Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
|The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada|
|Motto||Quo Ducit Urania|
|Type||Organizations based in Canada|
|Purpose/focus||advocate and public voice, educator and network to advance astronomy and allied sciences|
|Headquarters||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Membership||4200 members, 29 centres|
|Official languages||English, French|
|Staff||3 at Society office|
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) is a national, non-profit, charitable organization devoted to the advancement of astronomy and related sciences. At present, there are 29 local branches of the Society, called centres, located in towns and cities across the country from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Victoria, British Columbia. There are about 4200 members from coast to coast to coast, and internationally. The membership is composed primarily of amateurs and also includes numerous professional astronomers and astronomy educators. The RASC is the Canadian equivalent of the British Astronomical Association.
The RASC has its original roots in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where in 1868 a group of friends began meeting as part of the "Toronto Astronomical Club." The club was formally incorporated as "The Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto" in 1890, and this is considered the founding date of the Society. The club grew over time, and by 1900, surrounding communities were affiliated with the group. On 1903 March 3, the club was renamed to "The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada" after petitioning King Edward VII to use the prefix "Royal" in the group's name. At the time it had 120 members. In the more than a century since its formal incorporation, the RASC has expanded across Canada with Centres in 29 cities, reaching every province of Canada.
The RASC mandate is five-fold:
- to stimulate interest and to promote and increase knowledge in astronomy and related sciences;
- to acquire and maintain equipment, libraries and other property necessary for the pursuit of its aims;
- to publish journals, books and other material containing information on the progress of astronomy and the work of the Society;
- to receive and administer gifts, donations and bequests from members of the Society and others;
- to make contributions and render assistance to individuals and institutions engaged in the study and advancement of astronomy.
The Society office in Toronto employs three staff. Executive Director Deborah Thompson, National Office Administrator Renata Koziol, and Marketing Coordinator Melissa Mascarin.
Board of Directors
- President (1-year term)
- 1st Vice-President (1-year term, Chair of Publications Committee and Chair of Constitution Committee)
- 2nd Vice-President (1-year term, Chair of Nominating Committee)
- Treasurer (1-year term, Chair of Finance Committee)
- National Secretary (1-year term)
- Up to four (4) Directors
- Executive Director (Appointed - non-voting)
National Advisory Council
Permanent Committees (Chairs)
Conduction of Business
The RASC conducts business through a Board of Directors with regular meetings, plus two scheduled meetings at the General Assembly, which is traditionally held on the May or July long weekend (GA). The GA is hosted by one of the Centres, with annual meetings alternating between eastern and western Canada. Meetings follow Robert's Rules of Order and are governed by the By-Laws of the Society.
Members of Note
The RASC has many prestigious and well-known members. Some are well known for their accomplishments, and others for their recognition with the Order of Canada.
Current Honorary President Dr. John Percy (2013-2017)
Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto, Erin Mills Campus, Dr. Percy has long been a member of the Society, and one of its outstanding builders. He has served as National President (1978-80), as editor of the Observer’s Handbook (1970-1980), and has won the RASC Gold Medal (1962) and the Service Award (1977). His service to the RASC also included many other formal and informal jobs at the national level and in the Toronto Centre.
Dr. Percy has established himself as an authority in the field of variable stars, having written extensively on the topic, including Understanding Variable Stars, published in 2007 by Cambridge University Press. He has also served as president of the AAVSO and of the IAU’s Commission on Variable Stars.
Dr. Percy’s biggest contributions to astronomy is in the field of astronomy education and outreach. 
Charles M. Good, President of the Montreal Centre, was the first Canadian President of the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), from 1971 to 1973. <www.aavso.org/officers-aavso-1911-2011>
Each of the centres of the Society conduct a variety of activities of interest to its members and to the public. At regular meetings, well-known professional and amateur astronomers give lectures on a variety of topics of current interest. In addition, there are study and special-interest groups. Most centres publish their own newsletters and hold their own group-observing events. Some members take part in regular observations of variable stars, lunar occultations, sunspots, meteors, comets and other phenomena; others develop special skills such as astroimaging at workshops.
Most centres have public education programs, including special outreach star nights when the public is given an opportunity to look through a telescope courtesy of a RASC volunteer. In 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, many centres were instrumental in organizing events of educational astronomy outreach for their local communities. The RASC's Light Pollution Abatement Committee also administrates Canada's Dark-sky preserve program, working with provincial and national parks to create management agreements to preserve the darkness of the nighttime sky.
Many centres have observing equipment, libraries, and observing locations. For example, the Victoria centre has telescopes and a large library of books and periodicals available to members in good standing. Additionally the Victoria centre built and operates the "RASC Victoria Centre Observatory (RASC VCO)" which is located at the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory.
Publications and Awards
The RASC publishes a number of books and periodicals, and issues awards to recognize accomplishments in astronomy and outreach activities.
The annual Observer's Handbook (ISBN 978-0-0913292-9-1) can be found in observatory control rooms and astronomers' reference shelves worldwide. Published in the autumn of the year, the 352-page Handbook contains detailed information on astronomical events in the upcoming year and is an in-depth reference of significant astronomical data such as observing techniques, physical constants, and optical properties of telescopes. The 106th edition was published in 2013, covering events in 2014.
The Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (ISSN 0035-872X) (bib. code - JRASC), continuously published since 1907, is a bi-monthly periodical that features articles about Canadian astronomers, activities of the RASC and its Centres, and peer-reviewed research papers.
The Observer's Calendar (ISBN 978-0-9813292-4-6) features photos of an astronomical subject taken by amateur astronomers using CCD and other camera equipment on amateur instruments. Each photograph is given an informative caption along with comprehensive astronomical data for dates throughout each month.
The Beginner's Observing Guide; An Introduction to the Night Sky for the Novice Stargazer (ISBN 0-9689141-5-2) is an in-depth guide for beginning astronomers and features a look at the sky using modest telescopes, binoculars, and the naked eye. Six two-month foldout constellation maps are featured.
- Broughton, R. Peter (1994), Looking up: a history of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Dundurn Press, ISBN 1-55002-208-3
- Scientific and technical societies of the United States and Canada, National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council, 1961