2014 General Assembly in Victoria

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President's Message - June 2007

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by Joe Carr

Beavers observing fir cones using Scott Mair's telescopeThe School Telescope Program is run by our 1st Vice President Sid Sidhu, and represents our public outreach to schools.  If you are an active observer, Sid coordinates a dedicated group of Victoria Centre volunteers to setup telescopes and invite school aged kids to look at the Moon, planets and the brighter objects in the night sky. This year Sid reports many cancellations and rescheduled school telescope events. I'm sure I don't have to tell you the weather for the last six months has not lent itself to observing, and yet we have successfully staged a few school telescope events.

The latest event was a "Beaveree" held for the Beavers at Camp Barnard on Saturday, May 26th.  We had a good turnout of Beavers (5-7 year olds), and we certainly had wonderful support from our volunteers.  Up until lunch time we thought the cloudy skies would beat us, but after lunch the sky cleared and we all setup our telescopes for solar observing, including the Victoria Centre's Coronado Ha scope.  Some of us even found Venus in the daytime sky.  We all went home happy that we helped the Beavers and their leaders to observe the Sun, and tell them a little bit about astronomy by using our solar system model, some display astrophotographs, and Steven Courtin's ecliptic calendar.

Many thanks go to our members who volunteered for this event - Scott Mair, Steven Courtin, David Lee, Constantine Thomas, Mark Wheen, Bill Weir, Sandy Barta, Dave Bennett, Bruno Quenneville, Sid Sidhu, and Joe Carr.

Software Bisque Paramount ME robotic equatorial mountAt the last Victoria Centre Council meeting, we decided in principal to purchase a good robotic-capable equatorial mount to put in the observatory on Observatory Hill (which we expect to be built this year).  The BC Gaming Commission did not grant us adequate funds to purchase a whole robotic telescope system, but we feel if we have a good mount, it will serve us well into the future.  Council realized that if we combined the funds the Gaming Commission granted us for this year's proposal along with funds we have in our regular bank account, we could purchase a top quality robotic equatorial mount which could handle many different telescopes our members might wish to use, in addition to the 16" scope we plan to acquire next year.  Several possible robotic telescope configurations were considered.  The criteria was governed by our proposal to the BC Gaming Commission, which stated:

"Providing an internet enabled portal to the stars for British Columbians enables everyone access to the beautiful and enriching world of astronomy. For many members of our community this is currently not possible: many people with physical disabilities find it difficult to look through a normal telescope comfortably or get to good observing sites; many seniors are no longer are able to get around as they once could, especially on cold, damp evenings; and in a climate of challenging education budgets field trips for many schools are no longer an option. Using our current equipment (video projector and astro vid camera) and the resources we could acquire with support of this grant application we could connect all British Columbians directly to the night sky in real-time. With a 16 inch telescope (to ensure exquisite images) located in a dark sky location (DAO) and with remote computer control, anyone could control the telescope via the internet, take pictures and enjoy them on their computer screen."

At our May 16th Council Meeting, the two Vice Presidents and myself presented our recommendation for the purchase of the Software Bisque Paramount ME robotic equatorial mount over other options. Council carefully analyzed our budget and available gaming funding, and concluded we could handle this purchase (estimated at $16,200 depending on US$ exchange rate).  I would like to make clear, we are still providing for this year's budget ($1,650 to end of year), so programs we planned for will not be jeopardized by this proposed purchase. We realize this is probably the largest single purchase Victoria Centre has ever made in its history, so we want to ensure members are well-informed about the process we followed. As I stated at our May 9th general meeting,  if any members have feedback or opinions you wish to share, Council members would be happy to hear from you.  We plan to hold a special Council meeting June 20th to formally vote on this proposed purchase.  As always, any member of Victoria Centre is welcome to attend this or any other Council meeting.

I hope all Victoria Centre members enjoy our summer weather, and take time to get outside and observe.  There are two local star parties being held: the Island Star Party July 20-21, 2007, and our own RASCALS Star Party  Aug 24-26, 2007. Both of these events are held at the Victoria Fish and Game Association located on the Malahat, so please plan to attend these fun events that are located so close to us.  Impromptu observing sessions will no doubt happen locally on Observatory Hill, Cattle Point, and Pearson College, so stay tuned to our email lists for the latest observing information. Last but not least, please stay tuned for our annual picnic, which is always held at Pearson College Observatory - date to be announced.  Please have a safe, fun, and happy summer!

Joe Carr

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