Observing Programs

RASC Observing Programs with Certificates 

booklet.jpeg The RASC offers seven observing programs to promote active observing, based on a selection of object lists published in the RASC Observer's Handbook. Observing programs are a great way to learn more about the night sky, challenge yourself, and to get the most out of our rewarding hobby. By successfully completing a program, a RASC member may apply for an official certificate for that program (non-members may apply for the Explore the Universe certificate). Several certificates come with lapel pins.

NEW! Scroll down to watch 3 videos describing the RASC observing programs

Observing Programs and Pins

For the First-Time Stargazer:

Explore the Universe Logo
Messier logo
IWL Logo
  • Explore the Universe—An program for the novice observer, covering all major astronomical objects, including constellations, bright stars, the Moon, the Solar System, deep-sky objects, and double stars. EtU can be completed with the unaided eye and binoculars, but a small telescope (non-GoTo) may be used as well, as you wish. The EtU certificate and pin is available to all, whether an RASC member or not.
  • Explore the Moon—An introductory lunar observing program with certificate and pin, based on 100 features in the RASC Observer's Handbook, including craters, seas, mountains, valleys, and cliffs. Online resources include standard and mirror-reversed maps. EtM is a great way to learn how to use your telescope. Members can apply for two certificates: telescope (with pin) and binocular.

For the Intermediate Observer:

  • Messier Catalogue—Follow Charles Messier's 18th-century journey through the northern skies by observing his famous list of 110 "not comets," including the Andromeda Galaxy, the Orion Nebula, the Hercules Cluster, and the Pleiades. Many objects will require a mid-sized telescope (100+ mm) to appreciate. The certificate (with pin) is available to members in two versions: Traditional (star-hopping) and Computer-aided (GoTo).
  • Finest NGC Objects—A slightly more challenging deep-sky program for the intermediate observer, developed by Alan Dyer. The Finest NGC Objects contains 110 more deep-sky objects, mainly from the New General Catalogue, including the Double Cluster, the Rosette Nebula, the Veil Nebula, and more. Most objects will require a mid-sized telescope (200+ mm) to appreciate. The certificate (with pin) is available to members in two versions: Traditional (star-hopping) and Computer-aided (GoTo).
  • Isabel Williamson Lunar Observing Program—The RASC's intermediate-level lunar observing program, more thorough than Explore the Moon, requiring a mid-sized telescope (150+ mm). It includes a comprehensive list of the best features visible on the surface of the Moon and detailed observing notes and explanations that will guide you through a complete tour of the amazing surface of our nearest neighbour in space. A certificate (with pin) is available to members.

For the Advanced Observer:

  • Deep-Sky Gems—An advanced list of 154 deep-sky objects (mostly galaxies) selected from David Levy's 40+ years of comet hunting. The selection contains many interesting objects, plus a few challenges, that appear in no other RASC observing programs. A certificate is available to members. (no pin)
  • Deep-Sky Challenge Objects—These 45 objects selected by Alan Dyer and Alister Ling challenge even experienced observers and require the use of both small wide-field instruments as well as large apertures to complete. A certificate is available to members. (no pin)


The Role of Sketching in Observing

Sketching objects to earn observing certificates is NOT mandatory, but it is actively encouraged. There are spaces provided in the various observing log pages on offer, but they are OPTIONAL. However, a written description is required, with or without a sketch. When we encourage observers to sketch, we are not looking for artistic renditions, although several observers do have artistic skill and apply it. For the purpose of earning and observing program, the (optional) sketch can be quite basic. The sketch simply provides an “aide memoire,” a way of remembering what you saw. Many observers find that making even a rudimentary sketch of what they see makes the experience far more enriching.

The RASC's observing certificate programs are supported and managed by the Observing Committee.


RASC Observing Programs (choose one of 3 videos from the menu at upper left)
Last modified: 
Tuesday, March 5, 2019 - 5:44pm