The Plaskett telescope

Volunteers open observatory Saturday

Saturday night marks the return of public programs to the Centre of the Universe and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich

Saturday night marks the return of public programs to the Centre of the Universe and Dominion Astrophysical Observatory in Saanich.

Volunteers with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada in Victoria will open the Centre of the Universe and the observatory on May 3, from 8 to 11 p.m., for International Astronomy Day.

“We’re thrilled, we are really really thrilled to be able to have a beginning of the return of the public programs to the observatory and the Centre of the Universe,” said Lauri Roche, past president of the RASC Victoria Centre that formed in April 1914. “This is our 100th anniversary. The building of the observatory began in 1914 as well, so that is a very close connection between the two groups.”

The Centre of the Universe, which houses interactive educational displays and historic astronomy artifacts, was closed to the public last August due to federal funding cuts. The observatory’s Plaskett telescope was also closed to public tours.

Thousands petitioned the closure of the education centre, including Don Moffatt, a member the short- and long-term working groups as well as the  Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.

“The short-term working group is looking at restoring as many services as possible with the visitors centre this year,” he said.

The long-term working group is working to revitalize the centre and make it viable into the future. The Friends aims to be the non-profit organization that would deal directly with the federal government.

While an April reopening was originally planned, the groups pushed that back to May 3, to coincide with Astronomy Week (May 4-10).

“The Royal Astrological Society has put on an astronomy day for a number of years. This year we’re having it in two places,” Roche said.

During the day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. they’ll be at the Royal BC Museum in the Clifford Carl Hall offering free workshops, displays and lectures. UVic’s Science Venture will also be on hand. Two lectures start at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. (details online at victoria.rasc.ca).

“We’re going to have telescopes outside for solar viewing … a walk through the planets,” Roche said. “In the evening the Observatory Hill will be open from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.

RASC astronomers will host two lectures at the Saanich site at  8:30 and 9:15 p.m.

“Then we have the Centre of the Universe building open and the permanent displays will be there for people to go through,” Roche said. “The first part of the evening, when it’s still light out, we’ll be giving historical tours. As the night gets darker … then we’ll open the Plaskett telescope and people can have a look.”

Weather permitting, members of the RASC will have their telescopes in the parking lot, checking out the sun then night time objects later.

“It has been done for years and years, even before the Centre of the Universe building was ever built. That’s that return of the RASC night sky viewing,” Roche said. “The moon will be a nice crescent moon and we should be able to see Jupiter and Mars.”

 

Parking is extremely limited in the area, and prohibited on Observatory Hill.