For members of the Victoria Centre, the high point of the GA was near the end
of the closing banquet, when outgoing National President Dave Lane announced the
final award of the evening. This was a new award, the RASC President's Award,
which is chosen by the National President for an especially deserving member.
Dave announced that the 2010 award was going to our own Sid Sidhu for his
incredible work organizing International Year of Astronomy activities in and
around Victoria. Dave said he was impressed when he saw Sid's work during his
visit to Victoria last fall. Since Sid wasn't at the GA, I accepted the award in
Two other Victoria RASCals also took a prominent role in the GA. The RASC's
Honourary President, Jim Hesser, and our centre's First Vice President, Lauri
Roche, took part in a panel discussion on the RASC in the 21st Century. Along
with other speakers, Jim and Lauri talked about how to attract members of the
public to our hobby and how to keep their interest alive.
Jim attended the meeting with his wife Betty, and Alex Schmid and his mother
Maria rounded out the Victoria delegation to the GA.
A new executive took office headed by Mary Lou Whitehorne of Nova Scotia, the
fifth woman to serve as National President and the first in nearly twenty-five
years. The GA also marked the debut of the RASC's first-ever Executive Director,
Deborah Thompson, who had just started the job two days before the GA began.
The RASC Annual General Meeting ratified a proposal from National Council to
increase dues by $3.00 a year starting later this year. It is also expected that
dues will be increased by another $3.00 next year, although that will have to be
approved by council and next year's annual general meeting. The dues increases
will cover the salary of the new executive director, who among other things is
being charged with looking for new sources of funding and with making the
national RASC more efficient and effective.
Compared to recent National Council meetings that featured discussions on
increasing dues and the desirability of hiring an executive director, the agenda
for National Council at this GA was relatively light. Nevertheless, council
approved a new Dark Sky Preserve in Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia.
Council also made improvements to the national public speaker's program, which
provides funding for speakers at centre meetings. As well, council discussed
better management of funds under the society's control.
During the council meeting, I announced Victoria Centre's plan to host the 2014
GA as part of our own centennial celebrations. The meeting was also told about
next year's GA, which will take place in Winnipeg on the July 1st weekend.
A second National Council meeting at the GA renewed the memberships of our
national committees. I have joined the RASC History Committee.
The panel discussion that included Jim and Lauri was not the only part of the
meeting that looked to the future. Many presentations also dealt with this
theme, including Jim Hesser's talk on follow-up activities to the International
Year of Astronomy. Mary Lou Whitehorne also gave a memorable talk about the
importance of the RASC's work in education and public outreach as a means of
promoting scientific literacy amongst the public. Audio recording available from
David Levy's website: go to
Stars and scroll down to the bottom where you'll see the title "The Future
of the RASC" dated 7/8/10.
Most people who attended the GA took a tour of the wooden building on campus
that served as Canada's first astronomical observatory in 1850. The observatory
was built by William Brydone Jack (1819-1886), who among other things was also
the first president of the University of New Brunswick.
New Brunswick borders the Bay of Fundy, which is famous for its great tidal
range. Many delegates took a tour to the Hopewell rocks, flowerpot-shaped rocks
created by the tides, and viewed these rocks at both high and low tides. Later
in the GA, Dr. Roy Bishop, the former longtime editor of the Observer's
Handbook, gave a talk explaining the physics of the Bay of Fundy's tides.
The GA's best-known speaker was one of Dr. Bishop's former students. David Levy
reviewed his career as an observer and comet hunter in an inspiring
Other activities included a day long sailing trip from St. Andrews by the Sea,
where delegates saw Minke whales, porpoises, and sea lions. The tours rounded
out a busy, productive and enjoyable General Assembly.