RASCals Star Party 2017

Posted by as Events

July 28-30, 2017

At the Metchosin Municipal Grounds
behind the Metchosin Fire Hall
4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada

The observing field at dusk on Friday night
The observing field at dusk on Friday night

Gates will open at 12pm noon on Friday. Camp on the field and setup your telescope.

Cost: Free of charge! RASC members and visiting observers (who stay overnight): suggested donation of $20/Adult one day, two or three.

Everyone who is present is entitled to tickets for door prizes, lectures and access to the observing field. Prizes include telescopes!

Don’t want to camp? No problem…you can drive home after an evening of fun on the observing field.

Staying after dark? Please bring a red light with you – no white lights!


Photo gallery for RASCals 2017 Star Party

Schedule of Events

Friday 28th

  • 2:00 pm – Gates open
  • 8:00 pm – Welcome and door prizes
  • 8:30 pm – Speaker – Elizabeth Griffin, PhD (NRC – Hertzberg) Big data, little data, or (Help!) no data
  • 10:00 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please

Saturday 29th

  • Solar viewing – all day on the field
  • 1:00 pm – Eclipse Viewing – Michael Webb in Metchosin House
  • 2:00 pm – New telescope for Victoria Centre Observatory – fundraiser & reception in Metchosin House
  • 8:00 pm – Door prizes
  • 8:30 pm – Speaker – Henry Ngo, PhD (NRC – Hertzberg) Exploring Exoplanets
  • 9:30 pm – Public viewing of the night sky with RASC telescopes
  • 10:00 pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please

Sunday 30th

  • Cleanup – everyone please pitch-in & help
  • 12:00 pm – early departures please!


Please feel free to camp on the field with your tent, trailer or motorhome and setup your telescope and other astronomy gear. There is some power on the field for astronomy equipment, but no RV plug-ins please! Also, please do NOT park on the field with your vehicle if you plan to leave after dark! In this case, move your vehicle off the field after setting up, and park on the access road beside the municipal hall with your headlights facing away from the field (towards the firehall). The same parking request applies to visitors for the evening – park beside the municipal hall and walk into the field.


RASCals Star Party 2016

Posted by as Events, Special Events

August 26-28, 2016

At the Metchosin Municipal Grounds
behind the Metchosin Fire Hall
4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada

Gates will open at 12pm noon on Friday. Camp on the field and setup your telescope.
Cost: Free of charge! RASC members and visiting observers (who stay overnight): suggested donation of $20/Adult one day, two or three.

Everyone who is present is entitled to tickets for door prizes, lectures and access to the observing field.

Photos from RASCals Star Party 2016

Schedule of Events

Friday 26th.

12:00pm – Gates open.
8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes.
8:30pm – Presentation- Rita Mann: Origins of the Solar System
Bio:  Dr. Rita Mann is a researcher at NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics.  She earned her Honours BSc in Physics at the University of Victoria, and her MSc and PhD in Astronomy at the University of Hawai’i.   She then returned to Victoria with the Plaskett Fellowship at NRC Herzberg Astronomy & Astrophysics. She uses a powerful new telescope called ALMA, which is very sensitive to the conditions in which planets are born, to answer questions about the origins of our Solar System as well as other extrasolar planetary systems.9:30pm – Public viewing of the night sky with RASC telescopes.
10:00pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please.

Saturday 27th.

Solar viewing – all day.
4:00pm: Introduction to the Night Sky. David Lee.
8:00pm – Door prizes.

Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy
Maan Hani, UVic Astronomy

8:30pm – Speaker- Maan Hani: Super Massive Black Holes: Where the Wild Things Are.

Bio: Maan H. Hani is a Astronomy PhD student working with Prof. Sara Ellison at the University of Victoria. As a cosmologist, Maan works with cosmological simulations of galaxy mergers to understand the big picture of how galaxies form, evolve, and intact with each other and their environment.
9:30pm – Public viewing of the night sky with RASC telescopes.
10:00pm until dawn: observing! No white lights during this time, please.

Sunday 28th.

Cleanup (everyone please pitch-in & help)
12 noon – early departures please!

