An aurora storm is photographed over Victoria as observed from Taylor Beach in Metchosin. The annual Star Party on the nearby municipal grounds this weekend is expected to attract experienced and novice astronomers alike.

Great weekend to gaze into the heavens in Metchosin

Stargazing enthusiasts will gather in Metchosin to observe and listen
to presentations

A group of stargazers is hoping for warm evenings and clear skies this weekend as Metchosin hosts the annual Star Party, put on by the Victoria branch of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC).

There’ll be presentations by guest speakers, door prizes and of course, plenty of stargazing to highlight the weekend-long event, which starts Friday (Aug. 26) and ends on Sunday.

While organizer Sherry Buttnor expects the majority of those in attendance will be experienced astronomers, everyone is welcome. She believes the weekend will serve as a great introduction for anyone looking to get into the hobby. Some of the society’s telescopes will be available for anyone who doesn’t have their own equipment.

Rita Mann, a researcher with a PhD in astronomy, will deliver the first presentation of the weekend, Friday at 8:30 p.m. Her talk will centre around the origins of the solar system, answering questions about the system’s genesis using a powerful telescope that is sensitive to the conditions in which planets are born.

Maan H. Hani, a PhD student at the University of Victoria, will present on Saturday night and discuss some of his research about the formation of galaxies and super massive black holes.

Buttnor, a Metchosin resident and space enthusiast for the better part of four decades, has seen an increased interest in outer space in the digital age, but said many are using the Internet, rather than telescopes, to observe the wonders of the universe.

While she admits that orbiting telescopes are taking amazing deep space photos, they are no replacement for observing the sky for yourself. “There’s nothing like looking at it in real time … You can look at glorious pictures of Saturn from any number of satellites or spacecraft that have gone out that way. But when people actually look at it live in a telescope and realize that the light they are looking at in the telescope left Saturn earlier when they were having dinner, it’s a real feeling of connectedness,” she explained.

Metchosin remains one of the best places in the region for stargazing, although Buttnor believes that continued development in the West Shore, particularly in Langford, has affected the quality of the viewing opportunities.

“It’s hurting us big time. I moved out here in 1992 and the sky was black, it was really nice, and now the sky’s kind of a light, muddy brown colour,” she said.

Even with all her years of learning and observation, Buttnor continues to discover new aspects of the vast night sky.

“There’s so much out there to see and learn about. It’s a lifetime thing and you could never get to the end of it. It’s so much fun,” she said.

Buttnor believes that some remnants of the Perseid meteor shower should be visible this weekend, along with a host of planets.

The Star Party will take place at the Metchosin municipal grounds. The event is free, but a $20 donation is suggested for those who choose to stay overnight.

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