President's Message - March 2011

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March 2011

by Lauri Roche

I admit it: I am a winter astronomy wimp. I hate the cold and the wind and the snow. That�s why I moved from Ottawa to the balmy west many years ago. So when, for a few nights in January and February (with the emphasis on few this year), the winter skies were clear and sparkling and many of you jumped at the chance to dress yourselves up in long underwear, down parkas, toques and warm mittens and rush out to set up your telescopes, I sat cuddled in a blanket with a cup of cocoa and dreamed of warmer summer nights.

Now you have to know that I did feel a tinge of guilt that I was not partaking of the wonderful views of Orion and Gemini and Ursa Major. So, usually, I would throw on my heavy coat, take out my binoculars and at least spend a few icy minutes perusing the skies until it just got too cold and I would dash back in the house. As I said: a real wimp. But those few minutes looking at the Orion Nebula or the Taurus open clusters when they are crystal clear and sharp and it feels like you can see magnitudes more stars than usual is very enticing. Why can�t we have these wonderful skies AND warm temperatures at the same time?

So I make myself feel somewhat better by using the winter evenings to brush up on my reading, learn my new SKY- X program and prepare for the Messier observation nights. I read the Skynews magazine we get with our RASC membership from cover to cover and look through the Astronomy and Sky and Telescope magazines that I take out of our Centre�s library. The astronomy programs such as Starry Night or SKY-X are full of interesting tidbits and help you become oriented to the night sky very quickly. I hope you all have some sort of program downloaded on your computers that you can refer to any time. You can even put apps such as SkySafari on your mobile or i-pads and play to your heart�s content. Our public libraries and bookstores are filled with excellent material to read on cold rainy nights.

But nothing is better than �the real thing� so I am making a pledge to myself that real-time observing will be a priority this year. I want to get out to the Victoria Centre Observatory and help with the public at the Centre of the Universe on Saturday evenings come the spring. I want to participate in the Messier observing nights when Nelson Walker calls to say �Let�s go!� and in the Messier Marathon later in March. Being part of the school star parties is very rewarding and you forget about the cool temperatures when you have excited kids and parents �oohing� and� aahing� at your telescope. And , of course, I really like going to the Plaskett viewing sessions because you can do imaging and observing from the warmth of the control room with Dave Balaam.

We are very lucky to have the opportunity to do observing so close to where we live and I hope you will think about getting out, either on your own, or with friends, or with other RASC members to observe and admire our wonderful skies. So next time it is a clear night in the coming weeks and you are out looking at the stars, think of me, in my toque and mittens doing the same thing out there, too�no wimping out�honest!


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Last updated: January 29, 2014

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