Saturday Night Public Observing Returns to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory

Posted by as Special Events

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

President’s Message – June 2014

Posted by as President's Message

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 akun pro laos 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.