President’s Message, June 2015

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PLEASE NOTE: due to the lack of darkness at this time of year, our Saturday Evening Star Parties at the Observatory are now on scheduled hiatus until July 18th.  Please join us then!

May was quite a month! The Victoria Centre was full-on at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Saturday evenings. Our wonderful volunteers educated and entertained hundreds of visitors in the Plaskett dome, in the Centre of the Universe building, and in the parking lot. Visitor numbers have been a bit low (probably because we opened early this year in May to take advantage of the darker evenings), but those visitors who did come up to take in the activities were extremely impressed with our efforts, even in spite of some iffy sky conditions. Very well done, everyone!
And now we take a break at the DAO for June. We decided there is little point opening up when it doesn’t get dark enough to see the night sky before it was time to send the public home. We’re back again on July 18th for six more Saturday evenings throughout the remainder of summer, so please spread the word!

Now, I have a favour to ask: the Victoria Centre may, or may not, be meeting the needs of our members. Perhaps we are completely wonderful (ha!), or maybe we need to be addressing things that we currently are not doing so well at. I’m going to try to get a feedback page up and running, where you may offer your opinions on this. Meanwhile, I encourage you to contact me directly by email or phone with your comments, complaints, or suggestions on how we are doing, and what we could be doing better. Don’t be shy: the RASC exists to promote astronomy at all levels, but it also exists to serve the needs of our members. It is our job on Council to make that happen. Please let us know – Contact info.

Although we are winding down a little for the shorter nights, there’s lots to look forward to this summer, including restarting at the DAO/CU on July 18, the Cowichan Valley Star Finders’ star party on the weekend of August 14-16, and, of course, the Victoria Centre Metchosin Star Party on the weekend of August 21-23. Please join us!

As this is my last message until September, I’d like to wish you all a wonderful summer, filled with soft sparkling clear nights, equipment that always cooperates, and perfect exposures!


RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy won by Gordon Head girl at Canada-Wide Science Fair

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Janet Dawson
Janet Dawson

The Canada-Wide Science Fair was held in Fredericton in mid-May. The RASC sponsors two awards at the CWSF. The award is a $200 cash prize along with a certificate and a one year Youth membership in the Society (and a telescope?)

The winner of the junior RASC Award for Excellence in Astronomy was Janet Dawson from Gordon Head Elementary School in Victoria, BC for her project “Goodnight Sun!”

Abstract: I photographed sunsets over thirteen months and recorded sunset direction and time. During that time, I built formulae to predict sunset direction and time from the top of PKOLS, a park on Vancouver Island. My formulae are accurate within plus or minus five degrees and plus or minus five minutes. In comparison, computer algorithms predict sunset time within plus or minus one minute.

More info on Science Fair website

President’s Message, May 2015.

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Way to go, Victoria Centre! Astronomy Day on April 25th was a great success once again, thanks to the hard work of the organizers and volunteers. We entertained 800 visitors at the Royal BC Museum during the day, and another 177 at the DAO later that evening. That makes a total of 5,416 “Galileo Moments”, or individual guests we have informed and entertained over 42 separate events since September 1st. We’re pretty popular!

Our Saturday evening Summer Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory have begun again for the second year, with the support of the DAO/NRC and a great many RASC, FDAO, and UVic volunteers. This year, we have the Centre of the Universe building open as well, with its exhibits, and we even have the planetarium open. The May 2nd evening was a little slow, but I expect things to pick up, as we get the word out. You can find out more about these great public events on our main page at: You can help spread the word by telling your friends, co-workers, and so on, and by printing out our poster and putting it up in public places.

I’d like to mention the Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (FDAO); a newly-formed partner group to RASC-Victoria, who are working on a long-term plan to keep the DAO open for summer public visits. Track their progress.

And, don’t forget to check our calendar for upcoming RASC events such as observing on the UVic telescope, and Bruce’s popular Cattle Point sessions.