RASCals Star Party – Aug 21-23, 2015 in Metchosin

Posted by as Special Events

August 21-23, 2015

Metchosin Municipal Grounds behind the Metchosin Fire Hall, 4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada – on beautiful Vancouver Island

The weather was near perfect for our RASCals Star Party this year for both nights, Friday and Saturday. There were some bleary-eyed observers leaving the Metchosin Cricket Field on Sunday! Many people camped on the field and setup their telescopes to take advantage of the nice dark skies at this rural site. RASC members and the public enjoyed a great two days of everything to do with astronomy. There were some very nice door prizes give away this year, including laser pointers, books, toys (for grownups and kids), binoculars and a telescope!

Schedule of Events

Friday 21st

  • 12:00pm – Gates open.
  • 8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes.
  • 8:30pm – Presentation- Hubble History, Dr Chris Gainor.
  • 9:30pm –Guided Telescope Walk , followed by viewing of the night sky.
  • 10:00pm until dawn: observing!

Saturday 22nd

  • Solar viewing – all day.
  • 3:00pm – Workshop (gazebo): Astronomy Apps for desktop and Mobile, David Lee.
  • 4:00pm: Introduction to Astronomy, Sherry Buttnor.
  • 8:00pm – Door prizes.
  • 8:30pm – Speaker- Exploring Mars: a Cartographer’s View, Dr. Phil Stooke.
  • 9:30pm – Guided Telescope Walk, followed by viewing of the night sky
  • 10:00pm until dawn: observing!

Sunday 23rd

  • Cleanup
  • 12 noon – departures

Photos from the Star Party

Our speakers start their talks just after sunset each evening.

August 21, 2015 speaker: Hubble History by Dr. Chris Gainor

Chris Gainor
Chris Gainor

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. This talk will summarize that quarter century of astronomical advances that has changed how we look at the universe and how astronomy is done. HST had a difficult start when it was discovered that its main mirror suffered from spherical aberration, a problem that was overcome by a crew of space shuttle astronauts that installed new instruments on Hubble. When a later shuttle repair mission was cancelled in 2004, an outcry from astronomers and the public led to the mission being restored. Today Hubble is still going strong with its new instruments. Chris will tell the story of Hubble’s operations in orbit based on the research he is doing for a book telling the history of HST.

Bio: Chris Gainor is a historian of technology and writer specializing in space exploration and aeronautics who is currently writing a history of the Hubble Space Telescope for NASA. He is the author of four books, and his writings have appeared in various specialty publications and Canadian newspapers. He holds a PhD in the history of technology from the University of Alberta, and has taught history at the University of Victoria and at CFB Esquimalt for the Royal Military College of Canada. He is First Vice President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, a former president of the Victoria Centre of the RASC. Chris is also International Space Programs Editor for Quest: The History of Spaceflight Quarterly, and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. He is also known for bringing history alive through his appearances as Sir Winston Churchill.

Phil Stooke with his Mars Atlas
Phil Stooke with his Mars Atlas

August 22, 2015 speaker: Exploring Mars – a Cartographer’s View – Dr. Philip Stooke

Abstract: This talk will summarize the history of Mars exploration with many illustrations from Phil’s books. The story will begin with telescopic views and the earliest NASA and Soviet missions, and will extend to recent activities by the rovers Opportunity and Curiosity. Much more than just a collection of press releases, the presentation will delve into many unfamiliar aspects of Mars exploration. How were the various landing sites chosen? Where was the Soviet Mars 7 supposed to land? What was underneath Viking 1? And how do we know where Opportunity is on any given day?

Bio: Phil Stooke grew up in England and eventually attended U. Vic, where he completed a B.Sc. in 1985 and a Ph.D. in 1988. Since then he has taught cartography and planetary science at the University of Western Ontario. Phil’s Ph.D. topic was mapping methods for non-spherical objects such as asteroids, and many of his maps are now available through NASA’s Planetary Data System. He continues to work in that area, most recently compiling digital maps of comets Borrelly and Hartley 2 and asteroids Eros and Itokawa. Phil has also written on the history of lunar and planetary cartography, and he has compiled several large reference works on lunar and Mars exploration. His International Atlas of Lunar Exploration and International Atlas of Mars Exploration are available in the U. Vic. Library, and a second volume on Mars exploration, covering the current rover missions, is in press.

