President’s Message – April 2017

Posted by as President's Message

April will see the start of the centre’s outreach season. A major event in our calendar is Astronomy Day that will be held on Saturday 29 April at the Royal BC Museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will be followed by the first of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO.

Please contact Ken (outreach@victoria.rasc.ca) to volunteer to help out with the outreach events that will be occurring this year. We would like to have solar telescopes and people at the table to answer questions. One of the first of these events is Esquimalt Buccaneer Days on 13 and 14 May.

We are looking forward to another set of Summer Star Parties on Observatory Hill. One change this year will be that the Friends of the DAO (FDAO) will lead these evenings. There will be a longer season this year including the Saturdays closest to the solstice. Due to the high demand in past years, we have decided to try opening to visitors even on the evenings when it will not be astronomically dark by closing time. Assuming clear skies, we should have some good solar viewing on those evenings so that could make up for the lack of a night sky!

With the FDAO leading, this will allow evenings to continue on the Saturdays when RASC members are involved with other events. One example of this is Saturday 29 July that coincides with the RASCals Star Party in Metchosin. As you may recall, RASC has designated that Saturday as the national star party day in honour of the sesquicentennial. This means there will be 2 star parties in Greater Victoria that day giving members of the public the option to go to the observatory or the Metchosin municipal grounds.

The Summer Star Parties will occur on Saturday evenings from Saturday 29 April 29 to Saturday 23 September with a few exceptions. There will not be a star party on Saturday 1 July so that everyone can enjoy Canada Day and the 150th anniversary of confederation. We are going to skip the Labour Day weekend and there is also an evening in September when there is a concert in the dome instead.

A reminder that due to April exams being scheduled in our regular meeting room, our monthly meeting on Wednesday 12 April will be in the Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167.

President’s Message – March 2017

Posted by as President's Message

Spring is nearly upon us and I am hoping for a distinct change in weather. We have had very few observing sessions at the VCO through the winter and I think the last RASCals of Cattle Point evening that actually went ahead was in 2015. Clouds, clouds, go away!

Thanks to Reg for coordinating the purchase and installation of the new monitor for the Astro Café building. Its first light saw a record attendance with 27 people there. A very special thank you goes to Terry Ryals for building the cabinet for the television; it looks just great.

Due to April exams being scheduled in our regular meeting room, our monthly meeting on Wednesday, April 12 will be in the Elliott Building Lecture Wing Room 167.

My heartfelt thanks to His Worship Mayor Ranns and councillors of the District of Metchosin who approved our request to hold the RASCals Star Party on the weekend of July 28 – 30 with the rental fee waived. That will be proceeding at the Metchosin Municipal Grounds on Happy Valley Road; more information will be provided as it becomes available. Our Star Party will coincide with the National Star Party day of Saturday, July 29. The plan is for as many centres as possible to have public events on that day in honour of the 150th anniversary of the Confederation of Canada. We hope there will be clear skies so we can show off the sky!

We are also in the process of finalizing our agreement with the Friends of the DAO to hold another series of Summer Star Parties on Saturday evenings. We are planning to have those every Saturday from Astronomy Day on April 29 to September 16. If you have NOT been involved in past years and would like to volunteer please let Ken know at outreach@victoria.rasc.ca and we will add you to the email list.

Please be reminded to let me know at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to participate in a bulk purchase of the Explore the Universe Guide as I introduced in my January message.

President’s Message – February 2017

Posted by as President's Message

It will not be long until our outreach events for begin and planning is in full swing. I hope you will consider volunteering as there are many tasks that need to be done. You may do this by contacting our Outreach Coordinator, Ken, at outreach@victoria.rasc.ca.

One of the areas I would like to emphasize is new member recruitment. This year, we will have complementary copies of the current SkyNews magazine to give out at public outreach events. Centres have been given the option to purchase copies at a minimal cost so we will be giving this a try. If you know of friends and family who share your interest in astronomy, and who are not yet members, you may want to give them a copy! It is my hope that a group of members will take on member recruitment under the coordination of Deb, our Second Vice President, so that there is a presence at all of our outreach events. The goal will be to talk about our society, the benefits of membership, and give out the magazines. Please email Deb at vp2@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to help out.

Our launch event this year will be Astronomy Day on Saturday, April 29. During the day we will be at the Royal BC Museum where there will be displays, the solar system, and talks about astronomy. We hope the sun will make an all-day appearance so we can look at it this year! That evening will be the first of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO and we hope that clear skies will prevail.

The dates for the remainder of the Summer Star Parties at the DAO are not finalized but we are looking at the Saturdays from Astronomy Day until mid September. More about these dates will be announced as decisions are made.

Ken is also looking for volunteers for the community events we attend such as Buccaneer Days, the Saanich Strawberry Festival, and, of course, the Saanich Fair in September. Again please put your name on the volunteers list if you are able to help out.

