Nanaimo Astronomy Society to host Vancouver Island’s first AstroFest

AstroFest will showcase Island’s amateur astronomical groups and activities

Take a virtual reality tour of the International Space Station when Nanaimo Astronomy Society gathers Vancouver Island’s astronomy-related organizations together for a first-ever Vancouver Island AstroFest.

AstroFest happens at Beban Park on Thursday, Feb. 28, and is a public open house where visitors can learn about events and activities NAS, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada Victoria Centre, Friends of the Dominion Astrophysical Observatory and Cowichan Valley Starfinders are involved with throughout the year. The groups host world-class speakers on exoplanets, star and galaxy formation and the latest discoveries about the cosmos, star-gazing events for club members and the public, and help people who are new to astronomy get started.

Also supporting AstroFest with displays and presentations are two private businesses: Island Stars Observatory, which offers guided tours of the night sky on Hornby Island, and Victoria-based Quarky Science, a science and nature store that aims to make science fun, interesting and accessible.

Janeane MacGillivray, NAS member who proposed the AstroFest idea, said the ISS virtual reality tour has been hugely popular with people of all ages who lined up at star party events in Victoria throughout the summer. The tour provides a visual and physical experience.

“That space station virtual reality tour has been a real show-stopper…” MacGillivray said. “It’s been very engaging to the general public who, maybe, have never thought about astronomy or space science.”

Collaboration among professional scientists is key to furthering research, learning and making new discoveries about the universe and mutual support between the scientific community and the Island’s amateur astronomers helps raise interest in that work in local communities. MacGillivray said NAS and the Royal Astronomical Society Victoria Centre realized AstroFest could have significant promotional benefits and offer an opportunity for the Island’s astronomy group members to get to know each other.

“But it isn’t just just for our club members to get to know each other. It’s definitely open to the public in outreach as well,” MacGillivray said.

For those scratching that itch to start observing the heavens, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will have reference guides for professionals, amateur sky-watchers, teachers or anyone who enjoys the evening skies.

“There are various ways people can enjoy being amateur enthusiasts … it could be anything from armchair astronomy – like reading books and looking at the internet and things like that – to participating as a citizen scientist in research,” MacGillivray said.

To learn more about Vancouver Island AstroFest and other Nanaimo Astronomy Society activities, visit the NAS website at www.nanaimoastronomy.com/.



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