RASCals Star Party – schedule of events

Posted by as Events

Please download our poster to stick on your fridge and to refer to: Poster (130k PDF)

Event – map and times for your e-calendar

Come join us!  Learn Astronomy and Explore the Night Sky

July 25 to 27, 2014

At the Metchosin Municipal Grounds
behind the Metchosin Fire Hall
4440 Happy Valley Road, Victoria, BC, Canada


Gates will open at 12pm noon on Friday. Camp on the field and setup your telescope.

Cost: Free of charge!  RASC members and visiting observers (who stay overnight): suggested donation of $20/Adult one day, two or three.  Everyone who is present is entitled to tickets for door prizes, lectures and access to the observing field.

Schedule of Events  (subject to change)

Friday 25th

12:00pm – Gates open

8:00pm – Welcome and Door prizes     

8:30pm – Presentation: Open University Astronomy, John McDonald

9:30pm –Guided Telescope Walk , followed by viewing of the night sky           

Saturday 26th

Solar viewing – all day

1:00pm – Workshop: 27,000 Km per hour, photographing ISS Passes, Charles Banville

2:00pm – Workshop: Observing Not for the Faint of Heart: The RASC Challenge Objects, Nelson Walker

3:00pm – Workshop: Astronomy 101, Sherry Buttnor

4:00pm – 6:00pm – activities for the kids

8:00pm – Door prizes

8:30pm – Speaker: Space Flight through the Ages, Chris Gainor

9:30pm – Guided Telescope Walk, followed by viewing of the night sky

Sunday 27th 

9:30 am – Farewell to Charles Banville – brunch at My Chosen Cafe (no host)

Cleanup (Please pitch-in & help)

12 noonearly departures please!


First evening of observing by the RASCals of Cattle Point

Posted by as Events

RASC Victoria Centre: Cattle Point &emdash; Joe and Bruno at Cattle PointAfter several months of being skunked by bad weather, the RASCals of Cattle Point finally had a good night to offer observing to the public from RASC’s newest Urban Star Park.

Our Treasurer Bruce Lane coordinates this event. Here is his report from the Feb 7, 2014 event.

This Friday was the first time the weather has cooperated for monthly astronomy at Cattle Point! Joining me at Cattle Point were Dorothy and Miles Paul, Chris Purse, and Alex (new member). Owing to snow shock (from weather earlier in the day) and cold conditions (still several degrees warmer than being up at the VCO) there were very few people out and about to interact with. The sky was clear, but winds were gusting at about 20km per hour, to add a bit of windchill. There were only two members of the public to have a look through the telescope. I finally packed it in at 9:15pm.

Congratulations to the group, and special thanks to the volunteers who braved the freezing conditions to make this happen!

RASCals of Cattle Point

Posted by as

Come to the Oak Bay waterfront and view the night skies above the Cattle Point Star Park, with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Victoria Centre. Astronomy in the Star Park is planned as a monthly event. This event will happen on Fridays closest to the first quarter phase of the Moon (or the last quarter as noted by a specific date). Plan to come a few minutes early if you’re setting up a telescope. Cattle Point is one of only two Urban Star Parks in Canada, where artificial lighting is strictly controlled and education in place about the benefits of reducing light pollution.

When you’re observing through someone’s telescope, please do not touch it. Just put your eye up to the eyepiece and observe. Many of the telescopes you see are carefully aligned to the night sky and bumping or handling them will knock them off target, and possibly ruin their alignment. Please park with your headlights facing away from the waterfront, to minimize the impact to people’s night sight.

Please ensure that you use only red light flashlights at this event, as white lights will ruin the night vision of everyone trying to enjoy the night sky. Please also be careful when you walk around in the dark. Many of the telescopes will be powered, so there will be cables on the ground. Please also limit the use of green lasers, which are great for pointing out stars, but very bad for scaring pilots. Make sure you dress warmly, as it gets very cold at night when you’re standing around. Above all, make sure to bring your scientific curiosity and a sense of wonder!

Gallery of photos taken at Cattle Point

Starting times for planned dates:

  • Friday, October 7 at 7:30 p.m. ***CANCELLED DUE TO POOR WEATHER FORECAST***
  • Friday, November 4 at 7 p.m. ***CANCELLED DUE TO POOR WEATHER FORECAST***
  • Friday, December 9 at 6:30 p.m. ***CANCELLED DUE TO POOR WEATHER FORECAST***
  • Friday, January 6, at 6:30 p.m. ***CANCELLED DUE TO POOR WEATHER FORECAST***
  • Friday, February 3 at 6:30 p.m.
  • Friday, March 3 at 7 p.m.