Clear skies,

President’s Message, April 2015

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Busy busy busy! Lots of progress to share on various Victoria Centre projects this month. International Astronomy Day is April 25th this year, and once again we will be hosting a daytime public event at the Royal British Columbia Museum downtown, with our usual lineup of exciting displays and public-outreach activities. And we continue IAD at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory later that evening with more public activities.
We have just received approval from Dr. Greg Fahlman at the NRC for our Summer Saturday public evenings at the DAO. The first evening will be part of International Astronomy Day, then we begin in earnest on Saturday, May 2nd. We have expanded the number of Saturday evenings over last year’s program, but have skipped a few Saturdays around the summer solstice due to the lack of darkness. We have also set up protocols to help avoid the barely-controlled chaos we experienced on certain evenings last summer! Many thanks to Lauri Roche, Jim Hesser, Nelson Walker, and Don Moffatt on the RASC side, as well as Greg Fahlman, Kevin Farris, and Morrick Vincent of the NRC, all of whom worked very hard to make this program happen. Volunteers are gratefully needed for the above events; I hope you will consider offering a few hours of your time.
And a little more good news from the Hill: we have been granted two nights on the Plaskett telescope. Active Observers, mark your calendars: May 15 and June 19. You do need to be on the Active Observers list for Plaskett nights, so if you want to become an Active Observer, contact us and we’ll tell you how. Other RASC observing sessions upcoming (where you don’t need to be an Active Observer) are UVic; Friday April 10, and Cattle Point; Friday April 24. Email reminders will be sent in advance of these sessions.
Despite uncooperative weather for the Messier Marathon, the last UVic and Cattle Point sessions, hope springs eternal. Keep those fingers crossed for better weather as we swing into high gear!

Clear skies,

President’s Message March 2015

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Welcome to March, the month with the most annoying time change of the year. At least for some of us old souls, who have enough trouble staying awake at night. Not only do we lose an hour of sleep, we lose an hour of evening observing time. What a rip! But to make up for that, there’s lots of pleasant news to share with you this month.
First off, join me in welcoming our new Media Liaison officer, Edward Wiebe. With all the events we have planned and all the media enquires we receive, Council felt it wise to create a Media Liaison position to help manage the flow of information to the public. Thanks, Ed!
Next up on the list of positive developments: Metchosin District Council has agreed to waive the fee for the star party field again this year, so the event can proceed. And at the same meeting on February 23rd, Metchosin Council also officially passed their Dark Sky Policy. Thanks to Mayor Ranns and Councillors on both counts.
The DAO Saturday Night public observing nights committee has worked hard at developing a proposal for the upcoming season, which has been submitted to the HIA for consideration. There was a lot to consider! Opening up the DAO to the public entails a lot of work, with many, many details to be worked out. Huge thanks to Lauri Roche, Don Moffatt, Dr Jim Hesser, and Melisa Yestrau for all your efforts. Now we await the results.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a pleasant -and quite unexpected- email from Dave Balam at the DAO, offering three evenings in the next quarter on the 72” Plaskett telescope, for Victoria Centre members. Nice! I hope we can make that work, and I’ll let you know how that turns out. Meanwhile, don’t forget our next scheduled session on the UVic 32” telescope on March 13. We will send a reminder email prior to that date. And the Messier Marathon for Active Observers, on the evening of March 23rd. If you want to participate, email Michel at:
So, apart from the time change, March brings plenty to look forward to!

Clear skies,

Presidents Message February 2015

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How about that comet, eh? Nothing like a lovely comet to make winter skies seem less gloomy, and Comet Lovejoy put on quite a show over the last few weeks. I think, after auroras, comets are my favourite night-sky things to observe and photograph, and we were lucky to have three separate arctic outbreaks this winter, bringing clear sparkling skies for observing. I hope you were able to get out and enjoy them.
As you may know, March is Messier Marathon month; this year the new moon is on March 20, so that weekend should be great for anyone who wants to try this challenging event. If you do, please let our Observing Chairs, Jim Stilburn or Michel Michaud know as soon as possible by email at: and we will set up a session. If there isn’t the interest, we will let it pass for this year.
Plans are well underway for various upcoming events, such as Astronomy Day, and the RASCals Summer Star Party in Metchosin. We will pass along details as they become available.
We have good news for those of you you cannot make the monthly meetings, yet would like to see them: we will begin broadcasting them live over the Web starting immediately with February’s meeting. . After a false start, much discussion about privacy and personal comfort levels -not to mention many emails in favour of live broadcasts- Council has decided to give it a try. Our Admin will send out an email to the Skynews email list each month with instructions on how to view these broadcasts. See you at the meetings. Or at least, you will see us!

