Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada
Abbreviation RASC
Motto Quo Ducit Urania
Formation 1868
Type Organizations based in Canada
Legal status active
Purpose advocate and public voice, educator and network to advance astronomy and allied sciences
Headquarters Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Region served
4600 members, 29 centres
Official language
English, French
Craig Levine (2016)
Main organ
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, and as far north as Whitehorse, Yukon. There are about 4600 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 28 cities, reaching every province of Canada with the exception of Prince Edward Island.[1]



The RASC mandate is five-fold:

  1. to stimulate interest and to promote and increase knowledge in astronomy and related sciences;
  2. to acquire and maintain equipment, libraries, and other property necessary for the pursuit of its aims;
  3. to publish journals, books, and other material containing information on the progress of astronomy and the work of the Society;
  4. to receive and administer gifts, donations, and bequests from members of the Society and others;
  5. to make contributions and render assistance to individuals and institutions engaged in the study and advancement of astronomy.[2]

Society Office[edit]

The Society Office in Toronto employs three staff. Executive Director Randy Attwood, Office Administrator Renata Koziol, and Marketing Coordinator Julia Neeser.

Board of Directors[edit]

  • 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 Council[edit]

Conduct of Business[edit]

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[edit]

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. [3]

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.[4]


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.[5] In 2009, the International Year of Astronomy, many Centres were instrumental in organizing events of educational astronomy outreach for their local communities.[6] 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[edit]

The RASC publishes a number of books and periodicals, and issues awards to recognize accomplishments in astronomy and outreach activities.

Recurring Publications[edit]

The annual Observer's Handbook (2016: ISBN 978-1-927879-05-4 and 2017: ISBN 978-1-927879-06-1) 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 first two editions were published in 1907 and 1908, respectively. For the following two years information from the Observer's Handbook was integrated into the main Journal, but it was decided eventually that the Handbook return to circulation. The 3rd edition of the Observer's Handbook was published in January 1911, with Editor C. A. Chant aiming to publish the 1912 edition in the autumn of that year.[7] The 108th edition was published in 2016, covering events in 2017.

Editors of the Observer's Handbook[7]
Name Position Editions
C. A. Chant Editor 1907 - 1957
Frank S. Hogg Assistant Editor 1939 - 1951
Ruth J. Northcott Assistant Editor


1952 - 1957

1958 - 1970

John R. Percy Editor 1971 - 1981
Roy L. Bishop Editor 1982 - 2000
Rajiv Gupta Editor 2001 - 2006
Patrick Kelly Editor 2007 - 2011
David M.F. Chapman Editor 2012 - 2016
James S. Edgar Editor 2017 –

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 (2017: ISBN 978-1-927879-07-8) 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. (Currently out of print)

Explore the Universe Guide; An Introduction to the RASC ETU Certificate Program (ISBN 978-1-927879-09-2) is a book for the casual backyard astronomer who is thinking about getting serious..

See also[edit]


External links[edit]