Astronomy event considers our place in space



Staff, students, faculty, and community members considered our place in space last week when SFU and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) hosted two events — Science Rendezvous and International Astronomy Day — on May 10 at the Burnaby Campus.  

According to professor Howard Trottier from SFU’s Department of Physics, the event “had representation from all science departments and applied science, as well as the local astronomy group.”

The merged events occurred on the same day as 300 to 400 other space-related events across Canada. “The overall event today [. . .] is organized around something like the National Science Day, called Science Rendezvous,” explained Trottier. The event also offered SFU its first opportunity to partner with RASC, which was planning to host a similar event. “Coincidentally, we were going to do it on the same day and [at] the same place. So, we decided to team up! It’s packed!” Trottier commented.

The dual-hosted event had a wide range of activities, discussions, lectures, and displays of science. In one area of the event, attendees could look through telescopes of 30x to 100x magnification to see the moss growing on the edge of a campus building. In another section, they could peer down the hexagonal honeycomb patterns of material used in the siding of rockets. Visitors even learned about the dairy industry by milking a dummy-cow.  

Participants who wanted to come back down to Earth and public policy could talk to Mark Eburne, a man with a passion for the prevention and reduction of light pollution. Eburne works, along with organizations such as Lite Bright, to campaign on behalf of citizens concerned about light pollution. Attendees could also listen to a free lecture on a various science topics including Apollo space missions and the Aurora Borealis.

Trottier considers these events of high importance in two respects: community and outreach. The event occurred at the location of SFU’s new observatory called the Trottier Observatory and Courtyard, named for and funded by Trottier’s brother, which will be built later this year. According to Trottier, this observatory is meant to build both a passion for science and a greater community spirit; it is meant for students as a gathering place and as a place to learn about astronomy.

Concerning outreach, he stated, “The RASC is a national organization [. . .] They strongly support outreach at SFU. They bring their telescopes out here to show to the public. They also provide volunteers.” Trottier believes the RASC will help build outreach and community by encouraging families and their children to learn, ask questions, and build genuine interest in the operations and productions of science.

Many of these kinds of events come from an internal drive to educate the public on the importance of science through communication and community. Trottier concluded, “We’re living in a golden age of astronomy. And almost nobody knows about it.”

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