R.A.S.C. (Royal Astronomical Society of Canada) has a long history, going back to 1868, when eight amateur astronomers founded an astronomical club in Toronto. An expanded group obtained a charter in 1890, and the name “The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada” was adopted in 1903 with the permission of Edward VII. In the early years, the meetings of the Society were held in the homes of the members. As the membership increased, the meetings were moved to the University of Toronto. In 1906, a branch was formed in Ottawa, and thus the idea of Centres of the Society came into being. There are now 26 Centres in Canada, from coast to coast, and about 4900 members in all. New Centres may be established anywhere in Canada where there is sufficient continuing interest. At the annual General Assembly of the Society, members of the Centres come together to share their interest in an atmosphere of fun and fellowship.
The Society is governed at both the national and local levels by capable individuals from many walks of life serving as unpaid volunteers. They manage the Society in a fiscally responsible manner and have kept it free of debt. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada is a registered charitable organization (number 0283895-21-13) and issues official receipts to donors for income tax purposes. Donations to the national organization can be directed either to the Centennial Fund (to support new initiatives) or to the Peter MacKenzie Millman Endowment Fund (to further long-term growth).
Each Centre of the Society conducts 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 topics of current interest. In addition, there are slide and film programs, and study and discussion groups. Some members take part in regular observations of variable stars, lunar occultations, sunspots, meteors, comets and other phenomena. Others develop special skills in astrophotography. Many Centres have built their own observatories for these purposes. Some members purchase a telescope; others learn how to construct their own. Most Centres have programs of public education, including special star nights during the mild summer months when hundreds of people have an opportunity to look through telescopes – many for the first time in their lives. Members learn about the activities of their Centre through a regular Centre newsletter.
The observational and educational work of amateur astronomers is of tremendous value to the science of astronomy. In addition, the Society has been influential in the establishment of observatories and planetaria in a number of Canadian cities.
The National Office and the Centres
The National Office contains the astronomical reference library of the Society; including an excellent collection of periodicals, historical books and a number of slides and videos. The videos may be borrowed by members and Centres by writing to the librarian.
Centres of the Society are located in cities from St. John’s to Victoria and include Francophone Centres in Quebec and Montreal. Members may also join the Society directly as unattached members. The local Centre in this area is the Niagara Centre.
The Niagara Astronomical Society was formed in 1958 by eight amateur astronomers who resided in and around Niagara Falls. As it quickly grew in numbers and expanded throughout the region, it was renamed the Greater Niagara Astronomical Society (GNAS)
By 1960, the membership had grown large enough for the Society to be incorporated into The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC), the national organization for professional and amateur astronomers.
The GNAS became “The Niagara Falls Centre of the RASC” (later renamed the Niagara Centre to reflect the regional distribution of the membership) and, in recent years, has seen its membership grown substantially. The Centre holds monthly meetings from September to June at the main branch of the Niagara Falls Public Library, 4848 Victoria Avenue in Niagara Falls, Ontario; these provide members and guests with an opportunity to discuss astronomical activities, telescopes, and other equipment.
Meetings normally include slide presentations by local members and a lecture, usually by a professional astronomer or an amateur from another Centre or club, on some related topic. Details of meeting dates and times, and other Niagara Centre events are listed in the Home Page. A complete list of upcoming Niagara Centre actvities may be found on the Events Page.