Clear skies, everyone.


President’s message, January 2015

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Happy New Year, everyone! Welcome to 2015, the International Year of Light. We are working on a number of public events to celebrate IYL 2015, in collaboration with Natasha Van Bentum. You may remember Natasha; she and her husband Henri participated with us in IYA 2009. I know we’re all looking forward to working with her again!
John McDonald (Victoria Centre) and Russ Robb (UVic) have reinstated the UVic observing sessions, so watch for upcoming email announcements and mark your calendars; they’re scheduled for Jan 16, Feb 13, Mar 13, Apr 10, and May 8. These sessions are primarily visual (although you’re welcome to bring a camera to try a little focal photography). We will be able to view and study lots of great celestial objects with the university’s 32” telescope. These sessions are open to ALL Victoria Centre members, not just those on the Active Observer’s list. Big thanks to John and Russ!
And speaking of great celestial objects: don’t forget Comet Lovejoy (C/2014 Q2). Rising rapidly in the south, it will pass just to the west of Orion, Taurus, and into Perseus this month. It’s a little brighter than predicted and is already a lovely sight in binos and backyard telescopes. Go out and have a look!

Wishing you clear skies, and a wonderful year ahead,


President’s message December 2014

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I would first like to start off by thanking the previous Victoria Centre Council and committees for their outstanding work during their terms, and to welcome the new Council to their positions for the upcoming one. Looking at the names of those who served before us makes me realize we have some pretty big shoes to fill, but we definitely are ready for the challenge.
The coming year looks exciting, and we are already working on events such as our own summer star party, Saturday night public observing at the DAO, various outreach events, and even the total solar eclipse in 2017. It will be a fun year!
There is, however, something you can help me with. We are now just at around 200 members, and many of those are new to the RASC, and astronomy. I would like to know what we can do for you to make your experience in astronomy positive, and enjoyable. This is YOUR Centre. Please always feel free to bring your ideas and comments to Council by email, phone, or at a Council or general meeting.
So let’s make the beginning of the Victoria Centre’s second century as great as its first!

Clear skies,

President’s Message – November 2014

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Of the organizations that I have belonged to in my life, professional associations, sports clubs, conservation groups, and neighborhood associations, this one, RASC Victoria Centre, has been one of the best, if not THE best. I am honored that for two years I have been its president.

Let me explain why. In my experience, most such groups feature an impenetrable inner circle, a leadership that cannot separate its own interests from the group’s interests, and a mission that is largely ignored in practice. Not so with Victoria Centre. Its leadership positions are easily available to all, and rotate regularly. Its culture is one of inclusion, not exclusion. Best of all, its mission, public outreach, modest though it may seem when compared to the more important sounding missions of larger, but less successful groups, is front-and-center, and is practiced with enthusiasm by most of the members.

This last year stands as a testament to this club’s strength: an enviable national convention held at a first-class university, an astronomy day event held in a downtown Victoria landmark, and the successful resurrection of public tours and night-sky viewing from the DAO after they appeared to be lost among government budget cuts which seem to have become so common today. Most remarkably, these “signature” events were held in addition to our usual array of outreach events.

I could go on, but I won’t. Thanks to everyone in the club that makes its success possible. The energy and competence of our members is, well, amazing.

Partial Solar Eclipse – success!

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October 23, 2104

Sid Sidhu – What a day it was for viewing the Solar Eclipse! In the early morning all the weather reports indicated nothing but rain in Victoria for the rest of the day, however the 10 am updates showed some glimmer of hope that we may be in luck. Then, on cue at noon, the clouds parted and – wow a blue sky. I suppose a bit of sacrifice does help.

By 1:20 pm we had 11 telescopes at Mt. Tolmie to view and share the spectacle with the public. There was a continuous stream of people young and old hoping to have a glimpse of the Moon biting a chunk of the Sun. There was one older couple who were one of the first to come and practically the last to leave. From all the responses of their appreciation from everyone it appears that it was a very successful event and they were glad to be a part of it.

