Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park
August 13-16 2009
Report by Chris Gainor
Victoria Centre National Rep
gallery - 2009 RASC General Assembly - SSSP
"RASC Rogues" - a mock
trial at Fort Walsh - a video taken during the Winery/Ft. Walsh tour
Like most things we astronomers are doing this International Year of
Astronomy, the 2009 RASC General Assembly commemorated the 400th anniversary of
Galileo pointing his telescope at the heavens. This GA broke precedent by being
held in a location far away from cities and universities, instead taking place
in conjunction with the 2009 Saskatchewan Summer Star Party in the Cypress
This was also the first GA to take place in August, rather than at the usual May
24 or July 1 long weekend GA times. As the dates fell, the GA and the
Saskatchewan Summer Star Party took
place on the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock rock festival, and unfortunately
I was reminded often of Woodstock because both events were marked by rainy
Those of us who arrived on August 12, the eve of the GA and the star party, were
treated to the beautiful clear skies that have made the SSSP famous.
The night was also marked by a terrific display of Perseids, making it one of
the best nights of meteor shower viewing I have ever enjoyed.
Unfortunately, when I put my telescope away that night after moonrise, I would
not have reason to use it again on that trip. Fortunately, the speakers such as
astronomy writer, lecturer and photographer Alan Dyer, Jim Hesser with his
excellent report on the IYA, and First Nations astronomy experts Wilfred Buck
and Rocky McKay (Manitoba First
Nations Education Resource Centre), kept disappointed observers engaged with their fascinating and
More than 400 people attended the event, a record for SSSP, and many friendships
and acquaintances were renewed. As well, everyone enjoyed seeing the latest
astronomical equipment on show and on sale.
Many members came from the Victoria Centre, including President John McDonald,
Wendy McDonald, Bruno Quenneville, Joe Carr, Charles Banville, Jim Hesser, Gerry
Rozema, Chris Martens, Don & Elizabeth van Akker, and Frank Ogonowski, along
with the author. John entered three photographs in competition, and his wide
field study of the Cygnus region won top prize in its category. John also
captured a beautiful image of the Crescent Nebula on the night of August 12.
Wendy exhibited her astronomically themed quilts, and Victoria Centre member
Peter Goodman�s art was also on display.
Last year�s GA went down in history as one of the most eventful on record as
the RASC grappled with a major dues increase, a restructuring dictated by
changes in tax law, and the decision to sell the national office in Toronto and
move to rented quarters. This year, things were much quieter.
The RASC national Annual General Meeting ratified National Council�s decision to
wind up the Life Members program. This decision, which came after long
discussion at both the national and centre levels, means that no new life
memberships will be made available, except for honourary life members elected by
National Council. Current life members will continue to receive services from
the national RASC, and the Victoria Centre and other centres have committed to
continue to provide services to these members. The AGM also passed a motion
straightening out an error in the RASC bylaws made in last year�s sweeping set
During the meeting, we were told that the RASC membership has not increased
during the International Year of Astronomy, possibly because new memberships
resulting from the promotional activities for IYA are balancing out membership
losses due to the recession and last year�s dues increase. The executive and
council will also begin a process to decide what to do with the proceeds from
the sale earlier this year of the RASC�s former national office in Toronto.
Earlier in the GA, the National Council held an all-day meeting. During that
meeting, council elected our own Dr. Jim Hesser as Honourary President of the
RASC for a four-year term. Jim takes over from Dr. Bob Garrison of Toronto.
Given Jim�s incredible record of promoting the IYA in particular and astronomy
in general here and around the world, his election won unanimous support in
council and praise from members and friends.
National Council also voted to accept the nominations of the Mount Carleton
Provincial Park in New Brunswick and the Grasslands National Park in
Saskatchewan as RASC Dark Sky Preserves.
In reports to National Council, we heard that the new IMIS membership management
system for the RASC is moving ahead, albeit at a slower pace than hoped. The
system went on line last fall, but more work remains to be done before it can
come into full use.
First Vice President Mary Lou Whitehorne told council that she is preparing a
report on the volunteer deficit problem that is creating problems for the
national RASC. This report should be ready next spring.
Family and Associate Memberships
Prior to the GA, a number of Victoria Centre members expressed concern to the
Victoria Centre Council about the lack of family memberships for spouses and
children of RASC members. During the GA, President John McDonald, Gerry Rozema,
and I raised this issue, as did members from other centres.
We were told that a proposal for family memberships was considered and turned
down by National Council a number of years ago, probably because it was poorly
thought out. It was brought to our attention that the RASC National Bylaws
provide for Associate Memberships at the Centre level.
Associate Membership is aimed at spouses and children of RASC members, and
appears to deal with the problem of duplicate publications and eligibility to
use facilities such as the Victoria Centre Observatory.
As a result of these discussions, we will work in Victoria Centre Council to
amend our centre bylaws to provide for Associate Memberships in the RASC
Victoria Centre. If this fails to deal with the issues arising from the current
membership situation, we will return to the national society with
recommendations for change.
Future General Assemblies
The 2010 General Assembly will take place July 1 to 4 in Fredericton, New
Brunswick. No centre has yet bid for the 2011 GA. During discussion on this
matter, I informed National Council that the Victoria Centre is planning to host
the 2014 GA during Victoria Centre�s centennial year.