Inspiring Interest and Knowledge of Astronomy
Our Guide for New Members
Welcome, beginners and experienced astronomers, to our Society and the Ottawa centre. We have some useful information to share about our centre, about the Society, and we invite you to explore the many resources available to you as a member.
About the Centre
You are now a member of the local Ottawa Centre, which is one of 30 Centres of the national organisation called The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. You are entitled to national member benefits as well as Ottawa-specific benefits.
The Ottawa Centre is run solely by volunteers. There is a governing Council, with elected Directors and Officers as set out at the end. Council is elected annually at the AGM in December. In addition, there are several non-voting, appointed positions for the volunteers who support various Centre activities, events, equipment and libraries.
Monthly meetings We meet on the first Friday of every month (delayed by one week when there is a long weekend). They are your chance to meet with and learn from people like you who do astronomy. The agenda is posted at the front of our website at ottawa.rasc.ca. There is usually a mix of presentations by guest speakers as well as Ottawa members, and the topics range across science, history, practical tips and karaoke.
Our meetings are also an opportunity for members to present their images or “observations” of astronomical targets or events (see ottawa.rasc.ca/images). Any member may present an astronomical observation; just contact the Meeting Chair at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a slot.
Currently our meetings are conducted as Zoom webinars (although we hope to soon resume at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum as a blend of in- person and Zoom participation). You need to register for a link to participate in each Zoom meeting - look for a monthly email from the Meeting Chair with the link, or visit the website at ottawa.rasc.ca or our Facebook page.
Meetings are recorded so you may view them at a later date on YouTube. See the index of videos ottawa.rasc.ca/videos.
Voting privileges As a member you have one vote at our annual general meeting in December when elected positions are determined for the next year(s), as well as one vote at the National AGM, usually held in June.
Fred Lossing Observatory (FLO) in Mississippi Mills RASC Ottawa members have access to our observatory, located on Bennies Corners Road, about 10 minutes from Almonte and 40 minutes from downtown Ottawa. Contact the Observatory Director email@example.com to obtain the code to unlock the gate and the Site Guidelines document. Members may bring their own gear, connect to electricity, use the warm room, or request training on one of the club telescopes. More information is available at the ottawa.rasc.ca/flo.
Monthly FLO star parties -weather permitting, of course- are open to members and their guests who may bring their scope and/or see what others are doing with the observatory’s equipment. The schedule can be found at ottawa.rasc.ca/flo/flo-basic-star-party; you may also ask the observatory director to add you to the mailing list for FLO-related news.
Ted Bean Telescope Loan Library Being a member means you can borrow equipment from the Ted Bean Telescope Loan Library, whether to try before buying, or to complement equipment you already have. The 70mm Skywatcher or the Coulter Dobsonian are great instruments for beginners
See ottawa.rasc.ca/telescope-library for the list of telescopes, binoculars and other doo-dads available. Telescopes can be borrowed for $10/month with a $10 deposit. A bino-viewer eyepiece adapter is now available with matched 20 mm eyepieces for $10/month.
Binoculars and 3" Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (with camera adapter) can be borrowed for $5/mo. Please contact our telescope custodian at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how to proceed.
Stan Mott Astronomy Book Library Being a member also means that you can borrow books and DVDs from the Stan Mott Astronomy Book Library. Access to the library at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is restricted by Covid protocols. However, there are some introductory books such as Nightwatch or The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide by Terrance Dickinson and Alan Dyer that are available to borrow off-site. See ottawa.rasc.ca/book-library for more details, and contact email@example.com to make arrangements for pick-up.
Publications As part of your membership, you will receive:
- SkyNews Magazine every two months by mail
- the RASC Observer’s Handbook annually by mail
- an electronic subscription to the Journal of the RASC. Should you wish a paper version, you may pay for an annual print subscription or pay for a specific individual issue. Please visit the RASC national website for more information. https://rasc.ca/rasc-publications
- AstroNotes, the newsletter of the Ottawa Centre, monthly by email
- The National website also offers many astronomy publications and merchandise for sale at rasc.ca/store.
Email Lists An Ottawa Centre members’ email group will keep you up to date on the latest events and conversations at the Ottawa Centre, and let you can ask questions to the membership. You must give your consent to be added to the list, which is done when you join or renew your membership. You can be added to this email list at any time by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
An additional Ottawa Centre mailing list specific to FLO is available if you want updates about the observatory site and club telescope training opportunities. Contact the Observatory Director at email@example.com to be added to this mailing list.
The National office has a member discussion list called RASCALS and other forums addressing light pollution, and education and public outreach. See
secure.rasc.ca/membership/forums/home for details.
Observing Programs Being a RASC member qualifies our many observing programs and to earn certificates. They are an excellent way to learn astronomy and improve your observing and imaging skills. Programmes are available at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. See rasc.ca/certificate-programs for more details.