Though the main event in Victoria was at Mt. Tolmie, many of our members had their own individual eclipse viewing at their work places. Many thanks for their participation and reporting their GM counts.

After all the tallies, the total GM count is 274. Thanks to all the volunteers for their help.

Betty Hesser – Sid, you can add eight amateur cellists to your list of enthusiastic eclipse viewers! The sky was not very promising in the morning, but I took two pairs of solar viewing glasses to my cello group rehearsal in the early afternoon. One set her watch alarm for eclipse maximum, and then we laid down our instruments, loosened our bows, and headed out to the patio in the bright, clear sunshine. There was much excitement as we passed the glasses around and everyone wanted to know what exactly was happening, why we didn’t see this every month, why didn’t everything get dark, etc.

A wonderful afternoon among friends with music and a public-outreach opportunity, too! By the time our rehearsal was over, it had clouded over again, and we were sprinkled on as we left the parking lot.

Joe Carr – The weather today did not start out very promising for successfully observing the Partial Solar Eclipse in the early afternoon. The morning saw heavy cloud cover and rain squalls, and the forecast was gloomy, which probably also described many RASC Victoria members’ mood for this event. The eclipse was to start at 1:32PM, and about an hour before the skies cleared and the Sun shone, as if some kind of miracle was being given to us. The clear skies held through the first half of the eclipse, and didn’t really deteriorate until midway through the last half.

I was very happy to have observed and photographed this partial solar eclipse, and shared the experience with four others from my front yard location in the city. We must be somehow charmed in this part of the world, since virtually the same miraculous weather circumstances repeated themselves for the Transit of Venus in 2012.

Bill Weir – I skipped out of work early at Victoria General Hospital, drove around to the front entrance, and setup solar gear. I took some really awful shots of the eclipse through my scope so won’t show those. My favourites are of those of people who were nice enough to share the event with me.

Sherry Buttnor – I set up my gear on the Metchosin star party field about 30 minutes before the start of the eclipse. The clouds had almost completely disappeared; it was wonderfully (and unexpectedly) sunny, but windy and cool. My first visitor was a Westshore RCMP K9 officer, who was exercising his service dog in the adjacent field. He enjoyed a look at the pre-eclipse Sun and the huge sunspot complex through my telescope, but couldn’t stay for the main event.

After connecting my camera and laptop, I began taking images of the eclipse. The sky remained clear until just past mid-eclipse. Within moments, the clouds rolled in and I just barely got my gear packed up before the rain came pelting down.

During the two hours I was on the field, I had six other visitors at my scope; all people who came to walk their dogs, and whom I offered a look at the eclipsed Sun on my laptop screen. They were pleasantly surprised, and all of them thought this eclipse was an amazing sight. Seven additional GM’s for the list. Video

David Lee – Prepared to be disappointed I packed my car this morning with my camera and a half made solar filter. I recall the transit of Venus from previous years that we had lost hope for appearing miraculously from behind clouds. Today after days of rain the skies cleared just hours before the beginning of the eclipse. I assembled the solar filter over the lunch hour and made it to my vantage point just moments after the eclipse started.

I was most impressed by the display of sunspots especially the one near the centre which narrowly missed being covered as the eclipse progressed.

I was able to share some of the shots from the hour and half that I was there with a few people that passed by. Just a few minutes before totality the clouds started to appear so I packed up, but with a smile on my face as one of my co-workers observed while passing by.

Constantine Thomas – Partial Eclipse in progress, with monster sunspot! Yay, I got the binocular projector to work!  This was from around 3:30ish, just before the clouds rolled in.

Bill Smith – The sun came out from noon-3:30pm. Thanks to the Gods. Cattle Point was a stunning packed place to watch this moving event.

Chris Spratt – Watching it from home. Can see sunspot group with naked eye!

Gary Seronick – We lucked out at my place — but only just. A little while after mid-eclipse, I had to rush outside to rescue the scope from the rain! My story on Skynews.

John McDonaldVideo event from Fairfield.