RASC General Assembly 2011
July 1-3 2011
Report by Chris Gainor
Victoria Centre National Rep
The RASC GA returned to the University of Manitoba this year as part of the
Winnipeg Centreís celebrations for its 100th anniversary. The organizers carried
off a most successful GA with the emphasis being on astronomy rather than
contentious business items.
Five members of the Victoria Centre attended the GA, including the Honorary
National President Jim Hesser and Betty Hesser, past Victoria Centre president
John McDonald, Jim Stillburn, Jennifer Tigner, and the author of this article.
The National Council and the Annual General Meeting at this GA had light
agendas. This was good news, because there was no dues increase on the agenda,
as had been feared a few months ago. The lack of a dues increase fitted in with
the generally upbeat reports from President Mary Lou Whitehorne of Nova Scotia
and the national executive.
A year ago, the RASCís first Executive Director, Deborah Thompson, took office,
and she and the executive reported progress on several fronts in their work to
put the national society on a sound footing. Deborah, the RASCís new Office
Administrator Fiona Wilson and other employees are implementing measures to
increase our membership, and improve services to members.
The National RASC has obtained government grant money to improve the design of
the Journal, and increase subscriptions to the Journal. The latter goal
is on the way to being met, and the design improvements are already apparent in
the June issue of the Journal.
The executive team has been able to manage issues such as the continuing high
value of the Canadian dollar, which in the past has affected sales of the
Observerís Handbook and other RASC publications. And in the coming months,
the RASC will have to rewrite its Constitution to meet the changes required
under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, which was passed in 2009 and
will come into effect later this year, replacing legislation that has been in
place since 1917. This will mean a great deal of work involving the Constitution
Committee, the National Executive, and Council leading up to the 2012 GA.
This new legislation will also mean that the centres, including the Victoria
Centre, will have to rewrite their bylaws to reflect the new legislation. The
national RASC will assist the centres with this work once the new national
Constitution is in place.
National Council also spent a great deal of time on the Light Pollution
Abatement Committee report, ratifying the committeeís recommendation that the
Irving Nature Park in St. John, New Brunswick, be designated as the RASCís first
Urban Star Park. Council also ratified revisions to the RASC Guidelines for Dark
Sky Preserves and Urban Star Parks. Council also voted to register the phrases
and logos associated with the RASCís Dark Sky Preserves and Urban Star Parks
This GA was notable for the fact that it was the first to be tweeted to
interested observers around Canada and elsewhere using the #rascga hashtag. As
well, photos and events were quickly posted on the
Those attending the GA enjoyed many top-flight presentations, including Dr.
Christine Wilson from McMaster University, who gave the Ruth Northcott Lecture
on the origin of stars, and Dr. Samar Safi-Harb of the University of Manitoba,
who addressed the banquet on X-ray astronomy. York University astronomer Paul
Delaney spoke on the study of variable stars.
Alan Dyer and others gave excellent presentations on astrophotography. RASC
History Committee chair Randall Rosenfeld not only played the music of famed
musician and astronomer William Herschel, but also provided a preview of the
upcoming transit of Venus across the face of the Sun, which will be visible in
Victoria and elsewhere on June 5, 2012.
The GA also heard a presentation on Laser Pointers from Bob Grant of Transport
Canada, who promised to work with the RASC to foster the safe and lawful use of
these devices. The RASC has produced a leaflet on Green Laser Pointers for
Astronomy, which will be available from the Victoria Centre.
The GA offered attendees the usual excellent variety of tours, including the
Assiniboine Park and Zoo, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, and others. On
Canada Day, delegates enjoyed a wine and cheese at the Manitoba Museum, followed
by a view of fireworks on the Red River and even a display of noctilucent
The 2012 RASC General Assembly will take place at the University of Alberta
in Edmonton from June 27 to July 1. The location for the 2013 GA remains
unknown, although it will likely be in Eastern Canada. And the Victoria Centreís
plans to host the GA in 2014 for our own centennial are already well known
around the RASC.