Friday, April 25, 2014

Astronomy Day - May 3rd!

Thanks to many talented and passionate volunteers with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (Victoria Centre) a very special day awaits all lovers of the stars.

Click below for a audio piece with Lauri Roche, past-President of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - Victoria Centre, speaking to Gregor Craigie of CBC's On the Island, about the day:

Details are below. Or visit the RASC Victoria site for more information. 

Saturday May 3rd is Astronomy Day!

10am-4pm at the Royal BC Museum

8pm-11pm at Observatory Hill

Royal BC Museum - 10am-4pm

  • Solar viewing (weather permitting)
  • Solar System model – walk among the planets on the plaza outside
  • Ask an astronomer – ask those astronomy questions you always wondered about
  • General information table – RASC Victoria Centre
  • Science Venture – interactive science exhibits from UVic students
  • Astrophotography display and information – learn how to use your camera to take night sky photos
  • Pearson College science exhibits – interactive and innovative science for kids of all ages
  • Telescope making table – learn how to grind a mirror to make your own telescope at home
  • Children’s Activity table – hands-on crafts, planet making, etc.
  • Static displays
    • Antique brass telescope from the CU museum
    • Other telescopes
  • Video media displays – 3D video displays, desktop planetarium, images from space missions
  • The physics of Angry Birds
  • Bad Science
  • 11AM – Mars Explorations – Chris Gainor, Canadian space author
  • 2PM - Worlds Without End - James Di Francesco - The recent discoveries of hundreds of planets by NASA’s Kepler satellite observatory have profound implications about the proliferation of planets within our Galaxy.  Namely, the latest statistics show that the number of planets in the Galaxy is likely larger than the number of stars.  Also, every star in the sky likely has at least one “Earth-like” mass planet.  James will summarize the most recent discoveries made by the Kepler team, and highlight the prospects of further discoveries by Canadians with the new Gemini Planet Imager.
  • Galileo might even make an appearance!

Observatory Hill - 8pm-11pm

Return to Observatory Hill
On International Astronomy Day, Saturday, May 3rd the RASC and the NRC Herzberg invites everyone back up onto Observatory Hill where the Centre of the Universe displays and the historic Plaskett Telescope will be re-opened for night sky public viewing.
Opening of the Hill is from 8 pm to 11 pm. Please wear warm clothing as it can be cool and windy in the evening. Parking is very limited so please follow all the directions of the Commissionaires for access.
Schedule of activities:
8:00 pm Gates open to visitors
8:00 to 10:45 pm Displays open in the Center of the Universe exhibit area
8:00 to 10:45 pm Telescope viewing with the RASC – parking lot
8:15 pm Welcome ceremonies – Center of the Universe Auditorium
8:30 pm Pubic Talk: Dr. Rita Mann “Death Stars in the Orion Nebula: Recent Observations into Planet Formation” – CU Auditorium
8:30 to 10:30 pm: Tours of the Observatory and Night Sky Viewing with the Plasket Telescope facilitated by Dr. David Bohlender
9:15 pm Public Talk: Dr. Michele Bannister “The Hidden Oceans of Icy Moons” – CU Auditorium
10:45 pm Closing of exhibits, telescopes and night sky viewing
11:00 pm Departure off the hill
Please join us as we celebrate the RASC’s 100th Anniversary in 2014. Thank you to the NRC/Herzberg for permitting us to put on this special evening program with them and we hope that we will be able to have more open Saturday night sky viewing in the summer. For more information please contact: Lauri Roche by email.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Starry Nights Again!

Petitioners and Lana at public demo to save the Saanich Observatory,
August 24, 2013
Dear Friends of the Saanich Observatory,

I am very happy to share with you three pieces of good news about public access to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Centre of the Universe.

1. Star-Gazing Saturday Night on International Astronomy Day!
On Saturday May 3rd, from 8-11pm, the Centre of the Universe will be open! Volunteers with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) will have their telescopes set up for public gazing and there will be tours of the Observatory itself. The powerful Plaskett Telescope will be operational, weather permitting. There will be lectures by National Research Council (NRC) astronomers later in the evening.

This free evening event will cap a full day of astronomy activities at the Royal BC Museum. More information available at

2. Summer Camp is back at the Saanich Observatory!
 This July and August, UVIC’s much-loved Science Venture is offering eight week-long Astronomy Camps at the Centre of the Universe! If you have kids in grade 3-8, check out the “spaceTECH” or “astroLAB” camps. SpaceTech will teach campers how technology makes it possible to live and work in space. AstroLAB focuses on stars, planets, galaxies, and hands-on building projects. The goal of both camps is to deepen knowledge and inspire our youth to learn about astronomy, physics and space technology – in a fun way, and now at a truly awesome location! Registration opens April 22nd. More information at

3. Star-Gazing Saturday Nights this Summer!
The RASC is planning seven star-gazing evening events this summer! This is still tentative, but I expect it will be confirmed very soon. The dates on hold are July 5, 12 and 19, August 2, 9 and 16 and September 6. The plan is for a free evening event, rain or shine, with tours of the Observatory and, hopefully, viewing from the Plaskett telescope. RASC volunteers will be on hand to share their knowledge and will have their own telescopes set-up for the public to use. Stay tuned for finalized plans!

I want to acknowledge and thank the many people – at RASC, UVIC and the National Research Council -- who have put in long hours to make this all possible. This is a fantastic beginning to the next phase of public engagement and support for the Saanich Observatory. Community volunteers and the NRC continue to work together closely as they develop long-term plans for public access for 2015 and beyond.

Warm regards,


PS. Click here for an article about this from today's Times Colonist:

For more information:

Star-Gazing Saturday Nights 
Lauri Roche, Volunteer, RASC, 250 652 2361,

Space Venture Camps at the Centre of the Universe 
Melisa Yestrau, Director, Science Venture, 250 721 8661,

Public Engagement with the Observatory and the Centre of the Universe 
Jim Hesser, NRC, 250 363 0007,

Friends of the Observatory: developing long-term public support and access to the Observatory and the Centre of the Universe 
Don Moffatt, Chair of Short-Term Working Group, 250 208 3666,