RASC GA 2011 Report by Chris Gainor

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RASC General Assembly 2011

Winnipeg, Manitoba
July 1-3 2011

Report by Chris Gainor
Victoria Centre National Rep

The RASC GA returned to the University of Manitoba this year as part of the Winnipeg Centre�s celebrations for its 100th anniversary. The organizers carried off a most successful GA with the emphasis being on astronomy rather than contentious business items.

Five members of the Victoria Centre attended the GA, including the Honorary National President Jim Hesser and Betty Hesser, past Victoria Centre president John McDonald, Jim Stillburn, Jennifer Tigner, and the author of this article.

RASC Business

The National Council and the Annual General Meeting at this GA had light agendas. This was good news, because there was no dues increase on the agenda, as had been feared a few months ago. The lack of a dues increase fitted in with the generally upbeat reports from President Mary Lou Whitehorne of Nova Scotia and the national executive.

A year ago, the RASC�s first Executive Director, Deborah Thompson, took office, and she and the executive reported progress on several fronts in their work to put the national society on a sound footing. Deborah, the RASC�s new Office Administrator Fiona Wilson and other employees are implementing measures to increase our membership, and improve services to members.

The National RASC has obtained government grant money to improve the design of the Journal, and increase subscriptions to the Journal. The latter goal is on the way to being met, and the design improvements are already apparent in the June issue of the Journal.

The executive team has been able to manage issues such as the continuing high value of the Canadian dollar, which in the past has affected sales of the Observer�s Handbook and other RASC publications. And in the coming months, the RASC will have to rewrite its Constitution to meet the changes required under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act, which was passed in 2009 and will come into effect later this year, replacing legislation that has been in place since 1917. This will mean a great deal of work involving the Constitution Committee, the National Executive, and Council leading up to the 2012 GA.

This new legislation will also mean that the centres, including the Victoria Centre, will have to rewrite their bylaws to reflect the new legislation. The national RASC will assist the centres with this work once the new national Constitution is in place.

National Council also spent a great deal of time on the Light Pollution Abatement Committee report, ratifying the committee�s recommendation that the Irving Nature Park in St. John, New Brunswick, be designated as the RASC�s first Urban Star Park. Council also ratified revisions to the RASC Guidelines for Dark Sky Preserves and Urban Star Parks. Council also voted to register the phrases and logos associated with the RASC�s Dark Sky Preserves and Urban Star Parks programs.

Other Activities

This GA was notable for the fact that it was the first to be tweeted to interested observers around Canada and elsewhere using the #rascga hashtag. As well, photos and events were quickly posted on the RASC�s Facebook page.

Those attending the GA enjoyed many top-flight presentations, including Dr. Christine Wilson from McMaster University, who gave the Ruth Northcott Lecture on the origin of stars, and Dr. Samar Safi-Harb of the University of Manitoba, who addressed the banquet on X-ray astronomy. York University astronomer Paul Delaney spoke on the study of variable stars.

Alan Dyer and others gave excellent presentations on astrophotography. RASC History Committee chair Randall Rosenfeld not only played the music of famed musician and astronomer William Herschel, but also provided a preview of the upcoming transit of Venus across the face of the Sun, which will be visible in Victoria and elsewhere on June 5, 2012.

The GA also heard a presentation on Laser Pointers from Bob Grant of Transport Canada, who promised to work with the RASC to foster the safe and lawful use of these devices. The RASC has produced a leaflet on Green Laser Pointers for Astronomy, which will be available from the Victoria Centre.

The GA offered attendees the usual excellent variety of tours, including the Assiniboine Park and Zoo, the Canadian Fossil Discovery Centre, and others. On Canada Day, delegates enjoyed a wine and cheese at the Manitoba Museum, followed by a view of fireworks on the Red River and even a display of noctilucent clouds.

Upcoming GAs

The 2012 RASC General Assembly will take place at the University of Alberta in Edmonton from June 27 to July 1. The location for the 2013 GA remains unknown, although it will likely be in Eastern Canada. And the Victoria Centre�s plans to host the GA in 2014 for our own centennial are already well known around the RASC.


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