*All dates are dependent on the weather.  Rain or excessive cloud cover will result in cancellation. Please consult our Facebook page or Twitter feed for a ‘go’ or ‘no-go’ before attending this event.

RASCals Star Party

Posted by as

RASC Victoria Centre has held successful Star Parties annually from 2000 through to present. The RASCals Star Party has a well-deserved reputation of being a fun and easy-going camping and observing weekend which the whole family can enjoy. Our friendly group of dedicated volunteers always ensure this positive experience continues for each year’s event!

The star party is held on the Metchosin Cricket Field and municipal grounds. This location offers us one of the darker urban areas in the western communities near Victoria, and gives us good sight lines in all directions. We are thrilled to have this location for the RASCals Star Party, and appreciate the support from the local community!

Our speakers start their talks just after sunset each evening.

The tentative dates for the 2017 RASCals Star Party are July 28 – 30.

Typical Schedule of Events (evening times depend upon sunset)


  • 12 pm – Gates open
  • 8 pm – Welcome and Door prizes
  • 8 pm – Presentation
  • 9:30 pm – Guided Telescope Walk , followed by viewing of the night sky
  • 10 pm until dawn – observing!


  • Solar viewing – all day
  • 3 pm – Workshops
  • 8 pm – Door prizes
  • 8:30 pm – Speaker
  • 9:30 pm – Guided Telescope Walk, followed by viewing of the night sky
  • 10 pm until dawn – observing!


  • Morning – Cleanup
  • 12 pm – Departures

Photos from 2015 RASCals Star Party

Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival

Posted by as Observing Highlights

By Reg Dunkley

On a mild July 4th evening about 10 RASCals assembled at Cattle Point Urban Dark Sky Park for the Inaugural Transboundary Fireworks Festival. Attendees were rewarded with spectacular views of two July Forth Fireworks shows. Between 10 PM and 10:15 PM Friday Harbour on San Juan Island took the stage. Terrain blocked some of the low level displays but the airborne clusters filled the field of view of most scopes. The main event occurred between 10:30 PM and 10:50 PM when Fisherman Bay on Lopez Island launched their salvo. Although slightly farther away we enjoyed an unobstructed view of the Lopez conflagration.

A variety of scopes were deployed including refractors, newtonian reflectors, spotting scopes, binoculars as well as an 8 inch Schmidt Cassegrain. In order to squeeze in the view RASCals resorted to lower magnifications. This confirmed that you do not need a big scope to enjoy the show.

It took about one minute 20 seconds for the muffled booms to arrive on the scene. This soundscape combined by the spontaneous whoops and ah’s from the RASCals added to the party atmosphere. It would have been nice if we were able to transition from the fireworks to star gazing … but clouds intervened.

Should we try again next year? Randy Atwood’s attached photo captured Chris Aesoph giving it two thumbs up! So I reckon that is a yes. It was a RASCal Worthy event.

The attention the photons received was well deserved.

Thanks to all the attendees.

Victoria Centre Observatory gets a new telescope!

Posted by as News

TPO 16" f/8 Ritchey-Chretien Truss Tube Astrograp
TPO 16″ f/8 Ritchey-Chretien Truss Tube Astrograph

On July 12th Victoria Centre’s Council approved a plan to replace the telescopes currently in our observatory with new and improved optics. The Technical Committee’s plan includes replacing our existing Meade 14” SCT and Tele Vue NP 127is apochromatic refractor with a 16” F/8 Ritchey­ Chretien (RC) optical system. The new gear will be mounted on our existing Paramount ME mount, giving us a simpler setup that is actually a bit lighter than the old configuration.

The cost of the new RC telescope and accessories will be about $14,000, depending on the US$ exchange rate. Most of the gear will be purchased from OPT Oceanside Photo & Telescope in California, since they sell their brand TPO Ritchey Chretien telescopes at very attractive prices, and we took advantage of a recent sale price. We expect to eventually sell our surplus instruments and accessories, but will keep the current setup in place until the new gear arrives and is installed, in order to maximize the availability of the VCO to members.

We will fundraise from our members to directly offset the upgrade costs, since Victoria Centre Council originally budgeted $7,000 for the upgrade some months ago.


