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: www.victoria.rasc.ca. 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,
Sherry.

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,
Sherry.

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: michelmichaud@shaw.ca.
So, apart from the time change, March brings plenty to look forward to!

Clear skies,
Sherry.

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: obschair@victoria.rasc.ca 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.

Sherry.

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,

Sherry.

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,
Sherry.

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.

President’s Message – October 2014

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The end of summer has brought, oddly, mostly clear nights, and great moons for observing, including, tomorrow morning (October 8), a total lunar eclipse.  A bunch of us, if we can get out of bed at the unholy hour of 2:00 am, will be at Clover Point to see it, and to entertain the public.  And just a reminder, our annual general meeting (AGM) for this year will be held again at the appropriately-named Moon Under Water brewpub located at 350 Bay St.  This will be our third outing at this venue, which has proven to be an excellent choice for us.  Date: November 16 at 6:00.  Details to follow.

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.

President’s Message – June 2014

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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.