Curious stargazers and professional astronomers will be looking to the sky Saturday as Saanich celebrates International Astronomy Day with a jam-packed series of events from the morning until late at night.
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Victoria Centre has a full day of out-of-this-world activities at the Royal B.C. Museum and atop Observatory Hill at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and the Centre of the Universe.
“It’s an opportunity to do some public outreach about our hobby, but it’s also more than a hobby,” said Chris Gainor, first vice-president of the RASC. “Victoria is kind of a space city in a sense because you have this facility here, which is a world-class facility with some top flight astronomers.”
The day starts at the museum at 10 a.m., where the universally inquisitive can safely view the sun through solar telescopes and see the RASC’s “Walk Among the Planets” display. The museum’s Clifford Hall will host telescope, mirror grinding, astrophotography and historical displays, and RASC volunteers and Science Venture students from the University of Victoria will engage children with hands-on activities.
Then, as the sun sets, the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory will open its doors for tours of the historic Plaskett Telescope from 8 to 11 p.m., hosted by the RASC Victoria and NRC Herzberg.
“The weather has to co-operate on the night, but rain or shine, there will be tours inside the dome,” said Gainor. “You can go in and see the big scope, and if it’s not raining, we’ll probably move it around and you can see it in the control room.”
Likewise, the Centre of the Universe exhibits will be available for public viewing, and RASC members will have personal telescopes set up for public viewing if weather permits.
“People looking through a telescope for the first time, it’s generally a ‘Wow’ experience – we see pictures of things, but it’s just a little different when you’re seeing it with your own eyes,” said Gainor, adding it’s a great time of year to take in the planets.
“Jupiter is quite prominent right now, and as we get into the summer, Mars is going to be up and Saturn will be coming along later on.”
Additionally, the museum’s Newcombe Conference Hall will host two lectures, scheduled for 1 and 2 p.m., and astronomer Ivar Arroway will be on Observatory Hill for a lecture on the Kuiper Belt at the edge of our solar system at 8 p.m.
All of the astronomy presentations, displays and workshops are free, but regular admission charges apply to the permanent galleries of the Royal B.C. Museum and the IMAX theatre.
Due to past parking issues on the observatory grounds, the RASC Victoria has set up ticketed admission to the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and Centre of the Universe. The tickets are free and can be obtained online at https://summerstarparties.eventbrite.ca. Visitors with tickets are welcome to start arriving at 7:30 p.m.
The RASC Victoria is also hosting other public stargazing events at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory on Saturday nights throughout the summer, with dates set for May 21 and 28; June 4 and 11; July 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; and Aug. 6, 13 and 20.
For more information, visit www.victoria.rasc.ca.