  • Improved cool down time
    • new RC is a truss design open tube giving good airflow around the primary optics,
    • old SCT is a closed tube design with a corrector plate restricting air flow
  • Improved guiding accuracy
    • new RC system will use an in-line off-axis guider,
    • old SCT system uses a piggyback-mounted telescope for guiding
  • Improved pointing accuracy
    • new RC system has a fixed primary mirror,
    • old SCT system suffers from primary mirror flop
  • Improved light gathering and resolution
    • new RC system has a 16″ primary mirror
    • old SCT system has a 14″ primary mirror and a corrector plate
  • Easier operation
    • new RC system is a single optical tube that will be used for guiding, imaging and observing
    • old system included an SCT, a Hyperstar f/2 attachment, a 127mm apo-chromaic refractor, and a guide scope, all mounted piggyback and in a custom cradle
  • We wish to enter RASC’s 150th year in 2018 with a first-rate observatory!


Our target is to raise $5,000 from members over the next few months. Tax receipts will be issued for all donations.

Joe Carr is our fundraiser, so please contact him for questions about the new telescope or to donate – email or telephone 250-294-1992.

Bruce Lane is our Treasurer, who will issue tax receipts and account for all donations to Council and members – email.

The first fundraising event was held at the RASCals Star Party on Saturday, July 29th at 2PM in Metchosin House. Thanks to everyone who donated so generously – we are already over half way to our target!

VCO Upgrade – fundraising slideshow – 1.8Mb pdf


New Equipment

Surplus Equipment

  • Meade 14″ SCT $2,000.00
  • Hyperstar f/2 $500.00
  • Cradle $300.00
  • Tele Vue NP127is $5,000.00
  • Total $7,800.00

Estimated Net Cost after sale of surplus $6,800

Please note that proceeds of the sale of used astronomical equipment is highly variable and can take many months. RASC Victoria Centre and then all RASC members will be given first chance to purchase our surplus equipment. Please contact Joe by email or telephone 250-294-1992 if you are interested.

President’s Message – June 2017

Posted by as President's Message

Another year of Astro Café has concluded. I would like to thank Barb, Reg, and John for the great series of topics, photos, videos, and of course, snacks we shared. With the installation of the larger television screen earlier this year, it is much improved for the sharing of astrophotography, videos, and the like. Astro Café continues to be a well-attended centre event and we look forward to another year starting in September. If you have not been to Astro Café recently, or ever, I encourage you to come by one Monday evening. I don’t think you will be disappointed!

The 2017 Summer Star Parties at the DAO are in full swing and we have had some good observing weather. As we enter summer, the emphasis will be on solar astronomy and targets that can be seen while the sky remains light. If you are not already on the volunteer’s list, and want to help out, please send me an email at president@victoria.rasc.ca. There are many more Saturdays on the calendar and new volunteers are most welcome.

As space exploration is in the news frequently, we have some great conversations at the star parties. I really enjoy sharing that time at the telescope that is often someone’s first time seeing a solar prominence or looking at the moon through a telescope. We’ve even had astronomical events that centre members have not seen before. For example, on 3 June, we saw the double shadow transit of Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Io during the evening. That was a first for me and something I will look out for in the future. The shadow transit coincided with the Great Red Spot being visible so that was great all around!

With general interest in astronomy, I have long thought it is under represented in the school curriculum. Considering the major contributions of Canadian astronomers, it is surprising that our students do not have more exposure to space science and, in particular, the opportunity to take a senior level course in astronomy. I was very happy to learn that teachers at Victoria High School are working to correct that with the introduction of an Astronomy 11 course. The course launches in the 2017 – 18 school year and the initial impressions are that quite a few students are interested in taking this new course. That is a great step forward and I hope it proves to be a great success. As part of the launch of this new course, Victoria High School is hosting a Star Party on Saturday 17 June starting at 8:30 p.m. If you are in the area why not attend? Please see cuyeda.weebly.com/star-party.html for more information.

Finally, as a reminder, our RASCals Star Party will be held on weekend of 28 – 30 July on the District of Metchosin municipal grounds. Information will be posted on our website once we have more details about the events that day. Saturday 29 July has been identified as the National Star Party day with events taking place across Canada as part of the sesquicentennial. I hope many members will come to the party again this year.