Summer Star Parties at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in 2015

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The historic Plaskett telescope
The historic Plaskett telescope

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Victoria Centre
with the support of The National Research Council of Canada, Herzberg

Summer Star Parties

at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory
5071 West Saanich Road

September 12th, 2015

7:30 PM TO 11:00 PM (Gates close at 10:00PM)


  • Tours of the historic Plaskett telescope
  • Astronomy lectures and presentations
  • Music in the dome
  • Night sky viewing
  • “Constellation Walks”

Please download and print the poster as a reminder for these events!

For safety reasons, we are limited to hosting 200 visitors at the Observatory at a time. If you arrive and are turned away, please try again later, or on another Saturday evening. We are open twelve Saturday evenings this summer to help accommodate you. Our apologies for any inconvenience.

Please note there is absolutely no stopping or parking along West Saanich Road adjacent to the Observatory entrance. Smoking anywhere on Observatory grounds is also prohibited. Please, foot traffic is NOT allowed on the road up to the top! Visitors may not park at the bottom gate or on W.Saanich Rd and walk up to the top.

If you require assistance while at the Observatory, please ask any of the Commissionaires, or RASC members on site. RASC members can be identified by their safety vests.

For more information about these events, please contact Sherry Buttnor


Messier Marathon – March 20 or 21, 2015

Posted by as Events, Special Events

The Messier Marathon will be held on Saturday, March 21, 2015 here in Victoria, hosted by Michel Michaud, our Observing Co-Chair. If the weather looks poor for Saturday, Michel may move the event ahead a day to Friday night (the 20th). RASC members should be designated Active Observers, since this event will be held at our observatory (and other locations) on Observatory Hill, which is behind a locked gate. Michel will send out go/no go notifications on our email list for Active Observers.

Members-only Event

RASC Victoria Centre also encourages the general public to participate in your own Messier Marathon. All you need is a dark site to observe from with an unobstructed view of the souther half of the horizon. Click on the above event for useful information about how to observe celestial objects in an efficient manner, so you have a chance to see all 110 objects on the list!

Solar Eclipse Viewing – Oct 23, 2014

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News Release 14 October 2014


RASC Victoria Plans Viewing of Solar Eclipse Thursday October 23


RASC Victoria Centre: Joe Carr &emdash; Partial Solar EclipseMembers of the RASC Victoria Centre plan to have their telescopes and viewing equipment out on Mount Tolmie for the solar eclipse that will be visible from Victoria the afternoon of Thursday, October 23.

The Moon will move across the face of the Sun as seen from Victoria starting at 1:32 p.m. that day and ending at 4:19 p.m. At the midpoint of the eclipse at 2:58 p.m., about 55 per cent of the Sun’s surface will be covered by the Moon as seen from Victoria.

It is most important to note that solar eclipses should only be viewed only through specially filtered telescopes or filtered glasses. Looking at solar eclipses without this equipment could result in serious damage to the eyes.

All RASC members will use the proper filters when viewing the eclipse. It should also be noted that even with more than half the Sun being covered, the eclipse will not be noticeable to people who are not viewing the Sun.

RASC Victoria members will gather on top of Mount Tolmie to view the eclipse if weather permits throughout the length of the eclipse, and it is possible that RASC members may set up their telescopes elsewhere around Greater Victoria. Telescopes will be fitted with solar filters, and glasses with solar filters will be available for use.

For more information, contact: Sid Sidhu 250-391-0540

If you are observing on your own, here is an information brochure.


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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!

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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

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

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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)

Astronomy Camps for kids this summer on Observatory Hill

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During the months of July and August, Science Venture will be offering camps at the Centre of the Universe, 5071 West Saanich Rd. Each camp will be lead by a team of university students, who will deliver innovative, fun, and hands-on astronomy, physics, and space technology activities.

Programs are offered to youth entering Grade 3-8 in the fall of 2014.

Check out the program and schedule, and sign up on the Space Venture website.