President's Corner

President’s Corner

Colin A. Haig, M.Sc. (astronome@outlook.com)

Have you been to a local astronomy event, RASC Centre meeting, or travelled a bit further to visit an observing site or neighbouring astronomy club? How about attending an astronomy lecture at a nearby University? Or perhaps you’ve been the presenter or a volunteer at an event. I’d love to hear about it. As your Society’s president, I’ve had the opportunity to do all the above, and it has been fun and satisfying. We have a great team of Board members, literally from the Arctic, to the Pacific, and the Atlantic, and their collaboration, engagement, and hard work is helping us achieve new things, and reach more people than ever before.

I find Centre visits are a lot of fun, even if I hear a few concerns or have to drive a few hundred kilometres. A recent highlight for me was a visit to Niagara Centre, to present long-overdue Service Awards to two outstanding contributors to astronomy in Canada, Dr. Brian Pihack and Mr. Stan Sammy. I think I first met Brian at the 1998 Victoria GA, during a trip to Jack Newton’s home.

Another pleasure was a low-key visit to Belleville Centre held at Loyalist College. A young lady of elementary school age presented me with a fine crayon drawing of the Solar System, and I presented her with a Moon projecting flashlight. A few eclipse slides and a lot of good conversation ensued.

My next adventure could be described as Curry and Urry in a Hurry. A fast trip to London from my home west of Toronto brought me all three. London Centre’s Annual Banquet was held at Brescia College, and we enjoyed a fine talk by Dr. Chris Gainor on the history of the Hubble Space Telescope and a fine meal of Indian food—a little curry cleared my sinuses! Earlier in the day, I attended an excellent lecture by astrophysicist Dr. Meg Urry of Yale, held at Western. During the question period, I had the opportunity to ask her for any advice she would have for young people, particularly women, about going into the field. She was delighted with the question and encouraged young people, and young women especially, to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and to consider a B.Sc. program as a gateway to meaningful work in many fields, not just astrophysics and astronomy. The audience was most appreciative of her response, including pragmatic recommendations.

As amateur and professional astronomers, we have a duty to encourage young people, women, and under-represented people to engage and enjoy our hobby and profession. This is critically important, to provide a welcoming, safe, and inclusive environment for all people. To that end, your Board of Directors held a two-day meeting in Toronto on November 4 and 5. Items in our strategic plan, revitalization of committees, and the culture of the Society were all on the agenda.

Our culture is a top priority—although generally healthy, it is our hope to bring out new guidelines in early 2018 to ensure that everyone understands that harassment of any form, whether on-line, over the phone, or in-person, is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. In the daily news, North American media stars, politicians, and prominent men are all learning that sexual harassment can cost them their jobs. These lessons are being learned at great cost to the victims and in some cases, the alleged perpetrators. The RASC will not tolerate this behaviour. The new guidelines will help deal with these situations. It is also important for us to be able to have healthy conversations on these topics, so that people can learn from past experiences, share their opinions, and do so in a constructive, civil fashion. This extends to social media, the RASClist email list, and any other place our members interact. All of us—you and your friends, your Centre leadership, the National Council, the Board, committees, and staff—create the culture. We need to ensure it improves, and can gently let people know when their behaviour isn’t helping. This will take time. My hope is that this will help with member attrition in some parts of the country, and will welcome a wider range of people with different backgrounds to our Society, so our membership is representative of Canada as a whole.

I’ve prepared an article giving you a bit of background on the role of several of the key people in our Society, including our Board, and you will find it later in this issue.

Over the past two months, I’ve reached out to several committee chairs to ask for their adoption or recommendations on how to approach items outlined in the strategic plan. David Chapman, chair of the Observing Committee, is making great strides with his team in promoting the observing certificates programs. I’m looking forward to hearing about many new certificate winners. Tenho Tuomi and the Astroimaging Committee have recently recognized several members for their outstanding images, which you can see showcased on the RASC Zenfolio site at http://rascastroimaging.zenfolio.com .

It is with great sadness that I must inform you of the passing of Eric Kujala of the Ottawa Centre. He was 53 years old. Some of you may have met Eric at the Ottawa General assembly. For years now, Eric, an audio-visual wizard, has worked with his wife Eunice to record Ottawa meetings and events, and to share the video on DVDs. Gordon Webster of Ottawa shared that “recently he started broadcasting our meetings live as well as posting the results to YouTube so those who couldn’t make it to the meetings could still enjoy our presentations and speakers.” A tribute for Eric was held at the December meeting of the Ottawa Centre.

Last issue, I challenged you to “Dream Big,” and as a result, it looks like our Society is getting ready to move forward with a Remote Telescope fundraising effort, and is going to consider a nano-satellite project with partners, and some other new ideas. We’ve kicked off a fund-raising drive to support Education and Public Outreach, as well as other needs of our Society. I made a donation, and hope that you will join me by making a contribution as well.

Without a doubt, and with your help, at the RASC, our business is looking up!

  • Colin
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JEDGAR
Last modified: 
Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 9:57pm