On the RASC (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada)

RASC SealThe Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) is the National Astronomy Society for our neighbors to the North.  I’m a big fan of the RASC, they do a lot of great work.  Their vision statement reads: “To inspire curiosity in all people about the Universe, to share scientific knowledge, and to foster collaboration in astronomical pursuits.”  That is an easy-to-get-behind vision.

The RASC was founded in 1868 and their work is focused on amateurs, educators and professionals in the field of astronomy.  There are 29 “Centres” across Canada, all of which offer local programs and services.  In addition to supporting local interest in astronomy, the RASC is also engaged in larger scale support of research and education in astronomy.  I will tell you about a few of the many projects, pursuits and programs at the RASC below.

Looking Up: A History of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

RASC "Looking Up" book cover imageThe history of the RASC is chronicled in R. Peter Broughton’s, “Looking Up: A History of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada”.  Originally prepared for the RASC’s Centenary in 1990, the book is currently out of print, but there is a copy at Kresge and the RASC has also made the book freely available online.

The Observer’s Handbook

The RASC publishes the annual “Observer’s Handbook”.  On their website, the RASC describes the Handbook as follows:
“The Observer’s Handbook has come to be regarded as the standard North American reference for data on the sky.  The material in the Handbook is of interest to professional and amateur astronomers, scientists, teachers at all levels, students, science writers, campers, Scout and Guide leaders, as well as interested general readers.  The Observer’s Handbook is an integral part of many astronomy courses at the secondary and university levels, and it should be on the reference shelf of every library.”

You will, of course, find the Observer’s Handbook on the reference shelf at the Kresge Library.  The RASC has also created a nice history page about the Handbook.  This page includes a scanned PDF version of 1st edition (1907) of the Handbook (note that you can also request our paper copy of the 1907 1st edition from the storage library), as well as links to three essays detailing the history of the Handbook (Bishop [2008], Percy [1982], and Northcott [1964]).

RASC on YouTube

RASC just recently (28 June 2011) established the RASC YouTube Channel.

The Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

The Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is the RASC’s bi-monthly publication.  According to the RASC, the Journal is, “ … devoted to the advancement of astronomy and allied sciences.  It contains articles on Canadian astronomers and current activities of the RASC and its Centres, research and review papers by professional and amateur astronomers, and articles of a historical, biographical, or educational nature of general interest to the astronomical community.”  We have a current subscription to the paper version of the Journal of The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and older articles (from v.1, 1907 to v.102, 2008) are available as scanned documents from the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System (ADS).

Certificate programs and “The Beginner’s Observing Guide”Beginner's observing guide cover image

For amateur astronomers, the RASC has organized four different certificate programs.  One of the four certificate programs, “Explore the Universe Certificate”, covers the major astronomical objects (constellations, bright stars, the Moon, Deep Sky Objects, etc.) and is structured so that it can be completed entirely using binoculars and the unaided eye (no telescope required!).  Completing the program will take between 3 and 6 months and can be started at any time of the year.  The RASC provides access to a program requirements document (that explains all required activities and provides a recording and application form) and recommends the use of “The Beginner’s Observing Guide: An Introduction to the Night Sky for the Novice Stargazer” (Leo Enright, The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, revised Sixth Edition, 2009)  to complete the certification requirements.  The other three certificate programs offer a similar level of organization and support, and all of the RASC’s observing certificate programs are supported and managed by the Observing Committee.

I hope this brief and somewhat random overview of the activities of the RASC has whetted your appetite for learning about the Universe.  Summer nights in New Hampshire can be a great time to do some star gazing.

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