Awards The Ottawa Centre presents annual members’ awards such as the President’s Award, Observer of the Year, Planetary Observer, Best Presentation at a monthly meeting, and Best AstroNotes article; there is a specific award for Youth Members The centre also grants Service Awards for long-term service, and nominates candidates for RASC National Service Awards. The National office also grants special named awards for contributions to astronomy.
Membership Services are provided by RASC National Office at secure.rasc.ca such as when your membership requires renewal. These are “members-only” services which require that you have a username and password. Your username is the email address you provided RASC when signing up, and if you haven’t yet established a password you can just log in with your username and click the button saying that you forgot your password. You will have a chance to set a new password. you will receive an email notice from the National office. Other changes to your membership status can also be arranged there. Renewal on-line and certain
Star maps Most amateur astronomers start by learning the constellations, the names of bright stars and how the sky changes over the course of the year. (In order to use a telescope this knowledge is essential.) You may use the star maps located in the centrefold of SkyNews magazine and in various magazines such as Sky&Telescope or Astronomy (these are easily available in local bookstores and other outlets) or you can use cell phone apps such as Stellarium, SkySafari and SkyGuide. You can also find a current edition of “The Evening Sky Map" at https://www.skymaps.com/downloads.html. Generally, it is good to start with identifying various “asterisms” or groupings in the sky including the Big Dipper, Summer Triangle, and Winter Circle. You should also learn how to find the north star Polaris with the “pointer stars” of the Big Dipper. Here is a link to the Astronomical league’s guide for each season. When you receive your first issue of SkyNews you will find a star map in the centre. https://www.astroleague.org/outreach
Equipment There are many different kinds of telescopes and each has pros and cons. Many people enjoy astronomy with a good set of astronomical binoculars. Included in your welcome package are two recent articles on choosing telescopes and binoculars. If you did not receive them, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The popular book The Backyard Astronomer’s Guide has a detailed section on equipment and is a worthwhile read before spending large sums of money on a telescope.
First Targets Some of the best targets to start with are the big and bright ones. The moon is big, bright and easy to find. The moon changes every day and is a dynamic telescope target.
As targets get smaller, it becomes more and more important to be able to identify the bright stars in the sky in order to navigate or “star-hop” to your target. Some popular beginner targets are the Orion Nebula (winter), the Hercules globular cluster, the Andromeda Galaxy (fall) and the Milky Way nebulae including the Lagoon and Trifid nebulae (spring, summer).
Planets are usually easy to find in the sky and can be much brighter than stars. Their position changes every year and often daily so you do need to refer to your most current sky magazine or an app. While planets are easy to locate in the sky, they can be unimpressive in a small telescope although you should still be able to see Jupiter’s moons and Saturn’s rings in a small scope.
Observing the sun can be very dangerous if not undertaken with specialised filters or specialised telescopes. However, the sun is also a popular and exciting target with the correct safeguards and equipment.
Observing Logbooks Many astronomers enjoy keeping track of their astronomical journey by keeping a log, either written or electronic. The RASC Observer’s Handbook, which you will receive free as part of your membership, has a section devoted to maintaining a logbook and explains what data is important to track. If you wish to be considered for the “Observer of the Year” award, a log book is an important piece of data to maintain.
Stargazing Community Events The Ottawa centre runs public stargazing events open to all, as well as private events. At all events newcomers are welcome to attend with or without a telescope and to request help if desired. The events are generally posted on the ottawa.rasc.ca, the Ottawa Centre Facebook page and in the RASC Ottawa email list.
YouTube The astronomical community is very active on YouTube and there are experts in almost every field of astronomy. Some of our favourite YouTubers include:
Astrobackyard Helena’s Astrophotography
Nebula Photos Alyn Wallace
Dylan O’Donnell Cuiv the Lazy Geek
And, of course, the RASC Ottawa website and YouTube channel maintains all of our past presentations as recorded.
We hope that this guide is of assistance. Please reach out to any of our Council members should you have questions or concerns and we look forward to meeting you at our next monthly meeting, at FLO or an observing event.
Who to Contact
The Ottawa Centre 2022 Council and Elected Positions
President: Stephen Nourse (email@example.com)
Vice President: Dave Chisholm (vp@ottawa rasc.ca)
Secretary: Chris Teron (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Treasurer: Richard Taylor (email@example.com)
Centre Meeting Chair: Mick Wilson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Councillors: Carmen Rush, Gerry Shewan, Jim Sofia
Past President: Mike Moghadam
National Council Representatives (non-voting): Mick Wilson, Johnathan Falbo, OPEN
2022 Appointed Positions
Membership: Art Fraser
Star Parties: Andrea Girones (email@example.com)
Fred Lossing Observatory(FLO) Director: Rick Scholes (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Light Pollution Abatement: David Guretzki: (email@example.com)
Public Outreach Coordinator: OPEN (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Stan Mott Astronomy Library: Estelle Rother (email@example.com)
Ted Bean Telescope Library: Darren Weatherall (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Webmaster: Mick Wilson (email@example.com)
AstroNotes Editors: Gordon Webster (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Douglas Fleming (email@example.com)