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News Updates » 19 September 2009


Galileo Lectures

One of the nationwide programs for IYA in Canada has been the Galileo Legacy Series of lectures sponsored by the Canadian Astronomical Society, who have made a roster of superb speakers available to groups across the country. In September, we hosted an excellent talk about Black Holes, presented by Dr. Laura Ferrarese of the Herzberg Institute. As with other lectures we’re staged this year, Dr. Ferrarese’s talk was filled to near capacity. Coming up we have a Science Café night at a local pub with Dr. Chris Pritchet on the topic of Dark Energy. Mix that with beer and pub food, and you have a powerful combination!

Solar Stargazing

As everyone has done, we’ve taken astronomy to the streets, or more to the point, to various festival grounds over the summer months. One of our main off-site venues has been the Spruce Meadows Equestrian Centre, site of several world-class equestrian competitions. Except for Pegasus, horses and stars wouldn’t seem to have much in common. But at Spruce Meadows, performance stages, food courts, and exhibit pavilions give the events a festival atmosphere. Tens of thousands of people attend, and so did we, with telescopes for looking at the Sun. Just a pity that on only one weekend did we actually have any sunspots to look at. We’ve had wonderful weather for most of our events this year, but we sure wish the Sun would cooperate and give us something to see! But the blank Sun does prompt questions about the Sun and climate.

Fireworks and Stars

Every year, Calgary’s annual GlobalFest fireworks competition attracts thousands of people for the nightly shows. An event with people looking up at night makes a natural venue for us stargazers, so we were there for several nights in August for telescope viewing pre- and post-fireworks. The bright lights of the grounds were hardly conducive to great viewing, but the Moon and Jupiter were there and that’s all you need. Members of the Calgary Centre of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, as they have for so many events this year, turned out to supply and run their telescopes. If there’s a single reason why IYA has proven so successful it is because of the rabid enthusiasm of amateur astronomers in clubs and organizations like the RASC. We could not have pulled off IYA without their help. No other science has such an army of supporters at its beck and call.

Siksika Skies

One of the lasting legacies of IYA around here will be the connection we’ve established with local First Nations groups in staging native skylore nights. Some of the finest moments we’ve had as organizers have been hearing first hand from elders the stories that connect First Nations people to the stars, the place where we all come from according to legend. In September we held a Siksika Skies night at the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, well outside the city where skies are dark. We heard the tales of the Milky Way as being the dust raised by the buffalo herd charging down out of the sky to assist mankind in the days of creation. Then we were able to show the First Nations kids and families that same Milky Way in their sky. It was just one of so many great moments we’ve had this year.

Thank you, Galileo! We’ll be celebrating your work again coming up this month during our Galilean Nights events.

For more about what we’re doing in Calgary, check out our communal IYA website at and see our photo gallery of IYA events at

Alan Dyer
IYA2009 Calgary