displays, plus telescopes (large and small), a kid’s table, Bruno’s Planetarium, and a special treat, as it turned out, the Centre’s one-hundred thirty year-old brass telescope, made, except for the lens, in Toronto, and used in serious astronomy until at least the late 1940’s (one can barely imagine how – but the fact that it was writes volumes about the patience of the astronomers who used it). The scope was proudly situated on its vintage clock-driven mount, and tenderly looked after by Michael and Charles. Sid and his crew of assistants brought the several hundred pounds of it from its home in the now-closed Center of the Universe on Observatory Hill. There with us at the Museum were representatives from Science Ventures at UVic, from Pearson College, from NRC, and from the University of Victoria Astronomy Department.

The day’s festivities were topped off with what was hoped would be “public night sky viewing” on top of said Observatory Hill, an event carefully planned by Lauri, and Jim Hesser, along with Greg Fahlman (NRC Manager) and his staff, including Kevin Farris and Clyde Donnelly, plus Dave Balam and Dave Bohlender, plus (again) Rita Mann and Michele Bannister. The two Daves were to operate the Plaskett Telescope, which was made available for public tours. Rita and Michele, both Post-doctoral fellows at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, were to, and did, give public talks at the CU, which was opened for the evening. Victoria Center volunteers were to lead tours of the CU and set up telescopes in the parking lot.

In spite of the usual clouds and sprinkling rain, this portion of the IAD celebration was also a great success. Over two hundred public members were in attendance, this in spite of the weather. The two lectures and the tours of the Plaskett were big hits. Even the exhibits inside the CU were well-visited.

As most of us know, we have submitted a proposal to NRC that we be allowed to host public openings DAO and its environs for several weekends in July and August. This May evening was a bit of a “dry run” for those events. We certainly hope that the success of this event will hold us in good stead with respect to the later openings.

Happy viewing, all …..


Note: One of the first things that I learned as a young lawyer was that in the creation of legal documents one should never list things, because one will inevitably leave something out. It would be better to thank “everyone who helped.” I have ignored that advice. If I have left out someone who should have been thanked, I apologize.