We are planning to hold our annual RASCals Star Party from July 28 – 30. The National office has asked all of the centres to organize a public event on Saturday, July 29 in honour of the sesquicentennial so we have decided to hold the Star Party to be part of the national star party. I have been in communication with the District of Metchosin to see if we can secure the cricket field again this year.

One of the highlights this summer will be the solar eclipse on Monday, August 21. Many of the members will be travelling to the zone where totality will occur. However, Victoria, assuming clear skies, is in a good location as around 90% of the sun will be covered when the maximum occurs at 10:20 a.m. We hope to have some of the people who remain in Victoria out with solar telescopes so that members of the public can enjoy the eclipse.

Please be reminded to let me know at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you would like to participate in a bulk purchase of the Explore the Universe Guide as I introduced in my January message.

President’s Message – January 2017

Posted by as President's Message

Happy New Year! As this is the season for making resolutions I thought I share one of my resolutions. My “astronomy resolution” for 2017 is to spend more time using my telescopes. Looking back in my log, I did not do much personal observing in 2016 so I would like to do much better in 2017. And, when it is cloudy, I plan to devote time to reading and rereading the astronomy books I have in my library so I can optimize my time when I can get out observing.

That got me thinking about a common question we hear at outreach events. That question is how do I know what to look at? Most astronomers do extensive preparation before observing sessions. Part of this process is to determine what part of the sky will be visible from the chosen observing site at the planned observing time. Once that has been determined, references are consulted to see what objects are visible in that part of the sky. This leads to the compilation of a list of targets that may be found and viewed or photographed.

How can a newer astronomer make use of this approach? Perhaps the best method is to complete an observing certificate program. A number of astronomy organizations, including RASC, offer observing programs where a certificate is awarded for documenting the observation of a predetermined list of objects. The advantage of an observing program is that someone has already picked the targets so the participant’s task is to find them and record observations. Specifically, RASC offers the Explore the Universe (ETU) certificate as an introductory program with the goal of learning the basics of observational astronomy while observing at least 55 objects out of a list of 110. This list has been chosen to include a selection of interesting objects that can be seen with the naked eye or binoculars from locations in Canada.

The ETU program has been enhanced by the recent publication of a book aimed at providing support to earn the certificate; the new book is called Explore the Universe Guide. I recently received a copy and have been reading it with interest. It is well organized and benefits from the work of Brenda Stuart, a member of our centre, who contributed the illustrations. The book starts with some “map reading” skills introducing how to navigate in the sky. It then moves into descriptions of the various targets included in the ETU including the Moon, other bodies in our solar system, deep sky objects, and stars. The text is well written and there are many illustrations to help demonstrate the points being made.

I encourage members to consider working on this certificate program especially those who are newer to astronomy or have never completed an observing list. If sufficient centre members are interested in purchasing copies of Explore the Universe Guide, we may be able to place a bulk order which helps save the shipping charge on individual orders. Please let me know by email at president@victoria.rasc.ca if you are interested in participating in a bulk purchase. The book’s list price is around $19 (including GST) and the individual shipping charge is $7.25.

By the way, there are other observing programs offered by the RASC; the list is located at rasc.ca/certificate-programs.

President’s Message – December 2016

Posted by as President's Message

As this is my inaugural message as the centre president, I want to take this opportunity to thank past and current council members for their efforts to make the RASC Victoria Centre a successful and enjoyable organization. It is the people like you, sharing your love of astronomy, who have kept me involved since becoming a member. Compared to many of you, I am a relative newcomer to astronomy having joined RASC in 2010. I cannot believe how much I have learned and experienced in that time, but I have only scratched the surface of this limitless topic. Astronomy is one of the remaining human endeavours where both professionals and amateurs contribute to ongoing research and discovery due to the vastness of the universe.

Over the past few years, I have been the centre’s membership coordinator. It has been great to see the membership numbers growing. As was noted in a session presented at the General Assembly in 2015, a number of people across the country join RASC each year but do not renew their membership when it expires. Why is that? I am sure there are many reasons. I do invite members to let your council know how you think the Victoria Centre is doing. If you have ideas of other activities we might offer, I would welcome hearing from you. Ultimately, my advice to all members is to get involved in the Victoria Centre. Come out to the various activities and meetings as you are able. You will get much more out of your membership through participation.

In reflecting back on the past year, we have had a fascinating series of speakers, learned from each other about our own areas of expertise, spent quite a few evenings at the VCO, camped out for night sky viewing, and shared views of the sun and the night sky with scores of members of the public. We do a lot as a volunteer organization and thank you for making those events successful! We are planning to have a similar number of public events in 2017 so we will be looking for people to help out. Please consider putting your name forward as a volunteer.

In closing, I look forward to working with the new council to further the objectives of the RASC Victoria Centre and continue to make the centre an organization of which you are proud to be a member.