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Stargazing support tops expectations

Saturday night viewings continue at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Aug. 2. - Don Denton/News staff/Octo fan
Saturday night viewings continue at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Aug. 2.
— image credit: Don Denton/News staff/Octo fan

Saturday night stargazing at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory has taken off with a total of more than 500 people showing up at the last two events.

Nearly 350 visited the Centre of the Universe for a tour of the Plaskett Telescope on July 12, with another 200 braving the windy conditions on July 19 for a super moon viewing.

“Unfortunately the wind kept us from opening the dominion roof, but those who stuck it out and stayed late finally got to peek through the telescope a little before 11 p.m.,” said Lauri Roche, a volunteer with the Victoria Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society.

“Other than being blown off the hill by winds it was another great night,” Roche said.

With wind up to 50 km/h, the Plaskett’s fragile lenses couldn’t be exposed, Roche said.

“It’s safe to say the free admission is drawing big numbers, but as long as we’re around the 200 to 300 mark, we’re okay,” she said.

“Anything over 300 and it does start to get a little crowded with lineups.”

Saanich South MLA Lana Popham – who launched a petition to save the facility’s outreach programs after the federal government announced it was pulling funding last year – said the early turnout has been encouraging.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of the longevity of the centre, but it’s worth doing. And it’s gathered the community together,” Popham said.

A host of community supporters hopes to establish a long-term plan for the Centre of the Universe while utilizing transitional funding from the National Research Council Canada for short-term activities.

One-week youth day camps are also being run by Science Venture at the facility for July and August.

The observatory will not be open this Saturday (July 26) as the society-led Metchosin Star Party starts tonight (July 25), and runs all day Saturday and Sunday morning.

This year marks the 15th year for the Star Party, boasting a set up of 50 telescopes behind the Metchosin Fire Hall for sky viewing.

Did you know?

- There are still spots for kids and youth from Grades 3 to 8 who are keen on space exploration and physics through the University of Victoria summer camp Science Venture at the observatory. Visit scienceventure.ca or call 250-721-8983 for more information.

- Saturday night public observing continues at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Aug. 2, 9 and 16, and on Sept. 6, from 8 to 11:30 p.m.

- The Observatory will be financially supported by the National Research Council for a few more years.

reporter@saanichnews.com

 

 

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