President's Message - September 2011

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by Lauri Roche

Welcome back from a terrific summer of warm days, equally warm nights and wonderful observing. It certainly took its time in coming as July was so cloudy and cool but August and this first part of September has been stunning . I hope you have had at least a few opportunities to get out under starry skies in the past few weeks.

Thanks to everyone who helped out with the Saanich Strawberry Festival, the McGill Alumni at Cattle Point, our Metchosin RASCals Star Party, the Cowichan Valley Star Party, St. Stephens Church evening and the Saanich Fair this summer. We were able to bring the day and night skies to hundreds of people over the past few months. We are so appreciative of all the support and enthusiasm from our members in our public outreach.

As September rolls around and new activities rev up again, I inevitably start making lists of all the things I need to do: lists of house cleaning projects I never got to in the summer, shopping lists, �To-Do� lists for various organizations, and additions to the �bucket list� of places I still want to travel to when time and money miraculously come together at the same time! At least I feel I have done something when I look at the lengthy set of scrawls on the pieces of paper and tack them to my bulletin board.

I got to thinking of another list, however, that I started at the beginning of the summer season and that was the Explore the Universe Certificate list that is put together by the RASC for beginning observers. This is made for new observers (or old ones like me) to get a feel for all the different types of objects, phenomena, and places that can easily be observed in the sky with the naked eye, binoculars or small telescopes. It has been fun to set up a log book, make up a plan for observing (not that I always follow it, but it�s there) and check things off the list as I find them. It gives a structure to my observing that I had not had before.

And this summer three other people talked to me about lists. A relative newcomer to our society was thrilled as she checked off some of her last Messier�s at the RASCals star party. Another avid observer showed me some really faint fuzzies one night up at the VCO that he had found from a  Deep Sky Challenge list that he has been working on for a couple of years, while a third long-time observer said to me that she needed some new things to look at as she had already looked at most of the regular objects from the well-known lists over many years. This got me delving into the types of Astronomical Catalogues that are out there for use by those of us with telescopes that are just a little smaller (!) than the Hubble or those on Mauna Kea and I was amazed at what I found.

Of course we can start with all the 108 Messier objects or those in the NGC or New General Catalogue, or identify hundreds of craters with the Lunar Atlas. But just as fun are the various lists for Asteroids, Pulsating Variables and Eclipsing Binaries or David Levy�s Deep Sky Objects and Dyer and Ling�s Deep Sky Challenge Objects. What about the Abell Clusters catalogue or the weirdly wonderful ARP list of Peculiar Galaxies? Check out the September/October edition of Skynews Magazine for photographs of these strange objects. If you know what the IC, RNGC, HH, UGC and ZWG are then you are already an �astronomical list� guru and you may never see daylight again! ( Bill W. �you top them all!) I still think that a better name for some of these lists would be �Catalogues of Faint Fuzzies� but I don�t think that would go over too well with the Astronomical Union. My eyes will give out before I ever get to any of these more challenging catalogues but I know some of our members have delved far into lesser-known catalogues and their determination and patience is admired.

So if you are relatively new to observing, think about doing the Explore the Universe Certificate as I am, or try for a Messier Certificate. Our observing groups will help to get you going or give well-worn observers some new inspiration. Let�s get out there while the weather cooperates. Now if I can only find that list of things to do tomorrow�����. Clear Skies


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