RASC Vancouver at 90!

In 1917, the Canadian Government opened the Dominion Observatory at Saanich, near Victoria. Local amateur astronomers formed a new centre of the RASC which included a few members from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.

As membership grew, despite the distance to Victoria and the onset of the Great Depression, by 1930 the astronomers (which by then included a few professional astronomers from UBC) had decided there were sufficient numbers to form a centre in Vancouver. By fall of 1931, the details had been finalized to create a new Centre of the RASC.

On the 2nd Tuesday of November in 1931, the first meeting of the Vancouver Centre was held at UBC in the now long-gone original Astronomy building. The Centre would meet there (and later in the new Astronomy and Geophysics building) until 1969. The Centre then moved to the H. R. MacMillan Planetarium and stayed there until 2011. The Centre moved around temporarily to various locations such as bcit and Douglas College (now Kwantlen University) and SFU, and a few years later decided to make the move permanently to SFU.

From the beginning, public outreach has been a big part of Vancouver Centre’s mandate. The monthly meetings have always been open to the public, and star parties were frequently held. Originally these would be held on various members’ properties. However, by the beginning of the 1950s, the number of people grew too large to be held on private property in the Lower Mainland. Thus, our star parties were moved to various public spaces where access to the sky could be had and that the public could reach. (The author encountered the RASC Vancouver Centre at the Brockton Oval Track in Stanley Park in 1977.)

Additionally, visits would be arranged for members to go to various scientific institutions and facilities that would allow visitors. Members have trekked to Vancouver Island to visit the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, to UBC to visit their telescopes and later to visit the Tri-University Meson Facility (TRIUMF). And now we have access to the Trottier Observatory at SFU as well.

So it has been an interesting 90 years so far with comets, planetary conjunctions, eclipses and other interesting things in the sky to bring us together and look at. And in 10 years (in 2031) we will celebrate 100 years of the Vancouver Centre, so make your plans now to be here to help us celebrate that happy date.

– by William Fearon