President's Message - December 2010

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By Lauri Roche

Do you remember when, for you, that first burst of interest in astronomy took hold? Maybe it was when you were little and your parents took you camping on crystal clear summer nights. Maybe it was later on when you finally had time to do some of that science reading you always wanted to get to or when you looked through a telescope for the first time. For every one of us in the RASC it was something different but once you had it, it didn't let go.

For me, it was the astronomical event that took place in 1986, the return of Halley's Comet, which was the trigger. My son was still tiny and I remember walking with him in my arms looking out at the sky in the middle of the night and thinking... �How in the heck did Edmund Halley know that this comet was going to come back every 76 years? How DID scientists figure out that other comets wouldn't be seen for at least another 10 000 years?� And that was that. From that time on I started reading about early astronomers, watched Nova programs on TV, and dove headlong into beginning texts on astronomy. But I know that I was not particularly interested in actually going out and finding people with telescopes and braving cold Ottawa nights. In fact, I don't think, at this point, I even knew that the RASC existed. Just to read, to be an �armchair astronomer�, was quite enough for me.

Jump forward about 7 years and my family had moved to Victoria. Once I was comfortable in a new teaching job, a new house and family responsibilities I realized that the Astronomy interest was still there and I went in search of what I could do. Within a very short time I met two incredible people that paved the way to today.

The first was Jack Newton, the well-respected astrophotographer and still a member of our Victoria group. I went to the Eaton's Shopping Centre and asked at the Black's Photography store if any one knew of a group of amateur astronomers in the city or who I could contact. The person there directed me to Jack Newton, who was, at that time, the manager of the Mark's and Spencer's store in the shopping centre. I remember going right up to him in the store and asking about an astronomy group. It did seem a bit strange but, nevertheless, he was very gracious and directed me immediately to the RASC meeting the next week at UVIC. He gave me the date, the room number and welcomed me along. And so I went to my first meeting...very shy, quite intimidated by all those smart people, but fascinated by the woman speaker from UVIC. I was officially hooked.

The second person is also well known to you: Sandy Barta. After going to a few of the meetings in the spring I went up to the Hill on a summery, warm Saturday evening. Not knowing really what to do, I followed other people and got into a line-up at one of the telescopes. When it was my turn there was this woman, funny, cheery, and very comfortable and patient, telling me how to see through the eye- piece. I saw the Ring Nebula for the first time. I asked her about her telescope. I asked her how she knew where to find the Nebula. I asked her when they were going to be there again. By that time she had to shoo me away from the telescope so others could look, but I didn't need too much more than that as a newcomer...the introduction to knowledgeable and accommodating people, a great program of astronomy presentations and free views through some telescopes.

Jump a few more years and now, here I am, taking on the responsibility of the presidency of this terrific organization. I am looking forward to working with people on council and have some goals in mind to work toward. I want to ensure our continuation of our excellent work with public outreach and the school programs, and to widen the observing and astrophotography net to include live and taped video programming. I want our Light Pollution Abatement initiatives to culminate in an Urban Star Park or a Dark Sky Preserve within the next two years. But mostly I would like to have people in our community of Greater Victoria and beyond have the opportunity to also have that � trigger� moment when they decide that they want to learn more about astronomy. That may happen at a school evening star party, a public event such as the lunar eclipse coming up in December, or a community festival. No one knows when the moment will strike but, when it does, I hope that, as members of the RASC, we will all be there, as cheerful, as knowledgeable, and as welcoming as they were for me when I first came to Victoria.

Our members are the roots of what we are as a group, both locally and nationally. We need to keep the membership strong, keep it lively, and keep it growing. I would like to make the growth and maintenance of our membership a real priority over the next two years, as well. I would like to say thank you to a few members of council who are stepping down this year: Dave Bennett, Sandy Barta, Colin Scarfe, Scott Mair and Steve Pacholuk. Their hard work, interests and contributions over the last few years have been very much appreciated by everyone.

Let's hope for clear skies this coming Christmas season and that we will be able to get out under the stars wherever you may be. Stay warm. Keep observing. Keep your own interest in astronomy going and then .....pass it on!


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Last updated: January 29, 2014

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