Astronomy Day celebrations at the University of Victoria were at the Bob Wright Centre, home of the biggest university telescope in Canada. On hand were volunteers from RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada), the UVic Astronomy Department, and the HIA (Herzburg Institute of Astrophysics). Despite the cloudy conditions, there were over 700 visitors to the event. The solar telescopes were set up for public use, but viewing conditions were very overcast for most of the day. There was a lot of interest in the other activities, with the Ask an Astronomer booth and numerous displays. There were also astronomy lectures every hour on the hour, making use of the lecture hall that RASC uses for its monthly meetings in the Bob Wright Centre.
As a member of RASC, I was there showing the public different types of telescopes that we use as amateur astronomers. I had my Celestron NexStar 8SE 203.2mm (8”) Schmidt Cassegrain telescope on a computerized alt-azimuth mount. There was also reflector telescope on a dobsonian mount and a Celestron refractor on an equatorial mount. In the display next to me, there was a pair of amateur astronomers showing techniques for grinding your own telescope lenses. One of them was making his first hand ground lens. There was a raffle draw for a 10” reflector telescope on a dobsonian mount that I sadly did not win, but the person who did got themselves a very nice telescope for a bargain! The proceeds from the raffle ticket sales will be used to buy a solar telescope that will be used for RASC’s public outreach programs. There were a lot of families at Astronomy Day and it was a rewarding experience to spend the day talking to people who shared an interest in viewing the night sky.
The clouds spoiled what would have been a night of viewing the night sky through our telescopes, but we had a special guest speaker to more than make up for the bad weather. Bob MacDonald, from CBC Radio’s Quirks and Quarks, gave a presentation to a packed auditorium. His talk, titled “Vacations in Space: the Hottest Holiday Spots in our Solar System”, was well received.
Weather aside, it was a very successful public outreach event to bring an awareness of astronomy to the public. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and other groups will be building on the successes of Astronomy Day, getting ready for upcoming public viewing events for the Solar Eclipse (May 20th) and the Transit of Venus (June 5th).