President’s Message – March 2024

Posted by as Memories & history, President's Message

Usually Victoria Centre Presidents serve two years and then move on to something else. Right now, things are a little different. Randy Enkin has just wrapped up three years as President and shifted to other jobs in the centre, including editing SkyNews.

Chris Gainor on Observatory Hill
Chris Gainor on Observatory Hill

When I agreed to return to the Centre President’s job after having served in that position from 2002 to 2004, I reflected on what has changed and not changed since those days when we managed to get by without smartphones and social media. Many members from that time are still active, some have left us, and at least one prominent member of today wasn’t even born yet.

In 2002 I succeeded David Lee as President and two years later handed off to Scott Mair. Scott had come to Victoria in 2001 to open up the Centre of the Universe at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, which during those years operated under the wing of the National Research Council.

Two decades ago, we had our monthly meetings in the basement of the Elliott Building at UVic, but we adjourned to the lounge on the fourth floor for our library, and coffee and cookies, as we still do. Astro Cafes took place at Sandy Barta’s place on Fridays and later in Bruno Quenneville’s basement. Sid Sidhu hosted beginning observers at his home in Highlands, and Bill Almond led astro imaging meetings at his observatory in Colwood.

Our Star Parties took place at the Victoria Fish and Game Association just off the Malahat. Our annual banquets happened in November at the Gorge Vale Golf Club. Astronomy Days took place at the Royal BC Museum. Many Victoria Centre members attended the 2003 RASC General Assembly in Vancouver.

Mars made its closest passage to Earth in our lifetimes in August 2003. We drew big crowds to Cattle Point for viewing the Red Planet that week. Blaire Pellatt brought sidewalk astronomy to the streets of Victoria. We lost Ernie Pffanenschmidt and John Howell in 2003.  

Celebrating RASC Victoria Centre's 90th anniversary in 2004 - George Ball, John Climenhaga and Chris Gainor cut the cake.
Celebrating RASC Victoria Centre’s 90th anniversary in 2004 – George Ball, John Climenhaga and Chris Gainor cut the cake.

Our Centre celebrated its 90th birthday in 2004 with a cake that was cut by myself and two Honorary Presidents who have since left us, George Ball and Prof. John Climenhaga. A big centre project that year was relocating George’s telescope dome and his equipment. Our Centre website had migrated the year before to a private ISP after having been hosted on the Victoria Freenet. Joe Carr succeeded David Lee as Webmaster.

In those years, the most popular discussion topic in the Victoria Centre was our desire to build a centre observatory in a time when real estate was already pricey. Early in 2004, talk turned to action when our centre formed an Observing Site Committee chaired by Dave Bennett, along with Bruno Quenneville, David Lee, Sandy Barta, and myself as members.

Four years later, the efforts of our members, including many not on the original committee, bore fruit when the Victoria Centre Observatory opened — with a big assist from the NRC — on Little Saanich Mountain near the DAO and the Centre of the Universe.

In a future message, I will discuss my involvement in the RASC in the two decades between 2004 and this spring, our Centre’s 110th anniversary. But in the meantime, my attention is shifting to a major celestial event that will take place on April 8.

Chris Gainor, President@Victoria.RASC.ca

President’s Message – Feb 2024

Posted by as President's Message

Chris Gainor on Observatory Hill - May 7, 2022
Chris Gainor on Observatory Hill

This message marks my return to the presidency of the Victoria Centre after nearly 20 years away from the job. While it is not unprecedented for someone to serve separate terms as President of the Victoria Centre, it has only happened a handful of times in our 110 years of existence.

The Victoria Centre and the RASC in general have just gone through four very difficult years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its after-effects.

We had to give up in person meetings and events for much of that time. Many in person activities returned in 2022, and last year, our monthly meetings at the University of Victoria and our annual banquet came back. One very positive legacy of the pandemic for our centre is the set of changes to our weekly Astronomy Café gatherings, which kept us going through the difficult days of lockdowns and can now can be attended in person or by Zoom.

Many people made it possible for the Victoria Centre to get through the past four years – including Reg Dunkley and Randy Enkin, who both served as President during that time, including an unprecedented three years in that office for Randy. They had help from many other people, many of whom still serve on the Centre Council. I would like to thank them all.

I’m very pleased to note that one of those members who has worked quietly and effectively in the background for many years – Alex Schmid – is receiving a long overdue recognition this year in the form of the Newton-Ball Award.

It can be argued that the Victoria Centre is now stronger and better than it was when the pandemic started in 2020. There’s Astronomy Café, much-needed updates to our constitution and governance, and continued improvements to the Victoria Centre Observatory. And many of our members, notably Lauri Roche, have worked hard to get the Friends of the DAO and the Centre of the Universe through the pandemic years.

I deserve very little credit for this great work at the Centre level, since I have been volunteering mainly at the National level over the past decade. As we all know, the pandemic landed a few direct hits on the National society that are still being absorbed, and I am continuing to help out there as Chair of the Editorial Board. Lauri and our National Reps are also doing a great job ensuring that our Centre is prominent in National affairs.

This year we can look forward to exciting events such as the April 8 solar eclipse and International Astronomy Day on May 18 at the Royal BC Museum, as well as challenges like our Star Party this summer.

I’m glad to be rejoining my many friends in the Victoria Centre as we carry on our work sharing astronomy with our community and with our own explorations of the universe.